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Sean and I have had our eye on a tiny, forgotten movie theatre in the basement of a local shopping mall. It only shows films during mall hours, and it’s strictly second-run stuff: this is where movies go to die, these are their last breaths at the box office, and the last chance Sean and I will have to see them in theatres before the Oscars which ARE THIS WEEKEND. It’s where we saw Richard Jewell last week and it’s where we caught Bombshell this week. It came out just before Christmas, and between holiday prep and Rise of Skywalker, we never got around to it. Plus, word was that it was kind of a lame movie that housed some good performances. Of course once those Oscar nominations came out, the movie went from back burner to the pressure cooker: see 38 movies before February 9th, some of which aren’t in theatres and hardly where, and certainly not in this country or in a language that I speak (and that’s not counting the shorts!).

So when I finally got around to seeing Bombshell, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. True, Bombshell is all flame and no burning embers; it deals with the headline-grabbing sexual harassment case at Fox News circa 2016 and though it does justice to the headlines, it doesn’t offer up a lot of meat. However, it does an excellent job of spreading the heat and accounting for the experience of many.

Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) is right in the middle of the blast. Having been with Fox in one capacity or another for years, Gretchen finds herself demoted, and reprimanded for covering stories deemed by network president Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) to be ‘too feminist’ and criticized for not upholding beauty standards when she dares to do one episode makeup-free. She’s seen the writing on the wall and when she’s let go in June of 2016, she’s ready with a lawsuit accusing Ailes of sexual harassment. She’s confident that once she breaks the ice, other women will come forward, but she’s forgetting just how pervasive the culture is at Fox news.

Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), Roger’s golden girl, the tough reporter recently taking heat for questioning Trump’s behaviour toward women during a debate, has remained silent. No support for Gretchen, but none for Roger either, though the entirety of the organization seems to pressure her. Instead, she’s searching for the truth, quietly speaking with other women about their own experiences. Eventually she’ll make her way to Kayla (Margot Robbie), a composite character of a new girl trying to climb her way up the ladder. It’s pretty clear whose “ladder” she’ll have to “climb” in order to get anywhere – but ambition and livelihoods are inextricably tangled up in this thing, and it’s fairly clear that any woman who comes forward will have a permanent stain on her record, untouchable by any other network for having dared to make a complaint against her boss. That’s just not something women are allowed to get away with.

It’s shocking, actually, that it’s the women of Fox of all places that really got something done. They haven’t toppled the patriarchy; there were plenty of other white men to replace Ailes in more ways than one. Director Jay Roach shows how pervasive the boys’ club can be, and how women have been denied their own network by constantly being pitted against each other. There’s too much history here for any one film, too much damage to uncover let alone comprehend. Still, I like the attempt. I like all three of these performances even if Kidman got shut out of awards season. What I dislike is that this very important story told (written and directed) by men. Which kind of misses the point altogether.

Late Night

Mindy Kaling is an actress, a director, a producer, an Emmy-nominated writer. She’s written best-sellers and acted alongside Oprah and created television series. You may not know that her foot in the door was portraying Ben Affleck in an off-Broadway play she co-wrote with her best friend called Matt & Ben, about how the pair came to write Good Will Hunting. I wish to god I had seen it.

She was hired to write for The Office when she was just 24 years old – the only woman in a room full of men. She was technically a diversity hire, part of NBC’s diversity writing programme, but don’t mistake that for a lack of qualification. “For a long time I was really embarrassed about that. No one [on The Office] said anything to me about it, but they all knew and I was acutely aware of that. It took me a while to realize that I was just getting the access other people had because of who they knew.” Mindy’s parents, an architect and an OB-GYN, immigrated to the U.S. from India (via Nigeria) only months before she was born, and gave her the most American of names, ripped from their favourite sitcom, Mork & Mindy.

In Late Night, Kaling plays Molly Patel, also a diversity hire, straight from a chemical plant (don’t call it a factory!). She’s hired to be the first and badly needed female writer on Katherine Newbury’s show as its steady ratings decline threatens its existence. Kaling wrote the role of Newbury specifically for Emma Thompson and it is indeed a perfect fit. Newbury is exacting and imperious, but has grown out of touch with her core audience. Molly is exactly the injection of colour and culture that this writer’s room needs even though it longs to stay beige. Of course, Kaling had to invent a fictional world in which a woman is actually allowed to host a late night show, but once she does (and we get over that depressing fact), she invents a very good one, one in which her very successful host is over 50 and undeniably at the top of her game, but hasn’t had to sacrifice her life to gain such a position. Newbury has both a love life (John Lithgow) and a sex life, and she still gets to be the boss. Kaling is so devoted to this character, she took a page from her parents’ baby naming book and called her own daughter Katherine.

Late Night is a lot of laughs, and it benefits from the excellent chemistry between Kaling and Thompson. I suppose it takes a woman to write two such meaty yet tender roles for women. Roles that don’t apologize for emotions and characters who don’t get disempowered for expressing them. And a female director to give these ladies their space to create complexity. Late Night tackles a lot of themes as you might imagine, but it never loses its sharp and incisive comedy. Thompson proves more than able, with impeccable timing and buckets of condescension. She’s formidable. Meanwhile, Kaling orbits around her, not just absorbing her light but casting her own glow as well. They don’t diminish each other, they brighten the whole damn screen. It’s a party where ambitious women, perhaps for the first time this century, are truly celebrated. Yes there were applause-worthy moments, though the theatre I was in was unfortunately a packed but non-clapping one (well, okay, save for me, who couldn’t resist). And there’s a lesson plan for how to apologize correctly and take responsibility like a big kid. But mostly there’s just a lot of zing, and a surprising amount of relatability [My work recently turned one of two women’s washrooms in the building into a “gender neutral” washroom which is nice in theory but in practice has become the washroom where men go to poop. Because men, who still had 2 bathrooms to themselves, think it’s more important to stink up a third than to create safe spaces. They’re literally shitting their privilege all over the place.]

Kaling wrote this movie while she was pregnant, and on the set of A Wrinkle In Time. She shot it while literally breastfeeding her daughter. Motherhood is not slowing her down, it’s just another bullshit hurdle she’s going to plough straight through while we lay down our dollars like a red carpet made out of green because she is the Queen and we her loyal subjects.

Pitch Perfect 3

The Barden Bellas from the first 2 movies are back, but they’ve been replaced. Having finally graduated from college, a new crop of girls is singing acapella at their alma matter and the old Bellas are feeling obsolete. Shitty jobs aren’t panning out and dreams are already broken, and the old Bellas are feeling obsolete (I know! Who would have guessed that majoring in mouth music wasn’t really the best life choice?!). A last ditch effort to reunite comes in an invitation to perform for the troops in a USO show and since the Bellas have literally nothing else going on (except for one unwanted pregnancy), off they go to a warn-torn Spanish resort hotel to do their part.

Now you might think that being in a war zone is the toughest part of this new chapter, but in fact, to the Bellas, because they’re not crazy AT ALL, the worst part is dimscompeting against bands that play instruments. How dare they! I thought college was supposed to prepare you for the real world but these ladies are literally not even prepared for guitars. Yeesh. (Not to give too much credit to the new “bands”, including Evermoist, led by Ruby Rose, because after seriously mocking the Bellas for being a “cover band”, it turns out they all do covers too! A Cranberries tribute is particularly poignant with the recent death of Dolores O’Riordan.)

Anyway. There was absolutely no call to make a third movie here, and the script strains so hard to justify itself you’ll want to buy it a squatty potty. If you absolutely must watch it, you’ll want to wait until it’s available at home, where you can fast-forward to all the Sia bits and avoid the inane “plot” (though you’ll want to hear John Lithgow sing with an Australian accent at least once, just to say you did). It’s pretty clear that this franchise needs to learn the same lesson the Bellas do: moving on is good.



Beatriz At Dinner

Beatriz is a “healer” which is what people call themselves when they branch out from straight up massage. If you offer any two of the following in addition, you too are a practitioner of “holistic medicine”: meditation, yoga, reiki, consulting crystals, reading tea leaves, speaking to auras, tasting colours. Beatriz is all of the above (probably) and proud of it. And so when poor Kathy (Connie Britton) has had a long, stressful mid-afternoon of instructing servants on how to throw this evening’s dinner party, she of course calls her old pal Beatriz (Salma Hayek) to come cure her of tension and aching muscles by honouring the age-old method of rubbing them down with massage oil.

MV5BMzgyYmNkZDAtOTEyYi00YjJkLTljZWMtYTgwNTYwNDczYjgwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjk1Njg5NTA@._V1_That would have made for a boring movie had Beatriz’s car started up as it should and allowed her to drive away afterward, but no. Beatriz’s piece of shit car did not start, and her friend can’t come fix it until much later, and presumably she’s too poor to  have it towed, so Kathy extends a shaky, not-really invitation to dinner party since they’re “practically friends” and Beatriz accepts.

The dinner party is to celebrate some recent success in business: Doug (John Lithgow) is a titan of business and Jeana (Amy Landecker) is his third or fourth wife; Alex (Jay Duplass) is the young lawyer seeing his first taste of real money with this deal, and Shannon (Chloe Sevigny) his wife who could get used to this; and Kathy’s husband Grant (David Warshofsky) is the guy who put them all together. Now, there are two reasons this dinner and therefore this movie is interesting to watch. First, Kathy and Beatriz are not really “friends” and they’re both going to discover that in highly awkward ways. Second, Kathy and her dinner guests are conservatives who maybe sometimes think of themselves as better than that but really aren’t. It’s business (by which I mean money) first. And Beatriz is no wallflower. She’s pretty much the opposite of the kind of seventh wheel you’d want crashing your party. She’s not only going to speak up, she’s going to scream and shout, and maybe even cry.

It’s a pretty timely movie for the Trump era but it IS not a guide on how to survive. Beatriz blows shit up. She’s incendiary. Salma Hayek is fantastic. John Lithgow is fantastic. The only thing that’s not fantastic is the end. You’ll see.


It’s funny how animated movies from this vintage have aged so badly compared to classically-drawn stuff like Snow White. Old Disney has a timeless feel whereas the dawning days of CGI just looks goofy and amateurish. But I can remember at the time thinking it looked slick as shit. Actually, as early as 1991, Steven Spielberg held the rights to this film and thought he’d do hand-drawn animation through Amblin studios, with Bill Murray as Shrek and Steve Martin as Donkey. Just imagine that.

Shrek came out in 2001. Animated movies took so long to make that voice actors were cast 12.pngyears in advance. Nicolas Cage was offered the part of Shrek but turned it down, not wanting to be drawn as an ugly ogre (he apparently missed the whole point of the movie, unsurprisingly). Chris Farley was then cast as Shrek but at his death in 1997, producers decided to recast the role and it went to SNL alum Mike Myers (you can hear Farley’s work here). Farley’s gone but not forgotten – if you look closely, you might just see a few of Shrek’s movements that were inspired by Farley, notably his use of “air quotes” just like a certain Farley character. And that’s a bit of a miracle, because when Mike Myers came on board, he demanded a complete re-write of the script, not wanting any of Farley’s influences to contaminate his own performances. Another result of Farley’s death was the dropping of Janeane Garofalo from the cast. She was supposed to play Fiona opposite Farley’s Shrek, but she was dropped like a hot potato after his death, no explanation given.

Janeane Garfalo wasn’t the film’s only disappearing act: Jimmy Fallon had recorded the tumblr_memaanhvik1qk381no1_r2_250dating game show portion as the Magic Mirror, but in the film that hit theatres (and your DVD shelf), it’s just storyboard artist Christopher Miller.

Like Farley, Myers recorded his role in his normal speaking voice. When he saw the movie with test audiences, he realized something crucial was missing, so he drew on the Scottish accent his mother would use when reading bedtime stories to re-record the lines. That little decision cost the studio $4 million dollars. Do you think it was worth it?  All the actors recorded separately, as was the custom at the time. John Lithgow (Lord Farquaad) lamented never being able to meet let alone work with Myers, Eddie Murphy (Donkey) or Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona).  Don’t feel too bad for them though – they’ve had several red carpets to schmooze each other since. Mike Myers did a lot of ad-libbing which comes as no surprise, but it seems that Cameron Diaz also added a lot to her role. Like her character, Diaz had studied kung fu (she was a Charlie’s Angel, after all) and recorded that part in full exertion (occasionally breaking out in Cantonese). Producers also scrambled to add Fiona’s burping scene after Diaz let one rip after drinking a Coke.

Because the film took so long to make (they started work in 1996), it features a lot of maxresdefault.jpgreferences that would have seemed fresh at the time (The Matrix, for example), and some that seemed almost immediately dated (the Macarena, and Riverdance, for example). It also gave the Dreamworks lawyers plenty of time to go over the film with a fine tooth comb: no one wanted to get sued by Disney for the many satirical pokes and jabs at their theme parks.

Of course we all know that Donkey is the best character in Shrek, and he was memorably voiced by Eddie Murphy, like no other could. In fact, Murphy received a BAFTA nomination for his voice-over performances, the first of its kind. Murphy knows it’s some of his best work, and firmly believes that when he does, the obit will run with a picture of a donkey beside it. “Donkey is a really positive character. He’s always looking at the bright side of everything, trying to work it out. A happy-go-lucky donkey.” How can you not love a sensitive, hyperactive donkey with a sweet tooth for waffles and parfait? And if you thinktumblr_n50847EJoc1smcbm7o1_500.gif he looks a little too cute and cuddly for a donkey, you’re right – although he’s modeled after a real-life miniature donkey named Perry who lives in Palo Alto, near DreamWorks, his movements mimic that of a dog rather than a hooved animal.

Shrek was released to enormous success. They immediately went to work on a second (which led to an ill-advised 3rd, and then a 4th that’s not much better). But in 2001, Shrek was animation gold. It was the first animated American film screened at Cannes since Peter Pan in 1953. It also won the inaugural Oscar for Best Animated Film when the Academy Award added it in 2001 (it beat out Pixar’s Monsters, Inc!). It was the 3rd highest grossing movie of the year, behind some Harry Potter and some other Lord of the Rings (and just edging out Monsters, Inc, in fact). So even if the animation looks a little busted today, it’s got a pretty solid spot in animated history.

Love Is Strange

Film Set - 'Love Is Strange'Ben & George have been together forever but are newly married. Their wedding is small and joyous, and also the catalyst for George’s dismissal from the catholic school where he teaches music. They can’t afford their home on Ben’s pension alone, and the two suddenly find themselves homeless. Friends and family scramble to take them in but this being New York City, where no apartment is bigger than a breadbox, Ben and George are separated. This is a love story that shows us how patient and enduring love must be. With no prospects in sight, people who were happy to toast them at their wedding are less happy to share their homes. There’s chafing on both ends (Ben clashes with his nephew’s wife, played by Marisa Tomei, when they’re both trying to work from a cramped home every day). They feel displaced and disoriented; their hosts feel increasingly put-upon. It’s sad and sweet and melodic – the soundtrack is divinely full of Chopin.

Director Ira Sachs is slow and meandering. It’s painful to watch the tenderness and the intimacy lithgowloveisdecline into homelessness and despondency. Just when they’ve vowed to share their lives with each other, they can no long afford to share so much as a bed. This is a pretty bittersweet movie, more universal than you may think. The husbands grapple with their emotional health, and aging, and navigating the strange and complicated NY housing market, which is what finally made me realize how mis-titled this movie is. Their love is a lot of things, but it is never strange.