Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Glass Castle: Monday, August 14 2017

The Glass Castle (2017) is based on the book of the same name by Jeannette Walls. Directed and written by Destin Daniel Cretton, it is an American drama, filmed mainly in Welch, West Virginia, where much of the story of Jeannette Walls' life is set. The acting is superb, and the characters brought to life are almost too realistic. Woody Harrelson as Jeannette's father, is incredible. Brie Larson as Jeannette Walls, is also totally believable. Jeanette's mother, elder sister Lori, brother Brian, and younger sister Maureen, are all played so well and sincerely that they remain in my mind as memorable people. It was almost too true!

What a pity that the film doesn't treat the story as did the book. Jeannette was perhaps a little kinder when she drew the picture of her parents, emphasising their eccentricities. She looked at them without judgement. The book left us with the feeling of a family that may have been poor due to the addiction of the father to alcohol, but, nevertheless, loved each other. This love was what eventually saved Jeannette. Instead of herself becoming like her parents, she was able to encourage her elder sister, Lori, to go to New York, and then, to follow her. Their brother Brian joined them, as did their youngest sister, Maureen. Jeannette completed her education in New York on scholarships, and became a newspaper reporter, columnist and writer.

The book is a story of a family of children overcoming what seem almost insurmountable difficulties, to achieve success in life. It's the story of a hero, in this case Jeannette Walls, overcoming a ghastly childhood and encouraging her siblings to do likewise. It entertained us, and left us "feeling good", sort of.

The film presents us with the too realistic picture of the dysfunctional family of two totally self-centred people, who should never have been parents. They are both so narcissistic it seems to border on mental illness. In fact, it made me ask myself, is a narcissistic personality actually mentally ill? The appalling life led by the children as a result of the actions of their parents, is revolting. Even when the children all move to New York the parents follow, and still create havoc in the lives of their off-spring. When it is revealed that the mother has been resisting selling land that would have brought her $1,000,000, and given her children a much better life, we are appalled. In the film, when Jeannette allowed her family to destroy her first marriage, she lost my sympathy. She had made the move to New York to leave them behind, yet not made the final severance from them. Her younger sister, Maureen, finally does make that break, and moves to California.

Maureen said that she has never, ever seen a film she liked less that The Glass Castle. Sheri found it depressing as it hit too home for her comfort. Kalpna said that, in her opinion, one has to be a masochist to enjoy this film. This seems to be the general opinion about it. If one wants a realistic anthropological study of a dysfunctional family, this would be ideal. The one thing missing, as far as we know, is that the parents didn't use physical abuse on their children. As a social study it is also interesting and raises many questions. But entertainment it is not. Nor does it leave the audience "feeling good". In fact, it left me feeling disturbed. I didn't like any of these people. I was appalled by their behaviour. I really wanted nothing to do with them, even if only in a film.

It left me questioning how it is that I, who haven't taken any courses in storytelling, have a pretty good idea of what makes a story entertaining and how to leave the audience feeling happy? Perhaps it was all those hours spent reading Shakespeare in school, and later, for pleasure. The time spent reading so many of the classics perhaps haven't been wasted. It would appear that so many of the people producing films, who, we presume, have been trained, forget all the efforts of their teachers. Otherwise, why would they make such awful movies?

This is not a film I could recommend anyone pay money to see!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Atomic Blonde: Monday, August 7 2017

Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron, is pure entertainment. It's an action, spy thriller, directed by David Leitch. Based on a graphic novel, The Coldest City (2012), by Sam Hart, the screen play is written by Kurt Johnstad. It is set in Berlin during the collapse of the Berlin Wall (1989), and the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Exciting times, and Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a top-level M16 field agent, sent into Berlin on an exciting mission. She is good at her job, which includes being able to fight and shoot the bad guys. This she does, to great effect. The film opens with a shot of Lorraine in the bath, but when we see her back, we also see the muscles rippling across it. This is an unusual woman! It would also be unusual for many men, too.

There is everything we expect: the twists in the plot; the exciting chases; and fantastic fights. I loved it when Lorraine went to work beating up the bad guys who were trying to kill or capture her. This she did dressed beautifully, with hardly a hair out of place, and in the highest of high heels. Loving the martial arts, I was with her during every blow. Go for it, girl! Fantastic! All those weak, little women who cowered in corners during times of crisis have always irritated me intensely. Like James Bond, 007, she can take care of herself, and look so good doing it.

In the movie, everyone is smoking nicotine cigarettes and drinking alcohol, including Lorraine. This is the 1980s, after all, and the bans on smoking in public places were not in effect. The myth was still in place that real men smoked and drank to excess. Lorraine was part of that myth. She has a brief affair with Delphine Lasalle, played by Sofia Boutella. Another male myth, exemplified by James Bond, 007. The one time Lorraine weeps is when she learns that Delphine has been shot dead.

Ten days after Lorraine is sent into Berlin, she is back in London accounting for what has happened. Her face has changed from the beautiful woman who went off, to one who is now recovering from a black eye and bruises from those fights: the experience has left its toll, and it shows. In spite of her efforts she didn't find the document she was after. Disappointment all around, and case closed by the British Intelligence M16.

The film ends with Lorraine on a plane, flying to the States with Emmett Kursfeld, the CIA agent working with M16, played by John Goodman. We now know who is Satchel. We learn what really happened to the List. It is obvious that Lorraine has been working for the CIA. This final twist in the plot is amusing and satisfying, and sets the stage for the sequel. Charlize Theron has brought to life an unforgettable character in the Atomic Blonde. This story is the first in a trilogy, and I'm glad as I will certainly be going to see the subsequent movies.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dunkirk: Monday, July 31 2017

Dunkirk (2017) is written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. It is a highly professional production in every way.  The music, by Hans Zimmer, is amazing, and heightens the tension throughout the film. He uses the auditory illusion of a Shepard tone to great effect: brilliant and beautiful! This film is the creation of its director, and is Art! No doubt it will appear in the Oscars. It won't be surprising if it wins the Best Picture award.

Taken as a fictional recreation of the evacuation of the British Army from the beaches of Dunkirk, in France, from May 26 to June 4, 1940, Dunkirk allows us to imagine how it must have been for the people involved. We experience it from the beach at Dunkirk, on the sea in the large ships and little ships, and in the air from the cockpit of a Spitfire. We feel the tension: the boredom of waiting; the terror of being bombed; the dangers on the sea and in the air. We see how ordinary people were affected by the events. As an imagined sliver of time in that place, this is an amazing film. It does have the feeling of being a documentary. The direction could perhaps have been tightened up at times as it even felt a little boring. On the other hand, as has been said, war has its times of boredom. Without the music to convey tension, would Dunkirk have seemed a little dull?

If anyone in the audience needs an answer to the obvious question, "What was this all about?", the answer is in Wikipedia. The film does not attempt to even address that query. Nor does it mention that the 330,000 men evacuated were vital in winning the Second World War. Almost alone, Britain battled the threat of a German Nazi takeover which, it was believed, would have brought about the destruction of the free world. Those British and French soldiers were crucial in gaining victory. None of this is important to Dunkirk. Nolan is not an educator, he is an artist recreating reality. As a storyteller, he is following the stories of the smaller players in the war, not the larger issues of the leaders of the world conflict.

Born in 1970, Nolan is 47, and a Generation Xer (1965-1979). His viewpoint on the Second World War and Dunkirk seems different from earlier generations. Has he escaped the indoctrination of those generations in the ideology of the glory of war? The heroism of being loyal to one's country unto even death, is ignored. These ideas are necessary to countries who are aware that it may necessary to defend themselves against possible enemies. Perhaps younger generations who haven't experienced war, or a threat to their countries, don't even understand that thinking. It begs the question of how would they react to such threats? Roll over or run away!

Dunkirk is an interesting film, but if you are expecting an exciting war film, you will be disappointed. Moments that could have been emotional, are downplayed. My emotions were not affected at all, and I was left feeling disappointed that the history wasn't addressed. I didn't learn anything new, nor was reminded that Dunkirk was a great victory that was snatched out of defeat.

Even Sir Winston Churchill's motivational speech in Parliament to the country after Dunkirk, was downplayed. His emotional plea to the New World of the United States was read objectively by an actor, and we didn't hear Churchill's voice.

Here is the part that is remembered best by all those who heard it, and many who didn't.
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I for not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
The United States of America did "step forth". Without the States, the world would have become a very different place. If the ideals of freedom of the individual, the rule of Law, and the "government of the people, by the people, for the people", as extolled by Lincoln on the fields of Gettysburg, don't really mean anything, then perhaps the efforts of so many were in vain. Without the deeper understanding of what Dunkirk was all about, I almost got that feeling from Dunkirk.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Vitamins 2017

Food Supplements

Many sceptics are of the opinion that it is unnecessary, even foolish, to take food supplements, especially if one is eating a balanced diet, full of salads and fruits. I eat such a diet, also with nuts and dried fruits, and protein. My own personal opinion is that I prefer to make sure my body is benefiting from all the vitamins and minerals it needs. It can always simply discard any excess it might not need. I have been using food supplements for a large part of my life. The results seem to prove that it is wise to do so. 

I haven't lost any height, even at my age, as is so common. My bone density, which was tested two years ago, is completely normal for any age. All the results from my annual physical are completely normal, not just for my age, but for any age. I find that my brain is almost even better than when I was younger, as I know so much more as a result of my life-long learning. My memory is still good, and my reasoning is better as a result of my long life experience. 

Heart and brain
Omega 3-6-9 Fish; Flax; Borage Oils:  1200mg x 6 per day (3 morning, 3 evening)
Coenzyme Q10:  200mg = 1 per day

Bones, skin and teeth
Calcium: 500mg calcium (calcium carbonate, oyster shell): 3 per day in morning
Vitamin D:  1000 IU = 6 per day     (6000 IU per day. Recommended by specialist)
Estrogel: 17B-estradiol 0.06% @ 0.015% per day

General Health Maintenance  
Vitamin Pill: vitamins; minerals

Allergy Control (No longer necessary)
Desloratadine (Aerius) 5mg x 1 per day
Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride (Sleep Aid) 12.5mg per night

Friday, July 28, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) is a sequel to the American science fiction films, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014). Matt Reeves directs, and co-writes the script with Mark Romback. They were both involved with the previous episode in 2014.

The direction and writing is professional, and held my interest throughout. I felt no inclination to boredom and falling asleep. Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar, is believable. The rest of the cast of apes is equally attractive, and realistic. It is easy to side with them against the human soldiers. The cinematography by Michael Seresin, is excellent. The costumes are amazing, as the Apes look real, not dressed up. The music by Michael Giacchino, is original and appropriate. The acting is surprisingly good, considering that more than half the main cast are dressed in ape costumes. Steve Zahn is appealing as Bad Ape, who isn't really bad at all. Woody Harrelson as the leader of the para-military group of humans is suitably menacing. He is obsessed with killing off all the Apes, so has to go, in the end.

The story is the classic epic of captive people, a mighty leader saving them, leading them into a new world with a future. The highly intelligent Apes, under the leadership of Caesar, hear that the humans are planning to attack and eliminate the Apes. The Apes are forced into a just war of defense. The humans capture all the Apes and force them into a work camp. Caesar escapes, and blows up the human military post. This triggers an avalanche which wipes out the human army which is arriving on the scene, that is also intent on obliterating the Apes. The final scenes are of the beautiful world the Apes will move into, as Caesar dies, to become a legend. Simplistic, but still great stuff! Is this the end of the trilogy, or will there be more in the new life ahead? It was left open-ended, as it were.

I was struck by the similarities to the story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt. In the Moses story, the Hebrews moved down into Egypt of their own freewill, but, in time became the work force of the Egyptians. Moses, who had been brought up as an Egyptian prince in the palace of the Pharaoh, instead of demanding rights for the Hebrews from the Egyptians, led them out of Egypt. When the Egyptian army rides after them, the Red Sea engulfs the soldiers, swallowing them up and allowing the Hebrews to escape into the desert of Sinai. After a time of preparation in the desert, Moses reminds the Children of Israel of their history and their culture, before handing over the reins to the younger leader, Joshua, and then dying. Joshua, as representative of the younger generation, leads the people into the Promised Land.

The War for the Planet of the Apes seemed to me a little shallow and wanting in what makes the story of the Exodus so much deeper. There is no unifying factor, other than Caesar, to keep the Apes together as a cohesive unit. The Apes were still living a basic lifestyle, and hadn't yet developed reading and writing, so Caesar couldn't give them a Supreme G-d, and a Holy Book, with the Law, such as Moses handed down to the Hebrews. With the humans all wiped out, there would be no common enemy to add pressure to keep together as one unit. The Promised Land may develop into a nightmare of opposing groups warring with each other, as did early Homo sapiens. On the other hand, that could continue the story of the Apes developing Empires to unite opposing factions and stop the fighting. Empires then fighting each other, until in the end, the whole world is united in one Great World Empire, and peace begins. The United States of the Planet of the Apes has a certain ring to it.

War for the Planet of the Apes is an enjoyable film, one that anyone who likes science fiction can appreciate. It's good to keep up with the latest films to have interesting conversations, especially with the younger generations.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Warmth of Other Suns: Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns (2010), by Isabel Wilkerson, was the choice of the Charles West Book Group for this month, July 21 2017. The book was suggested by Carol Frilegh, and she led us in an extremely interesting session. 

The consensus was that book is nicely written, an easy read, if a bit too long and repetitive. A lot of research has been done, and the book is full of facts on the Jim Crow laws in the Southern States, and gives three examples of the migration of individual Black people from the Southern States to the Northern States of America. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award, among many other accolades.

Isabel Wilkerson
Some of our Group hadn’t given too much thought to this period of history in the States, and were pleased to have their knowledge widened. Not many of our Group had met any Black people, which makes it difficult for them to really understand this period of American history. It was pointed out that Canada has an apartheid system with its First Peoples. Paying them to stay in their reserves isn't slavery, but does it do them any good? Can we understand the pragmatic reasons why this system was set up in the first place, any more than we can understand the pragmatic reasons behind slavery?

Sadness was expressed that slavery happened in the States, and that racial prejudice still lingers as a result. Our psychologist, Dr. Ruth, pointed out that human nature being what it is, different groups will always be suspicious of each other and that racism, meaning distrust, even fear, of the different “other” will always be with us. We were reminded that slavery has always been a large part of history. In the Middle Ages, for instance, the Vikings and Jews made fortunes trading, especially in slaves from Ireland, England, and other places. These slaves were sold even in China. At the same time, the Arabs were trading in Black slaves from the sub-Sahara. There are Black people in the Caribbean and South America, and their ancestors were all slaves. What happened in the Southern States of America was happening all over the world, and was not unique. It was of its times.

It is considered an advance that Black people are now examining their own experience in the United States. They are writing books and making films, and developing a deeper understanding themselves of what happened. More and more, they are developing a pride in themselves, and will be able to place their historic experience into the larger picture of world history.

The Warmth of Other Suns is part of that process. It is a good contribution.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Brief History of Humankind: Sapiens

A Brief History of Humankind: Sapiens (2014) by Professor Yuval Noah Harari was first published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011. Dr. Harari earned a PhD in History from Oxford University and now lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specializing in World History. He likes to ask the big questions, and research the answers.

This book certainly is the result of big thinking, and is a fascinating study of the history of humankind. He begins with the original hominids, mentioning Homo Erectus and the Neanderthals, and then on to Homo Sapiens. 

The development of imagination by the Sapiens, the Cognitive Revolution, around 70,000 BCE, in his opinion was the first great division of the Sapiens from the other great apes. In 12,000 BCE, when the species developed agriculture, the Agricultural Revolution, was the next huge leap forward. This resulted in the unification of humankind, as Empires consolidated peoples into ever larger groups of political organizations. In 1500 CE, the Scientific Revolution began to replace the ideologies of blind faith with objective science, searching after reality.

Dr. Harari argues that the development of imagination allowes Homo Sapiens to cooperate in large numbers. The imagination allows them to believe in the fictions created in the human mind. Trade brought the necessary creation of money, which is a fiction based on mutual trust. Living in communities, as a result of agriculture and specialisation, brought the imaginative creations of the political, legal and religious ideologies that bind people together into cultures. These are all fictions, ideologies created in the human mind, and each culture has its own imaginative constructs. 

The trend is for the interdependence of the human race, which is moving towards a World Empire. Dr. Harari argues that globalization in trade, money, and universal religions, is driving that process. The imaginative constructs of universal religions are inclusive of all humans, whether they follow any particular religion, or none at all. 

Dr. Harari asks the big question as to whether humans are any happier in modern civilizations than were the ancient palaeolithic hunter gatherers? He suggests that a research study of happiness is overdue. He also points out the inhuman way animals have been treated by Homo sapiens over the ages. He considers those animals are not happier.

The book ends up with speculations as to where the human race is headed. Will we become super human beings? 

Spider-Man: Homecoming: Monday, July 17 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) stars Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Robert Downey, Jr., as his mentor, Iron Man. Michael Toole plays the villain, the Vulture. The acting is good and the characters are a little more than cartoon.

The story and screenplay is written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley and a team of four other writers. This shows in the script. Jon Watts does his best to direct what he has been given. I found the storyline a little disjointed and boring at times. I hate to admit I had a problem staying awake. On the other hand, I loved the scenes around the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. It was fun to see the ground from the top of the monument, as I had seen it up from the ground in real life.

I do wish that the actors were reminded that diction is still important when acting. Perhaps it would be a good idea to use subtitles, as the accents combined with quick speech and slurring of words, make it difficult to follow what is being said.

The film is entertaining in that the hero fights the bad guy, and wins when he hands the villain over to the police. In the meantime, we get the impression that Spider-Man and the Vulture have a relationship going, and that they respect each other. This is probably a good example for children, as it's not too black and white. The special effects are specially spectacular. The true audience for the film is obviously adolescent males of all ages. I really couldn't suggest that anyone else should see it, unless to keep up with children and grandchildren.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Big Sick: Monday, July 10 2017

The Big Sick is an American romantic comedy. It is also the real life story of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Together, they wrote the screen play. It is directed by Michael Showalter.

Kumail plays the male lead role, and Emily is played by Zoe Kazan. Apparently, Emily is a writer, but not an actor. Emily's mother is played by Holly Hunter, who is best known for her role as the Scottish mute woman in The Piano. Emily's father is played by Ray Romano, who is best know for his role as Raymond in Everyone Loves Raymond. The couple who play Kumail's parents are very attractive, and the young woman they produced as a prospective wife for Kumail, were all gorgeous. With such experienced professionals making the film, it is well-crafted. The music is upbeat, and the cinematography is colourful. I guess its strange name comes from the illness that struck Emily.

The Big Sick is enjoyable. It hits all the right spots. Ir's about romantic love between a couple who surmount all obstacles to be together. The largest difficultly they overcome is the fact that Kumail is an immigrant from Pakistan, whose parents want him to remain a Muslim and agree to an arranged marriage. He asks his parents why they brought him to the States, then expect him to see life as they do, within the Pakistan Muslim worldview. In the end, love conquers all, and the couple end up together. Over and above being highly entertaining, the film is intelligent, and making so many points about the problems facing people from a different culture immigrating to North America.

Brilliant and courageous, I hope this film appears in the Oscars!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Baby Driver: Monday, July 3 2017

Baby Driver (2017) is written and directed by Edgar Wright. Born in England, UK. (1974), he is 43, which makes him a Generation X. Wright is an experienced writer and director. This show as the direction and writing of this film is professional.

Although described as an action film, it is really a highly original musical. The music is appropriate and upbeat, and already hit numbers. I enjoyed it. Fortunately the actors don't try to dance and sing as they are not trained as either. They do act well. Ansel Elgort (1994 and a Millennial), as Miles "Baby" is delightful. He is attractive, and has great appeal. Lily James as Debora, Baby's romantic interest, is also gorgeous. The chemistry between the two actors is immense and believable. Kevin Spacey as Doc, the veteran criminal mastermind, is fun to watch, as is Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame. Hamm could hardly be less like Don Draper as Jason "Buddy" Van Horn. Jamie Foxx is also almost unrecognizable. The other actors are well-cast. 

When considered objectively, it is strange that the audience is enjoying such a fun movie about gangsters. None of the characters would be particularly admirable if they were real, but we suspend our normal judgement and accept them as the caricatures they are. It reminded me a little of the TV show, Dexter, in which the extremely attractive Michael C. Hall plays Dexter Morgan, a killer, yet we accept it because he is a vigilante ensuring that justice is done, and we see it being done, horribly. 

Baby Driver is highly entertaining. The chief character has a heart of gold, and we like him. His love interest is warm and lovable. The car chases are exciting and fun to watch. The story has lots of action, and ends relatively happily. My friends and I liked it. Was almost refreshing that there wasn't too much to think about. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Beartiz at Dinner: Monday, 26 June 2017

Beatriz at Dinner (2017) is an American/Canadian drama, directed by Miguel Arteta. He is Puerto Rican, born in 1965. This places him as a Generation X (1966-1976) child of the baby boomers. The film screenplay was written by Mike White. He was born in California in 1970, which means he is also a member of Generation X. This generation is known for its high levels of scepticism.

Arteta and White have collaborated in the past, winning awards for their films, Chuck and Buck (2000) and The Good Girl (2002). Beatriz at Dinner may appear in the Oscars.

Arteta's direction and White's screenplay are excellent. Arteta knows how to give emphasis to what is being said, by showing the reaction of those listening. The cinematography of Wyatt Garfield conveys the beauty of California and reminds us of the beautiful world in which we live. The music of Mark Mothersbaugh is appropriate.

Salma Hayek at Beatriz is fantastic. She feels deeply every emotion, and shows it. She is a spiritual healer, tuned into nature and loving animals. She is concerned that humans are killing off the earth, and states that she sees the world as dying, without hope. This, in spite of the magnificent sunset we are viewing as she is making that statement. Humans may die off, but the earth will continue as it has done for so long, is the message coming through. She feels without hope. So sad!

John Lithgow as Douglas Strutt is a delight to watch. He lends the character an attractive charisma, and shows understanding for what Beatriz is feeling. He gives a certain amount of nuance to Strutt. White has perhaps made him a little too much an unattractive stereotype, but we get the picture.

The storyline is black and white, with Beatriz as a soft-hearted, immigrant American, and Douglas Strutt as a hard-headed American businessman who develops real estate projects without much consideration being given to the effect on the people who may be moved off the land. Taken at it's face value, the film makes fun of the conflicting attitudes of the two different cultures, laughing at each, and laughing at how they react to each other.

The overall message being hammered out is that real estate development, especially in foreign countries by American businessmen, has adversely affected some of the local people. This is true, of course, but overall, countries like Puerto Rico and Cuba, for instance, have welcomed these developments and the American dollars brought into their countries as a result. The movie perhaps seems a little too simplistic, and the ending has left many people wondering what it is all about. On the other hand, it is entertaining and amusing, and the acting is a delight to watch.

When Beatriz at Dinner is considered as a satire, it is cruel, as satire so often is. The picture painted of Beatriz is not too complimentary. Her emotions blind her to the realities of life, and she ends up choosing to lose herself in the deep sea of the emotional subconscious. She is shown as an emotional fool. Strutt is depicted as a businessman whose only motivation is to make money. In reality, if that is all that inspires people to go into business, they won't last too long. The long hours and extremely hard work that is necessary to create, build, and sustain a business, will kill off any ardour for mere money. This attitude to business people is ignorant and insulting. It is business people who create the economy, and it seems foolish to bite the hand that feeds us. I don't like satire, and I don't like this film if I consider it only as a satire.

However, if considered as an allegory, Beatriz at Dinner is full of hidden meanings. The film is being touted as being of the Trump era, and Strutt can be seen as representing President Donald Trump. He can also be seen as representing the apparently unfeeling, pragmatic, realistic Republicans, who only consider the bottom line of any social program, and prefer to help people help themselves. Beatriz can be seen as representing the kindly, idealistic, Utopian Progressives, who only care about the people and alleviating their every concern, and the Earth and preserving it as they think is best. Both these stereotypes are also caricatures, but can be seen as how each side does see the other, taken to the extreme. The realistic facts presented by the Right which prevent the Left from achieving the Utopia they can see so clearly, drives the Left to want to murder the Right. The Right does listen to the Left, as did Strutt to Beatriz, but the facts outweigh the emotions. I liked the ending. I saw it as showing that an unconsidered, emotional outlook on life would lead us all back into the caves, and up the trees. Or into the ocean, taking life back to the beginning, perhaps to try again. This, in fact, is what has happened many times in the past, and is still happening. The message seems to be that surely there is a place in the middle where each extreme can meet the other side, and try to see the different point of view. Each side has a validity.

As entertainment, I enjoyed Beatriz at Dinner. As satire, I disliked it thoroughly. As allegory, I found it had me thinking for days after I saw the film. I wondered if the director and writer saw as much into their creation. If so, they are brilliant.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Cousin Rachel: Monday, June 19 2017

My Cousin Rachel, directed and written by Roger Mitchell, is the latest adaptation of the book by the same name, written by Daphne du Maurier (1951). The book, a Gothic, mystery romance, sets the scene in a large country estate in Cornwall, England, during the mid 1800's.

Rachel Weisz as cousin Rachel Ashley and Sam Claffin as Philip Ashley ought to be perfect for their parts. The rest of the cast are as attractive, and this should have helped make the film more enjoyable. The cinematography is gorgeous but a little strange for a Gothic story. Too much colour, and not enough atmosphere perhaps. The music is modern. and didn't appeal to me, and doesn't create a sound that could be remotely thought of as eighteenth century, or Gothic, It has no suggestion of mystery. The script left something to be desired. The element of mystery is essential for the Gothic mystery romance, but this was absent from this film.

We are told the story through the eyes of Philip, a twenty-five-year-old young man who has had nothing to do with women, and is still a virgin. He is a bit of a boor, and my friends were divided as to whether he was as stupid as at times he appears. As he hadn't had much to do with women, he is emotionally immature. Perhaps this is why he could have switched so quickly emotionally from hating Rachel and wishing her dead, to becoming so totally infatuated with her. As he swings from suspicions that Rachel murdered his cousin, to being sure she is innocent of any accusations, he shows his need to grow out of his adolescence. In spite of the attractive Sam Claffin, Philip is not a character we can sympathize with too much. Which is a pity, as it is necessary to our enjoyment of the story that we do sympathize with him.

We hear nothing from Rachel of her side of the story, and she is meant to be a femme fatale. Weisz plays her as a sexually liberated woman, but she appears too modern to be a Gothic mystery woman. What a waste of the talents of Rachel Weisz!

The book is considered one of du Maurier's best. She was at the height of her powers as a writer and mistress of the Gothic mystery genre. Roger Mitchell, although an experienced director, is not a master of this genre. Or perhaps he has deliberately chosen to avoid the Gothic side of this story. Is it conceivable that he decided to make a version that is different from the original conception of du Maurier? Did he decide to present it in a more modern light for the sake of a younger audience. Does this mean that he has lost the audience who loves the Gothic mystery romance? Whatever his thinking, My Cousin Rachel doesn't hit any of the correct notes to be satisfying.

It's not too bad a film, as long as you aren't looking for a recognizable replay of the book. It helps if you don't know too much about Cornwell in the 1800s, or the Gothic mystery romance.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Wonder Woman: Monday, June 12 2017

Wonder Woman is directed by Patty Jenkins, and is breaking box office records for revenues. Gal Gadot as Diana, the daughter of Queen Kippolyta of the Amazons and Zeus, who becomes Wonder Woman, is perfect for the part. She is beautiful, but also depicts a strength of character that makes her believable. As a fan of Star Trek and Chris Pine as the young Captain Kirk, I was delighted that Chris Pine played Captain Steve Trevor, an American pilot, who encouraged Diana to become Wonder Woman. The rest of the cast is attractive and interesting to watch.

The comic series of the past has presented many different variations of the story around Wonder Woman. Not having been a follower of the previous Wonder Woman comics that have led to this film, I enjoyed this version of the story. The chemistry between Wonder Woman and Captain Trevor was strong, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who hopes he managed to escape the final bang with which he is dispatched from this world in a cloud of heroism. In the fantasy world of comics, I have no doubt it could be arranged, and probably will be. The sequel was set up with Wonder Woman declaring her mission is still to protect the world. That opens up unlimited possibilities as to whom she will be protecting it from.

Wonder Woman is entertainment. Appealing heroes, following a noble mission, fighting to achieve their goals, and beating the opposition to win for the "good guys". No introspection by the characters as they are comic book figures. What more do we want! Add mythic fantasy worlds, colourful visuals, stirring music, fighting for the male audience and a flicker of love interest for the female audience, and you have a huge box office success. This film is fun!

    Tuesday, June 6, 2017

    Paris Can Wait: Monday, June 5 2017

     Paris Can Wait (2016) is written and directed by Eleanor Coppola. She has made many documentaries, including Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, based on the making of Apocalypse One (1979), directed by her partner, Francis Ford Cuppola (78). Sophia Coppola, her daughter, is an award-winning director. Eleanor Coppola is now 81, and this is her first feature film.

    The film is light entertainment. Anne, played by Diane Lane, has ear infections so can't fly to Paris to meet her busy, director spouse, Michael, played by Alex Baldwin. Jacques, Michael's business associate, played by Arnaud Viard, offers to drive her to Paris. Paris can wait, because Jacques wants to show Anne some lovely parts of France, including some delectable foods and wines. It felt like being on holiday from everyday life. It brought back lovely memories of France and Paris, which added to the enjoyment of the film.

    Eleanor, Sophia, and Francis Cuppolo
    The direction was perhaps a little slow, the music by Laura Karpman was original, the cinematography was competent, the acting was adequate. Diane Lane is so beautiful and Arnaud Viard handsome, with a lovely French accent, the suspense in the film was around the question, "Would Arnaud try to seduce Anne, and would she let him?" The concept of the movie has all the making of a great film. Eleanor Coppola shows promise. This debut film was enjoyable, but seemed to have not quite the impact it might have had. What a pity Eleanor Coppola didn't create feature films before now!

    My friends all enjoyed Paris Can Wait, even as they felt it could have been better. Kalpna thought it was pleasant. Maureen thought it had all the elements of a better film. Everyone else agreed with these critiques. If you think you might like a meander through France, to Paris, enjoying the sights along the way, including the French food, this movie is for you. A little sexual tension to add to the pleasure, and no boring sex to hold up the action. In the end we were left with that same question, "Will she, won't she?"

    Thursday, June 1, 2017

    I, Daniel Blake: Monday, May 29 2017

    I, Daniel Blake (2016) is a powerful film. It is directed by a master, Ken Loach, and written brilliantly by Paul Laverty. The dialogue that began the film, before any images appeared, had me laughing out loud. A little later, I realised I was laughing instead of crying. When Dave Johns began his incredible performance as Daniel Blake, he had me on his side and involved in his life immediately. Haley Squires enters the picture a little later as Katie, and she, too, caught my sympathy. The people in this film are real. It felt as if I were watching them, as a friend concerned about them and the difficulties they were facing in life. Ken Loach is an experienced director, and Paul Laverty has done a lot of writing: this is their masterpiece. If Oscars were awarded on how much a film touches the emotions of the audience, this film would win without any competitors. False sentimentality and melodrama leave me coldly unfeeling, but the reality of this movie touched me. Daniel and Katie were trying to overcome difficulties in their lives, but no one was helping them help themselves. I found this so sad.

    The basic theme of the film is that two people are caught up in a bureaucracy that has to obey the rules of the system, without exception. Daniel is a carpenter approaching 60, who is being denied Employment and Support Allowance, even although he has had a heart attack at work, and his doctor has declared him unfit for work. He wants to appeal, but is frustrated in doing so because he is not computer literate. Katie is a single mother of two children from different fathers, and is obviously from a background that hasn't encouraged her to examine and control her own life. She has moved to Newcastle from London, as this is where the government has offered her a low-income flat. She has no job skills, with no prospect of gaining any. The government is slow in paying her benefits. She moves into the sex trade, where she does well financially. It is made clear that jobs are not easily found. She and Daniel play off each other so well, it is a delight to watch.

    I, Daniel Blake reminded me of The Castle (1926) by Franz Kafka. During the period when I was studying Communism, I read this book. Here in the film, was the same atmosphere of a heartless bureaucracy; uncaring, helpless individuals administering a system within the rules. Even if a person wanted to help another, the system doesn't allow it. This a good argument in favour of the proposed basic minimum income which is in the experimental stages already in Finland, the Netherlands, and Canada, among other places.

    Perhaps I, Daniel Blake is satisfying in that it is such a critique of social programs being administered by a government bureaucracy. The huge staff is being paid high salaries, yet the people who need help are grudgingly given a pittance. The huge tax burden that supports the whole system does provide jobs for lots of people as administrators, but it would appear to fall short when it comes to satisfying the requirements of those who really are in need. We are left wondering what is the answer in this day of automation.

    I and my friends enjoyed the film, even if it did leave us feeling sad. It provoked an interesting discussion afterwards, in The Lounge at our Cineplex.

    Thursday, May 25, 2017

    AGO - Georgia O'Keefe: Tuesday, May 23 2017

    The Georgia O'Keefe exhibition being staged at present by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), is up to the usual international standard. O'Keefe's life is laid out to show the influences on her creative processes, and there is a good cross-section of her output to give a broad perspective on her work. O'Keefe is know as the "Mother of American Modernism." She was a true artist, in that she developed her own vision, and presented her own authentic view of life. This exhibition helps place her at the forefront of the development of artistic thinking, and shows her true greatness. All that can be said is that she was a great painter, and this is all she wanted to be said.

    I loved her paintings of New York. She caught the vibrant mood, and exciting new vistas of a modern city. Her abstracts are full of emotion, and can give rise to many thoughts in the viewer. Her floral studies are gorgeous, and remind of the prolific generosity and beauty of nature. The blue of the sky of New Mexico fills her paintings and throws into contrast the red hills and bare bones to be found around Santa Fe. She seems to warn that life is to be enjoyed while we have it, as its vibrance too soon vanishes into the dust. Georgia O'Keefe laid great stress on following one's own path in creating art. She had been well-trained, and built on that to develop her own view of the world. Her work is unique.

    Having studied photography at one time, I was fascinated by her relationship with Alfred Stieglitz, the great photographer. The exhibition of his photographs, and those of another great photographer, Robert Adams, interested me greatly. It appeared that Georgia O'Keefe's own work had benefitted from her contact with the work of these artists. I had been unaware of their close association, but this explained her strong compositions and the framing of her pictures.

    Georgia also followed her own road in the affairs of the heart. She developed a relationship with Alfred Stieglitz even although he was married at the time. She moved to New York city, at his request, in 1918. They married in 1924, although she wasn't altogether happy to do so. She never did adopt the conventional role of house slave that wives were expected to follow at that time. Stieglitz must have been happy with their bond as they remained married until his death in 1946.

    Altogether, another fantastic exhibition shown by the AGO.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2017

    The Lovers: Monday, May 22 2017

    The Lovers, written and directed by Azazel Jacobs is called a romantic comedy. An unrecognizable Debra Winger plays Mary, the wife of Michael, played by Tracy Letts. Both look to be in their early sixties but are meant to be in their lat fifties. Bored out of their minds with each other, they are involved with much younger people in unhappy affairs. It's too bad they have not been learning from the many dating coaches who are generously sharing their knowledge on the internet. One of the first things that is said, is to consider how the other person makes you feel. In each of these cases, it is obvious our older couple should be running for the hills. They haven't improved on their choice of partners.

    The direction is competent, if a little slow. The music is appropriate and pleasant. There was enough dialect to convey the message, but certainly didn't give the impression that any of these people were too intellectual. The acting was good, and I even felt a little for Mary, but that dissipated as the film progressed. This was a good anthropological study of life in present-day California, and much of the western world. The question arises in my mind, is it better to suffer in boring relationship for the sake of keeping a family together, or go off with someone else who is temporarily giving a bit of excitement? It was hard not to feel for the son, Joel, played by Tyler Ross. He found being with his parents almost unbearable when they were bored with each other, and it was even harder for him when he discovered that they were cheating on each other, then on their new liaisons, with each other. He was learning that his parents didn't have much loyalty, nor are they very nice people.

    Did I like the film? It was interesting, but didn't make me laugh at all. In fact, I found it tragic that people make themselves and others so unhappy. It's genre description is incorrect as it is neither romantic, nor a comedy. Most of my group of 15 people didn't like it, nor would they recommend anyone go to see it. Overall, I would agree with their judgement.

    Saturday, May 20, 2017

    Charles West Book Group: Friday, May 19 2017

    Charles West Book Group
    Third Friday Every Month
    Place: Party Room, Floor 31
    Time: 1:00pm     
    (we have the room until 5 pm)

    Friday, May 19 2017

    Annette couldn’t join us today to facilitate the meeting, as her husband was taken ill. Presently, he is in hospital awaiting further tests. We hope the news is good, and we all send good vibes her way.

    As usual, we took turns around the room giving our impressions of The Zookeeper’s Wife. Diane Ackerman is poet and writer of nonfiction. Those of us who had been expecting a story, felt that this had interfered with her telling of this tale. What was she writing? Parts were highly descriptive, if you like that sort of thing. Parts were instructive, if you were looking for information. Very little was an account of events or actions. The personalities of the participants, including the zookeeper’s wife, were under-developed. The material could have been very moving, it could have been treated as a thriller, but the author didn’t quite get it together. Some of us liked the book, but others didn’t like it at all.

    An interesting discussion ensued which was instructive. We had all been looking for different things from the book, and this had influenced our attitude towards it. Some wanted a story, with action, and a stress on how horrific was the environment. They were disappointed. Some liked the poetic descriptive passages. Some liked the information that was offered from the diaries of the real zookeeper’s wife. Some found the book difficult to read, others enjoyed it.

    Our Jewish members had been moved by the holocaust material. This prompted remarks that the material itself had allowed some of us to enjoy the book, even although it wasn’t too well written. Everyone was agreed that it had been a worthwhile experience to read the book, and see the film.

    Annette wasn’t with us to receive our thanks, but these will be passed on to her.

    Bon Cop, Bad Cop: Monday, May 15 2017

    What to say about Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2 (2017)! Written by Patrick Huard, and directed by Alain Desrochers, it is entertaining. Colm Feore as the Bad Cop and Patrick Huard as the Bon Cop are both amusing in their parts. This is a sequel to Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006), with the same two starring in their original roles. They look a bit older, I would presume, not having seen the first film.

    The Bad Cop is from Toronto and the Bon Cop is from Montreal. Some laughs were raised around the tensions between the two cities and provinces. If you like satire, you will enjoy the picture painted of the American cops, south of the Canadian border. It's not pretty!

    I've had to remind myself of the storyline by looking up the internet. It's something to do with a car smuggling ring that turns out to be much more than it seems.

    As this is a Canadian film, I would like to be kinder about the poor direction, and poor script. On the other hand, most people wouldn't even notice, and the film did make me laugh out loud a few times. This is more than can be said of any of the many films I have seen recently. It also is light entertainment, and leaves one feeling amused. Again, this is more than most films of recent vintage. If you are feeling like a romp about Canadian policemen, this is your film.

    TSO: Thursday, May 4 2017

    TSO warming up
    The concert today is showcasing some of the music the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), will be playing on their tour of Israel and Europe, this year.

    Iris, by Jordan Pal (2016), is called an iridescent tribute to the limitless scope of nature's creativity. Pal states that his work attempts to evoke the boundless, infinite, and ever-changing splendour of nature. This first piece in today's concert, was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). It is highly original, and coaxes unusual sounds from the orchestra.

    Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op 54, by Robert Schuman (1841), continued the first half of the concert. Highly romantic, the concerto is original in concepts, and poetic rather than bravura. The soloist, Jan Lisiecki, is a young Canadian performer, and is noted for his poetic sensibility. This made him the ideal person to accompany the TSO in this piece. It was a delight to listen to the international standard orchestra blend with the beautiful performance of the pianist, in this lovely concerto. Jan Lisiecki showed his star quality, and added to his already illustrious career.

    Concerto for Orchestra (1944), by Bela Bartok, was composed whilst he lived in New York City, USA. He died in 1945, and this piece seems to sum up the creative development of its creator. It is pluralistic, in that it is traditional yet experimental, uses folk music yet uses early modernism and neo-classicism. Bartok saw his finale of this piece as a "life assertion." It is almost as if this composition is Bela Batrok's "signing off", as he died so soon afterwards. Fascinating end to a lovely afternoon concert.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2017

    Norman: the Fixer: Monday, May 8 2017

    Norman: The moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (2016) is an Israeli-American film, directed and written by Joseph Cedar. Cedar also directed and wrote his film, Footnote (2011), which won an Academy Award nomination as Best Foreign Film, and lost to The Salesman. Lior Ashkenazi is a leading Israeli actor, and had worked with Cedar before, having a main part in Footnote.

    Richard Gere brilliantly brings to life Norman Oppenheimer, who is an embarrassingly pathetic person. Lior Ashkenazi, plays with flair Micha Eshel, the Israeli politician, who becomes the Israeli Prime Minister. He is the consummate politician we all love to hate. In spite of their good looks, I found neither of these characters attractive, so that was a negative for me around the film. The rest of the cast were attractive to look at, and played their parts competently. The cinematography was adequate, with some nice shots, and the music was lovely. I enjoyed the cantor's singing, especially with the choirs. The film consists mainly of talking, too much talking, so I became bored and had difficulty staying awake.

    There were fourteen of us in our group, and we retired to The Lounge at the Cineplex after the film. Fortunately, we had Chris among us, as he was able to tell us what had been going on in the film. None of us had a clue about the story line. In fact, Mike said he had an enjoyable sleep, which made me feel better about being so bored.

    Richard Gere and Lior Ashkenazi and "the shoes"
    What one has to know before seeing this movie is it is absolutely necessary to know that a New York Jewish "fixer" is what Jews call, a macher, a con man in other words. He is trying to find people who have needs and fix them up with other people who can fulfil those needs. He hopes to make some money in the process. I didn't know that, which meant I really had no idea what Norman was trying to do for a large part of the film. As I was struggling to stay awake, I missed the final clicking into place that led up to Norman's tragic fall. I was left with the questions, what had happened, what was it all about, and why was Norman preparing to take such a drastic measure to finalize the action that I hadn't understood anyway?

    Part of the problem, I would surmise, lies with the direction. It might have been possible to explain what was going on for the totally ignorant, like me. Perhaps the pace could have been sped up a bit, and points made by changes in timing. New York Jews will probably thoroughly enjoy this film as they probably know Norman, and understand what he is about. Norman: the Fixer could be seen as a character study, but is this character worth studying? He is excruciatingly ingratiating and grovelling. I found him painfully revolting. He was exercising the talents of a salesperson, but to no positive effect. A salesperson has a product that others need and want.

    I don't think I could recommend seeing this movie, which is such a pity as it has a good cast. If you like paying close attention to the interplay of the characters, lots of talking, and the intricacies of the plot, you might enjoy Norman. As Marianne said, our group should see it again, now that we have some idea of what it was about. I couldn't bear it. Maureen said she didn't really know how one would classify this film, but it wasn't entertainment to her. Everyone of our group thought they ought to have enjoyed it, after all it did have Richard Gere giving a great performance. Most were a little perplexed as to why they didn't really. It definitely does help if the story line is clear enough to follow relatively easily.

    I often wonder what the director of a film is thinking about. Is he thinking about his audience at all? Does he care about his audience? Is he satisfying a creative urge inside himself, that he thinks everyone else ought to appreciate? Is he beating a large, bass drum about some issue? Does he care whether his film will make money? Is that too crass, and he is an artist expressing himself and exercising his special talents? Does the idea that people are paying their money to be entertained even enter his head? Is that kind of audience too asinine for him? What are some of them thinking?

    Saturday, May 6, 2017

    Their Finest: Monday, May 1 2017

    Their Finest (2017) is based on the book, Their Finest Hour and a Half (2009), by Lissa Evans, who began her career as a doctor, then moved on to producing shows for radio and television. The film is directed by Danish Lone Scherfig, a highly experienced winner of many awards, including an Oscar nomination for An Education (2009). It is written by Gaby Chiappe, who is known for her work in TV: East Enders; Shetland; Vera; and many more. This is her first feature film.

    Gemma Arterton plays Catrin Cole, the chief character in the story about the making of propaganda films in London, England, during the Blitz, the Nazi bombings of London, in the Second World War. She is English, and plays the part in a restrained style, as it is imagined an English woman of that time might behave. The rest of the cast all played competently, as it is imagined that people of that time would have behaved. I found the dialogue stilted, and asked myself if that were really how English people would have talked to each other, even then. This is a modern film, made by younger people who didn't live during the Second World War. I found it unauthentic, as I do remember how it felt at that time, and how people behaved. It shows how most re-creations of a specific time, by people who weren't there, are fantasy. Entertaining, but not quite accurate, if you are looking for authenticity, which most people aren't. I found the film left me uncomfortable, and I've had to work out why.

    The writer of the book, director, scriptwriter, and chief character of the film, are all women. What seems to have impressed them most about the time of the Second World War, is the position of women in that culture, as seen by feminists. It's made quite clear that men consider women's position in society was not to do the same jobs as men. This is authentic, but it really struck me as the "beating of a BIG drum" so that no one misses the point.

    On the other hand, men were courteous towards women, as is not shown in the film. These men were also trapped in their culture. Most of them had stood up in front of minister or priest, family, friends, and society, and vowed to support their wives and children, "until death do us part". What heroes! They considered women and children were to be protected and cherished. What left me discomforted was the lack of understanding of the deeper reasons behind the culture, and the position of men. It appeared to me that a shallow, ideological position was being put forward. I don't like ideologies, even although I can see why they are useful to some people.

    In Catrin Cole, has been created a woman who thinks as many women seem to in 2017. She is prepared to live with a man outside of marriage. In fact, it appears she is paying the expenses of her artist paramour. Meanwhile, she is already beginning a relationship with a fellow-writer in the film studio. When she catches the artist having sex with another woman, she stamps off in disgust, which is convenient for the script. Now she is free to pursue her own affair, because the artist has betrayed her. When her new love interest is accidentally killed, we are shown her face expressing restrained grief, as it is imagined that a woman of that time might have behaved. Obviously, she will move on, and find another. Are men so expendable and interchangeable to modern women? This is not authentic for a woman of the Second World War. Most women of that time still bought into the myth they had been taught, about "one love", and all that romantic nonsense.

    Nine of us saw this film together, and my friends all found it entertaining. We adjourn to The Lounge at the Cineplex after viewing the film, and it is always so interesting to hear what everyone thinks. Maureen found it wanting in many areas, but enjoyed it nevertheless.

    Their Finest is entertainment, and answers my question I keep asking, "What is entertainment?". Entertainment is fantasy, designed to be an amusement, a diversion from life. In spite of the laboured ideology and lack of authenticity, this Their Finest is! Bill Nighy is a delight, as always. He made me laugh out loud, which I always enjoy. The rest of the cast, who were new to me, were believable. A good effort by the director and writer.

    Thursday, April 27, 2017

    Maudie: Monday, April 24 2017

    Maudie is a Canadian film, directed by Irish director, Aisling Walsh. It's about the life of Canadian folk artist, Maud Lewis (1903-70), who is one of Canada's best-known folk artists. She lived all her life in Nova Scotia. Sally Hawkins starred as Maud, and Ethan Hawke played her husband, Everett Lewis. The movie was filmed in Newfoundland and Labrador.

    Sally Hawkins played opposite Cate Blanchette in Blue Jasmine, directed by Woody Allen, and received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. She plays Maudie brilliantly. Ethan Hawke is perhaps best know for his portrayal of the father in Boyhood, for which he received an Oscar Awards nomination, among others. He played Everett Lewis with amazing sensitivity.

    The direction was a little slow for me, but Maureen and Susan thought it suited the subject matter. Life in Nova Scotia at the beginning and middle of the last century was probably a lot slower than the fast-paced world we are experiencing today. The story was treated as a love story, and as such was very sweet. Everett was supportive of Maudie, and encouraged her painting. He bought her paints and brushes, and did all the housework around their tiny home, so that she could paint. They were devoted to each other, after a slightly rocky start to their relationship. Maureen and I liked to believe the fairy tale, but Susan wasn't a believer.

    Getting high critic and audience ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, Maudie is being mentioned in the same breath as the Oscars, for nomination in the Best Foreign Film category. It's worth seeing!

    Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    Going in Style: Monday, April 17 2017

    Going in Style is a called a heist comedy. It is a remake of the film of the same name, made in 1979, which is called a caper film. The 2017 remake is also a caper. Maureen called it a romp, and that was a good criticism. Directed by Zach Braff, written by Theodore Melfi, the film stars Morgan Freeman as Willie, Michael Caine as Joe Harding, and Alan Arkin as Albert. Matt Dillon is Special Agent Hamer, an FBI agent who investigates bank robberies. Ann-Margret plays Annie, Albert's love interest.

    Setting aside any critical faculties I may possess, I enjoyed it, and it made me laugh out loud. It was a great pleasure to enjoy the actors playing off each other. They were obviously having fun. Highly entertaining, it had a happy ending, depending on the point of view, in that the bank robbers were not caught, and they got away with it. They also got to keep the money. This is a "feel good" movie. It also feels as if it isn't new, and we have seen it before. Perhaps even many times. I think this film could be called a "pot boiler". Someone needed the money!

    One thing bothered me. The premise seemed to be that it is all right to rob banks, because they rob their customers. I could sympathize with the three main characters in that their pensions were not going to be honoured because the company they had worked for was going out of business. But to blame the banks, and have the three friends use this to rationalize their becoming bank robbers, turned them into Robin Hood. I have always considered Robin Hood a criminal. Surely it is only the very young who don't realise that we need banks, and that it is necessary that they do well. These oldie goldies seemed very ignorant of the facts of economics, and life.