Saturday, December 23, 2017

Safe Travels 

Monday, December 11, 2017


I'll be home for Christmas…

Seen in… November 

Elle Fanning in The Neon Demon. Image via

I have no idea how I found time to see so much in November when every work day started at 7 or 8 AM and ended at 6 or 7 PM and I had a cargo bike full of advocacy meetings (sometimes two in one day) but I did see a lot. Some I caught on TV, binged or otherwise, and some were screening at the TIFF theatre so I sort of had to catch them in a short run or miss them entirely. Oddly, there was one film I tried and failed to see each weekend for the last month but could never get to because it was screening just out of cycling range (well, cycling range on cold wet November nights). I guess the best movies to see are the easiest ones to see.

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Of course the later line, “A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope” is usually removed but speaks to the anti-Catholic sentiments of the time. This BBC mini series is a good a history lesson as you're likely to get. Part 1 begins when Queen Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic raised in exile in France returns to Scotland to challenge Queen Elizabeth I, an English Protestant. When Mary is finally cornered her son James is taken from her and raised as the King in waiting (waiting for Elizabeth to die). Part 2 of the series begins with Elizabeth’s death and Mary’s execution making James, the regent and rightful heir to the throne, the king of a united England, Scotland and Wales. I think I got that right? The series focuses on King James struggles, played with greasy anger by Robert Carlyle to be accepted as king and the machinations of Parliament to control him. Through some dubious and curious sexual harassment, James promises a prominent Catholic that under his reign, Catholicism would be tolerated but it wasn’t to be which raises the ire of those who put their faith in the hands of James. The plotters put their plan in motion but the crown’s spies soon discover their conspiracy. Yet the King wishes to let the plot fester and catch the Catholic dissenters red handed, namely Guy Fawkes (aka Guido Fawkes) played by a young Michael Fassbender. Turns out Fawkes was an angry Catholic fighting for his faith where ever the fight took him until it found him guarding 20 barrels of gunpowder. The rest is history.

The Neon Demon

This is one of those films that people either love or hate. This film about a young woman landing in LA to start a modelling career is from Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of Drive, an equally divisive movie. Elle Fanning plays Jesse the effervescent teen who after catching the eye of casting directors then ignites the jealousy of her feminine rivals. Can the innocent beauty survive the dog eat dog world of fashion? Will she lose the spark that makes her special? From that point of view, this is an incredibly simple film and the movie itself is a very obvious metaphor. The audacity of this thing is how incredibly, enticingly, beautiful the film is and it seems to me to be appropriately superficial. I suppose it is this simplicity that makes the movie open to criticism or that any acclaim might seem hyperbolic but for me it was refreshingly forward and obvious. I think that’s what I like about this director. Simple, stylish, iconic and straightforward.


This HBO documentary profile of one of the greatest American directors is an insightful look into his life and career. What is amazing to me was the company and cohort that Spielberg was part of. Spielberg ran with a madly talented group that consisted of Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and George Lucas. To hear those icons of American cinema speak of a friend with respect, awe and even a bit of envy is pretty great. More interestingly to me was how Spielberg found the only other people who spoke his language: film.
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