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Sunday 21 October 2018
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

Michael Moore Is Back in Form and He Does Not Care for BS, Life Itself Rollercoaster, Saluting Comic Genius Gilda Radner, Jane Fonda Doc Intrigues and a Horse is Horse

Michael Moore’ returns to form with an eviscerating portrait of Donald Trump with TIFF favourite Fahrenheit 11/9. The Trump era, he says is “the death of idealism, like a bad parent, there is no protection” and we’ve known this since Trump became president 11/9/16.  Moore looks for the root causes of Trumpism and its paid audience ethos, his love of big cheering crowds, especially after the humiliation he suffered when NBC fired him and his reality show. Moore looks at the roots causes of one-time idealist Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne and the sexualised daughter Ivanka.  Moore argues that America is leftist, and offers compelling proofs.  He reveals Trump’s efforts to remove democracy in black communities, like Flint, Michigan with its poisoned water and Puerto Rico.  Moore says Trump routinely gets away with crimes by committing them in the open like TV treason with Vladimir Putin who fixed loans for him billions when he was in the hole in the 80’s and 90’s.  Moore doesn’t spare Democrats lambasting Bill Clinton for his questionable immigration policies, the party for diminishing Bernie Sanders who Moore proves won West Virginia but was sandbagged, and Barack Obama for among other things, denying Flint’s water problem and his unannounced use of the city for military warfare practice.  Moore shows that Trump’s ascension in a leftist country mirrors Hitler’s rise in 1932 Germany through despotism, the use of certain words and phrases, outward hatred, and denial of news media. Moore urges action, and looks to the Parkland #MarchForOurLives generation to vote the decay out. Note: You may not sleepy soundly after viewing.

A strong cast comes to Dan Fogelman’s Babel-esque Life Itself, a multi-generational, international Ancestry: the Movie type of thing.  It’s plotted into chapters that are short, rapid and yet intimate as a family grows and morphs and shrinks and morphs over decades.  It begins with a searing portrait of a man (Oliver Isaacs) whose love for his partner (Olivia Wilde) is too strong, so powerful and smothering that it can’t hold. But that’s not why they are torn apart.  They have a child who suffers great losses by the time she’s six and subsequently has a difficult life. Meanwhile a boy visiting from Spain witnesses a tragic accident then shows up years later and meets a special person.  More stories plays out in Spain as a wealthy man plots to take the family from one of his workers.  Director and writer Dan Fogelman (This Is Us) also directs Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Olivia Cooke, Laia Costa and Mandy Patinkin but lays on too much emotional labour, too many people and more than one manipulative line.  Kudos to Isaac who plays at his wits’ end like a pro.

The keenly awaited doc Love, Gilda is a bittersweet portrait of the gifted comedienne whose death at 42 personifies the phrase “cut down in her prime.” Lis Dapolito’s film captures her wondrous talents and innermost thoughts via her many journals and letters.   Radner grew up in a privilege in Detroit and raised by Dibby, a nanny who was the basis of an SNL character. She playacted from an early age, drinking in her father’s laughs and applause.  Later Radner said became funny instead of perfect example of her gender.  She was a heavy child and her mother put her on Dexedrine at age two. Later in life during the legendary stresses of SNL she developed an eating disorder that required hospitalisation. But no one could top her as a comedy draw.  She rose quickly from uni theatrics to Toronto’s star laden Global Village Theatre, worked with Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short and Eugene Levy, to Second City and ultimately SNL.  She was a big hit, but she said her driving force was always love including among her beaus the entire male cast of Ghostbusters! Radner worked with almost every top comedian of the 70’s and 80’s – and dated a lot of them.  SNL was renowned for being extremely stressful and she was hospitalised for an eating disorder but her new beau, Gene Wilder helped her recover then married her and put her in the movies. Just as she was building a new life in LA far from the strain on New York City, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  So she decided to joke about cancer.  What a woman!  This enchanting doc’s a major trip down memory lane featuring early days footage of Lily Tomlin, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin and the others. The international Gilda’s Place organisation helps women coping with cancer.

HBO debuts the emotional and often raw documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts Sept 24th – it presents a woman of contradictions, an activist who ended a marriage to fulfill her need to make the world a better place, who says she never had a democratic marriage but loved men, a woman hated for her politics and loved by her film fans. She is surprisingly candid about her life from a painful childhood as Henry Fonda’s barely noticed daughter, whose mother killed herself and who describes her first twenty years as dark, sad and joyless.  She found fame and power as an actress but admits she never had much ambition.  Fonda’s ground-breaking Workout tapes, records, videos and book helped launch the home video industry and financed her political activism with then husband Tom Hayden. There are so many unexpected revelations from Fonda and from Robert Redford, Ted Turner, Lily Tomlin, her son and family members; it’s painful to watch at times as she blows the lid off the images we have had of her and the darkness she still feels at age 81 for the failures of her parents to make her feel loved.

Netflix debuts Maniac a strange new dramedy series about a parallel universe in which a drug company seeks people to test a new psychiatric drug. Because of the drug’s extreme risk, the pay is high and it’s just three days! Emma Stone stars as Annie and Jonah Hill is Owen and they sign the dotted line. The question is why and we learn that Owen is a schizophrenic, the lowest ranking son of a wealthy alpha son heavy family in New York, beset with simmering rage and insecurity.  Annie has a past with the drug they’re testing and needs it to overcome, if briefly, the negativity and mistrust in her life stemming from a terrible tragedy.  The drug’s inventor, played by Justin Theroux says it will cure mental illness and heartbreak. Right.

Things go outrageously Pete Tong pretty quickly. Owen’s father asks him to lie to save his brother from imprisonment and Annie’s weighing the possibility that she is a murderer. But she’s not sure.   It’s satire and besides being tongue-in-cheek, should be funny.  It isn’t, it’s funny like a toothache, and sinister. And it’s hard to connect with the characters because they are not engaging and take the dark side of satire too seriously. Stone’s protagonist is deeply unlikeable. Supporting actor Julia Garner, who figures in Annie’s life, is on the other hand, sympathetic, vulnerable and compassionate, in a strong performance.  Otherwise, a nerve shredding experience given its awkward style and situations.

PBS Masterpiece’ three part series The Miniaturist stars Anya Taylor-Joy who grabbed our attention in The Witch, as a poor but well born woman who undertakes an arranged marriage to avoid disaster.  Its 1686.  She travels to Amsterdam to meet the unknown man, not knowing what awaits her.  He’s a globetrotting merchant with a fine home with a brooding nature – and he’s handsome. From that point on, she dresses in luscious silks and velvet garments and eats regularly.  But these joys are short lived as her imperious new sister-in-law makes it obvious she’s not worthy and not wanted.  And brother and sister seem rather too close.  A housemaid and manservant complete the family in this dark house of secrets.  A week after their wedding, hr husband has not touched her and refuses to; she suspects the worst about him and his sister.  His wedding gift to her, a model of their own home, gives her something to do while he “travels”.  She finds but doesn’t meet, a “miniaturist” who sends her items that raise curiosity and then concern. They seem to reflect and presage accurately the dysfunction that’s going on in the house.   It’s absolutely glorious to look at in its fully formed universe of old Amsterdam; it’s wicked and wild but in the turmoil, she finds out who she is, her previously unknown abilities and how adversity can cause one’s heart to grow and love.

CBC’s The Nature of Things offers the three part series Equus- Story of the Horse, starting Sunday night at 8. It traces the human – horse connection and its tremendous importance in global development, from award-winning director and anthropologist Niobe Thompson.  He travels eleven countries to understand the horse’ role in each territory via cutting-edge science and boots on the ground discoveries.

The 45 million year old Dawn Horse, believed to have led to today’s horse, was small, fruit eating and subject to predators, according to fossil remains,   Archeologists, geneticists, horse psychologists, nomads, cowboys and horse whisperers bring their expertise to this loving portrait.  We imagine what it must have been like for early Kazakhstanis to actually get on the fabled creatures and ride them, to learn that horses were tamed twice and riders carried the world’s first pandemic of plague to Europe. Amazing.  Watch online at www.cbc.ca/natureofthings.

by @annebrodie
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI




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