Friday 22 November 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

As Mother Always Told Me, There’s Nought Like Folk, Especially Family, We Visit a Fabled Manhattan Hostelry, Meet Harlots and Celebrate Tom Hanks!

Well, friends, Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp – the first female superhero named film – AND Evangeline Lilly is Canadian – is here, but I have no review. I was AWOL when Disney showed the film to press, taking a well-deserved break up north. Can you blame me in this scorching weather?  However, a wasp pestered me, and there were ants aplenty so I reckon we’re square. Go, enjoy, fight the good fight!

Debra Granik’s sobering Leave No Trace based on Peter Rock’s fact-based book My Abandonment, a compelling study of survival, family bonds and the crippling effect of PTSD, stars Ben Foster as Will and Thomasin Mackenzie as his daughter Tom.  It follows a homeless teenage girl and her father on the run and camping in Portland’s huge urban park; they’ve built a sustainable long term but illegal “home” in the woods and life on the fringes is good.  But Tom’s homeschooling includes “the drill” – how to escape camp and disappear into the brush in case the authorities show up but one day she lets her guard down and she’s spotted.  Police show up, arrest and separate them, put them through psychological testing and forcibly house them.  She says that everything is different now and he replies “Our camp was such a good one. Yeah we stayed too long”.  A job and compulsory church attendance put him on edge but she begins to crave a “normal” life.  He makes her run again only to see their woods camp bulldozed; they escape and hitchhike north. They nearly succumb to freezing temperatures but Will’s paranoia outranks all other considerations including Tom’s welfare.  She reminds him that she “doesn’t have” what he has, and they reach a heartbreaking impasse. The woodland cinematography is breathtaking; the woods have never felt so real on film. Leave No Trace is a powerful and devastating call for help for ill veterans, a love letter to nature and familial love.  Mackenzie is effortlessly lifelike in a stunning, delicate performance and Foster is as usual, stellar and dominant. Look out Oscar.

The generation gap divides another father and daughter in the family road dramedy Boundaries.  Christopher Plummer and Vera Farmiga can’t communicate, perhaps for lack of trying, and their relationship is deteriorating fast.  She dislikes him intensely as do most people. He’s kicked out of his retirement home so she plans to dump him across the country with her sister.  Meanwhile her 14 year old son is drawing naked caricatures of family members. Father confesses he’s a pot dealer, and this road trip is not because he’s dying and needs a home, but so he can drop off orders.  One customer, played by Christopher Lloyd serves them candy corn casserole; next stop a Buddhist monastery and finally LA and her ex played by a raucous Bobby Cannavale.  All the while she wonders why people don’t conform to her ways (I’ve got news for you, Vera) and uses a fair amount of screen time screeching and acting like a five year old.  This fractured family tale is irritating, loud and superficial and wastes the talents of the actors. Plus the writing is peculiar at times. This from grandpa “even pedophiles know to steer clear of your bad vibes”. Whoa!

There is lots of gossipy fun to be had with Always at the Carlyle, a star studded documentary on the fabled, genteel New York hotel that boasts the most famous elevator ride in history, with Princess Diana, Michael Jackson and Steve Jobs.  It’s policy is to keep what happens at the Carlyle at the Carlyle, but a little research and insider help and the crew manage to get some great dirt. Among the Carlyle’s guests – JFK, MM, Frank Sinatra, Wes Anderson, Elle Fanning, Rihanna, Mick Jagger, Kate and William, Jack Nicholson, David Bowie, Elton John, Paul Newman, Lucille Ball (famously chewing a wad of gum), Elaine Stritch, Harrison Ford, Elizabeth Taylor, Woody Allen, Roger Federer, Alan Cumming who posed nude at the front entrance and JFK Jr. who ate his last breakfast there.  The art deco hostelry’s Bemelmans’s Bar is world famous as is the Café Carlyle where Bobby Short headlined for 35 years.  Many of the hotel’s spaces were designed by the pioneering Dorothy Draper and are now overseen by her protégé Carlton Varney.  Interviewees include the late Anthony Bourdain, Naomi Campbell, Jon Hamm, George Clooney, Regis Philbin and Joy, Anjelica Huston, Sofa Coppola, Lenny Kravitz, Fran Lebovitz, Buster Poindexter are interviewed for the film with Jeff Goldblum, Tommy Lee Jones and a chatty housekeeper.  This doc is so much fun!  Sidebar: Big thinker Donald Trump says “this place is a joke”.

Hulu’s fierce women of Harlots return for a second season, running one of 18th century London’s top bordellos. Their business was steeped in marketing know-how, and organised and run like any man’s business and it’s a success. Samantha Morton plays Margaret the matriarch of the Wells family business. Leslie Mann (The Phantom Thread) is her business arch rival, and in whose bawd Margaret’s daughter finds work.  Liv Tyler joins the cast as a socialite fascinated by the underbelly lifestyle who becomes involved in the struggle for dominance.  The stories are based on true events and real women! Besides nerve crunching plotlines and wonderful performances, the series’ sumptuous art direction and wardrobe are to die for.

PBS has launched an exciting new six-part food series created and hosted by superstar international chef Marcus Samuelson to appeal to our appetite for food, travel, diversity and community.  No Passport Required studies the development of American cuisine today, as it is influenced by immigrant cultures. Each week, a new cuisine and a new community are highlighted via home cooks, restaurateurs, artists, musicians and scholars.  Samuelson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and is now based on Harlem, New York and asks “What would America be without all the immigrants? Not as delicious! Not as tasty!”  He begins in Detroit, where he meets Middle Eastern immigrants and tastes their food, then heads to the Ethiopian community in Washington, D.C.  Also featured are immigrant communities in New Orleans, Chicago, Queens NY, and Miami.

Feel like a HanksfestCineplex has you covered. Everyone’s favourite celebrity is subject of a four week retrospective, each film running a full week and it’s on now.  Hanx turns 62 on July 9 and I for one, feel like celebrating his legacy.

From now until July 12 catch A League of Their Own (1992) a heart-warming comedy about The Rockford Peaches, an all-female baseball team battling for supremacy in the Mid-West during the male shortage of WWII. Geena Davis and a brunette Madonna star and Hanx plays their publicity mad manager; together they keep baseball alive and kicking as the fellas fight overseas.

July 13 to 19 features Big (1988) another of Hanx heart-warming, feel good flicks about a 12 year old boy who wishes himself 30 – et voila! He is, and his job as a toy tester is great fun at first but he learns being an adult is tough and starts to long for the simplicity of being a kid again.  Remember Hanx tap dancing on a giant piano? Big reminds us all to stop, smell the roses and act our ages, or put differently, find happiness as we are.

Experience a different Hanx in the space epic Apollo 13 (1995) running July 20 – 26 as Jim Lovell, the American astronaut who got the spacecraft and his crew back to earth safely when an explosion scotched their mission to land on the Moon. Tensions ramp up as chances of a good outcome seem remote and then the ultimate triumph! Wow. The film was nominated for nine Oscars and earned $355 M, a huge amount then.

Finally from July 27 – August 5 – Forrest Gump (1994) winner of six Oscars and people’s hearts takes us through decades in the American south through the eyes of a man who can’t help but become involved in historical moments.  Gump’s 75 IQ is not his emotional quotient; he has a huge heart, profound compassion and gift for recognising and healing others. The films swift pacing, the historic events re-visited, the soundtrack and Hanx’ career-making work make Forrest Gump a masterpiece. To see it on the big screen in 2018 is a gift.

by @annebrodie

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