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.