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A sci-fi mystery in Annihilation, silly laughs on Game Night and two more Oscar nominees

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THE INSULT: Academy Award nominee, a hit at many film festivals and an all-around excellent film. That’s only the start of the praise I could write about this political and personal parable from Lebanon. It invokes history, tells you a great deal about society there these days and illuminates a universal tendency to maintain resentments long past their relevance. One of these runs far out of control in this story.

 

Toni is a Christian (not uncommon in Beruit) and a hot-head. He hates the Palestinians who are there as refugees and take jobs the locals could do. He yells at one, Yasser, who tries to fix the drain pipe on his roof, smashes his work and trades a few punches with him. Worse: he wishes Ariel Sharon had finished off all his people. That’s a low blow. Yasser wants an apology; Toni won’t give it. Neither man will back down and the argument escalates, ends up in court and in the news media and proves once again that people would rather disagree than find common ground. In court we find out exactly what’s driving both men. In part it’s a lingering remnant from the civil war that raged in Lebanon for 15 years and ended almost 30 years ago. Toni comes off as a bit too volatile and a connection between the two opposing lawyers feels too co-incidental  but for the most part the film is extremely well-written, paced and directed by Ziad Doueiri. (VanCity Theatre) 4 ½  out of 5  

THE SQUARE: The VanCity has brought back another Oscar nominee, this very funny and sometimes grating study from Sweden of artistic pretensions and hypocrisy among the privileged classes. Claes Bang plays the curator of an art museum that claims to champion equality, equal rights and fulfilling obligations. Notice, though how many panhandlers he blithely walks by without acknowledging. He gives a pompous interview to an American journalist (Elizabeth Moss), sleeps with her and next day can’t remember her name. He manages to get a young boy in trouble with his parents and won’t bother to set things right.

 

Museum patrons, shown rushing to the free food in one scene, are later cruelly mocked at a banquet by an actor imitating an ape. That scene goes too far. I’m not sure that it even fits in. Most everything else, though, including the work of a couple of consultants to “cut through the media clutter” and their disastrous result is right on. The film, by Ruben Ostlund, is in the same spirit as his last one, Force Majeure, which skewered pretensions of manly courage. (VanCity) 4 out of 5

EVERY DAY: This one is for love-smitten teenage girls. Australian teen Angourie Rice plays one in a fantasy that speaks to two valid issues in their lives. First there’s the selection (indecision, perhaps?) about who to fall in love with. The other is a call to disregard a person’s appearance when you choose. White, colored, male, female, hunky, fat, blind. They don’t matter, not as much as what a person is like inside. It’s not an attitude I remember widely held back in high school but David Levithan's popular young adult novel promoted it in an allegorical tale.

 

Rhiannon falls in love with a spirit (called A, in the novel) who inhabits a different person every day. So, that day when it’s inside her normally cool and dismissive boyfriend Justin (Justice Smith) they have a warm, friendly time on an excursion. Next day, he’s back to normal and doesn’t remember what a good time they had. And every day after, the spirit is in a new person, including this guy. 

 

It’s in 8 or 9 different people throughout the story. An Asian girl prompts a girl-on-girl kiss. Eventually Rhiannon ends up with the very person her friends recommended and we had hoped for. So, nothing off-track here. Apparently the film is much simplified from the book but it is sweet and offers a  message of inclusiveness. (International Village and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5

 

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