Monday, September 12, 2022

Seen in August

Whether taking shelter from the heat or relaxing at the end of the day, this was how my summer ended. Only one film noted here was seen in a theatre. Maybe it seemed like too much trouble, maybe COVID was still on my mind, or maybe there just wasn't anything to see, but going to a theatre seemed less enticing this summer. Luckily, you can watch almost anything from home, so, adjust the heat or a/c as you like, pour your favourite drink and try one of these titles.

Jenny Slate of said stage fright.

Jenny Slate: Stage Fright
Comedian Jenny Slate's debut comedy special on Netflix. It's easy to be a fan of Slate, who previously was a Saturday Night Live cast member and is the co-creator and voice of Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. In some ways she is mining that the same vein as Sarah Silverman. She embodies the pretty Jewish princess who is so sweet that you are shocked by how much she cusses while talking about her lunar sex life. Unlike Silverman, who you can never know when and how far or ironic she will take her humour, Slate seems much more genuine and honest with her audience. Plus, in this comedy special we get to meet Jenny Slate's funny, supportive and for her, inspiring family.

My Old School
The story of a student named Brandon Lee who shows up at a Glasgow high school in 1995. Immediately his classmates thought he was a teacher, clearly too old to be a student, but when he was introduced as a new student, they all began to buy into a lie that played out over many months. As the student known as Lee did not want to be filmed, actor Alan Cumming portrays "Lee" (not his real name) visually and lip syncs the audio recording of the interview. The truth eventually comes out that the boy named Brandon Lee was really a 30-year-old man named Brian MacKinnon. The story of the deception and reason behind it is told in animated re-enactments combined with contemporary interviews with MacKinnon's 1995 classmates. It's a fascinating film told in an innovative and entertaining fashion.

The eponymous house.

The House
A stop-motion animated anthology of three stories set in three different eras, all set in the same house originally built in the 19th century (I think). The house would appear to be cursed or something. The first story, which shows how the house was built feels like a surreal horror film, while the second seems more like a modern nightmare. The final story, presumably set in the future when the rising waters of our current environmental crisis now threaten the house. This film is wonderfully animated, sometimes funny, sometimes frightening, but mostly it is very, very weird.

Love and Monsters
A simple story of a guy living in a bunker during an apocalyptic future where the world has been taken over by monstrously sized insects who despite his paralyzing fear, wants no more than to see his girlfriend, who unfortunately lives in another bunker 70 miles away. You'll root for the guy to win back his girl, avoid being killed while befriending a plucky dog along the way. Don't worry, there's a twist at the end but a happy epilogue, so it's a safe if unchallenging bit of fun.

The Nature of Things: Accidental Wilderness
An episode of The Nature of Things that explores the naturalization of a breakwater created in Lake Ontario made of demolition and construction waste that over a 30 year period became a little piece of wilderness within sight of Canada's largest city. Known locally as the Leslie Spit (for being at the south end of Leslie Street) it is now officially the home of Tommy Thompson Park (and no, not that Tom Thomson), teeming with wildlife like rabbits, turtles, snakes, coyotes and is on the migration route of Monarch butterflies and countless birds. It's a short bike ride from my house but it feels like a million miles from anywhere.

Kids, meet Moulton.

Me and My Moulton
An animated short by Norwegian-Canadian Torill Kove about a young Danish girl and her sisters' dream of having a bike like other kids on their street. Unfortunately, her parents are both architects, meaning they couldn't just have a normal bike but a "designed" one.

The Danish Poet
Academy award winning animated short from Torill Kove about a young woman who explores how her grandparents met.

This is Captain Pike. Men want to be him, women want to be with him… and also men.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds S01
If you are a Trek fan, you of course know who Captain Pike is. Have you ever wondered what Captain Pike's Star Fleet career was like before he wound up in that chair? This is that show and it is fantastic. Take the fun spirit of the original Star Trek with the polished production design and effects of contemporary television shows and this is that. Anson Mount is expertly cast as Capt. Chris Pike, a sort of proto-Capt. Kirk, and Ethan Peck as a young Spock make a dynamic duo that is only the start of a great crew.

Minx S01
Did you ever read Playboy for the articles? Despite it's porny exterior, there was some notable journalism on offer inside this gentlemen's magazine (or whatever). What about Playgirl, the women's equivalent? Apparently some of the porno mags with male models in the 70s were at the vanguard of feminism. That's what this show is about. Joyce Prigger is a feminist journalist with dreams of ending the patriarchy with a magazine named The Matriarchy Awakens. The only interested publisher is a pornographer from the San Fernando valley who sees the opportunity to create the first erotic magazine for women (and some men). It's a funny and engaging show that pits feminism and women's rights against misogyny and the American mainstream. It's a hoot but be aware there are a lot of penises on display. So many penises.

Kimi is a modern Rear Window.

Like a Rear Window for the pandemic and in the age of surveillance capital (pretty sure that was the pitch). Even the music was clearly inspired by Hitchcock's composer, Bernard Herrmann. Kimi, played by Zoë Kravitz, is a quality control engineer who while monitor random sound samples from a user of an Alexa/Google Home/Siri type device believes she has overheard a murder taking place. The fact that a company saves random sound files, as per the end user agreement, and that it has probably recorded a felony is bad for business so as Kimi tries to bring the evidence to light she is pursued at every turn by her corporate bosses. This is another accomplished and entertaining bit of film making by the surprisingly prolific Steven Soderbergh.

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