Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Florida Project: Monday, October 16 2017

The Florida Project (2017) is directed by Sean Baker (46). Chris Bergoch (40ish) joined him in writing and producing this drama film. It is beautifully made and well-written, full of the warmth and sunshine of Orlando, Florida, and the action is set immediately outside Magic Kingdom, the Disney World resort. The cinematography by Alexis Zabe makes the most of the bright colours that give a light-hearted feeling to the movie.

Willem Defoe (62) is perfect as the manager of The Magic Castle Motel. His rough exterior contains a heart of gold, and Defoe doesn't overdo either side of his character. He just is that manager. Wonderful acting! Bria Vivaite (24) was scouted on social media and plays Halley, the mother of Moonee, a six-year old girl who is living with her mother, father unknown. They live in a community of extended-stay guests at the motel, in Kissimmee, Florida, originally designed as an overflow motel for people visiting Disney World. Moonee is played by six-year-old Brooklyn Kimberley Prince. Moonee's close friend, Jancey, is played by six-year-old Valerie Cotto. Their acting is very fresh, and surprisingly good. This also could be said of the other actors.

Sean Baker
The storyline is loosely about Mooney and her friends who are running wild, enjoying a lovely summer in Florida. Their summer break is full of the innocence of childhood, and they are happy, although the adults around them are struggling to make ends meet.

Mooney's mother, Halley, is still a child herself and loves her little girl. They have fun together, and Halley does her best to mother the child, showing her love; however, Haley having "visitors" to her suite is not considered by the manager of the motel, or the child welfare people, to be good for the little girl. The film ends sadly as the authorities arrive to take Mooney from Halley, whom they see as an irresponsible mother. Mooney runs away from the officials, to Jancey. I felt my emotions were being manipulated as Moonee cries bitterly, which she does well. Jancey tells her she has the answer to her sadness. Together, hand in hand, they trot off into the sunset towards the Cinderella Magic Castle in Disney World.

Children running wild in a Florida summer, wasn't enough to hold the attention of two of my Film Group; they walked out and got their money back. As one friend said after the film, when we were all enjoying getting together in The Lounge at the Cineplex, she hopes she doesn't see any other children for a long time. Especially ones who scream all the time as the ones in the film seemed to do. It didn't really "grab" anyone else either as they were all agreed they wouldn't recommend The Florida Project to friends.

Taken as an anthropological or sociological study, the film is very interesting. It is realistic, and certainly depicts the challenges facing low-income people in trying to earn a living. Unskilled and unmannerly, they really don't present an attractive hiring prospect. The film ends sadly as the authorities arrive to take Mooney from Halley, whom they see as an irresponsible mother.

I was left with a feeling of sadness at the hopelessness of expecting low-income people to change their behaviour. Why should they? They don't want to change. Society is trying to socially engineer them by providing schools, health care, welfare programs, in the hope that they will change into more productive citizens. If they don't want to change, they will simply continue in the unacceptable behaviour that makes them not fit into society as contributors. They will remain "low-income." It's difficult to see how providing them with a Basic Income to replace present welfare programs would make any difference. I didn't like that feeling of having witnessed a deep tragedy.

I don't know if the message behind The Florida Project was that the children of low-income people are happy inspite of their circumstances. Perhaps there is no message, and this is simply meant to be a slice of real life. Either way, it really is not too entertaining. It certainly shows that the principles behind writing a good story as taught by the experts, are correct. I wouldn't recommend this film unless you need to pass some time rather mindlessly with uninspiring people.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Blade Runner 2049: Monday, October 9 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) is directed by French Canadian, award-winning, Denis Villeneuve (50), and written by Hampton Fancher (79) and Michael Green (50ish?). The direction was good, but tighter editing might have been an improvement. On the other hand, perhaps it was felt that dwelling on expressive faces was desirable. It also might have increased the understanding of the story if the actors had been encouraged to speak clearly. I felt subtitles would have helped.

The film is a sequel to Blade Runner (1982). The original film is considered a cult movie in the neo-noir tradition. It is considered by many to be the best science fiction film of all time. The early version was directed by Ridley Scott, and starred Harrison Ford (75) as Rick Deckard. It won many awards.

In Blade Runner 2049, Canadian actor, Ryan Gosling (36), is K, a blade runner, and plays the part well. Harrison Ford plays a much older Rick Deckard. I'm a fan of Harrison Ford, so I enjoyed his performance.

My Film Group saw a 2:30pm showing and the Cineplex was packed. The film definitely has a following. It ran for 163 minutes, that is two and a half hours, and 13 minutes. The audience was glued to the screen for all that time, without a rustle, or anyone leaving. Amazing! My friends said they enjoyed it, even if it was a bit too long.

I'm not sure that I can honestly say I enjoyed Blade Runner 2049. It struck me that it is probably would appeal more to the male mind. I am glad to be able to say that I have seen it. It probably will appear in the Oscars.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Victoria & Abdul: Monday, October 2 2017

Victoria and Abdul (2017) is directed by Stephen Frears (76). He also has directed many well-known films, including The Queen (2006). Lee Hall (51) wrote the screenplay, and is best known for Billy Elliot (2000). The film is called a biographical comedy-drama, and is a sequel to Mrs. Brown (1997).

Judy Dench as Queen Victoria in her later years, is, it goes without saying, fantastic. Many people viewed the film because of her, and were not disappointed. Oscar nomination would appear to be in the air. Ali Fazal is played by the very handsome Abdul Karim, and takes the part credibly. It is understandable that a bored out of her mind Queen Victoria would take to this very attractive Indian man, who was not in the least intimidated by her. He treated her as a person, while giving her his allegiance as the Empress of India.

Abdul Karim and Queen Victoria
The first thing I did when I had the opportunity, was to research the story, and some details about Queen Victoria. Much to my surprise, the story was, basically, true. My mother had told me a lot about many things when I was a little girl, but even she hadn't known about Abdul. She would probably have approved. As the queen says in the film, no one can know what her life was like. "A bird in a gilded cage" probably would have been an apt description. Abdul must have seemed like a breath of fresh air. That fresh air from an outsider must, also understandably, have been most unwelcome to everyone around Queen Victoria.

My mother had impressed on me the importance of good table manners, so she certainly didn't tell me that Queen Victoria didn't have any. I had to research that too, and apparently, it was well-known that she stuffed food into her mouth, and ate very quickly. Both definite no-nos. What a pity I didn't know that, as I would have had a good reply for my mother as she did her best to train me.

Abdul and Victoria is neither a serious biographic film, nor a complete spoof of life in the court of Queen Victoria, but a bit of something in between. This I found a little disappointing. I had hoped for something along the lines of Downton Abbey; instead we were given something that seemed to be sneering at the stiff etiquette of the Royal Court. The comedy mainly consisted of cheap shots at the culture of the times. Those people brought up in that culture, wouldn't find it amusing.

The film is light entertainment, and many in the audience found it funny. My friends enjoyed it, and were prepared to recommend it to others. After some of the dreadful films we have seen recently, perhaps this one was light relief.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Battle of the Sexes: Monday, September 21 2017

The Battle of the Sexes (2017) is called an American biographical comedy-drama sports film. It is what it says it is. The plot is pretty accurate, based on events around the 1973 tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs.

Jonathan Dayton (60) and Valerie Faris (58) direct the film. They have been married since late 1970, and have three children together. They have been partners in the film world too, directing and producing innumerable works. They are perhaps best known for Little Miss Sunshine (2006), nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture in the Oscars. The Battle of the Sexes is excellently-directed as one would expect from such professional people. It will no doubt be up for the Best Picture Award in the Oscars on March 4 of next year, plus other categories.

Written by Simon Beaufoy (50) (Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire), the script balances all the currents that were swirling around the tennis match. There is the issue of the fact that women tennis players were paid so much less than the men. The attitude of so many men about the inferiority of women to men is on display. We experience the conflict that Billy Jean King was having over her sexuality. Although she is married to the man she loves, she is bisexual and attracted to women. In reality, she had already met Marilyn Barnett, who was her secretary and was having an affair with her. It suits the storyline to present it differently, but it is made clear that it would ruin King's career if news of the affair came out. The lead up to the match, and the match itself, are exciting, as it was in reality. 90,000,000 million people viewed the match around the world, and it was a breakthrough of women's tennis. This script is award-winning stuff!

The cinematography by Linus Sandgrin is outstanding. The composition of each shot is striking: he certainly hasn't been just pointing the camera at the action.

Emma Stone: Billy Jean King
Steve Carall: Bobby Riggs
Emma Stone (28) has achieved an Oscar nomination performance as Billy Jean King. In fact, it won't be surprising if she wins the award for Best Actress. She IS King. Fantastic! I'm a fan of Steve Carell (55), so thoroughly enjoyed his performance as Bobby Riggs. This part is ideal for him, and he pulls out all the stops. Surely another Academy Award nomination, at least, is in the offing. Andrea Riseborough (35) as Marilyn Barnett, King's lover plays the part well. The sex scenes were tasteful, and didn't reach the stage where they would have become embarrassing. The acting by all the other characters was excellent. Alan Cumming (60) plays Ted Tinling, King's fashion designer and close friend, who supported her in her search for her sexual identity. I enjoyed his performance.

The Battle of the Sexes has all the ingredients that make an entertaining film: attractive actors; great story with the characters striving for a huge goal; characters pitted against each other; will they, won't they, and who will win? The socially-sensitive elements of women's position in the world, and Billy Jean King's sexual orientation, didn't add to the movie. In fact, there were times when it became a little boring as the action was slowed down by these facets. Feminists and sexually unconventional people probably found them interesting. Some of my friends didn't. In spite of that, it is an entertaining film.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mental Fitness Group

Friday, September 22 2017

Another delightful afternoon was thoroughly enjoyed by our Mental Fitness Group!

Thanks to Joan for leading us! She began by telling us a little about herself, including that she is an Anglican priest. Her work is in the spiritual realm.

She continued by pointing out the power of symbolic articles in the pursuit of our inner spiritual self. Sounding a beautiful brass bowl like a bell, she invited us to relax and move inside ourselves. After a time of meditation, Joan explained that our spiritual self is inside us. This is where we can feel ourselves in touch and in unison with spirit.

Joan invited input, and some of our Group said they could feel what Joan was describing, but others said they didn’t. There ensued a fascinating discussion. It ranged from the idea that true spirituality is shown in living a life of compassion and consideration of others, to the feeling of communion with spirit through one’s inner self, to a combination of both.

It was mentioned that Dean H. Hammer has written The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes (2004). Some of us get it, some of us don’t. Each of us gets it to some degree, and whatever we choose to develop within ourselves is what we consider is good for us. We have the choice. No one has the right to judge anyone else’s spiritual development.

Then came a discussion on why some human primates are allowed to do the dreadful things to each other that too often happen. War, genocide, and all the evils that spring from those were mentioned. Humans appear to have freewill to choose how we conduct our lives. Unfortunately, circumstances can lead to individuals committing unimaginable cruelties. The Group felt that each individual has to choose between good and evil, and that everyone lives their lives accordingly.

It was pointed out that we need only look at the wonder of the Universe to realize that it isn’t restricted to what we can experience through our human senses. It’s perhaps not so irrational to believe that there is more to life than we can see, hear, taste, smell and touch.

The question was asked as to what is the difference between spirituality and organized religious systems? Modern spirituality is defined as having a belief in an energy force outside the restrictions of human senses. This Force can be contacted through one’s inner self and invited to aid in personal growth towards maturity. This spiritual experience is personal, and not attached to any particular religious ideology. It is a feeling, an emotion, and is irrational.

In fact, most religious ideologies include this inner encounter with the Divine, and shade its meaning within the particular ideological system of the believers. People who are spiritual do not necessarily attach themselves to any particular religious ideological system. Many of these people feel no need for any rationalizations of their feelings. The contact with the Ultimate is enough.

Not all people who are members of a particular religious structure, may necessarily be spiritual. These people do feel the need of an explanation and rationalization they can understand, of all the deeper questions as to what life is about. Each culture has produced its own answers to this need, according to the environment it inhabits.  

We were all agreed that everyone has their own personal relationship with the Force, and whatever it is, is as it should be for the individual. It is their own personal business. No one has the right to impose their own beliefs on anyone else.

In the midst of our serious conversation, the occasion arose during which Eti told us what she claimed as a Jewish joke. This encouraged some other of our Jewish friends to entertain us also. We were all agreed that the Jewish sense of humour is highly amusing and entertaining. When I mentioned that I thought the Infinite has a sense of humour, Joan asked the pertinent question as to whether I was personalizing Spirit. Obviously I do at times.

The afternoon ended with Joan again using the bowl as a bell to invite us to re-enter our inner worlds. Afterwards, everyone thanked Joan for giving us such an enjoyable and enlightening afternoon.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

mother!: Monday, September 18 2017

Director and writer Darren Aronofsky (48) wrote the script for mother! in five days, and filmed it in 12 weeks. He is a prolific directer, and included in his work is Pi (1997), Black Swan (2010), and Noah (2014). This film comes flowing out of his artistic, subconscious mind.

Jennifer Lawrence (27) stars as Mother, Javier Bardem is Him, Michelle Pfeiffer is Woman, and Ed Harris is Man. The acting is superb, as is the direction. The cinematography is interesting, and there is no musical score, per se.

mother! (2017), billed as a psychological horror experimental film, it is something quite different from the billing. The audience doesn't seem to be "getting" it. It would appear that the general viewing public are giving it an "F" grading, which would seem to be a "Fail". The box office is responding accordingly. When I came out of the film, the impression I had been left with, was that this was the very worst movie I had ever seen. My friends echoed these sentiments.

The problem for the film viewer lies in what should be the story. mother! is not the ordinary psychological horror film it is billed as being, where there is at least some rational behind the story. The unfolding we see on the screen seems unreal, and Aronofski says he is using dream-logic narrative, and nothing should be taken too literally. This leads on to the reason why the critics are not all panning the film. It has to be taken as allegory. As such, everything falls into place.

Darren Aronofski
There is more than one allegory that can be deciphered. The first one that came to my mind was that of the narcissistic Man who destroys the women in his life: first his mother, then his wives. The second was that of the narcissistic Artist who allows his need for adulation from an audience to ruin his relationship with his mother, then his wives. The third allegory is related to the present political world of American politics. The fourth obvious allegory is to the idea that the human primate is ruining Mother Earth. Lawrence as mother, represents Mother Earth. Javier Bardem as Him is the Creator God. Michelle Pfeiffer as Woman is the first woman, Eve. Ed Harris as Man is the first man, Adam. And so on!

Symbolism is another strong feature in mother! The House could be taken as the Life of Him. It is destroyed with the death of his mother, and his second wife is doing her best to restore it for him. In the end, she only destroys herself, along with the House. The Crystal could be symbolic of the Life Force in Him. He takes it back out of his mother when she is destroyed, and also out of his second wife when she has been ruined. We could go on and on. Everyone would have their own interpretation of the symbols.

Guernica by Picasso
This is the genius behind this film. There are layers upon layers of meaning to be extracted from it, even if a little bit obviously. It's not meant to be an ordinary film, although it unfortunately is being billed as being such. It reminds me of Guernica by Picasso. That painting wasn't meant to be beautiful, or entertaining. It was meant to evoke strong emotions. It is considered by many as the most powerful anti-war statement in the history of art. mother! also isn't meant to be simple entertainment. It is Art in its highest form. The film evokes the same dark emotions that any of the allegories it represents arouses in the viewer. It is a brilliant piece of cinematic Art. It is no more to be enjoyed than is Picasso's Guernica.

If you are expecting to enjoy being frightened by a horror movie, this film is not for you. It is horrific; it is not enjoyable. But then, narcissistic men, narcissistic artists, ugly political worlds, and ecological disasters are not enjoyable either.

If you want to have an opinion on a film that will long be talked about, mother! has to be viewed so that you can develop your own opinion on the work. Art is meant to create discussion, and provoke thought. mother! does both.

Stray Cats and Other Loves: Evelyn Wolfe 2017

Evelyn Wolfe is the author of Stray Cats and Other Loves, which is one of the most entertaining books I have ever read. I literally couldn't put it down, sitting up after my bedtime to read more. She paints such a strong picture of life for Jewish people in Toronto, I found it fascinating.

Evelyn writes with such sincerity and candour, it is unbelievably refreshing. She writes what most other people simply gloss over. I found myself drawn right into her stories, and could relate to her. The word pictures she draws are so clear I could see them enacted before my eyes. Her account of her visit to Russia during the eighties made the atmosphere in Russia at that time come alive.

Wolfe's writing style flows along, so that she is easy to read. Her use of English had me chuckling. She is brilliant in her turn of phrase. What an inspiration for others who want to write their memoirs! But Wolfe would be a hard act to follow! I have become a fan.

Her follow-up book, After the Ball is Over! is also a delightful read. I hope she will write another book, in her own inimitable style!

This brilliant poem is by my friend, Evelyn Wolfe.

The Human Primate
Evelyn Wolfe

In the guise of evolution
We lost our hair, our tail
Our simian features.

When will the process
Become complete
And Man, life’s highest creature
Lose his great love for

The Banana?

Toronto, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tulip Fever: Monday, September 11 2017

Tulip Fever (2017) is a historical drama film, based on the book by Deborah Moggach (69). Director Justin Chadwick (48) ensures that the film flows smoothly. The actors all work well, and Judi Dench is practically unrecognizable as the Abbess of St. Ursula's, but does a good job, of course.

Cinematographer Eigil Bryld has done an exceptional job of the cinematography. Each setting looks like a Dutch painting from the 1600s. As the film is set in Vermeer's Amsterdam, during the height of the Tulip fever, this is totally appropriate. The original paintings in the film are by Jamie Routley. The costumes by Michael O'Connor, hair and make-up by Daniel Phillips, and production by Simon Elliott and editing by Rick Russell, combine to add to the creation of a film that is a feast for the eyes. The delightful music by Danny Elfman (64) adds a feast for the ears.

The sex scenes, I am glad to say, are not too explicit, and are filmed as artistic portrayals of human primates coupling. The impression is given that the sex is not too pleasant from the viewpoint of hygiene, nor too fulfilling as to the end result. One of our chief character's "little soldier" is not up to the task. The lighting is exquisite, and the bodies are arranged to remind of paintings by great artists. A lot of the sexual groping is done over and under clothing. I'm not sure what that is meant to convey. It didn't grab me. I find it difficult to understand why it has been given an 'R' rating.

Tom Stoppard (80) wrote the screenplay. He is a much-awarded writer of highest repute. This script will not be seen as his finest. Deborah Moggach has written a huge body of work, including These Foolish Things which was made into the film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, so it would seem reasonable to expect that the story of Tulip Fever would be fairly gripping. This, it is not. Perhaps it is the direction that is the problem. I found I couldn't care less about any of the characters. They are not even particularly pleasant. They almost seemed to be models for the lovely sets, not real people. It would appear that is how the director viewed them. Could it be that this was his intent?

This is a beautiful film from the point of view of "Art", but leaves the feeling that the story was just an excuse for everything else. What makes directors think that an audience would like this? Or even more pertinent to the $25,000,000 cost to make the film, what makes anyone think that any but the very few would actually pay to see it? So far, it has made $4,500,000.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Viceroy's House: Monday, September 4 2017

Viceroy's House is a historical drama, a British-Indian film directed by Gurider Chandha (57). It is written by Paul Mayeda Berges (48) Chandha's spouse, Moira Buffini, and Chandha. It is an accounting of events in the Viceroy's House shortly before, and during the Partition of India on August 15 1947. The Hindu version titled Partition: 1947 was released in India on August 18 2017, three days after the Indian 70th Independence Day.

Chandha says she used as her main sources, Freedom at Midnight (1975), by Larry Collins, and The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India's Partition (2006), by Narendra Singh Sarila, who based the book on secret documents discovered in the British Library.

Hugh Bonneville, of Downton Abbey fame, ably plays Lord Louis Montbatten. Gillian Anderson, an American actress best know for X-Files, plays Lady Edwina Mountbatten extremely well. Manish Dayal as Jeet, a Hindu, and Huma Queshi, a Muslim, as Aalia, play the young couple whose romance is complicated by their political and religious environment. Mahatma Gandhi is played by Neeraj Kabe; Jawaharial Nehru is played by Tanveer Chani; and Denzil Smith plays Mahammad Ali Hinnah.

Director Gurider Chandha
The story of the retreat of Britain from India is many-sided, and director Chandha has created a film that tells the story objectively. Ghandi, the leader of the Indian independence movement, had fermented rebellion using non-violent civil disobedience. It was made clear that the time had come for the British to leave India. Clement Attlee, the Labour Party Prime Minister of Britain, at the urging of the King, sent out Lord Mountbatten to oversee the handover of India. The Hindus wanted India to remain one country, inclusive of all its many different peoples. Violence had already broken out between the Muslims and Hindus, making the point that the Muslims wanted their own country. Mountbatten realised that to cut down the violence as much as possible, the whole process had to be as speedy as possible. Unable to obtain agreement between the Hindus led by Nehru, and the Muslims led by Jinnah, Mountbatten came to the conclusion the only solution was Partition of India. The country was divided into secular India and Islamic Pakistan. This triggered a huge relocation of 10 to 12 million people as Hindus were driven from Pakistan to India, and Muslims moved from India to Pakistan. This refugee crisis was accompanied by great violence.

I enjoyed Viceroy's House. This was a huge subject, and at times the film felt like a documentary. The romance between the two young people seemed to have been thrown into the story as an effort to make it more entertaining. I loved the too short Bollywood touch, a salute to the Indian film industry. The cinematography is colourful, and a feast for the eyes. The music by A.R. Rahman is delightful. The cast rose to the challenge, and were engaging. In spite of being a little bit rough in patches, the overall effect is entertaining.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Wind River: Monday, August 28 2017

Wind River (2017) is an American murder mystery, thriller film. It is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (47), who says he likes to entertain his audience with a straightforward story and strong characters. He has won awards for his screenwriting, and that is obvious in this film. His firm grip on direction is also evident. He keeps his audience riveted to the screen. My Monday Film Group thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Sheridan has achieved his stated goal, using the recipe for success with the audience.

Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, a US Fish and Wildlife tracker, and Elizabeth Olsen stars as Jane Banner, an FBI agent. Both have star quality and add greatly to the film. The acting is of a high quality, and the characters are believable. I liked them and found them attractive. I did wonder if the FBI really would send a lone woman agent to deal with a possible rape and murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. However, this salute to the present-day young women certainly demonstrated that they can handle a gun and shoot people equally as well as some men, and better than most. I really liked that justice is done, and is seen to be done. All the criminals are killed. No extra cost to the taxpayers. The most horrible criminal comes to a very nasty, and appropriate, end. Very satisfying!

Gil Birmingham
Tantoo Cardinal played Alice Crowheart, and another Canadian actor, Graham Greene played Ben, the Tribal Police Chief. Both were excellent, as were all the others in the cast. I particularly liked Gil Birmingham as Martin Hanson. He has such a beautiful face. The beautiful Kelsey Chow was excellent as Natalie Hanson.

Director, Taylor Sheridan
The film ends with a title card announcing that the FBI doesn't have statistics on missing native women, whose numbers are unknown. This made me realise that the film had been carrying a message about the issue around how many aboriginal women go missing and are never found. Obviously, this is of concern to director Taylor Sheridan and those others involved in making this thought-provoking movie.

Recently, there has been a great deal of almost hysterical talk in North America about missing and murdered aboriginal women. The RCMP report on the subject of missing women in Canada, states that the majority of cases are solved, and that there is little difference in the solve rate between aboriginal and non-aboriginal women. Most are solved. From the report, based on research, most women of any ethnic origins, are murdered by their spouse, or a family member, or someone they know. It appears that it is not unusual that both parties have been drinking or using drugs and become involved in a fight. Women who work in the sex trade are at greatest risk, and it is said that the rate of murders and missing women between aboriginal and non-aboriginal is fairly similar.

This violence towards women and girls of all ethnic backgrounds is not the main problem, although it would appear that it is, and should be. Wind River Reservation is, in fact, in Wyoming, and has been troubled by crime and drug abuse. Wyoming is next door to Dakota, which has had problems with "man camps" erected by oil companies to house the workers needed on their projects. If they are situated close to an aboriginal community, the aboriginal women visit the camps to party, and earn money as sex trade workers. Some are beaten up or murdered. This is the problem that Wind River is addressing, as are all the street protests against the resource industries activities. This is why some people from aboriginal communities in Canada and the States are opposed to resource development. Many leaders of aboriginal communities, understandably, want the economic benefits that come to communities from having resource developments close by. These aboriginal leaders, the resource companies and governments are now well aware of the problems associated with the man camps. Consideration is presently being given to preventing them, if possible.

I have mixed feeling about being subjected to subliminal propaganda by what I had been led to believe is purely entertainment. Surely it would be better to make a documentary putting forward the facts of the legitimate concern? Better still, if said documentary puts forward all sides of the issue, factually, without pointing fingers. On the other hand, it has made me do some research so that now I do have a better understanding of the challenge to the resource industries.

What is very rarely mentioned by the social agitators, or the media, is that the FBI has statistics which show that many people go missing in the States: white people; black people; men; women and children. As an article in USA Today states, the smallest number is of native American women. If any cases are not reported to the police to appear in statistics, whose fault is that? This makes me wonder who is funding the agitation against the resource industries?

In spite of those misgivings, as pure entertainment, this is satisfying film. But I wonder who put up the money to make it?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Menache: Monday, August 21 2017

Menache (2017) is an American drama film set in Borough Park, Brooklyn, New York, one of the largest Orthodox Jewish populations outside of Israel. It uses Yiddish, the language of the Hasidic Jews who are the subject of the film, with sub-titles in the filn. The actors are Hasidic Jews, not professional actors.

Joshua Z. Weinstein is a documentary film maker. This is his first feature film, and his background shows. It feels like a documentary.

Hasidic Judaism originated in the Western Ukraine, as a spiritual revival in the 1700s. It believes in the immanence of G-d throughout the Universe, emphasising spiritual union with G-d as being the most important aspect of religion. All life can be a spiritual act, including the most mundane.

You wouldn't have known that religion was important to any of the Hasidic Jews in this film. It's practice seemed some garbled words, and a few customs left over from the 1700s in the Ukraine, including the separation of the male and female lives. Very few women appear in the film, and those who do seem most unhappy, bowed down with bearing and looking after seven, or even eight, or many children. The men get together to eat, drink, sing and dance together. Male bonding? A drowning of sorrows? Not a happy culture!

The film lacked a strong storyline. The main character was a shemiel (loser) rather than a shlimazel (unlucky person). He really was not competent in any meaning of that word, and in this instance the culture seemed to have it right. It is better for a child to be brought up in a home with two parents, rather than by a single father, especially one such as this. It was difficult to feel any sympathy for him. None of the other characters seemed attractive in any way either. The thesis of Menache seemed so promising: insight into a secretive, strange culture, interesting story. It didn't live up to the promise. The ending left us wondering what it had all been about. There was a final shot of a young Hasidic man, dressed in their costume with the ringlets, talking into an iPhone. My friends, who were looking for some resolution of the story, liked to think that was the son of the chief character, grown up successfully, into a reasonably happy man.

Not a film any of us would recommend!

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?