MOVIES: Marilyn reimagined, Harry Styles takes over the screen and here’s Canada’s Oscar bid
The Toronto Film Festival is over (I’m writing one today) and the Vancouver International Film Festival starts next Thursday. I suggest the opening film, Raven bones, must. It means you want to see a strong, accurate and angry film about our shameful history of schools. This film is by Marie Clements, which shows the experiences of one woman from childhood to old age, leading to the meeting of indigenous leaders with the Pope during his visit to Ottawa. The film also plays on August 4.
There are others worth noting, environmental films, a story of protest riots in the US, a winner of Best Director at Cannes (Decision to leave), Brendan Fraser as The whaleVicky Krieps as Sisi, the tragic Austrian empress and maybe even Gerard Depardieu as the detective Maigret.
Take a look at the film about Vancouver called Back home. The variety did. They had a feature for filmmakers to watch. It has its world premiere on Friday and plays again on October 2nd and features my grandson in a key role.
Also notice this Avatar is now back in theaters. James Cameron’s smash hit is about a heroic battle to save a civilization, and in that context serves as a warm-up act for the much-anticipated sequel, which arrives in December.
Meanwhile, there are these…
Riceboy Seats: 4
Bandit: 3 ½
RUSSIAN: Marilyn Monroe continues to fascinate and Ana de Armas handles her image masterfully. She channels her; gets her showbiz insecurities and style just right. However, the film does not fare so well. He constantly paints her as a victim. She was like 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 (the rape at the beginning of the film sets the tone), and was forced to have three abortions. That’s according to this movie, which is based on a famous novel by Joyce Carol Oates. How she knew all this is a question.
Monroe is portrayed as completely alienated from the blonde sex symbol the audience sees. She wants to get rid of 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 it, she can show that she’s not a dumb blonde, but the film doesn’t follow that with what she did: lobby for more serious roles, take control of her career, start her own production company. All of this could still support the victim angle, but is sadly lacking. She gets involved in a threesome with the sons of two Hollywood names. Not sure how true that is and cruel result. It is still most impactful, but excessive. Andrew Dominik, who is a writer and director, is known for strange angles on real figures. He has done too much of that here. (Select theaters now, Netflix next week) 3 out of 5
DON’T WORRY DARLING: Harry Styles is the big draw in this one, but it’s really Florence Pugh’s movie. And there’s so much color and visual style, and a feminist sensibility, that it’s easy to like. Until you think and ask what exactly is it all about? It doesn’t tell you and you’ll have to fill it in 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 of the 50s and 60s describe it. The men leave for work in the morning, the women cook, clean and serve the drinks. There’s an organizer, played by Chris Pine, who holds meetings to extol the virtues of their lives. “Pure unbridled potential,” he calls it, without a hint of “chaos.” It is modeled after Canadian lifestyle guru Jordan Peterson. The place is part of something called The Victory Project, which has never been defined and has one woman in the community who claims it was built on lies and control. This prompts Florence’s character to also ask questions and even do the forbidden: walk outside the community to a mysterious building on a hill. You fit in well in her search. She and Pine are very effective and Stiles does enough. (In theaters) 3 out of 5
ETERNAL SPRING: Canada’s choice for the Oscars is a must. The story is not ours, but it was created here by director Jason Loftus. It’s about religious repression in China, specifically the Falun Gong movement, and the efforts of a small group of activists to oppose a government campaign that calls it evil. “Falung Gong is good,” read many of the film’s protest signs, and was also the message the group broadcast when they robbed state television one night 20 years ago. The film shows in detail how they planned it, a little less how they managed to do it and a little how long they were on the air. But the repressions that befell them testified to their great effect.
The story is told in a hybrid way, much of it through crisp animation based on the work and memories of comic book artist Daxiong. As he narrates what happened, it feels like a heist and a thriller. As a Falun Gong practitioner, he initially disapproved of this trick because it brought more repression to the movement. He fled China (to New York and Toronto) and later, when he met again with one of the key players known as Mr. White, he changed his mind. They tell of characters like Liang, who came up with the idea, and Big Truck, who brought some muscle. They remember the extreme tension that night and the whole motivation: religious freedom. The movie doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about Falun Gong, but it describes this incident very well. (In theaters: in Montreal and in and near Toronto and Vancouver) 4 out of 5
RICEBOY IS SLEEPING: This is one of the most authentic accounts of the immigrant experience I’ve ever seen. It’s not about a culture I know, but the impact it has is testament to that: the images in the film are universal. You get the big milestones, learning a language, getting a job, doing well at work, but also the little everyday struggles. The Korean boy in this story is stuck for an answer in class, has a name that the other kids find strange, and has to choose something easier to understand. In a typical scene, he is teased by the other kids about the strange food his mother sent for his lunch. Gimbap, by the way. Writer-director Anthony Shim draws on his own life in Korea and Vancouver for the reality he portrays. It won him an award at the Toronto Film Festival, which recognizes “bold directorial visions.”
In the film, Choi Seung-yoon plays a single mother from Korea who now lives near Vancouver with her son. He is played by Dohyun Noel Hwang as a young boy and later by Ethan Hwang as a teenager. Charming as a youth, he is rebellious, determined to fit in with the other kids as a teenager. He dyes his hair blonde, smokes dope with his best friend (played by the director) and asks awkward questions like why he doesn’t have a father. This is a delicate story from home in Korea. He is joined by a medical history here in Canada, and the mother decides that her newborn son needs to connect with his past. She takes him to Korea to meet his grandparents. Emotional outbursts before they disappear; ties in heredity there and you have a very satisfying movie. (At VIFF tonight and Monday, soon at festivals in Calgary and Sudbury, and in theaters next year) 4 of 5
BANDIT: Here’s a cool summer-appropriate suit that’s still here. It’s lighthearted and probably factual, though taken from a novel. Josh Duhamel plays a criminal whom the newspapers have dubbed “The Flying Bandit” because he flies across Canada to rob banks, apparently 59 of them. His talent was an engaging personality at the counter and a strict protocol: in and out quickly. There’s a cheeky, almost comical tone as he pulls off his heists, at least as presented by Canadian director Alan Ungar.
Gilbert Galvan Jr. escaped from a Michigan prison, came to Canada, found himself with a woman (Elisha Cuthbert) from a church shelter in Ottawa, and occasionally flew away on his trips to the bank. There’s an extended sequence that claims to be in Vancouver, but it’s not visually convincing. She’s okay with his robberies because she hates banks; one took her family’s house. He gets greedy and turns to a loan shark (Mel Gibson) to get backing for bigger orders. Now the police are on his trail and the movie goes into a classic “one last job” situation. The movie is full of details but still a light story. Fun though. (Select Cinemas) 3 ½ out of 5