March 13th, 2023 (Post Oscars)

Living: Starring Oscar nominated Bill Nighy this film starts in a very slow, quiet, deliberate pace. Set in London in the fifties, I will admit that I look to opening credit sequence that takes me back to films of the 50s and 60s. I had hoped that same visual effect could continue throughout the entire movie. It didn’t, but that was okay. This is a new adaptation of the 1952 Japanese movie Ikiru from acclaimed director Akira Kurasawa. I had been looking forward to seeing this, and about an hour into it I wasn’t so sure. It was slow and I found Nighy hard to understand at times because he was speaking so softly. There was very little energy with the men in the black bowler hats waiting for the train heading into the City in the morning commute. A new recruit is going the civil service in the Public Works Department. Nighy is the elder manager of the group who acknowledges his team as he enters at his stop, yet doesn’t join them. There is a very formal, unspoken protocol among the team members as they head ton work with Nighy leading the way.

As a public sector employee, I think that this would be an excellent film for each civil servant to watch. The principal story involves Nighy and his journey, but accompanying it is a story of a bureaucracy who spends their days looking to find obstacles to put before the public. In this instance a group of women would like to have a playground erected where an old bombed out building used to stand. The new recruit is asked to assist the women who have already spent days walking around the building with no resolution, or even anyone who will take up their cause in any meaningful way. What happens amongst these team members and specifically to Nighy is a cry for action for people in every place in life.

Without giving too much away, Nighy after some time of reflection and poignant discussions with those around him, decides to have a change of heart. It is at this point that the momentum of the film changes. I really enjoyed the message that he demonstrates, and that his team take away from his efforts. There is this idea that it is never too late to impose a change on one’s life. How many of us are really going to be remembered beyond a generation or two of our families and the mark that might be left on the world. We can’t all be Mozart or Shakespeare or even Elon Musk or Bill Gates. But what we can do is bring about positive change and make those around us feel a little bit better with the gifts that we each have. I think that in these times, this is a message that bears repeating time and again. I am very glad that I saw this.

EO: This Polish film is a Best Foreign Film nominee. I watched this right after finishing Living. I am sorry that I did. I say this because this movie, which Alison reminds me is another in a series of Polish Best Foreign Film nominees with the same overall theme. No spoilers but I don’t think that it says too much to reveal that the donkey is a spectator to the things that humans do to each and to animals. There are some who are kind and gentle, mindful that every living creature should be given some respect, while others are decidedly not as concerned.

2023 seems to be a popular year with donkeys, noting that the young donkey in Banshees of Inisherin plays a vital role in the relationship between the two friends in that nominated movie. Maybe it is the same donkey, I couldn’t tell you.

Our young donkey starts off in a circus, and from there his travels can take him to the countryside, to be shipped around the country. He is a very well travelled donkey and those who have him (or her) their care tend to be rather forgetful. The donkey manages to get away and see many other places near and far. Suffice it to say that there is not a positivity in this world for the donkey and in what he observes. TIFF was abuzz with this movie and I had tried to see it there, but now I am glad that I didn’t. I can watch the news and feel much the same as I did after watching this movie. Between this and Living, and I will take the message from Living every time. Movies are meant to make you feel, and sometimes it’s not always very positive, but there is an element of being entertained. I will say I think that the shots of the donkey show a well well behaved animal which is extremely comfortable in front of the camera, and many close ups. It would have been a challenging set to work on.

MH370: The Plane That Disappeared: Netflix has released a three part documentary about the mystery surrounding the disappearance in 2014 of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 239 people aboard that in the early hours just simply disappeared. Vanished. Inexplicably this enormous plane and all its passengers and crew ceased to exist.

So what can we explore in three hours of documentary? A good question! In truth the answer lies in various people putting forth their own theories without many facts to support their position. Three theories are explored: (1) the captain/pilot did it (2) the Russians did it and (3) the US government did it. I will leave it to you to decide which one is the more plausible scenario. For me, the crux of it is as a member of the travelling public who goes onto a plane as often as I can, I find it more than a little disturbing that a plane of this size can simply vanish. I feel great sympathy for all the family members of those who cannot be found. They cannot get closure even nine years later. How agonizing!! Each of the theories on what happened cannot fully how a plane goes off radar screens, both civil and militarily in a heavily travelled part of the world.

In the end what is drawn out over three episodes could very easily could have been covered in thirty minutes. You gain nothing in watching all three hours. The end result remains the same. It is either an incredible coincidence of factors or a confounding plot with so many active players that it makes your head spin. What I do know is that I don’t want to put myself in the position of being a pawn where giant players like China, the US and Russia could have a vested interest.

Oscar Night! Some preliminary thoughts

The Oscar ceremony is tonight, and I will have commentary about it, along with what I had predicted. For the record I think that Everything, Everywhere All At Once will win the Best Picture award. I will say that this is expecting what WILL happen rather than what I WANT to happen. If there was a movie that most profoundly impacted the movie industry more than any others this year it was Top Gun Maverick. At the tail end of a pandemic it put people in the theatres in record numbers. It did this because it was a KICK ASS blast of a movie. I love military aircraft, and this was jet porn in its highest. Like the original Top Gun back in 1986 where 19yo me drove home from the theatre feeling like I was in the cockpit of an F-14, this movie did the SAME thing! I saw Top Gun Maverick twice in IMAX, and it was worth every penny. I don’t ever have to see Everything, Everywhere All At Once again. That is a measure of a movie as well; staying power and how it bears repeat viewings. The best movies reveal themselves on more than one viewing and even then after time still show more things about themselves. I have to admit that I was surprised that Viola Davis was not even given a nomination for The Woman King. Same for Clare Foy in Women Talking. Note that I saw all nominees in the Best Actress category save Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie that I couldn’t find. I think the easiest pick for Oscar is All Quiet on the Western Front for Best Foreign Film, followed by the annoying kid all grown up from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Goonies, for Best Supporting Actor Ke Huy Quan. Enjoy the show!