The Disaster Artist may not be my cup of tea, but it’s definitely gaining ground and it’s going to leave a mark. Brothers James and Dave Franco go back in time to 2001 when to re-enact Tommy Wiseau cobbling together a film universally agreed upon as worst ever made, The Room. Wiseau was mysterious, eccentric and determined to matter in Hollywood. He certainly achieved his goal, but likely not in the way he’d imagined. Franco is stunning as a gesture-for-gesture Wiseau (who appears in a cameo) complete with an indeterminate accent, a severe Peter Pan Syndrome and complete incompetence. Franco as Wiseau playing football is a blast as clearly he’s never handled as football and perhaps he’s never been outside before. Dave Franco plays Wiseau’s strangely mesmerised partner Greg Sestero, a handsome practical type, drawn into Wiseau’s nutty world of childlike chaos. The Room became an extremely minor sensation as a cult hit. The Disaster Artist takes full advantage, mercilessly mocking Wiseau and winning a bunch of awards in the process. Watch for blink-and-they’re-gone appearances by Sharon Stone, Zac Efron. Main cast includes Megan Mullally, Seth Rogen, and Alison Brie. Spoiler: Wiseau was born in Poland in 1955.
Wexford Plaza, set in Scarborough is a completely charming and bawdy coming-of-age story of a 19 year old security guard working a dying strip plaza. Betty has few prospects in life, and spends too much time on the dating app Winder. One night, she strikes up a friendship with Daniel, a bartender and eventually they Do It. But their brief sexual dalliance leads to huge consequences because it was based on a lie. Their stories are told in separate chapters so we can see her reality and his and that they are miles apart. It’s a joy to watch newcomer Reid Asselstine navigate an arc and Darrel Gamotin as a sweet guy in a bad place. Writer director Joyce Wong’s compassionate and cautionary tale has gentle humour, heart, great performance and cinematic artistry. It will stay with you.
Kaspar Astrup Schröder’s doc Big Time opens with accused sexual harasser Charlie Rose interviewing Danish country boy turned architect savant Bjarke Ingels (one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People) of BIG Designs. Ingels’ round face, joyous optimism and bold ideas are completely captivating. He designed a towering vertical power plant in Copenhagen that’s also half climbing wall, half ski slope that blows smoke rings from the huge stack every few minutes. Ingels was then tasked with designing and overseeing a building on the site of the World Trade Center with all the history and emotion that entails and he came up with a breathtaking design.
Partway through the job he suffers a concussion resulting in pounding headaches and constant loud ringing in his ears. Watching him surmount all that while tackling his masterpiece is exhilarating.
Upheaval created by climate change is becoming familiar. Strange weather patterns, rising waters, shrinking glaciers and shocking reports that the Maldives are sinking and in a new limited series, our attention is drawn to The Netherlands. What would happen to the country that lies metres under sea level if an increasingly common “thousand year storm” occurred? That’s the premise of The Swell on Sundance Canada and it’s terrifying. A woman driving along the beach in her car has an anxiety attack and gets out do breathing exercises in the high winds. Instead, she witnesses a windsurfer picked up off the sea and hurled into an apartment block. Her husband is leaving her, setting off with his lover when the woman is knocked dead by a flying highway sign. Buildings and people disappear like that as the country is overtaken; still the government is slow to act on climatologists’ advice to evacuate the entire population. Chaos mounts as the country is destroyed and a new refugee crisis is born. The Swell is old fashioned disaster movie stuff and a super way to blow off steam! www.sundancenow.com
You’re Soaking In It, written and directed by Scott Harper is now on documentary Channel and it just might freak you out. Data drives advertising these days, gleaned mostly from social media, apps permissions that automatically send your info to a data cruncher and other algorithms. This is you can be barraged with “tailored” advertising. Executive Producer Andrew Burnstein says “If you think you know about big data, think again. (Its) ‘the wild west’ of advertising, a whole new, deeper level of personal profiling and targeting, all aimed at knowing you better than you know yourself.” So we are under targeted surveillance all the time. Old school p.r. states its case in this corner and in the other is the newbie digital platform brigade, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Inventors, bosses, commercial legends, academics, pollsters and even fourth graders chime in to answer the ages old question – does advertising work? And the new question how much digital in enough?
La Danseuse (The Dancer) directed by first-timer Stephanie Di Giustoit stars French singer-songwriter and actor Soko, Gaspard Ulliel and Johnny’s girl, Lily-Rose Depp. It’s the true story of the once world-renowned Belle Epoque dancer Loïe Fuller who started her career Stateside as a burlesque skirt dancer before moving to Europe in 1892. She was a member of the traditional Follies Bergère but became a revolutionary in modern dance, using floating silks and custom lighting she invented. Fuller was a heavy set farm girl from the Midwest made to look endless with arm extensions and those miles of silk as she create her signature Serpentine dance. Toulouse Lautrec, the Lumière Brothers and Rodin were fans. She lost faith in herself on meeting and comparing herself to Isadora Duncan and her career ended shortly after. Di Giustoit says Fuller was “physically unattractive. She had a strong, sturdy build and felt like a prisoner in a body she’d rather forget. Yet instinctively, she invented a move that would carry her across the world. The natural grace that she was lacking, she was able to create for her show, and thereby find liberation through her art.”
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