Monday 9 December 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

A Stellar Week at the Movies and on TV, Quality Over Quantity | Anne Brodie

Bright Lights

The heart breaking nearly simultaneous deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds marked a poetic, but sad end.  They were “married” to each other in a sense, each single after multiple marriage fails, connected, intimate next door neighbours for decades. Spend a warm two hours with them in the Fisher Stevens documentary Bright Lights debuting on HBO Saturday night, at 8 and prepare to laugh and cry.  They argue, belt out show tunes together, hug and look after one another in this loving look. Sure they had their troubles, Debbie was a distracted mother, a busy and image-conscious Hollywood actress thinking about her public more than her kids. Carrie’s bipolar disorder started young, and then came the drugs. But says Carrie, her biggest rebellion was her refusal to launch a nightclub show, something Debbie wanted badly for her. And speaking of which, Debbie, in failing health insists on continuing her stage shows and as the doc progresses, she worsens. But optimism in the face of everything is what makes these two tick. Carrie’s wicked wit and Debbie’s warmth carry us through the good times and bad, including the decade of not speaking. It’s wonderfully funny, savagely so at times, as when Carrie calls Debbie “tsnuMommy” as Debbie smiles beatifically. Carrie reminds us that says ageing is “horrible but Debbie falls from a greater height”, while Debbie says the only way to get through life is to “fight”. So many surprises and revelations, this intimate visit in their homes and heads is pure genius and a wonderful tribute to these ladies who clearly were the loves of each other’s lives.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is the true story of African American women with superior math skills who worked at NASA and helped put John Glenn into space. Indeed historically “hidden” figures forced to work in segregated quarters with Colored Women Only washrooms, work in separate offices and drink coffee from separate urns.  They suffered all the casual, daily and overt indignities of being black in the south in the 60s; you have to wonder at their acceptance and patience. The film doesn’t wallow in it though; it’s snappy, funny, maddening, triumphant and uplifting.  Kevin Costner plays Henson’s colour blind boss who finally recognises the daily insults these women endure and helps them break through out of respect and compassion.  Elevating the film are great performances by Taraji P. Henson and singer Janelle Monáe with a superb turn by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer. Mahershala Ali fresh off his stunning work in Moonlight appears as a romantic interest. It dares to be sunny and rise above the darkness of embedded racism in a candy coloured universe of 60’s optimism when everything was possible including change. Director Theodore Melfi has harmoniously married the darkness of racism with feel-good values. Hidden Figures is suitable for all ages.


Martin Scorsese’s fact based epic historical drama Silence explores two themes that have dominated his work, the yin and yang of Catholicism and our predilection to violence. In 1639 Two Portuguese Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) set sail for Japan to find their mentor (Liam Neeson) a priest, who disappeared two decades earlier while on a mission to spread Christianity.  The young priests are greeted by deeply devout but panicked Japanese Christians in hiding from “the Inquisitor” and his government agents. The law of the time forbade religion; Catholicism had been mistaken for a kind of local spirituality and when its true nature was revealed, the full force of the law came down on its practitioners. Missionaries were tortured and murdered with thousands of villagers who refused to denounce their faith and wipe their feet on an image of Christ. Our young priests held clandestine services for Japanese Christians hungry for religious leadership at great and certain personal risk. Eventually all are captured and subjected to gruesome physical, psychological and spiritual tortures. Garfield’s Rodrigo suffers doubt and pain and even assumes the look of Christ, witnessing these horrors and like Christ, asking God why he abandoned the faithful. Scorsese weighs the moral landscape- would we, in that time and place, defend our religious or spiritual beliefs to the death or defile them to survive?  Neeson’s character, when he finally shows up, is complex and wary after having survived so long. Silence is almost three hours and moves at its own meditative pace, allowing time to ponder big questions and meaning to settle in. It’s challenging, rewarding and takes us to new cinematic places; it’s in limited release but goes wide in Canada January 13.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Just two major films open this week, but it’s not all tumbleweed in the aisles by any stretch. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story continues to dominate the multiplexes and will do for some time to come with Sing! snapping at its heels. Meaning to go? Take a peek:


FX launches another of its unique, boundary-breaking and superior series in Taboo starring Tom Hardy and written by his father “Chips” Hardy. Its 1814 England and an exotic, filthy and fully tattooed man shows up in London as if risen from the dead. James Keziah Delaney, heir to the Delaney shipping empire spent twenty years in Africa in self-imposed exile, learned magic, languages and new thinking while presumed dead at home. His reappearance sets the amoral and massively powerful East India Trading Company monopoly into desperate motion. Delaney has returned to re-up his late father’s shipping business to rival the ETC with whom he has a history. The ETC spies (hundreds in London alone) discover that Delaney has a deed to Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island from his late father. Nootka Sound is important border territory between US and British-owned Canada and the gateway to trade with tea rich China. Tea was tops in 1814 and the ETC’s raison d’etre. Delaney has the advantage but the ETC plots to secure his deed. Delaney is reunited with his sister (Oona Chaplin, Charlie’s granddaughter) with whom he has a shaky and important relationship. The Hardys have created a period piece with a grim, noir feel, and ballsy execution. There are plenty of betrayals, murders, conspiracies and a clash of primitive and modern western values.  Delaney has well and truly thrown London and the global trading industry into chaos.  Just brilliant.

I’m fond of Acorn TV streaming service with its wealth of crackling, intelligent British police dramas, and movies and beautifully curated special content.  Crave TV has its place and Amazon Prime offers ground-breaking, outside the box shows. But now Canadians have more choices than ever. Check these out:

Crackle combines old films and new original digital series like Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, with niche favourite TV series of the last 10 – 15 years. It’s free.

Hoopla is available through your local library with a library card. It offers film and TV, comics and eBooks with content regularly updated.  Free.

Mubi offers world cinéma, thirty releases a month for five bucks.

Shudder is a paid service for the legion of horror fans out there. Five dollars a month.

TubiTV specialises in “vintage” Hollywood hits and low budget gems form the vaults of Paramount and MGM and real corn pone like 80’s action hits. It’s free.

TMN Go offers new Hollywood movies, new HBO and TMN Encore material including talk shows available immediately after their conventional premieres. Canadian movie content is a real treat. Must be subscribed to TMN.

UMC – The Urban Movie Channel is Acorn’s African American arm featuring new, original and older films and TV series. It includes Tim Reid’s Legacy Documentary Series and filmed stage plays. Five dollars.

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