Tag Archives: dead dog alert

Los Reyes

Well, I’ve never seen anything like it before, that’s for sure.

I’m not even sure what to call it – documentary seems inaccurate and also somehow inadequate. “An enchanting nonfiction portrait of canine companionship” is what the Planet In Focus film festival has settled upon, and I’m game enough to go along with it. Set in a Chilean skate park, the film somehow makes 2 stray dogs its focus.

Chola is a sweet, proud girl who finds joy in chasing cyclists and is endlessly fascinated by dropping her beloved tennis ball town the skate park’s many ramps. Futbol, on the other hand, is more sedate, more stoic perhaps, but is rarely seen without some ‘toy’ to chew on, though that toy is most often garbage and if all else fails, a rock.

Besides the dogs, the skate park is often full of skaters, mostly teenage boys, slight no-goodniks, young rebels who are just learning to navigate an adult world they aren’t quite ready for. But there are no human faces in this film, just occasional body parts, the merest hint of human, as if the dogs don’t quite care to pay them full attention. More likely to be on screen: patches of sky, blades of grass, close-ups of bugs – whatever might be considered a dog’s eye view. The film is laconic. There is a lot of laying about in the sun, or obsessively sniffing a suspicious mound of earth. Perhaps mimicking the mind of a dog, there’s a lot of open space in the film, room to contemplate individual things but rarely a larger whole.

The film fest posits that Los Reyes will “delight dog- and doc-lovers alike” and while that may be the case for some, I’d guess that it won’t be for everyone. Largely silent, the film only occasionally picks up snippets of conversation from the nearby youth who seem to always have a domestic situation or a drug deal going down. The dogs remain uninterested. Two years into filming, the dogs are also surprisingly comfortable with the cameras, allowing for extremely up close and personal explorations of their bodies and the other inhabitants of their fur. It is not always pleasant viewing, especially because the lives of stray street dogs are probably not exceptionally long. I love dogs, but I love them to have homes and be cared for, and for me, this movie never shed its inherent melancholy.

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Zombieland

Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) tells us the first rule of surviving in the United States of Zombieland is: cardio. “The first to go are the fatties.” Well, shit. I mean, not that I’ll mind much. I’ve gone on record before – I am not a survivor. I would 130% rather die than live without clean fingernails, hot soup, pillow-top mattresses, a good light to read by, air conditioning, my hot tub…well, the list is nearly endless. I am what they call “high maintenance” and I am not embarrassed. My happiness is not accidental, it is the result of favourable conditions and many comfort items. It’s basic math. More is more. Plus, I think running for your life is undignified. I won’t even walk briskly for a bus.

Columbus, a loner and a weakling, is perhaps himself an unlikely survivor, but his odds increase when he teams up with fellow traveler Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), who is infinitely cooler and braver and better at this zombie shit. And yet they still fall prey to a couple of young sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who are simply smarter. It’s when all 4 start traveling together that the fun really starts. Sure it contravenes some of Columbus’ dearly held rules, like traveling light and not being a hero, but just because you’re being chased by brain-hungry hoards doesn’t mean you’re not also horny.

It’s sort of incredible that it’s been 10 years since Zombieland came out; it was one of the first movies that Matt, Sean and I would have seen together. I would have met Sean about 2.5 months prior and he was already being the third wheel on Jay & Matt adventures. We saw Zombieland at a downtown Ottawa theatre that no longer exists – The World Exchange. I was about to say that we could walk there from our apartment but in October 2009, it was still technically only Sean’s apartment (and always would be – when I moved in with all my stuff, we moved up 2 floors to a spacious 2 bedroom). Now of course we’ve done the big suburban exodus. In 10 years we’ve bought 1 house, 3 more dogs, 4 cars, 6 weddings (5 of them ours). We’ve added 15 people to our immediate families – 9 by birth and 6 by marriage. If life can change this much in a decade for us and our cushy little existence, imagine how much things have changed for the people living the zombie apocalypse. They have no government, no infrastructure, no twinkies. When we left them at the end of Zombieland, all they had was each other. What have they been up to? How are they possibly surviving? Did they hole up in a farm? Contract the flu? Did Wichita beat Columbus to death with a studded baseball bat? We’ll find out this weekend, when the sequel finally hits theatres.

TIFF19: The Friend

Matt (Casey Affleck) and Nicole (Dakota Johnson) have a marriage like any other, which is to say, to them it’s a truly unique love story that’s had highs and lows, good times and challenges. The ultimate challenge is, of course, Nicole’s terminal cancer. It’s the kind of challenge that makes you set aside the other troubles, all comparatively minor now, and concentrate on “a good death”, whatever that means, especially with two young daughters to be left behind.

friend_0HERO-e1567826414285Of course, life doesn’t pause for the dying. Laundry piles up, sandwiches need to be sliced diagonally, and so on.

Enter everyone’s mutual best friend Dane (Jason Segel), who keeps the house running as the matriarch lays dying. You would call Dane a lifesaver, except she dies in the end. She definitely dies in the end.

Dane quits his job and leaves his girlfriend in order to perform this rescue mission. What kind of man would do such a thing? You’ll enjoy finding out. There are a million films about dying mothers (we saw another just 18 hours later; dying mothers are a trope, nearly a life certainty, and a definite tear-jerker. But friends who will drop everything to truly be there in someone’s time of need – that’s a story.

The Friend is based on a true story, a grateful widower’s tribute to the man who held his life together even as it broke apart. The most interesting part of this story, to me, is that Dane is not himself removed from the grief. Doctors, nurses, palliative care workers – they’re all paid professionals. Which is not to say those people are not also sometimes angels, just that sometimes heroes don’t wear capes, and it’s nice to see a film about them for a change. It’s wonderful to explore Dane’ motivations and mourning, and Segel has proven himself just as adept at drama as he is at comedy.

TIFF19: Murmur

Donna has just been convicted of impaired driving and is sentenced to hours of community service. She lives alone in a serviceable apartment, her only company empty bottles of wine, and regret. Her grown daughter wants nothing to do with her.

Serving her time at an animal shelter, Donna gets the grubby, grotty tasks, which she performs uncomplainingly. She moves through her day, from mopping up shit, to alcohol counseling, back home to her wine, with little fuss, and little connection. It’s not until a mangy scruffball named Charlie is scheduled to be put down that we see Donna’s softer side. She begs her boss to allow Charlie to come home with her instead; Charlie is old, and sick, but she vows to take good care of him for his remaining days.

Her relief is obvious. Estranged from her daughter, isolated in her little apartment, Charlie is the first sign of affection we’ve seen from Donna. They bond. Are they maybe kinda sorta two of a kind? Both rejects? At any rate, the arrangement is so satisfying that Donna doesn’t stop at just one. Pretty soon she’s popping puppies like Pringles (no, she doesn’t eat them), her small apartment brimming with pets and still she can’t stop bringing them home.

Shan MacDonald is wonderful as Donna. She doesn’t try to pretty her up, or make her more likable. Donna is tough, and MacDonald rises to the occasion. I don’t imagine it’s an easy role to play, but there’s a universality in the loneliness that really resonates.

Murmur was a little slow to engage me as Donna’s life is bleak, and has so little personal interaction. But the dogs open her up in a lovely, tragic, humane way. It becomes easy to guess at the many ways in which Donna may relate to the dogs, may see herself in them. She certainly seems to find companionship easier with animals that with humans, and you know she’s not the first or the last to do that. Her social isolation is heart-breaking, and the film really manages to say something meaningful about addictions – empathetic without letting anyone off the hook.

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel has robots, cyborgs, martians, floating cities, subterranean caves, hyperviolent arena sports, space battles, and an all-seeing immortal dictator pulling the strings behind the scenes.  And somehow, it manages to make all that stuff boring.  Like a three-handed guitar player (and make no mistake, Alita includes a three handed guitar player), Alita: Battle Angel is far less than the sum of its parts.

MV5BODMzMjlmZTYtOGU2NS00NGM2LWI4ZDItNzQzYTYwNDA2ZmU4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXRzdGFzaWVr._V1_CR21,0,939,528_AL_UY268_CR10,0,477,268_AL_The titular Alita (the Battle Angel, as it were) is found by Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) in an Iron City garbage heap. Well, Alita’s head and shoulders are, but the rest of her body is missing. Turns out, Alita is a 300 year old cyborg from before the “Fall” and Dr. Ido really easily brings her back to “life”. Like, it’s no trouble whatsoever for him to reboot her, and you might wonder why no one else has tried for the last 300 years.  But don’t, because if you start asking questions like that about this movie, you will never be able to stop.  Trust me.

We come to learn that in Alita the “Fall”  was a war between martians and Earth’s floating cities, rather than a name for the second worst season (anyone who thinks fall is worse than winter has never lived through a real winter), or an elevator between Australia and post-Brexit London (doesn’t it seem like Boris Johnson’s plan for Brexit might be to build that stupid elevator from the worse Total Recall? But I guess that makes sense when Donald Trump seems to have already ripped off the Mars colony part from the also-not-great original).

The only floating city that didn’t fall happens to be the one directly over Iron City, and oh yeah, Alita was found in the garbage falling from that floating city, and oh yeah, somehow after 300 years she still is in great condition without her body even though if any other cyborgs in this movie lose a finger they instantly die (except where screaming would add dramatic effect). Also, the only way to get to the floating city, obviously the home of the immortal dictator guy (Edward Norton!?! I had no idea he was even in this but of course Jay spotted him right away), is to win the Motorball championship (like a White House visit, I guess), but there is infinitely more political commentary in the previous two paragraphs of this review than in the whole of Alita. That’s probably for the better, considering how brainless this James Cameron script is. This was the best he could do after working on it for TWO DECADES?

There’s more back story and then some Matrix-lite fight scenes with a lot of cyborg spines and blue goo, but at this point I hope you are realizing that it doesn’t matter because it is all really stupid and you should avoid this movie at all costs. Some of the cyborgs might be kind of cool I guess but when Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali and Edward Norton clearly can’t be bothered with this movie, why should you?

The Jane Austen Book Club

I didn’t think I needed The Jane Austen Book Club in my life. Hollywood has taught me that movies based on book clubs just don’t really feel cinematic. But I saw that it was early (2007) Emily Blunt and I was tired of searching for something better, so I settled.

Lesson #1: trust your instincts.

Jocelyn (Maria Bello) has just lost her best friend and life partner, who happened to be a dog. Some may think the funeral is a little over the top, but Jocelyn’s grief is real, and her friends have gathered round to help her through a difficult time – only Sylvia’s husband MV5BMjMzNDc0MTI4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNTAxMzc3._V1_Daniel (Jimmy Smits) can’t seem to keep the snide comments to himself. Turns out, that’s not the only thing he can’t keep to himself as he soon confessed to Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), devoted wife of a quarter century, mother of his children, that he’s seeing another woman and that leaving the other woman is non-negotiable. So. Jocelyn sets aside her own grief to take care of her flailing friend. Sylvia’s daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace) moves back in so she’s not alone and pal Bernadette (Kathy Baker) has the genius idea to establish a Jane Austen book club to provide a distraction. Since there are 6 novels to discuss, they’re in need of 2 more members. Bernadette brings aboard Prudie (Emily Blunt), an unfulfilled French teacher yearning for more than this provincial life, and Jocelyn recruits a young man and virtual stranger, Grigg (Hugh Dancy), as perhaps bait to liven up Sylvia’s gloomy divorce.

You can already tell that the book club is mostly an excuse to bitch about men (and women), and then we occasionally follow the women home to watch them make their various mistakes in real time, which is charming. Hint: that was sarcasm. The ensemble work between the women is actually pretty good but it’s an otherwise formulaic, sentimental, maudlin piece of crap pushed by Big Kleenex to turn women into weepies. Plus, it can’t help but be compared unfavourably to the Austen works discussed in the film. And that they should have seen coming.

Top 10 Disney Dogs

You’ve likely heard about our trip to Disney World by now, and you may have even seen me in one of several Disney dresses. One dress that I did not buy was the Disney dog dress (praise be – yes, there IS such a thing!) and Sean was very disappointed in its exclusion. The dress featured so many of our favourite canine characters that I decided to dedicate a list to our furry friends – especially mine, who have been left home for the duration of our travels. Miss you love you see you soon!

tenor10. Lady, Lady and the Tramp. This is a pure romantical addition to the list. Not only are she and her beau #couplesgoals, she inspires pure #hairenvy too. And she’s a dog! But dogs are better than people, and I’ve never had a date half as romantic as slurping noodles for two (though I likely have nosed a meatball onto my partner’s plate – don’t ask).

9. Pluto, various. Mickey Mouse has a pal named Goofy, who is an anthropomorphic dog. He wears clothes and walks upright and has fingers and speaks. Mickey also has a pet dog, and his name is Pluto. Pluto does none of the above. He’s all dog, mouse’s best friend. He’s adventurous and friendly, though prone to panic when encountering something unknown. Since he doesn’t talk, he relies on physical comedy, and those beloved bits have ensured him a place among the sensational six (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto) though Pluto rarely if EVER has a starring role. He proves yet again how well Disney does sidekicks.
8. Percy, Pocahontas. Percy the pug is the pampered sidekick to the evil Governor Radcliffe. Though the other sailors slop around below-decks, Percy lives a life of percy_bannerluxury, taking bubble baths and eating dog bones off a carousel. If only I lived so well! But once they land in America, Percy switches allegiances, befriending not just Pocahontas, but her animal friends as well – notably, a scampy raccoon named Meeko who is the real reason I’ve included Percy. Meeko is not a dog, but he may as well be. I think these are a beautiful inclusion because they do something their humans are unable to do: they put their differences aside and build a friendship. Dogs really are better than people.
7. Bolt, Bolt. Bolt is a white German shepherd and the star of a TV series about a canine super hero. But this work has led Bolt to believe that he is in fact a super hero though he is actually just an actor. However, that theory’s going to be put the test when he becomes separated from his owner and has to prove his mettle on his own and find his way home.  It’s a very sweet story about self-discovery and self-worth, and the star is an adorable cartoon dog that you can’t help but love.
6. Sparky, Frankenweenie. Victor and his dog Sparky are incredibly close. When tumblr_naagudxrk11t3ly41o5_500Sparky dies, Jay cries. That’s just how it is. We’ve only spent a few opening scenes with 11 year old Victor and his pal Sparky, but Sparky’s end is tragic, and we feel it deep in our bones. But Victor is a cunning, smart kid – and very interested in science. So he manages to resurrect his dog. Sparky lives again, even if he is a little worse for wear, a little Frankenstein’s monstery. I live with 4 dogs who are my little floofy loves, and it would destroy me should they pass before me. So this movie speaks to me. Loudly. And it’s just a great film.
5. Sultan (Footstool), Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast is a beautifully animated fairy tale with a problematic plot. If you’re worried about it on account of the whole kidnap-victim-stolkholm-syndrome-bestiality bit, you’re not wrong. But let me tell you about what also bothers me: an old lady visits a castle on a stormy night and begs to stay the night. When the prince refuses, she turns him into a beast and he has until the age of 21 to make someone fall in love with him in his hideous state. This old witch doesn’t just punish the guilty party though – she somehow feels justified in turning the entire service staff into household objects even though 243542bac940896166a1a4fdc1dccda0they’ve done nothing wrong, and leaves them that way – “ten long years we’ve been rusting” sings a chandelier. Record scratch. 10 years? That’s right. The prince was only 10 years old, home alone, a latchkey kid when a stranger knocked on his door one night. Probably his parents warned him to never, ever let a stranger into the house when they weren’t there just like mine and yours did. And for that sin he receives this cruel punishment? He spends his formative years completely isolated and disfigured and yet still has enough humanity, enough sensitivity to impress a haughty young bookworm named Belle? Astounding. Also noteworthy: his staff has also managed to remain in good humour. Especially the castle’s pet dog Sultan, who gets turned into a footstool. I love seeing that footstool bounce around in the snow. He relishes being “pet” but then rushes to provide foot support to his guests as well. He’s loyal and sweet, proving that the dog’s spirit is just as much alive as ever in the footstool – which is actually kind of a harrowing realization for everyone else, but let’s not dwell.
flat,550x550,075,f.u24. Dante, Coco. Dante is a skinny Xoloitzxuintle, a street dog when Miguel adopts him, and forever obsessed with food, which often gets him (and Miguel!) into embarrassing situations. But their bond means Dante will forever be loyal to Miguel and his clan; he even follows him into the land of the dead and becomes the world’s most adorably neon spirit guide. Though Dante appears to be a simple-minded goofball, he actually imperceptibly guides Miguel toward where he needs to be – “Who’s a good spirit guide? You are!”

3. Slinky, Toy Story. Slinky dog is a friend to all toys, but seems especially loyal to Woody, and sometimes acts like his pet, which I suppose is fitting. He was voiced byslinky-dog-dash_full_32389 Jim Varney, who died of lung cancer shortly after Toy Story 2’s release; he has since been voiced by Varney’s friend, Blake Clark. In tribute, Slink’s catchphrase is “Golly bob-howdy” just like Ernest. Disney World has just opened up a new section of Hollywood Studios dedicated to Toy Story and one of its most popular attractions is the Slinky Dog Dash – which is a misleading way to describe a roller-coaster, if you ask me. Will I be too chicken to ride it? All signs point to yes.

2. Stitch, Lilo & Stitch. Technically, Stitch is an illegal alien science experiment (#626) dagg4hrgone wrong, not a dog. But when he’s exiled to Earth, he winds up in a dog pound, and adopts a more dog-like shape when he’s adopted by Lilo and her sister Noni. His nature is to destroy everything he touches, but when he becomes part of Lilo’s family, a valued and beloved pet, he changes in some essential ways. This movie is all about family, and a good reminder of a pet’s precious place in a family home.
1. Dug, Up. Dug is a chubby golden retriever, loyal and silly and lovable. And easily giphydistracted by squirrels! He likes people instantly, he bonds fiercely, and best of all, he talks! Rather, he wears a collar that decodes his thoughts into understandable English. And wouldn’t you just die to have that for your own pet at home? Dug is my favourite dog in my favourite movie, and everyone agrees: he was awarded the Palm Dog Award by the British film critics as the best canine performances at Cannes, beating out the fox from Antichrist, and the black poodle from Inglorious Basterds. I’ve already met Dug once, on a previous pilgrimage to Disney, and you bet I’m going to stand in line to do it again!