Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Opening Soon

It's so many weeks past the film festival, I'm embarrassed to keep doing my quasi-reviews, but watching TV right now, I saw an ad for Pride and Glory, opening this weekend, and it inspired me to try again.

So, Pride and Glory.

Ed Norton and Colin Farrell, I thought reading through the festival program. How could this not be great?? And it was good.

Me? I liked the performance of Noah Emmerich who I think is an underrated actor who I've been a fan of since I saw Beautiful Girls back in the nineties. (With Timothy Hutton and a tween-aged Natalie Portman as love interests. But it wasn't creepy. Honest. Rent that film if you haven't seen it.)

But back to Pride and Glory. I think this was a decent film and the performances were great. My issue was that I feel like I've seen it before. Perhaps I'm just getting jaded. Perhaps I've just seen too many movies, and read too many books, and watched too much TV, so little seems fresh to me anymore.

It's a story of a family of cops who must face the fact that one of them is a dirty cop and they all must decide whether to put family or justice first. Haven't we seen this before? I used to think Ed Norton could do no wrong... but I didn't even see the recent Hulk film after it got so soundly trashed by the critics...

Looking through my not-yet-reviewed list... I don't actually think any others are opening soon. But, in related news one film I saw at the 2007 fest just opened. Here's a link to my review last year of Battle in Seattle. Okay, it's less of a review and more of a discussion of the star watching that evening. My biggest beef with Battle in Seattle (if memory serves, it's been more than a year since I saw it) is that I felt the big, emotionally-charged moments of the film were fiction masquerading as non-fiction. And that felt a tad dishonest to me. But it did have some great, make-you-gasp moments and didn't too aggressively take sides. The film blends actual footage of the riots at the WTO meetings with the film's footage, and I guess that's why I felt manipulated by some of the story elements.

Okay, one more from this year. One I really liked but might not get a theatrical release. $5 a Day.

Full disclosure on my thumbs up endorsement of this film. I totally heart Alessandro Nivola. In this film, he plays the estranged son of a small-time hustler, played by Christopher Walken. The son ended up doing some time, after taking the blame for one of his dad's failed schemes and has moved on with his life, with a boring job as a restaurant health inspector and a fiancee (Amanda Peet) who's perfect, except she's on the verge of dumping him because he won't open up and tell her anything about his past. Because, of course, he's completely hiding his shady past and his embarrassing dad. But dad calls, claiming he's dying, and the fiancee takes the message, and the son ends up getting pulled into helping his dad, who's convinced he can live on only $5 a day, either by running little scams, or taking advantage of free offers. What transpires is a very unique road film, meeting Sharon Stone and Peter Coyote on the way, and of course, some family bonding.

I thought this film really worked, so I hope I'm wrong about it not getting a very wide distribution. The screen writer also wrote Calendar Girls, so who knows... Check it out if and when it does open.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Season change -- BANG!

Weekend before last was Thanksgiving in Canada. My memories of his holiday are fresh, crisp air, fallen leaves, and a walk in the woods wearing a warm jacket.

This year and last? A walk in the woods, wearing shorts and a tank top, sweating. Okay, this year it wasn't HOT, but it was warm. Probably in the low seventies in that adorably antiquated Fahrenheit system you Americans still cling to. ;-)

Ten days later? WOW. Gloomy and windy and they forecasted 8 degrees (mid forties?) rain, mixed with wet snow for this afternoon!!!! Really?

Haven't seen any evidence of the white stuff yet, but that's too fast for me.

Mother Nature. Slow down. No wonder I had a killer sinus headache yesterday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October Ovation

My good writer-friend, Barrie Summy, whose debut middle grade book, I So Don't Do Mysteries, will be released in December, asked me to join in a blog round-up today -- an October Ovation.

The idea is to blog about someone you admire.

I spent a fair bit of time thinking about this post, because there are plenty of people, famous or not, alive or not, friends and family or not, whom I admire, but in the end, I decided to blog about my older sister.

I've always admired her. I mean, she's my big sister; ergo, it was my job to look up to her. At least that's what she always told me. ;-) But in the past almost five years that admiration has increased tenfold. (Exactly ten times. I did the math.) Why the increase? Because of the fabulous and brave and mature and caring way she's coped with the, at first devastating, news that her son, my lovely nephew, has autism. Something that was confirmed just a month shy of his third birthday.

Now, before I start getting hate mail, I know that autism isn't necessarily a devastating diagnosis -- certainly not compared to parents who face news that their children have terminal illnesses -- but any parent (or auntie) hates to hear that their child will face special challenges in life. And let's face it, a certain percentage of kids with autism never grow to be independent adults, so the diagnosis is scary.

Scary for that easy-to-guess reason, but also scary because the medical community offers parents virtually no answers, virtually no hope or guarantees or even guesses at whether their child will be able to function at school or in society as a whole. And gives them virtually no guidance or advice in how to improve the odds.

So parents are left to sift through information from a variety of non-medical sources, to evaluate theories that often conflict and are advocated or disparaged by heated opinions, and to cope with stress upon stress upon stress. (It was only a few decades ago, that doctors were still blaming autism on the mothers for not showing their kids enough affection. Can you believe it?) But instead of sticking her head in the sand, or getting overwhelmed, my sister got educated. She sifted through all the conflicting information and fought to get therapies to help her son. If a particular therapy, or supplement, or diet made sense to her and the source recommending it was reliable, she tried it.

As an example, my nephew is one child with autism who responded to a modified diet. I've seen the clear evidence of that. (My nephew, after eating wheat pasta or bread, looks and acts like a drunk on too many martinis, and many foods not only make him spacy, but also give him severe diarrhea. And yet, most doctors still insist these diets are bogus and have no effect on autism!)

So diet helps him, but it's a lot of work to feed a child on a gluten free, cassien free, egg free, many-other-things free diet. It was even a challenge to figure out which diet modifications made a difference and which did not. And who had to deal with all that? Primarily my sister. So she learned how to bake and cook without virtually any grains except rice -- and no corn and no dairy and no soy. (Just read a few labels to see how few foods contain neither dairy nor corn nor soy.) She learned ways to get her son and the rest of her family to eat a very different diet and, for example, make sure knives that had been used to spread something on wheat or even spelt breads don't contaminate food that he can eat.

And in stating my admiration for my sister, giving her an October Ovation, I don't want to diminish my brother-in-law's role in dealing with the autism in their family. I know he was initially skeptical about some of the therapies that she wanted to try (my sister already believed in homeopathic health techniques before the diagnosis, and he has siblings who are medical doctors who still scoff at the idea that diet and supplements affect autism) but again, he got educated. He read and went to conferences and listened to the scientific evidence. He, too observed the positive effect that the modified diet and behavioral therapies had on his son and threw his support behind everything they as parents decided to try.

And I should also throw a complementary ovation to my niece. Not yet six when her brother was diagnosed, she saw her life change as more of the family resources and attention became dedicated to him. She's seen the food put on her plate at family meals change. Favorite desserts and meals removed from rotation. The number of treats, dwindle so that her brother won't get jealous or tempted when he gets an apple and she gets a cookie. And she's been a real trooper, a dedicated and loving big sister.

And finally, I'd be remiss to not offer part of my October Ovation to my nephew. He puts up with swallowing pills before meals, and getting shots, and having blood taken, and dealing with a schedule filled with ABA therapists and speech therapists and occupational therapists, that was busier, even back when he was a three year old, than many teenagers have. He's worked hard. And it's paying off. He's a happy, generous, creative kid with a great sense of humour who definitely defies the notion that children with autism don't care whether or not they have friends or whether people like them. He cares. He tries so hard. Even asked me for advice on how to make friends with babies when his cousin was born this winter. And as I was drafting this, I found this fabulous photo of my nephew hugging himself. (Didn't I say he was creative???) One of his favourite things when I come to visit is playing with the PhotoBooth application on my MacBook and I think this self-portrait sums up his desire to love and be loved. I love finding little surprises like this, or the one below, after he's borrowed my laptop. (More than makes up for the fingerprints left on the screen.)

Yes, he's got challenges, he has more trouble concentrating and expressing himself verbally than many children his age, and as a result has trouble forming friendships in his grade 2 class. But he's a voracious reader and a lovely, lovely boy.

And for giving birth to him and supporting him and cooking for him and fighting for the best for him, I offer my October Ovation to my sister and her family.

Here are some links to other October Ovations:

Check out who others are cheering about.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Gigantic, Wrestling, Lyme disease ticks

So, I've been a big blog slacker, but a lot of crap has been landing on my head all at once the past couple of weeks, so some things have slipped--this blog being one of them.

Getting my hair cut yesterday, (couldn't let that slip any longer), my hairdresser asked me about the film fest this year, and I realized that I still hadn't blogged about more than half of the films I saw. In fact, I had some trouble remembering what I'd seen... But scanning my list today, some of them are certainly worth mentioning.

The Wrestler

This is a come-back vehicle of sorts for Mickey Rourke and won the big prize at the Venice Film fest this year, so I assume it'll get a theatrical release--perhaps in time for Rourke to get a shot at the Golden Globes and Oscars. And he does deserve to be considered.

What a committed, fearless performance. Mickey is looking a little freakish in this film and while I first figured that he'd altered his appearance for the film, I since learned he's been boxing since he disappeared from the big screen, so perhaps appearance-wise, this was a part made for him. But I completely believed him in the part of a has-been wrestler trying to make ends meet, reconcile with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Woods), connect with an equally has-been stripper, (Marissa Tomei), cope with his aging steroid-riddled body, and relive his glory days.

This is a "quiet" character-driven film but definitely worth seeing when it comes out. A sad and powerful performance that keeps you guessing about how it'll all turn out. A number of times I was scared that they were going the sports movie cliche route, but the filmmaker avoids that pretty well and builds to a dramatic if ambiguous ending. But perhaps it wasn't that ambiguous. I'll be interested to know what others think when they see it. And you should see it.


Lymelife is a film that's going to evoke comparisons to Ang Lee's marvelous The Ice Storm, and while I found Lymelife entertaining, I fear the comparisons won't be favorable for the most part. (Although, ironically, it might be a more commercial film. Who knows. Only time will tell.)

The film stars Alec Baldwin, Timothy Hutton, Cynthia Nixon, Jill Hennessey (a Torontonian doing a reasonable Long Island accent), and two of the Culkin boys Kieran and Rory, playing, you guessed it, brothers. Now McCauley Culkin's tragic career and personal nose-dive aside, I think the younger Culkin's are very talented. I've seen both in several interesting and entertaining independent films and in this one they're both great. And it was clearly genius to cast brothers as brothers. Some of that sibling chemistry is hard to act. Alec Baldwin was, well, Alec Baldwin and perfect for the charming sleezebag he was playing. It was disappointing he wasn't at the screening. Sounds like he'd been in Toronto that whole day, done all the press conferences, but flew back to NYC before the screening because he had an early morning call on the set of 30 Rock the next day. He's someone I would've like to have seen in person and I was sitting right near the cast. It was amazing to see Timothy Hutton, though. He doesn't look great in the film--but that's kind of the point of his character, who had lyme disease--but he sure is holding up well in person. I think I'll always have a soft-spot for Tim Hutton. Oh, and the young girl in this photo is Emma Roberts, who's Eric Roberts's daughter (Julia's niece).

Guess I haven't said much about the film... Suffice it to say, it's a slice of suburban life in the late 1970's, with all the dysfunctional family heartbreak, infidelity, and nostalgia typical of such kind of film. One thing I was impressed with was the suspense that the director manages to create in the final five minutes of the film. Oddly, when one audience member complimented it during the Q&A, and asked the director to talk about his choices, he merely said he'd wanted to have a "curtain call" of sorts for all the actors, so wanted to show a montage of what all the characters were up to in those final moments... but the effect was so much more powerful than that. Let's just say an unstable character has a rifle. As an audience, we know this. So when the director shows us a montage of all the characters it's hard not to wonder whether one of them (and which one of them) will get shot by said gun, whether accidentally or on purpose. I don't want to wreck the ending, but I can't believe the director did this montage without more purpose. Seemed pretty dang purposeful to me. Maybe he just had an awesome editor.


This was one of the films I was most looking forward to this year and I wasn't disappointed. That said, I'm not sure if it'll get a very big release. It's one strange little film. It stars Paul Dano who I think is pretty amazing (Little Miss Sunshine, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, There Will Be Blood).

Dano plays a young, high-end-mattress salesman who does all he can to avoid confrontation. He is the much younger brother of some over-achieving brothers (about 20 years his elder) and has eccentric, wealthy older parents (played by Jane Alexander and Ed Asner). Since he was a young boy, he's been obsessed with adopting a Chinese baby and finally he's getting close to the top of the adoption agency's long list. (Could a writer give a young, single, male character a stranger obsession???) When an even more eccentric rich man (John Goodman) sends his daughter (Zooey Deschanel) to settle the purchase of his new bed, Dano's character's life is thrown into turmoil. The film is full of lots of symbolism and metaphors I'm not sure I got -- but felt sure they were there (grin). A homeless man who seems to be stalking Dano and out to get him, (or force him to confront something/anything?), a friend who does psychological experiments by dumping rats in tanks of water (to study depression or the will to live or something?) and two very lonely main characters who long for real families and to belong, but neither of whom are willing to let anyone else get close. Ultimately, it's a kind of sweet love story.

I think I'll try to see this one again when it comes out. Assuming it does.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...