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.


Halloween 2016 – October 31

I have not been to the theatre in some time – there has been so very little to see.  Some films that I anticipated and were excited about (like Girl on the Train, and Inferno) turned out to be less than well reviewed.   So I have been back at Netflix, along with watching Season 2 of Game of Thrones.

The movie was The Man Who Knew Infinity with Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel.   In it, there is told the story that was referred to in Good Will Hunting.  In Good Will Hunting the two professors are talking about how great Will could be and exciting math comes from unexpected places.   This is the story of the unknown self taught Indian genius, Srinivasa Ramanujan.   The era was around the First World War and the young man is married in India and it takes some time before people see his genius in Math.  They suggest sending some excerpts of his work to England.   From there his journey begins.
Irons plays a prof who is obsessed by Math, but also doing “proofs” and showing the work.   He presses the genius to show the proofs and won’t publish him (as initially promised) until he does.  
Where the movie fell down for me is the importance of a fellowship from the school, where he would become the youngest fellow and become more part of the University.   But who cares?  Why does he care?   Seems even with struggling health that there is his looking for validation from the white people.   His genius surpasses all of them, but he still wants this and yearns for it apparently.   I saw this as a movie at TIFF, but was glad to see it.   Moreso than Lady in the Van.   Worth a viewing, but no need to pay big bucks for it.  
This past weekend I did see Amadeus Live with a real orchestra and choir to play the music from the film.  It was very well done.  Hearing Mozart with the orchestra and also seeing it with an audience was a treat.   From the laughter and the moving moments, you could feel this film from the perspective of one who had not seen it before.   I was glad that I saw the advertisement for this outside the ROM a couple weeks back.   This remains one of my favourite films of all time, and is likely the best film I could think of to see with a live orchestra.   They are doing E.T. in a while but to me hearing John Williams’ score live is not the same as Mozart.

July 27th, 2015

This week was a catch up on Netflix.  I saw Maze Runner (previously reviewed by you) and then also Mockingjay.   Last night I watched the extended Directors Cut of Amadeus on BluRay.

Maze Runner I started watching this in the thinking I would watch an hour and turn it off before bed, but then watched the entire thing.  It was, as you say, not as disappointing as expected.   The bullying red haired kid I couldn’t get the We’re The Millers scene with the spider out of my head — but never mind.  This was better than I thought and held my attention.   I will not run out for the sequel, and the ending was disappointing with Patricia Clarkson as the Kate Winslet (Divergent) or Donald Sutherland (Hunger Games) acting as the Dictator baddy.
Mockingjay.   OMG was this a waste of time.   I was waiting for something, ANYTHING, to happen here.   If the entire 2 hours will hinge on itty-bitty Pita, then you lose me.    He is just so not important in the grand scheme of things.   Give JLaw some kick ass moments and have her do something.   This and her black hair, are just not it.   BTW, not for a MOMENT do I believe that an arrow shot from the ground (no matter what is on the tip) does it take out two jet fighters.   Yawn!
Amadeus is a fav of mine and in my top 5 list of all time.   I love seeing the creative process and the performances are excellent, least of all Academy Award winner F Murray Abraham.   The extended version on Blu Ray has more scenes added, and a sideline story with Soliari making a pass at Mozart’s wife (Costanza).   There is other dialogue added, and I think the extra scenes added very little.   Mozart sitting with a young student with dogs was unnecessary.  As well as him going back to beg for work.   A great film that did not need the extra scenes.
[Alison warned me about Mockingjay and it being a cash grab – my response]

I had known that you warned me away from Mockingjay.   I watched because it was on NetFlix and sometimes you just can’t say No when when there is NOTHING else to watch.    So I did.  And you were proven absolutely correct.  I really want Pita to take a bullet.   No wee-man like this is worthy of the time and attention paid to him like this guy.    Why risk all those lives to get this dwarf?

I saw Divergent in the theatre and was under-whelmed.   I like Shailene Woodley, from her breakthrough performance in The Descendants as the elder daughter. I like her in longer hair and wish she didn’t have to copy EVERYTHING that JLaw does.   But besides that, the first movie was slow and weak and did not really hold my attention.   Woodley and “Four” (now there’s a truly DUMB name for a potential hero) had no chemistry whatsoever in the first.  All these futuristic movies are blending into each other, from Hunger Games to Maze Runner, to Divergent to Ender’s Game.  There is always some punk kid that civilization, if not the UNIVERSE needs to put our faith into, and adults are all idiots or maniacs focused on running the world as a tyrant.   I am pleased to hear that Part 2 is better.  It HAD to be.   Woodley is a good actress and think that she could carry a film or franchise – JLaw can without a doubt but she was given no material in Mockingjay.  Throw her a flippin’ bone!
I re-watched Man of Steel the other night too.  Still can’t get over the flying penises for putting baddies in a black hole.  In hindsight, just leave them in a cell as the whole planet blows up a few hours later.  Problem solved!!!   No mess for Kal El to clean up either.   And the whole Lois Lane thing drives me bananas!!  Evil alien wants to take care of Kal El, but Oh, just for fun he wants the red haired girl too.   What are you doing?   You ask for her to accompany Supe, and then proceed to ignore her!!!  As she speaks to Supe’s Old Man, and figures out a way (“I can do it!”) to kill the aliens and the ship!   Amazing!!   Ridiculous!!!!
I am watching Weeds, and the ticky tacky episodes.  I like her.  Also like Elizabeth Perkins too!  It is funny, and a poor man’s Breaking Bad, but far less intense.   I am also getting through Season 3 of Home Land.