Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Dinge 

Technically spring, but without the bounce.

I always wondered if the word dingy meant the same to other people as it meant to our family. While others used it to mean dirty or grimy, we more often used to describe a dimly lit room. My mother might find you reading in the living room and say, “It’s so dingy in here! Turn on some lights.” Then she would flip on the lights whether you wanted them on or not. On one occasion, Mom found me reading on the couch, then announced the room was too dingy, then turned on the lights. I continued reading. A few minutes later Dad popped his head in, turned off the lights obviously not seeing me there and thinking of all the wasted hydro used illuminating an empty room.

One word I was sure my mother invented was “dinge”. She would often say, “I don’t like the dinge.” (rhymes with hinge), after turning on a light. “Dinge” being the “dimness” itself. This being the noun form of dingy, not a word for the darkness itself but for the discoloured grey light that cast a pallor over a place. The eery black and white world during an eclipse makes me think of the dinge. When I moved away from home, I rarely heard anyone describe a dim room or a grey day as dingy. That is until I was in the UK and a weather report described a forecast of overcast skies as dingy, with the dinge continuing into the weekend. Is British weather so bleak as to be described as dingy? Yes it is. Was dinge a meteorological term? In England, apparently it is.

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Saturday, April 22, 2023

Seen in March 

Sea Beast is a fun-filled, if predictable, adventure.

It has been a dark and gray winter in Toronto with an even darker spring. A week of sun and warmth may have wiped it from our minds but we did turn to the screen for some speck of light, though, surprisingly it isn't really reflected here (probably due to repeated viewings of Ted Lasso). Here is what I did see.

The Sea Beast
Beautifully animated, designed and executed, this film was nominated for the Academy Award for feature length animated film, and includes the voice talents of Karl Urban as Jacob Holland and Jared Harris as Captain Crow. The story centres on a young girl, Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator), who escapes an orphanage to stow away on sea vessel of monster hunters. In this fictional historical past, terrifying sea monsters are hunted to make safe passage for trade and travel by sea. Captain Crow is an icon, but one huge beast has escaped him over all the years and he is determined to find and kill it. Just as they track the beast the Captain's first mate, Jacob Holland and Maisie fall overboard and are rescued by the very creature they are trying to kill. At this point you can see how the story will unfold but it doesn't matter much as you're already along for the ride.

Alexi Navalny survived an assassination attempt when free, yet he may not survive his time in a Russian prison.

Winner of the Oscar for feature length documentary this is the compelling story of how Alexei Navalny is defying Putin's regime in Russia despite the threat to his life or imprisonment. After being poisoned in an almost brazen way by Russian agents, Navalny's wife was able to pressure officials to allow him to leave Russia for treatment and recovery in Germany. Navalny's charisma may be his super-power in a world where influence on social media can be very powerful. Fully knowing if he returned to Russia he would be arrested and imprisoned, he returned anyway. By not running or trying to be an opposition in exile, he travelled back home, was sentenced to nine years in prison on trumped up charges, which has commanded far greater respect among his followers in Russia and around the world. In some way, he has accepted this as the only way for him to become a genuine and legitimate threat to Putin. Putin fears Navalny enough that he can never bring himself to mention him by name. Canadian Daniel Roher's film certainly captures the success, complexity and trepidation of this act of resistance.

The Elephant Whisperers

The Elephant Whisperers
Winner of the Academy Award for best short documentary, this film shows us the emotional bond between a couple in rural India and Raghu, an orphaned elephant who they care for as part of broader conservation effort.

The Night Ride
During a cold winter night in Norway, a woman inadvertently steals a tram when all she really wanted was to stay warm as she waited. She quickly learns to operate the streetcar and in the course of picking up passengers winds up confronting intolerance along the way. The film was nominated for an Oscar for live-action short film.

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