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.

The Martha Mitchell Effect
The wife of Nixon cabinet member, John Mitchell, Martha Mitchell had been called “the Cassandra of Watergate” when she claimed that the GOP was involved in illegal activities and had gone as far as drugging her and putting her under guards to prevent her from calling the press. In public her critics said her claims were due to mental illness and stress. Unfortunately for Mrs. Mitchell, her husband continued the ruse to save his boss. It’s this aspect of the Watergate scandal that this Oscar nominated documentary short explores. The tactic of having a medical professional publicly and falsely declare someone with mental illness has been since dubbed the Martha Mitchell effect. I suppose one could say the same of the former president as several psychologists claimed he was unfit for office except we actually knew he was unfit for office and it might be said that’s why many of his supporters voted for him.

Stranger at the Gate
An Oscar nominated New Yorker documentary short about an American military vet so racked by his experience in Afghanistan and Iraq that he considered bombing a local mosque. What happens after he enters the mosque is the kind of story Americans don’t hear enough about. He went looking for terrorists but found his own humanity instead.

The girls hang about in a Christmas play in the short film Le Pupille.

Le Pupille
A super charming short film, nominated for the Oscar for best short film, set in an Italian orphanage run by a strict nun and how one little girl finds a way around the head sister’s unreasonable Christmas cake ultimatum.

The women of Girls5eva.

Girls5eva S01
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… from laughing, at this comedy that imagines a barely popular girl group who reunite some 20 years after their only modest hit. The series skewers the meaningless ear worm pop songs and the accompanying images of women created more from corporate greed and exploitation than anything remotely musical.

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