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Post-Labour Day Movies Update

First a follow-up to a previous documentary recommendation on Netflix.  On Chinese reaction to American Factory: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-02/tale-of-chinese-factory-in-america-prompts-online-buzz-back-home. Then, looking back to the storied summer of ’69, and the 50th anniversary of the most iconic music festival happening of modern times, here’s another documentary recommendation on Netflix: Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation. This PBS production recalls many fascinating details behind the event. A Even better and more significant is another PBS documentary production—the almost six-hour, three-episode series Chasing The Moon, written, produced and directed by Robert Stone. It’s streaming on the Kanopy platform which can be freely accessed with a public library card. Assembling a trove of archival footage and commentary the series—Episode 1 “A Place Beyond the Sky”, Episode 2 “Earthrise”, Episode 3 “Magnificent Desolation”—has many revelations and, l…
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Late August Movies

All four of the films reviewed in this post premiered at the 2019 Sundance film festival.That includes After the Wedding which opened the festival.But I’ll start with two documentaries currently streaming on Netflix.
American Factory(U.S. 2019 https://www.thewrap.com/american-factory-film-review-netflix-obama/) Co-directors/producers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert won a Sundance festival directing award for this remarkable documentary released on Netflix August 21. The opening scene in December 2008 shows a GM factory closing in Dayton, Ohio, throwing 10,000 out of work.Let me note that the film also won the D.A. Pennebaker award at the 15th Traverse City Film Festival, founded by Michael Moore who 30 years ago made the groundbreaking Roger & Me, centred on a former GM CEO. However American Factory eschews Moore’s trademark agitprop self-narration; it’s more in the direct cinema mode pioneered by Pennebaker (who died on August 1), trusting the subjects to tell their own stories. T…

More August Screening Views

With more and more content arriving on popular streaming services, I’ll start with a small screen pick  The Family(2019 Netflix) Netflix is not afraid of controversy and has been pouring money into “docuseries”, of which this five-episode offering is the latest.It has production backing from Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Pictures and is helmed by Jesse Moss who directed the outstanding 2014 documentary The Overnighters that focused on pastoral help to a troubled transient population drawn to North Dakota’s then booming energy industry.There’s a troubling spiritual angle here as well, but the subjects are those in society’s elite positions not at the bottom. The “family” of the title is a “fellowship” foundation that claims to follow Jesus and “nothing else”.It also prefers to remain as invisible as possible. With origins traced back to a Seattle founding father of Norwegian descent, the organization has become the force behind the U.S. National Prayer Breakfast and similar activities in many coun…

Mid-August Movie Takes

It’s the mid-summer doldrums and there’s mostly dross at the multiplex.But here are five movies worth a look. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (U.S. 2019 https://www.bernadette.film/) Beyond being a devoted fan of director Richard Linklater, I was predisposed to like this latest effort, a sparkling adaptation of the eponymous 2012 bestseller by Maria Semple.Back in March 2018 I had a brief chat with Linklater during Austin’s South By Southwest festival when he was in production on the film (principal photography began in 2017 and the theatrical release date has been pushed back several times).I’ve also been in Port Lockroy on the Antarctic peninsula, a tiny British outpost with the world’s southernmost post office, where one of the scenes is set.Indeed the movie opens with an overhead of kayaks amid awesome icebergs, anticipating the developments of the last half hour. First we meet the central characters, a Seattle-based family of three.Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett)—she’s in one of the ka…

Early August Movies Update

“It was the summer of ‘69”, goes the hit Bryan Adams song. Indeed.The epic moon landing.Woodstock.But also Nixon, Vietnam, the Manson murders.Adams was then 9; I was 17 and already determined to be a nonconformist.The moon shot may have been driven by Cold War competition, but Apollo 11 was still an astounding feat for the time.I’m not sure I even knew what a computer was … the idea of a global internet was science-fiction futurist fantasy. With the comparatively primitive technology of a half century ago, how did they do it?Getting there, and back. Growing up on a working farm, the idea of idyllic summers at the cottage was also fantasy. I’ve never known cottage life.So I am grateful for the recent welcome blessing of spending the last half of July at friends’ cottages—first, Bob’s capacious beachfront place at Southampton on Lake Huron; then Jim and Carol’s loghouse-style two-story abode at Nahma Shores on Lake Michigan’s upper peninsula. It was at Bob’s on Saturday July 20, the exac…

Mid-July Movie Picks

Guest Review by Rob Huebert

Godzilla: King of the Monsters(US/Japan 2019 http://www.godzilla-movie.net/) For those who do not need logic or deep thoughts in their movie, but just like to be entertained with large booms and bangs – Godzilla: King of Monsters is right up your ally. Taking three teen-aged boys who loved it and one wife who hated it, I must say this is my type of movie. For reasons that are never quite clear, this movie makes Godzilla the misunderstood hero. It turns out that she/he (it is never made clear except for calling Godzilla King and not Queen) is responsible for maintaining the balance of life. This of course makes her/him the ultimate environmentalist. She/he faces an enemy that does not share his/her concern for the world and a series of battles follow. But none of this matters for those who like their summer movies big loud and exciting. For people like me and my sons, this movie is the type of wholescale entertainment that summer is made for. Sure the major b…

Early July Movie Picks

Yesterday(UK/US 2019 https://www.yesterdaymovie.com/) I love the touch of whimsy that director Danny Boyle brings to his movies.  This one centres on Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a young British man of Indian ancestry who’s an aspiring musician but still lives with his parents and has a job stocking store shelves.  A schoolteacher Ellie (Lily James) helps to get him gigs but that’s not working out.  So Jack is ready to quit when a seconds-long global power outage changes everything, wiping out all memory of The Beatles (not to mention cigarettes, coke, and Harry Potter).  At the same moment Jack on a bicycle collides with a bus, yet he alone remembers.  Recovering and searching his brain, he starts singing some of the fab four’s classics, starting with “Yesterday”.  By claiming them as his compositions, he soon becomes a sensation and is introduced to singer-actor Ed Sheeran.  An avaricious L.A.-based promoter grooms him for global superstardom. Except, Jack also meets two older people w…