Monthly Archives: April 2015

Father-Daughter Movies

TMPFathers and daughters, a topic rife with the opportunity for Hallmark sap, hard to get right, but so rewarding when it strikes just the right chord. Thanks to Wandering Through the Shelves for hosting another great Thursday Movie Picks theme, from two guys who are neither fathers nor daughters, and one fatherless daughter…because who better to judge?



lethalweaponLethal Weapon – awarded to the whole series as a body of work. These movies are up-and-down but they are fun stupid films that keep adding more and more extraneous characters as sequelitis sets in. Luckily for me this week, Murtagh has a daughter that factors into the secondary drama of almost every movie, from possible love interest for Riggs in the first one, condom ad star in one of the middle ones, and baby mama to Chris Rock in the last one! And possibly more that I have forgotten. So on the list they all go just to be safe.

Taken – Liam Neeson’s tough old guy shtick started right here as far as I can tell, as the tough old dad of a coed “taken” by European gangsters. And like Liam says in the most awesome phone call ever made to a kidnapper, he uses his skills to track down all involved and kill them good. Spoiler alert: it seems that except for saving his daughter’s life he really hasn’t been a good father, but luckily there are sequels where as far as I know he saves her again, or saves his wife, or something. As usual, they should have stopped after the first one but instead really ran this concept into the ground and made me not care at all anymore.

Star Wars – so we don’t actually know at this point that Leia is Darth Vader’s daughter, and I’m pretty sure George Lucas did not have that plan or even the idea at any point when making this movie. As far as I can remember, though, this movie is the only one of the original 3 films in which this father and daughter “team” share a few scenes, so that’s why it makes the list over Return of the Jedi (where Leia actually learns who’s her daddy). Plus it’s such a classic movie! Even the terrible prequels couldn’t ruin it for me. So it makes the list. Can you tell I struggled this week?


Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner- Back in December, I wrote a post describing Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner as Matt Drayton (Spencer Tracey)’s conflict with his own values. He raised his daughter (Katharine Houghton) right- no race is superior to another and anyone who thought they were was foolish and ignorant. Matt realizes he may have done a little too good a job when she brings home a charming black doctor played by the great Sidney Poitier whom she wants to marry. While this unexpected situatGuess who's Coming to Dinnerion may expose some hidden bigotry on Matt’s part, mostly he can’t help but admire his new son-in-law to be and mostly objects to the union because of the unimaginable challenges his daughter will surely be facing. Although he’d hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain, he eventually learns to let go and trust his daughter to be strong enough to face the world. The movie can’t help but show its age a little nearly fifty years later but not in the ways that count.

American Beauty- Lester and Jane Burnham (Kevin Spacey and Thora Birch)  aren’t as close as they used to be. In fact, she asks her boyfriend to kill her father in the first scene. Lester’s a little too busy with his middle-aged angst and Jane with her adolescent angst for the two to really connect and Lester only starts taking interest in her life when he develops an obsessive crush on her best friend. He may not deserve a World’s Best Dad mug but I love that his dying thoughts are of her and happy that she thinks she’s in love. Tragically, his last words to her are “You’d better watch yourself or you’re going to become a real bitch just like your mother”.

Kick-Ass- I have serious reservations about Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage)’s parenting style but, unlike Lester, at least he never forgets to tell his daughter (Chloe Moretz) that he loves her. It helps to have common interests. In this case, taking down the D’Amico family and enjoy the sweet taste of bloody revenge with their hot chocolate. Big DKick-Assaddy has turned Hit Girl into one foul-mouthed ass-kicking 11 year-old who knows how to take a shot to the chest.  Marcus may feel that Big Daddy owed his father a childhood but at least he died leaving his daughter the two most important things: the ability to take care of herself and the knowledge that her Daddy loves her.


The Descendants – This movie is so emotionally loaded and frought, it shreds me to pieces to watch it. Matt’s wife has just been fatally injured in a boat accident. She’s in a coma, waiting to die, while Matt runs around picking up all the pieces. Two really big pieces are his darling daughters who Matt bewilderingly tries to care for though he identifies only as the “back-up parent, the understudy”. The older daughter initially seems to be pretty hostile toward her father, but we soon see she’s really just covering for a secret she’s keeping from him. Turns out coma wife has been unfaithful. So Matt’s already confused and complicated relationships with his daughters become even more so, leaning on the elder for support and understanding, while trying desperately to shield the younger from the ugly truth about her mother as they all struggle to say goodbye amid the complications of anger and blame. Meanwhile, there’s another father-daughter relationship at play: that of coma wife, and her own dear dad, who copes with grief by putting his daughter on a pedestal and lashing out at all others, blaming not just Matt, but his own granddaughters, for his daughter’s not-quite-perfect life. It’s frustrating for we, the viewers, who know that his daughter is far from blameless, and even more difficult for Matt and the oldest daughter who manage to keep the truth to themselves in a show of compassion, allowing him to kiss his little girl goodbye with only the tenderest of feelings.

Crash – You may remember there are a kajillion intersecting plot lines in this movie, most involving some kind of racial prejudice, but I’ll always be thankful to this movie for introducing me to Michael Pena. He plays Daniel, a locksmith who gets cut absolutely no slack by any of his customers because he’s Hispanic, and this makes the white folk (like Sandra Bullock) jumpy. Even the Persian shop owner gives him hell, misunderstanding a bit about a broken door that needs to be replaced, assuming that the locksmith is trying to screw him over. After a hard day’s work, he goes home to a rough neighbourhood where his crazy-cute daughter is hiding under her bed, frightened by the gunfire overheard. He soothes her with a story about an invisible, impenetrable cloak that will keep her safe. When the Persian shop is re-vandalized, the owner gets himself a gun and blames the guy on the work order. He shows up at Daniel’s house and opens fire – just as the little girl jumps into her father’s arms. For a very long moment we – and they – fear that the girl has been shot, but actually, she has saved the day with her heroic magic cape. Okay, not actually true. The real saving grace? Another daughter – the Persian’s – who protected her father the only way she knew how – by loading his gun with blanks.

Beasts of the Southern Wild – Not a straight forward relationship by any means, it’s still clear that father Wink and daughter Hushpuppy have a relationship central to this story. His treatment of her sometimes seems neglectful, even brutal, but is actually pretty typical within the context of their fictional community where children are encouraged to roam free among the livestock and wildlife. In fact, her father’s occasional disappearances seem to be related to his ill-health more than his disinterest. His ways are rough, but he’s really just preparing her for a time when he’s no longer around, and she seeks his approval by being strong and independant – at the tender age of 6. When the big storm comes, he’s there, with a pair of water wings and a shotgun that he fires at the clouds, trying to chase them away and make his daughter feel better. When Wink’s time is almost up, he tries to find her a safe place to go, but she insists on returning to his side, witnessing his remaining heartbeats.

My father-daughter picks IN OUTER SPACE can be found here.


Silver Linings Playbook, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate the Movie that Everyone Else Loves

Some movies do it for you, and some movies don’t.

But for me, at least, there’s a certain amount of guilt when I don’t love a movie that I’m supposed to.  I’m really comfortable having never seen Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings. I feel really confident that, having booked a ticket in the nice theatre this Friday, and paying $22 to see Avengers: Age of Ultron in both 3D and VIP, I’m going to hate it. Just hate it. And that’s okay. What I don’t like is hating a ‘good’ movie. An Oscar-nominated movie. A critics’ darling. An intellectual two thumbs up. I feel so disappointed with myself if I just can’t muster the hurrah.

12 Years a Slave film stillI didn’t like 12 Years A Slave. There, I said it. I thought it was derivative. I felt I’d seen it before, and better. I didn’t like The Hurt Locker. It was forgettable, and Jeremy Renner was regrettable. I didn’t enjoy There Will Be Blood, and that one hurt, because I’d considered myself a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson. There’s a good chance I didn’t fully follow it, or maybe I just need a second clear-headed chance (I needed that with Magnolia too) but it left such a bad taste in my mouth that so far I’ve been unable to even consider it. And, as you may have gleaned from the title, I did not like Silver Linings Playbook.

Well, maybe that’s a little blunt. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t hate any of those movies. I just fail to appreciate how so many can think so highly of them. Because they’re all in a little category I like to call “meh”. I would call Silver Linings an above-average romcom. It’s pretty conventional, sticks to the formula, with a parody of mental illness thrown in for kicks, but it feels exploitative at times, like they’re caricatures of ‘crazy’ rather than people who struggle with a disease. This movie is an ode to temporary solutions that at times seemed to embrace the formulaic approach and almost wink at the audience, and then settled in the end for just falling prey to it. silverliningsThe screwball vibe gets in the way of the love story, and you never get swept away by it. The family dysfunction was treated so casually that I never felt the movie took itself, or its subject matter, seriously.

I recently gave this movie a re-watch, because I was feeling generous, and because I (Heart) Huckabees is one of my favourites, but I didn’t connect with it any better the second time around. I might be induced to laugh along with, but not at, someone newly diagnosed, and just released from being institutionalized. I’ve been up close and personal with bipolar, and this just felt cartoonish to me. Plus, it feels irresponsible to suggest that bipolarism can be cured by falling in love, or that someone who is bipolar must end up with someone equally as ‘crazy.’

But anyway. This movie is old news. I don’t like it, and I don’t care who knows. I am a curmudgeon. I am an Asshole, dammit, and a curious one – do you have a movie that you hate but everyone else loves? Do you feel weird or guilty about disagreeing with critics? How often does The Academy get stuff wrong?

Song of the Sea

I was angry and disappointed when The Lego Movie failed to get even a nomination from The Academy Awards this past year, because it deserved to take home the trophy. In its place were a couple of movies no one had heard of, much less seen – Song of the Sea, and The Tale of the Box OfficePrincess Kaguya (alongside Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, and How To Train Your Dragon 2). Of those, I was glad that Big Hero got the Oscar, but this was an unusual category for me, in that I hadn’t actually seen all of the nominees. Those two unknowns were impossible to see in theatres (at least here in Ottawa – and I did try, combed VOD, the works). A while ago I noticed that Song of the Sea was available through Google Play, and I meant to get around to it, but wasn’t in much of a rush since I’d been harbouring festering resentment toward it since January.

The truth is, this is not the movie that took a slot away from our beloved Legos. This movie deserved to be there.

song-of-the-sea-2Now, before we get started, let me warn you, this isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s rated PG, for some mild peril, and pipe smoking images. Do you think you can handle that? If not, better go call your mother right now, get some guidance, talk it out, see if she thinks you’re up to it.

Once upon a time, a little boy is soothed by the stories told to him by his mother. She’s expecting a baby and he can’t wait to be its big brother. But then a baby appears but mama disappears. Through the magic of movies, a few years elapse, and big brother is quite resentful of his little sister, subconsciously blaming her for his mother’s death. Their father is deep in his grief and unable to care of his children, so his mother takes them away, against their wishes, with only mom’s conch shell to remind them of safe_imagehome. Turns out, that conch shell can summon magic when it’s blown by little sister, who is a selkie like her mama (a selkie being a girl who can turn into a seal when she wears her special coat). I’m making this sound more complicated than it is, because it’s actually a very simply told little Irish myth.

The animation is hand-drawn and absolutely stunning. I was impressed from word go and it never stopped, was never less than amazing. I’ve never seen a traffic circle look so ethereal. It Song_of_the_Sea_Embedmay lack the thousand digitally produced hairs, or 57 moving facial muscles, but their little faces remain quite expressive. Attention has been paid. The glowy, magical imagery makes you feel like you’re inside a Klimt painting, and there’s a timelessness about it that’s both comforting and inspired. There are no singing snowmen, or talking cars, or yellow sidekicks; this movie is pure, and heartfelt, and embodies a mastery that we haven’t seen in a long time (maybe since The Secret of Kells). It looks the way a warm blanket feels, totally enveloping, which I suppose is appropriate: curl up, and hear a fine tale.

True Story with Matt and Jay

Both James Franco and Jonah Hill play against type in True Story, a dark true crime drama about the relationship between accused murderer Christian Longo (Franco) and journalist Mike Finkel (Hill). Franco has done his fair share of serious roles in the past (is there anything he HASN’T dabbled in?) and Hill has even been nominated for two Oscars but seeing them in a movie together primes me for gay jokes and arguments over who’s giving off more rapey vibes. They both did a fine job, Hill in particular, with Franco a little too self-consciously creepy, but I found the casting distracting.

truestoryfrancoWell, you hope that Franco is playing against type, but I guess we never really know what lurks beneath the pubic-hair beard. It was a bad casting choice; one or the other may have worked, but not both together. In fact, I’m not even sure I would keep Franco on my short list. He did the dead eyes thing a lot, and at first I thought, okay, that wouldn’t have been my choice, but at least he’s committing…but the more I knew about the character, the more I felt I needed to see grief or deviousness or SOMETHING. And yet I still enjoyed our little outing, dinner and a movie, trying Lansdowne Cineplex VIP’s new spring menu (though hasn’t it been spring for all of our visits?), indulging in a delicious lobster grilled cheese sandwich and a couple of raspberry-watermelon gin spritzes.

Poor Mike Finkel. One minute a Pulitzer feels like it’s right around the corner, the next he can’t even get hired to write a snowboarding piece. Maybe I’m a little jaded but I found the way he adjusted the details in order to tell a more powerful story easy to forgive. The film even tries clumsily to draw parallels between the stories of Finkel and Longo, the latter of whom strangled his wife and three children and stuffed them into suitcases. Not sure I see the connection.

Yeah, that was a weird angle. It’s like the writers felt they had an interesting story but had no idea how to present it. But Finkel’s indiscretion did feel relatively minor, having attributed a TRUE STORYfew extra details to a profile about African children. Did all of those things happen to the one kid? No. But he was telling a bigger story, and I suppose you and I could see that while his superiors valued cold facts over a story that moves. Either way, the rest of us would call those white lies at best – in a generous mood, maybe even “fudging” or “embellishing”, you know, the way I fudged the truth up there where a) I claimed we had dinner and a movie when in actuality we saw a movie, and then had dinner and b) I characterized the grilled cheese as delicious although in reality I found it to be ambitious movie food but ultimately soggy in the middle and overly crispy around the edges – so much so that I feared you were about to shush me at any  moment.

Longo accuses Finkel of being more like him than he’d like to admit. After all, Finkel did profit financially from telling this story. Is it a fair comparison? Not only did Longo murder his family, he shows no remorse and lies compulsively to protect himself. Was his a story that needed to be told- by Finkel or by the filmmakers- or is this more attention than he deserved?

I didn’t see them as being very similar at all. Multiple homicide is not equal to getting paid to write. I think Finkel was a bit motivated by career-redemption – it certainly kept him from following up on some serious red flags, and I think he may have been more guilty of journalistic negligence here than in his kerfuffle with the New York Times. He was a weak man but I don’t think he was a bad one. As for your last question, I’ve been thinking on that so much that I wrote a whole post about it – watch for it soon.

True-Story-phone-call-flippedThere may have been a good movie in here somewhere. Maybe if it really focused on the somewhat bizarre relationship between these two men instead of the maturation of these two actors. Or if it asked the right questions. It’s revealed at the end that the two men still speak semi-regularly. WHY?! There may be a much more interesting story there than the one told in True Story.

Agreed. There was nothing in the movie that suggested that these two would or could remain friends. One of the last scenes has Longo asking Finkel what he has personally lost by befriending him  – seems like a friendship-ending thought to me. I also felt that they didn’t properly address the whole stolen identity aspect, and the verdict feels a little…out of the blue. But the part that I find myself dwelling on the most is that end title card that read something like – Christian Longo went on to write for many publications, including The New York Times, from death row. Finkel never wrote for them again. It really made me feel like our social priorities are horribly fucked up. 

Father-Daughter Relationships in OUTER SPACE!

Two weeks ago, it was cop week, and we talked about our favouritest police movies through the ages, and I talked about the surprising number of cop movies I came across that took place in – well, not space, but the future, which is practically the same thing. I wouldn’t have guessed that, exploring movies featuring father-daughter relationships, I would come across as many, if not more, that take place in space (not even just the future, but honest to god outer space!).

Deep Impact – The lesser-known of the two asteroids-are-going-to-kill-us movies released in the late 90s. Morgan Freeman plays the president, telling his people that a comet is probably going to kill them all, but they’re doing their darndest to prevent it, fingers crossed! The movie follows deepimpact14435a few different story lines, but for the purpose of our theme, I’m focused on the reporter played by Tea Leoni, and her father, newly married to a woman just two years her senior. It’s clear this relationship has been strained at best for years. She’s closer to her mother, but with the asteroid bearing down on them, her mother takes a bunch of pills and bows out. Tea Leoni shares that she “feels like an orphan” – with her father. To his face. But he comes back at her with photos of their happier times and though she’s too angry with him to admit it, they do awaken memories for her. So she gives up her seat to safety and instead meets the end of the world with her father, his arms clutched tightly around her as the big wave hits. Her last word, “Daddy.” This movie made me wonder about death and regret. Did her mother’s death make her crave reconciliation with her father? Or was it staring her own death in the face that gave her the courage to forgive?

Armageddon – Harry (Bruce Willis) and Grace (Liv Tyler) Stamper have a weird relationship. She’s grown up under his watchful and protective eye on an oil tanker surrounded by dirty men. Harry is struggling to think of his baby girl as a woman though it’s clear she’s been the more mature of the two for years. Though they don’t always see eye to eye (particularly when it comes to her armageddon-movie-bruce-willis-and-liv-tylerboyfriend AJ – he takes a ‘no one’s good enough for my daughter’ attitude, and backs it up with a shotgun), he’s all she has and he promises to come back safely. Cue the blubbering when he inevitably does not come back – sacrifices himself, in fact, so that her boyfriend may live, and go on to marry his beloved daughter. Bruce used pictures of his own daughters to provoke the necessary emotions during their tearful goodbye scene, and of course Liv’s real-life dad Steven is crooning away on the soundtrack – no dry eye left behind.

Interstellar – This movie gives us a two for one deal in terms of fathers and daughters. First off, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) decides to take on a multi-year mission to outer space to save the world, but try explaining that to his 10 year old daughter Murph, who can only hear goodbye. Because of the weird passage of time in space, she’ll be a grown woman when he comes back – if he comes back at all.

Meanwhile, NASA director Brand (Michael Caine) is also sending his own daughter Amelia (Anne hathaway) on the mission. It goes wrong pretty much right out of the gate; 3 hours on a planet’s interstellar-new-poster-wallpapersurface costs 21 years on Earth, which means her aged father is now dead, and Murph is now a grown woman (Jessica Chastain), and the heir-apparent at NASA. They discover that Caine never thought these missions would succeed – he was only trying to perpetuate mankind by sending embryos out into space. But as “luck” would have it, Cooper gets to sacrifice himself in order to save Ann Hathaway, but instead of dying he finds himself in 5-dimensional space, which allows him to use gravity to communicate with his 10 year old daughter. He sends a message that his future grown daughter Jessica Chastain will use to make the mission succeed after all. Thrown back through the manhole, he wakes up on the humanity-saving space station made possible by his daughter, a hundred year old woman who has lived just long enough to say goodbye to her dad, who hasn’t aged a day.

Quick & Dirty


Short Term 12 – Brie Larson stars as a social worker in a group home for damaged kids – though she hasn’t quite shed her own damaged past. Raw, messy, and unmissable.


Proof – Gwyneth Paltrow’s recently deceased father (Anthony Hopkins) was both a genius mathematician and a victim of dementia. She’s afraid that she’s inherited both those tendencies. Good performances but unbalanced film.


Lucky – A man is inconvenienced when he wins 36 million dollars in a state lottery – it makes his secret killing spree more vulnerable to discovery! No chemistry between Colin Hanks and Ari Graynor and the movie just kind of pinballs between one bad idea and the next. Dud.

lovemeLove Me – Documentary about American men finding mail order brides. Gave me the willies. Scams outnumber love stories but it’s very hard to feel sorry for guys who gave me the creeps.

Little Women (1994)

The March sisters. Being 1 of 4 sisters myself, I suppose I should relate more to them, but I do not. I’ve never had a warm or fuzzy feeling for these women, and I do not foresee one suddenly coming on.

In 1994, director Gillian Armstrong decided to cast 3 famous little women, and 1 unknown. I wonder if she just ran out of budget. As Meg March, Trini Alvarado comes from left field and does little to distinguish herself. Pay her no mind. We all know that Meg is not that important. It’s next in line Jo (Winona Ryder) who has set herself up as the head of sisters and all things, the playwright and boss. Little Beth (Claire Danes) is the retiring, sweet one. And of course there’s Amy (Kirsten Dunst), the youngest and the sauciest, always finding trouble to get into, such as bringing limes to school, and falling through the ice.

Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kristen Dunst: can you get any more 90s than that lineup? MV5BNWRkOWVjZmMtMGEwOC00NDQzLWIwYWYtNDFkOGFiNTUyMWJjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjA5MTIzMjQ@._V1_SY1000_SX678_AL_Susan Sarandon plays their matriarch, ‘Marmee’ – a big name for giving her so very little to do. But this is not a story about mothers, it’s a story about sisters, and no story about sisters can be told without boys, which is why floppy-haired Christian Bale is installed next door, and he’s making some interesting acting choices. He seems to have decided to go with “effeminate Keanu Reeves” for his portrayal of Laurie.

This version is a perfectly acceptable adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved story. So my beef is not so much with the movie, and I dare not say it’s with the novel, but I don’t care much for the story, which feels too precious and sappy to me. Which is the only reason I’m not freaking out about Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan reteaming. They’ve already been hard at work on Gerwig’s version of Little Women, with Ronan as Jo, of course. And Emma Watson and wholesome Meg and Eliza Scalen as boring Beth and Florence Pugh as a surprisingly elderly Amy. Oh, and Timothee Chalamet, of course, as Laurie. And Laura Dern as Marmee, and Meryl Streep as crazy ole Aunt March, so consider my heart irretrievably broken.