Rosewater

The 2009 Iranian presidential election sparked a series of protests against the disputed victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal) was sent by Newsweek to cover the election and it’s aftermath. Following the election, Bahari took pictures of soldiers shooting into the crowd of protesters. Rosewater starts with Bahari being arrested in his mother’s home in Tehran by the Iranian secret service. The film is adapted from Bahari’s book about what happened to him. This is The daily show host Jon Stewart’s first film. From the start we know this going to be a look at the middle east like no other. To the secret service every thing they find in Bahari’s home is a strike against him. “Porn!” yells an agent holding a DVD of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema. Another item : “Porn!”. And then another : “Jewish!”. Even a Leonard Cohen record. Maziar Bahari was arrested, sent to Tehran’s Evin prison and interrogated for long hours. He is accused of being a spy. As proof they show him a fake interview he did with a fake spy for The daily show. During the long hours of physical and psychological torture, Bahari is blindfolded and does not see his interrogator. Bahari named him “Rosewater” (Kim Bodnia) because of his perfume. When he is in his cell, Bahari has imaginary conversations with his dead father and sister, who were also political prisoners. This is Gael García Bernal best part in a long time and Danish actor Kim Bodnia plays the tormentor with just the right amount of humor. Because this is what is so peculiar and fantastic about Rosewater. This epic screenplay by Stewart is spiced with a sence of the ridiculous and we surprise ourselves with sudden bursts of laughter. A great screenplay. A great film.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Rosewater

 

Directed by: 
Jon Stewart
 
Screenplay by: 
Jon Stewart
Based on Then They Came For Me: A
Family’s Story Of Love, Captivity,
And Survival by Maziar Bahari
and Aimee Molloy
 
Starring: 
Gael García Bernal
Kim Bodnia
Shoreh Aghdashloo
Dimitri Leonids
 
103 min.
 
Rated 14A
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Altman

This documentary about the brilliant American film director, is an incentive to see some of his films again. Certainly Nashville, The player and Short cuts are worth revisiting, but I’ll pass on Prêt-à-Porter and Popeye. In all Robert Altman made 37 feature films between 1957 and 2006. Altman starts with the word Altmanesque which is an entry in dictionaries. Then throughout the film we see actors like Lily Tomlin, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman, the late Robin Williams, among others, give their own definition of Altmanesque. But there are no interviews with the people who knew him or worked on his films. Canadian documentary director Ron Mann tells the story through old video and audio interviews of Altman, most notably from The Dick Cavett show. The film could almost be called “Altman by Altman”. Other archival footage are used, like the Gene Shalit review of Popeye, or home movies from Altman’s archives, and of course, from the sets of his films. His wife and children were interviewed, but we only hear their voices. This peculiar choice means the director can concentrate on Altman and his films. As I said, it makes me want to see them again, or see those I missed. If Altman had a style, it could be called “casual naturalness”. The Meriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of “naturalness” is “carefree freedom from constraint”. In his career, Robert Altman always refused to compromise the independence of his artistic vision to the Hollywood machine. That is maybe his greatest legacy.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Altman

 

 Directed by: 

Ron Mann
 
Screenplay by: 
Len Blum
 
95 min.
 
Rated 14A

The theory of everything

The theory of everything is a biopic about renown theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane. Before they married, Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease. He was 21 years old. This meant his muscles would progressively lose their strengths, and the doctors predicted he would die within two years. This was 1964 and he still alive at the age of 72. As shown in the film, what prevented Hawking from giving up and fall into a deep depression, was his engagement with Jane. She vowed to help and support him. They were married 25 years, during which they had three kids. Although earlier in The theory of everything, there is more about Hawking’s scientific work, the film soon becomes about the difficulties Stephen and Jane faced in their daily lives, with Hawking’s health declining and having to renovate the house to meet Stephen’s needs, and get new wheelchairs and equipment. He lost his ability to talk in 1985, after a near fatal bout with pneumonia that forced the doctors to do a tracheotomy. He now communicates through the speech-generating device he uses for conferences and other appearances (he made cameos on films and TV shows like Star trek: The next generation, The Simpsons, and, of course, The big bang theory using the computerized voice from his device. Hawking lend his voice to the filmmakers of The theory of everything). Also, we witness Jane’s affair with future husband Jonathan Jones in 1977, and Hawking’s meeting and falling in love with his nurse Elaine Mason. Anthony McCarten adapted Jane’s autobiography, and with such a screenplay it is easy for director James Marsh to succeed. It’s a bit like painting by numbers : You can’t really hit a wrong note. There will be no complaints from me about the two leads, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. As Jane Hawking, Jones has the less showy of the two parts, but it is because of her subtleties that the film doesn’t become a mawkish, corny melodrama. Eddie Redmayne had the task of showing the young and healthy Hawking at the beginning of the film, and his gradual physical deterioration as the disease progress. The resemblance between Redmayne and Hawking makes Redmayne the perfect actor for the part. As well I should mention Benoît Delhomme’s luminous cinematography. But I think it would have been a better film, if we found out more about this brilliant man’s achievements and what he brought to the world of science. I know that the idea behind film was to put a human face on one of the greatest mind, but as it is now, it feels like a manipulative tear-jerker.

And the Oscar went to… Apart from receiving a Best picture nomination, both Redmayne and Jones were nominated for Actor and Actress. The theory of everything got two other nods: Adapted screenplay and Jóhann Jóhannsson for his Original score. And as expected Redmayne went home with the Oscar.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

  The theory of everything

 

 Directed by: 

James Marsh
 
Screenplay by: 
Anthony McCarten
Based on Travelling To Infinity:
My Life With Stephen by Jane Hawking
 
Starring: 
Eddie Redmayne
Felicity Jones
Charlie Cox
Emily Watson
Maxine Peake
David Thewlis
 
123 min.

 

 

The secret trial 5

The secret trial 5 comes at the right time. After the attack on Ottawa on October 22, some think it is important to remember how easy it is for our government to erode our individual rights in the name of a so-called “War on terror”. This documentary tells the story of five Canadian men arrested between 2000 and 2003 under a weird process called “security certificates”. Around since 1978, they were mostly used by Chretien’s Liberals following the attack on the World Trade Centre. Security certificates are used in order to detain and deport an individual (in most cases what the government calls “foreign nationals” or refugee), if that individual is deemed a threat to national security. Only problem is neither the accused or their lawyer know what the charges are (actually there is no charges) or see the proof against them. They are not able to view their file and as a result, unable to defend themselves. And there is no trial. In The secret trial 5 we get to meet those men and their families, feel the pain of waiting in vain. Deportation for some of them means torture. Some of the security certificates detainees have had some degrees of success fighting this unfair process, but most are still under strict house arrest. Mohamed Harkat’s wife, Sophie has taken centre stage during the protest. We also meet lawyers and constitutional experts. Looking at The secret trial 5 reminded me that on August 16, 2013, film director John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani were jailed in Egypt. There was no charges or trial. Their release came on October 5, 2013. If we found it unacceptable from the Egyptian government, why would it be acceptable from ours? Is the film biased? Sure. All films are biased. But the government refused to be interviewed. Of course.

On the following link is a petition supporting Mohamed Harkat : http://www.harkatstatement.com

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 The secret trial 5

 

Directed by: 
Amar Wala
 
Screenplay by: 
Amar Wala
 
84 min.
 
Rated Parental Guidance

 

Whiplash

There is nothing like a good showcase for actors, and Whiplash has not one, but two powerhouse performances. Miles Teller plays Andrew Neyman, a young jazz drummer and music student at a New York conservatory. Andrew gets enrolled by jazz band leader and teacher Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Fletcher likes to treat the young members of the band as if they were in the army, insulting them with gay slurs, saying they are worthless. Andrew gets slapped in front of his band mates. Fletcher throws things, like cymbals, stands and chairs at his pupils. To be able to keep up with Fletcher, Andrew is practicing so much that his hands are bloodied. And still, the gay slurs, the humiliation, the put downs, and the abuse goes on. Not only for Andrew, but other drummers and players as well. There is nothing to please the Fletcher monster. We get a glimpse into why it is so important to Andrew at a dinner with his father (Paul Reiser) and his brothers. As for Fletcher’s reasons for his aggressive behavior, it comes from the story of when a band leader threw a cymbal at Charlie Parker, and that forced Parker to become the musical genius now known as ‘Bird’. This is one of the best jazz film I have ever seen. That is because the drama is as strong as the music. Between the original score by Justin Hurwitz, the music played by Fletcher’s band, and the recordings of jazz legends (drummer Buddy Rich, for instance) there is a ton of great music in Whiplash. The least we can say is that Miles Teller’s work here is electrifying. J.K. Simmons is best known as J. Jonah Jameson from the Tobey Maguire’ Spider-Man trilogy. In Whiplash he gets a part that finally lets him chew the scenery. It is a great fun to watch. Let’s hope these two will be remembered come Oscar time. And with a great screenplay and directing, Damien Chazelle should not be overlooked.

You should know… Miles Teller has been drumming since he was 15 years old, but he took additional lessons 4 hours a day, 3 days a week to prepare for the movie. As a result, just like his character, he had blisters on his hands, and some of his blood was on the drumsticks and the drum set. During the more intense scenes, the director wouldn’t yell, “cut!” so that Teller would keep drumming until he was exhausted.

And the Oscar went to… I was so happy to see Whiplash win for J.K. Simmons who gave a powerhouse performance. But I was also cheering this small film’s two other awards that evening: Film editing and Sound mixing. Bravo! Whiplash rocks!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Whiplash

 

Directed by: 
Damien Chazelle
 
Screenplay by: 
Damien Chazelle
Adapted from his short film of the same name
 
Starring: 
Miles Teller
J.K. Simmons
Melissa Benoist
Paul Reiser
 
106 min.
 
Rated 14A

Pride

Pride is based on the British miners’ strike of 1984–85 and a the story of a group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM). LGSM was formed by gay activists Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) and Mike Jackson (Joe Gilgun) to raise money to help struggling mining communities. Because the Thatcher government sequestered the funds of the National Union, LGSM chose to help the small mining village of Onllwyn in Wales. Their first visit there is difficult, but most in the village come to see the good of this association. What really happened is that the some people are still friends today, 30 years later. This warm comedy-drama has some clichés, but is so well acted by all. George MacKay plays Joe, a young man who has yet to come out to his family. Andrew Scott is touching as a man who reconnect with his Welsh mother. Jessica Gunning is Siân James, who later became a Member of Parliament. Veteran Welsh actress Menna Trussler is great fun to watch as a grandmotherly woman who creates a strong bond with the visiting lesbians. And the best is Imelda Staunton as legendary miners supporter Hefina Headon, and Bill Nighy, as her husband Cliff. Director Matthew Warchus has made sure that Pride is well served by this great ensemble cast, and a balanced screenplay by Stephen Beresford. Entertaining and touching.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 Pride

 

Directed by: 
Matthew Warchaus
 
Screenplay by: 
Stephen Beresford
 
Starring: 
George MacKay
Ben Schnetzer
Bill Nighy
Imelda Staunton
Andrew Scott
Dominic West
Paddy Considine
 
120 min.
 
Rated 14A

A thousand times good night

I can’t really say I am a fan of Juliette Binoche, but in A thousand times good night she gives a riveting performance. Binoche is Rebecca, a photojournalist who works in war zones areas. The film start with a shocking scene. A group of women are dressing a female suicide-bomber is getting with dynamite hidden under her burqa. Dressed in a hijab, Rebecca snaps photos of this horrifying ritual. She snaps, and snaps while she’s accompanying the group into Kabul. As Rebecca take pictures, Binoche let’s us see the compulsion and fear in Rebecca’s eyes. The explosive detonate prematurely and Rebecca gets injured. Later she’s back at home in Ireland with her husband, Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and their two daughters, slowly recovering from her near death experience. For Marcus, it is a wake-up call, and he forces Rebecca to make a choice between her family and her life threatening job. Rebecca chooses her family, but we feel this is not the end. Steph, Rebecca’s teenage daughter, has trouble at first understanding her mother’s passion for danger and photojournalism. But because of a school project, Steph starts getting interested in photography, her mother’s work and how important it is. On a trip to Kenya with Steph, Rebecca can’t resist the urge to get back into the action again. A thousand times good night is a good showcase for Binoche’s talent. We should also mention actress Lauryn Canny as Steph, and the beautiful work of cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

A thousand times good night

Directed by:
Erik Poppe
Screenplay by:
Erik Poppe
Harald Rosenløw
Kirsten Sheriden
Starring:
Juliette Binoche
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Maria Doyle Kennedy
Lauryn Canny
Larry Mullen Jr.
113 min.
Rated 14A