Category Archives: Movies

Seeing The Post in Lisbon With People Who Truly Understand What Freedom of the Press Means

We saw the movie The Post in a large packed theatre in Lisbon.  The film was in English with Portuguese subtitles. It tells the true story of how President Nixon tried to stop American newspapers from printing information from the Pentagon Papers- stolen documents that revealed a government cover up of damning information about the Vietnam War.  The Washington Post published stories using Pentagon Paper materials even though the President threatened legal action, including possible imprisonment of The Washington Post editor and owner. I intitially wondered why so many Portuguese citizens,many of them my age, were so interested in a movie that was essentially about freedom of the press in America. As I thought about it I realized they were probably interested  because they could identify.  Antonio Salazar’s Estado Novo political party held power in Portugal from 1932-1974. Salazar appointed a goverment censorship committee that strictly controlled all forms of media including newspapers. A revolution in 1974 ousted the Estado Novo party and full freedom of the press was restored.  People in Portugal my age can identify with The Post because in their country’s recent history they have lived both through times of complete supression of the free press and complete freedom of the press. 

The Post is considered a particularly timely film for 2018 when the American President is repeatedly attacking the freedom of the press in his country.  According to a rating scale on a website called Reporters Without Borders Portugal actually has a freer press now than the United States.  

Interesting how the country in which you watch a movie can add meaning to its message. 

Other posts………

Cambodia Revisited 

Three Lessons From the Movie Arrival

Childbirth and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies, Portugal

What is Your Body Saying?

Shape_of_Water_3Non-verbal communication can be so powerful.   Actress Sally Hawkins playing a mute cleaning lady named Elisa Esposito, doesn’t utter a word in the movie The Shape of Water but she speaks volumes. In her unbelievably expressive face you can clearly see love and frustration, anger, humour and intelligence. All Elisa need do is shrug her shoulder, soften her eyes or let a tiny smile begin to play at the corner of her lips and you know exactly how she is feeling. Using only sign language and body language Elisa does her job capably and has won loyal friends. 

the shape of waterBecause she can’t speak the romance she carries on with a merman, an exotic water creature being kept in the lab where she works, is even more intense and emotional than it would have been had the love affair been conducted in words. 

As I watched The Shape of Water I was actually reminded of something actor Will Smith said in the movie Hitch where he is coaching a man trying to pursue the love of his life. “Sixty percent of all human communication is nonverbal body language; thirty percent is your tone, so that means ninety percent of what you’re saying isn’t coming out of your mouth.”

dave bargains with sellers in a saigon marketI was also reminded of this picture of my husband Dave carrying on price negotiations in a market in Saigon using only a calculator and his facial and body expressions.  He didn’t speak the women’s language and they didn’t speak his but Dave was so good at communicating with his body language.  Dave is a very funny man and he can be funny without saying a word. 

Sally Hawkins may not win the Golden Globe tonight for best actress but her ability to play a woman who speaks without speaking was exceptional and reminds us all that we communicate with far more than just our words. 

Other posts about communication…….

Heart’s Content- The Fishing Village That Changed the World

I Had My Toes Read

The Language of Flowers

1 Comment

Filed under Movies, People, Reflections

Imagine Having A Memory Like That at 88 !

We went to see the movie  All the Money in the World.  It tells the story of the kidnapping in 1973 of J.P. Getty’s grandson and namesake.  The senior Getty was at the time one of the richest men in the whole world but refused to pay his grandson’s ransom.   The movie certainly makes the point that all the money in the world can’t make you happy, or buy you love or respect.  It shows how in the end the accumulation of things leaves one cold and lonely.   

What I admired most about the film however was Christopher Plummer’s performance.  At age 88 he was called in after the entire movie had been shot to play the part of J.P. Getty because Kevin Spacey, the man who had filled the  starring role had been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.  In just nine days all the scenes with Spacey had to be filmed again with Plummer in his place.  It wasn’t until I saw the film that I truly realized what a feat that was.   Plummer’s part was HUGE!  The number of lines he had to learn in short order is amazing.  At 88 he claimed it wasn’t that hard.  After years of memorizing scripts  he’s become quite adept at it.   Plummer memorized the longest sections first and then worked his way down to the shorter ones.

It made me wonder if I shouldn’t take up drama in my old age if it helps you retain such a remarkable memory.  I think many octogenarians  would give an awful lot of money, though perhaps not all the money in the world,  for a memory like that!

Other posts……

The Rememberer

The Constructed Mennonite

He Just Disappeared

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

Flaws Make the Character

When you start writing fiction one of the first things you learn is that even your heroic characters will need to have flaws if they  are going to be interesting.Three-Billboards-Outside-Ebbing-Missouri-filmIn the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri everyone is flawed and that makes each character a puzzle.

EbbingsThere’s the courageous but grieving mother played by Francis McDormand.  She’s grieving because her daughter has been murdered and raped. You want to feel sorry for this woman but her flaws make it tough.  She blows up a police station, attacks her dentist,  drop kicks a couple of teens she’s angry at, insults her pastor and is constantly embarrassing her son.  Plenty of flaws there. 

THREE-BILLBOARDS-OUTSIDE-EBBING-MISSOURIThere’s the cheerful but fatalistic sheriff played by Woody Harrelson. He’s fatalistic because he is dying of cancer.  You want to feel sorry for this man but his flaws make it tough.  He doesn’t curb his foul mouth in front of his two little daughters, he leaves the girls unsupervised by a river to have sex with his wife, he thinks its okay to have racist men working for him, he commits suicide and you get to see the devastating impact that has on his wife, co-workers and community. Plenty of flaws there. 

sam rockwellThere’s the childlike but angry police officer played by Sam Rockwell.  He’s angry because his father died when he was young and he lives with his mother who is a chain-smoking, snivelling  crone.  You want to feel sorry for this man but his flaws make it tough.  He spouts politically incorrect insults directed at minorities, beats up a billboard salesman and throws him out a window, arrests a black woman on a bogus charge, and plots to kill a man.  Plenty of flaws there. 

My husband said the flawed characters in this movie were intriguing and they made him like  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.  I found the flawed characters in this movie sad and they made me feel unsettled.  

Other posts………..

Why Do We Share Our Worst Selves With Those We Love the Most? 

He Watches. He Listens. He Thinks. He Writes

Now I Really Want to Go To Botswana


Filed under Movies


What does the number 504938C stand for?  I found out while visiting a grade eleven English class this week where the student teacher I supervise is doing a unit on documentary films with her class.  The documentary she showed the day of my visit was called 504938C.  That is the number filmmaker Ervin Chartrand had when he was an inmate in Manitoba’s Stony Mountain Prison. In his short film he shows the choice he had to make upon leaving prison.  Would he go back to join the gang he was part of before going to jail or would he try to walk a different path?  

Stony Mountain Prison

Before she showed the film the student teacher asked the kids to share what they knew about life in a prison.  They came up with lots of ideas.  Then she provided them with some factual information about Stony Mountain Penitentiary. Finally she posed these three questions.  How did indigenous spirituality play a role in this documentary?  What did you learn from the flashbacks in the film?  What did you think of the lack of dialogue? The students were busy writing answers to the questions after the film was over. 

You can watch the film yourself here. I told the student teacher I was impressed with the way she was introducing her class to topics relevant to their community and province and the way she was encouraging them to become thoughtful critical viewers of media. 

Other posts……….

Hopeful Diversity

Bear Witness

But He Wasn’t Unbroken


Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Movies

Cambodia Revisited

first they killed my fatherI just watched the movie First They Killed My Father directed by Angelina Jolie.  Based on the first person account of a young girl who survived the brutal years of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia it is a moving and almost unbelievable story of survival. Shot entirely in Cambodia and in the Khmer language with English subtitles it features all Cambodian actors.  Sareum Srey Moch the little girl who plays the main character had no acting experience before shooting the film but she does an amazing job of bringing her character to life. 

mom and dad cambodian refugees

My parents attend a wedding for a member of their Cambodian family.

I knew nothing about Cambodia till 1985 when my parents sponsored a family from Cambodia to come to Canada.  I happened to be at home on maternity leave that fall awaiting the birth of my younger son so on weekdays I went to the home of the new arrivals to give them English lessons. My parents’ connection and involvement with the family continued and my eighty-nine year old father is still included in their family celebrations.  

It was that connection with a Cambodian family that prompted me to buy the book First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung when it first came out in 2000.   It was while reading this autobiography of a young girl who had survived the Khmer Rouge regime that I really began to understand what had happened in Cambodia and to have a much greater appreciation for what the family my parents had sponsored had experienced. 

Taking a guided tour of a landmines museum in Cambodia in 2004

When we moved to Asia in 2003 traveling to Cambodia was a high priority on my list of destinations.  In 2004 I made my first trip there and learned first hand how the carpet bombing of Cambodia by the United States led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge regime and how the devastating policies of that regime resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population. 

Photo I took at the Killing Fields in Cambodia

In 2011 I returned to Cambodia this time with a group of high school students. On my first trip I had only been to Siem Riep but now I visited Phnom Phen as well and together with my students learned so much more about the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime, the culpability of the United States in what transpired there and the lasting danger of the landmines that are an ongoing legacy of the war years in Cambodia.

I learned so much from this elementary school principal in Cambodia when I worked at her school

I also spent time with my students working in a local school in Cambodia and as I learned more about the lives of the teaching staff and students I realized how the legacies of the war and Khmer Rouge regime continue to impact people in Cambodia today.  

Watching First They Killed My Father brought back many memories of Cambodia for me.  But most of all it reminded me yet again of the futility of war, the never-ending legacy of war and the way war always has its most devastating effects on children.

First They Killed My Father is available on Netflix. 

Other posts about Cambodia…………

Visiting a Land Mines Museum

Visiting Another Land Mines Museum


Leave a comment

Filed under cambodia, Movies

Why Do We Share Our Worst Selves With Those We Love The Most?

Why do we save our worst behavior for the people we love the most?  I thought about that after I saw the movie Lady Bird.  It’s the story of a girl named Christine who prefers people call her Lady Bird. She is in her senior year of high school.  Lady Bird and her mother love each other but they disagree about almost everything. In an early scene in the movie the mom and daughter fight because the mother won’t let her daughter cook breakfast for herself even though she is perfectly capable of doing so.   There is a contentious scene where their tastes clash over the selection of Lady Bird’s prom dress. Near the end of the movie the mother is angry her daughter wants to go to New York to school so she can’t bring herself to wish her daughter well or even go into the airport to say good-bye as she heads off to college.  The two women just can’t seem to get along.  

But there are moments when their underlying love for one another shines through.  When Lady Bird has a disappointing  first sexual encounter her mother is there to comfort her and they spend a Sunday afternoon touring real estate Open Houses having a great time together imagining they might live in the homes they are viewing.

Save for a few of these sporadic episodes of affection the two woman are diffident and contrary with one another throughout the movie bringing out their worst character traits whenever they are interacting. 

I am sure many audience members could identify as they considered some of their own relationships.  Perhaps there is friction in their marriage relationship despite an underlying love.  Perhaps there is tension in a sibling relationship despite a sense of belonging together.  Perhaps there is conflict in a friendship despite an assumed loyalty.

The mother in the movie is a psychiatric nurse and is so gentle and understanding and non-judgmental with her patients.  Most of the time however she just can’t exhibit that same gentleness and understanding and open-mindedness with her own daughter. 

Why do we so often save our worst behavior for the people we love the most? 

Other posts………

He Watches, He Listens, He Thinks, He writes. 

I Live in a Movie Set

Botswana Moves Up the Bucket List


Leave a comment

Filed under Movies