April 27th, 2020

I am a fan of the body of work that Willem Dafoe has put together over his career.  I think he shows a great deal of flexibility in the roles that he portrays.  He is another in a long line of actors who embodies the people he is portraying (living or fictional).   I recently saw him in The Lighthouse, which I reviewed just last week.  He has been around a long time, and at the age of 65yo, he is showing no signs of stopping.   He has played Jesus of Nazareth in the controversial (at the time) Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ.   He also played the unfortunate Sgt. Elias in Platoon.   He has been nominated four times for an Oscar including in the performance of the film At Eternity’s Gate that I have been meaning to see.   I actually ended up renting this from the Cineplex website.   It was a deal.   All that preamble about Willem Dafoe was to say that his performance in this is excellent.  This time he plays Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Dutch born painter who’s fame and recognition only came to pass after he passed away.   Van Gogh died at his own hand (which was the prevailing thought) when he was 38yo.  Young.  Too young.  Dafoe plays the tortured soul well.  But he is far too old to portray the artist.  I would have thought that a younger actor could be found.  Despite the age, it is still a well told and performed story.  This movie has an alternate idea on how Vincent met his untimely end.   It also brings forth the idea of a ledger which was given to Vincent and was later returned to the person filled with his sketches.   This ledger was only discovered in 2016.   Remarkable and not without controversy.   The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam denies its authenticity.  The film focuses on the time Van Gogh spent in Arles France after deciding to leave Paris, along with fellow artist Paul Gaugin (played by Oscar Isaac, who is also very good).    You see the loneliness of Van Gigh and his desire for love, friendship and acceptance.  He and Gaugin were friends but as they have a falling out, he suffers as Gaugin leaves.  Later Van Gogh readily acknowledges that despite his art not being well accepted, this is how he sees the world.   He is looking to have people see the world through his eyes.  He loves nature, and he paints nature because for him it is perfect.   This film is filmed interestingly too.  Plenty of tight facial shots and filters (like a yellow hue) which reflects Vincent’s focus on sunlight.   It reminds me a little of Terrence Malick, but I hesitate to mention this director in the same breath as Malick.   It was just an impression.   I am glad that I sought this out, and it brought forward some new ideas about the life of Vincent Van Gogh.   Sadly his younger brother Theo didn’t live much longer than Vincent did, and was dead within a year.   The brothers were so very close.   For a man who the people of Arles France didn’t want in their town near the end, he has left a more memorable lasting worldwide impact than any of them likely.

Article on the Van Gogh ledger:

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/15/newly-discovered-van-gogh-drawings-labelled-imitations-museum

Friday night I noted that the Spanish film Pain and Glory was on Crave.  Starring the Academy nominated Antonio Banderas as an aging director looking back upon his life.   The film is at the beginning focused on the director, who has been unable to work as a director because of constant ailments (primarily back pain).   He is asked about attending the reissuance in theatres of a film made many years before.   He is asked too about bringing the principal actor who he has spoken to in 32 years, because he didn’t take direct well and his vision.   They meet.   They begin to chat more and interact.  All the while the past of this director is shown with his mother (played by Penelope Cruz) and his father and their struggles.  He was a precocious boy, who sang beautifully, and wrote and read well.   Mom always wanted the best for him.   Layers of his life come to light and you as viewer see more and more.  It takes some unexpected turns, as life can do.   Much like Vincent who feels that he can only be a painter and was meant to be a painter, this man was meant to be a director.  When he isn’t, then he is lost with no purpose.   As he reconnects, and better understands his life, he learns about himself.    This is a satisfying story well told and well acted.   It was nominated for Best Foreign Film.    Justifiably so.   As the director for Parasite Boon Joon Ho would say (I paraphrase) “some of the best films have subtitles”.

I finished Season 2 of Westworld.  This is a series where one has to pay attention.  The story jumps around a lot, between the situations and the characters.   It has some heavy hitters with Ed Harris, and Sir Anthony Hopkins.  Evan Rachel Wood plays Dolores Abernathy as a robot character in a scripted story who seeks freedom.   Thandie Newton plays another robot character, looking to find a protect a daughter in her story that she swore to save.   I do think that the most interesting character is Bernard, played by Jeffrey Wright, who is a go-between with the human outside world and the robots.   Roles flip back and forth.  Hunter becomes hunted.  Slave is made master, or at the least in a position to better control their destiny.  The series underscores the dangers of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and playing God.   It is a significant investment in time.   I am hearing that season 3 is better than season 2.   Not sure that I recommend to readers to spend that time, but maybe I can view Season 3 and see whether this is in fact the case.

And finally, from the serious and sublime to the mindless and stupid.  If you liked twenty-something relationship train wreck Love is Blind, then NetFlix’s Too Hot to Handle may be right up your alley.   In it, we have model-like twenty-somethings who are uber-sexual, and think to a person they are “at that and a bag of chips”.  They enter to a month long stay at a tropical paradise, and then find out that the $100,000 prize has money deducted for kissing, sexual touching or masturbation.   This from a group who collectively measure themselves with suntan lotion bottles and brag of having sex every day with different people (the days of AIDS have long since left and are forgotten).   Some readily admit to “not being that bright” while others just plainly show it (“I don’t even know where Australia is” from a Florida blonde).   Vancouver model Francesca shows herself not only to be vindictive, but also so confident in herself and her ability to get and keep anybody, that she just screams out to have a lesson in humility.   There is a vague interest in teaching some valuable relationship lessons to these young people, but they fall in most cases on deaf ears.    There is plenty of eye candy for male and female viewers with bikinis and body builder bodies in various forms of undress.   This is mind candy in the truest sense of the word where you can shut off your mind and picture the beaches in Mexico.   In this last week of April, thoughts of a beach, any beach is a welcome escape.

January 9th, 2017

I went out to see Manchester By The Sea with all of the good reviews and award nominations that is has received.  Casey Affleck then last night wins the Best Actor Award in a Drama for his performance.

A quick sidebar about the Golden Globes last night.   La La Land was nominated in 7 categories and won every one.  It became the movie with the most Golden Globe wins ever.   I have to say that I have little interest in seeing this homage to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, nor particularly in the whole musical on film genre.  Best Picture Oscars have been awarded to Chicago and The Artist and other such films but for me they are not all that intriguing.   I certainly do not need to see them on the big screen, especially in this instance with Golden Globe winner Emma Stone who I really don’t like much.  Meryl Streep went off on a political rant as well as others such as Hugh Laurie.   In the end, they all need to accept the fact that Americans voted as they did.   And they’re not going to like it for the next four years.   Some of the dresses were pretty, others less so.  I wonder why dudes (like Jonah Hill) who wear sneakers with a tux don’t get lambasted as much for their lack of class and fashion sense than the women do.

Onto the Misery by the Water.  As described by Alison this was not a feel good movie.  This is a movie of an emotionally detached guy, and for good reason, who needs to address and accept the death of his brother, and his brother’s unilateral decision to make him the guardian of a walking hormone 16 yo son.   There are good performances all around.  This is NOT the Best Picture of the Year.   Casey himself is a portrait of a man who internalizes and then lashes out unexpectedly at times.   He has an alcohol issue and should be kept away from most bar situations.   The story then unfolds as he and the boy and those around them address this new state.   The use of flashback sequences is effective to fill in the gaps about these people, and what occurred, to show their history and current attitudes.  There is some humour, mostly with the boy and the interactions with his uncle.   I think that the music was used as effectively as at any time in recent memory.   The music plays, much like the first few minutes of UP where you see the couple’s life unfold without words, with the voices being muffled and you see the body language and emotions of those on screen to the actions that have taken place.   It is powerful.   In the end there is a thought-provoking story that raises many questions to be discussed.   I am glad to have seen it, but I had to be prepared for it.    Everyone here is damaged in one way or another, without fail.  I was a little taken aback by the conclusion.    I’ll leave it at that.    Is this a movie about depression?   I am not sure.   It is certainly a movie about death and dealing with it.  It can also be about small town issues and dealing with small minds and one’s past.   Lion in comparison had emotional aspects to it that were powerful.   Here too there was power in the message but different.    Hard to describe.

I finished Westworld which I (gulp) downloaded.  I am a bad person.    But it had to be done.   Crichton does love his twists and turns or at the very least the Nolan Brothers do.  There is more gratuitous violence and nudity than required here.   I guess it gains audiences for titillation but does not add much to the story.  I did like the arc of the story for Anthony Hopkins.  Also too Bernard.    Thandie Newton was very good and I think better than Evan Rachel Wood.   I had not seen the original movie from 70s.   Still this held my attention and was glad I watched closely together as the story remained fresh.   There are plenty of interesting insights about people, and happiness and what drives us.
Game of Thrones Season 5 is done and onto Season 6.   The Jon Snow ending was kind of unexpected but I am aware that we have not seen the last of him.   I think I will relish seeing the end of the religious fanatics as much as Cersei. The Bran story does not hold my interest.

January 2, 2017 – New Years edition

The title “Lion” will be misleading for this Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture.   Dev Patel is nominated for his work as well.  A couple of times when I was watching I paused and thought about the title and then just let the story envelop me.  Here is a recent story from 1986, and into today which in many ways is a good companion piece to previous Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire.   The story is a simple one.   Young boy in India accompanies older brother for some work, and then gets separated from him at a train station.   He boards another empty train looking for him and becomes lost.   I give away nothing by saying that he eventually is adopted by a couple in Australia and then later to seeks his real family.

The performances are all very good, and notably by the little boy who gets lost.   His eyes are so full of life, and he has a resilience which allows him to overcome many obstacles thrown his way.   His adult persona played Dev Patel is also very good as he struggles with his memories and trying to figure out how to find his past.
This is a story about families, adoption, brothers, and struggle.  Yet again I am reminded of the blessed life and upbringing we have in Canada and the West.   1986 is not ancient history.  The little boy lived in squalor and mother was a labourer who moved rocks.  Rocks.
You care about these people.  All of them, and they take you on a worthwhile journey that is something you will talk about when it is done.  It is another Golden Globe drama nominee that I am pleased to have seen.  Hell or High Water was another.
Have a fabulous 2017 one and all.
Rob
P.S> on the home watching front, I have been catching up on Game of Thrones, now in Season 5.  The twists and turns here, and no particular loyalty to keeping characters you like alive makes this fun watching.    Also I have watched 6 episodes of Westworld, which has been good as well.   Well cast with Sir Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood you have robots in an adult amusement park waking up to their reality from the Crichton book made into a film with Yul Brenner long ago.  Christopher Nolan’s brother is involved.  I did thoroughly enjoy The Crown about Queen Elizabeth.