August 31, 2020

Tenet:  FINALLY!  For the first time since March, I was able to attend a movie in the theatre this past week.  This is as much news as anything, and the surroundings were just as notable.   I went to a theatre in the northern part of the city on Yonge street, and the theatre was virtually empty.  See the picture below:

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I wanted to see this Nolan movie in an IMAX theatre.   The process to purchase was that the seats were all assigned, and mine was the last one for that showing.  The theatre itself is a large one, but only about 20 people were inside.  Cost of the ticket was $21.50 which is much higher than usual.   I didn’t purchase any food or drinks but I expect that they are more expensive as well (this is the primary way that the theatre makes their money).   Masks were mandatory. No one checked my actual ticket.  Now onto the movie itself.

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I like Christopher Nolan films, and I entered this film with anticipation of what he would do now.   I tried as best as I could to avoid trailers and other discussions about it.  From one of his earliest efforts Memento, with Guy Peirce in a plot that goes backwards, to Interstellar and also Inception, with multiple levels of consciousness in dreams, Nolan likes to explore time and the impact on life as we know it if it isn’t fixed and linear.   I consider myself to be a pretty savvy moviegoer and I can keep up with most plots, but I have to admit that Nolan had me stymied with this one.   This is a very complex, complicated James Bond like plot.   In short and not to spoil anything, an American agent is tasked with trying to prevent the end of humankind.   The trailer makes a large point of the bullet returning to the gun, and the science involved in that but the plot is much bigger than that.   To say more risks giving away some spoilers, although I am sympathetic in how those may assist a viewer.   There is a scene near the end when a military-like mission is being explained when I have to admit that my head was swimming.   I thought of how those soldiers about to enter that perilous mission would have felt, since they had seen all the earlier parts that I had!!  I think I would have raised my hand a time or two for a little more explanation than which colour arm band I would be wearing.   The cast is uniformly excellent.   There are some familiar Nolan favourites like Michael Caine, Kenneth Branaugh and some new faces (including the new Princess Diana from The Crown, Elizabeth Debicki)  who are very good.   Robert Pattinson is a really pleasant surprise, and he is showing his acting chops in more serious roles these days like The Lighthouse.  He’s very good.   The main lead, the self proclaimed protagonist, John David Washington is compelling and has the requisite presence to make his role work well.    Sadly the movie jumps from one busy action sequence to another all the while rarely catching its breath to allow the viewer to keep up.    You must pay very careful attention because there are aspects are shown quickly which later on are impactful.   You will be forgiven if you miss some of them.   For me, this will require a second viewing.  I find first views generally are keeping up with a plot, and this one especially requires another view.   I am sure that the continuity is there, but I need to see more of the things going on in the periphery.   I can’t suggest you don’t see this, but perhaps this is a “be prepared” review to set the expectations.  Certainly don’t go see this if you are tired or had a long day.  This will require your full attention and then some.   I welcome discussion about it later.

From the big screen back to the small screen.   I can provide a short review for the 2019 art dealer related film Velvet Buzzsaw with Renee Russo, Jake Gyllenhaal and John Malkovich.  Quite an impressive cast for a less than impressive effort.   This is a thrilled set in the art world, where Russo plays a successful art dealer in LA, Jake plays an art critic and writer and Malkovitch is an artist, who’s role isn’t very large as it goes on.   An assistance to Russo finds an old man dead in the hallway at her apartment.   She hears that he is a recluse and that the artist gave explicit instructions that all his art inside should be destroyed.   She feels the need to snoop inside, and decides to remove the art to try and make a name for herself with it.   She does.   It becomes a sensation.  Then bad things start happening to those who are involved.   It goes downhill from there.   In a word, this was stupid.  Query whether it is more stupid than the time shifting going on in Tenet?  I think it is, and I can’t recommend this.

Finally this weekend I saw the Netflix series Unorthodox, that I heard very much positive news about.  In short this four-part series explores how one woman in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg flees from an arranged marriage and the oppressive religious environment to start a new life.  For me this was insight into an interesting way of life.   I think Shira Haas, the star Esty is excellent in it, showing her struggles and turmoil, along with the cultural aspects that she needs to lose like a cocoon.  She had been married off at 18-19yo to a well intended young man with busy body parents.   She was never able to pursue her passion for music.   She departs with some help off to Berlin Germany.   The film, incidentally was shot entirely in Berlin.  So those scenes of NYC are really Berlin in disguise.   Ironic that a young Jewish women seeks her freedom in Germany.   I was cheering for her.   I abhor when people are prevented from doing what pleases them with oppressive regimes on what they can and cannot do.   In this instance I see no reason why she must be just “a good wife and mother” and aspire only to that.  She sees over time that there are so many more possibilities for her.  This is worth watching for the insight into these lives, but also the very good performances.  It is based on a true story, and the woman who wrote it was involved in the production.   Check it out.