The Toronto Film Festival is over (I’m writing one of them today) and the Vancouver International Film Festival starts next Thursday. I propose the opening film, bones of crows, is a must. That means you’re interested in seeing a powerful, accurate and angry film about the history of our shameful boarding schools. This film is from Marie Clements, which follows a woman’s experiences from childhood through old age to the meeting of indigenous leaders with the Pope during his visit to Ottawa. The film also plays on August 4th.
There are others worthwhile, environmental films, a history of protest riots in the US, the Best Director award at Cannes (decision to go), Brendan Fraser as The whaleVicky Krieps as Sisi, the tragic Austrian empress and maybe even Gerard Depardieu as detective Maigret.
Notice a Vancouver movie called Back at home. diversity did. You had been featured in a feature about directors. It has a world premiere on Friday and reprises on October 2nd and features my grandson in a key role.
Note that too avatar is now back in cinemas. About a heroic struggle to save a civilization, James Cameron’s mammoth hit film serves as the warm-up act for the long-awaited sequel, out in December.
There are now these…
Riceboy sleeping places: 4
BLOND: Marilyn Monroe continues to fascinate and Ana de Armas plays her brilliantly. She channels them; gets her insecurities and showbiz style just right. However, the film does not go over so well. It continually paints them as victims. She was, but not always. She had a rough childhood (her mother even tried to drown her), never knew who her father was, was abused by Hollywood bosses (a rape early in the film sets the tone), and was forced to have three abortions. So says this film, based on an acclaimed novel by Joyce Carol Oates. How she knew all this is a question.
Monroe is portrayed as completely alienated from the blonde sex symbol figure that the public sees. She wants to get away from it, but can’t. She marries a baseball hero (Bobby Cannavale as Joe DiMaggio) and then a literary star (Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller). With him, she can show that she’s not a dumb blonde, but the film doesn’t follow suit with what she’s been doing: pushing for more serious roles, taking charge of her career, starting her own production company. All of this could still support the victim perspective, but unfortunately it is missing. She gets involved in a threesome with the sons of two Hollywood names. I’m not sure how true that is, and a horrible result. While it’s the strongest, it’s overdone. Written and directed by Andrew Dominik, he is known for his odd angles on real-life characters. He’s done too much of that here. (Choose cinema now, Netflix next week) 3 out of 5
DON’T WORRY DARLING: Harry Styles is the big draw in this film, but it really is Florence Pugh’s film. And it has so much color and visual style and a feminist sensibility that it’s easy to like. Until you think about it for a while and ask what exactly is it about? It doesn’t tell you anything and you have to fill that in yourself. Until then, enjoy the style.
Harry and Florence play a married couple in a proposed settlement in the desert. It’s suburban, as so many movies from the 50’s and 60’s portrayed it. The men drive to work in the morning, the women cook and clean and serve the drinks. There is an organizer, played by Chris Pine, who holds meetings to celebrate the virtues of his life. “Unbridled potential pure”, he calls it, without a hint of “chaos”. It is modeled after Canadian lifestyle guru Jordan Peterson. The place is part of something called The Victory Project, which is never defined and is claimed by a woman in the community to be built on lies and control. This prompts Florence’s character to ask questions and even do the forbidden thing: wander out of the parish to a mysterious building on a hill. You get into their quest well. She and Pine are very effective and Styles does enough. (In the cinema) 3 out of 5
ENDLESS SPRING: Canada’s selection for the Oscars is a must. The story isn’t ours, but it was made here by director Jason Loftus. It is about the religious repression in China, particularly the Falun Gong movement, and the efforts of a small group of activists to counter a government campaign that they have labeled evil. “Falung Gong is good,” says many a protest sign in the film and is also the message of the group when they hijacked state television one night 20 years ago. The film shows in detail how they planned it, a little less how they made it, and not much about how long they were on the air. But the repression that came upon them testified that they had a great impact.
The story is told in a hybrid way, much of it through crisp animation based on the work and memories of comic artist Daxiong. When he tells what happened, it plays like a heist movie and a thriller. As a Falun Gong practitioner, he initially disapproved of the stunt because it further suppressed the movement. He fled China (to New York and Toronto) and later changed his mind when he met one of the main participants known as Mr. White. They talk about characters like Liang, who came up with the idea, and Big Truck, who brought some muscle with him. They remind of the extreme tension that night and the whole motivation: freedom of religion. The film doesn’t tell everything you need about Falun Gong, but it tells this one incident very well. (In theaters: in Montreal and in and near Toronto and Vancouver) 4 out of 5
Riceboy is sleeping: This is one of the most authentic depictions of the immigration experience I have seen. It’s not about a culture that I know, but the impact it has confirms that: the film’s depictions are universal. You experience the big, meaningful events, learning a language, looking for a job, doing well at work, but also the little everyday difficulties. The Korean boy in this story searches for an answer in class, has a name that the other kids find strange and has to choose an easier one. In an archetypal scene, he is mocked by the other children for the strange food his mother sent him for lunch. Gimbap by the way. Writer-director Anthony Shim drew on his own life in Korea and Vancouver for the reality he portrays. At the Toronto Film Festival, he received an award for “brave directorial visions”.
In the film, Choi Seung-yoon plays a Korean single mother who now lives near Vancouver with her son. He is played by Dohyun Noel Hwang as a young boy and later by Ethan Hwang as a teenager. Adorable at a young age, he is rebellious and determined to fit in with the other children as a teenager. He dyes his hair blonde, smokes weed with his best friend (played by the director) and asks embarrassing questions like why he doesn’t have a father. That’s a touchy story from back home in Korea. Add to that a medical history here in Canada, and Mom decides her upstart needs to connect with his past. She takes him to Korea to meet his grandparents. Emotional flare-ups before they go away; Couple that with the inheritance over there and you’ve got a very satisfying movie. (Tonight and Monday at VIFF, soon at festivals in Calgary and Sudbury and in theaters next year) 4 out of 5
BANDIT: Here’s a breezy romp for the summer that’s still here. It’s light-hearted and possibly factual, despite being taken from a novel. Josh Duhamel plays a criminal who the papers call The Flying Bandit because he flew across Canada to rob banks, 59 of them it seems. His talent was an insinuating personality at the counter switch and a strict protocol: quick in and out. There’s a cheeky, almost comical tone when he detracts from his heists, at least the way Canadian director Allan Ungar spun it.
Gilbert Galvan Jr. escaped from a Michigan prison, came to Canada, took in a woman (Elisha Cuthbert) from an Ottawa church home, and flew off on his bank trips off and on. There’s an extended sequence that pretends to be in Vancouver, although visually it’s unconvincing. She approves of his robberies because she hates banks; one took her family’s home. He gets greedy and turns to a loan shark (Mel Gibson) for help to get bigger jobs. With the police on his trail, the film evolves into a classic one-last-job situation. The film is full of details, but it’s still a small story. fun, but. (Select cinemas) 3 ½ out of 5