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By Anne Brodie

Cineplex has re-released the documentary Navalny in select theatres across Canada. 2023’s Academy Award’s Best Documentary Feature reminds us of the brave decisions and actions of Russian activist Alexei Navalny, Putin’s fiercest critic and leader of the opposition. Navalny died suspiciously of unknown causes in an Arctic Siberian prison on Feb 16 the day after he was photographed smiling, talking, and walking. Navalny knew he would likely be assassinated, according to his wife Julia; she has vowed to replace him in action. Navalny was poisoned with a military-grade chemical nerve agent in 2020 and nearly died. He recovered in Germany and told his story to the world media, working with Bellingcat – an excellent site – and CNN to inform the world of Putin’s treachery. Investigations linked the nerve agent to Russian security services. Canadian documentarian Daniel Roher’s 2022 powerful and now poignant doc covers Navalny’s story and his fateful decision to return home to Russia.

Alejandro Monteverde’s feature Cabrini tells the story of America’s only saint, Mother Francesca Cabrini (Cristiana Dell’Anna), an immigrant Italian nun who arrived in New York in 1899. She and seven nuns of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an organisation she founded, were horrified by the poverty of New York’s immigrant street orphans in Little Italy and Five Points, allowed and enforced by strong anti-Italian racism. Not well herself, she planned to create a school/hospital/home/church for the children but met with stern disapproval, particularly from Mayor Gould (John Lithgow) and Archbishop Corrigan (David Morse) who refused to help until she revealed the Pope had sent her. When she did establish a small home, the mayor sent inspectors to close it down. At every turn, she was insulted and blocked but steeled herself to do what God intended. Skip ahead to… Mother Francesca founded a worldwide network of homes, schools, and hospitals. She died in 1917 in Chicago, where sections of the town were named after her (including the formerly notorious Cabrini Green), having created 67 missionary institutions long before government agencies provided care across the US, as well as Latin America and Europe, and after her death, in China. As she said, “The World is too small for what I intend to do.” Hugely inspiring story of a woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer, who led with her heart, and who fulfilled her promise to God. She was sainted in 1938 and canonized in 1946, credited with two miracles. The film is straightforward, avoids sentimentality, and speaks its truths plainly – you get the feeling she would have approved. Theatres.

So what lies behind the walls, beneath the floors, and behind the secret doorways and staircases of those marvelous British stately homes? Bones of 11th-century monks or highwaymen? caches of antique gold, silver, long-forgotten works of art? The mind reels. Guy Ritchie’s new Netflix series The Gentlemen posits an all-new idea. Theo James is Eddie Halstead, the more reliable son of a Lord and Lady Sabrina (Joely Richardson). Eddie is called home from military duty in the Middle East on his father’s to hear the will and settle the family, before returning to duty. His older, drug-addicted, violent, hair-triggered brother Freddy (Daniel Ings) who wears a chicken costume and a rifle strapped to his back, is hurt that Eddie inherits the estate, land and wealth that the Lord himself inherited and accumulated. However, Eddie’s also left with an 8M pound debt. Asset-rich and cash-poor, there’s the odd Gainsborough to sell but it’s not enough. Eddie notices ruffians hanging about the 500-year-old estate and soon discovers what they’re protecting – a massive grow-op under the house. Veteran British tough guy actors Vinnie Jones (whose character serves tea in porcelain with biscuits and rescues animals) and Harry Winstone, along with wonderfully colourful character actors bring to life the high finance thug life in typical high-octane Ritchie style. Susie (Kaya Scodelario) runs with drug business with cold-blooded efficiency – a look can seal an enemy’s fate. That includes the teenager who counts the cash! “Chop Jethro’s head off or ship him to Australia with 2M pounds!”. Eddie’s dedication to law and duty crumbles when faced with dangers to him and his family and the prospect of major money. Ritchie never lets us down with high style, great quips, complex plots, and bold choices, wildly entertaining and action-packed.

Eugene Levy claims to be more relaxed about opening up to the world and adventure in the second season of The Reluctant Traveler now on AppleTV+. I believe him – he paddles a kayak in Sweden – “I’ve been up a few creeks in my time but at least today I’ve got a paddle” 🙂 – and loosens up. He smiles more and we feel less anxious for him than in the first season! and he dances! They’ll have to change the series name soon. However, he meets his food and drink limits, tasting and spitting out fermented herring, accepting glass after glass of whiskey – which he does NOT like – in Scotland because he’s a polite Canadian, and fishing which he does not like – in two countries! Then there’s lunch with a testy Joan Collins in Saint Tropez. He relaxes during the many moments he finds himself on water, and in appreciative crowds that get his dry humour – as in the palace near Balmoral where Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and Sean Connery dined before him. He’s the life of the party! An emotional experience for him to visit the Glasgow tenement and synagogue where his mother, a refugee from Poland grew up. Then it’s off to Germany, Italy, Greece and Spain. He’s proof expanding one’s horizons can be a joyous thing!

And it’s Oscar weekend!! Sunday night socials fire up as the world watches the 96th Annual Academy Awards together. Our Canadian nominees are Ryan Gosling for Best Supporting Actor (Barbie), Celine Song for Best Original Screenplay (Past Lives), Nisha Pahuja, Cornelia Principe, and David Oppenheim for Best Documentary Feature (To Kill a Tiger), Vincent René-Lortie and Samuel Caron for Best Live Action Short (Invincible), Ben Proudfoot for Best Documentary Short (The Last Repair Shop), Troy Quane and Julie Zackary for Best Animated Feature Film (Nimona), Stephane Ceretti (Guardians of the Galaxy 3) and Jeff Sutherland (Mission Impossible) for Best Visual Effects, and the late Robbie Robertson for Best Original Score (Killers of the Flower Moon).

Here’s how Kimmel’s getting there:



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