Victor Kossakovsky’s Aquarela features zero narration, near zero conversation, but its alarmingly loud. Through the sounds of water rushing, ice shattering and splintering without interruption, we learn that global warming is accelerating, no words necessary, the images scream for themselves. The film opens on Siberia’s frozen Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake where the thaw has come too early. People are driving cars across the ice and going under one by one. Men put their lives at risk on treacherous ice to drag out submerged cars. The body count that day: one. Then to Greenland’s ice sheets and glaciers, melting and crumbling at an incredible rate, tonnes of water pouring out from the once icy depths, out of control, and unending. Its stressful watching mass destruction, these are our ecosystems out of wack. Over the water comes the sound of sirens as the film cuts to a tsunami in Southeast Asia, animals and people dazed by the devastation from a brutal influx of water. Yacht sailors face thirty-foot waves in the Atlantic, California’s Oroville Dam overflows flooding nearby communities, Hurricane Irma obscures Miami streets. The endless roar of water, that mighty destructive and necessary resource rings its own alarms, as the world faces irreversible climate change harm. The poetic style and the remarkable beauty of the images are seductive but what lies in plain sight is the awful truth. The planet is in flux. The film doesn’t preach; it doesn’t need to – it’s all there for the eye to see. Stunning, emotional and beyond debate.
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Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Michelle Derosier harrowing, Angelique’s Isle based on the story of Angelique Mott is a study of spirit, morality and resilience. Its 1845 near Sault Ste Marie; a young Anishinaabe woman (Julia Jones) marries a French-Canadian voyageur. They go against her grandmother’s (Tantoo Cardinal) instincts to join two Detroit businessmen on a search for copper on Lake Superior’s Isle Royale. They’re left there for two weeks to guard a rock loaded with the mineral but before long, autumn sets in and then winter. No food, no animals, no fishing hooks; isolation starvation and wicked weather take their toll, her husband apologises for ignoring her entreaties not to take the job, but it is too late. Angelique, a Christian, educated at a residential school, receives spirit messages from her grandmother. The casual, knowing cruelty of the businessmen is at the heart of the story, preying on the naivete of the innocent. The beauty of the Thunder Bay locations takes on a chilling evil as the men’s treachery carries out its will.
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Max Lewkowicz’ award-winning history of one of Broadway’s most successful musicals Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles reveals the origins and growing pains of the beloved Fiddler on The Roof, back on the sixties, at a time when the idea of “tradition” was evolving fast. Some thought there would be little enthusiasm for a story that was the epitome of religious tradition but the story of peasants in thousand-year-old Russian Anatetkov is anything but hidebound. It appeals to anyone forced to leave their homes and there are so many these days, in this case, Jews being sent from their home of a thousand years to what fate held, against their will and as a result of anti-Semitism. From a simple life in their shtetl to a changing, modern and dangerous world is a difficult journey. Fran Lebowitz warns that nostalgia is toxic set against Jews in a pogrom but praises the musical’s feminism and resilience. The film crew travelled to Eastern Europe to see the village that inspired the musical and explore ideas that led later to the Holocaust. It offers no solutions to problems that exist today as a result, acknowledging only that “its complicated”. Interviews with Manuel Miranda, Joel Grey, Chaim Topol and Harvey Fierstein.
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Steve Coogan’s the perfect choice to play an alt-right New York radio host, modelled on Bill O’Reilly, Morgan Piers, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones, in a hit radio show called appropriately Hot Air. Coogan’s a satirist (Alan Partridge) who is able to get deep into the dark souls of the folks he’s skewering, including himself. He’s Lionel Macomb, an outrageous, charismatic star who loathes immigrants, Democrats and the like. Lately, his numbers dropped so he’s having to undergo a mandated change of pace. His 16-year-old progressive niece shows up, having run away from her addicted mother, and he has no clue how to handle an actual human situation. Neve Campbell plays his girlfriend who sees him for what he is but loves him nonetheless. He seems unable to take the chance of redemption he’s given and face himself. Despite all this fodder, the film is tepid even as it plays hard on today’s political agita. On VOD / digital.
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Inside Lehman Brothers, a chilling look at the trail of woe left behind by the 2008 Wall Street Crash and the role played by compliant players may cause sleepless nights. Canadian filmmaker Jennifer Deschamps opens on a woman living in 10 acres of forested seclusion, learning martial arts so she could, if necessary, kill someone with her bare hands. She was a Lehman Brothers employee before the crash and she’s frightened because she knows too much. An Australian former CEO is forced to move around the world on his motorcycle after blowing the whistle on the company. An examiner tells how Lehman Brothers and their holdings’ financial records were so complex they had to hire professors to untangle it. 25 thousand employees lost their jobs when the company declared bankruptcy. And those who knew what was happening went into hiding. So, what did Lehman Brothers do? It allowed greed to dictate its actions at the cost of America’s middle class and indeed the world, through corruption, theft, lies and imaginative interpretations of the law. They hid billions in earnings and bonuses, using loopholes and means that weren’t yet illegal while stranding aspiring homeowners in financial hell through cruel subprime mortgages. Female employees say they were threatened and sexually harassed after drawing attention to discrepancies in the books. CEO Dick Fuld may have allowed Lehman Brother to take the economic world down with it in 2008, but he was unrepentant. The entire affair beggars the imagination. The doc rings alarm bells for us today, right now as new financial /corporate threats against the average citizen emerge. And yes, Donald Trump figures on the dark side. Airs on CBC documentary Channel Sunday night.
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One of the great feminist tv sitcoms is now streaming on Hulu – what a gift. Designing Women which ran on CBS from 1986-1993, concerns fiery decorators Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter), Suzanne (Delta Burke), a selfish, ex-beauty queen sister, Mary Jo (Annie Potts), an opinionated single mother and Charlene (Jean Smart) a naive country bumpkin. Ex-con handyman Anthony Bouvier (Meshach Taylor), soon becomes one of the gals.
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Great writing, acting and intent, like Julia reaching that high note in church, accidentally sleeping with a 22-year-old, getting into a war with a New York newspaper, Suzanne inadvertently shooting Anthony, as her pet pig runs amok in her mansion, 163 eppies over seven seasons.
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The behind-the-scenes action is its own story… look it up! And here’s’ Julia phoning Donald Trump.
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I’ve always found comedian Jim Gaffigan to be disarming and appealing, he’s affable, keeps it clean for all ages audiences and there’s lots of wit and humour in his self-deprecation. He looks harmless but make no mistake, he’s got edge. And his new special Jim Gaffigan: Quality Time on Amazon Prime Video is fun! His light-hearted, optimistic and sometimes searing observations strike a nerve, this teddy bear of a man who occasionally uses an interesting insistent whisper, nails it again and again. He talks about murdering wives, facing up to bears in Alaska which he likens to celebrity sightings only with the risk of death. He mourns the fact that centaurs don’t exist “anymore” before launching into a brilliantly funny extended bit on horses. And he admits when he travels without his kids, “there’s hours of happiness.”
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