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The Irishman and Marriage Story

Mid-November brings a brief theatrical release for two of the year’s most anticipated movies, both Netflix productions.The Irishman begins streaming on November 27 and Marriage Story on December 6. The Irishman (US 2019) America’s greatest film critic Roger Ebert celebrated Martin Scorsese as America’s greatest living director, and before seeing this on the big screen in advance of its theatrical release I reread his reviews and reflections on Scorsese’s classic gangster films in the 2008 book Scorsese by Ebert—from Mean Streets (1973), GoodFellas (1990), Casino (1995), to The Departed (2006), for which he won an overdue best director Oscar.No one handles such material better than Scorsese who grew up in New York’s “Little Italy” where the intersection of mob subculture and Catholic ritual was part of daily life.This expansive elegiac latest work should earn more Oscar nominations. The real-life central character of the title is Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) who graduated from mafia hit…
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JoJo Rabbit and Motherless Brooklyn

JoJo Rabbit (New Zealand/Czech Republic http://www.foxsearchlight.com/jojorabbit/) Billed as an “anti-hate satire”, this is the kind of audacious moviemaking that dares anyone to be indifferent.It has certainly succeeded in provoking highly polarized reactions among critics (ratings on metacritic.com range from 91% to zero).Quirky Kiwi director Taika Waititi is of mixed Maori and Jewish heritage and has spent time in Germany. He was undoubtedly aware of the risks in doing a parody of Nazi rule but doubles down by himself playing a mock version of Adolph Hitler who appears as the imaginary friend of a swastika-loving 10-year old boy “JoJo” (Roman Griffin Davis).JoJo’s lack of killer instinct gets him tagged as a scared “rabbit” in a Hitler youth camp run by a cartoon-like Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell).While “Adolph” is there to encourage the boy’s Nazi zeal, JoJo discovers a very different reality at home. Indeed his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johannsen) is hiding a teenage Jewish girl…

Halloween Movie Update

Parasite (South Korea 2019 https://www.parasite-movie.com/home/) South Korean writer-director Bong Joon Ho received the coveted Palme d’Or for this savage caricature of class divides and duplicity in a status-conscious society.The consummate con artists are the Kim family foursome of slovenly scroungers living in a messy sub-basement apartment and eking out a marginal living by folding pizza boxes.The con begins when a friend of the son Ki-Woo goes to study abroad and recommends Ki-Woo to be a replacement English tutor for Da-hye, the high-school daughter of the Parks, an affluent family of four living in a palatial landscaped residence. Her kid brother Da-Song is a hyperactive handful obsessed with pretending to be an Indian.Ki-Woo had his sister Ki-jung forge his academic credentials. He then recommends her to give “art therapy” to the precocious boy. Ki-Woo is called “Kevin” and Ki-Jung “Jessica” as she in turn schemes to have the Park’s chauffeur fired and her dad Ki-taek hired as …

October Movies Update

Grace à Dieu (“By the Grace of God”, France/Belgium 2018) Veteran writer-director François Ozon’s dramatization of actual events in the childhood sexual abuse scandal that has shaken the Roman Catholic diocese of Lyon in recent years was awarded the “silver bear” grand jury prize at this February’s Berlin film festival, and deservedly so. The predator at the centre is an aging priest, Bernard Preynat (Bernard Verley). Outwardly many of the faithful had considered him to be charismatic, indeed “exemplary”.At the same time, he was molesting numerous young boys.Even after the hierarchy knew he was a pedophile guilty of criminal acts against minors, he had been allowed to continue in the ministry and have access to children. The story begins with one of Preynat’s victims, a father of five Alexandre Guérin (played by Melvil Poupaud; victims’ real names have been changed) who remains a devout practicing Catholic including having his two older sons confirmed. At first Guérin seeks contrition i…

Thanksgiving Movie Update

I’ll start with the season’s most controversial and polarizing film. Joker (US/Canada 2019 http://www.jokermovie.net/) Winner of the “golden lion” at the Venice film festival, it’s helmed by Todd Phillips (best known for “The Hangover” trilogy) and features a no holds barred performance by a skeletal Joaquin Phoenix in the role of Arthur Fleck, a bitter unhappy middle-aged loner who lives with his ailing mother Penny (Frances Conroy) in a grungy apartment. The scene is a rat-infested New York/Gotham City circa 1981 during a garbage strike.Among Arthur’s afflictions is an uncontrolled maniacal cackle that is more grimacing cry of pain than laughing fit.The mother used to work for the wealthy Wayne family which leads to a backstory connection to the comic legend of Batman (aka Bruce Wayne) with the Joker as nemesis. Channeling allusions to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, Arthur, who aspires to be a standup comedian, is also obsessed with a late night TV talk-show ho…

October Movies Update

Britt-Marie was Here (Sweden 2019) Adapted from a novel by Frederik Backman (A Man Called Ove) this modestly entertaining Swedish drama centres on the character of the middle-aged Britt-Marie (a wonderful Pernilla August) who exits a 40-year marriage in which she was content with the routine of domestic chores.A homebody, she has no interest in her frequent traveler husband’s passion which is watching soccer.But then, in the wake of his suffering a mild heart attack, she discovers he’s been cheating on her with a younger woman.Britt-Marie abruptly splits and takes a job as a youth worker in the small town of Borg that requires her to coach a team of multiracial kids. It seems improbable at best but we’re on her side as she wins over the hearts of the townsfolk (including a lonely policeman), inspires the kids, and expands her horizons. B+ Brittany Runs a Marathon (US 2019 https://www.brittanyrunsamarathon.movie/home/) In writer-director Paul Down Colaizzo’s dramedy, Brittany Forgler (Jil…

Ranking Toronto International Film Festival Screenings

I saw a total of 45 feature selections during TIFF.The following grades those with very brief notes under each title.I will do longer reviews of the more significant films when they are released.It is worth noting that the streaming giants (Netflix, Amazon) have become major players in both producing films and getting them to the public.So increasingly, even if you do not live in a metropolitan centre with theatrical choices, more and more cinematic content is coming to your home screen.
TIFF Documentaries
Varda par Agnès (France 2019 https://mk2films.com/en/film/varda-by-agnes/) A+ Agnès Varda, who died at age 90 this past March, is one of the great treasures of French cinema. This is both a reflection on her career and a master class in appreciation of the moving image. The Cordillera of Dreams (Chile/France 2019) A From another master filmmaker, Chilean expatriate Patricio Guzmán, this memoir, alluding to his native country’s Andean spine, is the third in a trilogy exploring both landscap…