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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…
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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…

Earl 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…

From Blue Roses and Notes to Democracy's Edge, Pavarotti, Fatherlands, JT, Toy Stories and Photographs

I’ll start with some notes on five documentaries. At last September’s One World Film Festival the audience favorite was a 55-minute documentary Blue Roses (http://www.bluerosesdocumentary.ca/) by Ottawa-based filmmakers Ed Kucerak and Danielle Rolfe. It’s a moving exploration of the palliative care needs of the capital’s vulnerable low-income population living in rooming houses. That premiere had its own challenges as it was on the day after 6 tornados hit the capital region when the filmmakers along with most of the audience had lost power and the venue was running on backup generators. On June 19 there was an encore screening in a packed theatre—Ottawa’s historic Mayfair—followed by a panel discussion.The documentary has been selected for several other festivals, including one in Regina, and hopefully it might be picked up for television broadcast. Meriting mention are several other documentaries. The best of these by far is The Edge of Democracy(Brazil 2019 https://cinereach.org/fil…

Mid-June Movie Picks

Let me begin by noting an outstanding HBO documentary now showing that premiered to acclaim at the Cannes festival. (More at:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_on_Fire_(2019_film). Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, Ice on Fire delves deeply and clearly into the science of climate, the carbon cycle, emissions of other greenhouse gases notably methane, and the effects on the biosphere of human activity. As compelling as it is insightful, there’s also positive information on energy alternatives and mitigation efforts (e.g. carbon capture and sequestration).

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese(U.S. 2019) Veteran master filmmaker Martin Scorsese has a major Netflix drama The Irishman scheduled for release late this year.He also has a legacy of making great popular music documentaries.1978’s The Last Waltz is widely regarded (including by me, see pp. 38-39 of my book The Best of Screenings & Meanings: http://screeningsandmeanings.com/) as the best concert film ever.…

More Docs, Fallen Empire, and a Rocketman

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries as part of the selection process for the 30th One World Film Festival.  In addition, here are three getting a theatrical release. The Spy Behind Home Plate (U.S. 2019 http://spybehindhomeplate.org/) Directed by Aviva Kempner, this is the fascinating story behind the espionage exploits of Morris “Moe” Berg, the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants to America, who first achieved renown as the Princeton scholar and lawyer who became an all-star catcher in major league baseball during the 1920s and 1930s.  Berg was played by Paul Rudd in Ben Lewin’s dramatization The Catcher was a Spy, based on the Nicholas Dawidoff biography Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, that premiered at the 2018 Sundance film festival.  The documentary provides a superior and fuller appreciation. During the Second World War, Berg, whose talents included knowledge of a dozen languages, was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, precursor of the CIA)…