Friday, October 27, 2023

Seen in September 

Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short are The Three Amigos.

September is a good movie month. In Toronto we have the Toronto International Film Festival, which is often considered the kickoff to the film award season. Unfortunately, I'm too lazy to luxuriate in fine theatres viewing ambitious films so I watched this stuff at home and started getting some value out of my Netflix account.

The Three Amigos
Classic 80s comedy starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short as three silent film stars drawn to Mexico to what they believe is an acting gig but is something far more dangerous. I can’t believe it’s been so long and I’ve never seen this film until now. I don’t know why it took me this long to see it, but I am grateful for finally having done so.

Eliot Page is a wayward youth who, at a moment of crisis, kidnaps an infant from a neglectful mother. Are we sympathetic to the drunken privileged mother who neglected her daughter to have an affair, or to Tallulah, the transient youth who tries to live their libertarian lifestyle via their wits and some minor theft? I found little to understand among any of the characters. Only at the end does Tallulah’s missing boyfriend appear to present some logic to the whole proceedings and only then does she recognize that she has to surrender the child and herself to the authorities. My real problem with this film is that Eliot Page simply comes across as too intelligent to do something so stupid or be so naive as to believe her self indulgent life would ever do any harm to anyone else.

Whisper of the Heart
A animated sweet romance about a young girl who wants to be a writer and a young boy who wants to be a great violin maker. I actually thought this was an entirely different film by Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli but obviously it wasn’t. Still, it was a wonderfully animated film about the pressures we put on ourselves and what we think of others until we get to know them.

The Flash
I’ve see worse super-hero films, but not many as bad as this car wreck of a film. Did I mention it also had some truly terrible visual effects? Apart from all of the external nonsense about this film: Ezra Miller‘s participation, after he had been accused of “grooming” a minor, or the changes in the future of DC films, or whether or not to include Henry Cavill as Superman, etc. etc. etc.. This film simply doesn’t stand on its own two legs. Though I will add it was fun to see Michael Keaton resurrect his role as Batman. 

Apple TV+
I think this movie was conceived as a fun “date night” movie, if that is in fact a category? Chris Evans and Ana de Armas have their romantic comedy “meet-cute” moment at a farmers market stall and the two characters spend an entire day/night together. Then Evans “over-texts” de Armas, and she ghosts him. The only complication is he’s a ‘farmer’ of some kind and she’s a CIA operative. Bloop. That’s when the film begins to blend genres in a sort of self-aware, mostly harmless and playful way. Fun but unremarkable despite having Amy Sedaris cast as Chris Evans mother.

Simu Liu as Ken, Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken.

One half of the summer phenomenon “Barbenheimer”, this Mattel toy-driven marketing movie, directed by Greta Gerwig, is both exactly what it sets out to be and so much more. I think I was ready to expect this film with the knowing wink to the camera that it was fully aware of Barbie’s role in the objectification of women, but also the empowerment of women at the same time. I wasn’t ready for the fun musical numbers and comedy squarely aimed at an older audience, nor was I ready for the fact that Ryan Gosling as Ken would almost steal the show with both his misunderstanding and complete understanding of the meaning or impact of the “patriarchy”.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty S02
A satisfying follow-up to the initial season that takes us into the locker rooms of one the greatest rivalries in pro sport history (of my life). I understand that my generation is a small blip compared to Boomers or Millennials but I’m really enjoying shows targeted directly at my hypocampus.

Michael Pollan's exploration of psychedlics gets a bit trippy.

How to Change Your Mind
Michael Pollan’s exploration and examination of the history and future of psychedelic drugs and their value in therapy. Pollan is respectful of indigenous traditions while recognizing the misuse of psychedelics by an earlier generation that effectively kept these important drugs from being studied further. The documentary series effectively advocates for both the government and the general public to open their minds in how helpful these drugs can be in therapy for a myriad of related mental health issues. While I recognize that these drugs are important tools in the treatment of those with serious mental heath challenges, I also recognize my own curiosity to be a tourist on a psychedelic trip.

If you can't tell this image is from a Wes Anderson film then you aren't a Wes Anderson fan.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl short stories into four satisfying short films starts with the longest of the bunch at 39 minutes. This story stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar, a man who discovers a technique through meditation that allows him to see without his eyes, which he plans on using to become even wealthier by cheating at gambling. Yet in the five or so years it takes him to master the technique, he finds that a greater truth and purpose emerges, and instead uses his new skill to raise money through gambling for philanthropy. The film is told through a device familiar to Anderson fans wherein several participants tell the story within another story and the artifice of movie making is revealed through increasingly clever set shifts, rear projections and animation.

The artifice is real.

The Swan
Similar in style and method of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Swan is the second of the short film quartet and is a frightening recollection of a violent bullying of a young boy.

The third film in the series, Poison is set in India where an Englishman, Benedict Cumberbatch, finds himself in a pickle and depends upon an Indian doctor, Ben Kingsley, to save him. The doctor cannot however save the Englishman from being English.

The Rat Catcher
The last film in the series introduces the audience to a strange and peculiar rat catcher, Ralf Fiennes, who prides himself on his knowledge and acumen of his quarry yet in setting out to prove his abilities, goes perversely too far.

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