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I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Your Call Is Important To Us
I came out of this movie in tears. At 65, I could easily imagine what it would be like to be in Daniel's shoes. The acting was absolutely marvellous, the nuances very subtle. As the Western World privatizes, this could be the fate that awaits any of us. One day all the boxes are checked and your life moves along smoothly. Then suddenly one thing happens, and there is a cascade of consequences. I remember the old days when you phoned an organization and there was an actual human being at the end of the line, now you are lucky if there is even an Avatar. The little kids were adorable, thank God children seem to be born with computer skills buried in their DNA. Simple people like Katie come along and make life worthwhile. Coconuts are definitely more dangerous than sharks!
The Lost City of Z (2016)
We Fight For Our Friends
Covering a whole life time is a daunting task, but I think the director James Gray did an excellent job of choosing the important pieces of the fascinating story of Col. Fawcett. If you have to travel to Brazil, you soon discover a country of not just beautiful beaches and food, but a land of rich history and mystery. Many explorers went searching in Brazil like Sir Richard Burton and of course Col. Percy Fawcett. I think the acting was superb, and of course highly individual. Col. Fawcett is clearly a leader with a vision. His men follow him accordingly. Henry Costin provides a devoted companion, but also a morale centre and a reality check, something required on any dangerous mission. His son Jack loves him and wants to follow in his footsteps and carry on the quest. His wife Nina is psychic, and understands at a deep level what motivates him , although she has to bear the burden of raising their sons and daughter.
According to the book "The Enigma of Colonel Fawcett" by the Brazilian Hermes Leal, Fawcett met a seer when he was stationed in Ceylon. The seer foretold the birth of his son and that he would find a lost civilization. The mystery of Col. Fawcett's disappearance continues on to this day. The Autan expedition went in search of clues as late as 1996. Even now, lost cities keep being discovered in Central and South America. Mankind's complex and still unknown past continually unravels.
Personal Shopper (2016)
This film just opened in Toronto and I was anxious to see it. I found the historical references fascinating. During the early 1900s, spiritualism was all the rage in various circles, especially among scientists. As an electrical engineer, I was surprised to learn that the inventor of PCM pulse code modulation, the basis of all the digital world, was Alec Harley Reeves. He was trying to discover a method to communicate with this dead mother. What I most enjoyed about the film was the immediacy. It was almost like I was not watching the movie but I was part of it. Sort of like that scene in the park in "Blow-Up" where the whole world stops. The shots of Kristen Stewart are amazing, almost portrait like. She certainly builds the tension throughout the film, tremendous acting.
En man som heter Ove (2015)
I really enjoyed this movie, I thought it touched on many themes. I guess the first one would be reflection on your life, especially when you get over 60 and people around you get sick, disabled or pass away. When we first see Ove bossing people around in his living complex, we know none of the backstory. But this is slowly revealed and we see someone who has a decent set of personal values that have been passed down by his father. He lives by these and expects others in the community to do the same. At first we think he is just a stickler for little things, but with the arrival of the new family next door, we soon find it is not little things that set him off, but only little things that represent major issues. I can see Ove as a great union steward, looking after his men and at the same time being loyal and hard working for his employer. Communities are built this way. The children next door immediately pick up on his inner nature, they are truly adorable. You can see that they immediately absorb is orderly and empathetic view of the world.
Every year in March, the world's biggest mining show meets in Toronto for the annual PDAC Prospectors & Developers conference. Johnnie Walker flows like water. If you want to see and feel the business, this is the place. You can pick out the prospectors and geologists at any booth. They have that far away look, probably would be happier smoking a Ritmeester cigar in some remote location.
Enter Kenny Wells. Kenny operates his Junior mining business from a bar. But we notice one thing right away. People like and trust Kenny and he likes and trusts them back. He also has the right pedigree, coming from a long line of miners with dirt under their finger nails. One thing about Juniors, is that they can never get down, one failed prospect usually follows another. Kenny gets a break, however, when he meets Michael Acosta. The chemistry is right, they speak the same language. Let's give it our all and make the dream come true.
They head off to Kalimantan, sort of like Lord Jim heading up country. The land is wild, and the native Dayaks are former head hunters. The camp scenes are superb. We learn of the complicated situation of trying to keep all the parties happy. The central government in Jakarta, the locals and the backers back home. Kenny gets malaria, but fortunately for him, rest and a warm blanket get it under control.
We see the empire beginning to build and the vulture capitalists descend. Kenny's girlfriend Kay senses what's happening before anyone. Slowly it all unravels as the truth emerges.
The characters are well portrayed, Mathhew McConaughey really gives it his all. Egdar Ramirez is the perfect geologist and his Bahasa is spot on! Kay played by Bryce Howard is the moral center and gives us a perspective of what's involved in this business that our modern society could not live without.
Gardez La Banane!!
This is an inside look at the challenges of putting together a ballet. Benjamin Millepied takes on quite a challenge as he works as Artistic Director at the Paris Opera Ballet, the world's oldest national ballet. Previous directors were Serge Lifar and Rudolf Nureyev, tough shoes to follow in! Benjamin has some really strong ideas working for him, however. First of all he wants all his dancers to get the most pleasure and enjoyment from their work with him. Historically, entering a Ballet company is almost equivalent to joining an elite special forces company. Continual selection and judgment. This does not leave room for reflection or getting enjoyment from your day to day work. The film shows us scenes of typical scenes of the selection of young dancers, precise and calculated. Many dancers hide injuries for fear of rejection. These can later become career ending without early treatment.
We follow a time line of the all the events that must come together for a successful finish. Dance rehearsals, selection of the musical score, props, integration with the lighting and the actual stage. Benjamin's assistant is tireless in her attention to detail to get everything integrated and obstacles overcome without any undue friction.
Benjamin believes in working with his dancers, showing them exactly how certain moves should work. Positive reinforcement works wonders to bring out the best and not being afraid to make mistakes. He wants his dancers to reflect their audience not what was expected from previous centuries gone by. Various scenes take us into the actual creative process of thinking, dancing, sketching upside down on a studio floor.
The most powerful scenes for me were from the final rehearsal where it all comes together with such magic. Despite threats of strikes and other external events, the opening night arrives. Benjamin ensures that everyone takes the stage that worked on the Ballet.
Hidden Figures (2016)
If you want to know what racism feels like, then the director of this movie really let's you have it front and centre. Not in a violent way, but in the way that most people experience it in the little acts of day to day life. The frown, the social exclusion or lack of acknowledgement.
The juxtaposition of a mega scientific journey to space with the serious problems on the surface of the planet is perfect. I remember the 60's, the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King. There are many powerful scenes in this movie. I think back to Dion's song Abraham, Martin and John.
Je me Souviens
Nice to see a movie with a Canadian, even more so one from Québec where I come from. "Britain's Wonderful Fighting Forces", Odhams Press, London W.C.2, Chapter IV, Army Co-Operation has a whole section on the Westland Lysander. This was the aircraft the SOE used to supply resistance fighters in France. It was fascinating seeing this aircraft up close. The movie starts off slowly with a rather strained relationship between Max & Marianne. It slowly builds, but you are not really aware of it. Eyes never lie and in time you can see in the way they look at each other that something powerful is at work. Fast forward to the UK and the story rapidly unfolds. The underground bunker scene is particularly disturbing, the unspoken horror of it all. I would have liked Max to utter a few choice Québecois words at the V Branch Rupert. As long as our love for each other outweighs our darker side there is hope for us all. Great movie, inspiring and wonderful acting!
Bleed for This (2016)
Faith & Persistence
Based on a true story, Vinny Pazienza overcomes a terrible car accident to return to the sport he truly loves, Boxing. I was a bit hesitant to see this movie because of all the previous movies about fighters. However the director quickly immerses you into Vinny's world and you are immediately hooked. What I liked most about the movie was how all the characters were so believable. The close family relationship, the mother's ritual when all the relatives are glued to the tube, the family dinners, ornaments etc. Everyone has a lot of soul and individuality. Vinny's determination is all important, but he has the affection and love from friends and family. Most of all he has his coach, portrayed by Aaron Eckhart. A man who is fighting is own demons of being a has been, wanting a winner, but also knowing that a coach must do what is best for those under his charge, regardless of what is best for him or others.
Grey Goose & Splash of Water
Excellent film, I left the theatre last night feeling that there was hope for the world! During the recent Olympics, every day was a wonderful spectacle watching all the events on TV. Then when they were over, back to the reality of the planet, with tragedy forced down are throats on the news. But watching Sully restored my faith in the average guy doing his job and doing it well. Excellent acting and visually you really feel you are in the cockpit. I had no idea that there had been an inquiry with an attempt to discredit the pilot. Pretty shameful, but the crew stuck together and you can feel and visualize the powerful effects of excellent team work. Sully always credited his team. This should be required study for all business schools. Thumbs up to all the actors and director. Interesting reference to ACARS data as well, generally never mentioned in aviation accidents.