October 28th, 2019

First off this week I will note that the TIFF film Kursk that I saw two years ago, reviewed and liked here, is now available on Netflix but it’s called The Command.   It’s worth checking out and builds on the theme from Chernobyl with government pride (and I will purposely not call in Russian pride since I believe many countries and people can suffer from the same ailment) impacting their citizens negatively by choosing to not accept outside help and believing that they have a situation under control.   This is based on a true story.  No matter your politics or thoughts on Russians, this movie provides sympathy for sailors and their families, and not just sailors but submariners who I regard as extraordinary people who can go months without seeing the sun or even the sky.  It’s worth checking out.

In the theatre I went to see the well reviewed Parasite.  It is a South Korean film which won the Palme D’or at Cannes Film Festival this year (Best Picture).   This is first South Korean film ever to win.  This is no small feat.   I went in not knowing what to expect.   It is a story about a poor family of four that manages to infiltrate and become more involved with a very successful family with two young children, stay at home Mom and well known father.   It starts with the friend of the poor family’s son seeking help to fill in to tutor the older girl of the rich family.   The friend was leaving for overseas, and needed a fill in.  The younger poor son agrees, while getting a recommendation from the friend, and forging some documents with qualifications from his sister.   He gets the job.  Soon enough he invites his sister to help with the young boy and the story continues.   There are some genuine surprises that I won’t divulge.  They are worthy of a good script where a family learns some valuable lessons, and at unexpected costs.   Last year I scratched my head and didn’t understand all the love for Roma, with all the kudos and great reviews that it received.   It made me a little skeptical heading into this one.   I see this film more along the same theme of Shoplifters.   Also the really good Burning.  In the end, there are funny moments, and some surprising moments.   Worth seeing if not in the theatre but ahold it get to Netflix or other.

On Netflix I did catch Only The Brave which is based upon the true story of a firefighting brigade (troop) based in Arizona.   The group was elite in fighting outdoor raging fires.   They were highly trained and counted on to take risks.  It comes with the familiar trappings with an outsider looking to join who had challenges earlier in his life, and he wants to do the right thing with his new baby and baby Mama.   The troop is trained by a hard nosed veteran (Josh Brolin) who plays the role as expected.    There are new colleagues that have a history that they must address. Others are looking to gel into this elite fighting group.   Add to that spouses and significant others.   One is Jennifer Connolly, playing Brolin’s wife, who after master performance in A Beautiful Mind hasn’t found a role worthy of her talents.   This is no exception.   It is unfortunate that she can’t get better roles to test her and push her talents.    Back to the movie, the group shows their talent in various situations and then there is a fire in Yarnell Hill, Arizona in June 2013.    I didn’t know the story before watching this.  I followed up a bit after seeing it.   I was reading that there were challenges carried on for many involved here and that is sad to hear.   It was okay.  Not great.  But a story good to know.


October 21st, 2019, Canadian Election Day

I managed to see the charming movie Yesterday last week, and I think I was in just the right frame of mind to enjoy it.  Himesh Patel stars along with Lily James, and a little too much Ed Sheeran for my liking.   But that’s really a side show.   Patel is a young musician who has never quite made it in the music business.   James plays his manager, initially, and also someone who is romantically interested in the musician.  A solar flare occurs and the world is put into darkness and the fable aspects of this begins with almost everyone not knowing The Beatles music.   Patel does, and when he is presented with a new guitar and requested by his friends to play something, he plays Yesterday.   His friends think it’s quite good but don’t have any recollection of The Beatles.  He is incredulous, and soon realizes this to be true.   The story continues on, with some moments that are pleasantly unexpected.   I was not really convinced as much about the romance, but there was some good social commentary (like the public acceptance of certain artists and how they should appear, even if they happen to have volumes of material that is genius.   I saw this on the small screen and this was fine.    No theatre experience required, and I would recommend checking it out if you can.   I am of the first generation where The Beatles have been part of my entire existence.    It is difficult to imagine (no pun intended) life without them.

I also ventured to the theatre with my youngest son in tow to see Joker.  Like Alison, I had heard about the buzz on this film (it was all over TIFF) and there were good reviews, including hers.   I will preface this review with my underlying attitude that I am not a big superhero movie fan.   For me Christopher Nolan has created the better superhero movies, including the Batman trilogy with Christian Bale.    For me, the epic performance by Heath Ledger in 2008 as the Joker remains the pinnacle of the craft.  I can’t imagine better.  As I watched trailers for this version, I was more than a little skeptical.   Having said that, upon viewing, I will readily admit that the Phoenix performance is excellent.  I fully expect an Oscar nomination for it, as the range of emotions for him to go through would be an acting challenge unlike many others.   I can’t even imagine shooting day after day and take after take with the laughing scenes.   Then there is the physical transformation which Phoenix himself shows with the scenes where he is half-dressed or shirtless.   He is so thin.   It doesn’t rival Bale himself in The Machinist (Bale also well known to transform himself physically for a role like De Niro and Day-Lewis).   His physical appearance mirrors the darkness and depressed underlying story.   He looks every year and then some of his 45 years of age (he turns October 28th).

Joker is a backstory for this character and how he came to be the way he is.   I have no challenge about the desire to show this, but I struggle with the tight connection between the Joker story and the Bruce Wayne story.   Without giving anything away, I don’t see the need to go as far as it does.   Why can’t Joker be a guy who has had a difficult life, and has had many knocks which drive him to become an agent of chaos or anarchy?    The story explores mental illness and bullying issues too, which makes complete sense.   If you see the movie, you will understand what I am talking about.  The timeline then with The Dark Knight doesn’t really work either, so one can’t expect that there will be complete continuity.   On it’s own, Joker shows yet again that this character can be the source of truly great acting performances.    It touches on so many issues.  Incidentally having seen Ledger and Phoenix taking on this challenge, the performance by Jack Nicholson in the original Batman from 1989 (a film that I didn’t like at all) is lacking.   Jack is Jack but doesn’t show the depth or the range of emotion.   He is more cartoonish and one dimensional.   So I can echo the positive review by others and Alison, but just not as enthusiastically.

Finally I saw the trailer for The Irishman this week:

This movie along with Gemini Man with Will Smith is showing the new de-aging software that Hollywood is getting excited about.   Had this movie been made 25 years ago, then I would be all over it (De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and Keitel) would be anybody’s dream cast, being directed by Martin Scorcese.   Keitel is 80 years old.  Pacino is 79, and the other two 76yo.   The de-aging process uses expensive technology to recreate their faces while allowing them to still act.   Clearly these superstars of acting are having their lives prolonged, but why not find new actors to fill these roles and be the NEXT De Niro or Pacino?   Why can’t they just age and play grumpy old men?    Netflix has chosen to pick up this project and it will be released in theatres in early November.   Then Netflix.   There is another aspect of this that I think about, is why aren’t they de-aging the actresses?   I would think actresses who have made movies about Hollywood not accepting actresses over 40yo, would welcome this technology to hide lines and made bodies tighter.   The age of the digital actors is coming – and we will see again in Star Wars where deceased Carrie Fisher will be on screen and fully acting in that film in December.    Not sure if I am a young and up and coming actor that this would be welcome or not.

October 16th, 2019 – Bonus Alison submission

Joker is no joke.  I’m going to resist comparing Joaquin’s performance to that of Heath Ledger because they are incomparable in that they represent a pinnacle performance for each actor.  Joaquin’s transformation into this character was complete right down to his frighteningly emaciated frame and the physical stress the projection of the Joker laugh and unnatural run took on his frail person.  Performance aside Joker is a dark, depressing and surly poetry that you can’t help but stare at.  Its engaging from start to finish and as an origins story provided both the story of Joker and the Batman – two of the more prominent ‘superhero’ characters that have no special powers other than their menacing mindsets.  The film is well directed by Todd Phillips, who I had to look up to learn he’s best known for The Hangover franchise, and his offering here is to the standard set by Christopher Nolan.  Is it worth seeing if you’re not in the comic book movie scene?  Yes, albeit on the small screen.  Fans of the genre will be best served on the big screen.
The Souvenir is a film that both Rob and I had hoped to catch at the theatre and it was in and out of town before we even knew.  The art / independent film offerings are harder to track down as the rep cinema scene has been beaten back giving way to condo developments and movie-plexes.  The Souvenir stars Honor Swinton, daughter to Tilda Swinton who herself has a smaller role in this project.  The male lead was Tom Burke who played his role of master manipulator very well.  The Souvenir is about a young woman attending film school who meets a well groomed man who impressed with his scholarly conversation and fancy clothes.  An engaging conversation led to his crashing at her place for a week and of course feelings developed and the relationship progressed quickly…worts and all.  As I watched this slow moving piece I felt myself becoming more and more frustrated with the female lead’s decided naiveté where her love affair was concerned.  The director did a great job at dropping hints about the fly in the ointment with this particular prince charming and as the clues became more and more obvious I wondered why the critics gave this work such high praise.  Ugh!  But here’s the thing, this movie stayed with me for a few days as I mulled over my annoyance with the characters and the parents of said characters.  I’m deliberately not sharing any of the details of this film; I’ll let some paid critic ruin this element for you.  I still haven’t decided if I would have been happy to shell out full price for this film but it would certainly be worth paying for coffee  and cake that the film would be discussed over.
Booksmart.  I decided to watch this film on a whim and was so glad that I did.  This is the directorial debut for House’s old assistant, Olivia Wilde and it is entertaining, funny and creative.  The plot quite simply is the end high school and the class bookworms deciding they are going to crash the big end of the year party before going off to university.  These two quirky girls headed out for a night they will never forget and a couple of the best laughs I’ve had recently at a movie.  There is one scene involving barbies that I thought was brilliant.  The characters are likeable and are representative of pretty much every stereotypical high school class from back in the day.  Check it out on the Crave or wherever its streaming while you can.

October 14, 2019 (Canadian Thanksgiving Day)

El Camino is a newly released story on Netflix that is continuing on (and a re-telling) of the Jesse Pinkman story with Breaking Bad.  Aaron Paul returns to play Jesse, along with a cast of many other familiar characters from the original series.   Mike, Skinny Pete, Badger and others are all part of this.  Some cameos from well known other characters are used in flashback.   I guess it was inevitable with the success of Breaking Bad that something would be created.   It was good to see some familiar characters.   Vince Gilligan, the original creator, writer and director creates this new story.   It jumps around a fair bit, and you see Jesse in various times, and you mostly tell which time he is in by his haircut and clothes.   In short Jesse was kept in a cage for cooking purposes and managed to get free.  He is trying to find another path for his life to go.   In some ways his former life keeps creeping back in and he needs to use the skills he has acquired since meeting Walter White.   While I don’t find this on the same level as Breaking Bad, I did enjoy it.   The original series had many cliffhanging moments, and this movie manages to create a few tense moments.   If you liked the original series, then this is a decent place to spend some time.

We Stand Alone Together:  Earlier in the week, I watched a 2001 documentary which tells (once again) the story of the 101st Airborne, Easy Company from WWII.   The story is the same as in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.   Actually the real veterans, as portrayed by various actors in the series, are the storytellers in this documentary and their aren’t any actors.   Easy Company was a well known and respected company who has earned their stripes in every battle where they have been involved.  D-Day at Normandy, to Battle of the Bulge, and onto taking The Eagle’s Nest and uncovering Holocaust atrocities.   The stories that these men recount are incredible.  They, to a man, do not regard themselves as “heroes”.  To them, those who died in the battles are the heroes.   Major Winters would say, “…I wasn’t a hero in the war, but I fought in a Company of them.”   Very true, this coming from a real hero from the war who saved countless lives, and was an excellent leader to his men.  For me, the stories need to be remembered and recounted.   It is always more impactful to me when I see grown men cry talking about their buddies, and how they through sheer luck in many cases survived all the battles that they were in.   Likely that is a source of endless nightmares and questioning for them.   Real stories of course are better than well-told stories from Hollywood.     I will also note that the American participation in the war was late in arriving on the European front.   Britain, and her allies kept the possibility open for an Allied victory.

A related story that is on Crave these days is called Pearl Harbor: The Accused.  This movie that uses actors and some archival footage, is making the case that in the aftermath of Pear Harbor that Four-Star Admiral Kimmel was railroaded and made a scapegoat.   The case is made that pertinent intelligence and other valuable information was kept out of the hands of the Admiral in charge of the safety and security for the ships and the men.   As a result of the attack, expected inquiries were made (a Supreme Court Justice led the investigation and issued the 20 page report to the President) where they found dereliction of duty.  He had two stars removed and his Command was handed over to Admiral Nimitz.   His honour was tarnished and people attached him mercilessly.   There is part of me that thinks with a hesitant American pubic to be fully engaged in a War in Europe that an act against them directly was inevitable and expected to finally bring them into the War fully.  And with the intelligence of the day, I would expect someone knew about the Japanese navy leaving port on November 25th 1941.   US intelligence would have spies in the same way that the Japanese did in Hawaii.    But it is unlikely that we will uncover this.   Presidents from first George Bush to Clinton, Bush and Obama have all been asked to reinstate the stars to disgraced Admiral Kimmel.   So far they haven’t.  Politics suggests that they won’t given the positive outcome of these decisions and a desire not to dredge up old wounds, whether true or not.

October 7th, 2019

M. Night Shyamalan has had a spotty career with the films he has been involved with over the years.   The Indian director made a big splash and had the town buzzing with Sixth Sense (“I see dead people”) in 1999 and followed up a year later with Unbreakable.    Then a string of other films came which were ranging from modestly successful (like Signs with Mel Gibson) to outright horrible with The Village or Lady in the Lake or The Visit.   He also likes to insert himself into these films as an actor but it doesn’t work as well like it did for Alfred Hitchcock, where it was more a Finding Waldo like joke to Woody Allen, who was an actor in his own right.   Honestly he has to do something with that 80s haircut, which I suspect covers ears that resemble Dumbo, but it’s just a guess.   Last year, M Night came out with Split which stars James McAvoy as a young man who has multiple personality disorder.   McAvoy was brilliant in the role, and he continues with that extraordinary performance in the new film Glass.   Glass is on Crave and is more compelling and watchable than I thought it was going to be.   The story involves the coming together of three separate films, with Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Split.  The stars for each carry on previous roles with Bruce Willis, Samuel L Jackson and James McAvoy.    They are all different in their own way, and brought together by a doctor looking to “cure” them.   The doctor works with people who have a superhero complex and she is looking to bring them all back to reality.   Jackson is mostly silent throughout the film and Willis is looking to use his perceived powers for good as a vigilante.    Willis wants to help find some teenage cheerleaders who were kidnapped by McAvoy’s character.   Then other things happen which I won’t go into here.  Related characters to the main ones are introduced, and they are looking to help their troubled friends and loved ones.   In the end, I liked this and it was worth my time seeing.

Recently with all the 50 years acknowledgements of the moon landings, there have been more and more showings of space and space race related movies.   Yet again a little while ago The Right Stuff was played.  I own this film on DVD.   I re-watch it periodically.   When Apollo 13 (also re-shown last week) and then last year First Man came out, I watch them all.   I noted in Apollo 13 when the spacecraft was in trouble and Jim Lovell’s Mom was watching the TV, they have Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins sitting with her from Apollo 11.   She asks “are you two in the space program?”   But anyway, The Right Stuff focuses on the Gemini program and getting Americans into space as the Russians were seemingly ahead and the US Administration didn’t want to “sleep under a red sky”.   So they rushed to create a spacecraft, and find people to man them.   Test pilots were the ultimate choice, and those who were well known, like Chuck Yeager and others were skeptical of being “spam in a can” and doing the job that a chimpanzee could do.   Yeager was the fastest man alive for a time with planes he was flying.   The astronauts selected came from all branches of the military and had good acting with Scott Glenn, Ed Harris and Dennis Quaid in the roles.   Wives are not excluded from the drama either as we see how their lives are impacted by the chosen profession of their husbands.   Barbara Hershey, Pamela Reed are memorable as well as Veronica Cartwright who after her husband Gus Grissom has a mishap with a hatch, doesn’t get to meet Jackie Kennedy and she is crushed by that defeat of no visit to the White House.    There are tremendous technical scenes and visuals with the rockets, the planes and re-living these times.   I enjoy the humour and good fun that the guys can try to have some laughs even while being put through testing that no human had ever endured before.  It is a job where from one day to the next you don’t know whether you are going to come home or not.   Scary.   Brave.  If you have interest in history and space history, this is well worth your time to understand the times.   I would like to think that we all worked better together, even though the Vietnam war and the race riots were all part of a very tumultuous time in the world.   Maybe it was just one thing that we could seem to agree on when all others failed.   And even then getting funding for Apollo was not an easy thing to get, nor keep.


October 1st, 2019

Coming soon – a new Trailer for me that was shared by a friend (who also happened to find They Shall Never Grow Old).   Here is a WWI film that I will seek out.   I have to admit that I am not generally a Sam Mendes fan, but this looks good.   I also think that the “one shot” concept is a bit of a gimmick – and truly it is a series of one shots clearly – otherwise there is no need to wait for clouds.    But still ….

September 30th, 2019

No theatre visits this week, but instead some catch up on Crave and Netflix.  It started with Untouchable, which is the disturbing documentary about the rise and fall of Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein.   What more can be said about the Weinstein story.   He has gone from a mogul to pariah, where everyone would take his call, to no one wanting to be associated with him.   It’s interesting to note just how early his transgressions began.   There was an internal memo at Miramax early on by a female employee that later became a smoking gun.   His own brother certainly knew about what was happening and this team of people became enablers for him.  He had to privy to writing the cheques to silence the accusers.   And there were many accusers over the years, they just became more and more well-known.  Also well known too is the lack of whistleblowers.   No one wanted speak up for fear of the wrath of Harvey, his litigation team and losing out on plum job opportunities.   Powerful people have the ability to abuse power.  It becomes a question of character.  Not everyone who make it to high positions of power have that character, and certainly don’t always possess the human niceties (see Steve Jobs example).  You thought I was going to mention the current President.   In the end, the good news is that this awakened a movement (#MeToo) which impacts the industry and life in general.

Welcome to Marwen, is a film that from the trailers didn’t show very well.  It was an odd concept, with GI Joe like characters in a make believe world that was the imagination of a talented photographer.  It stars Steve Carrell, and directed by Robert Zemekis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Contact and Cast Away).   A loner gets beaten up in a bar by some thugs, and then has to deal with the aftermath.   He has some friends, but he for most of the time lives in his own world.   This world is shown with Barbie like characters and fuzzy storytelling.   His biggest feat is whether he can attend the trial and sentencing for the thugs who beat him up.   In the end, this isn’t a very strong effort and it fared poorly in the box office.

Finally the documentary Clive Davis: Soundtrack of Our Lives speaks to the life a music executive icon, who didn’t seem to have a problem with keeping aspiring artists from massaging him in his hotel room.  His parents died early in his young life, and he ended up putting himself through university and then Harvard Law School.   He was never musically inclined, but was offered the position of Legal Counsel at Columbia Records.   His role changed after a time there and he became the person to identify and sign new talent.   One of many genius moves was to focus on rock n roll rather than the more traditional easy listening music.   One of his first signings was Janis Joplin.   Others followed like Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, Patti Smith, and then Bruce Springsteen and Simon & Garfunkel.   Later he managed Whitney Houston.   Yes, he also managed Barry Manilow and Kenny G, but these were multi-million dollar acts.   He was removed from the record company that he started (Arista) but then was later re-instated as his acts supported him.  He continues to this day to listen to top hit music and keep abreast of trends in music.   At 87 years old, he is expected to keep doing his job for the foreseeable future.   It’s worth a watch.

September 23, 2019

I connected with my eldest son this past weekend and I talked with him about whether he had any interest in seeing Ad Astra, the new space Brad Pitt vehicle.  He responded that he was tired of these space movies and it seemed that there was a new one each year and they were all basically the same.   In many ways I agree with him.  Some space movies are more realistic   Others more fantastical.   In this case the story and the scenes increase the level of disbelief to levels that for me just make me laugh.   It is Princess Leia flying dead in space level of laughter for me.   There are practicalities that even in a futuristic world (extensive underground bases in places like the moon and Mars) leave me scratching my head.   If you choose to watch this, then you will know what I mean.   The story structure has aspects of Apocalypse Now, with a person who was in a position of power who has seemingly gone off the grid.  There is also a father and son dynamic which plays out.   There are bits of Gravity, and Interstellar and others   In the end, there is an “ending impossible”.   To sum up, I hope I have saved you each a couple hours of your life.   And you can feel free to ignore the positive review from Roger Ebert.com.   You can thank me later.

Also at the theatre this week, just a couple of days after it showed at TIFF, I went and saw Hustlers with Jennifer Lopez.  It tells the true story of a group of strippers at Scores Club in NYC.   They had a decent lifestyle and business with the Wall Street types until the financial meltdown in 2009.   As a result the club suffered and they were collateral damage.   Lopez was a well known and popular dancer who took a new young dancer under her wing (played by Crazy Rich Asians Christine Wu).  When the crisis hits they reconnect and decide to alter their business model somewhat along with a few new friends and recruits.   I have to admit that the story surprised me a little.  I went in expecting another telling of a Widows like story (which I quite enjoyed) and it turned out to be very different.   Lopez in particular is very good and she shows an edge and street smarts that she hasn’t shown in some time.   She is a clever business person and ruthless.   She is able to justify in her own mind (and those around her) the actions that she is taking.   It was entertaining.   I cared about the characters.   Sure there is an aspect with strippers parading around but you don’t see any nudity on Lopez or Wu.   Lopez has worn less in Awards dresses than what she wears here.   Still as a 50yo she holds up very well in the physical aspects of this role.   Do you need to see this on a big screen?   Not really.   Still worth checking out as it was for me on a Cheap Tuesday.   

September 16, 2019

I didn’t get to TIFF.  Sad to say, and I tried but I just didn’t get there.  In the end there were a couple of days that worked, but the expense just couldn’t be justified.  Seeing a Gala at Roy Thompson or others were going to run $45-85 a ticket.   I couldn’t justify for films that would be in wide release within weeks.   So I was on the sidelines, and not willing at this age to take my time and chances on a Rush ticket (going to the window and hoping that there would be a seat for $25 cash).

Not sure if I have said it before, but it is worth repeating that I don’t like Jesse Eisenberg.   I didn’t like him in The Social Network, nor Now You See Me and others.   He seems to play himself, or he has been very well typecasted as the small-statured,  smarmy, arrogant, know-it-all who after a while you just feel like punching in the face.  He plays the same character in The Hummingbird Effect.  Conversely the typical casting of Alexander Skarsgard has been one of the hunk, good-looking, menacing hero type (see The Legend of Tarzan or True Blood).  In this film, he is a balding, geeky, introverted brother to the marketing guy Eisenberg.  Salma Hayek rounds out the stars in this film, which on first take you might believe is based on a true story.   It is not.  The story focuses around a pipeline to be tunnelled from Kansas City through to NYC.   It looks like a fibre optic line from what I can tell, and it requires extraordinary efforts to have 10ths of nanoseconds in order for traders to gain an edge and make money.   Jesse is getting funding to pay for this tunnel.   All the while his boss, and company owner, Hayek, does her best to thwart the efforts of her now former employees.    It seems as it is much ado about nothing.   Only in America are these efforts made in order to temporarily save fractions of secs before the next technology makes it extinct.   Then there exists the hard line under the Appalachian mountains.   Who cares?   I am not in any way engaged with this film, and do not care about the characters.   Skarsgard towers over Eisenberg and it is funny to see them together.   They don’t look like brothers and don’t act like it either.    In the end, I shrug my shoulders and don’t really care about it.

I re-watched Sophia Coppala’s Marie Antoinette, and my initial assessment from when I first saw this back in 2006 was re-affirmed.   I cannot say that I like the retro soundtrack that was put into this film.   Bow Wow Wow “I Want Candy” and other songs have been added which try to make this seem more contemporary, but just don’t seem right.   The music of the day would seem to be more fitting.   Where has Kirsten Dunst gone, now 13 year ago?   She was Mary Jane in Spiderman.   She landed this role and many others.   You will spot others too like Jamie Dornan, and Tom Hardy in this cast.   Jason Schwartzman gives a memorable Louis XVI performance but not one in which the doomed King would have liked.   He is quiet, not interested in relations nor a relationship with his young wife, and has trouble (most of the film) in consummating the marriage.   The scenes of Versailles itself are amazing and a great reminder of all this place is, both then and now.   What a symbol of French opulence!!   But you can see how the royalty was completely removed from every day life, a theme that I heard matter-of-factly in The King’s Speech where Colin Firth speaks of not having friends and not knowing how the common man (his subjects) actually live.   I would like to think that the trial and beheading of Marie Antoinette would get more attention, as it got none here.   She started out as an entitled young Austrian girl, who grew up in the Austrian palace of Schonbrunn in Vienna (also a worthy pace to visit) and married at age 14.   But she became a symbol of a monarchy who had lost touch and didn’t care for her people.   The consequences of that were fatal, but were more implied than shown here.


September 9th, 2019 (TIFF begins)

It is always an exciting time to be living in Toronto when the film festival comes to town.   These days they are closing down King Street (a main east-west throughfare) to allow for walking and booths and food trucks for the TIFF opening.   The Festival started on Thursday and runs through to next Sunday.  There is a buzz in the city, and there are many celebrities at the bars, restaurants and around at the films they are promoting.   I brought youngest son down with me on Saturday to just get a sense of how it is like again.   Last year we went and saw Julia Roberts from afar.   This year we went and just happened upon a gathering spot across the street and west from TIFF Lightbox theatres.   There we saw a commotion and people clamouring for pics.   We arrived to see the following (we missed Willem Dafoe by a few minutes sadly).   We caught Antonio Banderas entering in a hurry.   Then had a picture shared of Rosario Dawson (a favourite of mine) as she entered.   So cool.

Antonio Banderas at TIFF 2019, in a hurry
Rosario Dawson at TIFF 2019

I am hoping to get out to see a film or two, but I have nothing scheduled.   Normally I would have poured over the listings and made my choices of films to see.  Not this year.  It will be hit and miss, and rush something that piques my interest, and I am okay with that.

On Crave (I have had my home subscription renewed) so now I have more options going forward.   I watched the Clint Eastwood film, The Mule.  Based upon the true story Leo Sharp in a NY Times article.   The facts are an elderly man, more or less estranged from his family as he was a work-a-holic, or at the very least chose to be away from him, is roped into running drugs as a driver into Chicago.   He has a clean record, a good driver, and never had a ticket.    He ended up being one of the most trusted mules for the Mexican drug cartel.   The cast is good with Eastwood playing Earl Stone, who is a horticulturalist, and creates amazing flowers and plants for which he gets rewards.  With him Dianne Wiest, as his ex-wife, real life daughter Alison Eastwood, playing his daughter, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia and Michael Pena.   The film was more emotionally impactful than I thought it would be.   Primarily I think because Eastwood is reflecting back on himself and his own life, especially with daughter Alison.   The story itself works and you feel for those involved.   Things happen as you would (generally) expect – although not all when it comes to Clint – you’ll know it when you see it.   In the end there is a message and thoughts on life as you look in the rear view mirror.  Somehow I suspect that Clint wouldn’t have made fewer movies.   Something about him makes me think he likes the awards and the body of work and him being regarded as a living legend in film.   Still as he acts with his daughter, there must be pangs of doubt every now and then of the choices made.   Only he would know.

I started watching the series Euphoria on Crave and I immediately reached out to Alison to get her take on it.   The first episode was so raw, and disturbing as you watch these high school aged kids living the life in California.   I wasn’t sure if I could continue at that pace but I am glad that I stuck with it.   The story follows mostly unknown actors to me in high school with the focal point being a young black woman name Rue (played by Zendaya) who is sharp, and funny and engaging, along with being a drug addict who lies and manipulates her way through life.   She has many fellow students around here, who read off like the characterizations in The Breakfast Club.   There is Sports/Athlete guy, and Crazy, and wallflower and others in this group trying to keep up.   The adults are about as mixed up as the kids, maybe more in cases.   They swirl around in a drama that takes new turns and directions.   It culminates in a final episode for Season 1 where, I think, they have pulled together so many of the storylines that it was excellent writing.   It may seem hollow at first, but it stayed with me.   Stories are left hanging and others seem resolved.  But clearly there will be more to come.   This is not easy to watch at times, especially for a parent myself.   I am not naive enough to think that this doesn’t happen around here.   In fact, I would think the opposite is that it likely is all around.   The young tattooed boy (hard to call him a man) who sells the pretzels at the fair, is one enterprising and street smart little dude.   He is scary.   Others too.   I have said many a time that I have no interest in re-starting life and going back to high school.   This series makes that statement all the more true.   Worth catching if you have the stomach for it.

Finally the TIFF films from 2018 Climax was on.   This is a French film that was more racey.  It really though is a study in chaos.   And to that end it fails.   I can’t say that I understood the point.    It seems to be random and strange interactions of people working through an abandoned building.   In truth I didn’t catch this from the very beginning, but I don’t need to.   The only notable I saw was Sofia Boutella of The Mummy and Atomic Blonde.   I can’t say that yelling and screaming and rolling around on the floor elevated her status for me at all.   Consider yourself warned and know that I saved you an hour and a half of your life, to go watch something far more interesting.