Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2018

Christmas Releases: The Favourite, Vice

Christmastime Releases These opened across Canada on Christmas Day. The Favourite (Ireland/UK/U.S. )   Several of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s previous films have left me cold, indeed repelled ( Dogtooth , The Killing of a Sacred Deer ).   But in this case, an uproarious ribald costume drama set during the early 1700s reign of Britain’s Queen Anne, his twisted sense of black humour results in sheer delight.   The dotty, gout-afflicted Anne (Olivia Colman) is being controlled by a viperish right-hand woman Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) determined to raise land taxes to prosecute a war with the French.   That is until a servant woman Abigail (Emma Stone) comes on the scene, relieves Anne’s condition and schemes her way into Anne’s favours, affections, and bed.   Abigail gets her way in cahoots with the leader of a flamboyantly bewigged and attired parliamentary faction of landowning gentleman. From a vicious rivalry for Anne’s attent

Recent Releases: Clint, Jack, Marwen, and Ben

Clint, Jack, Marwen, and Ben As the holiday movie season begins, for good entertainment value and family viewing I can recommend several animated features still in theatres: Ralph Breaks the Internet and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse.   The latter is such a hyper-kinetic kaleidoscope of computerized sound-and-light special effects it carries a sensitivity warning. What appeals is the story that reimagines the cartoon legend with a Latino teenage boy as hero. More adult awards-contending pictures will open Christmas Day, about which more in a next post. Below reviews of four other very different recent releases. The Mule I’ve long been a fan of Clint Eastwood and at 88 he still has the chops both in the director’s chair and on the screen.   This is one of those truth is stranger than fiction stories based on a New York Times magazine profile of a 90-year old who worked for the Sinaloa cartel transporting their cocaine across state lines.  

Roma: Netflix Brings the Best Movie of the Year

Netflix Brings the Best of 2018: Roma    Roma          I f you don’t have Netflix it would be worth getting it just to watch this Mexican masterwork as it will have only a very limited theatrical release.  Roma, which won the Venice film festival’s top prize, is the year’s best reviewed film with reason.  I’ve added below one among many laudatory reviews.         Let me add a few notes to that.  The story, set in the “Roma” residential neighborhood of Mexico City 1970-71, obviously draws on director Cuarón’s personal memories.  It combines strikingly evocative images, a cinematic poetry, with remarkable realism, so much so that at times you could swear you were watching a black-and-white documentary from that period.  The class structure is apparent: the lower orders with Indigenous blood (a majority of Mexicans are ‘mestizo’- mixed race) serve well-to-do households like the one depicted in the film—a professional couple with five children (four boys and a girl) and a grandmothe

New on Netflix

New on Netflix for the Holiday Season I keep being impressed by the quantity and often quality of the content made available for online streaming on Netflix.   HBO is just now showing its first non-English language production—the excellent Italian series My Brilliant Friend .   But Netflix, now in over 180 countries, is way ahead in terms of top-notch international productions.   In a previous post I praised the German series Babylon Berlin set in 1929.   I’m also hooked by the new Polish series 1983 set during the last years of the Communist Cold War era (8 episodes so far, fraught with danger, intrigue, murder, sex, and treachery in a hothouse of repression versus revolutionary agitation).             On the documentary side, an absolute must view are the 8 episodes of Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II: A Natural History of the Oceans . One runs out of superlatives to describe the diverse range of of astonishing underwater images illustrating an amazing compendium of

Poltical Sex Scandals Then vs. Now

Political Sex Scandals Then vs. Now The Front Runner The biggest irony of the “Me too/time’s up” climate of zero tolerance for alleged sexual misdeeds is the seeming impunity of the serial offender in the White House.   Donald Trump’s ardent followers, including evangelical Christians, seem to excuse with alacrity his bragging about sexually assaulting women (“you can do anything”) and illegally paying off porn stars.  Mind you, in the 1990s Bill Clinton survived an impeachment process over his sexual sins.             Canadian filmmaker Jason Reitman takes us back to the 1980s with a cautionary tale about the rise and precipitous fall of Colorado Democratic Senator Gary Hart who in 1988 was the prohibitive favorite for his party’s presidential nomination. Hugh Jackman gives a convincing portrayal of the well-spoken progressive telegenic Hart who, although then separated from his wife Lee (played by Vera Farmiga), seemed to have everything going for him.   Hart’s campaign, le

Painting Eternity: Andrei Rublev, At Eternity's Gate

Painting Eternity On December 4, the Canadian Film Institute of which I am a longtime ambassador member presented a very special event—the screening of a fully restored version of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 205-minute masterwork Andrei Rublev , first seen in Moscow in December 1966 but suppressed by the Soviet authorities.   It was not shown internationally until 1969 (at the Cannes film festival), and not in North America until October 1973.   [Interestingly 1966 is also when Sergey Bondarchuk’s epic monumental 427-minute War and Peace was first released in the Soviet Union. Among my greatest films of all time it’s reviewed in my book The Best of Screenings & Meanings at pp. 29-30 and 168-169.]             The setting for Andrei Rublev is the early 15 th century Russian empire.   The titular central figure is a monk and renowned icon painter.   Beyond the monastery many of the scenes take place in and around the ancient city of Vladimir (200 kms east of Moscow), which had been

In Praise of the Danish Screen

In Praise of the Danish Screen: Walk With Me and The Guilty The Canadian Film Institute’s 33 rd European Union Film Festival wrapped today presenting excellent features from 27 of 28 member countries. (See all titles and descriptions at: .   The UK has not participated since the 2016 Brexit vote.) I was able to see 20, and in addition had already seen Cold War (Poland) and Transit (Germany), both by master filmmakers, at the Toronto film festival (see previous post).             The one I was most struck by was the Danish entry Walk with Me (not to be confused with the eponymous 2017 documentary about a Zen Buddhist community). Tiny Denmark punches way above its weight when it comes to both the big and the small screen.   Borgen (Danish for “government”) sounds dull but is the best ever made-for-television contemporary (2010-2013) political drama series. There is an abundance of film talent beyond the works of internationally acclaimed directo