Monday, January 31, 2011

January 2011 Books and Movies

How to Train Your Dragon

I chose this movie from a list on an airplane solely because I'd played the soundtrack in one of the bands I'm in. The music was great, so I was curious to see how it related to the film. It was quite good. A few contextual issues, for some reason even though the story is set on an island off the coast of Iceland, everyone except the young kids had a Scottish accent. It wasn't explained, and frankly, a little bizzare. Also, they all wore those dorky "viking" helmets with the horns, although it's been proven the Vikings didn't wear them, thereby perpetuating the stereotype. I loved, loved, loved The Trotsky, and Jay Baruchel didn't disappoint as Hiccup. In fact, most of the younger people in the film were from the Judd Apatow school and also were in Superbad. It was fun, but not without plot holes and the dragon involvement didn't seem to be the focus, even though they are in the title.

Breakfast With Scot

Brilliant Canadian film. Where was I when this came out? I guess it didn't get wide release, but apparently it was a darling of the festival circuit. About an ex hockey player and sports lawyer gay (but somewhat in the closet) couple who become guardians of a very out gay child, it's extremely well acted. Set in Toronto (and not pretending to be somewhere else for once) it was nice to see the city featured and flatteringly so. Starring Tom Cavanaugh (who I think is best known for Scrubs) and really great child actor Noah Bernett, along with a whole host of great Canadian talent, it really is a must see.

Not on the Label: What Really Goes Into the Food on Your Plate
Felicity Lawrence

Though set in Britain, where some food production differ from ours, this is a good but scary read. It will make you never want to set foot in a grocery store again. They are painted as the evil corporations that are the root cause of migrant labour, price gouging, unfair trade and the collapse of the UK farming industry. It was written in 2003 so some things have changed, but really, not enough to make a visible difference. Even though we don't make our bread through the Chorleywood bread process in Canada, we still have a highly industrialized baking industry with limited access (especially if you don't live near a big city or have a quaint town bakery) to quality bread. It inspired me to buy and use a breadmaker and to be very mindful of where I shop, eschewing trucked in fruit and veg and buying local whenever possible. Obviously it's not always easy and I anticipate falling off the wagon due to stress, time limitations and sheer convenience, but being more mindful is definitely a great way to start.

Too Fat Too Young

Excellent documentary by Gok Wan (of How to Look Good Naked) about teenage obesity and his own struggle with his weight and self-esteem. Nothing new here, but good to see the number of programs in the UK that are targeting the self-esteem issue, due to the large amounts of bullying, self harm and suicide attempts related to these issues. It was strange to see Gok's former fat self in pictures. I've always though he looked a bit haggard as a super thin person, but he seems to really like himself this way, and that, at the end of the day, is all that matters.

The King's Speech

Absolutely brilliant film about George VI and his reluctance to speak publicly both before and after having to assume the throne after his brother abdicates to marry a divorcee, due to a speech impediment. The casting was amazing. I even liked Helena Bohnam Carter, whom I don't often like in films. Too weird and creepy. Must be the years married to Tim Burton! :) Both she and Colin Firth nailed their characters. Geoffry Rush was brilliant and it was interesting to notice that although his character was Australian, he spoke with a mostly English accent. This is probably due to the fact that in the 30s, outsiders weren't tolerated very well, and he would have had to tone down his natural accent. I found it funny that the characters of George V and his wife Mary were so two dimensional, but it's more than likely because they only had limited sources to create from. It's been nominated for dozens of awards, so is definitely riding the buzz wave, but it's really good. I highly recommend it.

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

This is a documentary that aired on Channel 4 (UK) about travellers weddings. It's since been made into a series. If you get a change, take a look. It's hard to explain how tacky the dresses are, without seeing them. Meters of train, umpteen layers of netting, glitter, crystals, sky high hairsprayed hair, massive tiaras, appliques, gloves, horse and carriage, it's like Cinderella meets Barbie meets Ru Paul. It's a very unique culture, one that spans many continents. It's really difficult to get any real information on them, as they are very secretive. Even this documentary doesn't let on more than just the bare minimum to tell the story. Quite fascinating, I'm looking forward to watching more.

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie

This was quite well done, and interesting. What shocked me most, was David Suzuki's seemingly cavalier attitude toward his first marriage and how his blind devotion to science played a large role in its demise. I guess I never thought of him as a person with life struggles before. Of course he's a human being, so it's to be expected, I suppose I've only ever though of him as the environment guy.

There were many interesting vignettes, including one about his Japanese heritage, and his travels to Japan. Apparently he learned Japanese as an adult, as neither of his parents (who were both born in BC) spoke the language. Another was of footage of the Haida protests of clear cutting old BC forests in the 80s. Aboriginal issues have always been very dear to him and he seemed most proud of the fact of his grandchildren is Haida. The vignettes are juxtaposed with his giving a talk at a large theatre in Vancouver. I've seen him speak, and know firsthand how inspiring he is. It's definitely worth a watch, especially if you're an environmentalist.

The American

Not very good. George Clooney was pretty, the scenery (Pescara, Italy) was beatiful but all in all a lame movie with an even lamer ending. (I won't spoil, just in case) I wouldn't have watched this, if I wasn't on a plane. I don't really go in for the assassin type film, even if the character wants to go straight. Give it a miss.

Eat Pray Love

I loved, loved, loved this book, so I was fully expecting to hate the movie. I was surprised that it wasn't horrible. Not particulary good, especially when they sapped the book of all it's spirituality and left out really key detials making the character, especially Liz, seem shallow with no focus. Javier Bardem as Felipe was the only character I really connected with. I didn't think they cast the right person as Richard, and his scenes made me say ick. The worst was that they shoved the novel into the film like you would clothes into an overstuffed suitcase. The scenery and cinematography (especially the food!) was glorious though, and I'm looking forward to possibly visiting Bali later this year. It was a bit bittersweet, as I'm in the middle of my year off, but have only just gone on my first trip, when my intention after reading the book was to travel a similar route as Elizabeth Gilbert. I now have new travel plans, and new journeys of self-discovery.

No comments: