Browsing Category

Film

Guest blog: how good is Wonder Woman?

By June 19, 2017 Film

Summer is just about here, and with it, I’m delighted to welcome a few guest bloggers in this space. The first, fellow film fan Peter Murphy, contributes some thoughts on the hit film, Wonder Woman.

Note from Anne: I saw the film mostly to support Patty Jenkins. Female directors need support and I’m happy to give it to them, especially those working in the action genre, an arena crowded with dudes. Saw it (so did lots of others— the film has earned $438.5 USD so far) and yawned at this whole notion of feminist hero. Really? Making a superhero with tits does not change the universe. Far more compelling was Charlize Theron in Mad Max Fury Road. Back in 2015, that film made it to the top of my list.  Okay, okay, hands up, I know, we’re in the comic book universe here. I usually avoid this genre altogether, and give it up to fans like Peter, who bring an entirely different sensibility to the cinematic gaze.

Here’s Peter’s take:

WONDERING ABOUT THIS WOMAN

by Peter Murphy

(for more of Peter’s writing, find him here)

DC finally made a good movie, and somehow managed to make what is probably the best super hero movie of the year so far. I hate the DC movies, like really, passionately, hate the DC cinematic universe. I think superman was only good as a Dragonball Z movie, I wrote a whole thing on Suicide Squad, and Batman v Superman is still probably my greatest cinematic disappointment (I don’t care about director’s cuts, I care about what I paid for). I hate the DC universe, and fully went in planning to hate this one too. I didn’t, I couldn’t. I enjoyed every second I searched for a flaw. The characters were likeable and had chemistry, the action scenes were wonderfully choreographed, plot points well-executed and interesting; in short it was the opposite of everything I had come to expect from a DC movie.

Wonder Woman (aka Diana Prince) has come a long way from her original incarnation. She is about as strong as Superman (weaker but with more combat experience/training) and less morally confined (she is pretty lenient about killing). She isn’t invulnerable, just damn tough, a literal Greek god (demi-god technically), and a warrior at that. She doesn’t have a weakness the same way Superman does; she is simply a little less durable. This is a very happy change from her historical position.

Minor history lesson; Wonder Woman was debuted in 1941, one of the ever magical “lets punch Hitler” superheroes that appeared during the second world war (Captain America would be the most famous). This was a big step; she was a female heroine at a time when women had just finished fighting for the vote, and were making up a larger percentage of the work force (especially during the war). So this was a step forward, here is the step back: Her weakness, and I promise this is true, is that she loses her powers when tied up by a man.
Take that in for a second: BDSM/being dominated was Wonder Woman’s official weakness.
This has fallen out of continuity for a huge list of fairly obvious reasons, but, just for context, that is what we have moved from. Not to say Wonder Woman isn’t sexualized. Gal Gadot’s character is described in movie as “the most distractingly beautiful woman you have ever seen”. She is a former Ms. Israel and Ms. Universe contestant after all; she is distractingly attractive. I’m not going to touch the politics of her as an IDF soldier. I’m a big Orson Scott Card fan and, more than anything, that has taught me you are under no obligation to listen to an artist’s political opinions to enjoy their work. For context, Orson Scott Card is a well-documented asshole, but Enders Game is a phenomenal series. I will say the fact that she is a combat trainer does go a long way towards helping the fight scenes: they look phenomenal.

The film itself does a fairly good job of addressing gender issues; Diana Prince is the functional definition of a strong independent woman.I think the greatest message comes through her sheer force of will and utter dismissal of the “because you are a woman” reasoning of the men who try to impede her. It has never been a good reason, and she doesn’t let it stop her.

Now, I fully admit that I say that as a white straight male, so it’s worth clarifying that it only fought the super direct “you can’t do that because you are a woman” type of sexism.

The movie is solid, I’m not sure I agree with the 93% rating it had when I went to watch it, but it is certainly in the high 80s, and I 100% recommend you go watch it.

My one complaint about the movie is the theme of love/human goodness triumphing is nice, but does give the ending a little bit of a CareBears vibe. I don’t have much to complain about otherwise.  The twist I didn’t see coming, and very much enjoyed. They are setting her up to be okay with killing, and very aware of human nature (with regards to war), so Injustice is still on as a storyline. Ladies and Gentlemen, they are going to give us a movie series based on a comic series based on a game series based on a comic series. I wonder if they know the injustice games are already out as non-movie tie ins.
If you have never heard of Injustice it is the one comic series I actually advise people to read. It is very good and that seems to be what these movies are working towards. Also take a look at what my good friend Thomas has written here about his view on the DC Injustice plans.

Director Patty Jenkins did a phenomenal job and has already been signed on for the sequel. I personally hope she takes more of a lead on other DC projects. Maybe they will find a way to turn this thing around; I’m still not going to see Justice League until reviews come out though.

 

Thanks Peter.

Have your say below. Did you see the film? What’s your take?

 

You Might Also Like

March Roar

By March 3, 2017 Film, Life, Performance

YIPPEE! MARCH IS HERE!!!!

No, I’m not heading to the beach for some of this and that.  I’ll be at school this month (more on that to come) and yes, there are reasons to kick up my heels yet.

Read More

You Might Also Like

A banquet but no feast

By March 1, 2017 Film, Headlines

Watching the Oscars while sick offers a cocktail of kicks. While I don’t recommend it entirely—stomach flu has zero charm unlike its cousin, the common cold which allows for chicken soup—I will say this for it: delirium rids the thing of any heft. Read More

You Might Also Like

Here’s to the ones that dream

By February 24, 2017 Film, Headlines

Sunday night is Oscar night. Pop culture junkies, get your fix on.

It’s no surprise I find no sense choosing who should or who will win. There’s just talent. Oodles of it. Creative imaginations squeezed into tiny dresses and tuxedo jackets. Swag bags or not, all of these nominees have already won in the sexy showbiz salute. Many have been awarded some kind of trophy or other before this, as one critics’ group after another has named their favourites before Sunday’s ceremony.

Note to winners: PLEASE WRITE A SPEECH. We here down on earth require you to be witty and winsome. I will throw my popcorn bag at you if you show up to grab the trophy without something hinting at talent in your acceptance speech. This is not the time to pretend surprise. OWN THE MOMENT.

Here’s my random list of things I loved in this year’s nominations, in no order whatsoever. Read More

You Might Also Like

Chutzpah is a good winter diet

By February 2, 2017 Film, Performance, Urban gadfly

It’s been a hell of a week out there. Reading and absorbing news is deadly. For now, a prescription of sorts:

Make coffee. Take dog for walk. Note the sunlight on the scant snow.  Try to work. Try to remember that work is meaning. Seek out seeds of growth and creative bursts that colour a black sky. Find them in art, in fiction, on the screen and stage. A million stories to reframe the day as one to embrace instead of despair.  Read More

You Might Also Like

January Jollies

By January 24, 2017 Film, Life, Performance

Forgive me, readers, for neglecting you

January is the month to clear out my brain the house, staring back at me in spartan disbelief. It’s breathing room time.

img_1121

I like soaking in the bath in January. The rest of the year it’s shortcut showers.  Indulging comes easily as the new year dawns, for January is the month of the always anticipated getaway with my book club, an event we dub the Favourite Things weekend. Who doesn’t love receiving gifts just because?

img_1089

img_1090

 

img_1098

Also in January, my birthday, and too, an anniversary of the day we chose to get married twenty five years ago.

img_1304

Silver anniversaries deserve some sip and sizzle.  Gather the bridal party and toast an imperfect union that endures yet, mostly because of a sustained diet of laughter. Rooting out the good and setting it to the applause setting appears to be our recipe. Then again, it could just be called fuck the flaws, you’ve still got mojo. That we still impress one another more than hurt one another is evident—the capacity for the latter lingers unless we pay close attention. We get excited together easily about things we love. Thankfully, not all of them are caloric. I am still unsure if I should be flattered or concerned that, after watching our wedding video, our girls (home for the occasion) remarked: you know, you guys haven’t changed at all. Note: they were NOT referring to our outward appearance. Let’s do all pics from waist up, shall we?

img_0340

I am still a kid, despite attempts to pretend otherwise. All the adult posturing falters when splendour is about. Finding it yet is the secret to living.

img_1178

Here is the list that has me excited this month:

16143470_10210549613470162_6578017520847860611_o

  • A glorious global parade of pink hats and shared vision for a better world. My girls were plenty inspired. That’s a good thing. Forget the rest. It’s too big a pile of bullshit. Just massive. Read the signs instead. They will fuel me as I work this month on some fantastic new initiatives.

16195540_1594870617196279_2366122039897669313_n

  • Billy Campbell is back and the six-part series he stars in is touted to be chillingly perfect.  Cardinal, debuting tomorrow night on CTV. A long time ago,  a dear friend and I dished over Billy Campbell in a show we both loved called Once and Again. So glad he’s back. We will be dishing again in commercial breaks. Billy Campbell is a great antidote to winter blues. Just saying. He also loves Canada so much he moved here.
  • The Oscar nominations are out and some very solid cinema has been recognized.  Getting out to see these films will help ensure other great works get made. Stay tuned for my Standouts Series coming up in the next few weeks. In the meantime, see Moonlight. See Manchester by the sea. See Lion. See La La Land. Fall in love, in lust, in something. Some of the nominated films are on iTunes and Netflix. Here’s one I loved, but fair warning: I love everything this guy does, including rocking a red suit in this film.

  • I saw Hidden Figures with my eighty-four year old parents. That’s a celebration right there. Hot dogs delivered right to their seat. No, it wasn’t Christmas. Just garden variety kindness from popcorn stand employees.
  • My sister Jane splurged on my birthday gift with theatre tickets to Come from Away, a sold-out show now headed for Broadway. I predict a huge tourism boost for Newfoundland. The show was moving and well-crafted,  a complete joy from start to finish. I’m guessing lots more ink is about to be spilled on this successs story.
  • In the next week, I will see two more promising shows including one starring Sandra Shamas, in Toronto with her What Now show.
  • This video. This father and this daughter. Yes, it’s adorable and she’s irresistible with her very own Youtube channel. A Shirley Temple for our time. Her family seems incredibly supportive yet,  I fear for her future. Just saying.
  • My tailbone, injured right before Xmas after a spectacular slide down icy front stairs, is on the mend. Pilates and yoga classes are back on my calendar. Creaky knees be damned.
  • Am thinking I need a new cover for my book. This adorable kitchen elf from Halifax, Canada is guarding his oven door so no one takes the cupcakes out too early. Recipe for said cupcakes is from my food memoir, with love and sugar.  Have you got your copy yet?

16179625_10158137228695181_3223521657618178790_o

  • This punch we served to our wedding party at our intimate anniversary event. Sign up for my buzz sheet and I’ll send you the recipe.

img_1203

 

What’s popping in your January ? Please share. Inspiration comes from all corners.

img_1311

I am going for buoyancy this year. What about you?

img_1189

 

You Might Also Like

Best of 2016

By December 31, 2016 Art, Books, Film, Life, Performance

2016 was a year to say goodbye to my youngest off to university, and to my childhood home where my parents lived for almost six decades. A year of frights that came deep in the night, some that lingered longer than others: my mother and my oldest child suffered accidents, as did my father-in-law. Caring emergency workers and excellent medical supervision mean we have them all yet to cherish this holiday season.

We will toast them tonight, but first, a peek at some of my favourites of 2016:image-3 Read More

You Might Also Like

Last Guest Blogger review and a final TOP TEN

By September 21, 2016 Film, Performance

Fun’s over and everyone’s back at work including my guest blogger, the other guy in this household of film freaks. Here’s his final tally on the last days of TIFF and his Top Ten. If you missed my list, check it out here.

Read More

You Might Also Like

TIFF my way

By September 19, 2016 Film

How do you hold on to a moment?

It was a line of dialogue coming at the end of my opening night film, Toni Erdmann, a line like many that grabbed me from my seat and told me to pay attention. Toni Erdmann wowed the critics at Cannes but that wasn’t the only reason to choose that film among the 32 titles I would screen during TIFF: a comedy coming from German cinema is a curiosity, and it was written and directed by a woman who formed her own production company while still at university. Maren Ade told all of us gathered and giddy there on opening night about the two years it took to write her script, “a bit like digging a hole and coming up at some point.”  This hole-dweller cheered at the end of the story of a prankster father trying to crack his corporate strategist’s daughter’s armour. There on screen was everything I love about great cinema: a narrative I couldn’t anticipate, rich characters that ripen as the film does, crackerjack writing, revelatory details about contemporary life—the film is quietly brilliant on the realities women face in the workplace—and two of the best scenes this year in film, scenes provoking from me, and everyone else in the theatre, head back, knee-slapping, roaring eruptions of LAUGHTER. Spoiler I’m not but I’m in a generous mood so here’s a hint: nude parties. And yes, this frequent event host is inspired.

tonierdmann_02

Ok then, so we’re off having some fun at the movies now. And those moments? To answer that question above, the answer maybe came from French director Olivier Assayas, sharing profundities once again in his generous and erudite manner after wowing audiences once again with his latest film, Personal Shopper.

Movies stay with us in our subconscious years after we’ve seen them.

Yes, and so do ghosts, as his muse Kristen Stewart discovers in his spooky thriller that again had me guessing as the story of a personal shopper trying to communicate with her dead twin brother unspooled.

maxresdefault

This puzzle box experience was to be repeated throughout the ten days as this year’s TIFF for me looked to be the year of the pivot: movies that offered endings and plot turns I didn’t fully grasp, nor see coming.  Among the surprise endings were big budget stunners like Arrival and La La Land, and quieter films like the beautiful Two Lovers and a Bear from Montreal’s Kim Nyugen.  This lovely gem reminded me again of the stamps on my cinematic passport thanks to many years at this festival: here I traveled from my seat to the Arctic and some gorgeous snowy sequences that fill out the last half of the film.
Other recurring themes in my TIFF experience this year?

  • Grim poverty tales like the heartbreaking I, Daniel Blake,  and immersive Ma’ Rosa, or the hard-scrabbled ragtag posse in American Honey, a road movie that swerves off in indulgent splashes but won me over for sheer heart and bold filmmaking.

  • Fractured parent/child relationship studies, the best of them all is aforementioned Toni Erdmann but also affecting was the adaption of Carol Shield’s novel, Unless, with the always A-game Catherine Keener as the mom of a troubled daughter who has taken to living on the streets of Toronto, and Graduation from Romanian director Christian Mingiu about a doctor who crosses moral boundaries to help his daughter. Less successful were two literary adaptations: Julieta, a wonky adaptation of three Alice Munro stories from Piedro Almodovar, and American Pastoral, from Philip Roth’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel with Ewan MacGregor in the director’s chair and in the starring role where he should have remained.

Readers, I know you’re impatient (just give us the list and be done with it).

Best film:

Manchester by the Sea

Kyle Chandler spoke for us all the premiere when he turned to the uber-talented writer/director Kenneth Lonergan and said he had yet to figure out how he mastered it, this searing portrait of suffering with notes of grace that will rock everyone who sees it.  Applause was rapturous and much of it was for Casey Affleck, here in a performance that will be hailed for years as a master study of How to Be an Actor.

Voyage of Time

The last 45 minutes of this film are astounding. Just breathtaking work. I saw the 90-minute version with Cate Blanchett’s narration.  Also at the festival was a shorter version in Imax with Brad Pitt’s voice.  I wish Terrence Malick had left it without any narration as it’s the only thing I hated about the film. Whatever version you can see, I urge you to try and watch this gorgeous documentary.

Nocturnal Animals

When I grow up, I want to be in a Tom Ford movie. He makes everyone and every thing look gorgeous. This is a stunning film to watch, even as the narrative turns gruesome.  Minimalist canvasses, bleak storylines…the festival was dotted with them so I was ready for the full cinematic glory of the style master Tom Ford’s sophomore film about a LA art gallery owner shaken by the arrival of a manuscript written by her first husband. I don’ t know how you spend an average week but Tom Ford opened this film in Venice, flew to New York for Fashion Week to unveil his new see-now, buy-now collection, then came to Toronto for TIFF. And manages to look pretty swish. As for his cast? Shiny.

Jackie

This film caught me at go with a stunning soundtrack, and entry points into a story I thought I already knew. Chilean auteur Pablo Larraín’s vivid portrait benefits greatly from the always radiant Natalie Portman.  Truly creative storytelling here as we are taken into the origins of the Camelot legend. As the filmmaker told us at TIFF, “I wanted to be at that round table.”  You and me both, pal.

jackie_01

La La Land

This film won the People’s Choice award. It almost wins a rave from me too but for a few missteps in tone. Still, I’m plenty charmed by some beautifully buoyant scenes that will have you cheering too, and heaps of sparkling chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.  Among the best scenes at TIFF are a gorgeous singing audition by Emma Stone that will knock you flat.

Lion

My favourite ending of all the movies at TIFF, and the most beautiful boy on screen. Two good reasons to watch an absorbing narrative about finding your family. The film suffers by a weighty middle act but it soars nevertheless. I refuse to show the trailer here as the Weinstein brothers don’t need me to help them but hats off to Aussie director Garth Davis in his debut turn as feature film director. This is what you call a debut.

_91042341_lion_01

2 Lovers and a Bear

See above. Fans of Tatiana Maslany will want to see her in this love story that won me over even as it chilled me to the bone along the way.

Toni Erdmann

See above.

Arrival

Gorgeous filmmaking drenched with wonder, smarts, and plenty of nuance. I loved Amy Adams in this as much as the idea behind the film: language first. Of course.

screen_20shot_202016-08-16_20at_204-07-15_20pm-0

 

I, Daniel Blake

This film broke my heart and will resonant the longest for one scene especially that arrives mid-point in the film.  A single mother breaks down in a food bank and tears open a tin can. Sounds simple. Not by a mile. This film won the Palm d’Or at Cannes. They’re no dummies. It is more a polemic than a film. But everyone in the world should see it.

 

 

Where TIFF can improve:

  • Why open this internationally recognized festival with a splashy reboot? Surely a film festival with this many eyeballs could showcase a smaller film in need of a boost? Why not start each screening with animated or live action shorts? Instead film fans were subjected to repeat viewings of sponsorship ads that provoked catcalls and howls in almost every screening?  Surely a sponsor making more than a billion a year can come up with something more creative than rerun ads?  How do you spell LOST OPPORTUNITY?!?
  • Why don’t directors come to every screening? Much of the festival experience is about access. For the red carpet screamers, it’s about access to the A-listers. For the wannabe players, it’s proximity to the power brokers. For lifetime students of the art form, it’s about hearing from the storytellers. Tickets are expensive. The full experience should include a director introduction for every screening, not just the high-priced premium affairs. I know the answer already but I don’t like it: they’ve moved on to their next project, they’ve flown back, etc.  You make a film and deliver it to a captured audience. This is your baby. I promise to be there when I make mine.

Tomorrow: My guest blogger will deliver his top ten to end our TIFF coverage here.

You Might Also Like

TIFF GUY IS STILL AT IT

By September 17, 2016 Film, Performance

 

More TIFF bits from my guest blogger, the nutty film fan that shares my bed and his reviews on movies, some of which this fan skipped. I’ll let you guess which ones I loved too. Tune in Monday to hear my list.

 

REVIEWS – TIFF – DAY 7

manchesterbythesea_02

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – Lee (Casey Affleck in a performance of a lifetime) is a loner handyman in Boston, who avoids people and small talk. When not working he is alone in his basement apartment or picking a drunken fight at a bar with anyone who looks his way. It doesn’t take long to figure out be has a deep sadness from another life.
His brother dies and Lee returns to his hometown to deal with his teenage nephew, the estate, and his past. Through a series of dramatic flashbacks, we learn of Lee’s personal tragedy. It is a devastating moment in the film.
This film has Oscars all over it. It is a simple story, about ordinary life, extraordinary pain. At times, very difficult to watch. It is the film everyone is talking about in the line-ups. Run, don’t walk, to see it.

HARMONIUM – An uneventful family life is disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious man. He is the husband’s old friend, just released from prison. He joins the family as an employee and live-in guest. His gentle manners cannot conceal his disquieting presence and unresolved past.
A powerful tale of crime and punishment within the tight confines of a family drama. Slow-paced but riveting.

PARK – Set on the grounds of the decaying Olympic Village built for the 2004 games. A group of teenagers pass their time playing in this parched concrete wasteland. Victims of Greece’s economic catastrophe with no hope, no future but resilient. The director uses non-professional actors in this verity style realism film. A style and a film that is…not for everyone.

REVIEWS – TIFF – DAY 8

graduation_01

GRADUATION – A young woman is attacked on her way to school just before her final exams are set to begin. Her father, a prominent and well-connected doctor, is obsessed with his daughter’s potential. A scholarship to Cambridge depends on the results of those exams.
Cristian Mungiu won Best Director at Cannes for this morality play in which good intentions cannot ward off corruption. I trace my continued interest in Romanian cinema back to Mungiu’s brilliant 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Once again, he doesn’t disappoint with his masterful ability to explore human nature.

UNKNOWN GIRL – The door bell to a clinic rings only once. An overworked doctor, whose clinic closed an hour late to accommodate patients, does not answer. The next morning, the unidentified girl who ran the door bell turns up dead. Our young doctor, consumed by guilt, sets out to find the identity of the girl. In the process, she closes in on the killer.
This film drove me crazy with its convenient plot twists. As luck should have it, all the potential witnesses are her patients. Her Nancy Drew routine of “trust me, I’m a doctor, tell me what you know” was comical. As it turns out the routine was effective because in the end it gets her the confession. All she needed was persistence and her film-long look of permanent constipation. Nonsense.

NEVER EVER – Never ever see this film.

rage_01

RAGE – The film opens with the aftermath of a grizzly murder. It then follows three different stories. Each one includes a mysterious character that could be the killer. As disturbing questions arise about each suspect and we are challenged to decide who is the killer.

Great idea that worked for most of the film. I really wanted this to work. Unfortunately, it falls apart in the last half hour. The conclusion of each of the three stories ranged from melodramatic to silly. Very disappointed.

You Might Also Like