We saw the film I Daniel Blake last night. It documents two stories, that of a widowed 59-year-old carpenter named Daniel who’s had a recent heart attack and doctors have ordered not to work, and a single mother named Katie who has been forced to move to a different city to secure housing for herself and her two children. Try as she might Katie simply can’t find work in her new location. As the two are stymied time after time in their attempts to negotiate the welfare system they become friends and offer support to one another.
Both the young mother and the woodworker are good people, who honestly want to be self-sufficient. Circumstances and a rigid and less than compassionate government bureaucracy make it difficult for them to receive needed benefits. It drives them both to take some demeaning actions to survive.
The film illustrates just how easy it could be for hardworking, affable and intelligent people to become homeless and how reaching out to someone to make a connection can make a difference.
This is not a ‘feel good’ film or easy escapist fare. We overheard a man exiting the theatre say to his companion in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Thanks a lot for taking me to such a cheery movie.”
As we walked to our cars I asked my movie companions how many people like Daniel and Katie there could be right here in Winnipeg. “A lot more than we’d like to think,” one of them said.
Siloam Mission at the Art Gallery
Homelessness- Meeting With the Mayor
My Husband and the Pope Are On the Same Page
Folk artist Maud Lewis has become something of a celebrity in Mennonite circles in the last month. One of her paintings was discovered unexpectedly in a Mennonite Central Committee thrift store in New Hamburg Ontario and is now up for auction. Bids are already over the $100,000 mark.
My friend Esther introduced me to Maud Lewis and her colourful, lively paintings many years ago. I came to love Maud’s work and was excited to see her home when I visited the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Maud’s entire house has been carefully preserved in the gallery.
I kept this brochure from my visit to Maud’s house in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
When I was a high school teacher Maud was one of four Canadian artists whose life story and work I used in a grade eleven English unit I created called What is Art? I remember students writing poetry about Maud and submitting it on the decorated seats of old wooden chairs or on painted cookie sheets. Maud painted almost every surface in the small house she shared with her husband Everett including kitchen utensils and furniture.
You can see that process come to life in a new movie called Maudie which focuses on the relationship between folk artist Maud Lewis and her husband Everett. I own a well- read copy of a Maud Lewis biography by Lance Woolaver and think the relationship between Maud and her husband played by Ethan Hawke has been romanticized for the movie. In a CBC interview screenwriter Sherry White admits as much. Despite taking this licence the film gives us a memorable insight into the life of a Canadian artist many people may not even know.
We took this photo of Trinity Newfoundland while on a hike. It was not only a filming location for Maudie but also for the film The Shipping News.
My husband Dave was sure as we watched Maudie that some of the scenes from the movie must have been filmed in Trinity Newfoundland a place we visited last September. Sure enough a check of film locations proved he was right! But then he almost always is. Dave also thinks actress Sally Hawkins does an Oscar worthy job of playing Maud a woman of humour and determination whose body becomes more and more twisted by crippling arthritis as the film goes on. If you want to see if he is right about that you will have to go and see the film.
Transfering the Real to the Unreal
Hiking the Skerwink Trail- An Act of Worship
Paterson is calm and thoughtful. It is almost impossible to upset him. He follows basically the same routine every day. Gets up. Has cereal for breakfast. Drives his city bus route. Listens to his passengers talk to one another. Listens to his supervisor complain about his life. Goes home. Eats the supper his wife has prepared and listens to her tell him about her latest creative project- decorating cupcakes, making curtains or learning to play country music on the guitar. Takes his wife’s dog Marvin for a walk. Stops at the local pub for one beer and a chat with the bartender. Goes back home. Goes to bed.
But while Paterson is doing all these seemingly routine things he is also intimately observing the world around him, carefully considering every little thing he sees and listening thoughtfully to what people say. And then he writes poetry about his observations and reflections in a small brown notebook he keeps with him almost all the time. He rarely shows his wife these poems, never shows them or reads them to anyone else, and despite his wife’s constant urging never makes copies of them.
Paterson was the main character in a movie we saw last Sunday. The film moves quite slowly but in doing so invites the viewer to become calm and watch the story unfolding on the screen in the careful, patient, observant way of the film’s protagonist.
In conversation with my brother who saw the film with me, I realized that although my personality is quite different from Paterson’s we have some similarities. I also like to observe, listen, think and write about things I encounter each day. But unlike Paterson, who keeps his writing to himself, I have a need to share mine with others. Hence this blog.
Warms Your Heart and Makes You Laugh Out Loud
This is Just to Say
The Poetry of Boxing
Filed under Movies, Poetry
A octagenarian disc jockey is spinning her favorite vinyls on air and in between tracks gives advice to her listeners. At one point she says, Don’t have a nice day. Have a day that matters, a day that means something.
We saw the movie The Last Word recently. It stars Shirley MacClaine as an elderly woman named Harriet Lauler. Harriet hires a reporter to write her obituary before she dies. During the process of assembling material for the obituary Harriet realizes she has neglected the relationships and experiences that give life meaning, richness and value. She decides to try to change that in the last days of her life.
The Last Word was not a good movie. It plodded, the dialogue was unrealistic and it was full of plot holes, but………… there were some memorable lines in the film and “Don’t have a nice day. Have a day that matters, that means something” was one of those. It got me thinking about what a person needs to do in a day to make it meaningful, to consider it a day that matters. Here’s my list. I suspect everyone’s will be different.
- Write something
- Connect with other people
- Do something kind or helpful
- Go outside
- Learn something new
- Work on a project I am trying to complete
- Exercise and eat in a healthy enjoyable way
- Do something a little outside my comfort zone
I Need to See a Happy Movie
The Value of Silence
Did you know that fifteen movies or television series were shot in Winnipeg last year? That information comes courtesy of the Manitoba branch of The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. A movie was being filmed on our street again last week. When I left the condo early on Thursday morning to take my husband to work, they were stringing lights around the trees on our side of Bannaytne Avenue and decorating them with greenery and bows. Later when I went to the gym the Winnipeg police were on duty making sure people didn’t interfere with the filming. When I left for work in the late afternoon a horse drawn carriage was standing in front of Hermanos, the restaurant on the main floor of our building and actors were rehearsing a scene on Hermanos’ steps.
I looked online and two movies are being filmed in Winnipeg right now, Mr. Snowman and Break My Heart A Thousand Times. I’m guessing the one on our street was Mr. Snowman.
Crew filming outside my building a few years ago.
According to the city’s website Winnipeg is a great location to make a movie because it can masquerade as many other places. The Exchange District has 140 buildings preserved as they looked at the turn of the century making it a great location for filming period pieces. We also have highly quailifed film crews and production facilities and a provincial tax credit program to encourage film production. Other drawing cards are Winnipeg’s four distinct seasons and lots of quality hotels as well as cultural activities to house and entertain film production crews.
Having film crews in the neighborhood is nothing unusual if you live in the Exchange District of Winnipeg. It is all part of the charm and excitement of having a home in such an historic part of the city.
I’m Living in a Movie Set
Chicago of the North
Winnipeg in the Movies
Filed under Movies, Winnipeg
I’ve long had an inclination to travel to Botswana. I was a huge fan of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books when they first came out and fell in love with their heroine Precious Ramotswe . Precious is so imbued with kindness and serenity that it leaves the reader thinking Botswana must be a kind and peaceful place too. Author Alexander McCall Smith makes the country sound intriguing, inviting and beautiful.
On Sunday night I saw the movie United Kingdom and now I really want to go to Botswana. The movie is an account of how the country managed to establish a strong measure of independence over the ruling British by gaining mineral rights to diamond discoveries in the country. They also decided to end their traditional monarchy and elect their first president. If that sounds like a bit of a mundane historical story line be assured it is not because at the heart of the movie United Kingdom is the love story of Botswana’s first black president Seretse Khama and the British white woman Ruth Williams he marries while studying in London. They face considerable pressure to end their marriage especially from politicians in neighboring South Africa who are just introducing apartheid and have made interracial marriage illegal. But the couple perseveres, winning the respect and support of the people of Botswana. Now their son Ian is the president of Botswana.
Knowing more about the colourful history of the country from the movie United Kingdom makes Botswana an even more alluring destination. This post is putting my personal travel planner (my husband) on notice that Botswana might need to move up the bucket list.
Sometimes You Just Need a Dose of Precious
Five Things I’ll Remember About the Movie Selma
I came in last! We had a little Oscar party on Sunday night with friends. Just before the Academy Awards show started we all selected our favorites in a dozen or so main categories. We got a point for every movie winner we chose correctly. I was the biggest loser.
I certainly didn’t think Emma Stone in La La Land should have won the best actress award. I chose Ruth Negga for her understated but moving performance in Loving as a woman trying to get her mixed race marriage legally recognized.
For best actor I didn’t pick Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea I went with Viggo Mortensen who gave a thought-provoking emotional performance in Captain Fantastic as a man raising his kids alone in the wilderness.
I selected Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water for best supporting actor. Jeff played Marcus Newman a character based on a real Texas lawman. Jeff’s portrayal was convincing but it didn’t win him the best supporting actor award.
I did get best supporting actress right since I chose Viola Davis for her powerful performance in Fences. She was the very heart of her family and the film as far as I was concerned. I also picked the right original song and music score both from La La Land even though I much prefered the soundtrack of Manchester by the Sea.
I earmarked Silence for cinematography because its views of the Japanese wilderness and Japanese villages in the 1600s were stunning. I was wrong again because La La Land took this category.
Manchester by the Sea got my vote for best picture, best director and best screenplay. I thought it was far and away the top film when it came to telling a gripping and moving story. It only won the screenplay award.
At the end of the evening when the scores were tallied I had picked the fewest Oscar winners. Luckily an earlier plan to actually bet money on the outcome was scrapped so at least my poor predicting skills didn’t cost me any cash.
If you click on the links in this post you can see other posts I wrote about the nominated films.