By Anne Brodie
Canadian athlete – and hero – Andrea Constand, a towering figure in the #MeToo movement related to the drug rapes of dozens of women by TV icon Bill Cosby, has come forward with her story. Karen Wookey’s heartbreaking documentary The Case Against Cosby lays out exactly what transpired when Constand was lured to Cosby’s mansion in Philadelphia by his offer to help her get a sports announcing TV gig. She’d gone to university in Arizona on a basketball scholarship and excelled; she was fast, mentally agile, and driven and before long was offered a sports directorship at Temple University in Philadelphia. Cosby was a major donor and supporter of women’s athletics at Temple and they became friendly. He behaved like a mentor, and she became aware of his standing in the city. A philanthropist, education activist, and humanitarian he had the stardust of decades in comedy, and as America’s TV dad on the megahit series The Cosby Show. He was an icon of Black success and a leading city figure. When Constand got to his house, he asked her to take three pills which she did after his persuasion. What followed was a night of the rape. Later part of his defence was that she had an orgasm! A look through Cosby’s archival black-and-white TV talk show footage finds him joking about drugging women in order to have sex with them. We learn through testimony and interviews with multiple victims that Cosby had mastered the dark art of drugging and raping women for decades, luring them with professional promises. Inspiring chapters take place in a Trauma Retreat in BC with author and physician Gabor Maté, Constand, and four other women taking a healing journey together. Stunning courtroom dramas including Constand’s successful case, and many that followed without convictions, his release, and infamy, complete this sad, sad tale of the monster with political power and a friendly judge in his corner. CBC and CBC Gem Jan 8.
At a strange time at the movies when our patience with movies is being tried again and again, there is some respite in Tom Hanks’ A Man Called Otto. Not exactly heartwarming, it has a bitter edge, forgoes easy sentiment, and lifts us. Otto is a widower in a community housing enclave in Toledo, Ohio; he does his rounds every day, inspecting the hood for negligence which he’s quick to point out. Trash out at the wrong time, unsorted recycling, newspapers thrown incorrectly, noise and snow unshovelled. Particularly driving the wrong way. Even so, he is tolerated and grudgingly liked as a vital part of the longstanding community. The street is under threat by an underhanded real estate development company. Otto is devastated by the death of his wife a few months earlier and considers suicide. In fact, he tries a few times and fails. Into his rigid life come new neighbours (Mariana Treviño and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and their wee daughters. They’re a bit too friendly but he tolerates them, even consenting to babysit. His visits to his wife’s grave and reveals the tragic nature of their decades-long devotion to one another. Hanks’ son Truman plays young Otto in flashbacks and he’s good. Marisol wins Otto over with Mexican food and her unstoppable optimistic nature, she cares about him as does her “nitwit’ husband and girls. Marisol also sees he is in a world of pain and ill. Hanks’ wife Rita Wilson sings a beautiful song over the credit roll, in a true family affair. A Man Called Otto is ideal January fare, the partying is over and it’s winter, but with a little effort and openness, we can make things better for us and for others. Theatres.
Emily Hampshire, the tiny, Canadian comic star of Schitt’s Creek puts on a new hat altogether for the Prime Video miniseries The Rig – a helmet. She’s Rose and she is comfortably in charge of the male-dominated unit on board the Kinloch Bravo, some of whom resent her power as a woman. No problem, Rose holds her own, makes solid decisions, and stands up to bullies as head of operations. One stormy day the rig appears to lose its signal on which the rig depends for communications with the shore, emergency management, and easy minds. It’s tough enough drilling the ocean’s floors without the complication of isolation and lack of communication. The crew is scheduled to return to shore but the power outage stops them in their tracks, even as a fog makes visibility impossible, followed by a massive wave – great special effects. The earth is 4 billion years old and who knows what sleeping / awakening bacteria or force might lie beneath the ocean floor, riled up by this disaster? As Rose and Magnius (Iain Glen) weigh their options the staff is about to mutiny – they want to get home. Little do they know that their problems are only just beginning. Spectacular special effects, a convincing sci-fi story with interesting facts, well written, and the action take us to places we rarely see in the film – and give us a sense of the danger of those heroic men and women who work oil rigs around the world. Currently dealing with climate change weather events, some of which mimic the sudden danger of the Rig’s natural enemy brings the message home. Is it time we got off oil, cleaned the oceans, and get smart? Has been for a long while as marine species face rapid extinction. An exciting series, well acted and really intense.
Three-parter Death and Nightingales offers alternative viewing in the captivating, brooding tale of Beth Winters’ (Ann Skelly), on her 23rd birthday in rural Ireland outside Ulster in 1885. The series’ entire three hours follow the events of a single day of reckoning. We open with Beth reading a manual on poisons and opening her cupboard filled with deadly concoctions in glass bottles. But why? There’s a brutal family history that enslaves her to her only living family, stepfather Billy (Matthew Rhys), a well-to-do quarry owner. Her mother is in an asylum, and her closest companion is Mercy the maid. Both women are headstrong and intelligent, refusing to take guff from the men that surround them and managing the homestead and animals alone, doing the work of ten men. Billy lets them, preferring to drink, and takes advantage, kissing Beth “unlike a father”. She confronts him, and he gaslights her and plays on her pity, but Mercy has witnessed his assaults. A man Billy calls a criminal from a criminal family, Liam Ward (Jamie Dornan) and Beth have a bond of respect, love, sex, and a shared desire to get away from the home and man trapping her. Billy showed her a bag of gold coins which he promises will be hers if she “plays the game” and Mercy reminds her that she will break Billy’s heart if they leave. All this set against a background of Ireland’s nascent efforts to separate from Britain and become its own Republic. There are spies and counter-spies everywhere in an environment of violent partisan hatred. Billy is a spy for the Brits, inviting danger and payoffs. The series’ eerie vibe is intriguing and frightening leading up to a fraught final episode. Streaming on CBC Gem.