Sunday 15 December 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling Are the Best Couple, Two Old Friends Make Light of  Marriage, Diane Keaton’s Beau is a Tramp, Get Your Ballroom on, Andre Leon Talley, Gay Mean Girls and Loads of Pride Month Viewing!

Late Night is the dose of woman power you’ve been seeking and it’s hilarious. Emma Thompson plays a successful, ageing national late-night talk show host at a crossroads; a recent dip in the ratings puts her under the gun. Ironically the female network head wants hers and the end, after thirty years, seems imminent. She won’t stand for it. Along comes salvation in the form of a new intern, played by Mindy Kaling, a chemical factory worker hired to fulfil a female quota placed on the all-male writer’s room.  Thompson, a onetime standup comic, is fierce as Katherine, Kaling wrote the screenplay and delivers a performance that stands up with Thompson’s, as a principled woman of colour unafraid to speak the truth.  It’s a microcosm of women’s experiences in the workplace, of the balance of power and recognition of talent and it turns this systemic sexism on its head.  The question we have to ask is why don’t we have a female late-night talk show with thirty years under her belt? Take a look at film critics reactions to film. Women like it best, top marks, and men kick it around. ‘Twas ever thus. Listen to me, go see it.

Murder Mystery on Netflix finds an upbeat and winning Jennifer Aniston teamed with her long-time friend Adam Sandler. Fifteen years after the Brooklyn working-class couple married, he takes her on a long-promised European honeymoon. As luck would have it, they meet an English heir to a $90B fortune and accept his invitation to his yacht where his father is marrying the woman he stole from his son. A variety of colourful characters listen aghast when daddy announces he’s changed his will leaving everything to his gold digger fiancée.  In typical English parlour murder mystery fashion, the guests are isolated when the bodies start dropping. The Americans are the prime suspects – he dreams of being a detective –  so he starts their own investigation. This is Agatha Christie Extreme Lite, but Aniston’s energy and commitment, despite the thin, familiar premise, is reason to watch. Plus, Terence Stamp’s in it!!

Twenty-eight years after its initial release, Paris Is Burning has been restored for a theatrical re-release. I remember being completely entranced by this slice of life of the New York Ballroom scene of the ’80s, the African American and Latinx Harlem drag subculture that was outrageous, emotional and triumphant.  Jennie Livingston’s doc, shot over seven years is nostalgic now but just as powerful. The film influenced Ru Paul, Madonna, and many other performers and gave birth to a new language – descriptive words like ‘fierce’, ‘shady’ ‘yassss queen’ or to ‘work’ on a cute Instagram pic. Screens Monday at TIFF Bell Lightbox and in theatres all over the province.  The film with its drag ball contests, house mothers offering protection and love to marginalized youth in the difficult 80s and the incredible style is now reflected in FX’ Pose.

Diane Keaton’s an American ex-pat living in a snooty, expensive London co-op, overlooking its famed Hampstead Heath. Hampstead. Her late husband’s left her in debt and she has no clue what to do so she does nothing. Looking out her attic window one day she spies a ramshackle shed in the heath’s dense wood and a man (Brendan Gleeson) fishing for his supper. Curiosity drives her to the shack where she meets him and learns developers seek to evict him for a condo block.  Keaton and Gleeson’s characters line up as rebels, plan protests against the developers and fall in love.  The film’s based on the true story of Henry Harry Hallowes “who lived the way he wanted”. Keaton’s nutty charm moves the story along, rallying against the classism of Heath residents and embracing the individualist.  With Lesley Manville and James Norton, and directed by Joel Hopkins. On VOD on June 14th.

PBS pays tribute to the 50-year anniversary of Stonewall uprising June 18 with the searing documentary The Lavender Scare. During the Cold War, US President Dwight ousted tens of thousands of homosexuals from federal government jobs, claiming they represented a “security risk”.  This bizarre ruling ruined hundreds of thousands of lives. a witch hunt that lasted forty years. Twenty years earlier, DC was a gay-friendly town, but now people were arrested with no hearings, forced to admit their orientation, stripped of their jobs and forced to name names. Suicide was common. What Eisenhower couldn’t foresee was that he unwittingly launched the LGBTQ2 movement. The Mattachine Society was the launchpad, a national gay support network founded by astronomer and drag queen Frank Kamen. The four-day riot at Greenwich Village’ Stonewall Inn in response to police raids on gay baths, hit the news, and the gay rights movement went full bore.  The whole country was watching.  It’s a breathtaking doc that illuminates the past, a dark chapter of US social history and points the finger at repressive government policies so familiar now.

Pride Month means loads of queer art and film celebrating the diverse voices.  Gay Mean Girls: The Web Series, written by queer women of colour, is based on the breakout short film of the same name that went viral on YouTube in 2015. The new series centres on prom committee member Lucy as she accepts her sexuality, finds a lover and joins the community. The series premieres in a special screening June 19th in Toronto at TIFF Bell Lightbox.  A panel discussion will follow the screening featuring Zhang, Wong, Falle, writer A.C. Liu, moderated by TIFF Next Wave Committee member Olivia Coombs.

Now streaming on CBC Gem The Gospel According to Andre. Andre Leon Tally, a giant of a man, the legendary self-taught style writer and bon vivant is a magnetic and influential personality who has loomed large over the fashion world for forty years.  He grew up poor in the Jim Crow South and found comfort reading Vogue and that’s where he eventually landed, shaping careers of designers, models, personalities and style with impeccable manners and encyclopedic knowledge. The doc features Diana Vreeland, Grace Mirabella, Anna Wintour, Andy Warhol, Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent. Tally admits the flaw is his life is that he never had love because he was too busy. Watch him weep as a tree on his rural New York estate is cut down.

Also available on DVD and Digital Download Tuesday is the searing story of a fact-based terrorist attack heard round the world.  In November 2008, a handful of terrorists sent from Pakistan carried out a brutal massacre inside the historic luxury Taj Palace Hotel, killing thirty-one hotel guests and staff over four days. Anthony Maras’ riveting Hotel Mumbai is a moment to moment depiction of events rendered with shocking immediacy. The relentless pacing mimics the confusion and helplessness inside the hotel and underscores the inhumanity and blank indifference of the attackers.  Help was days arriving but inside unlikely heroes emerged including the hotel Chef, who calmly, strategically shepherds guests to safe places while submerging his own emotions. Incredible story.  The media was shown the film the day of the cowardly Christchurch murders which brought everything into sharp, painful focus.  Armie Hammer, Dev Patel, Nazanin Boniadi and Anupam Kher star.

The eighth annual Toronto Japanese Film Festival, North America’s largest showcase of Japanese cinema is underway now until June 27th at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.  And with it, some of the country’s greatest stars with their latest projects. The festival program explores works in the genres of historical (samurai) jidaigeki, contemporary drama, comedy and action, literary adaptation, children’s, art-house and anime films. And bonus, select screenings will offer musical accompaniment, sake tastings, martial arts demos, art exhibits and plenty of sushi. And major Japanese stars and filmmakers will be in attendance – Shinobu Yaguchi, Ayaka Miyoshi, Mikako Tabe, Toshiyuki Teruya, Tatsushi Omori, Masayuki Suzuki, Kan Guich, Kazuya Shiraishi, Hideyuki Takeuchi, Daisuke Miura, Naoki Segi and many more. Tickets and passes can be purchased at JCCC reception or call (416) 441-2345 and online through For the film lineup and times, go to

by @annebrodie

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