Argo-not


kentaylor

Ken Taylor, the real life hero of the story.

By now you have likely heard all about how Ben Affleck has earned the ire of former Canadian ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor for minimizing Canada’s contribution to the rescue of six US diplomats from Iran. Mr. Taylor has been quite vocal about his disapproval and rightly so. Even Former US President, Jimmy Carter (who was President at the time that this whole mission took place) has publicly said that it was 90 percent Canada and 10 percent CIA. Not to mention the fact that John Sheardown, who, along with Taylor masterminded the whole scheme, was left out of the movie entirely.What you may not know is that Canada isn’t the only country to get the fuzzy end of the lollipop in this movie. There is another country whose role in the film was not just minimized, but an outright lie

New-Zealand-flag

In the actual rescue mission, New Zealand offered to help. They even sent their ambassador, Chris Beeby to visit the hostages and rent a house that the hostages could hide in if they were discovered. In the movie, New Zealand is lumped in with several other countries who refuse to help, saying their reason was that Iran was one of their largest importers of New Zealand lamb.

The only thing I see wrong with all of this is that Argo is marketed as being “based on the true story” of this mission. The phrase ‘based on’ does not give you licence to tell half-truths and complete falsehoods about the true story, as Mr. Affleck seems to think. If you are going to make the true story of something/anything then, rule number one is, you had better get your facts straight and tell the truth the way it actually happened. Affleck had an advantage in that Ken Taylor was still alive and willing to help him. Sadly Affleck didn’t bother asking for Taylor’s help until the movie had been completed. The only input Ken Taylor had, was the change in the postscript of the film… a small concession at best. Affleck has been quoted as saying he loves Ken Taylor, he loves Canada, he loves New Zealand. I really don’t want to see how he would portray people he hates, if this is what he does to people he professes to ‘love’. Or perhaps he was just being a condescending Hollywood phony, lobbying for an Academy Award.

ben-affleck-oscars-2013-h_img_308x0

Affleck could have just as easily done what Law and Order SVU and Criminal Intent frequently do and rip a story from the headlines and write a ‘what if’ kind of storyline about how it could have been and call it fiction… well, aside from calling it fiction, I suppose that’s what Affleck actually did do.

There is one question I still have about this whole debacle. Why did Michelle Obama present the award? Obviously the Academy got her to present because they knew that Argo (a film about American heroics) was going to win. I am all but certain she would not have been tapped to present the award if the winner was going to be Django Unchained, Beast of the Southern Wild or Lincoln. The fact that the First Lady presented the award, even via satellite, not only legitimizes the content of the movie, but effectively puts a presidential seal of approval on it as well.

You might be asking why the hack does any of this matter… it was a movie. Well, I will let Ken Taylor answer that in his own words. “As long as people realise that this isn’t the historical record. And that is difficult to do because movies leave an impression. Particularly with young people – they weren’t around when it happened.” Movies do have the ability to change a generation’s view of what actually happened, to water it down, or to change it entirely. The sad part is that unless you were old enough to remember what actually happened, you will likely see this movie and believe that everything in it happened the way Affleck said it did because it was marketed as ‘based on a true story’.

Hollywood Part Three: The Sequel


BirthnationPoster for Birth of a Nation 1915

When author Thomas Dixon decided he wanted to cash in on the immense success of director, D.W Griffith’s filming of his novel the Clansmen which became the movie Birth of a Nation by writing and filming a follow-up called Fall of a Nation in 1916, he gave us perhaps the most prolific of film genres, the sequel. Even then, the sequel was far less successful than the original and was panned by critics and audiences alike. In fact, no prints of Fall of a Nation have survived and it is considered to be a lost film.

To me, the motive for filming a sequel has always been an obvious one… greed. After all we are talking about show BUSINESS and all too often the business part has far too big a say in what gets produced. There have been some very good movie franchises, like Star Wars (the first three), Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and The Godfather. With the exception of the Star Wars trilogy (which were written by George Lucas expressly for film), the others were all based on a series of bestselling novels and each of the films were painstakingly made over a long period of time by filmmakers who genuinely loved the original texts.

The-Lord-Of-The-Rings-Trilogy

Then there have been the sequels that have been but a disappointing follow-up to a successful movie, which, sadly is the case with the vast majority of sequels. But love them or hate them, sequels are here to stay as long as movie makers still need investors to create their films. So, in the spirit of if you can’t beat them, join them, I am going to suggest a couple of movies that could use a sequel, if for no other reason than I would like to know what happens next.

AmericanGraffiti

Written and directed by George Lucas, American Graffiti is a classic film from my childhood. Set in 1962, in Modesto California, it takes place over the course of one night in the lives of a group of teenagers who have just graduated high school and are about to embark on the next phase in their lives. It remains one of my all time favourite movies. George Lucas did make a sequel to American Graffiti six years later in 1979 called More American Graffiti, which I have yet to see and therefore cannot comment on. The sequel I would like to see is one where all of the original characters now have children who are the same age as they were in the first film (perhaps even played by some of the original stars’ actual kids… Bryce Dallas Howard for example) on their last night of freedom. It would be a nice  way to come full circle on the story and perhaps give Ron Howard a vehicle in which he could direct his daughter.

bryce-dallas-and-ron-howardRon and Bryce Dallas Howard

The next movie I would like to suggest a sequel to is the Breakfast Club. John Hughes 1980’s teen classic about a group of highschoolers from different cliques who spend a Saturday in detention together and find out that they are all so much more than the sterotypes they represent.

breakfast-clubThe stars of the Breakfast Club (minus Emilio Estevez) then and now

I don’t know about you, but I would definitely go see a sequel to this movie (as long as it starred the original cast). Perhaps a highschool reunion brings them together for the first time since graduation and one by one they all end up in the library. It’s just too bad that John Hughes is no longer around to direct a sequel.

Those are my suggestions. I’m sure they’re not great, but they are a damned sight better than some of the sequels Hollywood has forced down our collective throat.

stayingalive_lPoster for Stayin’ Alive, the crappy sequel to Saturday Night Fever

What movie would you like to see a sequel to?

 

 

Hollywood Part Two: The Remake


The movie remake is a time-honoured Hollywood tradition, making Hollywood the only place on earth where people get paid to plagiarise. Like the biopic, the remake is a hit and miss genre of film. Movies get made from plays, books, comic books, video games and even other movies (remember Gus Van Sant’s shot for shot remake of Psycho?) . It seems the screen writer can steal ideas from anywhere as long as the studio pays enough for the rights to the story and characters. It’s not enough to remake an idea once, either. Just look at Shakespeare, who, along with Dickens, is one of the most stolen from writers on the planet. The story of Romeo and Juliet has been told 13 times since 1900 is various movies, and that’s not including movies that don’t use the title Romeo and Juliet, but still “borrow” the storyline.

One of the latest incarnations of the Romeo and Juliet story

I mentioned Dickens as well because A Christmas Carol has been filmed 14 times (again, not including the times that it has been told under a different name) starring a wide variety of Scrooges from Jim Carrey and Bill Murray to George C. Scott and even Susan Lucci.

Susan Lucci as a female Scrooge

It’s not just classics that are remade either. Lately Hollywood has been dipping into the 1980’s to remake movies that can still be seen on cable, like Fame, Footloose and Red Dawn in an attempt to lure the nostalgic movie-goer back into the theaters. Nevermind that most people of my generation (okay… younger than me by 5 to 10 years) are too busy with work and kids to bother going to a theater to see a movie and would prefer to send their kids off to one so they can have some quiet time at home.

The “new” Footloose

I am not a fan of the movie remake in general, but as it is a practice that has been going on forever and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, I would like to offer up a movie that is ripe for a remake. Building on the success of movies that star people from my parents generation (and older) like Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Dame Judi Dench and Robert DeNiro because Baby Boomers are going to the movies in droves, I say why not do a remake of Arsenic and Old Lace?

Carey Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace

Originally a hit Broadway play, this movie has only been remade once in 1969 as an ABC movie of the week, so it has not been done to death. I have even taken the liberty of putting together a fantasy cast for the project. Below is the original cast of the main characters for the Frank Capra 1944 version.

Now here is my fantasy cast.

  • Hugh Grant as Mortimer Brewster
  • Gwynneth Paltrow as Elaine Harper Brewster
  • Maggie Smith or Betty White as Aunt Abby Brewster
  • Judi Dench  or Cloris Leachman as Aunt Martha Brewster
  • Robert Englund as Jonathan Brewster ( the he looks like Boris Karloff joke could be updated to say he looks like Freddy Krueger)
  • Danny DeVito as Dr. Herman Einstein
  • The obvious choice here would be Robin Williams as he has already played Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum movies, but I would like to offer up Anthony Hopkins as an alternative casting choice (he doesn’t do much comedy, but I think this is an untapped talent that he possesses) as “Teddy Roosevelt” Brewster

If Hollywood MUST churn out remake after remake, I say maybe movie-goers should help them along with some creative suggestions of our own.

What would be a movie you would like to see remade and who would star?

Hollywood Part One: The Biopic


I have long been a fan of biographies of famous and infamous people. I read biographical and autobiographical books, love to watch the biography channel and usually enjoy watching biographical movies.The Hollywood biopic is a hit and miss genre. When it’s done well, there’s nothing better, when it’s done poorly there’s nothing worse. While casting is important in all film genres, it is perhaps most important in the case of the biopic. The actor or actress must, not only look quite similar to the original subject, but they must walk alike, talk alike and have their mannerisms down to the smallest detail, so that even the most discerning of fans can be transported for the length of the film into that person’s life. It’s a genre that can make or break an actor’s career. This past weekend I watched two movie biographies, one that was critically lauded and one that was critically panned. In my opinion, they had more similarities than differences. Let’s start with the, made for Lifetime TV movie, Liz and Dick.

Lindsay Lohan and Elizabeth Taylor

I went into this movie expecting it to be a glorious train wreck and I was somewhat disappointed. Oh, it was an awful movie, don’t get me wrong, but I was expecting it to be bad in a much more campy and funny way. While this movie failed on many levels there were things in it that should be praised, like the hair, make up and costumes, the sets, the classic cars. The whole look of the movie was very well done. Theresa Russell, (an actress who, in my opinion never got her due) as Taylor’s mother gave a solid performance. Grant Bowler (of Ugly Betty fame) was fairly good as Richard Burton, although he could have worked a bit harder on the Welsh accent as his natural New Zealand accent won out more often than not. The entire supporting cast really did their best to rise above a terrible script and a truly horrid performance by the lead actress. The script sounded as if it were written by a 10-year-old with lines like “I don’t loathe you, I hate you!”. Now I am not against the telling of the unvarnished truth, warts and all, but this seemed to have been written for the express purpose of sullying the memory of Taylor and Burton. It was all warts… no all. Speaking of the lead actress, Lindsay Lohan didn’t even seem to be trying to portray Elizabeth Taylor as much as she seemed to be trying to connect some of the events in Taylor’s life to her own. Elizabeth Taylor had a high-pitched, almost childlike, feminine voice, Lohan sounded like a ninety year old Jewish woman sending back soup in a deli. To be fair, that is Lindsay’s natural voice, but when you are portraying someone else, you MUST, at least try to, sound like them… especially when you are using the part as a comeback vehicle. Lohan was too skinny, too freckled and too immature for the part. I suspect that the only reason her name was brought up for the role was that she had previously done a pictorial for Interview Magazine where she was done up as Taylor. There is a vast difference between posing like an icon while in the right styling, make up and lighting for a still camera and actually portraying that person for a motion picture camera and Lindsay does not look enough like Elizabeth Taylor to suspend the viewer’s disbelief. I understand that Lifetime is a small budget network known for schlocky movies of the week, and casting Lohan in this role was, in itself, quite the marketing stroke of genius. They knew there would be millions of people (like myself) tuning in just to see her fail and that was something they could sell to advertisers. After all, there’s nothing the public likes better than to see an actress who is already on the decline, make a fool of herself. To Lohan’s credit there was actually one believable moment in the movie. There is a part where Richard Burton is trying to comfort Elizabeth Taylor who is crying after storming out of her 40th birthday party because a couple of the catty guests said she was no longer a movie star. Lohan as Taylor utters the line, “I’m not a star, I’m a joke.” In this moment Lohan actually connected with the truth, perhaps ironically, but it was a moment of truth in an otherwise hopeless performance.

The other biopic I finally got around to watching this weekend was My Week With Marilyn, a film that received two Oscar nominations and a host of other accolades

Michelle Williams and Marilyn Monroe

As a fan of Marilyn Monroe, I went into this film with mixed emotions. I have read almost everything there is to read about her life. I have seen literally all of her films multiple times. I have watched interviews with her, talking about her life and her work. It was going to be difficult for me to be able to suspend my disbelief enough to give Michelle Williams a fair shake. The movie, as a whole, was not terrible. Like Liz and Dick, the attention to detail was very good and the supporting cast rose above a bad script. Dame Judy Dench was perfection as Dame Sybil Thorndike. Julia Ormond absolutely became Vivian Leigh. Dougray Scott was wonderful as Arthur Miller (although his part was small and poorly written). Kenneth Branagh as Sir Lawrence Olivier was transcendent. The script was an amateurish, mean-spirited and one-dimensional portrayal of every character, especially Monroe, but most of the actors were able to bring more to their portrayals than what was on the page. The story could have easily been written by someone who had never even met Marilyn and had just heard the gossip and rumours of her behavior on set (another case of all warts and no all). It came across as the deluded bragging of a young man who thought himself the only person who could understand Marilyn Monroe. That being said, Michelle Williams’ portrayal did nothing to give any real depth to the part, focusing solely on her insecurities, fear of abandonment and need for approval. Another case of bad casting. Now I am not saying that Williams is a bad actress, quite the contrary, I have enjoyed her in many other movies. It is simply that this role was too big for her, both figuratively and literally. Williams, (like Lohan) was too thin for the part… and the opening scene with her dancing in a sheer gown was distracting if only because of the OBVIOUS padding of her hips and bottom. I couldn’t help but think, several times while watching this movie, that HBO would have done a far better job with it. In fact, I would have given this film much more slack if it had been made for TV, but as it was not and as it was so acclaimed, I was more critical of every little detail. Unlike, Lindsay Lohan in Liz and Dick, Michelle Williams did not ever seem to connect with Monroe (even ironically). The whole performance was a pale imitation and a let down.

Tippi Hedren and Sienna Miller

There have been biopic movies that I have thought were well done. Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren in The Girl, Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady, Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis Jr. and Joe Mantegna as Dean Martin in The Rat Pack, Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar and Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin in Game Change. With the possible exception of Sienna Miller (it was almost creepy how much she looked like Tippi Hedren), none of these actors looked exactly like the person they were portraying, but they were able to get past the persona to the person inside and transform themselves into those iconic roles.

A Canadian director’s horrifically beautiful body… of work.


Another quintessentially Canadian artist is the focus of today’s Canada week entry. There are quite a few famous Canadian film directors, James Cameron, Atom Egoyen, Norman Jewison, Ivan Reitman (and his son, Jason), but my favourite, by far is David Cronenberg.

David Cronenberg.

I am a lover of dark subject matter, that questions the mainstream perception of beauty, in both books and movies. So, it would seem, is David Cronenberg. His films often deal with topics that challenge people’s of fear of body transformation and infection and have been labelled ‘body horror’.

I still remember the first Cronenberg movie I ever saw. It starred Jeremy Irons (one of my favourite actors on the planet) as twin gynecologists , Dead Ringers. That movie haunted me for weeks after the first viewing. So much so, that I found myself watching it a second and third time, just to try to figure out what it was that triggered me so deeply.

That’s the thing about a Cronenberg movie, they really mess with your mind and challenge your perception. After Dead Ringers, I sought out more of Cronenberg’s films. The next one I saw was Videodrome, a movie that challenges the psyche on a very base, sexual level. Another thing I like about Cronenberg’s movies is that he takes as many risks with his casting choices as he does with the subject matter. In Videodrome, Deborah Harry (of Blondie) is cast as a sado-masochistic psychiatrist and radio show host… a non-singing role for a celebrity mainly known for her singing was risky at the time. Perhaps, a more famous casting risk that payed off for Cronenberg was in the movie Rabid, when he cast porn star, Marilyn Chambers in the lead role.

In 1999, the same year the Matrix was released, Cronenberg released a movie called Existenz, which also dealt with the perception of reality (among other things). It didn’t do near as well in the box office, perhaps due to less CGI effects, less of an advertising budget and less black patent leather, but for my money it was the superior of the two movies. The story was riveting and far less convoluted than that of the Matrix and much more cleverly written (by Cronenberg, himself).

By far, my favourite David Cronenberg movie is Crash.

I am a fan of the author J.G. Ballard, whose novel of the same name, the movie is based on. I saw Crash in a theatre in Toronto the day it was released. There was not an empty seat in the house. I knew exactly what to expect from having read the book and was very much looking forward to seeing how Cronenberg would deal with showing some of the more graphically sexual scenarios. The film did not disappoint, even in showing the two male leads in a steamy scene, which I was almost sure wouldn’t make the final cut. Kudos to Cronenberg for, not only remaining true to the original text, but for being brave enough to show two men having a sexual encounter and not just imply it.

While, I have yet to see all of the films in his catalogue, there is no denying David Cronenberg’s impact on the way I view the world around me and the people in it.

Bridesmaids Revisited


The cast of the movie Bridesmaids

I’m past the age where I go to see movies in the theater. Instead I wait for them to come out On Demand (if I’m really looking forward to seeing it) or on cable. When the movie Bridesmaids first came out, the chatter about this movie was overwhelmingly positive. It touted an all female ensemble cast, which is rare for a comedy. It was written by two female writers, which, to my feminist sensibilities, was encouraging. I admit to being unfamiliar with Kristen Wiig… I stopped watching Saturday Night Live long before they began calling it SNL… still, all in all,I had relatively high hopes for this movie.

What a complete waste of 125 minutes of my life. This movie was a slap in the face to me as a woman and a complete insult to my intelligence. I will say this movie would have been palatable if the actresses were still in their early twenties. A younger age would have somewhat excused the behavior of the characters. Women in their mid to late thirties acting like jealous teenagers is, not only unseemly, but UNFUNNY.

Take the lead character of Annie, granted her life is a mess, but wouldn’t you think she could step back and allow her best friend’s wedding to be about… oh, I don’t know… HER BEST FRIEND? Instead she whines and moans and engages in a jealous feud with her friend’s other friend like a child would. I understand that women nearing 40 want people to think they are younger than their age, but there’s absolutely no need to surrender your last scrap of dignity and act like a 2 year old with a case of the ‘mines’. If I were the bride, it would not have taken me more than 5 minutes to cut this woman from my bridal party. Melissa McCarthy’s character was cute, and I generally like her as an actress, but this part was not worthy of an Oscar nomination.

It’s bad enough when movies show women in a jealous feud over a man, but over a friend? Most people by the time they reach their late 30’s have grown past this kind of behavior. I guess that’s why it’s supposed to be ‘funny’. Unfortunately, the very behavior they are lampooning in this movie is the kind of behavior that girls in their teens will think it is normal to exhibit when they hit 35 because of movies like this.

I would think that two female writers who wanted to make a movie about women could come up with something a little more aspirational and a little less insulting. Or maybe I am being naive to think that such a movie would get the funding in the first place.

The Love Delusion


I grew up in the Disney era when little girls were taught that, if we were good little girls, someday, our prince would come and rescue us. All the movies of my childhood preached the idea that girls needed a handsome prince to give them a happily ever after. My grandmother used to tell me, “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man” over and over again. All this preaching didn’t sink in, however. I was a rebel and the feminist movement was the female voice that was speaking directly to me. I had a long string of relationships with men who were not only, not rich by any means, but not ambitious either. I was the bread winner and the caretaker until I realized I wasn’t getting anything out of the situation, lost all respect for my partner and eventually moved on. I have become the man I want to marry and I never wanted children, so marriage has now become a moot point for me. I firmly believe that marriage is for people who are planning on raising children. But lately I’ve been thinking about the message that society has been sending women about love and marriage.

As I mentioned, the Disney movies of our youth told us to wait for that handsome prince to rescue us. From what? From getting a job, standing on our own two feet and realizing that we are strong enough to take care of ourselves?

I guess there’s a shortage of princes and rich men now because it seems lately the romantic movies are preaching to successful women that we should go for the sweet poor guy rather than the rich guy who’s married to his career. Movies like Sweet Home Alabama, Letters to Juliet, and Leap Year illustrate this message. Of course the message is wrapped in the delusion that it’s only the sweet poor guy who could ever REALLY love you. Don’t rich men have feelings too? Apparently, if we are successful women, we can’t have a successful man because that would throw the earth off it’s axis or something. The movies of today are also telling men that they are spending way too much time working, money is not what’s important and they should be home with their families more. Movies like Liar, Liar and Click illustrate this point.

My question is, if no one is working, who is earning the living that’s needed to raise a family? Kids are expensive. So then we get back to the women should marry rich message again, but that’s bad. If you do that then you’re a gold digger, which is the societal equivalent of being a whore, which is also bad. After all marriage is supposed to be about love, pure love, true love. Scientists have found that this thing we call love is simply a chemical reaction in the brain caused by hormones and neurotransmitters… romantic huh? Maybe my grandmother had it right all along… it is just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man, when you look at love in terms of hormones and neurotransmitters.

Let’s go back to the gold digger label for a moment. It used to be that women sought out a good provider to mate with so that their children would be well taken care of. These women weren’t called gold diggers, they were called smart. Now that so many women are a success in their own right, they are looked down upon for seeking out a good provider. In my opinion, gold diggers are getting a bad rap. In the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe has a great little speech where she defends herself against the accusation of being a gold digger. “Don’t you know, that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but, my goodness, doesn’t it help? And if you had a daughter, wouldn’t you rather she didn’t marry a poor man? You’d want her to have the most wonderful things in the world and to be very happy. Well, why is it wrong for me to want those things?”

So, which is it? Do we marry for love, marry for money, make our own money and marry for love, marry for money then force our hard working husband to spend less time working or just say to hell with it all and try to find happiness no matter what it looks like?

Are you the next or the first?


For the past two days the lead story on Yahoo Canada’s home page has been ‘Angelina Jolie lookalike stuns’. It’s about, as one would assume an aspiring actress who bears a resemblance to Angelina Jolie. I pity this girl. She will never do anything without being compared to a much more famous and established actress. And how insulting to Angelina Jolie, who isn’t finished being the first Angelina Jolie.

I don’t understand this fascination the media has with saying she’s the next, or he’s the next. It’s not just the entertainment industry either, politics does this as well. Someone is always the next Reagan or JFK. Does the big spin machine really think that the general public is so daft that we need to see a similarity to an iconic figure of the past in a rising star in order to accept them?

Keira Knightley and Audrey Tautou were being billed as the next Audrey Hepburn. Nicole Kidman, Lindsay Lohan, Pam Anderson, Madonna and Kim Kardashian (really?) were all said to be the next Marilyn Monroe. Tom Hanks was being touted as the next Jimmy Stewart and already they’re asking who will be the next Tom Hanks.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean this is coming from an industry that remakes a movie that is only two years old (the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo) because apparently American audiences are too lazy to read subtitles. Director Gus Van Sant’s creative tank was so empty that he actually made a shot for shot remake of Hitchcock’s classic movie Psycho. Even though the experiment failed miserably, as most remakes do, Hollywood just won’t give up on the idea… and then they wonder why nobody goes to the movies anymore. Audiences are clamouring for something original, which is why a black and white, silent film is one of the most talked about movies of 2011. You’d think Hollywood would get the message, but instead they have this in the works. I pity the actor charged with recreating a career defining role like Patrick Bateman. I can’t imagine any of the new crop of Twilight or Disney stars doing the role anywhere near the same justice as Christian Bale did it only a scant 12 years ago.

For those of you looking to make your mark on the world, please ask yourself one question. Why would you want to be the next someone else, when you can be the first you?