June 3rd, 2019

The Front Runner was a TIFF movie starring Hugh Jackman as the 1984 and 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee, Colorado resident Gary Hart.  Early on Hart was the front runner as the State primaries were beginning.  The film is directed by Canadian Jason Reitman, who also directed Up in the Air, Juno and Thank You for Smoking.   Gary Hart was to be the first successful Democratic nominee to win the Presidency from a western State.   Think about who was before him.   Hart was a smart, policy-focused candidate who believed in the “three Es – Economy, Education and Environment”.   He gained wide support as a surprise upcoming nominee in 1984, when Walter Mondale won the nomination (and defeated soundly by Ronald Reagan) and then became the favourite fours years later.   His campaign, and how it ended in scandal, became a turning point in Presidential politics.   Hart was involved in an affair with Donna Rice, a pretty blonde and infamously was on a yacht called “Monkey Business” where pictures of them circulated.    The press hid out after being challenged by Hart to follow him, and found him in a flat in Washington with Rice.

Before this candidacy, the press and the American public seemed to be not all that concerned with the personal lives of their candidates.   The seedy underside of background was not as important as the policies and charisma of the leader.   America looked the other way on Kennedy’s indiscretions, and pasts of others, but not always as we saw with Chappaquiddik.    Hart was a married man, but the relationship was a complicated one.   Married since 1958 to Lee (played by Vera Farmiga) and also in Up in the Air, they were separated in 1988 at the time of the apparent indiscretion.

Hart took the high road as the scandal broke focusing on his platform.  He felt that it was “not relevant” nor anyone’s business and revealed little about his ability to be the President.    His staff felt that the known newspapers (like the NY Times or Washington Post) would avoid the gossip and report on the issues.   But we see Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward in the offices of the Washington Post (who broke Watergate in the early 1970s) debating this story, and how they didn’t want to be accused of sitting on the sidelines when the story broke.   So what began as two guys from The Florida Herald lurking in the bushes became covered broadly.    And even though Americans on news TV felt that Hart didn’t do anything wrong, it still took him down.    But how far have we come?   From losing a nomination and the support of constituents because of this relationship, to becoming President despite paying off porn stars after having sex with them or talking about grabbing women in the [soft areas] during sponsored beauty pageants.   Hart’s position was that this type of reporting kept the potential quality candidates from coming forward because of the intense scrutiny it takes on every aspect of their personal lives.   You are no longer a private citizen.   You become public property, and with the endless debate of the talking heads on 24 hour TV.

The movie is an interesting one, and doesn’t touch upon the life of Donna Rice after her name becomes public.   Her life, as she knew it, was over.   She has later talked about her sympathy for Monica Lewinsky.   Both women have become leaders in the women’s rights movements and bringing forth the horrors of what happens to people thrown into the spotlight by dealing with powerful political men.

Meanwhile Gary Hart and his wife are still married.  They are out of the public eye for the most part.   He talks periodically about issues as they arise.   But this was the turning point in following candidates and shows the flaws in a system where not every quality leader (or candidate) can be able to survive the public scrutiny and holier-than-thou attitudes of those digging.    And paradoxically we have a sitting President seemingly impervious to real life flaws (three times married and endlessly philandering it seems).   So this movie reflects the times then, and shows the differences of where we are today.   There is part of me that thinks that the Trump years will be long forgotten and looked upon bleakly by those 100 years from now, in the same way that Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) or Herbert Hoover (1929-1933).    At least one can always hope.

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May 27th, 2019 – Bonus

I checked out Girl in the Spider’s Web last night.  This is the fifth iteration of a Lisbeth Salander story with the third actress playing her.   Initially it was Noomi Rapace who played her in the original European trilogy, based upon the Stieg Larsson books.   He died in 2004 of a heart attack, before they became printed and published novels as well as later the movies.   Later the US remake had Rooney Mara ably take up the Lisbeth role, combined with Daniel Craig as writer Nyqvist, in a remake of the initial Girl With the Dragon Tattoo film.   Finally there is Claire Foy of The Crown fame reprising the role in a new story made from the original trilogy.

A whole article could be written about the various Lisbeths but I have reviewed the other movies before and I won’t do so again.   If you want, do a search on them.  In short I preferred the European versions.   I really like Claire Foy, and I think she was an excellent Young Queen Elizabeth.  She has an expressive face and says a lot with saying anything at all.   Her eyes and facial expressions shows her inner turmoil and tension so well.   Lisbeth Salander is a challenging role for anyone, as the character is an introvert and goth, with special abilities.   She is a technology guru as well as accomplished motorcycle rider.   Foy has the least amount of nudity with the three portrayals for those who count.

This story starts with a dramatic scene which is shown on the trailer with a man apologizing to his Wife, laying crumpled on the shiny dining room floor after clearly another savage beating.  Lisbeth appears with the wings of an angel statue behind her as she exacts retribution on this deserving soul.    She knows how to get payback, and she is the protector and vigilante for those women who don’t get justice from the System.

After this sequence, she is invited to help reclaim a technological item which has been taken by the owner.   I hadn’t ever thought of her as a gun for hire, or someone who could be approached by some unknown third party.   It is out of character.  She delivers, but then has things happen which complicates her life.   She reaches back out to Nyqvist, who has very little to do.   They acted more as collaborators or partners previously but this is more of a solo effort, with a sidekick.   There are some family issues at play and some thugs that seem to always show up.   In the end, there are characteristics which I think are meant to soften Lisbeth, but it doesn’t really work.   It seems out of place.    There is a moment or two where the level of disbelief has to go off the scale, and it fails for me.   Case in point where after being in a scuffle she manages to take some readily available prescription medicine which couldn’t have been obvious what it was to assist her.   Ah…….no.

So in summary I know that this didn’t have a great box office run.   I can understand why.   The edgy Lisbeth is mellowed a bit, and the story doesn’t really flow well with what transpired from the past episodes.    So I wouldn’t be recommending this film, however much I do like Claire Foy and look for her in more films (like First Man) but where she can be more at the forefront.

May 27th, 2019 – Game of Thrones Season 8 and Discussion (Spoiler Alert!!)

(Spoilers Included – Fair Warning!)

So having had a few days to digest what has happened with Game of Thrones and its conclusion, I was left with contemplating why it was I was feeling so dissatisfied with the outcome of it all.   I haven’t signed any petitions for the re-filming and re-writing of the entire season, but there are parts of me that think that this would be more satisfying than how it was left.

So why exactly was Season 8 of GOT so damn disappointing and I think I have a few answers.  Doing an exercise like this somewhat feels like looking upon the mess that Star Wars has become.  There are just so many things that you can bring forward, that by definition identifying a few will always leave out many, many more.   But still, some thoughts on the topic would be worthy of a debate anyway.

Daenerys

First and foremost I think the treatment of the two principal characters (well at least since Seasons 4 or 5, being Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen or “Danny”) is most disturbing and disappointing.  I preface this discussion with the fact that my disappointment has nothing to do with me losing a bet after episode 3 of this season on whether Jon would be doing what he did at the conclusion of episode 8.  Not at all!  But I digress.     Danny was a reason to watch this show and Emilia Clarke played her so well, from this mild and meek young woman, being sold off to a savage (Dothraki leader) to appease her sniveling and annoying brother’s desire to take back the throne of his father who was assassinated by the Kingslayer and being given to Robert Baratheon, with Cersei Lannister as his wife to then becoming a powerful leader with the greatest army ever seen (followed by those of many persuasions who believed in her and her vision for the world).   Danny from early on became a woman of greater and greater power by being firm but fair.  She eliminated the bad people (like slave owners) and sided with the layperson.   The poor and the average who didn’t have a voice.   She hated injustice and was quick to punish the privileged.    She readily acknowledged that her Mad King father was a bad person and did wicked things.   She was going to end that circle of destruction.    Danny also made allies and forged alliances with promises that she kept and vows that she made.   She was able to deliver.    She was to be feared as the Mother of Dragons, but also her ability to vanquish her enemies, like the Dothraki leaders who wanted to marginalize her and keep their brutish and male-dominated ways.   That is background.    Then this season comes along and there are cracks starting to form.   Those close to Jon see Danny as a threat.   Sam has a moment of surprise when he hears from Danny directly that his father and brother were executed by Drogon on the battle field.    He shockingly is all upset about this for a father who disowned him, and threatened to kill him in a “hunting accident” if he didn’t take the Black and leave forever (never to marry, never to have offspring, and forever he at the Wall).   Nice life.  He also later disowned Sam once again for bringing a wildling (Gilly) into his home.   I would think Sam would thank Danny for killing the prick.   Instead he got all emotional and spoke harshly about Danny.    What?!   Danny loses her closest advisors, and those that love her, and starts feeling “all alone” in Westeros – even forgetting her Starbucks cup of the table at the party in celebration of defeating the White Walkers and the Night King.    She is feeling more and more alone.   But all of this doesn’t add up to the genocide that she instigates in King’s Landing.

Let’s unpack the attack in a little bit more detail.   Danny has her forces ready to invade and attack King’s Landing by force.   She has decimated the fleet in the nearby sea, and further wiped out quickly the large crossbows meant to take down her dragon (and have effectively killed her other dragon).   So she has air superiority and her forces have used her dragon attack to gain access inside the castle walls.    Tyrion meanwhile has been trying to work a peace, and have the bells ring when Kings Landing and her troops will surrender to Danny.   The bells start to ring and King’s Landing forces lay down their arms.   Danny then loses her shit and decides on a scorched earth policy.   But her beef really is with Cersei moreso than the people of Kings Landing.   Cersei may be using her subjects as human shields, since after all she hates them, and they hate her, but the distance to travel to the main castle (the Red Keep) isn’t far at all for a dragon.    And what about this wanton destruction of this city?   Didn’t Cersei herself wipe out thousands and a good chunk of her city when she eliminated the Sparrows and leadership with the green matter?     Surely the people of King’s Landing remember this, as well as I am sure haven’t repaired the massive damage that was sustained.   So why doesn’t Danny focus her rage on Cersei?   Ride her dragon to the Red Keep and attack Cersei head on?    Why all this collateral damage which does nothing for her except give her more to repair in her own future home as New Queen?   She kills and destroys the innocents that have always been her focus to win the hearts and minds.   She ignores the advice of Tyrion to not lay waste to the city she wants to rule.    It is all so out of character that we have no frame of reference for it.   She was the hero.   She was the one you cheer for.   And then this character lineage argument comes around that lazily argues that you must follow in the path of your father (family name).   Why must Danny become a Mad Queen and tyrant?   Unhinged and incapable of reason.   Why does she make her plea and victory speech before the remaining Unsullied and Dothraki that their wars and battles have just begun??!   Wasn’t this the end game?  Why is it all so reminiscent of the Nazi speeches in WWII and the First Order Speech in Force Awakens.    We are left with a result that puzzles and is frustrating.   It is lazy writing in my mind, and a conclusion without a proper build up.

Jon Snow

So what of the other hero in all of this, Jon Snow?   The bastard child of Ned Stark initially, who turns out to be much more.   He was Head of the Black, even killed by them and brought back to life.   He was King of the North and brought back Winterfell to its rightful family owners from the hateful Ramsey Bolton (truly one of the best bad guys ever written for a series).   He is a rightful heir to the throne and offered a possibility to the share in the leadership by Danny herself.   He has been loyal and a true friend, one who keeps his word, telling the truth even when it causes him trouble throughout the series.    He is loving and protective of those he cares about.   He is the hero that again viewers followed and cheered as he made his way through all the trials and challenges that he faced.   Jon makes up his own mind and does things that he feels are right, and will take them on himself (like volunteering for the lame mission to gather up a single White Walker to prove to Cersei that there really is a threat from the North).   But what happens to this brave warrior?   After seeing all the senseless destruction as outlined above, he is convinced by Tyrion in a jail cell that he must do what must be done.   He must protect his sisters from Danny, for when in future they likely show they have no interest in bending the knee to the New Queen.   Query whether Danny would ignore what she acknowledged was a great heroic feat made by Arya in the Battle with the Night King, whether she would have any harsh intentions to the saviour of the known world?   I doubt it, especially if Arya takes on her next set of missions as she sees them from the ending here.    If I were Danny, I would give her all boats and men and provisions that she would ever want.   So really it would be saving Sansa, and quite frankly she would get whatever she deserved as an ungrateful and privileged wanna-be Queen.   Any person who would pine over Joffrey Lannister isn’t worthy of praise nor protection.   But I disgress.   So Jon does what he does and is banished, yet again, to the Black!!  WHAT?!   But with the Wall destroyed and open for all to pass, and the Wildlings as friends, there is nothing to do there.   He abandons his post, again something he wouldn’t do, and heads north, where there is literally nothing.   So Jon kills those he loves, he is disloyal and doesn’t follow through on promises which he made throughout the series.   Some may argue he is keeping a promise to protect the realm generally from an unhinged tyrant, but that presupposes that he couldn’t have impact upon her.    She even offers to rule together.   So another unsatisfying aspect of the ending, that was hastily put together without the proper build up, and not enough time for the viewer to catch up.

Cersei Lannister

The ending of Cersei Lannister and her reign has to be one of those most disappointing in recent memory.  In a series where especially wicked and dastardly people meet fitting ends (think Ramsey Bolton or Joffrey or Lord Varys – scheming and plotting to the very end) this ending is especially unsatisfying.   Cersei had ordered the death of her own brothers, including her lover and father of her children.   She had blown up thousands.   She will, in short, do anything and kill anyone to keep her position.   She is the focal point of the hatred with Danny, and she has backed out on her word countless times, including failing to send troops to fight the White Walkers in the North.    Wouldn’t it have been better served to have Danny fly in on Drogon to the top of the Red Keep and blow fire and cause destruction there.    Hell, even Arya and The Hound could be there to attack and finish off The Mountain, before reaching and addressing Cersei.   Perhaps the Hound can kill The Mountain while he is threatening Arya, to protect her and sacrifice himself to be more human and more like the father-figure that Arya had lost to the executioner’s sword as ordered by Joffrey.    A beaten and bested Cersei could then be brought before her own people to be tried for genocide herself and the betrayal of the New Queen.   Cersei is defeated and shamed and left to live her life out in pain and obscurity.   The New Queen might use her to set an example of others and strip her of her name and titles.   Cersei may choose to take her own life, but it would be in misery and alone.   Defeat at being remembered as a villain and ultimately forgotten by the people.   Instead, she is re-joined by her brother Jamie, who seems to forgive that he has been ordered killed by her.    He accepts that he is wicked, and deserving to die (or at least accept banishment) and goes to her side.    Ultimately the walls literally come crumbling down and the Keep becomes a tomb, but even one where in episode 5, I am not altogether certain that she is even dead.    It takes until Episode 6, where miraculously and incredibly she and Jamie are found in the rubble by Tyrion that she is confirmed dead.   There is no head on a spike, or parading her around for all to see.   It is anti-climactic.    All the force and emotion of finally defeating a strong and difficult opponent is lost.    Even think to Arya killing House Frey en masse and you get a sense of how powerful a fitting ending can be, in retribution for The Red Wedding (one of the most shocking and remarkable sequences in recent series history) and you know this series knows how to do this right.   Instead for the most important defeat, the repayment of the execution of Ned Stark, they fumble the ball.

I could go on and talk about the ultimate head-scratching resolution for the new ruler of Westeros, and the choice of Hand.   I could question how the Dothraki could ever accept such a choice.    Or wonder about a people like the Unsullied who are incapable, by definition, of replenishing their troops and how they can ever be satisfied about finding a track of land to settle in.   Or speak to strange new parties showing up in the final meeting as presumably leaders of Westeros.  Or how they present a book called A Song of Ice and Fire which mirrors the name of the actual books that George R.R. Martin wrote for this story.   All of it was cheesey and a bit ridiculous.   There was so much right about GOT in getting to Season 8, that the resolution feels hollow and not worthy of the episodes and road travelled to get here.   What was really a character based drama of intrigue and betrayal became in the end action sequences that left the characters behind.   Weak storylines like the Brann story as cripple who can become the three-eyed raven (yea, okay…but so what?) become a greater focus while more developed and emotionally satisfying lines were moved to the sidelines.   Other storylines that were so important, like Arya and her ability to be No One and take on any face, is sidelined in moments (like the killing of Cersei) when it could have been very effective.   No one really got to see the powers that she had mastered, and how those could be used.    The whole Lord of Light story and the followers of that entity are ignored.   Melisandre was not the only one.  How does Sam become a Grand Maester so young?   But suffice it to say that this was time well spent.   I thoroughly enjoyed the series.   Making this 8 Seasons and 73 episodes was way better than had it become a three hour movie (like Hollywood wanted to do).   George R.R. Martin did right by making this come to life this way.   It also became a new benchmark for fantasy series and quality in writing and production value.   No one can say that they scrimped in this production and that the CGI was sub-par.   Far from it.     They eventually had the money to put quality together (especially the cast) and to put good scenes around them.   I wish the books had finished off what was started, but you can’t make an old writer write.   So we close off another chapter in quality TV like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and others.    The fact that so much debate can arise from a series shows that it has captured the imagination of the people.   No one wants to debate something they just can’t stand.   Winter has come and gone.   On to Summer!

May 20th, 2019 (Victoria Day)

This past long weekend I didn’t really watch anything too interesting but for re-watching Dan Brown’s Inferno.   I have already talked about it before as another installment of the Robert Langdon series.   It’s okay.

I also watched before the weekend the Julia Roberts’ film Ben is Back.  It also star the young and up and coming male star Lucas Hedges.   He has done some memorable roles already including Boy Erased with Russell Crowe and the family trying to use conversion therapy on their son to remove his inclination towards other boys (see Nov 26 2018 review).   This film is a lot closer to the other TIFF released from last year Beautiful Boy with Timothee Chalamet (also a very popular and in demand young actor) where Steve Carrell as father tries to understand and help his addicted son.   This was reviewed by me on October 29th in the Halloween edition.    There is a similar arc to both stories with Roberts and Carrell playing the loving (maybe too enabling parent) who wants to help a son who has lost his way.   Or at least he has found a path that the parents disagree with and they view it as self-destructive.   As addicts the boys are both convincing.   They have done terrible things and disappear for stretches of time.   Hedges’ character Ben is coming back early from a stint in Rehab it seems.   Only he seems to think that his returning to his home (with Mom, Step-Dad, younger sister and step-siblings) is a good idea.    He sponsor does not.    The plot is simple with his surprise visit and then as he wanders this small town which may be Vermont (but the mall seems a great deal like Woodbine Centre in Toronto) he gets noticed and recognized by others in the town.   There are some interesting moments, like Mom Julia in the mall which is unexpected.   There are others where Ben seems to have a dark cloud around him and bad things just seem to happen.   His step-father is not impressed.   His Mom tries to smooth things over and make them right.   I thought I knew where this was going and then it changed direction, mildly anyway.   Is it more satisfying than Beautiful Boy?   Not sure.   It’s different but keeps a theme going.   Is the Hedges performance better than Chalamet?   I can’t say that.   He has a couple moments where he needs to show some depth and he addresses them admirably.    What I can say about seeing both of these is that I am glad, so far, that my children haven’t been caught up in this world.   It’s a scary prospect that one who you have cared so closely for takes a U-turn and heads in a direction you can’t understand or relate to in any way.   I guess life is a lottery in many ways and children have to make their own choices.    Julia Roberts has some palpable moments of frustration and I think she attacks the problem for her directly with a moving seen with her son, just the two of them.  You’ll know it when you see it, and it was a moment where I sat and watched and just said “wow”.

May 13th, 2019

Sally Hawkins for me was really kind of introduced for me with her performance in Blue Jasmine, where Cate Blanchett walked away with the Oscar.  She was nominated in a Supporting Role and did not win.   I had not remembered until doing some research that she won the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Happy Go Lucky (a film I have never seen).   She even defeated Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia.    For me, she reminds me more of Amanda Plummer who was a more quirky actress and known portraying slightly odd and unique characters.    Sally then shot to prominence for her role in 2017 Best Picture Winner Shape of Water, where she was a deaf woman who happens upon a sea creature that was being tortured by his captures for his abilities.  All this to say that until Shape of Water, I didn’t think that she was ready to carry a film, and even then there were strong performances around here.   But I was introduced to the 2016 film called Maudie that she did (and is available on Crave).   This is a film about Canadian artist and native Nova Scotian Maud Lewis.   It also stars Ethan Hawke, who is very strong in his own right in this role.   Maud is an eccentric and person who at first appears not always present and paying attention.  Her brother early on is pawning her off on an Aunt, as the parents have passed and he was not prepared to look after her.   The Aunt isn’t pleased, despite being paid.  She is hurtful and nasty to Maud.   Maud’s life takes a turn that is unexpected as she shows independence and assertiveness that was not revealed before then.    The rest unfolds and I won’t spoil it.    She lives in a small shack, with very modest means near Digby.   She has everyday chores that she attends to, but also she expresses herself through the paints that she finds in the house.   She paints.    Flowers, seaside pictures and things around her.   What at first seems rudimentary is filled with vibrant colours and has a style.   At first she paints mostly small pictures, postcard size or smaller.    A local visitor from New York admires and appreciates her work (and pays her 5 cents).   Hawkins plays Maud incredibly well, from her quiet and jumbled dialog to the physical transformation of her body.   Maud was challenged with arthritis later on in life, but even in early days she had a foot that lagged.    All this is displayed by Hawkins and you get a real sense of the woman and what was driving her.    Hawke too shows evolution in his character and his relationship with this woman.  You can see how one life impacts another.    As little as I knew of Sally Hawkins, I knew even less about Maud Lewis.   The CBC has done interviews with her as she got more notoriety, including then Vice President Nixon wanting a picture from her.   If you wonder, as I did, what are her paintings worth now, well the highest I saw was $22,000.   I liked this film better than I thought I would.  If film can peer into the life of another person, who you wouldn’t have ever met (or maybe you passed by on the road way driving in the country with a Paintings for Sale homemade sign) then this can give some greater insight.   This movie shows that Shape of Water was no mistake, nor Happy Go Lucky.

In looking back upon my reviews, I don’t see a review for the classic space horror film Alien, which has spawned numerous sequences, and prequels.   The original by Ridley Scott is a masterpiece of suspense and horror.   It is filled with jumps, starts and surprises.   It was released in 1979, just a couple short years after Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977.    But it takes a different tack, but using the by-line “In space no one can hear you scream”.   And there is remarkable costume work in the creation of the creature; both in its earliest form and the larger adult version.   It won the Oscar for Best Effects-Visual Effects, with H.R. Giger there who created the creature.   In short, it changed the game and challenged all others to follow to try and match it, in creativity and fierceness.   This was a horrifying vision.  The plot is simple enough, a mining ship is heading home with a load of minerals, and the crew is awoken early by the master computer (“Mother”) to check out a signal “of unknown origin”.   For those fans of Prometheus and Alien Covenant you see the genesis of the ideas surrounding the creature (or those who came before) having seemingly crash landed on a desolate planet in a massive ship.   There are hints of the Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey in ways that become apparent when the plot turns that way.   A very young and strong willed Sigourney Weaver is introduced and she is the focus of the film eventually, and certainly in those sequels that came after.    Ridley Scott would disclaim any responsibility for these but he eagerly took on the prequels back in 2012 (man 7 years ago already!).   Suffice it to say that if you like suspense, and you like seeing the origins of science fiction thrillers then this is a good place to start.   If you like Ridley Scott’s work, then this a film to see, especially if you liked the more recent prequels in this series.

May 6th, 2019 (Classics – Top 3)

This past week I have been away and lamenting the fact there aren’t any movies that I care to see or spend money on at the theatre.  I am also recognizing that many of my favourite films are ones I have seen long ago and haven’t been reviewed here.  I was asked just a couple days ago what memorable movies have I watched lately and I was hard pressed to think of many.  It is easier to back into my own personal archives in my head to come up with favourite movies. So as a result I will take some time to talk about films that are on the top of my list.  Typically when I am asked about my favourite film I will say that I have three.  There are lists that were noted earlier in my writing.  The top ones haven’t changed. But let me expand upon the selections and why.
Shawshank Redemption is a choice that I have discussed before usually referring to other films or lists.  To me, this is really a film about friendship and hope. Having just spent a few days with a really good friend, I value this tremendously. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is a young banker and accused of murdering his wife, who had announced she was divorcing him. He is found guilty and sent to a Maine prison in the 40s. He meets up with “Red”, played brilliantly by Morgan Freeman. Most, if not all readers, will know the plot from here as Andy goes through his time at Shawshank. These two men and others around them find the value of hope, and friendship as well as being “institutionalized”. There is drama and suspense and an unexpected resolution. I think I am most moved by one the closing scenes with Red. Andy has made a request of him and he looks to fulfill it. In that moment when an uncertain leap of faith has materialized a lifeline is given.  Hope.  This is an old reliable film that I can watch time and again.  Each time it moves me even though I know where the story is going.  The performances are universally solid. The warden, the chief of the guards (Mr Hadley) and the librarian are all very good.  This is a film on the top of many people’s lists that I know, both men and women. It surprises me a little about women since they are not represented here for the story.  But I think a good story is still a good story. See it if you haven’t. See it again if you haven’t in a while.

Jaws I re-saw just at the end of December on the big screen at TIFF Lightbox as part of a special presentation. I brought my youngest son.  We had Jaws t-shirts on and watched in a crowded theatre.  This for me is two stories.  There is the small town drama in the beginning for the town council to make a tough decision about beaches being closed during the beginning of peak summer holiday season.  But once made, it turns into an adventure on the sea with nature playing chess with man.  It is a master directorial effort by Steven Spielberg in the film that made his career. With a wonky and temperamental mechanical shark in real life, he found ways for the viewer to believe the shark was there.  Barrels and music were key contributors. Colourful Quint (Robert Shaw) and his story of the USS Indianapolis adds to the seriousness but there are a few laughs along the way.  I saw this film multiple times in the theatre when it first came out as a kid.  I had a memorable plastic shark given as a stocking stuffer that year for Christmas.  I can watch this film time and again. I still have a bucket list item to try and see a great white (or other big shark) up close in their territory.  Quite simply the beginning of summer blockbusters and the remarkable film career for Steven Spielberg.

Finally I have Amadeus as a third favourite.  I also saw this not too long ago when it played with a live orchestra at the Toronto Hummingbird Centre. What a performance! For me I am in awe of the creative process and Mozart remains one of the world’s foremost composers ever.  He was a rock star of his age, but most think of those composers as stuffy and serious performing “boring” music.  It is far from it. Mozart was creating new and remarkable works that stand the test of time.  When Sir Neville Marriner the music director for Academy of St Martins in the Fields was asked about being part of this film (it was a play first) he said he was interested but only if “not one note of the music was changed”.  It wasn’t.  And the music is another character in the movie.  Listen how Antonio Salieri speaks about the Mozart music he hears and sees on the page.  He is a rival, he wants to be famous himself, but he is angry at God for not giving him the talent. He can only recognize the incarnation.  He represents the “Everyman” who puts in his time and then fades away.  I think the by-play between the two men is remarkable.  F. Murray Abraham won the Oscar for this performance defeating Tom Hulce.  He is amazing.  It is a performance of a lifetime and one he landed right after finishing with Scarface.  There are some funny stories about filming in Prague in the early 80s.  Milos Forman the director was a native Czech who was just returning to his homeland having fled the Communists. Not many films show the creative process.  Fewer still can reflect it as well on such a timeless subject as this one.  Is this story true?  No. There are plenty of accounts that suggest that Salieiri was not in any involved in the death of Mozart.  Still the story is is relatable and compelling.  It is truly heartbreaking to see the great musical genius taken away at such an early age. One wonders what further masterpieces he would have made.  This film showcasing his talent is just another one.

April 29th, 2019

This past week I caught the release of Sharkwater: Extinction on Crave.  It was being released there as part of Earth Day.  This is the sequel to the much praised first film entitled Sharkwater, where the filmmaker was the young, Canadian Rob Stewart.  In 2006, he had pointed out the remarkable shark fin industry to address the primarily Asian wish for shark fin soup.   Certain countries, like Costa Rica, were allowing or turning a blind eye to these activities taking place in their waters.   The resulting outcry of support galvanized a public that didn’t really know what was happening around them.    Stewart began in 2016 filming the sequel, and then giving nothing away perished in a freak diving accident while using a rebreather.   These inventions do help divers by taking up less oxygen and don’t have bubbles so they can get closer to fish and they can dive deeper and longer.   Like many machines, if they fail they have serious consequences.   Rob Stewart’s failed.   He died.   The half finished film was stuck in limbo but those involved chose to finish it.   The result is a weak follow up to the original.    The original premise of shark fin soup being the reason for all this destruction is supplemented with the idea that dog food, and other things that we eat contain shark.   There is a even a test on these products to show that there are traces of shark.   But it isn’t as compelling.   We have no idea of the scale.  Heaven knows what’s in a hot dog.   Yet tell people at a baseball game to refrain from eating and it will fall on deaf ears.   Still in the end the number of sharks killed are staggering.   Millions and millions, and then there are those who kill them for “sport”.  The bigger, the better of course.   I really feel as though to make it a fair fight, the shark should be in the water with the potential killer there armed with what he could carry.  Then bring it on.   Who is the apex predator now?  We’d find out.   Having opposing thumbs and being able to utilize tools shouldn’t give us the right to wipe out a creature who has lasted millions of years before we ever arrived.   And that really is the message, and it’s one the bears repeating.   So Rob Stewart, although you have move on too early, your message was delivered.   Maybe people can wake up again.

A GOT thought or two, for episode 3.

First and foremost I was really surprised by how darkly this was lit.   I get that it’s at night and there is no electric lighting (in castles or on the outside) but damn, this was hard to discern who was doing what to whom!  This was also probably one of the longer moving pictures with so little dialog in 80+ minutes.   So very little is said, that the pictures tell the whole story.   Some die, some are redeemed, some live to die another day presumably.   I won’t spoil too much because lots happens.   I will note that Dothraki were always major horse-riding bad asses, and in this battle (even with supplemented fire swords) they last painfully little time.  Also we have the Night King showing an ability that so far I have never seen from any character, by controlling the weather.   And if he didn’t in fact control a pending storm, then the timing would be uncanny!   Finally I note that this battle with the White Walkers was overwhelmingly one sided.  I likely will need to see again.   Still.  Much better episode than number 2, but that wasn’t that hard a bar to overstep.