Tag Archives: Jodie Foster

The Mauritanian

This is the true story of Mohamedou Salahi, a man from Mauritania who was kidnapped from his home and detained and (it goes without saying) tortured in Guantanamo Bay by the U.S. government in the wake of 9/11 for years without being charged with a single crime.

Salahi (Tahar Rahim) has been languishing in a cell in Cuba for years by the time we meet him; he’s just added a sympathetic lawyer to his cause. Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) takes a lot of flak for defending a terrorist but everyone’s supposed to have the same rights, bad guy or good guy, innocent or guilty. Right? Yeah, right. The US government believes it can switch its own laws, conditions, and human rights on and off at will, and hide their worst transgressions offshore (ahem, Cuba). Nancy adds Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley) to her team, and off they trot to good old Guantanamo where they learn they’re in for an extremely uphill battle. Meanwhile, the other side is covered by Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch) who isn’t having the easiest time either. Meanwhile, fair to say Mohamedou is having the absolute worst time of all because as you may have heard, Guantanamo is more or less synonymous with horrible abuse.

Tahar Rahim’s performance is magnetic, finding the sweet spot between hero and villain that is every shade of human, and his nomination is well deserved. In fact, Foster, Cumberbatch, and to a lesser extent Woodley, are in top form as well (but look out for Benedict’s Southern accent and report back on your opinion immediately!). The story is fascinating even if you’ve read extensively about it before. Kevin Macdonald’s direction, however, is simplistic and straight-forward. The Mauritanian isn’t so much a good movie as a compelling story. It’s solidly well-made in a no-frills way but won’t impress anyone beyond basic competence. Should you watch it? I think it’s interesting and informative and covers a pretty important topic that most Americans seem to have largely ignored. The answer is yes: check out The Mauritanian. It is necessary and infuriating.

Hotel Artemis

Picture it: Los Angeles, 2018. The city is in its third day of violent riots. The people are demanding access to clean water. The power is flickering, a curfew is in effect, rich people are sending servants to deposit “lootable” goods at the bank. Which means there’s all the more for a bank robber (Sterling K. Brown) with an entrepreneurial spirit to steal. Unfortunately he and his gang of merry men escape with both bullet wounds and an accidental $18M in diamonds that ruthless mob boss Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) is definitely going to come searching for.

But first things first: with his own brother bleeding in his arms, our intrepid bank robber checks in at the Hotel Artemis, a “dark room”, or a high-security, members-only hospital for the criminal underground. I believe they’ve ripped this idea directly from the John Wick movies, but it’s a good one. There, the doctor, who is called Nurse (Jodie Foster) is guided by a very strict set of rules:

1. While on the premises, no fighting with or killing other patients.

2. No disrespectful words or actions allowed against Hotel Artemis staff.

3. No guns or any type of weapon permitted through the gates.

4. Membership must be paid for, full and in advance.

5. Prior but lapsed members will not be admitted

6. No photography or video allowed.

7. No outside food or drink.

8. Absolutely no visitors.

9. If member is found to have compromised, or led to compromise of location, membership will be revoked.

10. Hotel Artemis rules are final and non-negotiable.

Tonight, with both the police, the rioters, and the Wolf King’s men bearing down on them, the brimming with injured criminals, no-vacancy hospital will come under siege, its only protector a dedicated health care practitioner named Everest (Dave Bautista), and every one of these rules will be broken.


With such a potent premise and an A-list cast, Sean was curious as to why he was only hearing about this now. Usually, there’s only one answer: it’s no good. But actually, it’s not bad. Maybe not good, but it depends what you’re looking for. At times it reminded of Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise with all these people stuck in a building that’s starting to resemble hell. But Hotel Artemis has more modest ambitions, and if you start to get an inkling of an allegory, well, it’ll be dashed soon enough so don’t expend too much brain power on it. Sit back and enjoy the villainous Jeff Goldblum (which is THE BEST Jeff Goldblum, isn’t it?) and the kick-ass Sofia Boutella and Jodie Foster in an actual role, an actual meaty, outside-the-box role (her first since Elysium!). Of course, the downside to a cast like this is that we don’t spend oodles of time with any of them (the movie has a trim 94 minute run-time) but when Bautista calmly unclips his hospital badge from its prominent breast-pocket display and pockets it, oh hell, you know you’re in for some fireworks and it doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten to know all the players because they’re about to become hunks of meat only suitable for stewing.

So maybe it’s disposable. Fuck it. You’re not watching for the depth of the satire, are you? No, you’re watching it because someone’s about to get PAPER-JAMMED TO DEATH (wait for it) and goddamn if you can’t look away from that.

Never Work With Children

Never work with animals or children.” – W.C. Fields.

Both kids and animals can be scene-stealing and unpredictable. They’re threats on set – not just because a tantrum might hold up filming, but because the ability of a child to do good work is pretty damaging to ego-driven actors. I know for a fact that a child could not do my job. Could a kid do yours?  It was a little controversial when 9 year old cutie pie Jacob Tremblay failed to receive Jacob-Tremblay-Spirit-Awards-2016an Oscar nomination for his work in Room, but the truth is, the members of the Academy will always be reluctant to admit than a 9 year old may have out-acted Leonardo DiCaprio. Patty Duke was 16 when she won for The Miracle Worker. Keisha Castle-Hughes was just 13 when she was nominated for Whale Rider; same for Saoirse Ronan for Atonement. Quvenzhané Wallis was 9 when she was nominated for Beasts of the Southern Wild but the title of youngest nominee goes to Justin Henry who was 7 when he filmed Kramer Vs Kramer, and 8 when he attended the ceremony.

Shirley Temple: Shirley started acting when she was just 3 and broke out in the movie Bright Eyes, a film written as a vehicle for her talents. She received a special Juvenile Academy Award in 1935, at the age of 7 and remained the top shirley-temple-2box-office draw for four years running in the late 1930s, with hits like Curly Top and Heidi defining her career. Her wholesome image led to merchandising opportunities and soon she had a line of clothing, dolls and dishes, which doubled what she made in movies. She was tabloid fodder too: in American people gossiped about whether her curls were real, often tugging on her hair in person. Abroad it was thought that she was not a child at all, but a 30 year old dwarf, and even the Vatican set about confirming it. At the top of her fame she even got to meet the Roosevelts at the White House, but her popularity decreased sharply when she hit puberty, a fate all too many child stars know, but her agent didn’t see it coming and actually turned down the part of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (Judy Garland would snap it up). Several films made while she was a teenager flopped and she was retired completely at the ripe old age of 22.

Macauley Culkin:Little Mac started acting at the age of 4. John Hughes discovered him for the John Candy film Uncle Buck but it was his next film, Home Alone, that would make Culkin a star. He hosted SNL at the age of 11, starred in Michael Jackson’s music video for Black or White (and also in maxresdefaultMichael Jackson’s trial for sexual molestation), and followed up with a successful sequel, and memorable roles in My Girl, Richie Rich, and The Good Son. But guess what? Puberty! Macauley Culkin retired from acting at age 14 and nobody heard much from him except for the occasional arrest for drugs. He’s since popped back up doing very sporadic work and performing in a comedic rock band called Pizza Underground (he has previously stormed off a stage during a kazoo solo, which is not weird at all), and looking so haggard at times that fans worry he’s dying. So far, still alive.

Jodie Foster: Jodie started her career as a child model at the age of 3 (she was the Coppertone girl) and made the leap into acting a couple of years later. Her breakthrough was of course in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, in which she Jodie Foster Winner Of Palme D Or At The Cannes Festival For The Role In The Movie Taxi Driverportrayed a child prostitute. The role earned her her first Oscar nomination. She followed that up with successful turns in Freaky Friday and Bugsy Malone, making her a bona fide teen idol and the first on this list to continue working into her teens, and of course beyond. She interrupted her successful career to attend (and graduate) Yale, and though she loved her time as a student, she knew she wanted to pursue acting as a career. [Sidebar: during that time she was stalked by John Hinckley, who later attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagon in a bid to impress her.] Roles as an adult were sparse at first but she broke through for a second time playing a rape survivor in The Accused, and this time she won her Academy Award. She followed that up with The Silence of the Lambs, a wise choice that cemented her as a star, and then turned director with Little Man Tate. Her career has had some ups and downs but she’s worked consistently and just got her star on the walk of fame earlier this year, having directed George Clooney and Julia Roberts in Money Monster.

Haley Joel Osment: He got his acting start in a commerciGTY_haley_joel_osment_1_kab_140916_16x9_992al for Pizza Hut and achieved fame by the age of 11 , thanks to a starring role in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense that garnered him an Oscar nomination (though he’d also appeared in Forrest Gump). He capitalized on his fame with follow-up roles in Pay It Forward and AI: Artificial haley-joel-osmentt-forrest-gump-today-150809_882bcb0edac984d7a624db306093e62b_today-inline-largeIntelligence, earning him praise and Roger Ebert’s assessment that he was one of the finest working actors of the time. But you know what happens next: puberty, and its accompanying acting slump. He went dormant for a while, except for the obligatory child actor DUI, but is now back at it, acting in films that nobody sees.

River Phoenix: Like many, River got his start in commercials but you all know his claim to fame: Stand By Me.  He’d grown up in a weird family and never attended school, but he was gifted when it came to acting. Stand By Me made him a household name and got him on the cover of Teen Beat and its ilk, but his next few roles were duds. Sidney Lumet’s Running on Empty would earn him an Oscar nomination though and put him back on the map. His role river24opposite Keanu Reeves in My Own Private Idaho established him as an edgy heartthrob with leading man potential, but immersing himself in intense roles was taking its toll, as were his struggles with addictions. River had turned to acting in a bid to support his family but music was his first love, and he started playing in a band. He even got to play with his friend Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), which is what his siblings were there to see that night at the Viper Room. Flea was onstage playing with Johnny Depp when River was outside dying on the sidewalk. His brother Joaquin dialed 911 while his sister Rain gave him mouth to mouth. He was rushed to the hospital but died, of a drug overdose, at the age of 23. Fans were shocked – he’d had a squeaky-clean image until then (“the vegan James Dean” they called him) and the press loved the story, so much so that they broadcast Joaquin’s 911 call and snuck into the funeral home to snap pics of him in his casket. He was slated to start filming Interview With the Vampire just 2 weeks after his death – Christian Slater replaced him, and donated his salary to two of Phoenix’s favourite causes, Earth Save and Earth Trust.

2b9e3a72f7f47cedcfbd61d1ba1ca0ddAbigail Breslin: A familiar refrain: she began appearing in commercials at the age of 3. Her first film role was with Joaquin Phoenix in Signs, but of course what you really know her from is putting the sunshine into Little Miss Sunshine, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. She later teamed up with another onAbigail-breslin-attends-the-fox-fx-summer-2015-tca-party-in-west-hollywood_1 this list, Jodie Foster, for Nim’s Island, and had a fun and memorable role in Zombieland. She also took on Broadway, playing that role that Patty Duke made famous in The Miracle Worker, and acted opposite powerhouses Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County.

Tatum O’Neal: She is the youngest person to have ever won an Academy Award, for starring opposite her father Ryan in Paper Moon. Did it fuck her up? Of course it did. She had a tempestuous, abusive relationship with her 1393376798_1512567_tatum-o-neal-zoomfather, which culminated in her getting molested by his drug dealer. She went on to star in The Bad News Bears and Little Darlings, and even became Michael Jackson’s first girlfriend, but she couldn’t hold on. Drugs derailed her. She made her one-time husband, volatile tennis star John McEnroe, look like the stable one in the relationship. She’s a millionaire smoking crack in her Manhattan apartment, unable to stop even when her behaviour was destroying her relationship with her own kids. Let’s hope the cycle does not repeat.

Anna Paquin: Anna is the second-youngest Oscar winner, for her role in The AnnaPaquinPiano, with her only previous credit playing a skunk in a school play. Did it fuck her up? Looks like no. She continued with moderate success as a child actress while also attending school, including one year at Columbia before roles in Almost Famous and the X-Men franchise helped her to transition into acting as a young adult. Then she hit it out of the park with her first role in television, starring in True Blood where she not only earned professional acclaim, she also met her husband, co-star Stephen Moyer. She has children who love her, step-children who tolerate her, and is managing to live scandal-free.

Judith Barsi: Perhaps not a household name, her biggest on-screen credit was Jaws 4: The Revenge, but she also provided voicework for some of my favourite 80s animated films, The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go To Heaven. By the time she was in grade 4 she was pulling in six figures, Screen-Shot-2014-08-30-at-15_32_31supporting her parents and paying their mortgage. This made her father increasingly volatile, and his abuse made Judith act out, pulling out her own eyelashes as well as her cat’s whiskers. Judith’s mother planned on leaving him but never got around to it – he shot his wife and 10 year old daughter in the head as they slept, then soaked them in gasoline and burned them before later killing himself.

Drew Barrymore: Her first job was at 11 months old – she auditioned for a dog food commercial and landed the part when the dog bit her and she didn’t cry. Drew made her debut on film at the age of 5 but was 7 when she achieved stardom, starring in Spielberg’s E.T., and becoming the youngest SNL host that year. Crazy fame and permissive parenting meant she was smoking 5e49df114616b1b0fcfc816b66c83c63.jpgcigarettes at Studio 54 at the age of 9, drinking at age 11, and baby’s first snort of coke by 13. It’s not a joke – the poor dear was in rehab at 14 and spent 18 months in a facility for the mentally ill. She attempted suicide and went back to rehab, and it wasn’t until she lived with David Crosby and his wife that she was able to turn things around, suing for emancipation at the age of 15. The rockiness continued though. She posed nude with her fiancé at the age of 17, and then again for Playboy (her godfather, Steven Spielberg, gifted her with a quilt to “cover herself up” and her Playboy photos doctored by his art department so she appeared fully clothed). Eventually she straightened herself out and went on to act, produce, and start a loving and stable family of her own.

Jake Lloyd: Jake had appeared in Jingle All The Way and Apollo 11 before star-wars-actor-jake-lloyd-s-tragic-hollywood-story-just-got-even-worse-jake-lloyd-as-you-474872appearing in the 1999 Star Wars prequel, but you can bet it was being hand-picked by George Lucas to be the young Anakin Skywalker that was his claim to fame. Citing bullying and exhaustion, he retired from acting in 2001 and we didn’t hear much from him, other than appearances at comic book festivals, until he was arrested in 2015 for reckless driving and resisting arrest. He’d been off his meds for schizophrenia and had also recently attacked his mother so Lloyd is currently in a mental health institution seeking treatment.

Danny Lloyd: On a happier note, another Lloyd is living a different kind of life.what-ever-happened-to-little-danny-from-the-shining-one-of-the-scariest-horror-films-of-546885 You may remember young Danny as Jack Nicholson’s co-star in The Shining. He was chosen for his excellent attention span and managed to film the whole thing without ever realizing he was doing a horror film. Having hit this height so early on, he retired from acting at the age of 9 and today is a biology professor in Kentucky.

Money Monster

George Clooney and Julia Roberts were enough to sell this movie to me, and in the end, they were enough to save it from itself.

The truth is, Money Monster teeters between a comedy and a socio-political thriller and suffers tonally. George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a slick and smug TV show host who makes stock tumblr_inline_o74ugpSGoA1t6wivs_1280market recommendations in between hip hop dance moves, obnoxious hats, and lots of gimmicks. One day, live on the air, a young man (Jack O’Connell) shows up with a bomb, ready to hold him and the CEO of a certain company (Dominic West) accountable for the loss of his life savings. Julia Roberts, playing the show’s director, is stuck in the booth directing the hell out of a show that is now being broadcast worldwide to billions, while keeping her colleague (who suffers from foot in mouth disease) alive.

The problems start with Kyle, the young man who’s just lost everything. Kyle is the audience place holder. We’re not millionaire TV hosts, or billionaire CEOs. We’re the people who work hard for our money, and are subject to the whims of Wall Street. But there’s a problem with the character when he’s just not relatable – and not because he’s brought a bomb to a TV studio. In fact, I think I am more likely to start making revenge bombs than I am to ever lose everything in the stock market. You know why? Likely you do: because you never put EVERYTHING in the stock market! The stock market is NOT free money. It’s a gamble. Sometimes you win, MoneyMonstersometimes you lose. And if, like me, you know very little about this mysterious money market, you have to take advice from strangers. I tend to avail myself of the type of strangers who sit behind ornate desks with gold nameplates, but I take everything they say with a margarita-rim’s worth of salt and skepticism. Kyle preferred to go with the smarmy guy on TV who has a weekly “pick of the millennium” which is kind of like trusting Judge Judy to try your murder one charge – but who am I to judge? Kyle gambled his whole kit and caboodle and lost the kitty in no time. And did Kyle get mad at himself for being so rash? Of course not! Kyle is a dumb millennial who feels entitled to everything but responsible for nothing and so Kyle goes looking for someone else to blame, and brings a bomb as his sidekick. Nice one, Kyle.

So we don’t really feel badly for Kyle, but nor do we root for Lee Gates. He’s making a fat paycheque doing his thing on TV, and it’s pretty clear he’s forgotten that his words have real-world repercussions for people with far more to lose than he does. He’s a self-involved guy who hasn’t questioned anything until a bomb strapped to his chest forced him to. Between Kyle and Lee, it’s unclear to the audience just who the protagonist is. There aren’t any characters to really invest in – and yes, I’ve been dying to make that financial pun for 500 words now.

So maybe this is why some critics are calling this movie empty\hollow\vacuous.  Sean certainly felt that the film’s final moments were jarring, and maybe inappropriate. I had a different read on them though.

money-monster-2016-julia-robertsThe movie is kind of a fun ride, with an almost real-time hostage situation, and we feel like we’re experiencing it along with the rest of the world. Imagine if this was happening in real life: you’d be glued to your TV or your tablet or your laptop or your phone. Where were you when President Kennedy was shot? When OJ fled in the Bronco? When the twin towers fell? Where were you when Lee Gates was held at gunpoint on live TV and made to account for his mistakes? Wouldn’t that be a Big Deal? But in the movie, the minute our characters hit a point of resolution, the whole world switches channels. They go back to their sandwiches and their IKEA catalogs. The immediacy with which it’s forgotten is arresting. Sean thought that was disgusting, and I thought it was brilliant social commentary.

So yes, I can understand why people are leaving this movie frustrated. But I also thought that was kind of the point.

Mother-Daughter Movies

TMPIt’s time for Thursday movie picks! This week we’re covering movies featuring mother-daughter relationships, which means I for one have been through about 6 boxes of tissues while deciding which are my absolute favourites. Thanks once again to spectacular blogger Wandering Through the Shelves for hosting this weekly meeting of the minds.


While I’m relieved not to be watching live-action fairy tales or YA movies anymore, this was harder than I thought. About a month ago, I had no trouble making a list of classic father-son dynamics but to mother-daughter relationships- that call for not one but two great roles for women- are a little harder to find in Hollywood.

Mamma Mia! At first, my strategy was to name as many Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton moviesmm7_L as I could. This only got me a third of the way there when I remembered Mamma Mia!, the only American movie on my list. Judge me all you want but I love this musical. Yes, the cast was clearly chosen for their comic timing and definitely not their singing voices but their energy with the help of lots of Abba music make this a party I wish I was at. When searching for the father she never knew, a 20 year-old soon-to-be bride comes to realize how little she appreciated the mother who brought her up all by herself.

Jay: Consider yourself judged, Matt.

The Piano Teacher The dynamic between mother and daughter can be as messed up as any piano-teacherand who better to explore just how bad it can get than Austrian director Michel Hanake. Never afraid to make his audience squirm, Hanake (Funny Games) cast Annie Giradot as a mom that makes Carrie’s look permissive. Isabelle Huppert plays a forty-something pianist who shares not only an apartment but a bed with her controlling, perfectionist, and manipulative mother. All this withholding and repression leads to some pretty bizarre behaviour when the daughter meets a young man that she can’t help but be attracted to. Watching it can be an uncomfortable experience but it’s never dull and is sure to inspire lively discussions- even debates.

Volver Penelope Cruz got her first Oscar nomination for Pedro Almodovar’s 2006 Spanish volver-cruz-cobocomedy-drama. Carmen Maura plays mother to both Cruz and Lola Duenas, seemingly back from the dead to seek the forgiveness of her estranged daughter. There’s some serious stuff here but Volver is also surprisingly funny. It’s a hard film to categorize but an easy one to love.



terms_of_endearment_3_maclaine_wingerTerms of Endearment – I saw this movie for the first time yesterday and right away I wondered how I had not seen it before. The opening credits contain so many recognizable names and everyone lives up to expectations. It is not an easy movie to watch because it seems so real. It’s not often a happy movie but it’s so genuine and for that reason above all else I think it will stick with me for a while. I highly recommend it to anyone else who hasn’t seen it.

Spanglish I didn’t even realize until now that this was also written and directed by James L. Brooks (just like Terms of Endearment). Score two for him because this movie is also fantastic. Like Terms of Endearment, it is also not very happy but comparing these movies is a disservice to both. Spanglish stands on its own as a story of true love and sacrifice. Just don’t watch these two movies back to back as you may never recover from all the heartbreak.1112065277

Jay: I can’t believe I let you do this one! I love Spanglish because their cultural isolation really pits the two of them against the world. Even when they occasionally hate each other, they’re still each other’s entire universe, and when other options start to present themselves, this mother is prepared to make the hard choices. You know this movie gets me every time, to see how close the mother gets to love and fulfillment but turns her back on it because she knows it’s best for her daughter.

Freaky Friday (1976) The third slot was a tough one because while I watched several other Freaky-Friday-classic-disney-18104673-900-506mother-daughter movies this week, I felt the other tearjerkers didn’t hit the mark. I went another way. I have to make 100% clear that this is the original Freaky Friday, not the remake. I did not see this movie as a kid, mainly because I confused it with the Friday the 13th series and horror movies terrified me. It’s very dated but it’s fun to see a young Jodie Foster try to act like a regular kid and then do a very accurate impression of herself as adult who happens to be pretending to be a regular kid.


I’m having a tough time paring down this list. I watched Autumn Sonata (Ingrid fucking Bergman!) which succeeds in being uncomfortable and intense despite subtitles. And I watched Imitation of Life, which pitted parenting styles against each other with equally depressing results. And I watched Because I Said So because frankly, how could I not? As Matt pointed out,acc3e0404646c57502b480dc052c4fe1 Diane Keaton is just screaming to be on this list, and this film with 3 sisters and a meddling mother is a comforting exercise in voyeurism. And Pixar’s Brave – I love the circularity in that relationship, the growth experienced by both women and the understanding that comes with it. And The Kids Are All Right – there’s so much here in terms of a family coming to terms with shifting roles, and it’s striking how much the two mothers complement each other. And Sherrybaby. And Easy A (love Patricia Clarkson in that!). And Anywhere But Here. And Mother and Child. Nothing like a major health crisis to flush out your Netflix queue!

But fuck it. Steel Magnolias, baby. There, I said it. It’s goopy and sentimental but you know 5a64037be0d86f25_steel_jpeg_previewwhat? The relationship at its core, Sally Field and Julia Roberts, feels absolutely genuine. Julia Roberts plays a young woman with diabetes, and Sally Field the constantly-worried mother. Both are headstrong but you can tell that Mom is secretly proud that her daughter is determined not to let her illness stop her from living on her own terms. Sally Field will give anything, including body parts, to keep her daughter going, but when the worst happens, the grief and anger are palpable and real.  For my money, Sally Field talking to her comatose daughter is just about the most heart-wrenching tribute to motherhood you’re apt to find.

And Mermaids. I can’t help it. The family situation reminds me so much of my own – just a mom mermaidsposterand her girls on their own in the world. It’s not always easy, or friendly. When you fight you fight big, but you love big too. And the dancing in the kitchen: yes! I love Cher’s awkward stabs at motherhood – the funny little food and the ill-timed advice – and Christina Ricci’s weird little pumpkin-headed wiggles.


Now Voyager is the ultimate in family dysfunction. A hateful and over-bearing mother stifles her daughter NowVoyager-Still6(played by the inesteemable Bette Davis) into a nervous breakdown that turns out to be her weird salvation. Of course, upon return, the now glammed up and self-assured daughter is again reduced to a puddle in the face of her unfeeling mother.