Wednesday 13 November 2019
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Politics, Courtesans, Kingmakers, Toning Down Deadpool, Schindler’s List 25th Celebration and Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie? Have Your Say.

The Favourite is a gloriously over-the-top and occasionally revolting look at England’s Queen Anne, 1665 – 1714. Director Yorgos Lanthimos who gave us The Lobster paints pungent pictures of a court that is equally funny and distressing and of Queen Anne, a woman in a permanent daze and occasional rage, surrounded by dangerously ambitious courtiers. She throws up quite a bit and makes love to her favourite ladies and ignores matters of state. Oliva Colman is outstanding in this unexpected, almost animalistic, dim bulb characterisation that appears to come from a deep and dark place.  Her Queen Anne is a person of contrasts, defeated, demanding, and joyous (around her only true friend the rabbits), and profoundly depressed. She demands fealty, then wants it all to go away and wishes she were dead.  Her advisor/ mouthpiece and lover, Lady-of-the-Bedchamber Sarah (Rachel Weisz) rules in her stead because Anne can’t string a thought together. She also keeps her up to date on threats against her and other gossip.  It’s a system that works in a way, until a new servant (Emma Stone) comes along; she’s pretty and fun and dethrones the Queen’s lover in an nasty struggle for power.  Who the heck knows how accurate any of this is, but Lanthimos creates a total world with people we wouldn’t recognise today. People without benefit of good hygiene, psychiatrists and with too many courtiers.  But he creates a world that is brutally compelling, that’s also shocking and highly amusing. Co-star Nicholas Hoult is fabulous as a troublemaker, in this most troubled of movie Royal Courts. Joe Alwyn, James Smith, Mark Gatiss co-star.

Alexis Bloom’s stomach-churning disturbing doc on the late ultra-right wing conservative broadcaster Roger Ailes goes a long way to explain what we’re seeing today in American politics and the guy in the White House. Divide and Conquer: the Roger Ailes Story. He’s the guy who created Fox network to “rile up the crazies” to keep them watching and make himself wealthy, and to settle scores. He succeeded, leaving dead bodies and careers in his wake as he helped shaped three Republican Presidential campaigns and the rightist doctrine we know so well today.  Ailes based the imagery of his campaigns on the films of Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” and created Obama lies and the birther question.  Speculation that he was fuelled by terror and pushed by an abusive father to get what he wanted by any means possible doesn’t take the stain off him – he was apparently without any kind of moral rigour. He was fired from his own company for habitual sexual harassment, blocking women who wouldn’t say yes, and quipping “If you wanna play with the big boys, you gotta lay with the big boys”.  He crashed his way through life, even threatening and stalking his rival in the Cold Spring, New York mayoralty race, population 1,900.  Ailes’ wife called him “more important than America”.  Sound like anyone you know? There is so much more in this enlightening film, including the women who brought him down, his death from something he feared his entire life and those in high places today whom he shaped.

From sturm and drang to light romantic comedy, ya’ll. Amber Stevens West, Shamier Anderson, Mike Epps, Lyriq Bent and Marla Gibbs star in Love Jacked, a sunny and easily digestible boy-meets girl, boy loses girl, etc. tale that stretches credulity.   West is Maya who goes to Africa to find meaning to spite her father, and announces she is engaged to a man she met there. Truth is she caught him in flagrante and there is no more engagement. Once home in LA she gets a guy she meets at a diner to pose as her African prince, to avoid judgment by her father, wedding plans are made, yadda, yadda, yadda, the whole family winds up in Africa. It’s a romcom trifle that’s asks nothing and gives less. Written by Robert Adetuyi and directed by Alfons Adetuyi.

Once upon a Deadpool is a special Christmas treat from Ryan Reynolds and Merc the Mouth, a mirthful mashup of Deadpool and Deadpool 2 that get this, is rated PG!  So, kids, this means you are finally able to see Deadpool legally! as all the R-Rated material has been trimmed away. “Fox has been asking for (this) since the start in 2006,” Ryan Reynolds told Deadline. “I’ve said no since 2006. Now, this one time, I said ‘yes’ on two conditions. First, a portion of the proceeds had to go to charity. Second, I wanted to kidnap Fred savage. The second condition took some explaining…” Fred Savage appears in added scenes inspired by his starring role The Princess Bride.  Sez Fred “While my participation in this film was anything but voluntary, I am happy to learn that fudge cancer will be the beneficiary of this shameless cash grab”. For every ticket sold, $1 will go to the charity Fudge Cancer – previously known as “F-bomb” Cancer, who have graciously changed their name to be more PG-13 friendly for the 12 days of Once Upon a Deadpool’s release.

Steven Spielberg’s landmark Holocaust drama Schindler’s List came out 25 years ago, and became one of the most commercially successful and iconic films of its time. Set in Poland in WWII during the Nazi occupation, it tells the story of an industrialist and Nazi intelligence agent Oskar Schindler who grew increasingly appalled by the official anti-Semitic treatment of Jews.  He opened his enamelware factory to Jewish labourers to protect them from the camps and eventually used his entire fortune to bribe officials to keep his workers alive. Liam Neeson is imposing and heart wrenching as Schindler and Ralph Fiennes is incendiary as the concentration camp master; both won Oscars as did Spielberg and the film for a total of seven in addition to another 82 awards. Schindler’s List is remastered and in re-release to celebrate the anniversary. It mini-release leads nicely to TIFF Bell Lightbox’ retrospective on Spielberg December 21st to January 10.

Academy Award winner Thomas Lennon has made 40 documentary films and now turns his attention to the idea of faith. Sacred airing Mon Dec 10 on PBS looks at faith as a primary human experience and elements of its expression in ritual and prayer, and how we relate to the idea of a superior being, on following religious strictures and how it aids people in turbulent times. Lennon has literally covered the globe making films covering an enormous field of stories. He got his start working for ABC News in the Soviet Union, the Middle East and South America. So it seems reasonable to turn to the subject of faith after having seen so much in the world.  Forty filmmakers in far flung places contributed to making of Sacred.

Keira Knightley moves her image in a new direction in Wash Westmoreland’s historical biography Colette available Tuesday on DVD. When we think of the life in the 19th and the early 20th century Europe, we tend to think the repression of the British Victorianism as a strong influence. But in Paris, we find a Colette married to a bestselling author (Dominic West) now aware of her own desires and being.  She’s a gifted writer and editor of her husband’s work – but writes an erotic novel and publishes it under his name. It’s a big hit, and he encourages then demands she write more.  She does but secretly finds a publisher who releases it under her name; she becomes a sensation in some circles, a reviled libertine in others, but she’s now her own boss.  It’s an inspiring tale of empowerment, of a feminist lesbian, a pioneer, and important literary figure. Knightley exceeds herself in the role and the beautiful cinematography, costuming and art direction reek of the sensuality she finally discovered.

Bruce Willis insists it isn’t but the fans insist Die Hard IS a Christmas movie!  What do you think? Christmassy? Not Christmassy? Let us know in the comments section and oh, it’s playing this weekend at the Cinesphere on Lakeshore Boulevard. Yippee Ki Yi Yay!!

by @annebrodie

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