Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Seen in March 

The Last Repair Shop

I'm not sure why this list isn't longer. It's not like I haven't been watching a lot of stuff, but it is true I haven't finished a lot of stuff. I'll make that my goal this month - finish what I start.

The Last Repair Shop
The Oscar winner live-action short documentary is a film that introduces us to the people who work in an LA school board’s instrument repair shop. We meet not just the technicians who tend to these instruments but also the students who wouldn’t be able to afford the very instruments they are learning to play. From woodwinds, pianos, strings, and brass these musical instruments have life breathed into them by technicians and musicians alike. As a result of the film's success, a very successful funding campaign has raised enough money to keep the program running and possibly expand it. It is in the darkest of times that we find we need the arts most of all, not just as an expression from the artist but to give voice to what we all may be feeling.

Pete Holmes: I'm Not For Everybody
Solid stand-up special from reliable comedian Pete Holmes.

Anatomy of a Fall
With several nominations and awards this French, German and English language film about the death of an intellectual’s husband will have you wondering to the very end and beyond, did she or didn’t she? It also features one of the better performances by a dog seen in recent years.

A young boy experiencing war and loss.

The Boy and the Heron
Another typical Miyazaki animated film. In other words, a brilliant and beautiful masterpiece. It's certainly worthy of the Oscar it won this year. Miyazaki is 83 and had already previously "retired" so there are many who believe this is his last film. Among his best-known films, his stories focus on a young child isolated from their family such as in My Neighbour Tortoro, Ponyo or Spirited Away. The Boy and the Heron focuses on a 12-year-old boy, Mahito, in wartime Japan, who lost his mother in a fire at a hospital during a bombing. His father has remarried and moved the family to the countryside. Apparently, traditionally in Japan in the past, it would be normal for a widower to remarry his unmarried sister-in-law and that's the case here where Mahito's aunt becomes his stepmother. Mahito struggles to fit in at school and injures himself to avoid going back. It turns out, that Mahito's aunt is also having difficulty in her new role too, and one day goes missing while a heron tells Mahito that his mother is still alive. This leads the boy and the heron to team up on a journey that begins in an abandoned manor. The entire odyssey can be seen either as an adventure or a period of self-discovery in which Mahito comes to terms with the loss of his mother, his busy and distant father, and his relationship with his stepmother.

Jeffrey Wright is great as Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, a writer at a crossroads.

American Fiction
This film is about a Black American writer tired of being labelled as a “Black American Writer” who reacts to his frustration by creating a book that panders in every way to what he thinks white audiences are being served up by publishers, news media, television and film. Amongst his messy relationships and a stressful family situation, he accidentally finds great success with his satirical and paradoxical creation. Consequences follow. This is one of the smartest, funniest and most layered films I've seen in a long time and it was great to see the script and cast recognized through various awards.

Kung Fu Panda 4
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Kung Fu Panda delivers the laughs and thrills. Yes, it’s fine if you haven’t seen KFP 1,2 or 3.

Quiz Lady
A funny and satisfying film about two sisters, played by Awkafina and Sandra Oh, who bond over their mother's debts and combine their very different personalities to find success on a Jeopardy-like quiz show. I imagine it was fun for the actors to both be cast against type as Awkafina portrays Anne, the dull, responsible trivia prodigy and Sandra Oh plays the carefree, train wreck of a sibling who can't get her life together.

Timothée Chalamet is as irresistable as Willy Wonka's chocolate.

Come with me and you’ll see a world of pure imagination (based on existing IP). Timothée Chalamet plays the eccentric chocolatier and candy maker Willy Wonka, in what is a "prequel" to the well-known Roald Dahl story. Wonka is a naive but creative maker of fine sweets but before he can establish himself, he must overcome the greed of his landlady and of a cartel of three evil chocolate shop owners. There's music, fanciful sweets and chocolates, and a fair amount of innocent fun. As this film was made by the producers of the Paddington Bear films, there are also an extraordinary number of British actor cameos.

The Great Canadian Baking Show S03-05
I never watched this show during the pandemic shut-down but I understood the appeal. I was familiar with the British original and assumed it was simply a carbon copy. While it follows the formula, this version does seem “nicer”. Though I will add the comedic hosts do not have the same panache as the British ones, but that’s fine as the producers wisely give them less time and fewer opportunities to do any pun-based schtick. I would advise the producers to trust the hosts and judges to ad-lib a bit more as the scripted conversations and puns basically bump up against the boundaries of what any audience can bear.

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