Category Archives: Movies

After Life and American Son

We just finished watching the first season of the Netflix series After Life.  It has received both critical acclaim and a resounding thumbs down from various viewers.  It made me laugh and cry and truth be told get angry, very angry at the main character sometimes.  

Starring Ricky Gervais as Tony Johnson it tells the story of a man whose wife has died and as a result, he has lost his will to live. Tony keeps watching videos of his wife and longing for the life they had together.  He really doesn’t want to go on without her.  Tony works as a reporter for a small local newspaper and the stories he covers had me laughing out loud they were so bizarre.  

But be forewarned Tony is caustic, foul-mouthed, insulting and downright horrible to other people. He simply doesn’t care, engages in all kinds of self-destructive behaviour and makes questionable ethical choices.

Tony is well down the path of utter callousness and impeding suicide but……….. the kindness of the people around him who genuinely care about him, finally breaks through in heartwarming fashion.  In fact, so heartwarming that my husband and I were compelled to give each other a huge hug during the season finale.

Actor Ricky Gervais with actress Penelope Wilton playing a character who helps Tony regain his will to live

There is a second season of After Life which we haven’t started watching yet and in a way season one ends things so well I hardly think there is a need for another season.  After Life reminded me a lot of the book A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. We also recently watched the movie, American Son.  It stars the luminous Kerry Washington who I so enjoyed in the series Little Fires Everywhere.  The story revolves around a couple who know their son has been involved in some kind of incident with the police.  They are at the police station waiting to hear what has happened. Their brilliant talented son has been admitted to a first-class college.  He is black and they are terrified that like many other young black men he may have been the victim of police brutality.

But be forewarned that American Son is based on a Broadway play and has been filmed like a play. All the action takes place in the police station and consists of dialogues between just a handful of different characters.  In 2019 when the film came out it was criticized for being too heavy-handed when it came to the subject of racism.  In the current political and social climate I don’t think it would be considered over the top at all. 

Other posts………..

10 Observations after seeing the movie Parasite

Just Mercy- Not An Easy Movie To Watch

I Cry Ever Episode- Chef’s Table

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5 Thoughts on the Netflix Documentary Becoming

Last night I watched the new Netflix documentary Becoming. It chronicles the 34 city book tour Michelle Obama went on after the November 2018 release of her autobiography also called Becoming. Michelle’s book has sold more than 11 million copies since then. becoming documentary

1) Michelle’s book tour couldn’t have happened today.  Michelle spoke to crowds of up to 20,000 people or more. Large gatherings like that are now dangerous.  Michelle also met with small groups of people of all ages everywhere she went. She had conversations in churches, schools, community centres and homes. Michelle invariably ended up doling out plenty of hugs during these small group encounters something she couldn’t do now either. 

2) The documentary let us get to know some of the people who have played a crucial but fairly invisible role in Michelle’s life since her husband was first elected President. We see the warmth and trust of her relationship with Melissa Winter who has been her personal assistant for twelve years.  We see her special bond with Allen Taylor the secret service agent who has protected her for a decade. We meet Meredith Koop, who Michelle calls a member of the family. She is the stylist who guided Michelle’s fashion decisions in the White House and on her book tour. 

3)  I noticed how many times both Michelle and her husband said thank you to people who were helping them in a variety of ways. Thanking them for coming to events, thanking them for even the smallest of tasks they did, thanking them for their service.

Michelle Obama visits with children at a Child Development Centre in North Carolina

4)  I liked the way Michelle emphasized that everyone is special and has the power to do important things.  At one point a young Latino woman says to Michelle that she is nothing special. She just goes to high school and then to the part-time job she has because her family needs her income since her Dad was injured on the job. Michelle tells her the fact that she is staying in school while supporting her family is exactly what makes her special.  

Michelle says her mother often tells people Barack and Michelle are nothing special.  There are millions of Michelle and Barack Obamas all over the world.  And Michelle says that is the gift her book tour gave her.  She met so many decent, honest, good, compassionate people.  People who may think they are ‘nothing special’.  But they gave her hope for the future of her country.

Michelle Obama photo by Gage Skidmore from Wikimedia Commons

5) It is hard for Michelle not to feel like everything she and Barack tried to do is being decimated by the current president.  I just read in the New York Times yesterday that Trump vows to totally eradicate Obama Care before leaving office and he is dismissing as many of the environmental protections Barack Obama put in place as possible. Michelle seems uncharacteristically bitter about particularly the black voters and women voters who did not even bother to cast a ballot in 2016. It is Malia, Michelle’s daughter who is a junior at Harvard University, who reassures her Mom after one of her book tour sessions that Michelle and Barack have made a difference.    “You see that huge crowd out there…people are here because people still really believe in love and hope.” 

Other posts………....

It’s Harder to Hate Up Close

The House With the Obama Chair

Six Things That Help Me Stay Positive About Our World

Thanks for Visiting President Obama


Filed under Books, Movies

10 Thoughts On Seeing The Movie Call of the Wild

call of the wild

  • The plot was exciting and kept me engaged throughout. There is an avalanche scene that is a heart-stopper. 
  • Watching the movie had me going back to skim the text of the novel which is available online.  I realized Harrison Ford had quoted directly from the book in some parts of the film and that quite a few changes had been made to deal with the racist nature of some of the events in the book. 
  • The fact that the animals on the screen were computer-generated images didn’t really interfere with my enjoyment of the movie at all. 
  • I don’t think I would take my nearly four-year-old and almost eight-year-old grandsons to the movie because there is some pretty terrible cruelty to animals and even though Buck’s wild nature is toned down from the way it is in the book he still kills people.   
  • I decided you have to view the story of the film as a kind of fairy tale with larger than life characters and events that aren’t necessarily realistic. 
  • Even though it wasn’t filmed there, I liked the setting in the Yukon.  It is a place that I want to visit.  My husband Dave spent his first summer after high school in the Yukon and I’d really like to go and experience the place with him. call of the wild buck and john
  • I am not a dog lover but I have observed first hand how a relationship with a dog can provide healing and hope to a person, so the fact that Buck, the dog in the movie, does that for Harrison Ford’s character John Thorton, is completely believable and really kind of touching.

    joe fafard between dog and wolf

    Between Dog and Wolf by Joe Fafard

  • The movie reminded me of a piece of artwork by Canadian Joe Fafard which is in the St. Boniface Sculpture Garden near my Winnipeg home. It is called Between Dog and Wolf. 
  • The movie was a good way to pass the time on a rainy afternoon in Arizona.
  • I liked this movie a lot more than my husband did. 

Other about dog books and movies……….

Coop the Great- A Book That’s Not Just For Dog Lovers

Between Dog and Wolf

Fifteen Dogs and Writing Poetry

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Four Things To Love About the 2020 Oscars

I am not a big fan of the Oscars although I am a devoted film aficionado and had seen most of the pictures nominated for awards this year.  I admit I didn’t watch the entire Hollywood extravaganza but here are four things I loved about the event.

Female directors of amazing films like Little Women and The Farewell were snubbed at the Oscars

  1.  Actress Natalie Portman wore a cape on the red carpet embroidered with the names of the worthy women who were not nominated for best director including Lulu Wang who directed “The Farewell,”  and Greta Gerwig who directed “Little Women.” I loved both of those films. You can see a photo of Natalie’s cape with the embroidered names here.
  2. The film Hair Love won for best animated short.  It is a heartwarming story that illustrates what is best about families. You can watch it here.

    Taika Waititi- photo Wiki Commons

  3. Maori screenwriter Taika Waititi gave a land acknowledgement when he accepted his Oscar for the film Jo Jo Rabbit recognizing the Tongva, Tataviam and Chumash people on whose ancestral land the Academy Awards were taking place. This is something we hear at almost every public event in Canada but isn’t nearly as common in the United States.  Perhaps Taika’s statement in such a public forum will change that. 4. Parasite a film that warns us about the dangers of a great divide between the rich and the poor was the best picture.  If only we would take the film’s message to heart and strive for a more equal distribution of wealth throughout the world. 

Other posts…………

Ten Observations After Seeing the Movie Parasite

Come Healing

The Biggest Loser

I Saw Them All

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The Last Scene Changed Everything

We saw the movie 1917 recently. Loosely based on an actual event from World War I the film tells the story of two British soldiers, Lance Corporal Tom Blake and Lance Corporal Will Schofield. They are tasked with delivering a message to a battalion commander at the front lines. This message directs the commander to call off a planned attack that will lead his men straight into a trap set up by the Germans. If the message does not arrive in time, nearly 1,600 soldiers will be killed, including Tom Blake’s brother. Unfortunately, Tom dies before they can reach his brother’s battalion but Will overcomes his initial cynicism about the assignment and due to his dogged determination finally succeeds in delivering the message. During the course of completing his mission, Will risks his life over and over again. He nearly dies on numerous occasions. He kills German soldiers.  He abandons a woman and baby who clearly want and need his help. He wades through a stream filled with bloated dead bodies. He runs through the heat of a battle to reach the bunker of the commander who needs to receive his message. A hero right? 

And then in one of the very last scenes of the movie he sits by a tree and pulls out photos of his wife and two daughters from his breast pocket. We have no idea up to that point that he is a family man. The director and script writer have revealed little of his inner life.  But seeing him look at his family photos made me think about what he would be like when he went home to them. The horror he has been through will have changed him in unthinkable ways.  Will his family even recognize the man he has become? Will he ever be able to be happy again? That scene changed everything for me.  I was angry Will had taken the risks he did, risks that could have meant his daughters would grow up without a father.  I wasn’t sure at all that he was a hero. 

Other posts……

Those Who Went to War and Those Who Didn’t

Wars Dread of Mothers

Why Is It Called Remembrance Day?




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Just Mercy -Not An Easy Movie to Watch

Did you know President Trump wants to restart federal executions?  They have been on hold for the past sixteen years but Trump’s Attorney General William Barr says he will go all the way to the Supreme Court to get that reversed so executions can begin again.  Only 19 of the 50 American states allow capital punishment or have employed it in the last decade. 

just mercyI found out about the American President’s plan while doing research on some of the things I learned about capital punishment watching the movie Just Mercy.  In the film, you witness an execution (well most viewers do- I admit I had to cover my eyes at the last minute). If watching an execution isn’t enough to make you think that capital punishment is a terrible idea I am not sure what would.  Bryan Stephenson, the lawyer of the man executed, says in the movie it is the most horrific thing he has ever witnessed. I was startled by a statistic on the screen at the end of the film. One out of ten inmates on death row is there because of a wrongful conviction. 

Just Mercy is based on a true story and it makes one think about the blatant barbarism of capital punishment and also the way people of colour are often treated unfairly by the authorities.  There is one scene in the film when Michael B. Jordan playing the black lawyer Bryan Stephenson is forced to submit to a strip search before being allowed to see one of his clients.  It makes you cringe and feel angry on his behalf.  

Just Mercy is not an easy movie to watch but it is an important one. 

Other posts………

15 Reasons I Am Thankful to Live in Canada




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10 Observations After Seeing the Movie Parasite

1. You won’t fall asleep during this movie! There is way too much going on. You have probably never seen a movie like it. 

The poor Kim family in Parasite

2. The story has no good guys and bad guys. It profiles a very rich family and a very poor family. Both have their foibles and weaknesses and flaws. Each member of both families also has some downright likeable qualities.
3. It is a movie about how damaging the class system can be. It is no Downton Abbey where the rich folks and the servants seem to know their places in society and feel fairly comfortable in them.

Rich family in Parasite

4. The film was made in South Korea but the story is one that creates a scenario possible in any country where there is a distinct divide between the very richest people and the very poorest people including Canada and the United States.
5. You will have a hard time figuring out what genre this movie is. It has some comedy, some satire, some horror, some mystery, some suspense and even some romance.
6. All the parents in the film work hard at trying to do the best they can for their children whom they obviously love a great deal. Despite this they can’t always protect their kids. 

Home of the rich family in Parasite

7. I was struck by the set design.  Both the chaotic subterranean apartment where the poor family lives and the minimalist glass-enclosed mansion where the rich family lives really add to the ambience of the movie. 
8. You will find yourself wondering about the title of the movie. Who exactly are the parasites in the film? 
9. The ending is a total shock and surprise and you shouldn’t read any spoilers before seeing it or it truly will be spoiled for you. You will find yourself looking back to wonder what elements of the film foreshadowed such an ending. 
10. You will be thinking about this movie long after you have seen it and will probably want to see it again. It would be a great movie to use in a film class.

Other posts………….

Downton Abbey- Not Quite As Charming Anymore

Little Women- Getting To Know A Character in a New Way

Knock Down the House


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Come Healing

I really loved the film The Farewell which we watched at Cinemateque last week.  It is a moving story about a girl who travels from her home in New York to China to say good-bye to her grandmother who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The story is beautifully told in the film and although it is a sad one there are definitely some laugh-aloud moments as well.  The situation in the film is one that will resonate with many families.

I was particularly drawn to the music in The Farewell and wanted to know more about it so I  listened to a fascinating interview with composer Alex Weston who put together the score for the film. 

The musical piece in the film I particularly liked was a song written by  Leonard Cohen and Patrick Leonard called Come Healing.  The words were so meaningful and in the interview, Alex Weston explains that while the lyrics of the song fit beautifully with what is happening in one of the final scenes of the film, they thought Leonard Cohen’s very deep bass voice might not be the best fit for a story with a young female protagonist.  So they asked Elayna Boynton, an American indie-soul singer to record it. She does a perfect job.  You can hear her singing it here

I would definitely recommend seeing The Farewell, both for its plot and its soundtrack. I am including the lyrics for Come Healing a piece of poetry I think I could write a sermon about. 

Come Healing      by Leonard Cohen and Patrick Leonard
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow
The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb
Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace
O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart
O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The heart beneath is teaching
To the broken heart above
Let the heavens falter
Let the earth proclaim
Come healing of the altar
Come healing of the name
O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood
And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb
O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Other posts……….

That’s How Light Gets In – Hope From Leonard Cohen

Lessons From Leonard

Filial Piety

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Little Women- Getting To Know A Character In A New Way

Florence Pugh plays the role of Amy March in 2019’s Little Women 

Our family saw Little Women when it opened on Christmas Day. One of the things I enjoyed about the film was that director Greta Gerwig gives more prominence and depth to the character of Amy March, the sister who is the artist in the family, and one who has not always seemed that likeable in previous movies based on Louisa May Alcott’s book. Amy matures and shines in the new movie. My favourite scene is one in which she makes a really impassioned speech about the limitations placed on women in the 1800s. 

Photo of Abigail May Alcott and portrait of her painted by her Paris roommate Rose Peckham

I always knew that the novel Little Women was semi-autobiographical and after seeing the movie I wanted to learn more about what Amy March had in common with Louisa May Alcott’s younger sister Abigail who was known as May to her family.  As it turns out, like Amy in the book, May was also an artist. With the income from her writing, Louisa was able to help her sister May study art in Boston and Europe.  

Still Life With Bottle by May Alcott exhibited in the 1877 Paris Salon and La Négresse by May Alcott exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1879

May who was a writer, as well as an artist, wrote a guidebook for other woman called Studying Art Abroad and How To Do It Cheaply. Although it wasn’t easy to be a female artist and get your work exhibited in the late 1800s May had several of her paintings accepted into the famous Paris Salon, something very few women managed to achieve. She was friends with American artist Mary Cassatt who also exhibited at the Paris Salon.

Lulu Alcott, May’s daughter came to America to live with her Aunt Louisa when she was ten months old

While living abroad May met and fell in love with a Swiss businessman, Ernest Nieriker, and they were married in a quiet, private ceremony in Paris. Theirs was a happy marriage but sadly May died shortly after the birth of her little daughter Louisa, who they called Lulu. At the dying request of her mother, Lulu was sent home to America to live with her Aunt Louisa. 

the other alcottI have ordered the novel The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper to help me further explore the woman on whom Louisa May Alcott based her character, Amy. 

I think one of the reasons Greta Gerwig’s film Little Women is proving so popular is because she gives us new insight into some of the characters in the much-beloved novel, helping us see them through a modern lens in ways that are both engaging and intriguing. 

Other posts………

Celebrity Sighting At Breakfast

Ojibwa in Paris

Who is She? 

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


Filed under Art, Movies, People

Three Things I Couldn’t Get Out Of My Head While I Watched The Two Popes

We watched the movie The Two Popes. It depicts the relationship between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis during the time the papacy is shifting from one man to the other in 2013. The movie had some genuinely funny moments and the two veteran actors Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce are excellent in their roles. I gained a greater understanding about how the election of a new pope takes place and I learned quite a bit more about the modern history of Argentina since Pope Francis was a cardinal from Buenos Aires and his past is chronicled in some detail in the movie.
But…………… I found it hard to concentrate on the story of the film because I was so bothered by…….

The two popes enter the Sistine Chapel

1) the astounding affluence depicted in the movie’s locations. The two men walk through the marble halls of The Vatican lined with thousands of priceless artworks or stroll in the beautifully landscaped gardens of the Pope’s lavish summer palace on the ocean and you think about how all this ostentatious wealth you are seeing could be used to feed the hungry and help the sick and find homes for refugees. Those are the kinds of things truly dedicated Christians are commanded to do and the two popes are supposed to be role models. 

The male cardinals gather to vote for a new pope

2)  the pious patriarchy depicted in the scenes of the film. All these self-important MEN file into a hall to elect the new pope. They have a say in the spiritual futures of millions of trusting people who have placed the running of the church in their hands, and yet they are the very same men who have betrayed their congregants’ trust in a whole host of ways including turning a blind eye to sexual abuse. The only women in the film were female nuns who had small parts and were mostly shown waiting hand and foot on all those self-important MEN. All I could think about was the damage that the patriarchal system of the church has done.
3) the crippling conservatism of the two popes in the film.  They are depicted as intellectual, thoughtful men of God but they both oppose legal abortion while at the same time do not support the use of contraception.  Both popes have refused to ordain women and will not allow priests to marry. Neither supports same-sex marriage or believes that gender identity can be fluid.  

Thinking about those three things was uppermost in my mind during the movie and I admit it prevented me from fully appreciating the film.

But……….. maybe part of what the director Fernando Ferreira Meirelles was trying to do was to make me think about exactly those things with the lavish locales where he chose to shoot the film, with the lack of a substantial female presence in the film and with his avoidance of discussing any major social issues. 

Other posts……..

My Husband and the Pope Are On the Same Page

Questions at the Vatican

My Former Church and the Pope

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