By Anne Brodie
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On directed by Madison Thomas celebrates a seminal figure in Canadian, American, and indigenous culture, her music, activism, and philanthropy, and her warm positive spirit. While performing in Toronto and Manhattan’s folk scene in the 60s, she sang and talked about the loss of indigenous peoples’ lands, rights, and dignity through white land thefts, residential school abuses, and marginalization and promoted indigenous culture, art, music, traditions, and heritage. Born Cree in Saskatchewan, she was taken, per Canadian government policy, from her parents and adopted out, landing in Massachusetts where she experienced sexual and emotional abuse and racism. Her musical gift was clear early, she was composing hours after getting a piano and continues to perform at 81. Sainte-Marie was an early tech adapter, creating and producing music and artwork on a Mac in 1984. She acted in Hollywood television productions, was the first indigenous woman to win an Oscar for her song Up Where We Belong, the first woman to breastfeed on television on Sesame Street, and founded Cradleboard Teaching Project. Her messages of hope, caution, love, and empathy reach far and wide, and for her various outreaches, she’s won dozens of awards. But her presence on screen, just being herself, is the best part of this doc – her spirit shines, her wit and warmth blast through the screen and her many talents inspire. Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On is a must-see to learn and lift us up. On Crave now and tonight at the Barrie Film Festival.
Strong and polar opposite performances and characters from Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke bring authentic tang to Raymond & Ray on Apple TV+. They are brothers, sons of abusive and demeaning father Harris and two mothers. They’re about to learn a lot about him, following decades of estrangement when summoned to the old family home on Harris’ death; the brothers haven’t seen each other in a few years too. Both carry the burden of growing up under Harris’ cruelty and being together reminds them of the pain and turbulence. Harris decreed that they attend the funeral and dig his grave. Strangely they don’t turn it down, his last sad trick. Lucia (Maribel Verdú) a beautiful French woman who now owns their home, was one of Harris’ lovers; she has a young son with him. She’s kind and while she doesn’t appear to know how Harris treated Raymond and Ray, her empathy and intelligence ground them in this tense time. Going through their childhood effects and their father’s helps get him out of their heads, or so they believe. Harris’ friends come by; they clearly admired him and treasured his oddities like suing the town for putting a Christmas wreath on the Town Hall door, thereby merging church and state. The film grows in conversations that run deep, especially between Raymond and Ray. More surprise brothers show up from other mothers – twin acrobats who never met Harris and don’t have conversations while Ray’s new friend, a spot-on Sophie Okonedo, encourages Ray through conversation, while Raymond searches for answers in Lucia’s bed. McGregor’s performance is reserved and powerful, Hawke’s is out there and naked, opposite and equally powerful. Rodrigo Garcia’s flawless script and muscular direction are key to this warm oddity. And there’s never been a funeral like it on screen. If you have family, it’s not to be missed. Look out, awards season.
My nerves are shredded from watching The Good Nurse in theatres now and on Netflix on Oct. 28. It’s always interesting when we “enjoy” fact-based films about murder, about real people whose lives were taken. The feeling of complicity is tough to take; we aren’t monsters. Tobias Lindholm’s film based on the novel of the same name by Charles Graeber not only makes us feel complicit, but it’s also worrying – are we safe in the medical system? The performances of Oscar winners Jessica Chastain as Amy and Eddie Redmayne as Charles are key because the characters are lifelike in their turmoil. Amy is a well-meaning nurse with a serious heart condition she must keep secret in order to keep her job, and she has two young daughters she doesn’t see enough. Charles joins the ICU staff of Oakfield Hospital in New Jersey in 2003 and develops a bond with Amy. He helps her so her condition isn’t revealed. He’s friendly and compassionate and eases her burden at work and at home and babysitting her girls. Police are called in to investigate the death of an elderly woman who was expected to recover. The hospital Risk Management team blocks them by withholding documents and demanding to control any staff interviews. They also had the woman’s body cremated quickly. Strange reactions. A new mother is admitted after an accident and she too dies unexpectedly; both women had lethal levels of insulin in their bodies. A stroke of dumb luck allows an unsuspecting Amy to give police a vital clue that eventually leads them to Charlie. Seems he has a past. Eddie Redmayne’s extraordinary turn as a repressed psychopath is visceral, he goes down a dark path that must have taken a toll on him. The way Amy helps the police and the tension of it all is bone-deep and I’ll admit, it’s scary. And why is the hospital trying to cover? proving once again that truth is stranger than fiction.
Julia Roberts and George Clooney’s fifth film together Ticket to Paradise has landed, with a thud. The charming, whip-smart duo from the misty past is all grown up, miserable, mean, selfish, and stealing rings from children. It’s the schtick of course, but it’s unpleasant to witness THIS couple – Hollywood royalty -as spoiled brats. They are David and Georgia, a long-divorced and deeply acrimonious couple who never managed to bury the hatchet. An emergency forces them to put their heads together, go to Bali and prevent their daughter from marrying a local seaweed farmer she met on vacation. Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) and Gede (Maxime Bouttier) Gede, are to tie the knot in four days. So David and Georgia plot while screeching at each other while doing dark deeds and somehow expecting us to laugh. Obviously, we all know where it’s going; a couple of minor obstacles are thrown in – a handsome airline pilot Paul (a funny Lucas Bravo) wants to marry Julia but she’s not sure. Lily’s best friend Wren (Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd) is the all-seeing, all-knowing Greek chorus who gives David a pep talk, realising he’s falling for Georgia all over again. The glorious vistas of Bali, the yummy rich people’s hotel rooms, and the inclusion of local customs and actors are all to the good, but the screeching … and Julia sleeps in the jungle rain one night, out in the open and wakes up, hair’s perfect and silk jumpsuit freshly ironed. Come on. In theatres.
Prime Video‘s The Peripheral an international sci-fi gaming series takes us to the world of full-body virtual reality and the adventures and dangers it presents a little ahead of now and seventy years into the future. A man and a child meet on a park bench in London, which looks different. It’s an emotional meeting. Cut to Chloe Grace Moretz as Flynne – she lives in the American Deep South with her ailing, blind mother and professional gamer brother Burton (Jack Reynor). Life looks the same in Flynne’s rural town but it’s not – major money is to be made sitting in a trailer, playing VR games all day long for wealthy gamblers, and taking drugs to enhance the experience. It’s life without life. The other local industry is the illicit drugs trade, run by country bumpkin thugs. Flynne agrees to sub for her brother and play his big cash game, dons the headgear, and finds herself in London, as Burton. She feels everything, following him on a mission that takes him to a garden party at Buckingham Palace, now an upscale events venue. She is experiencing Burton’s emotions, and physical sensations and following that voice and is soon under attack. She tosses off the headgear, is in her trailer thoroughly spooked, and refuses to play again. Not so fast, Flynne! The VR world presented in the future, meant to be tech-driven and exciting is in fact a dark dystopia. A chilling look at a bright future.
The series From Scratch on Netflix follows Amy (Zoe Saldaña) an American student studying art in Florence, Italy is intrigued by a gifted Sicilian chef Lino (Eugenio Mastrandrea) but she’s seeing a wealthy young man with connections to the art world. Lino invites her and her roommates to eat at his restaurant; he serves them a gorgeous tasting menu and they are in heaven. Lino and the rich kid seem to have an awkward habit of showing up to see Amy when the other shows up. She chooses Lino and they move to Los Angeles for greater opportunities for him in the cuisine world. She’s climbing the ladder at an art gallery and everything seems great. Except Lino can’t get a job at a decent bistro. Her family dislikes Lino and his father is furious he left the family farm and cuts him off for good. Obstacles, obstacles, and then a real obstacle, can they get any support from their families? Will they be able to weather the storm?
The Booze, Bets and Sex That Made America a three-part doc now on The History Channel and STACKTV is exactly that, a documentary profiling the men who built big business in the 19th century. No women are building big businesses due to social restraints and inferior status. Settler society across the US was hard-nosed,1 in 4 lived in crowded cities, with little regulation, in chaos, men, women and children smoked and drank like there was no tomorrow. It’s estimated that people consumed four times as much as we do today, usually their own beer and whiskey. It was also sold to drinking establishments, adulterated with substances to improve appearance or taste, including kerosene, tobacco juice, and whatever. People didn’t trust local water, which collected sewage and was a depository for everything from garbage to bodies, so beer which was fermented and boiled and free of bacteria was the top drink. But there was no FDA because there was no taxation, and moonshine bootleggers made hefty profits. We meet Tennessee bootlegger Jack Daniels, a local criminal whose back shed operation today puts out 190 M litres annually. In Missouri, Adolphus Busch and Eberhard Busch created Anheuser-Busch and invented Budweiser, today a multi-billion dollar business and they developed refrigeration to ship the stuff. The most popular crop in human history is tobacco. Buck Duke formed Marlboro in North Carolina with the motto PRO BONO PUBLICO – “for the common good” – because tobacco was believed to have health and healing benefits and was used in indigenous spiritual practices. Another global brand today. And Julius Schmidngerous, who grew up working in his father’s New York sausage factory invented the condom from cow intestine linings. His Fourex, Ramses, and Sheik brands were overnight sensations. Alas, women appear in the first episode mainly as prostitutes but they will figure in Parts Two and Three.
The Barrie Film Festival continues to mark 25 years this weekend with a wonderful array of films including Eternal Spring, Canada’s Oscar Best International Feature entry, previously reviewed on What She Said.
Also, Blind Ambition follows four friends in Zimbabwe who become South Africa’s top sommeliers after escaping starvation and tyranny in their homeland. With optimism, a passion for their craft and national pride, they form Zimbabwe’s first national wine-tasting team and prepare for the World Wine Tasting Championships.
Also, check out Official Competition, previously reviewed on What She Said
The Swearing Jar previously reviewed at TIFF on What She Said
and of course, Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On.