The Toronto Film Festival is over (I write one of them today) and the Vancouver International Film Festival starts next Thursday. I suggest the opening movie, raven bones, It is a must. I mean, you’re interested in seeing a powerful, accurate, and angry movie about our shameful history of residential schools. This film is by Marie Clements, which shows the experience of a woman from childhood to old age, until the meeting of indigenous leaders with the Pope during her visit to Ottawa. The film also plays on August 4.
There are others worth watching, environmental films, a story of riots in the US, winner of the best director award at Cannes (decision to leave), Brendan Fraser as The whaleVicky Krieps as Sisi, the tragic Austrian Empress, and maybe even Gerard Depardieu as Detective Maigret.
Watch a film from Vancouver called back home. The variety did. They had a feature on directors to watch. It has a world premiere on Friday and plays again on October 2 and includes my grandson in a key role.
Also note that Avatar is back in theaters now. James Cameron’s gigantic hit film is about a heroic battle to save a civilization and, in this context, serves as a warm-up act for the long-awaited sequel coming in December.
Meanwhile, there are these…
Riceboy Capacity: 4
Bandit: 3 ½
BLOND: Marilyn Monroe continues to fascinate and Ana de Armas does a masterful job portraying her. She channels it; she exactly understands her insecurities and her showbiz style. However, the film does not work as well. She perpetually paints her as a victim. She was that, but not all the time. She had a rough childhood (her mother even tried to drown her), never knew who her father was, was abused by Hollywood bosses (a rape early in the film sets the tone), and was forced to have three abortions. That is according to this film which is based on a famous novel by Joyce Carol Oates. How she knew all that is a question.
Monroe is depicted as completely alienated from the blonde, sex-symbol character seen by the public. She wants to get away from him but she can’t. She marries a baseball hero (Bobby Cannavale as Joe DiMaggio) and then a literary star (Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller). With him, she can show that she’s not a dumb blonde, but the movie doesn’t follow that up with what she did: lobby for more serious roles, take control of her career, start her own production company. All of that could still support the victim’s angle, but sadly it’s lacking. She gets involved in a threesome with the sons of two Hollywood names. I’m not sure how true that is and how cruel the result is. However, it is more moving, but excessive. Andrew Dominik, who wrote and directed, is known for his weird angles on live figures. He has done too much of that here. (Cinema selection now, Netflix next week) 3 of 5
DO NOT WORRY HONEY: Harry Styles is the big draw in this one, but it’s actually Florence Pugh’s movie. And it has so much color and visual flair, as well as a feminist sensibility, that it’s easy to take a liking to it. Until you think more and ask what exactly is it about? It does not tell you and you will have to fill it out yourself. Until then enjoy the style.
Harry and Florence play a married couple in a planned community in the desert. It’s suburbia, as so many movies from the ’50s and ’60s have portrayed. The men go to work in the morning, the women cook, clean and serve drinks. There is an organizer played by Chris Pine who organizes meetings to extol the virtues of his life. “Pure unbridled potential,” he calls it himself, without a hint of “chaos.” He was inspired by a Canadian lifestyle guru, Jordan Peterson. The place is part of something called The Victory Project, which never defines itself and has a woman in the community who claims it’s based on lies and control. That prompts Florence’s character to ask questions, too, and even do the forbidden: wander out of the community to a mysterious building on a hill. You get right into finding her. She and Pine are very effective and Styles does a lot. (In theaters) 3 of 5
ETERNAL SPRING: The choice of Canada to send to the Oscars is a must see. The story is not ours, but it was made here by director Jason Loftus. It is about religious repression in China, specifically the Falun Gong movement, and the efforts of a small group of activists to counter a state campaign to call it evil. “Falung Gong is good,” says many protest posters in the film, and is also the message the group conveyed when they hijacked state television one night 20 years ago. The film shows in detail how they planned it, a little less about how they managed to do it, and not much about how long they were on the air. But the repression that fell on them testified that they had a great effect.
The story is told in hybrid, much of it through crisp animation, based on the work and memories of comic book artist Daxiong. As it recounts what happened, it feels like a heist movie and a thriller. As a Falun Gong practitioner, he originally disapproved of the stunt because it brought more repression to the movement. He fled China (to New York and Toronto) and it was later, when he re-encountered one of the key participants, known as Mr. White, that he changed his mind. They talk about characters like Liang, who came up with the idea, and Big Truck, who brought some muscle. They remember the extreme tension of that night and the whole motivation: religious freedom. The movie doesn’t say everything you need to know about Falun Gong, but it does recount this incident very well. (In theaters: in Montreal and in and around Toronto and Vancouver) 4 of 5
RICEBOY SLEEPS: This is one of the most authentic portrayals of the immigrant experience I’ve ever seen. This is not a culture that I know, but the impact it has attests: the representations of the film are universal. You get the big significant events, learning a language, finding a job, doing well at work, but also the little day-to-day difficulties. The Korean boy in this story doesn’t find an answer in class, he has a name that the other boys find strange and he has to choose one that is easier to understand. In an archetypal scene, the other children tease him about the strange food his mother has sent him for lunch. Gimbap, by the way. Writer-director Anthony Shim has drawn on his own life in Korea and Vancouver for the reality he describes. He earned him an award at the Toronto Film Festival recognizing “bold directorial visions.”
In the film, Choi Seung-yoon plays a single mother from Korea who now lives near Vancouver with her son. She has been played by Dohyun Noel Hwang when she was a child and then by Ethan Hwang when he was a teenager. Lovable when young, he is rebellious, determined to fit in with the other kids when he is a teenager. He dyes his hair blonde, smokes marijuana with his best friend (played by the director), and asks embarrassing questions like why she doesn’t have a father. That’s a touchy story back home in Korea. She joins a medical story here in Canada and mom decides her upstart son needs to connect with her past. She takes him to Korea to meet her grandparents. emotional outbursts before they leave; heritage connections there, and you have a very satisfying film. (At VIFF tonight and Monday, soon at the Calgary and Sudbury festivals, and in theaters next year) 4 of 5
BANDIT: Here’s a fun summer romp that’s still here. It’s light-hearted and possibly factual, albeit taken from a novel. Josh Duhamel plays a criminal the newspapers call The Flying Bandit because he flew across Canada to rob banks, apparently 59 of them. His talent was a smarmy personality at the window and a strict protocol: get in and get out fast. There’s a cheeky, almost comic tone when he pulls the heck out of him, at least as Canadian director Allan Ungar has put it.
Gilbert Galvan Jr escaped from a Michigan prison, came to Canada, hooked up with a woman (Elisha Cuthbert) from a church shelter in Ottawa, and flew in occasionally on his banking trips. There is an extended sequence that purports to be in Vancouver, although it is visually unconvincing. She is okay with stealing from her because she hates banks; one took the house of her family. He gets greedy and approaches a loan shark (Mel Gibson) to get backing for bigger jobs. The police are now hot on his trail and the film cuts to a classic “one last job” situation. The film is full of details, but it is still a small story. Although funny. (Select Theaters) 3 ½ of 5