Movies

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Jindabyne (2007)

If you were on a fishing trip with friends and found the body of a murdered young woman in the river what would you do? Would you cancel the trip immediately and contact the police; or, go fishing and tell the authorities on your way home from the remote mountain location?  The decision by a group of friends to continue the trip has lasting repercussions.  Set in Australia, the film not only confronts the basic moral question, but also the racial and cultural issues involved since the young woman was Aboriginal.

Bad Words (2014)

Doesn't everyone miss Michael Bluth - Jason Bateman's character in Arrested Development? I was certainly won over and will watch whatever he stars in, just to see what he's doing next. In this, Jason's directorial debut, we follow a 40-year-old man (Bateman) who never graduated eighth grade and decides to compete in The Golden Quill national spelling bee - against middle school kids. It is no surprise when this outrages parents and judges, and there is a sketchy journalist documenting his mis-deeds. These deplorable characters are wonderfully offset by a 10-year old who is completely unfazed.

Insomnia (1997)

The sun never sets on Swedish detective Jonas Engström as he investigates the brutal murder of a teenage girl in a small town in northern Norway. Unable to sleep in the glare from the unceasing sunlight, Enström both solves and inserts himself into the crime, resulting in an anything-but-neat resolution. With its taciturn anti-hero cop and bleak setting, this film kicked off the Nordic noir phenomenon that is now so popular. Unsettling and well worth watching.

Philomena (2013)

Based on a true story uncovered by British journalist Martin Sixsmith, this is the moving story of a young Irish girl whose illegitimate child is taken from her by nuns and sold to an American couple in the mid-1950s. You might expect the movie to be mawkish and sentimental but it manages to avoid this with complex performances by Judi Dench as Philomena Lee and comedian Steve Coogan as Sixsmith.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Practically every character in this movie is a money grubbing, morally bankrupt, substance abuser and, sadly, they are based on real people. Their leader is Jordan Belfort, played beautifully by Leonardo DiCaprio, a seemingly regular guy from humble beginnings, who takes easily to what he considers the good life after figuring out how to profit wildly by getting people to invest in the stock market. Belfort comes off as an oily salesman but somehow has legions of devotees who worship the dollar as much as he does.

Herb and Dorothy (2009)

The Vogels are certainly an interesting couple.  Herb, a postal worker, and Dorothy, a librarian, amassed a huge collection of contemporary art and made an extraordinary gift to the nation. They donated the majority of their collection to the National Gallery of Art in 1992, and it has since grown to over 4,000 items.  The documentary follows this unassuming couple in their pursuit of pieces of art they enjoyed and artists they supported.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo: On Tip Toe

As much a fascinating history of the joyfully syncopated isicathamiya (“on tip toe”) music born in the townships of South African apartheid as the captivating story of founder Joseph Sabalala, this beautifully moving tribute to Ladysmith Black Mambazo,  directed by Eric Simonson, inspires and uplifts. This Academy Award nominated film tells the story of how (and why) this extraordinary hybrid of Zulu harmonies and Western influences became a World Music supergroup. Over 50 years and five Grammy Awards later LBM still mesmerizes.

In a World (2013)

If you’re like me, you’ve never thought much about the people behind movie voice-overs. This quirky comedy lifts the veil on the voice-over industry and introduces you to vocal coach Carol and her egotistical, bullying voice-over star father, Sam. A strong ensemble cast includes a nerdy but charming sound engineer with a crush on Carol, Sam’s very young girlfriend, plus Carol’s intense sister and her husband. A funny and charming story about a woman trying to break into a male-dominated business and finding love along the way.

Orphan Black (2013)

Amazing acting anchors this new sci-fi series from BBC America (shot in Toronto). Tatiana Maslany plays multiple clones in this thriller that opens with Sarah, a gritty young outsider witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her - except more affluent. Sarah assumes the identity of this unknown woman - who ends up being a police officer. Soon bullets are flying and mysteries are multiplying.

Enough Said (2013)

I totally watched this movie for the stars - but it wasn't a guilty pleasure! Released shortly after James Gandolfini's untimely death, its the story of his character falling in love with a massage therapist played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The relationship is complicated by Julia's character's developing relationship with a poet, played by Catherine Keener - a character who turns out to be James' character's ex-wife. Toni Collette plays a friend of Julia's. I have enjoyed so many productions with each of these actors, it was a real treat to watch them all together. A recommended date movie.

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