Category Archives: Movies

Women Talking (the Movie)



I have already blogged about the book. I loved the book. Now I want to blog about the film. I loved the film too. I know this sounds like I am a homer. But I like Cactus Jack Wells a Winnipeg Blue Bomber football announcer always said, “this is a true and unbiased report.” This is like that. Biased in other words.

I admit it, I am proud that woman from Steinbach, who I know a little bit, wrote a novel that was the basis of a movie nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. As I would have said in my lawyerly days, “I am not in a conflict of interest.”

We also must remember that the film is not the book. It doesn’t have to be. It is an independent nation.  But, of course, they are closely related. They are different interpretations of the same thing. This time I will just talk about the film.

The film is about oppression and what to do about it. If that is not a universal theme there are no universal themes. And it is a big and important theme.  It is worth our attention. Not because it deals with Mennonites.  That is irrelevant. It could have dealt with the Taliban. Or Roman Catholics. Or your place of employment. Or your home.

The film involves discussion among the Mennonite women in a South America where they have discovered that they have been sexually assaulted by the men of the colony. the men accomplish this by drugging the women so they don’t realized what was happening. After it is discovered the women must decided if they should leave the colony, stay and submit, or leave. Each choice involves terrible risks.

One of the women in the film says:

“Boys have learned from their father how to oppress.

And women have learned from their mother how to submit.

Both have learned well.”



There is another element I can’t resist talking about. The religious element. After all the central characters are Mennonites in a strict conservative Mennonite colony. As a result, here is a conversation between Ona and Scarface:

ONA Are we asking ourselves what our priority is? To protect our children or to enter the kingdom of heaven?

SCARFACE JANZ  Does entering the kingdom of heaven mean nothing to any of you? After all we have suffered? ANNA Are you really willing to give up what we have always lived for?

ONA Surely there is something in this life worth living for, not only in the next.


That is an issue worth wrestling. Is it more important to save your child’s life than it is to save your immortal soul?

The women are told by the men of the colony that they are mistaken about their allegations of sexual abuse. The allegations are the product of the wild imaginations of women or of Satan. They can’t be true.

Later there is another interesting conversation (there are many):

SALOME … The only certainty we’ll know is uncertainty, no matter where we are.

ONA Other than the certainty of the power of love.

Yup, but is that enough to save the conundrum at the heart of the film?


Ona also asks an incredible question: “How would you feel if in your entire lifetime it had never mattered what you thought?”  This is the ultimate question. The women want to think! And that is not permitted.  

The women have been taught that they have a religious duty to always forgive. So they must forgive the men, they think, or risk going to hell. But as Agata said, “Perhaps forgiveness can, in some instances, be confused with permission…”

There is much worth talking about in this film. Watch and participate in the conversation. That’s what we all should do.

I am giving a true and unbiased report here. Therefore I say, this is the best film of the year and it will win the Academy Award for Best Picture because the academy will do the right think. But perhaps like the women in the film, I am just a dreamer. But sometimes a dream is all you get.




This film magnificently captures the electric sexual energy of a poor white boy from the American south.  This was the exciting and hence dangerous energy that the establishment whites closely associated with African Americans and it frightened them.  They called Elvis “a white boy with black hips.” And they did not like it. Particularly, they hated to see good white girls lavishly enthralled by this energy. One white man called his music “voodoo devil music.”  That’s how dangerous it was. To them it harboured the irrational revolution of the youth against the old, and black against white.

Those like me who mainly remember only the late Elvis of the Las Vegas years and mild smarmy Hollywood movies forget what a revolutionary force he was in his youth. There was nothing like it and this film, and in particular the actor who plays Elvis, Austin Butler, brings it directly to us without filters or banisters. And it is excitingly thrilling. Butler must be considered a serious contender for best Actor and the film  for Best Picture. This film is a marvel of cinematic art that brought this young Elvis to us. I loved this film. I was surprised by this film. I don’t know what I was expecting, probably because, I like so many, remember most clearly the vapid Las Vegas Elvis who was by then a pale afterthought of the kinetic youthful Elvis.

A major character in the film is Colonel Tom Parker (played exceedingly well by Tom Hanks). Frankly, I knew nothing about the Colonel’s role in Elvis’s life, but that just shows you how little I knew about Elvis. As the Colonel said himself, “without me there be no Elvis, yet there are some who make me out the villain of this story.”  This film is brought to us through the eyes of that low class but powerful salesman who liked nothing better than to snow people, or worse. “Elvis was the showman; Parker the snowman.”  The Colonel snowed the public into buying the Elvis he created.

The Colonel deserved credit for seeing the potential of Elvis right from the start. He knew it by looking into the faces of swooning young women lost in the rapture of Elvis. It was like religious rapture and was saturated with sexual power. As the Colonel said about one of those  young women staring at Elvis, “She was having feelings she wasn’t sure she should be having.” These carnal delights however filled the white men of the south with deep fear. They did all they could to stop him and almost succeeded.  But Elvis’ energy could not be denied. Even his very religious mother came to see the light. As she said, “the way you move is God-given, so it can’t be bad.”

Elvis knew that he was “ready to fly.” He acknowledged that “if I can’t move, I can’t sing.”  The Colonel tried to rein in Elvis to make him presentable to stiff necked southern white men and that was a massive mistake, but who knows what would have happened if he had let Elvis loose. As a result, the Colonel allowed Elvis to serve his 2 years of mandatory Army service and come out of the war a clean-cut American kid. By then Elvis was ready for an array of  sun-cleaned and bloodless Hollywood films that made him a lot of money, but in my opinion, at the cost of his soul. Elvis strafed at the restrictions imposed on him by the Colonel including an NBC special where the Colonel contractually bound Elvis to sing a vapid Christmas song and Elvis revolted.

Fortunately, the film does not resolve these tensions on Elvis just as they were not resolved in his life. Elvis lived those tensions and they contributed to his early demise. Like so many rock and rollers, he died too young.

But he sure could rock and roll.

Triangle of Sadness



This film surprised me. I don’t know what I was expecting. I knew little about it before I watched it. The only reason I watched it was because I wanted to see all the films nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Pictures. And this was on the list. So I thought, I must watch it.  I am glad I did.

I was surprised at how funny this film. I heard it was a dark comedy.  That is what it is. But that means it is a comedy. It is a dandy comedy. a comedy of the absurd.

It begins with a very attractive couple Carl and Yay arguing about money on what appears to be their first date. Both claim they don’t care about the money, but obviously both do. I soon realized this is a movie about money, and the production of money.  In the modern world this means it is a film about capitalism. On the boat they are constantly photographing each other. Their job is to create the illusion of happiness. That is their job. But instead they create the reality of sadness. The triangle of sadness visible upon them.

The real question is whether or not the film is as shallow as the empty-headed rich people it tries to skewer.  It seems to assume that all rich people are shallow. In doing so it picks easy targets for its satire. It would have been more interesting had those targets been less obvious, but that would mean the film would have to work hard. It wants the easy targets instead.

Somehow the young couple  are on a luxury cruise with the very wealthy. The wealthy are not attractive so the young couple is in a class by themselves in this respect. And the rich are made easy targets because they lack beauty, grace, and intelligence. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. They don’t have a chance. Who would love them?

On the ship Carl and Yaya meet Clementine and Winston, a dim British couple who made their fortune selling grenades. Who could love arms dealers? When a grenade is later tossed onto the yacht by a gang of pirates Clementine, like a dunce she is meant to be, picks it up and says, “It’s not one of ours,” before it explodes in her face and causing the ship to sink.

The couple also meet Dmitri a Russian oligarch who got rich “selling shit.”  That doesn’t mean he sold shitty stuff, as we might think, rather it is literally true, he sold fertilizer. That is big business in Russia and Ukraine.

Another wealthy matron insists the Captain see to it that the sails are cleaned because they are gray. But there are no sails as this is a powered vessel. Dim rich again.

Therese, a stroke victim can only say one thing , in German: “in den Wolken.” It’s in the cloud. Like so much is these days. Everything is in the cloud, except intelligence.

As the sea is starting to get rough and the rich people sea sick, except Dmitri and the unhinged Captain, brilliantly played by Woody Harrelson. No one does deranged better than Woody.  They have a drunken debate about socialism that consists of sending verbal barbs to each other consisting of amusing quotations from famous people. For example, Dmitri says,  “Can I tell you a joke. Do you know how to tell a Communist? It’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And do you know how to tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin!” Ronald Reagan.  Captain: “Never argue with an idiot, they’ll only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” Mark Twain. Dmitri responds, with a joke from Ronald Reagan, “Socialism works only in heaven where they don’t need it, and in hell where they already have it.” Captain That’s pretty good. I’ve got one here. “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.” That’s Edward Abbey. Dmitri,” Listen: The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Margaret Thatcher.  You’re going to like this one…”The last capitalist we hand will be the one who sold us the rope” Karl Marx. Captain:. “Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in Ancient Greece. Freedom…for slave owners.”

Over the PA Dmitri tells the already awfully sick passengers their Captain is a Communist, but the Captain corrects that, “I’m a Marxist.”  That should make them feel a lot better. But the Captain admits he is a “shit socialist,” because he has too much.

Meanwhile the passengers get increasingly sick either from the waves or food gone bad and pretty well everyone is soon projectile vomiting or trying to hang on to their toilets. As the ship has turned into a floating palace of derangement, pirates blow it up and the survivors are washed on to the shore of what appears to be a deserted island.

On the island the cleaning lady, Abigail, saves the survivors because she can catch fish and start a fire while the rich passengers are useless. But Abigail turns out to as bad as the rich.  She may have been a cleaning lady on the yacht, but now that it has vanished she insists on being Captain with all the privileges of wealth and power. She controls the food and has no intention to share equally. Why should she share now that the tables have turned? She usurps jurisdiction over the life boat (now called “The Love Boat”) and uses it to exercise dominion over pretty boy Carl much to the chagrin of pretty girl Yaya.  Carl tells her, “I love you; you give me fish.” The peons are as shallow as the rich.

Dmitri, a Russian Oligarch not famous for sharing, suddenly wants to share and build “a good society,” when he realizes here his wealth buys him nothing. Now he adopts Marx’s maxim, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” He is surprised when his fellow wealthy passengers do not know this saying.

Later, when the tables are turned again and it appears that the group will be rescued, Abigail is sad because she will become a cleaning lady again.  She picks up a rock and stands behind Yaya and we wonder if she will kill her.

Yaya was right, “it’s surreal.”

My favourite magazine, The Guardian was impressed by the social critique in the film. I was much less impressed. I think creators of this film set up straw men and women just to pull them down. I think films can do better. Though Woody Harrelson alone was worth the investment in this film. He has paid rich dividends to us all. We are enriched by the comedy. I hope we are not dim.




Lydia Tár (played brilliantly by Cate Blanchett) is a Prussian musical conductor. And a music teacher. A Professor. It is essential to realize that in Germany music is sacred and the conductor is the high priest or, in some cases, God. Everything the conductor (or music teacher) does is by definition intra vires. Nothing is ultra vires. Everything in other words is authorized. Not in the cards. As a result there is no such thing as sexual assault or sexual harassment by the conductor or teacher.

Yet, on the other hand, this is a film about power. Specifically, about the power of the conductor, but actually the power that any powerful person wields over a young student. That makes any sexual relationship between conductor and student as unacceptable as sex between a teacher and student, or physician and patient. Ipso facto the powerful person is guilty of sexual harassment.  In such circumstances consent is impossible. There is no point in looking for it. It cannot be there. This is the more modern view

These opposing facts are the background to this film. The film bounces between these polar opposites.

A few days with a Prussian authoritarian can be a very unpleasant thing. You have to be able to shoehorn yourself into the job. Why would we do it? I submit, we would only do it if the suffering endured would present us with a spiritual or artistic epiphany.  The purpose of suffering is to burn the fire within you so that you can achieve enlightenment. Then, and only then, is the suffering worth the trip. Every religion has recognized this fact. Those without religion must learn it. I think that is what Tár is all about. The epiphany learned must be sharp to be worth the price. I think this film qualifies.

Tar is smart, and a musical genius, and a great conductor, but she is impossible to like. It is only possible to submit. But submission is dangerous as at least one young music student learns.

We meet Tár early in the film being interviewed by Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker. [Gopnik plays himself in the film] I always liked his articles for that magazine, but here he and she both seem unbearably pretentious. Either that or we are stupid. Or both.

Tar first interrogates a young female music student, Olive and points out to her, “Good music can be as ornate as a cathedral or as bare as a potting shed.” It must help you to learn powerful lessons.

Then Tár quickly turns to Max, another student, and puts him on the spot in front of all his peers.  “What do you think Max?” she asks. Clearly, she wants to humiliate him. I remember I had a grade 9 mathematics teacher like that.  He liked to call us up to the front blackboard and demonstrate how stupid we were. It wasn’t hard. Teachers like that would not be allowed today, I. hope. And then people say they would like to have the good old days of education. Not me.

Max on the stage is “as nervous as his bouncing feet” according to the screenplay. After all he is being asked by the Great Tár. Tár is conducting a master class in bullying. First the young female student, then Max. Max is properly humiliated. Tár  asks him what he thinks of Johann Sebastian Bach. Max is “not into him.” He explains, “Honestly, as a BIPOC pangender- person, I would say Bach’s misogynistic life makes it kind of impossible for me to take his music seriously.”

Then Max’s knee “goes into overdrive” according to the Screenplay and Tár cannot resist. Like a wolf cannot stop from pursuing that prey that runs away, Tár attacks. She asks the class, and Max in particular, “Can classical music written by a bunch of straight, Austro-German, church-going white guys, exalt us individually.” She says she is a “U-Haul Lesbian” and might not be “into Beethoven” but must confront the music. No one wants to confront the Maestro, who is of course, the Master.

She tells the class this about Bach’s music:

“When you get inside that you see what it really is. A question, and an answer. (plays second change) That begs another question. There’s a humility in Bach. He’s not pretending he’s certain of anything. He knows it’s the question that involves the listener. Never the answer.”


The she confronts Max again, what do you think?  “He sheepishly responds, “nowadays? White, male, cis composers? Just not my thing.” Tár sees his knee bouncing with nerves again and dismisses him with this remark:

“Don’t be so eager to be offended. The narcissism of small differences leads to the most boring conformity… as an ultrasonic epistemic dissident is, if Bach’s talent can be reduced to his gender, birth country, religion, sexuality, and so on — then so can yours”

The poor humiliated student has his dignity shredded by the older, wiser teacher. All he can do is blurt out, “You’re a fucking bitch!”  And she turns it all on him, the hapless student:

And you are a robot! Unfortunately, the architect of your soul appears to be social media. If you want to dance the mask, you must service the composer. Sublimate yourself, your ego, and yes, your identity! …You must in fact stand in front of the public and God and obliterate yourself. The problem with enrolling yourself as an ultrasonic epistemic dissident is, if Bach’s talent can be reduced to his gender, birth, country, religion, sexuality, and so on–then so can yours.”

She might be right, but that is not the point. The point is the teacher should be the civilized one in the class. That is what respect is all about. Tár has a problem with that. But if the weak  must lay down before the powerful  we don’t have learning, we don’t have music, we just have pugilism. And there is no art and no honour in that. This is the lesson that Tár must confront in the film.

Tár is smart and says smart things about music. Like this from her book which she reads to a group while protesters gather outside and while she watches her latest prey flirting with a boy in the back and she receives snide text messages:

“The link between music and language is what makes music unique to human beings—Indeed, the common metaphors used to explain music are based on the idea that music is a language… albeit a secret one, and in this way, holy and unknowable. These joyful noises we make being the closest thing any of us might ever experience to the divine... yet something born by the mere act of moving air…”


Can someone who speaks so well be a brute? Can such a person be a bully? Can such a person approach the divine?


Banshees of Inisherin




This film shows how easy people can become estranged and how easily that estrangement, even among friends, can lead to violence. In this case shocking violence. Perhaps nowhere is that better understood than Ireland where former friends and neighbours have repeatedly come to blows, and worse, over minor disagreements. Sometimes the more minor the disagreement the more deadly the response to disagreement.

Ireland generates drinkers, great writers, and violence.  That is a potent brew. And it can be a toxic brew. It was in the case of Pádraic (played by Colin Farrell) and Colm played by (Brendan Gleeson).  I might add played brilliantly in both cases.

The movie opens with a sharp rupture between the two friends. The rupture occurs in a dark and dank Irish pub. How do I know it is dank?   It takes place in Ireland. Moreover, I can feel it. It must be dank.

The film takes place on the fictional island of Inisherin on the coast of Ireland and mainly in the homes of each of the protagonists and the nearby pub where, as good Irishmen they must sojourn. The setting is Ireland in 1923 when the Civil War was already firing separating erstwhile friends so the rupture here is merely a piece of the main. Occasionally shots are heard from the battle. But no explanation is offered.  Pádraic says he doesn’t even know what they’re fighting about, just like he doesn’t know why Colm is bent on separating from him and then going to such violent extremes to do it. That is how disputes so often go.

As in all art the particular is universal. Ireland is saturated with violent separations. So are the parties on Inisherin. Violence is inevitable. And so is the legendary mythic banshee cry that follows.

Notwithstanding the dankness of the pub, the pub is the heart and hearth of western civilization. Well at least Irish civilization. It is what civilization is all about. Convivial conversation and interesting music (art really) in the midst of darkness. An interesting feature of Irish pub music, which I love, is the democracy of it.  When I was in  Irish pubs it was explained to me that anyone can join the group of musicians sitting on chair in a corner, ignoring the audience. But in this case the civilizational aspect of it was broken by Colm abruptly breaking off the relationship with his friend Pádraic. He claims to do it to preserve his art. He feels he cannot take the time out from his art to spend time witha dullard like  Pádraic. But the severance seems deeply wrong. After it happens, Pádraic’s best friend is a donkey.

There is an interesting side bar involving a simple young man, Dominic, who is being beaten and abused by his brute of father. This is another parallel severance that results in violence with Dominic eventually found floating dead in the water. The cause of death is not clear, but he might have taken his own life. Once more no explanation is offered.

Pádraic  and his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon)  both have little respect for Dominic as they think he is dull, echoing Colm’s views about  Pádraic. Dominic also asks her for a date but is rejected, just like Pádraic was rejected. Both rejections lead to violent deaths, suggesting that this is the common result of the severance of a relationship.

Throughout the film Pádraic runs into a quirky old woman who seemingly knows all the town gossip but is hungry for more. This is Mrs. McCormick (played by Sheila Flitton) and perhaps she is the banshee in the movie title.  According to Irish folklore a banshee is a wailing woman who signals an impending death. She seems bizarre and eerie befitting a banshee. And death does follow her.

In this way that convivium of the small community is shattered, selfishly and inexplicably but viscerally real. And what follows when the sense of belonging is wrenched apart is fierce violence. Again, that is something Ireland is quite accustomed to, but it is difficult to witness even in a film.  It is pungent barbarism. They may have forgotten why they are fighting but that does not heal the wounds.

I thought this was a fine film, well deserving of its accolades.


Top Gun: Maverick




As I have said before I am getting tired of modern action movies, particularly those involving super heroes or martial arts.  Fortunately, this action movie does not fit into those over-used genres, so I was open to it. Not thrilled about it, but I wanted to see all the films nominated for the Academy award for Best Picture. Besides I enjoyed the original Top Gun and a good friend of mine told me the original was the best film ever. I did not agree with that assessment but it was worth seeing. So was this one.

Action movies can be great. I have enjoyed them all my life and I enjoyed this one. It is worth seeing and not just for special effects. Is it the best film of those nominated? Not in my opinion. But it is worth the cost of admission and promises an entertaining couple of hours. What’s wrong with that? Is that not good enough?

Sometimes small pleasures are the fine pleasures.


All Quiet on the Western Front


The film “All Quiet on the Western Front,” is based on a novel written by Erich Maria Remarque in 1929 about a decade after The Great War [World War I].  the title of the novel in German was Im Westen nichts Neues, and should properly be translated as Nothing New in the West. I wish they used the proper translation.  The film shows the war from the German perspective. It is interesting to see that perspective, though it is not that different from the Allied side. It is important for us to understand that.


That war famously was fought for absolutely no good reason. Not that wars usually have a reason that makes sense of the carnage. Yet that  was a war in which 17 million people died. After years of fighting and killing each other the front lines of east and west had hardly moved significantly.  What was the point of the awful slaughter? This film explores that question.


The film is set in the closing days of the war in 1917 following the life of a young German soldier Paul Bäumer who had enlisted after a patriotic address from a school master who told them now lucky they had been born when they were because now they had the glorious opportunity of going to war for the Fatherland. The boys are giddy with excitement over the opportunity. They are told to keep their rifles as clean as the Holy virgin. Soon their faces will be completely covered by mud, but they must keep their rifles clean. The boys were not forced to go to war. They were eager to go to war!

This reminded me of the autobiography of Bertrand Russell who was also a young lad at the same time and when it was announced at Trafalgar Square that England was going to war against the so-called “Huns”, the same people who were cheering in Germany, the young men also cheered wildly. All over Europe young men were ecstatic at the prospect of war. All of them expected the war to be short. One of the lines they expressed  was “Home or Homo by Christmas.”  All of them were sadly mistaken.

The illusion is actually broken in the opening scene of this film of a fox quietly feeding her kits at the breast. This scene was quiet, as was the next. That was a scene of corpses lying on the ground. Silent forever. That scene of death shortly emerges in a horrendous battle. It appears that all soldiers are dead. And really all were dead even those who were alive. They were dead in spirit.

The German boys who enlisted are given uniforms that were previously worn by young Germans now dead. They are also quiet.

The grunts on the front line of course obey the order given to them to “charge.”  That is about the most absurd thing they could do. Run into gun fire because officers ordered them to do that all for no purpose whatsoever. That is what war is all about. Soon another soldier dumps a load of corpses. That is what life and death are all about on the Western front. They are indeed quiet. But nothing else is quiet.

The scenes of soldiers slogging through trenches filled with rivers of water are heart-breaking. The soldiers futilely try to bail out the water. It can’t be done. The young men who cheered the war, now soldiers, cower in the trenches shaking in terror.  The protagonist Paul finds his friend from school lying face down in the mud with his glasses beside his quiet corpse.

Allied soldiers in tanks drive over the trenches filled with German soldiers, crushing many to death. Another squad of Allied soldiers carrying flame throwers burn the German soldiers alive. Where are the heroes?

Trapped in a crater in no man’s land with a lone French soldier, Paul and the soldier  stare at each other for a while and then realize their duty is to fight.  Paul stabs the young  enemy solider with a knife and then watches him die slowl, before him. Blood gurgles out of his throat and Paul is unable to stem the flow. As he dies, Paul becomes remorseless and begs the solider for forgiveness from the dead and quiet corpse. He rummages through the corpse’s papers and finds a photograph of his wife and children. Paul promises to tell his widow what he did.

The soldiers rarely get edible food, but the top German brass dine in style with obsequious soldier servants who must watch the general toss the dregs of his wine glass to the floor as he asks for more.

Paul’s friend Franz spends the night with a French woman, Eloise, and brings back her scarf as a souvenir. He sniffs it, as do the other soldiers. Franz tells the others that Eloise had milk white skin, and breasts. Will wonders never cease? But the men spend their time fighting. They have no time for young women, even if they have white skin and breasts!

On the morning of November 10, the Supreme Allied Commander gives the Germans 72 hours to surrender, leaving no room for negotiations and reminding them that for each minute of delay more German soldiers will die. The senseless slaughter will continue until the Germans surrender. The Germans, unlike the Allies, [our side] do the only thing that makes sense. They surrender. Later, Paul returns to his unit and sees them celebrating the imminent end of the war. He finds his wounded friend Tjaden, who gives him Franz’s scarf. Paul and Kat bring him food but Tjaden, distraught at being crippled, fatally stabs himself in the throat using a fork Paul and Kat brought with the food. Then Tjaden is quiet too.

The Germans agree to surrender at 11 a.m. on November 11 but a German General wants to end the war with a victory, even though the armistice has been announced. So he orders an attack at 10:45 a.m. and with 15 minutes left in the war the young German soldiers attack and kill large numbers of Allied soldiers and in turn suffer huge losses at the hands of the young Allied soldiers. Senseless slaughter again. This epitomizes the war. Young men eagerly launch themselves into the carnage for no reason. They just do it because they are ordered to do it and soldiers obey orders.

A despondent, battle-hardened Paul kills many French soldiers in a brutal killing spree in the last 15 minutes of the war  before  11:00 AM when the fighting stops, and the western front falls silent. After 11 a.m. a newly arrived German recruit that Paul had saved in the combat finds  Franz’s scarf. This is what the boys ought to have been doing. Spending time with girls, rather than brutally fighting each other in bloody and muddy trenches. And all for no discernible reason.

This is a magnificent film. It shows us what war is all about: meaningless slaughter. And it shows us what life could be about—a young girl’s scarf that smells just fine. We don’t see her but we know she has “white skin and breasts”. Because we don’t see her, she is quiet too. After the carnage all is quiet on the western front.



Everything Everywhere All at Once



I have a confession to make.  Even though I am a serious film reviewer who has huge respect for his audience, during my screening of this film I fell asleep! I don’t even know for how long. I was not watching it on my PVR where I could backtrack.

It happened when I was watching what seemed to me to an interminable martial arts scene. Even though the scene was partly a spoof of martial arts scenes I could not take it. It was mid-afternoon and I was stone sober and fell asleep. The reason is I am deeply bored by martial arts scenes. The first time I saw one I was enthralled like everyone else. After the 1,00th such scene I could not resist sleep any longer.

That doesn’t mean the film did not have good points. It had lots of good points. It was a good and interesting film. I think it will probably win the Academy Awards. I am just sick of martial arts fighting scenes. Enough.

There is one very important aspect of this film and it is revealed in the title. That is that the film uses its art to show us Everything. Everywhere. All at Once. And that is not easy to do. As Pablo Picasso. He and his friend George Braque who discovered a revolutionary new method of expressing reality in art called Cubism. Together in the early 20th century these two brilliant artist tried to show us different points of view of various subjects together all at once at the same time. Perhaps not everything as this film tries but a lot. That is why their images appeared fragmented and broken and helped establish not just a new form of painting, but actually, I would argue, helped to establish modern art of all kind including poetry, novels, sculpture, and music among others.

It seems to me this is what the makers of this film are doing and they have done a credible job in making cubism for cinema. How could I fall asleep through that? Stupidly!

As a result, the world explodes as if put through a blender as one reviewer cleverly noted. Perhaps, more in keeping with the film one might say, like clothes are jumbled in a clothes washer or dryer. You get to see all side at once. This film tries to do and therefore you must be prepared for a wild ride. Don’t fall asleep or walk out like a ninny. Then you might get to realize as Evelyn Wang said in the movie, “The universe is so much bigger than you realize.”  You can only look at images flashing through your mind at blinding speed. How else can you look at a multi-verse?  Can you view many stories at once? Or will you fall asleep on the job?

Gary Duong of NPR said, it is “a family hot pot of ridiculousness.”

The film really does try to show us everything, everywhere, all at once. As if the world was put into a blender and chopped up and then is spun around.  Or perhaps as demonstrated in the film, like clothes in a clothes washer or dryer at the laundromat. Like cubism. See all sides at once. How is that possible?  This film tries to show us how. To find out you have to be prepared for a wild ride. There really is nothing else like it.

Then, as if that is not enough, the film brings us to a simple yet immense conclusion: Be Kind. Even when you don’t know what is going on!

 You can do it.


The Fabelmans



This is a movie about movies. A subject dear to the heart of Steven Spielberg. This movie is based on the story of his own life. Really, it goes farther than that. This is a movie about passion.  Sam Fabelman is a young man who is a stand-in for Spielberg. Perhaps no one in the film exemplified passion more than Sam’s uncle Boris played by Judd Hirsch with consummate skill . Uncle Boris the disreputable Uncle Boris makes it clear that passion matters.  Perhaps it is all that matters. People who know they have talent must commit to it. The worst thing they can do is waste that talent. That would be a great sin. If that means they might have to neglect their loved ones, so be it.

Boris knows that Sam doesn’t want to make the film about his mother’s camping trip because he wants to work on his own war film.  As Boris says,

“But you, Mr. Director, you don’t wanna do this, what your daddy tells you, because you wanna make your war picture, ah? [Sammy’s embarrassed, startled to be understood so exactly. BORIS (CONT’D) Yeah, yeah… Believe me, Sammy Boy, I get it. Family, art: (he makes a fierce gesture meaning: “Pulled apart”]”


That is the price the artist must pay. Art plays hell with family life. along with everything else.  But Sam agrees to make the film and it leads to big trouble. That film does more to break up the family than his war film would have done. It really does rip the family apart.

Uncle Boris explains to Sam how important art is in their family. At least it is important for his sister Mitzi, him, and for Sam. As Boris says to Sam:

“You see what she got in her heart is what you got, what I got – ART. Like me, like you I think, we’re junkies and art is our drug. Family we love, but art, we’re meshugah for art. You think I wanted to leave my sisters, my mama and papa and go stick my stupid head in the mouth of lions?!?! SAMMY Putting your head in a lion’s mouth is art? BORIS (roaring with laughter, then with ferocious seriousness:) NO!! Sticking your head in the mouth of lions was balls!! Making sure that lion don’t eat my head?? That is art!! (he takes a drink:) You see Teenee, she didn’t say to Mitzi “go do what you gotta!” I mean she was a good person, my sister, but she was scared. Scared for your mother, she should have safety and family. So Mitzi, she gave it all up.”


Boris wants Sam to know how hard it will be to pursue his art. He squeezes Sam’s face and it hurts. Sam howls. That is what art does. He tells Sam:

“I want you should remember how that hurt. Because when they say all this – [gesturing to the film preparations all over] – when they say what you do, it’s cute, it’s a hobby, it’s like stamps or butterfly collecting, you feel your face how it feels now!

And Sam knows. His uncle nearly pulled off his face.

Boris tells Sam,

“So you remember your Onkl Boris and what he’s telling you: Because you’re gonna join the circus, I can tell. You can’t hardly wait, you wanna be in the big top, you’ll shovel elephant shit until they say “OK, Sammy, now ride the goddamn elephant!” Oh you love those people, ah? (gesturing to the rest of the house) Your sisters, your mama, your papa, except – [whispering, gesturing to the editing machine]– except this, this I think you love a little more.”


Sam denies it but it is obviously true.  Boris tells him:”

Run all you want, boychick, but you know I ain’t whistlin’ Dixie here!! You will make your movies, and you will do your art, and you remember how it hurt so you know what I’m saying: Art will give you crowns in heaven and laurels on earth. BUT!! It’ll tear your heart out and leave you lonely. You’ll be a shonde for your loved ones, an exile in the desert, a gypsy. Art is NO GAME!! Art is dangerous as a lion’s mouth, it’ll bite your head off!! LOOK AT ME!! LOOK AT ME!! IS IT A WONDER THAT TEENEE, SHE WANTED NOTHING TO DO WITH ME?! WITH – WITH M- [crying brokenheartedly:] TEENEE!!! OH, TEENEE!!! [He tears his undershirt and pulls at his hair].

Sam is horrified by his uncle, but his uncle knows the truth.

Sam’s mother, Mitzi, is also obsessed by art. But she did not pursue it like Sam will. Yet she passes on some wisdom to Sam. In her case her art is the piano. She recognizes that her son has the passion. All she can do is get out of the way, and keep her husband, the practical scientist, out of the way. She tells her son:

Movies are dreams that you never forget”…You do what your heart tells you you have to, because you don’t owe anyone your life. Not even me.”


There are other interesting aspect to the story. Like Sam’s wacky Christian girl friend who thinks Jesus is sexy and asks Sam, after he gives her a cross, if he found Jesus and he says, “Yeah in the jewelry store.”  What kind of religion is that?

The viewers job is also hard.  And important. It is to appreciate the art. Go ahead and stick your head in the lions mouth: watch this film, if you dare. But remember, it might hurt.