September 13, 2021

Becoming Cousteau: This Liz Garbus newly released documentary at TIFF, first shown Saturday with the director and editor in attendance, shows some of the life of the incredibly complex Frenchman, Jacques Yves Cousteau. For those of us who were raised in the 70s, this man was an iconic figure on TV with his hour long specials showing the wonders of the undersea world. He and his small band of like-mind explorers sailed the seas on the Calypso, a converted British mine sweeper that one of the Guinness family (yes the Irish beer making family) paid to give him to do his work. He pioneered (and invented out of necessity) the aqualung as well as the underwater camera. With those inventions, he endlessly filmed the sea world that he experienced first hand for the early years of his life. Incidentally his first film of the seas, won him an Oscar for Best Documentary. He would add two more. He wrote books about sea life. It is odd, when thinking back on it, that a man who was so inspirational for many people to see the waters for the first time had all but disappeared since his death back in 1998, at the age of 87. The documentary decides to focus on the man, and his journey from a naval officer and making a living showing people the sea, to being an early observer of climate change, and seeing in a short 30 years how the oceans had been impacted by human ignorance and negligence. It does not dwell on his personal life beyond introducing us to his first wife, Simone, and their two sons Phillippe and Jean-Michel and then with his second wife the much younger Pierre-Yves and Diane. Here was a man who was instrumental in bringing together world leaders at the Earth Day Summit in Rio in 1992. He was at one point that Americans said that they most wanted to meet. Sadly it took 5 years according to the Director to get access to the video archives. The reason for the delay is the schism that has divided the Cousteau family and the legacy of Jacques. His second wife, a mistress and mother of two children was granted the rights to the Cousteau Society. Jean-Michel, the remaining son with first Wife, Simone, has been in litigation with her about the Calypso, the movies, control of the corporation and the legacy. What this clouds is a fascinating man who gave so much to the world. He is an inventor, explorer, film-maker, naturalist, and someone deeply committed to protecting the planet for future generations. He was before the US Congress in the late 1970s talking about the damage to the oceans, and the need to make efforts with action as opposed to talk. Unfortunately not much has happened since his impassioned plea. Environmental targets are missed, people are apathetic with the size of the problem. Meanwhile our oceans are warming. Coral is bleaching and dying. Fish are being massively over-fished. I think that in 2021 Jacques Cousteau would be very disappointed in the lack of progress by mankind. It is still an important message that it getting delivered, and I am hopeful that people can remember this man, and the younger generations can be introduced to someone who shaped much of our knowledge of the creatures in the sea. Well worth your time. It will be released to theatres in October.

A book that has been in my family for years circa 1970

As an aside I can say that on Friday I wandered the streets around King Street near Roy Thompson Hall. Usually the first Friday of TIFF there would be a buzz around the city. People in the streets, King Street closed, vendors on the street, people lining up for various films at numerous locations in and around the city. You could feel the energy. If you were lucky you may have a close encounter with a star. For me a couple years back it was Antonio Banderas and before that Jessica Chastain in 2017. The randomness of it all made it exciting. A black limo may pull up at any time and someone may step out. Now, there aren’t the lines. No vendors. No lines for movies. Fewer venues than ever before in my recollection. At the Saturday show at the Cinesphere there was no line outside. Inside masks were to be worn at all times in a socially distanced seating arrangement with about 25% of the patrons inside.. Hell, even the crowd didn’t give a pirate “Argh!!!” when the Piracy warning came up! It is not the same. It is TIFF Lite. And that is okay. I give kudos to those who have the unenviable task of trying to put together a world class event, and make no mistake that TIFF is one of the top film festivals in the world. For me personally, I won’t pay for a drive-in movie. I may pay for a digital film shown in my house. I will see a movie live with these Covid measures in place. I am hopeful that TIFF 2022 can be more like it has been in the past. Seeing Amercian college and NFL stadiums filled to capacity (106,000 in Michigan alone) one of us will be shown to be wrong with the D-variant.

The Grand Seduction: This 2013 Canadian production is showing on Netflix. It stars Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch. The story involves a struggling small fishing harbour in Newfoundland looking to re-invent itself. The fishing has been curtailed and the people (about 120) have mostly been on social assistance. They would like to attract a new oil based recycling facility. The catch is that they have been told that they must have a doctor to be considered. They don’t have one, and no real prospects. Think of this story like a Canadian Maritime Doc Hollywood, the 1991 Michael J Fox film set in the US south. My problem with it is the focus on deception from the town’s people. It is meant to be comedic, showing them showing themselves to be cricket fans to the new doctor (which is relatively harmless) but later lying to the corporate investors looking to place the new business. There is lying to the bank to try and find funds for a payment to the corporation. All in all, I would like to see the town be the honest hardworking people that we know that they are, and somehow they convincing the corporation for a chance. I did like the way they addressed the romantic side of this film. There is, naturally, only one possible option for the good young doctor to have any romantic connection. She however has better ideas, and her own mind. So while I like the scenery in Newfoundland, and the fishing village is quaint and pretty, the movie itself is a pass.

September 21, 2020

TIFF has completed for this rather strange year with limited films, but more accessible viewing. The list of of award recipients is here:

I have to admit to being surprised that Nomadland won the People’s Choice Award. Previous winners often go on to obtain Golden Globe and Oscar consideration. For me as I had indicated in my review last week, I found this slow and didn’t see a significant journey for the McDormand character to travel, certainly emotionally rather than physically in her case. She seems to finish the way that she has started. Maybe that was the point. But for me, I would like to think that even the disenfranchised are able to connect with other people and feel something. In the end, there were not as many movies to choose from and I really wonder whether 2020 should have an Oscar asterisk (like the Homerun asterisk for Roger Maris) to indicate a significantly smaller field of choices. But the choices have been made and I expect that if there are awards to be handed out, a number of the films highlighted will be a part of them.

On Crave there is the HBO series entitled Love Fraud. It is a four-part series that looks to uncover the activities of one Richard Scott Smith, who goes by the various names of Mickey, Scott or Richard. Smith is a convenient last name because he is able to blend in with the crowds. He is a polygamist, married 11 times, twice to two women at the same time and leaves a trail of destruction behind him. He takes money and preys upon women when they are vulnerable with grandiose stories of exotic locations, business opportunities, fancy cars and boats. His typical process starts with dating apps and moves into karaoke bars engage with these women. The series begins with a couple women scorned who engage the services of a bail bonds-person, in this case a woman. Richard has outstanding warrants for his arrest in two states. The stories of these women, and his continuing activities are the focus. I was astounded at the lack of ability for those involved to seemingly take any action. It is a cautionary tale for those who date, especially using apps where the person on the other side is largely unknown. Rather than have someone lie to you about their age, weight or size, this is exponentially more sinister than that. It also speaks to a legal system overwhelmed with cases, and there is simply no time to chase after a character like this. Once he marries these women (often in record time) then he proceeds to look to his economic motives, and can turn into a controlling and abusive person. The fourth episode by far is the most compelling of them all. I won’t give away what occurs but it is a fascinating perspective on what had transpired and how different people can view the underlying facts and circumstances over time. Throughout this I was cheering for someone to success against this guy and I had absolutely zero empathy for him at all.

This weekend I also revisited a couple old friends The Adjustment Bureau and Adrift. Both of which I enjoyed once again. I maintain that the opening sequence of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in the hotel bathroom is one of the best examples of on screen chemistry that I have seen. Adrift was revisited to see the scenery and the nice yachts. Some of us live and work in cubicles, others take different approaches as to how to spend their time on this earth. Some of us then have an opportunity to experience what sailing through a hurricane in the middle of the Pacific Ocean would be like and floating for 41 days.

October 17th, 2018

I note that 22 July which was reviewed by me at TIFF (see TIFF Edition Sept 17th) is now available on Netflix.  None of this out to DVD and Pay-per-view stuff first, it is being shared and streamed almost straight away from theatrical release.   Netflix has done this before (and likely that is the point) with movies like First They Killed My Father, which Alison at last moment pulled out of seeing at TIFF, which its impending free showing.   So if you are looking for a Netflix stay in night, perhaps have a look.   Or if you are looking for something a little more “out there” check out Annihilation with Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac.   It too is available on Netflix recently.

At the theatre for First Man Saturday they previewed the latest (and endless) superhero movie to come to theatres shortly.   This time it is Captain Marvel.   I confess that I am NOT a superhero movie fan.   Certainly Alison knows this well.   It is an exception rather than the rule if I actually like a superhero movie.   For me the pinnacle was the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy with Christian Bale.   He IS Batman for me.  They were dark, they were brooding and they had a real life human dealing with human issues.   But back to the trailer, we have Brie Larson, who I really liked in Room and for which she won an Oscar, playing the lead role.   Not being a comic book guy, I am not sure whether Captain Marvel was a female.   But I’ll go with it.   Brie since Room only filled out a tank top nicely in Kong Skull Island, and I have not seen any of the other smaller films that she has done.   Now she is becoming Captain Marvel.   I don’t need to see this – nor any of the Avenger films and they won’t get any of my money.    Here is the trailer for those who haven’t seen it already.   What did Hollywood do for movies BEFORE superheroes?   Hard to remember really….!

TIFF edition (Monday Sept 17, 2018)

TIFF was a really good experience this year, and I enjoyed the three movies that I saw.  I had a conflict with hockey on Sunday and missed The Elephant Queen documentary.

22 July – is a film by Paul Greengrass, who had previously done United 93, and some Bourne films.  I knew that Matt Damon liked working with him.    This film is a dramatization of the events in Norway in 2011 in Oslo (bombing at Prime Ministers Office) then at the summer camp island where teens went (politically sponsored – the current PM had gone here as a youth) where 69 people were shot.   The actual event takes up about a third of the film, but then there is the trial and the rehabilitation in one instance of a young man who was shot 5 times.   He wants to face his assaulter in Court and provide a statement of his own, to combat the hate of this calm and deliberated racist.  The film deals with the facts of the event, but the strength is with the acting (the young man and also the assailant) and playing their roles well and with respect.   There are things said by the assailant that simply are incredible to hear.  He is so matter-of-fact and calm.  This is a Netflix film and will be available likely sooner rather than later.  IMDB says it’s to be released Oct 10 in theatres.
Driven is a story about John DeLorean, the infamous GM executive (creator of the GTO) who went on his own to create the new gull-winged sports car.  He was flamboyant and larger than life, and flawed at the same time.    The story deliberately uses the focus of the film as his neighbor played by Jason Sudekis, as a liar and a screw up, who tries to do the right thing (well sometimes).  Set in southern California at the end of the 70s, it tells the story of these two men, and how they crossed paths, and how the FBI gets involved in their lives.   Ultimately DeLorean was having a cash flow problem, much like Tesla, and the solution was for DeLorean to use a cocaine deal to make up for the deficiency and ultimately keep control of his company.   There are a couple of laughs.  Judy Greer stands out here as Sudekis’ wife.  Also Lee Pace of bad guy Guardians of the Galaxy fame.   He plays the much older DeLorean well.   This was fun.  I enjoyed 22 July more as this was paced slower at times.
Finally, there was Kursk which is the dramatization of the Russian nuclear submarine (two football fields in size) that went down in August 2000 during Russian war games.   Russia at the time was suffering economic challenges and made cut backs in military and other spending.   This story covers the event and also some of the pushback made by the Russian people which was completely new for them.   Russia had gone from a northern fleet of 100+ subs in the glory days to about 40.  They were not well maintained, and they carried torpedos with equal treatment.   They used torpedos with hydrogen peroxide, which if not maintained and leak, if it contacts metal is explosive.   On the day in question, it is suspected a torpedo blew inside the Kursk and it set off even more torpedos inside which took out most of its bow.   It sank.   Of the 111 men on board, some survived in the back, moving to the stern for an air pocket.   The Russian Navy then has an ill equipped ad maintained rescue sub that would attach to the sunken Kursk, but it isn’t connecting and it fails.    The Russians refuse any assistance from Britain, US or Norway with better rescue subs.   Pride is a terrible thing in the situation and the men (and their families) pay the price.   I also enjoyed this a great deal.   Mattias Schonnerts is here, and I have seen him in a number of TIFF films.   Colin Firth has a minor role.   Well worth checking out.
TIFF People’s Choice went to Green Book, which to me is a surprise as I would have thought First Man would be there.   This award is a harbinger of good things to come though, as many get Oscar nods and a few of those have won in the past.   The story sounds good on Green Box and Mahershala Ali seems to be the strongest of the actors (Viggo Mortenson also is good too apparently).   I have not seen.   Expect a flurry of these TIFF films to get to theatres in the next few weeks and months ahead.   First Man is Oct 5.   I will see it.   Others too.    I did see Julia Roberts from afar, and Maggie Glylenthaal up close for her movie Kindergarten Teacher which is a remake of an Israeli film.   It looks good.    Fun to be on the red carpet.  Always good to see these people and all the fanfare.    Another TIFF is closed and I always enjoy these Fall time to get immersed in films.   Beautiful Boy, Beale Street, A Private War, Ben is Back, Burning, and others are all movies that I would seek out in time.

October 12th, 2016

Not sure if I wrote about the only TIFF film that I managed to see, which was the Blake Lively film, All I See Is You.  About a blind woman, who lost her eyesight in her early days and is now late 20s-early 30s and married and living with her adoring husband.   They are very much connected and in love.   She is offered the chance at an operation to try and regain her eyesight and takes it.   Her husband, played by Jason Clarke, knowing she has never seen him when she does asks “How do I look?” and her immediate response is “Different”.    From there you see that she sheds her frumpy wear that he had her in, and you see that he is very conscious of his looks and station (he obviously married above his number – borrowing from She’s Out of Your League).   He’s a 4, she’s an 8 and it can obviously never work!   So she begins to spread her wings, and he tries to hang on.   Things happen and the relationship strains and bends in ways it did not before.   He yearns for the olden days, pre-sight for her.   Then it becomes a tale of just what does the other person know, and how will it get resolved.    Lively is paid to look pretty.  She isn’t a great actor.   The premise for her is good and it is worth a look on Netflix.   I don’t see this having a long run in the theatres.

On Netflix I watched My Old Lady last night which was a TIFF film a couple years back with Kevin Kline who I had not seen in ages, along with Maggie Smith and Kristen Scott-Thomas.  A New Yorker (Kline) inherits a luxurious and stately apartment in Paris, from his departed father, and he goes to check it out for a quick flip sale.   He finds an old woman already living there and learns about the Parisian concept of paying a tenant for their life and taking ownership fully and clearly when they die.   Smith is in her 90s and they start off with a rather cold reception to one another.   Time passes and more is revealed as Kline imparts more of his failed life and troubles, and we learn more about Smith and the daughter (Thomas) who takes care of her.   There are some great scenes of Paris and Notre Dame.  There are some good observations about family and parents too.   There is interesting twists and turns that lead to a satisfying conclusion.   I am glad that I watched this, and think that Kline shows good range of emotion here.  The cast is solid and there are some good lines.    This was better than the other Maggie Smith effort set in Britain, Lady In The Van, also from TIFF, and also on Netflix.   This was slow moving to the point that I had to stop watching it.

September 21st, 2015 TIFF edition

I saw Disorder on Friday along with Louder Than Bombs.

Saturday was The Danish Girl and Legend.

Matthias Schonaerts was in both Disorder and The Danish Girl.  He was the principal actor in Disorder along with Diane Kruger.  It is a French film, and the director was there.   It was a good thriller.   The director said Matthias worked on about 3 hours of sleep for it, and for the physical stuff (fighting) he was very intense.   He scared the crew.  And he broke one of the stunt man’s nose. The movie itself is more traditional soldier back from war having PTSD issues is on security detail for a high dollar man and his wife and child.  Husband leaves town under strange circumstances and security soldier needs to protect the family.  The mayhem ensues.

Louder than Bombs was a very good family drama with Gabriel Byrne and Jesse Eisenberg.   A family with Husband, Wife, and two boys.   They have horrible communication skills and never seem to say what they are really feeling.   All of them.   It was well done and I am glad I saw it.  Mom was a world renowned photographer, but then dies.  There are flashbacks that show how the same facts can be perceived differently.   This movie shows real life examples of (mostly male) behaviour of not saying and expressing how you are really feeling.

Danish Girl was long as my colleague pointed out who had seen it earlier, but I enjoyed it.   The real find here is the performance of Alicia Vikander as the Wife who is excellent and shows tremendous range for someone who is experiencing something no one ever else has before this.   I would think that this is Oscar worthy.  Eddie Redmayne is good of course, but there are longer than required scenes as he struggles with who he is, and takes on this split personality.

Finally Legend was overall a disappointment.   Tom Hardy is very good, but the East End London accent was hard to pick up, especially with the more psychotic brother Ronny.   There were some funny scenes here, but it dragged and I could feel the time more.   The Krays were certainly interesting personalities, but I think that the more remarkable aspect of the time was how inept the police and the legal system were here.   These two end up in prison and do their time but go right back to doing what they were doing once they are out.  It’s like a little vacation – although Reg had a harder prison life than Ronnie.   They were a unique pair those two.

Monday night it was the French film Evolution.
This film reminded me of the earlier TIFF film for me Under the Skin with Scarlett Johansson (reviewed earlier in time but later here).  These two films could be bookends to one another.   You see one bad, inexplicable film, and then follow it up by yet another bad and inexplicable film.   It raises more questions than it answers.   Logic has to park itself at the side and have a Starbucks while you are suppose to “feel” the images here.   There is a point for me, anyway, where logic simply breaks down and the structure falls onto itself (or implodes).
In short, Evolution has a stark volcanic island with opening sequences of sea life and ocean from below.   The music borrows in feel from Under the Skin.   In the story, (STORY!!), there are young women who dress uniformly and mind young boys (all around 12-13yo is my guess).   They live in empty rooms and eat disgusting worm-like green glop.   The boys are told to drink their “medicine” since they are in a “dangerous” period of development.    The boy who is the focus of the film, is also the best part in it.    He is inquisitive and draws and pushes the boundaries of his life of routine.   Something is amiss and he feels it.   So he explores and finds out some strange behaviour.    Then there is a hospital setting with the women dressed in nurses outfifts and utilizing needles and scalpels far more than should be shown on film.   In short these boys are being used for a bizarre experiment where the ultimate end for them is not pleasant; but to what end?!    What is being evolved?  Does evolution imply “better” or a move towards increased adaptability with the environment?
The director was not available as she broke her ankle in France.   She wrote a letter of apology and it was delivered by an interpreter.   She said that this was a visual film to be experienced and she was saddened and glad (!!) not to be at the screening for questions.
Oh the questions!!  As there are no men in this picture, is this a piece that speaks to the power of women?   Does it suggest that women could create a more utopian society?   Why the experiments on these boys?   How can they know of things outside their tiny island and draw them?   If these are human boys (and they sure do look human to me) then where exactly is the physiology that allows them to do what the movie clearly shows?   There is body horror here, and that makes it extra creepy.   Both for the boys and the nurses.  And finally, where did a boat come from?
I did not enjoy this.   I don’t like needles and scalpels nor the whole hospital setting.   I don’t understand at all what the end goal was.   There was some decent cinematography under the water, but it doesn’t an implausible story.  But it is also dark.   And has a look of being desolate.
The good news is that this film, like Under the Skin is unlikely to ever see the light of day at a cineplex theatre near you.   Only on the Festival circuit does it get any viewings.   I am 0 for 1 in my choices of films this year — and I cannot for the life of me remember why this one was on my list!!
Room wins the People’s Choice award, and none of our group saw it, nor Runner Up Angry Indian Goddesses.   Spotlight which was third was not well reviewed by my manager.

Thursday September 6th, 2012

So here was a little unexpected surprise with the TIFF starting today.

Last Winter, daughter and older son one weekend ended having to go downtown and help on some film project that a Ryerson student was doing.  Daughter was going to be an extra, and son ended up going and helping with the lighting and the cameras.  They were there for most of the weekend.
This past weekend, my daughter tells me that this short film (15 mins) is going to be part of TIFF.  It is part of a Short Films night to be seen on Saturday (in two days).
The film is called Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, and it stars Gordon Pinsent.  A good actor.    There is a trailer for it (see attached) and if you can pause it at the 36 second mark – you will see my daughter on the left with the blonde hair and wearing the red outfit.  Yes, it’s a stretch but she is there.   I am going to see the films on Saturday if I can get a ticket!!   Not everyday you get to see your daughter on screen at TIFF!!
Cool…!
[Updated as day passes – Alison asked if she saw the trailer and film]
Good morning!  Well in truth, she was watching the trailer herself and caught a glimpse of her own image.  Then she pointed it out.

As a matter of fact I had a TIFF evening on Saturday when I was unsure about seeing anything.  I had gone online and called about seeing that Shorts show for my daughter  and came up empty on tickets.  I decided to had downtown an hour before the show at 6:15PM.   I was told at Bell Lightbox to just enter the Rush line.  I did around number 45.  At 6:15 they were going up the line and I was feeling low about my chances, but then they asked me about what show I wanted and then let me in!!  I was the third LAST person to get a seat!!  I had resolved to head back on the subway but got it.
Downtown incidentally was CRAZY!!!!  Filled with people along King Street in the Theatre District.  Lines around the block to see shows.  Screaming was heard when celebrities showed up but it did not phase me.  The city was vibrant and alive.
So in the theatre they introduced the 5 films and the directors as well, all of whom were there.  Amazing.  Some of the actors too.  All Canadian with two from Ryerson, and three from Quebec.  Most of the shorts were well done.  I liked the one my daughter was in particularly.   It is about a 13yo in class being told by a friend on her birthday that if she closes an eye and can’t see her hand beyond her nose – “then your nose is too big – and you’re ugly…”  my daughter was in the early scenes at the school in a classroom (dressed as a Devil for Halloween and then in the gym).  I saw her right away!!    There was a funny film about “Asian Gangs” and another about a French Canadian kick ass woman taking on some big-mouthed roughnecks.
At the end of the film they had a question and answer session.  Very lively and excellent.  Afterwards I introduced myself to my daughter’s young director and congratulated him on a job well done.  It’s nice to have Rick Mercer as a family friend who managed to get Gordon Pinsent to act for you!!
After the show was over and walking back along King Street, three girls from Visa stop me and ask if I have a Visa Infinite card.  In fact I just got one less than a month ago.  As I say Yes, they hand me a free ticket to a screeening at the Elgin theatre and taxi chit to take me there.  So I am off.  Seeing two movies in one night when I had fully expected none.
The second movie was a French (Parisienne) film called Apres Mai (After May) or on the ticket as Something in the Air.  A tiresome and muddled story about a young man in the early 70s in Paris fighting the good fight for socialist reforms.  And how he interacts with others and learns to become an “artiste”.   It is two hours that I won’t get back.  It was over at 11, and then I headed back home.  But a fun night out and the first real TIFF experience for me.  The city was abuzz on Saturday night.   I went without food, but survived.