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Wednesday 12 December 2018
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

Ethan Hawke Just Blew My Mind, Juliette Binoche’s Hard Lesson, #BlackLivesMatter in Halifax and the True Crime Film Fest Muscles Its Way to Toronto!

Ethan Hawke has put in superior work in recent years, and I know I severely underestimated him! From Maudie’s triumph to his latest, an extraordinary turn as a priest in First Reformed, Hawke has become a great actor. Paul Schrader wrote and directs a stunning look at a man who must don a false front in order to deal with the many responsibilities of his job in a rural New York church and hide his true nature. Toller begins an experimental diary and notes everything he feels without editing, as a form of prayer, because he can’t pray.  Parishioner Amanda Seyfried asks for help for her husband, a radical activist who can’t face an imperfect future. He wants her to abort their child because of the “unliveabilty” of the planet. Toller looks at his climate change research and is horrified and haunted. He’s also struggling with his poor reputation and alcoholism and is being closed out of a church’ 250 year rededication ceremony.  He’s reached a tipping point. The film’s tone is deeply sombre, and it takes its time and that’s particularly welcome in the jolts-per-second era of filmmaking.  You will be swept up and captivated emotionally and intellectually by Toller’s philosophical journey as he tries to live out his own advice – “life is holding hope and despair in our heads all the time.” Cedric the Entertainer is credibly terrifying and comforting as the pastor who takes him under his wing.

Juliette Binoche takes a journey familiar to many women in Claire Denis’s Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur), as a painter who wants to connect with a man again.  Problem is, the men she chooses are arrogant, abusive, handsy, liars and well, you know the story and we wonder if the problem is her choices, or simply men. And she is expected to go along for some reason and overlook their flaws.  Says a married lover “You’re charming, but my wife is extraordinary,” She’s abandoned after one nighters, another lover stalks her, one is self-absorbed and incapable of connection.  The pain of the film is that she keeps trying and is constantly let down.  There is a sense of the comic as she continues to go down the same roads gain and again, apparently learning nothing. That is until a man comes to save her, when, in the closing credits.  Gerard Depardieu has a sit down with her about men. Arrgghh!

Black Cop sets its tone in the opening sequence, scenes from white cop on black victim moments and the resulting #BlackLivesMatter movement and the power and anger that drive it.  Corey Bowles of Trailer Park Boys wrote and directs a tough study of things reversed, as a black cop played with great power by Ronnie Rowe, patrols the streets of a Halifax.  He is as mistrustful as his white colleagues are of him and he walks a constant knife edge, chewing gum and half smiling, manoeuvring and figuring out if he is being judged for being black. Set during a major police abuse case, things reach a point of no return when his colleagues profile him, setting him on the path of vengeance.  Rage wasn’t far beneath the surface, created over years of racism towards his late father, a cop, and himself.  He becomes the person they says he is, violent, reptilian in his rage, unquenchable. Galvanizing, daring and darkly funny. Black Cop is also on VOD release on June 19.

FX Pose is set in the 1980s as culture and society were changing fast, especially in New York’s Lower East Side.  Diverse sexuality was going above ground, the AIDS epidemic had just begun as a deadly mystery, and there was big money uptown and no money downtown.  Instead there was sex and drugs and performance for the transvestite characters that drive Ryan Murphy’s latest series, escape from the pain could be found after midnight in warehouses – in the highly competitive world of cross-dressing House Balls.  Each night has its own theme – day and evening wear, nautical, royalty and they really mean it.  Members of the House of Abundance group breaks into a museum and steals 17th century royal costuming exhibit for the nights’ breakout show.  Melodrama rules, per Murphy as the new House of Evangelista breaks away from the Queen Mother Abundance.   The transgender cast includes Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Hailie Sahar and Angelica Ross, who star alongside Evan Peters, Kate Mara and James Van Der Beek plus a load of fresh faced newcomers.  Meet titillated visitors from the ‘burbs, streetwalkers with hearts of gold, bankers with secrets to hide, and plenty of line crossing, all with perfect eyeliner. This is refreshing and really fun, and also features a history of significant New York subcultures.

The Toronto True Crime Film Festival runs June 8th – 9th at The Royal Cinema and Monarch Tavern in Toronto. The lineup includes five screenings and three symposium events, and 15% of sales will be donated to charity.  Here’s a taste of crime films on tap.

Abducted in Plain Sight from Skye Borgman, is a “stranger-than-fiction documentary about the Brobergs, a naïve, church-going Idaho family that fell under the spell of a sociopathic neighbour who would stop at nothing to be with their twelve-year-old daughter.”  It screens with the short film Maybe If It Were a Nice Room from Canadian director Alicia K. Harris.

My Name Is Myeisha from Gus Krieger, “a hip-hop musical inspired by the 1998 police shooting of California teen Tyisha Miller, adapted from the internationally acclaimed play, Dreamscape”.  It’s paired with the Oscar-nominated short film Traffic Stop.

The Stranger from Nicole Nielsen Horanyi is a cautionary tale. “After meeting the man of her dreams on Facebook, Amanda finds herself being swept off her feet by Casper, the dedicated father and charming heir to a family fortune. But everything that Casper has told her is a lie”. The documentary-narrative features re-enactments by the IRL characters.   Screens with the short film 42 Counts.

Hostages from Rezo Gigineishvili, a “tension-filled, fact based drama about a 1983 airplane hijacking by a group of Georgian youth trying to escape the Soviet Union”.  It screens with the short film Don’t Be A Hero.

It’s been fifteen years since Charlize Theron shocked us with her intense portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Patty Jenkin’s Monster, and it’s time to revisit this incredible film, made by Jenkins who went on to make Wonder Woman.  Monster closes the festival.  It screens with the short film The Sandman.


by @annebrodie
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