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Showing posts from November, 2018

More from TIFF: Of Private Wars and Green Books

Two More from TIFF: Of Private Wars and Green Books
A Private War(UK/U.S.) After helming two masterful documentaries (2015’s Oscar-nominated Cartel Land and 2017’s Emmy-nominated City of Ghosts), director Matthew Heineman approaches this dramatic retelling of the life and death of intrepid American war correspondent Marie Colvin with a similarly compelling passion that serves its subject well. Rosamund Pike is extraordinary in the role of Colvin who wrote dispatches for the London Sunday Times from the world’s worst conflict zones—Sri Lanka (in 2001 where she lost an eye), Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya (the last Western journalist to interview Gaddafi), Syria.She became known for wearing a black eye patch (and a fashionista La Perla bra).The film doesn’t gloss over the demons of PTSD and a stormy personal life in which she chain smoked and drank to excess. But it connects most strongly when she is face to face with the victims of war’s evils, determined to tell the truth of these human stori…

Bogdanovich, Welles, and the Great Buster

Bogdanovich, Welles, and Buster
I’m grateful to Ottawa’s historic Mayfair Theatre for bringing the marvelous documentary reviewed below on the life and storied career of Buster Keaton, the silent era’s comedic genius rivaled only by Charlie Chaplin.(They appeared together on screen only once, in Chaplin’s Limelight from 1952.)The Mayfair opened in 1932, only a few years after that era ended, and has occasionally brought back silent classics. The Great Buster is written and directed by veteran filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich who also helms the new Netflix documentary They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead recounting the notorious saga of Orson Welles’ unfinished project The Other Side of the Wind, a much-troubled production from decades ago starring John Huston intended as a satire on the movie business with which Welles had a famously fraught relationship.A much younger Bogdanovich appears as a character in The Other Side which he helped to finish, the result which premiered at Venice, skipping Toro…

Praising Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased and Mid90s

A Lucas Hedges Triple Play
          Two young actors have emerged recently as among the most promising male talents of their generation.Both already have Oscar nominations: Timothée Chalamet in 2018 for a lead role in Call Me By Your Name; Lucas Hedges in 2017 for a supporting role in Manchester By the Sea. Chalamet has earned praise for his latest role as a drug-addicted son in Beautiful Boy (see previous blog post on Toronto film festival selections).Hedges appears in three current films.The last to be released, Ben is Back, is also in the role of a drug-addicted son, and is helmed by his writer-director father Peter Hedges.It opens December 7. Here are notes on the other two.All were TIFF selections.
Boy Erased (U.S. http://www.focusfeatures.com/boy-erased)
          Australian actor-director Joel Edgerton helms this sobering true-story drama about the consequences of religious so-called “gay conversion” therapy programs.He has enlisted Aussie A-listers Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidma…

Penguins, Widows, Forgiveness

Penguins, Widows, Forgiveness
The Penguin Counters (Argentina/Antarctica/U.S. https://www.penguincountersmovie.com/)
Who doesn’t love penguins?I certainly do, all 17 species.It’s been 18 years since I had some memorable encounters with these remarkable seabirds at the other end of the earth.This wonderful documentary helmed by Peter Getzels, Harriet Gordon Getzels and Erik Osterholm, was produced in 2014 but appears to have had a theatrical release only in 2017. (It’s available on iTunes.I saw it via the Sundance Now streaming service.)The film follows the voyage of a research team led by Ron Naveen to document penguin numbers in order to understand what is happening to these populations and their adaptability in the face of climate change.(Read more about his decades-long Antarctic Site inventory project on the film’s website above.) What made the movie extra special for me was that it was on the same Russian ship, the Akademik Ioffe, following a similar route to the one I did in Decemb…

Bohemian Rhapsody and Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams

Bohemian Rhapsody and Coldplay Dreams
Bohemian Rhapsody (UK/US https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/bohemian-rhapsody)
This ode to the British rock band and their legendary lead singer Freddie Mercury had a production as troubled as its star subject, with director Bryan Singer being replaced by Dexter Fletcher (who’s at the helm of Rocketman, a forthcoming biopic on Elton John).Only Singer gets credited however. Many reviews have been less than kind.Still, what’s best is how Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) throws himself into the role of the mercurial Mercury, actually born Farrokh Bulsara in 1946 in Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania). Of Indian Parsi descent, he was in his late teens before immigrating to the UK with his conservative Zoroastrian parents. With extra teeth and an exotic look, Mercury went from working as a baggage handler to the top of the charts. The movie glides over that unusual backstory, including an early marriage undone by Mercury’s flamboyant bisexuality. More usual is the slide…

Netflix Highlights: Babylon Berlin and Outlaw King

Netflix Highlights: Babylon Berlin, Outlaw King
Babylon Berlin
Netflix has some truly amazing content.Let me highly recommend this German dramatic series set in 1929 that is the most expensive non-English language series ever made. There is a great deal more information about it available online through the official website https://www.babylon-berlin.com/en/overview-babylon/ and here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylon_Berlin. Despite a very busy volunteer schedule I’ve managed to view all 16 episodes of the first two seasons. The third is currently in production. Two central characters are Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch), a police detective transferred from Cologne assigned to a vice squad, and Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries), a hostess in a nightclub and stereotypist who goes to work for him.Gereon is a First World War veteran who needs drugs to calm his nerves.Charlotte’s home is a squalid family flat.There are many more characters in the richly-conceived intersecting storylines, one …

Two More TIFF Selections Hit Theatres: Beautiful Boy and Free Solo

Two More Toronto film festival selections reach theatres:
Beautiful Boy   (U.S.) Timothée Chalamet turned heads and earned an Oscar nomination in last year’s Call Me By Your Name.With his classical features and mass of wavy curls, the screen loves Chalamet, who excels again, this time in a real-life role, as Nic Sheff, a talented young man in the throes of drug addictions.Also excellent is Steve Carell as the father, journalist David Sheff, who stands by Nic through a series of rehabs and relapses culminating in a near-fatal overdose.Nic has younger siblings from his father’s second marriage. He spends some time with his concerned mother Vicki (Amy Ryan) in another city. Nothing seems to work and the increasing strains on all concerned are palpable.Helmed by Belgian Felix van Groeningen (best known for The Broken Circle Breakdown), the screenplay draws on the revealing memoirs published by both father and son in 2008: David’s Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey through His Son’s Addiction…