By Anne Brodie
Netflix takes us to a time not unlike our own in the excellent film, The Trial of the Chicago 7. Aaron Sorkin revisits the protest-turned-riot outside the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago when high profile yippies Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Black Panther Bobby Seale spoke out against the white patriarchy, the polarising Vietnam war, and the doubling of boys drafted to go there. The protesters were committed to non-violence but when police responded with force, things got out of control in what was described later as the “Academy Awards of protest”. They were arrested on charges of inciting a riot and tried before Judge Julius Hoffman, (played by a seething, unbalanced Frank Langella). John Mitchell, US Attorney General called the defendants “Rebels without a Job”, “little fairies” and “a danger to national security”. The complicated unfolding of the trial, the backroom machinations of government and judiciary officials and of the yippies themselves are plainly drawn. Sorkin avoids his usual verbal density for an elegant, persuasive and mature film that hits all the right notes. Stars Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and John Carroll Lynch. Bracing and sadly all too familiar.
Gloria Steinem one of the most important feminist writers and activists of the last sixty years is the subject of a fantasy biopic from writer-director Julie Taymor. The title The Glorias refers to the development of her vision; she grew up poor and itinerant as her father (Timothy Hutton) was a travelling salesman; he was ambitious and had the old razzle-dazzle but didn’t have much success and left Gloria alone with her mother. She admired his blustering optimism and noted his ability to persuade. Her mother (Enid Graham) gave up a promising career in journalism to be a housewife and suffered mental illness which doctors weren’t much interested in treating. Little Gloria, her caretaker saw the cost of contemporary social conventions. As a young woman (Alicia Vikander) Gloria travels to India as a law clerk, studying the caste system, reaffirming her ideal of social equality. Back in the US, Steinem worked as a Playboy Bunny for a story and learned about sexism. As Steinem, the warrior is Julianne Moore, a fully formed woman, thinker, and fighter. Appearances by Janelle Monáe, Lorraine Toussaint and Bette Midler and animated fantasy sequences add visual, and eccentric whimsy. VOD.
Save Yourselves! is a great chaser to The Glorias. A young Brooklyn couple (Sunita Mani, John Reynolds) realise they are over-attached to their devices; they can’t even have sex without checking texts. The cure? An unplugged week in the country. They’re well-matched and relatable, fun, smart and the chemistry’s great, should be a fun week. And then she’s fired. Once in the country they hear gunshots, dismiss them, then watch a meteor shower, see one land on earth and dismiss it. She’s making lists, and he tells her to stop and be authentic and they both try hard, but pop culture is never far “What is the real Spider-Man? A man covered in spiders”. They hike in the forest and find an adorable baby and gladly take it in, without much thought. That strange fuzzy ball in the living room has a mind of its own. She grabs the phone she said she’d leave alone, and sees tonnes of texts, “Yankee Stadium’s destroyed” “Julian is dead” “Can you come over?”. Funny, satirical, ultra-zany and filled with love and optimism. Highly recommended with kudos to the cast. VOD.
Apple TV introduces Tehran, an espionage thriller series set in Iran, a huge hit in the Middle East that’s finally landed here. Niv Sultan plays Tamar, a Mossad computer hacker tasked with getting into Iran, which she does through creative subterfuge, accessing the country’s nuclear weapons mainframe in a highly secured building and destroying the system. Tamar’s seconds away from shutting it down when the building’s closed due to a security threat. She’s attacked by a man and he’s left dead as she runs into the city. She reports to her bosses but she’s alone in the cold in enemy territory. But then, Tamar rediscovers her Iranian roots and a realization comes over her about her life and work, feelings that are sharpened when she meets a pro-democracy activist. Iranian intelligence is after her with one man (Shaun Toub) taking her betrayal personally. Tehran is extremely intense, and it’s smart and fast, with little dramatic relief. I learned a lot about life and alliances in certain parts of the world.
Another, earlier spy, an American woman named Virginia Hall conducted sabotage missions and helped build France’s resistance movement during the Nazi occupation. Winston Churchill recruited women, a bold move, to carry out dangerous intelligence missions against the Nazis. A Call to Spy starring, written, and directed by Sarah Megan Thomas follows two women, Hall, and Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte), a Muslim pacifist as they undermine the Nazi subjugation of France. Hall didn’t take any nonsense; she was singularly focused on saving her beloved France, hobbled by a wooden leg, and determined to give her all. Khan wanted to do great work representing India to heal the rift between her homeland the UK. They learn to use machinery and electrical systems, how to function under stress and how to kill a man. Hall finds a landing strip for a British nighttime mission and attempts to blow up a train line, she’s captured and tortured. Her story doesn’t end there. As well as being a mighty undertaking, A Call to Spy is immensely interesting. Shades of Trumpism in the Nazi occupation are startling.
Michelle Latimer and Tony Elliott’s highly anticipated indigenous miniseries Trickster premieres October 7 on CBC and CBC Gem, following its debut at TIFF. Jared (Joel Oulette), a well-meaning high schooler must come up with major money fast to pay his mother’s (Crystle Lightning) drug dealer. He’s the adult in the family as she’s either loaded or thinking about having a good time. She loves him but she’s unable to function. He has a job at a fast-food place and a major secret job that brings in the bucks. He’s a sensitive guy; he takes things to heart and the stress of home, school and jobs is mounting. A mysterious figure (Kalani Queypo) shows up around town with his vibe of doom and soon, well, monsters, magic and growing up – it’s a tough world Jared inhabits. The storytelling is top-notch.
Throughout October, the National Film Board of Canada offers free streaming of their films and documentaries via www.NFB.ca. The lineup of highly relevant and profoundly humanistic new works is in addition to the existing NFB catalogue of 4,000 titles. On October 5th, the short documentary Open Sky: Portrait of a Pavilion in Venice by Katerine Giguère in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada highlights a breathtaking architectural gem, Canada Pavilion, at the Venice Biennale. https://mediaspace.nfb.ca/epk/open-sky
Starting October 10 marking World Mental Health Day, Shannon Amen by Chris Dainty(2019, English Program Animation Studio) Based on the words, music, and art of Shannon Jamieson, the animated short examines the frantic, passionate, and pained expressions of a young woman overwhelmed by guilt and anxiety as she struggles to reconcile her sexual identity and religious faith. mediaspace.nfb.ca/shannon-amen
Starting October 15, marking Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day with Moments of Life by Samuel-A. Caron and France Gallant introduces a group of bereaved parents to ways of coping. mediaspace.nfb.ca/moments-of-life
And something a little different, Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 2 now on Amazon Prime Video is available for viewing in 240 countries. Celebrity guest models include Bad Bunny, Ella Mai, Miguel, Mustard, Roddy Ricch, Rosalia, Lizzo, Bella Hadid, Big Sean, Cara Delevingne, Christian Combs, Demi Moore, Laura Harrier, Normani, Paloma Elsesser, Paris Hilton, Willow Smith, in the latest “savage” styles ranging from soft cotton undies to extreme sexy unmentionables. The event is “shoppable” at Amazon Fashion and https://www.savagex.com/