Poverty tales in The Florida Project, musings on death in Lucky and a celebration of learning in Ex Libris
There are guest speakers. Richard Dawkins talks creationism. Ta-Nehisi Coates analyses black ghetto violence, Patti Smith talks music and politics and Elvis Costello promotes a book but also plays a great film clip of his father singing If I Had A Hammer, backed by a line of conga drummers. Wiseman lets these sequences go long enough to make a point fully and we’re engrossed. A talk on Muslim attitudes to slavery seems to go one about five minutes. There are also seminars and classes, behind the scenes tours, readings and musical performances. The subject of race, especially slavery keeps coming up, once in a blast at a textbook that defined slavery as African people who came to America to work.
Where the film gets long is in repeatedly going back to a staff meeting where funding, city hall connections, re-purposing for the digital age and the basic mission statement are discussed. Some of those could have been trimmed and a few other scenes dropped. Even at length though, the film shows again how central an institution a public library is. (VanCity Theatre) 4 ½ out of 5
ONLY THE BRAVE: Here’s a timely one, in the summer of forest fires we’ve just had. But I found one thing it’s being praised for, something of a shortcoming. The film is based on a true story in GQ Magazine about a group of elite firefighters in Arizona that ended in tragedy. Their method is familiar to us here in BC: create a firebreak that the fire can’t cross. They clear the ground with a controlled burn or with hoes. We don’t see enough of that work or of a technique I hadn’t heard of before: riding out a rampaging fire by curling up under a heat blanket.
The film spends much of its early time getting the crew certified as “hot shots.” Josh Brolin is the leader, Miles Teller, a newby with a drug history and a pregnant girlfriend, Taylor Kitsch (from Kelowna) as a friend, and Jeff Bridges as a chief who also sings in a bar scene. Jennifer Connelly and Andie MacDowell plays wives as the film explores family lives and personal issues. Oddly, though the acting is good, we don’t get to know or come to care about the characters as much as the film wants us to. The fire scenes are spectacular but too short. And there’s a very clumsy use of the Steve Earle record Copperhead Road. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
LOVING VINCENT: The achievement is remarkable. Over 100 artists hand painted every frame of this film about, and in the style of, Vincent van Gogh. The scenes glisten and shimmer. Soon though you see beyond the technique and focus on the story, basically a detective yarn to uncover the truth about the painter’s death back in the summer of 1890. Did he shoot himself or was there more to it than that? A family friend (Douglas Booth) follows the mystery by visiting van Gogh’s doctor (Jerome Flynn), his daughter (Saoirse Ronan) who may have been a girlfriend but denies it, and various other people who had contact with him, including the doctor’s housekeeper (Helen McCrory) who calls him “that nutcase”.
The film was made in England, Poland and Greece. The actors were filmed and then painted in those bright colors. Their recollections are in black and white to set them apart. Through both styles we get a sharp picture of the artist, tortured by childhood and adult guilt, bullied by some rough locals, judged badly by many others and, as he wrote in his letters, which the film cites liberally, committed to his art but hurting that he’s “a nobody, a non-entity.” He’s now one of the most famous artists who ever lived. (5th Avenue) 4 out of 5
GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: I was expecting idealized children and twee family niceness. What else would a story showing the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories be? Young Christopher and his toys inspired his father A.A. Milne to write them. They became world famous and life was happy in the 100-acre wood.