Category Archives: Movies

A Realistic Look At Aging?

The movie Diane starring Mary Kay Place makes aging look pretty depressing. We saw it last Friday night. Diane is seventy years old when the movie begins, a widow in a small town in Massachusetts. She is doing all the ‘right’ things to try to make the last third of her life meaningful.

She’s helping others. She volunteers at a drop-in that serves meals to the homeless and she delivers homemade casseroles to ailing friends and relatives. She visits patients in the hospital.

She’s connected to people. She maintains a relationship with her only son and his partner even though it requires tremendous effort on her part. She has friends she meets with regularly for meals and card games. She has close contact with her extended family and gets together often with them.

She has interests. She journals and reads and writes poetry. She takes walks in the woods and has bird feeders around her home. She attends church. She likes music. 

She makes lists of things to do each day setting goals and tasks for herself.
But despite all these efforts at engagement and connection her life still is pretty sad and bleak.  People she is close to keep dying. She tries to stay busy but there is still substantial time when she is alone and lonely.  During these solitary hours she thinks about her past, the mistakes she’s made and worries if she is doing enough to atone for them.

Diane knows the limitations of her situation and for the most part accepts them with grace, but every once and a while her anger and frustration bubbles to the surface.  

In the last years of her life my mother-in-law often said that growing old was not for cowards. The movie Diane makes that abundantly clear.  I’m not sure if I am glad I saw it or not.

Other posts………

 Mr. Holmes

Life Lines

She Walks in Beauty

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Filed under Movies, Retirement

An American Invasion?

Saturday night when we came home around midnight after our Fringe Festival show we saw all these bleachers up and down our street draped with American flag style bunting. The next morning when we went outside to go to church there were American flags flying on every light standard and pole in the neighborhood. American flags were plastered on billboards, hydro boxes, and buildings.  What was going on?  Had the Americans invaded Canada?  Considering the wacky president who currently resides in the White House even the most unbelievable scenarios can seem possible.  No, an American invasion hadn’t happened overnight. Instead, we discovered that some parade scenes from an American movie called Flag Day were being shot in our neighborhood. The film stars and is directed by two- time Oscar-winner Sean Penn. Two of Sean’s children also have roles in the production which is based on the book Flim Flam Man a true story of a girl who finds out her father is a bank robber and career counterfeiter.  sean penn wiki commonsMaybe I should have stayed outside all day to wait for a glimpse of Sean Penn but I had other things to do.   The Winnipeg Exchange District is a popular location for movie makers.  I’ve jokingly told people we live in the middle of a movie set. And sometimes, like yesterday, it certainly feels like that.  

Other posts……..

I Live in A Movie Set

In the Middle of a Movie Set

Winnipeg in the Movies

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Filed under Movies, Winnipeg

We Will Stand Up

In her documentary movie nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up filmmaker Tasha Hubbard tells the story of Colton Boushie a young Cree man who died from a gunshot wound in 2o16 after he and his friends drove their truck onto a Saskatchewan farmyard.  A jury acquitted farmer Gerald Stanley of murder charges agreeing he had killed Colton in self-defense.

Colton Boushie’s mother, sister, and other family and friends at the United Nations telling their story

After the trial, Colton’s family felt the legal system had failed them and took their fight for justice to Parliament Hill in Ottawa and then to the United Nations. Hubbard documents this whole process on film. I saw We Will Stand Up last Wednesday night at the Cinematheque Theater in Winnipeg. 

Filmmaker Tasha Hubbard’s documentary is very personal since she juxtapositions her own story with Colton Boushie’s.  Tasha was adopted by a non-aboriginal couple as a child.  Tasha says her adoptive parents were loving and affirming people and when she became a teenager they helped her find her biological family and encouraged her to connect with her aboriginal heritage. This puts Tasha in a unique position to tell the story of the relationship between the indigenous community so incensed by Colton’s death and some of those in the colonizer/settler community who supported Gerald Stanley. 

The pivotal scene in the movie for me was when Tasha and her young son are talking to Tasha’s adoptive grandfather. Tasha has made it clear previously in the film that she and her grandfather share a deep love and respect for one another.

Tasha and her grandfather talking

Her grandfather has saved some First Nations artifacts he uncovered as he tilled a piece of farmland he purchased many years before. Looking back he wonders if he did the right thing buying and farming land that really belonged to First Nations people. Something made him save the artifacts he found and he feels it is the right thing to pass them on to his beloved granddaughter.

He and Tasha and Tasha’s son talk about the Colton Bushie trial and Tasha’s grandfather wonders aloud if owners shouldn’t be allowed to defend their land. Tasha’s son is taken aback thinking his great-grandfather is suggesting perhaps the Boushie murder was justified. But responding to his great-grandson, the great-grandfather agrees the killing was wrong. Later Tasha’s son suggests that the three of them smudge together and they do.  

For me, this was a very moving moment. I respected the willingness of Tasha, her son, and her grandfather to honestly talk about the deeply entrenched feelings that have influenced settler and indigenous relationships for so long, but yet also willingly share in the smudge, a healing ritual suggested by Tasha’s son, representing the youngest generation. 

Tasha’s own sons are featured in her film. Tasha wonders how negative stereotypes of indigenous young men will impact their futures.

The film We Stand Up played to packed houses during its recent run at Cinematheque in Winnipeg.  In response, the theatre plans to bring the film back for a second run in August.  I would highly recommend it. 

Other posts………..

The Doctrine of Discovery

Residential Schools- The Hiroshima of the Indian Nation

Art That Makes You Feel Sick

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Filed under Movies

Knock Down The House

Last Sunday over dinner my son and I talked enthusiastically about a movie on Netflix we had both just watched.  It is called Knock Down the House and tells the incredible story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and how she defeated ten-term incumbent Democratic Congressman Joe Crawley to become a candidate in the 2018 election and subsequently was elected to the American House of Representatives.  Although Crawley was a prominent member of the Democratic caucus, was backed by big business interests, and spent nearly twenty times as much money as Ocasio-Cortez did, she still won.  Everyone knows this story but it is chronicled in exciting personal detail in Knock Down the House

What I learned while watching Knock Down the House that I didn’t know before was that AOC, as she is affectionately called, was one of many new candidates for office sponsored by the Justice Democrats an organization that formed after the 2016 election to promote Democratic candidates that were not in the pocket of big business, candidates that were not funded by wealthy individuals or major corporations. The movie details the bids of three other women besides AOC who also tried to defeat established corporately funded candidates to be nominated in their congressional districts. Although they didn’t win their primaries their stories are also inspirational.  

In Nevada, Amy Vilela ran for nomination inspired by her twenty-two-year-old daughter who died because she didn’t get the medical procedure she needed due to confusion over whether the young woman’s health insurance would cover it.  

In West Virginia Paula Jean Swearengin a coal miner’s daughter ran for nomination inspired by the poor living conditions and low wages of coal miners and her concerns over the environmental damage caused by the industry including the high rates of cancer among her neighbors. 

In Missouri Cori Bush a registered nurse, ordained pastor and community organizer ran for nomination inspired by her own experience as a single parent having to rely on food stamps and Medicaid. She wanted to change a justice system that over-incarcerates, an education system that under educates and was disturbed by the fact that millions of American children live in poverty. 

Some critics say Knock Down the House would have been a better movie if it had just focused on the story of AOC but I think it is stronger for also showing us the other candidates, equally passionate, equally bent on changing America, equally dedicated to giving government ‘back to the people’, but women who ultimately did not have the success AOC did and were defeated by corporately backed candidates. 

My son and I talked about what was the most moving scene in the film for both of us.  After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is elected to Congress she visits Washington DC  and remembers how her father who died in 2008 once took her there and showing her the great monuments in the capital said, “These all belong to us.” 

We have an election coming this fall in Canada and Knock Down the House is a good reminder that indeed our government belongs to us and that we each have an important role to play in determining our country’s future.

Other posts………

What Happens When A Women Take Power?

Women in Politics

Difficult Women


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Filed under Movies, Politics

Level 16

My heart rate was certainly at a pretty high level while I watched the movie Level 16 at Cinematheque last weekend.  I saw a matinee with two friends and while women our age can be known to nod off for an afternoon nap on occasion there was no chance of that during this heart stopper of a film about a girl’s school with a sinister purpose.

You don’t find out till right near the end what is really going on but as is the case with any good suspense film once you do know the outcome you can look back at various scenes in the movie and realize what a good job the writer and director did of foreshadowing.  

Another sign of a good movie is that the more you think about it the more you realize the film conveyed some great thought provoking messages to ponder while delivering a totally engaging story.  Level 16 makes you think about the way women have been taught to be submissive, our society’s preoccupation with outward appearance and way the powerful take advantage of the vulnerable.

 Level 16 which reminded me of The Handmaid’s Tale and Get Out is directed and written by Danishka Esterhazy. She is from Winnipeg. Just one more good reason to go and see the film during this coming week when it continues to play at Cinematheque. 

Other posts…….

Two Films About Menstruation You Need To See

Haunted By the Movie Wild Life

Won’t You Be My Neighbour?


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What Should You Give Up For Lent?

The movie Chocolat tells the story of a  young woman and her daughter who move to a small French village just before Easter and set up a new chocolate shop directly across the street from the church. 

The mayor of the village, a very pious man, is appalled that a single mother would want to entice the community’s fine Catholic citizens with so pleasurable a thing as chocolate during Lent– a time of year when they should be denying themselves pleasure. 

In an attempt to reconcile the two,  the young priest from the village church delivers a Sunday message in which he suggests to his congregation that rather than give something up for Lent they embrace something new. They might befriend a new person or be open-minded enough to accept a new idea. 

I wonder if we couldn’t benefit the most by combining the ‘giving up’ and ’embracing something new’ aspects of Lent.

What if we……..

Gave up jealousy and joyfully celebrated the success of others

Gave up holding grudges and forgave those who have wronged us

Gave up worrying about our health and started doing something to improve it

Gave up gossiping and looked for positive things to say about people

Gave up losing our temper so quickly and tried to practice more patience even with the most frustrating people in our lives

Gave up being self-centered and thought about what we could do to help someone else

Gave up expecting the worst and hoped for the best

Gave up wishing our lives could be different or better and took steps to make that happen

Gave up__________ and ___________

This approach could have consequences. Researchers have found it only takes six weeks to establish a new habit. Lent, which lasts for forty days is just about that long. Who knows? If we do give up some negatives and embrace more positive alternatives for Lent we might just change our lives forever. 

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Filed under Movies, Reflections, Religion

Free Solo- What If He Falls?

What if he falls?  That question must have been going through the mind of every person on the camera crew who filmed the National Geographic movie Free Solo which just won the Oscar for best documentary.  

We watched it last week in a Merida theatre.  In the movie legendary rock climber Alex Honnold scales El Capitan a rock face in Yesomite Park that has claimed the lives of thirty one people in the past and they……….. were climbing with ropes.  Alex reached the top of El Capitan without ropes or any kind of protective gear, not even a helmet in just under four hours. A crew of photographers led by husband and wife team Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi filmed Alex’s ascent.

Alex with his friend Jimmy Chin who co-directed Free Solo

In a New York Times video some of the crew on the movie, who by the way, were all expert climbers and friends of Alex’s, say they had to mentally prepare themselves for the fact that Alex might fall and they would witness his death.  In order not to distract Alex, remote control cameras were placed in the most difficult sections of the climb and their footage collected later. After watching the film I thought about………….

Alex and his mother have climbed together

  • What makes some people do death defying things like Alex did?  The film implies that his relationship with his mother who had very high expectations for her children was a factor. The film also suggests that people who attempt dangerous things like Alex does may have a brain abnormality that makes it difficult for them to feel fear. You can read more about that here. 
  • Practice certainly makes perfect.  Alex prepared for his solo climb for two years. He trained with weights and stretches and climbed other mountains to practice and………… he had climbed El Capitan countless times with ropes before he did his free solo feat. He had a notebook where he wrote down almost every single motion he would make on the mountain.  He knew exactly where he would put his hands and feet with each move upward. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel Alex says it was like cheorographing a ballet and he was basically doing the meticiously planned dance almost intuitively as he climbed El Capitan. 
  • What will Alex do now?  He has achieved the pinnacle feat in his career.  He has made a great deal of money from sponsorships. He has bought a house with his girlfriend and started a charity that supports solar energy intiatives worldwide. But I can hardly see him being content. He says there are several rock faces in the world that are perhaps higher and more difficult than El Capitan but they are in such isolated places it would be almost impossible to even get to them. So what do you do when you’ve done everything in your chosen field? 

I can recommend watching Free Solo.  It will give you plenty to think about and the cinematography during the actual climb is utterly amazing. 

Other posts………

Two Films About Menstruation You Need to See

Haunted by the Movie Wild Life

Leave No Trace

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Filed under Movies, Sports