My First Blog Post

Every Movie Has A Meaning & A Message To Explore

Movies are a form of entertainment that tell a story through a series of images and sound that give the illusion of continuous movement. Doing so allows viewers to learn visually about the message each are trying to convey – often in a short period of time. Some movies are so powerful their meaning lingers, and many times it is in the smallest of details.

— Dr, Martha Hart.

Ever since I can remember I have loved watching movies and deciphering the hidden message and meaning behind them. Some movies inspire us, some make us sad or mad, and some are just good fun. I think my interest in the meaning of things comes from being a doctor in mental health. Human beings possess an innate desire to search for and find meaning. We crave to know purpose – it’s a big part of our humanism. I am also the founder of The Owen Hart Foundation and therefore I work with many individuals in-need so I am always trying to understand people in my quest to be as empathetic as I can to their struggles. As well I am the Vice President of the Monaco International Film Festival (seen below center along with MIFF founders Dean Bentley and Rosana Golden). In an effort to tie in all the aspects of my everyday life and given my love of movies I have wanted to create a purposeful yet casual movie blog for some time about cinema that has moved me or stuck in my mind for one reason or another. Not because I am a said expert in film – I’m not – but just because I love thinking about what the take-away message is in any situation and because I love discussing movies, and giving my Oscar picks… Once this blog is established I will try to do a post biweekly (time permitting) to explore the meaning of life through the movies we watch – so let’s get started!
AFA-MIFF founders Dean Bentley and Rosana Golden along with MIFF VP Dr. Martha Hart.

The Whale

As Canada honors our National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, it seems fitting to examine a movie that deals in its own right with the hard truths of trying to reconcile past transgressions. Recently premiered and revered at both the Venice Film Festival and TIFF, the film ‘The Whale’ has received tremendous well-deserved recognition and praise throughout the entertainment industry. In fact, our very own humble unassuming and extremely talented ‘Canadian’ (slash American) actor Brendan Fraser has been earmarked as the front runner to win the very coveted Oscar for Best Actor Award.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky this remarkable story is an adaption of Samuel D. Hunter’s play of the same name that focuses on main character Charlie (brilliantly played by Brendan Fraser), a 600-pound self-loathing isolated obese gay English teacher with addiction problems who never leaves his pod; and how he endeavors to reconnect with his estranged teenaged daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) who he abandoned, along with her mother, to romantically pursue one of his much younger male students. Deemed as a ‘performance for the ages’ all Canadians will have their fingers crossed come awards season that Fraser will take home gold for going ‘above and beyond the calling of an actor’. It would be the first Academy Award for Fraser, a beloved former A-lister whose earlier work consists of a slew of popular movies including, ‘George of the Jungle’, ‘The Mummy’, ‘The Mummy Returns’, Encino Man’ and more. Such roles came easy to a young incredibly handsome Fraser, but like many actors, aging is a curse, with cutesy characters harder to pull off. Transitioning into more serious performances is a painful journey that often cannot even be achieved because as all actors know, once stereotypes take hold, they are hard to break. This certainly was a fate Fraser suffered, and though he never disappeared completely, blockbuster roles dried up – until now.

So with all the chatter about this film what is the likely take-away message? It’s worth noting that the title of the movie doesn’t just refer to Charlie’s massive size – tipping the scale at 600 lbs (fast fact: 600 lbs is the starting weight of ocean whales) and how challenging it is for him to exist in his environment (fast fact: 7 out of our 13 great whale species are endangered or vulnerable). Whales are gentle complex mystical intelligent illusive giants who are relatively friendly but secretive. Similar traits Charlie seems to mirror. That said, the title does not have much to do with the main meaning this film aims to impart on viewers. The narrative is also full of drowning regrets, missed approaches and mistakes, mourning and self-destruction. Charlie is after all eating himself to death! But again, these are not the key take-aways audiences should depart the theater with. No.

In fact, the fundamental life-lession of this picture is much like Brendan Fraser’s surprising comeback. Sink or swim. It’s about resurfacing from the depths of despair to catch one more breath that will bring a sense of relief, albeit brief, to repair the breach, to calm the waves, to tame all hidden creatures lurking below, to lighten the darkness. Fraser’s character Charlie references ‘Moby Dick’ in the film several times, which some might think is fitting with the title. But in fact, ‘Moby Dick‘ is a well-known metaphor for a problem that haunts a person, or a goal that is difficult or even impossible to attain. In short, the weight of Charlie’s most distainful human failings, like a hump on his back, will remain until he rights the wrongs that he’s carried far too long. Redemption vs. Deterioration – ‘If there is to be reconciliation, first there must be truth.’ ― Timothy B. Tyson. Being truthful and accepting of the self – now that’s the real take-away message of this film. Still waters run deep, but we must settle into our stillness to find serenity.

Most critics would agree that this film, set to be released December 9th 2022, is worth the watch though some writeups have been likened to a slaughter, but regardless most reviewers agree that Fraser’s gripping performance should earn him an Oscar nod. As a fellow Canadian I truly hope that come Sunday March 12th 2023, Brendan Fraser is met again with long, enthusiastic standing ovations, and deafening applause, as he accepts the gong for this award-winning performance. True to his Canadian heritage, I’m sure his acceptance speech will be delivered with sincere yet emotionally moving modesty, endearing him to all, who rooted for this unpretentious inconspicuous underdog to succeed and show the world that he was always much more than just a pretty face.  

P.S. This film also taps into how punishing individuals can be on themselves and their personal choices, thus never feeling good enough. Why is it that our ideal self seems so unsustainable or out of reach altogether. On this point, shame associated with weigh-gain is an epidemic in our society, as body dysmorphia rages on. How sad. Especially since the aim in life is to make peace with ourselves and others. Doing yoga personally helps me find my center – when I’m doing it. Then the class ends, and again my mediations are replaced with provocations! Om – my god. But as an eternal optimist I keep seeking Ananda (a-nun-dah; the highest state of being – an ecstatic state of complete bliss, love, and unsurpassed joy). I highly recommend everyone do the same. Namaste and be kind to yourself. 🙏

Yoga at Marina Bay.

Summer Hits & Misses – ‘Elvis’ vs. ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

As summer winds down, we will soon say goodbye to our very hot weather and the mega-blockbusters it usually brings. After all July and August is really a time to escape our everyday reality and what better way than to head to the movie theater with your favorite person(s). That said, it’s clear that this year had more misses than hits, and shockingly films I expected to be flops turned out to be fabulous, while movies I earmarked as marvellous were mediocre at best. Two such flicks stand out in this regard, though notwithstanding the hit-or-miss status I assign, each has a very interesting life lesson in common that will resonate with all ages. So let’s dig in and find out what it is.

ELVIS: This true rags to riches glory story about the ‘King of Rock’ is steeped in history and packed with talent, tunes, tinsel, triumphs, and tribulations. But unfortunately, even with all its star-power, glitz, and glam this film misses the mark in effectively portraying Elvis Presley’s life, despite its long running time of 239 minutes. The narrative, as told by Elvis’ (Austin Butler) long-time manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) tries to slowly spin a tale of deceit and betrayal with both seasoned actors doing a decent job playing their respective roles. In fact, Austin Butler’s singing is quite impressive as is his mastery of Elvis’ trademark mannerisms, smoky voice, sexy sneer, and unmatched hip swivel. Tom Hanks, whom I like very much also has no trouble transforming into a despicable carnie type agent, whose deplorable presence on screen becomes cringeworthy fast. So where did this film go wrong?

When actors are more than capable of fulfilling their roles but the movie still faulters the finger always points to the script and the director. Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann chooses to frame this picture from the Colonel’s perspective, which shouldn’t have been a problem, but the end message was supposed to be how this cheating crooked manager took advantage of an unsuspecting trusting phenomenal one-of-a-kind winner of an artist who in the end was duped. Not so fast. The reason this premise is unsuccessful is because for most of the movie Elvis is constantly defying his manager’s advice, suggestions, orders and instead opts to do whatever he wants, which lands him in hot water more than once. So, when the film suddenly pivots, insinuating that the Colonel has been a crafty conniving puppet master all along it doesn’t really work. Let’s face facts, as Elvis’ career evolved, he developed serious substance abuse problems. He was after all the first ever ‘rockstar’ and created the stereotypical hard-living template that his successors notoriously imitate to this day!  In short, being zoned out all the time equals a lack of control that flows into all areas of life, thus requiring some type of management. The inconsistencies in the dialogue is the reason why this film doesn’t impact audiences as much as it should. The words simply don’t match the actions. Regardless of the discrepancies avid filmgoers and fans of Elvis will still most likely enjoy this film for its incredible soundtrack, singing, and trivia, particularly how R&B, jazz, and gospel heavily influenced Elvis’ unique approach to music.

Top Gun: Maverick: This movie directed by Joseph Kosinski is a soaring success of a sequel to the original Top Gun (1986) that takes place three decades on and is an exelerating adrenal rush right off the hop. This film lives up to the hype and is another hit for Tom Cruise who famously plays Maverick, a rebel navy pilot billed as ‘the fastest man alive’. Cruise does an exceptional job as always displaying his acting and stuntman chops, which is why this movie rocketed to the top at the box office. Yet the plot is fairly basic. There is an unnamed threat to national security (probably Russia) and a precarious mission to complete. New talented graduates need an experienced veteran to teach them the ropes as they are skilled fighter pilots but still green.  Senior officer and former nemesis Iceman (Val Kilmer) insists that the only man for the job is Maverick, who is on the verge of being discharged from his post for breaking rank. Of course, one of the newbies in training is the now grown son of Maverick’s deceased co-pilot/friend who died in Maverick’s arms when their plane crashed into the ocean years ago; an incident he forever blamed himself for. As the crew get prepared to fly into the ‘Danger Zone’ reconciliation is at the top of Maverick’s agenda on several fronts including with former flame Penny Benjamin (played by Jennifer Connelly – a new character that is referenced in the original movie but not seen) and sparks fly. Will the crew succeed or not? Does Maverick live or die? Will there be a happy conclusion or will it all end in tears? It’s the suspense that gets this film off the ground and the desire to know what’s coming next coupled with the right amount of nostalgia that keeps it airborne. It’s a suspenseful ride all the way through and well worth the watch! BTW I love Tom Cruise’s preamble prior to the film starting. Very classy way to thank viewers for coming to the theatre to watch his movies. Say what you want about Tom Cruise but he’s a master showman who can truly act.

Shared Life Lesson: With the storylines out of the way let’s flesh out the important life lesson these two very different movies have in common. Is it bromances, or perceptions of friendship, loyalty vs. disloyality, or perhaps the fact that both main characters are flying high most of the time? No, no, no, no. If the truth be told both these films reflect a deep-seated sense of irrelevance that seeps in as we age. It’s a feeling that makes us question our place in life, are we still significant, what’s our worth, are we valued, or is there a timestamp that labels us inconsequential at some point. Where do we fit, in an everchanging world that’s moving so fast it feels like it’s leaving us behind. This begs the question; do we actually expire before our expiration date? As the years advance Elvis and Maverick both feel the wolves nipping at their heels, hungry to replace them, thus leading each to engage in risky behavior. But is this really the case or is it just a lack of effective transitioning? Do we cause ourselves unnecessary grief trying too hard to hold onto the illusive spoils of our youth? This is the real question. Unimportance vs. Usefulness – ‘It’s not how old you are. It’s how you are old.’ – Jules Renard

Maturing is something we cannot avoid. Either we get old or die in the attempt. However, in order to grow into the practice, we need to change. So how do we accomplish this goal? It’s said that ‘Only The Brave’ seek and find a blessed second life when the former one(s) no longer serves them. In fact, this may be the secret to successfully navigating through the aging process. Each step of the journey is just a temporary landing pad where we stop to gain and share our knowledge but then we must keep moving forward in order to go anywhere in life. But then again such choices are much easier for fictional characters. In short, the consensus is that aging isn’t for sissys. When it comes to real-life some ‘grace’ is involved to get to the promise ‘land’.

P.S. I love watching movies on the big screen, especially summer sizzlers. So any chance I get to go with my beautiful daughter, who doesn’t love movies as much as I do (yet), I drop everything to share that special moment with her, which is exactly what I did on several occasions. BTW Top Gun fans in the spirit of celebrating ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ the Owen Hart Foundation has secured a USS Midway Museum Package graciously donated by the USS Midway Museum located in San Diego, home of the real Top Guns, thanks to OHF Committee Member Tam Tam. Be sure to check it out at www.hartauction.com


The movie ‘Christine’ released in 2016 is based on the true story of up-and-coming journalist and newscaster Christine Chubbuck who worked at WXLT-TV in Sarasota Florida. Not to be confused with the 1983 horror thriller of the same name about a possessed supernatural car who kills people, though these two films share a common thread – both are extremely frightening! Although this flick is 6 years old it’s worth writing about given the current climate of relationship woes, and the fact that this July marks the 48th anniversary of Chubbuck’s death. So let’s dig into the very important life lesson this picture imparts.

Spoiler alert, Christine Chubbuck violently killed herself live on air July 15th, 1974, via a single self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head behind her right ear. Prior to drawing her weapon Chubbuck opened her newscast with the comments, ‘In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first – attempted suicide.’ It is shocking and beyond tragic that Christine succeeded in her attempt, dying hours later in hospital, however, it’s the back story that led up to her demise that haunts me the most. Although Christine angled to attribute her disturbing death to job related stress and her distain for new editorial tactics that dramatized the news (i.e., sensationalism), her contemporaries knew something much more menacing was going on with Christine behind the scenes than just her professional struggles. So what drove this rising 29-year-old star to the brink of destruction? Depression of course, though the root of her despair is what is still so relevant nearly 50 years on.

There are many causes of situational and chronic depression, but relationship difficulties are chart toppers when it comes to triggers. No pun intended. In Christine’s case there were a number of confounding factors, but one problem stood out above the rest. After her death a Washington Post article described Chubbuck as being ‘terribly terribly terribly depressed’ due to her social awkwardness, inability to relate to others, lack of friends, and above all – zero love interests. All this despite being an extremely bright ambitious news anchor who was breaking the mold in an era of new working women as depicted in the Mary Tyler Moore Show; so much so this popular sitcom’s theme song was sadly and symbolically interjected into the film’s closing scene. Though unlike Mary Tyler Moore, Christine Chubbuck was not ‘going to make it after all’. But why? Although Christine was an educated inquisitive attractive scrappy go-getter who worked hard to advance her career, she was still a woman in transition between a society who highly valued females as ultra feminine wives/mothers/sex symbols vs. independent women of substance who could take care of themselves. Therefore, the former societal views were still incredibly important to Christine, and all were areas of her life she felt she was miserably failing at due to her impetuous yet shy demeanor that made it difficult for her to click with others.

It is no surprise that quality of social relationships is a key risk factor for major depression. In Christine’s case she may have been genetically predisposed to depression to begin with, but her condition was most likely exacerbated by what is non-medically termed relationship depression’, an overwhelming sadness that develops due to relationship difficulties. Symptoms can range from mild to debilitating and include, feeling unhappy, worthless, guilty, irritable, angry, tired, fatigued, experiencing low self-esteem and difficulty concentrating or making decisions, eating and sleeping more or less than usual, loss of interest in enjoyable activities such as hobbies or socializing, loss of libido, and suicidal thoughts – a box Christine definitely ticked.

As the movie unfolds audiences are slowly drawn into Chubbuck’s downward spiral, bearing witness to her negative transformation as assertive keenness crosses over to hostile aggression bordering on obsession mainly spurred by the fact that Christine was nearing her 30th birthday and had basically never been kissed. Christine tried to make light of her situation in self-deprecating ways, even calling herself ‘the dateless wonder’, but all this did was draw attention to her virgin ‘femcel’ (involuntary celibate female) status. An aside; by all accounts it’s good to poke fun at one’s own shortcomings, but the danger with too much averse self-talk is that it can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy so beware.

Of course, relationship depression is not gender specific, made obvious by the recent lashing out of Incels (i.e., involuntary celibates). This online community of ‘involuntarily celibate’ men who became radicalized by their shared mistrust of women view the idea of involuntary celibate females as an oxymoron. In short, they believe that unless a woman is ‘severely deformed’ she can have sex whenever she wants. The group even has its own nomenclature referring to archetypes labelled ‘Chads’ (i.e., big handsome masculine jock types), and ‘Stacys’ (i.e., curvaceous hyperfeminine cheerleader types) as males and females ranking near 10 out of 10s on the attractive scale allowing them their pick of partners, with ‘Beckys’ (i.e., average females) falling below the standard but still able to snag a mate.

That said, such impertinent misconceptions truly miss the point. Newsflash – sex can be bought (not that I condone it), but ‘connection’ has no price tag. Chemistry, magic, the spark, are emotional bonds that cannot be artificially manufactured and when they are not achieved loneliness and frustration set in, which ultimately can lead to depression. There is no denying that physical attributes play a part in attracting a partner but given that there are so many single people around the globe despite having much to offer via good looks and other great qualities speaks more to finding the right ‘romantic fit’ than anything else. In short, scoring isn’t the goal, strong unions are!

On that point, this biopic directed by Antonio Campos timelessly plunges into the unbearable dark reality of social sadness, with an honest portrayal of Chubbuck’s complicated life so poignantly played by fabulous actress Rebecca Hall. Also, the 1970s backdrop of this movie (e.g., hair, clothes, topics of the day…) is done to perfection with the rise of feminism at the forefront, that really highlights Christine’s uphill battle for equality, as it slowly unpacks the mounting self-loathing that leads to her heart-breaking downfall. It’s worth noting that women, unlike men, who attempt suicide normally do not choose such ferocious measures to end their life. Again, Christine’s violent death signifies the severe level of bleakness she must have felt. Her personal life and the unrequited love she experienced with fellow news anchor George (Michael C. Hall), coupled with feeling overlooked professionally, watching helplessly as the weather girl tart garnered promotions over her is most likely what drove Christine over the edge. Not to mention the disconnect that a straight-arrow like Christine must have felt from her pot-smoking man-happy bohemian mother (J. Smith-Cameron), whom she loved but had nothing in common with. In the end Christine felt invisible, and in her mind would have remained that way if she hadn’t taken the drastic steps she had.

This cerebral real-life tragedy is not for everyone but the message it sends is more profound today than ever. The truth is that all human beings yearn for acceptance and meaningful relationships but getting them is the challenge. It doesn’t help that we live in a society that continues to laud and applaud superficiality, thus pushing emotionally sensitive thoughtful internalizing souls off the grid because they deviate from the norm. Frivolity vs. Fairness – ‘Life can be unfair sometimes, but that’s no reason to give up on it.’ — Anonymous. I know I am an eternal optimist who believes every pot has a lid, every dog has its day… It’s too bad that Christine couldn’t see herself for what she really was, a pioneering kick-ass presence in a male-dominated industry who had so much to offer to the world professionally and otherwise. On the bright side maybe Christine’s story will alert others to the fact that there are many vulnerable yet high-functioning despondent people who sadly suffer in silence. Perhaps some added awareness is needed that our planet mainly consists of two types of people, dandelions (e.g., individuals who can survive anything) and orchids (e.g., individuals who need optimal conditions to thrive), so a little added kindness might be in order for those who fall into the latter category.

PS. I have long admired journalism as a profession and if I had 3 lives to live one of them would be as a reporter! I have been in front of a camera enough times to qualify as having some media savvy but to be covering the story instead of being the story is where its at. What could be more interesting and exciting than corresponding on the frontlines of breaking news and current events! Quality broadcasting is a very noble vocation and truly a must-have in any democratic society. Afterall it’s our last line of defence that holds people accountable, plays no favorites, and keeps the checks and balances intact. Political leaders, movie stars, sports phenomes… all come and go but the media is a constant and that equals true power. My affinity for journalism runs deep, so much so I even encouraged my kids to enter the field. Both did start their post-secondary education in journalism, but one branched off into human rights law and the other into animal rights and veterinarian assisting. Oh well. Maybe in my 3rd life there will be a journalist in the family (the 2nd life is already spoken for as Queen of Harts! 😊 Duh). That said, I do get my reporting fix in a small way via writing this movie blog and through my magazine entitled Bully’s The Bulldog Magazine that I own and operate. It’s a fun lighthearted illustration that covers a host of pet related topics and since I give all proceeds to animal and environmental conservation it also serves as one of my humanitarian fixes. Be sure to check it out at:  https://pocketmags.com/ca/bullys-the-bulldog-magazine

Picture of me filming in the UK for the upcoming ‘Owen’ Feature Documentary.

Jurassic World Dominion

The long-awaited summer blockbuster Jurassic World Dominion opened in theaters June 10th, and since it’s the sixth installment in the series and the last film in the Jurassic World trilogy, thus concluding the original Jurassic Park storyline, there was a great sense of excitement leading up to its release coupled with considerable elevated expectations. Thanks to Landmark Cinema’s GM Scot Benson I graciously received a sneak-a-peek showing in their luxury Ultra theater with its enormous silver screen, comfy heated reclining seats, and lots of popcorn and snacks, for which I was very grateful.  Needless to say, I entered this beautiful space with much anticipation! I could hardly contain myself. So thrilled was I to finally be watching a film where fabulous new and old troupes collide as Jurassic World hero Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and consort Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) would pair up with returning iconic Jurassic Park characters Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Wow what a lineup! Given the gushing level of talent lathered with so many rich built-in narratives to draw from, how on earth could this film turn out to be such an epic flop!

I don’t normally bash movies on my blog but come on! Historically movies became popular due to their ability to tell gripping compelling well-executed stories worth the trip to the cinema. Superb filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who first sparked our insatiable appetite for more and more dinosaurs via his platinum-standard masterpiece Jurassic Park, appreciated the value of meticulous detail that fostered fascination, smoothly blanketed with thoughtful conflicting simultaneous sub-plots that fastidiously dovetailed as they gained intrepid momentum before reaching a phantastic crescendo. Nonetheless leaving audiences gasping for air at the edge of their seats from start to finish. That is how a passionate skilled craftsman honors the art of filmmaking.  But clearly fabulous flicks are at risk of becoming a thing of the past, replaced by mindless action-packed nonsense polluted with dangling unconnected sequences of events devoid of any sentiment or meaning. Basically trash, rubbish, junk! Even an amateur like me could have written a better script.

In fact, instead of describing the actual movie that I found to be hugely disappointing, I will relay the screenplay I would liked to have seen. First, the title would have been Jurassic World Demise with a premise that after 4 years of dinosaurs roving modern-day Earth (a world that nature had organically chosen them for extinction before humans brought them back to life), they start to get sick and die, unable to successfully adjust to present day flora and fauna that has evolved beyond their genetic DNA’s adaptation capabilities. As these displaced dinosaurs struggle to live in an unfamiliar epoch, it is determined at the United Nations Convention on Animal Health and Protection (UNCAHP – yes it’s a real thing!) that the only way to ensure the survival of these priceless yesteryear treasures, now wrongly embedded in contemporary society, is to rejuvenate the volcanic ladened Isla Nublar with the help of skilled scientists. Restoring the island’s once prehistoric landscape will allow the lives of these vestige creatures to once again ‘find a way’. Doing so also means returning these behemoths back to where it all began – Jurassic Park!

The mission at hand is to put together an effective taskforce to reconstruct what’s been lost. But where to begin? Who’s familiar with the terrain? Enter senior scientists – all of whom were the first consultants invited to tour and endorse billionaire John Hammond’s original park. First and foremost, paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) whose study of fossilized plants makes her a perfect candidate to oversee recreations of prehistoric vegetation, while leading paleontologist expert Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) who understands dinosaur mannerisms is a shoo-in to assist with the ominous job of corralling and relocation. Let’s not forget manic mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) a long-time critic of the resurrection of extinct species who also specializes in chaos theory to serve as spokesman in rallying global support to return the dinosaurs to their beloved island. However, since precious dinosauria have become novelty items worth millions on the black-market, shutting down illegal trading practices will not be easy, especially since they’ve become such hot commodities. Enter tough guy Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) a former soldier in the US Navy who is also an animal behaviorist to the rescue, while his intermittent love interest Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), former park manager of Jurassic World is called upon to organize and develop the new safe-haven retreat while assisting Owen in understanding how to infiltrate the world of dangerous underground commerce. Together this fierce fivesome gear up to aid younger generations of scientists and do-gooders who want to eradicate corrupt dinosaur exploitation in an effort to save these vulnerable brutes and let them live in peace as their founder/creator John Hammond had wanted.

In my edition, I would have paid enormous homage to Spielberg’s magnum opus Jurassic Park by making significant connections between the first and last installments. I would have introduced real-life conservationist Sir David Attenborough (also the real-life younger brother of the late Richard Attenborough who played John Hammond) to play Hammond’s brother in the film. Obviously given David Attenborough’s love of nature he would want to see through his fictional brother’s fundamental core vision. I would have also made newbies like Kayla Watts (Dewanda Wise) and/or Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie) relatives of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Ray Arnold. The film would also definitely need a new slimy money-grubbing villain or two, perhaps related to, or acquaintances of rogue controller Dennis Newry (Wayne Knight) who unleashed all the mayhem in the first place when he disabled Jurassic Park’s security system so he could capitalize on illicitly selling dinosaur embryos thus setting free various ferocious predators, all due to his own greedy side hustle.

Since audiences have always wanted to see Alan and Ellie reunite as a couple, I would slowly rekindle their relationship using flashbacks of their early days while adding a love triangle with Ian who forever angled to hook up with Ellie from the onset. An aside: Jurassic World Dominion did throw the pair together, but it was so poorly done without any clever nuances or intrigue so why bother. Regarding the on-gain off-gain tumultuous romance between Owen and Claire somewhat bound together by their shared commitment to co-parent cloned stowaway Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon); I would have had Dr. Grant serve as a role model for Grady including the delivery of a few valuable pep-talks about losing the love of his life partly due to his aversion to kids. Of course, I would have all these sub-plots methodically woven together in slow-brew mode revolving around the grand plan of rebuilding Jurassic Park. Though instead of building a for-profit ‘spared no expense’ carnival it would be a universally protected UNESCO World Heritage Sanctuary, undeterred without interference from prying eyes or illegal dealers out to make a quick buck. No doubt this lack of access would unmistakably be met with resistance from voracious capitalists who would underhandedly fight hard to maintain power and ownership over their lucrative assets – all adding to the suspense. Alas, if the quintessential quintet can pull off the impossible their lofty endeavor to safely return these relics back to their rebuilt refuge will triumph. They might even find pockets of the island still intact, perhaps even the odd old building survived – hint hint. So many possibilities… As the final scene dims the conquering crew departs. While the chopper soars away leaving the regally restored oasis in the distance, warm unspoken reflection takes hold, for the team knows that their brave actions have delivered a loud statement of humility. The long journey is complete. Humanity has set the record straight – irrevocably taking accountability for rolling the genetic dice and wrongfully playing God. Fade to Black!

Um, I just might need to copywrite my idea in case Hollywood decides to bring the series out of retirement for a do-over, which they probably will for obvious reasons (e.g., MONEY). Thus a nice segue into the life lesson of this faltering film otherwise known as Jurassic World Dominion. I alone have tons of great ideas how this movie could have played out but unfortunately none even came close to my imagination. Instead, art imitated life. To elaborate, much like the first installment of Jurassic Park, one person’s greed for a quick payoff ruined an otherwise remarkable innovation (dinosaur rebirth) and diluted its genius by operationalizing the product and basically prostituting it out to cash in. In real-life it seems filmmakers took an iconic classic that exemplified phenomenal filmmaking and lowered its high cinematic bar to the ground just to make bank. Quality vs. Quantity – ‘…it’s a shame when the arts have to suffer because of corporate greed…’ – Actor Paddy Considine.

We all know that sequels hardly ever live up to the original, but this 6th installment had all the tools to gloriously take this series full circle. Regrettably efforts to expound excellent dialogue and develop a profound plot that could have honored this timeless production were replaced with hollow blah blah blah. I’m still shaking my head at the missed attempt to make a masterwork. Much to my dismay the movie I couldn’t wait to watch turned out to be a film I wish I had never seen. Newsflash director Colin Trevorrow – viewers don’t want to see dinosaurs in Italy’s wintery mountain range. No! Research indicates that dinosaurs were not warm-blooded high-energy endotherms (mammals/birds who when exposed to cool weather shiver -thermogenesis) nor were they cold-blooded ectotherms (sluggish lizard type creatures that need external heat to warm up), but instead something in between. Metabolic analysis suggests prehistoric beasts could regulate body temperature, but only to a point, and although some may have lived in cooler climates, most of them likely lived in very warm environments. Yes, yes I know fossils were found in the Italy’s Alps but remember this topography was much different when these goliaths ruled the Earth. It was altogether a much hotter place, which is why audiences prefer to see dinosaurs in lash tropical settings! Eden not the Alps! Duh.

It’s sad that moviegoers will continue to pay good money to see this futile film because society will forever be mesmerized by dinosaurs, which is what executive producers and studio heads know. This is because unlike other science-fiction entities, dinosaurs actually roamed our great planet, so to get a glimpse into what that life might have looked like will always lure audiences in. That said, the amount of money a film earns is not necessarily a marker of its success, and it certainly doesn’t apply to this film. This movie took a golden opportunity to produce a colossal off-the-charts cinematic gem and squandered its potential now lost forever. Much like today’s excavated dinosaur fossils – only a mere shell remains of what magnificently once was.

PS. It’s so disheartening to see all the media play this movie has received knowing that it could have been so much better; including endless stories and entire magazines dedicated to its chronology. It’s a shame that in my opinion this movie is not worth seeing and certainly not worth 147 minutes of my time. Boo. Now I know why a spoof of this film was made entitled ‘The Bubble’, which I also wrote about. It’s a joke! That said, I know I’m a bit of a dinosaur snob given that Alberta’s Badlands are home to tons of fascinating fossil finds, all safely housed at our world renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum; who incidentally is one of our many amazing OHF online auction sponsors http://www.hartauction.com.

Against the Ice

Set in 1909 this heroic true story is an adaptation based on the memoir of broody Danish ship captain Einar Mikkelsen entitled {Two} ‘Against the Ice’. This passion piece produced and written by follow countryman Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who also plays Mikkelsen) reveals Einar’s account of survival during a polar expedition he embarked on with unskilled young naïve explorer Icelandic mechanic Iver Iversen (Joe Cole). From the onset viewers appreciate the very honest depiction of these past events, especially since Hollywood often embellishes historical happenings. But this linear docufiction holds an atmosphere of realism rarely seen in modern day movies, which impresses on audiences the actual desperation these two men felt. It also highlights many challenges faced by early navigators who bravely pioneered the groundwork of mapping our great planet while making incredible discoveries along the way.

The harrowing excursion this gentlemanly pair endured is remarkable, and all done in their quest to unearth a priceless handwritten logbook left behind by the previous Danish expedition in a cairn (a huge stack of stones that can be seen from afar) for safe keeping as the crew all anticipated their own deaths. But not before their team could prove unequivocally that Danes had discovered Greenland’s Northern Border (as one landmass), thus debunking any claim the USA had to the Arctic as suggested by American adventurer Robert Peary. This was a particularly important feat at the turn of the century considering the world’s real estate was still up for grabs. So much so, upon discovery of the documents Mikkelsen declared ‘Denmark will thank you one day, Iver Iversen.’, and he was right. To this day Greenland is an autonomous Danish dependent territory with all 56,000 inhabitants considered citizens of Denmark.  

With Greenland in mind, the crux of the movie centers on this rugged duo’s months-long journey through this baron wasteland with one aim – to return back to the Alabama with precious documents in hand before settling ice locks them in. But with no active communication it is impossible to know if the deckhands at basecamp will wait or set sail in a panic frightened by the accumulating ice flows, thus leaving the journeymen trapped and left for dead. This, ‘cheating-death’ tale is so frustrating yet exhilarating, especially considering the era it occurred and the limited technology available at the time. It’s a period drama that underscores the grueling job of early explorers, while telling the important story of two inspiring men who both deserve respect for their well-earned sacrifices. It’s worth the watch. That said, canine lovers beware. The sled dogs in this movie work for their keep and when they are no longer needed – well you get the picture. Though it’s impressive to see the level of care these adorable little beasts received from their handlers given the times.

Uncovering the unknown has never been easy and when coupled with only a single companion for what feels like an eternity, things can get a bit grisly. In the end, this story is as much about friendship as it is about exploration. So what is the main meaning or life lesson of this film? Any form of isolation can make days can feel like weeks… and before long monotony partnered with the struggle to survive leads to madness, even for the most seasoned veterans. So often the real hero is unassumingly found in the shadows. It’s the underdog or the subordinate who saves the day. The dark horse or second in-line who brandishes ironclad resolve, staying the course providing unwavering leadership and encouragement in the toughest of times. Yet never receives the glory they truly deserve. This story is no different. But what happens when the in-charge goes off the deep end?

There is no question that extreme isolation has a profoundly negative impact on human beings with the mind playing tricks on itself. This is due to the lack of mental stimuli, which causes the human brain to misattribute internal thoughts and feelings to actual occurrences in outer environments that are not really happening. Yes, hallucinations can occur and they are scary, not only for the individuals experiencing them but also for the sound-minded people witnessing them in others. Mood is also adversely affected by chronic social isolation causing mental health issues like anxiety and depression to dramatically spike, thus further exacerbating symptoms of paranoia and delirium. Yet some individuals seem to cope better than others in such punishing situations, but why? It turns out that one key to resiliency is the ability to find meaning in one’s circumstance.

As was the case in this movie where the top chain-of-command caved and the unlikely strength needed to survive came from his junior assistant who never gave up hope that the two would be rescued. This was evident with Iversen’s reference to a hot-air balloon, which symbolically refers to achieving high-level success. Step-Up vs. Step-Off – ‘I reached for something to hold on to and ended up leaning against the wall behind me’ – Penny Reid. No matter one’s professional ranking, direr events can weaken the mightiest of us all, and when that happens one can only hope an unlikely soul will be there to stand strong and discover the character of their own inner fortitude. Much like Iver did with Einar who was able to talk his delusional superior off the respective ledge. But the real takeaway message of this film is that Mikkelsen acknowledged his weakness and thanked Iversen for saving his life. Upon their safe return, as the two stood in the wings of the grand auditorium waiting to be announced to the adoring crowd for their incredible accomplishments, Einar privately whispered to his colleague, ’I’m the lucky one – I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for you’. A hard truth but yet the only accolated and recognition Iversen really needed. To Mikkelsen’s credit, it also takes a very strong person to admit their vulnerabilities, and furthermore to document them for posterity. Well done fellas!

PS. I was in Iceland a few years ago (home of Iver Iversen), and for all its beauty it’s an extremely isolated place with limited resources once in the heartland. So I would not recommend journeying around freely without a skilled navigator as there are very few amenities including gas stations along the open roads. I would assume the same is true for Greenland, so beware lest you get trapped with next to no chance for a safe return!

Hanging in Iceland!

The Hollywood Reporter: Where BIG Movie News Lives

People who love movies know that The Hollywood Reporter (THR) is the gold standard when it comes to learning about big movie news, upcoming film/tv projects, awards, industry lifestyle goings-on, as well as international endeavors and entertainment related business activities. Launched in 1930 by William R. Wilkerson the publication started out as a newspaper that featured a popular ‘Tradeview’ column, which put the illustration on the map. However, in order to gain much desired attention by Hollywood elites, founder Billy Wilkerson began divulging juicy La La Land gossip and ran scathing eye-catching articles to generate publicity. Studio heads soon noticed and started recognizing the daily as a dangerous reckoning force, with many trying to shut it down.

Today with its finger still firmly on the pulse this popular online/print periodical is no longer a scrappy newspaper that studio execs are trying to ban, but rather a prestigious movie magazine that releases a weekly issue with a host of well-written luminating showbiz related stories that satisfy all appetites. Likened to the bible, it’s truly Hollywood’s go-to cheat-sheet for everything Tinsel Town. It’s safe to say that any entertainment story worth telling will show up in The Hollywood Reporter. So if you want the rub on big entertainment news THR is where it’s at. Their dogged masthead always get the inside scoop, the low-down, the tidings… BTW a little filmland chinwag to share, the 1988 Tom Hanks smash hit movie ‘Big’ was removed from Disney Plus most likely due to its adult-focused content. This is a bit surprising given Disney’s open-minded CEO Brian Chapek, who recently opposed the new Florida State Parental Rights in Education Law. I bet it won’t be long before ‘Big’ is reinstated on the channel along with other more mature films. One guarantee – the entertainment industry is never predicable and never boring.

PS. The Owen Hart Foundation and myself included have appeared in The Hollywood Reported on more than one occasion, so of course I was sure to pick up a few of these lovely prized issues as BIG keep-sakes. This large-sized magazine is beautifully designed, much like LIFE Magazine (now out of circulation) use to be, with stunning thick glossy pages and fabulous pictures so it was really nice to see my short doc poster on full-page display in one of its famed issues.

OHF: A Look Back Banner was one of several that appeared in THR.

The Bubble

Netflix film ‘The Bubble’ is a funny spoof of real-life events that occurred in March 2020 when COVID-19 hit, and all Hollywood productions were forced to shut down including the movie ‘Jurassic World Dominion’. However, due to financial risks posed by halting filming of this very expensive flick the controversial decision was made to resume shooting in July 2020 (pre-vaccine period) at Pinewood Studios in England under the guise of extremely strict COVID-19 protocols. This overdone satirical rendition of true instances directed by Judd Apatow light-heartedly pokes fun at how the cast dealt with being locked away for months on end. Though the film within this film being filmed is instead called ‘Cliff Beasts’ (6th installment). In case you missed it ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ is the sixth chapter in the Jurassic Park franchise that started with ‘Jurassic Park’ — June 11, 1993, followed by ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’ — May 23, 1997, ‘Jurassic Park III’ — July 18, 2001, ‘Jurassic World’ — June 12, 2015, ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ — June 22, 2018, and lastly, ‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ due to be released June 10, 2022.

In ‘The Bubble’ the troupe of ‘Cliff Beasts’ are all insecure dimwits, starting with spoiled veteran actress Lauren (Leslie Mann), her saucy seasoned estranged actor husband Dustin (David Duchovny), self-doubting starlet Carol (Karen Gillan), crazy unhinged performer Howie (Guz Khan) loopy Oscar winner Dieter (Pedro Pascal) phony wellness guru Sean (Keegan-Michael Key) and young self-absorbed TikTok sensation Krystal (Iris Apatow), who are all handled by savvy British producer Gavin (Peter Serafinowicz), while creative director Darren (Fred Armisen) tries to manage the kooky group of thespians despite restrictive and unsafe working conditions to finish the film on time. All to avoid sanctions and persecution from artificial blackheart studio heads Paula (Kate McKinnon) and Tom (John Lithgow) who forever push for completion of the project.

The show centers on the crew attempting to stay on track with filming while dealing with the oddity of shooting under such hardcore COVID-19 restrictions including multiple bouts of unbearable isolation, all the while trying to beat the virus by living in a bubble. This comedy about the making of a film based on the invasion of flying dinosaurs shot on a fabricated greenscreen background has some very funny moments but it lags a bit due to its long running time. That said, some of the most humorous scenes are how this group of zany shut-in artists simultaneously struggle to tackle loneliness the same way the rest of the world did during the height of COVID-19 (via exercise, escapism, substance abuse…), as their lives and relationships outside the bubble seem to be slipping away. In short, this slaphappy movie is downright foolish but that’s what it was meant to be, and I quite liked it.

Life on and off the set is chaos for all the characters. What’s most fun about this movie is the lampooning of performers’ stereotypes, with exaggerations that seem somewhat in-line with reality. Basically all actors come across as unstable prima donnas with limited coping skills. Yes, they are all flakes! Well in this movie anyway. But it is true that some celebrities and entertainers possess what psychologists refer to as having an ‘external locus of control’, which means they believe events are out of their control and therefore draw personal value, confidence, and self-esteem from external forces. This explains why audience acceptance, applause, and adulation is so important to performers. It serves as a measure of their success, and if not regularly received, feelings of worthlessness take hold. Like a craving never satisfied or a thirst never quenched, it’s a glass-half-empty situation all the time. In contrast, those individuals with an ‘internal locus of control’ derive their positive self-image internally from within. They do not need endorsements from outside sources to feel good about themselves as they believe they are in control of their own destiny. They drive the ship (or helicopter) not the other way around.

Although self-doubt and insecurity are common themes throughout this parody it is not really the takeaway message. So what is the life lesson of this silly film? In the end it speaks to the wacky COVID-19 experience each cast member shared (as did we all) with everyone ultimately losing their minds and how these repressed theater folk had to reveal their vulnerabilities before they could jointly solve their ridiculous problems. As stated by genius auto pioneer Henry Ford, ‘Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is a success.‘ A sequence of events that pretty much describes the plot of this mindless movie. Communalism vs. Separatism – when it comes to the long-game, cooperation is key to everyone winning. Just ask Babe Ruth who famously said, ‘The way a team plays as a whole determines its success.’ True that! Every good leader knows that collaboration requires trust, which according to author Brené Brown is built on BRAVING it via, Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Values, Integrity, Non-Judgment, and Generosity of spirit. It pays to remember that some experiences in life can be painfully long so; ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.‘ – African Proverb

PS. Much like the rest of the world I struggled with endless lockdowns, so I was extremely grateful that brilliant scientists developed an effective vaccine in record time, which I happily took 3 jabs asap. That said, during pre-vaccine isolation one way I passed my time was to watch fabulous movies including the ‘Jurassic Park‘ series. After all who doesn’t love dinosaurs! Growing up in Alberta dinos have always been a big part of my heritage as many real dinosaur fossils have been found and excavated in Alberta’s badlands and are proudly displayed at our popular Tyrell Museum in Drumheller. As mentioned above ‘Jurassic World Dominion’, which ‘The Bubble’ mocks will be released this June. It’s sure to be a huge summertime blockbuster so I will definitely be watching this large-than-life latest installment on the big screen – not Netflix. Ahh the dog days of summer movies. Bring it on!

Jab #3!

Oscar Awards 2022

Thumbs up to the 94th Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) Awards where movie lovers unite! The show kicked off in style with everyone green-with-envy as beautiful Queen Bey opened the show Straight Outta Compton singing ‘Be Alive’ from the soundtrack of the movie ‘King Richard’ with unmatched love and power. Presenters Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes then took the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles with hilarious banter that continued as a solo Schumer charmingly roasted choice Oscar attendees (without anyone getting up and hitting her!), prior to starting the ceremonial handing out of the gold for 2022’s best in creative and technical excellence in the film industry.

Some highlights for me were firstly, the tribute to 60 years of the Bond franchise set to Wings ‘Live and Let Die’ – theme song of the 1973 James Bond film of the same name, as well as the 50-year tribute to the ‘Godfather‘ trilogy. Secondly when Troy Kotsur won Best Supporting Actor for the film ‘CODA’ (Acronym: ‘Child of Deaf Adults’) – it brought tears to my eyes. He is the first deaf male actor to ever win an Oscar. Well don Troy! ‘CODA’ is the most amazing film, and I was so thrilled that the film also picked up the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. I had been so busy leading up to the Oscars I was worried I wouldn’t find the time to watch this hidden gem, but I am so glad I did. Wow! It’s that good. BTW the waving of the hands above the head means ‘Congratulations’ in sign language. Thirdly, I loved the #standwithukraine acknowledgement. Yes yes yes! We all must support Ukraine and democracy with all our might and stand up to this barbarism! I also always enjoy the In Memoriam portion of the show, which honors those entertainment greats recently lost, but this year it was done with such creativity and originality. Fabulous!

But WTF was that with Chris Rock and Will Smith! Wow! Violence on live TV! That was NOT cool Will. Everyone knows your wife Jada suffers from alopecia, but Chris Rock was just making a light-hearted joke when referring to G.I. Jane II – and Jada’s shaved head. Come on, you were laughing too when he said it, so obviously you were spurred to action after-the-fact, also not cool. Instigating trouble is just as awful as carrying it out. Comedy is the last frontier. Geez let’s not cancel that too. This inappropriate behavior tainted the rest of the show – throwing everyone off with all presenters and winners just trying to do damage control including Will Smith. Perhaps Will was already offended and overly sensitive due to the earlier call to the stage for ‘single men’, thus poking fun at his alleged open-marriage arrangement. This is certainly no way for a gentleman to act or an Oscar winner. Will Smith won best actor but yet couldn’t manage to act like a decent person over a silly humor intended comment. How embarrassing. Especially during a time when the Western World is so united against violence. Also, all other attendees worked very hard to reach this pinnacle in their careers too, and by Will not taking the high road he made it all about him thus stealing others’ moment to shine. Chris Rock ended up looking like the true professional this go-round, carrying on and announcing Best Feature Documentary. Well done Chris. As for Will Smith, he is better than the bad behavior he displayed tonight. What a shame that what could have been Will’s best career moment of his life will forever be marred in this mire. It’s too bad Jeda didn’t stop him in his tracks – instead she smiled over the assault that now forever hangs over Will’s head like a dark cloud.

Comedian Amy Schumer also tried hard to make light of the night’s odd Will Smith controversy and did a great job of it. She’s so funny, I love her. Probably more so because she reminds me so much of my niece Virgillia. Hall, and Sykes also did a terrific job hosting, which marks the first time in Oscar history that three women have hosted the show – that hasn’t even had a host since Jimmy Kimmel in 2018.

The Power of the Dog led the way with 12 nominations, including nominations for best picture, best director… but the movie Dune was the film that in the end cleaned up in so many categories. I did manage to see almost every single film nominated and personally I was so so so thrilled that the film ‘CODA’ won Best Picture. It’s always nice to see when the Academy gets it right! Woo Hoo! Again, this movie is absolutely remarkable and so touching – all about the love and challenges that family brings. I cried and cried. It is really that good! SO glad the night ended on such a positive note! Bless. My son Oje is quite good at signing and has been teaching it to me – what a beautiful language that perhaps more people should try to learn.

PS. Chris Rock was booked as our Owen Hart Foundation 15th Year Anniversary High Profile Entertainer but then had a scheduling conflict due to the release date of his movie ‘Top Five’ so Dane Cook filled in on short notice.

Categories and winners are listed below in BOLD.

Best Picture

Don’t Look Up
Drive My Car
King Richard
Licorice Pizza
Nightmare Alley
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story

Best Director

Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car
Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza
WINNER: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
Penélope Cruz, Parallel Mothers
Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos
Kristen Stewart, Spencer

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom!
Will Smith, King Richard
Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter
WINNER: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
Judi Dench, Belfast
Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog
Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Ciarán Hinds, Belfast
WINNER: Troy Kotsur, CODA
Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog
J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos
Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Best Original Screenplay

WINNER: Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
Adam McKay and David Sirota, Don’t Look Up
Zach Baylin, King Richard
Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza
Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier, The Worst Person in the World

Best Adapted Screenplay

WINNER: Siân Heder, CODA
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe, Drive My Car
Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth, Dune
Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter
Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Best Cinematography

WINNER: Greg Fraser, Dune
Dan Lausten, Nightmare Alley
Ari Wegner, The Power of the Dog
Bruno Delbonnel, The Tragedy of Macbeth
Janusz Kaminski, West Side Story

Best Film Editing

Hank Corwin, Don’t Look Up
WINNER: Joe Walker, Dune
Pamela Martin, King Richard
Peter Sciberras, The Power of the Dog
Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum, Tick, Tick… Boom!

Best Animated Feature

WINNER: Encanto
The Mitchells vs. The Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon

Best Animated Short

Affairs of the Art
Robin Robin
WINNER: The Windshield Wiper

Best Live-Action Short

Ala Kachuu — Take and Run
The Dress
WINNER: The Long Goodbye
On My Mind
Please Hold

Best International Feature

WINNER: Drive My Car (Japan)Flee (Denmark)
The Hand of God (Italy)
Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Bhutan)
The Worst Person in the World (Norway)

Best Documentary Feature

WINNER: Summer of Soul
Writing with Fire

Best Documentary Short

Lead Me Home
WINNER: The Queen of Basketball
Three Songs for Benazir
When We Were Bullies

Best Original Score

Nicholas Britell, Don’t Look Up
WINNER: Hans Zimmer, Dune
Germaine Franco, Encanto
Alberto Iglesias, Parallel Mothers
Jonny Greenwood, The Power of the Dog

Best Original Song

“Be Alive” from King Richard — Music and Lyric by DIXSON and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter”Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto — Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda”Down to Joy” from Belfast — Music and Lyric by Van Morrison

WINNER: “No Time to Die” from No Time to Die — Music and Lyric by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell“Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days — Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

Best Sound

Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather, and Niv Adiri, Belfast
WINNER: Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill, and Ron Bartlett, Dune
Simon Hayes, Oliver Tarney, James Harrison, Paul Massey, and Mark Taylor, No Time to Die
Richard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie, and Tara Webb, The Power of the Dog
Tod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson, and Shawn Murphy, West Side Story

Best Costume Design

WINNER: Jenny Beavan, Cruella
Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran, Cyrano
Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan, Dune
Luis Sequeira, Nightmare Alley
Paul Tazewell, West Side Story

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Mike Marino, Stacey Morris and Carla Farmer, Coming 2 America
Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne and Julia Vernon, Cruella
Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr, Dune
WINNER: Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Göran Lundström, Anna Carin Lock and Frederic Aspiras, House of Gucci

Best Production Design

WINNER: Dune — Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna SiposNightmare Alley — Production Design: Tamara Deverell; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau
The Power of the Dog — 
Production Design: Grant Major; Set Decoration: Amber Richards
The Tragedy of Macbeth 
— Production Design: Stefan Dechant; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
West Side Story
 — Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo

Best Visual Effects

WINNER: Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor, and Gerd Nefzer, Dune
Swen Gillberg, Bryan Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis, and Dan Sudick, Free Guy
Charlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner, and Chris Corbould, No Time to Die
Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker, and Dan Oliver, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein, and Dan Sudick, Spider-Man: No Way Home

Oscars Lead-Up 2022 – 6 Top Films

Oscars 2022 is soon approaching, which means it’s time to bow to the statuettes that pay homage to this year’s best in entertainment, and what a line-up it is. It also means I’ve been binge watching movies like crazy! It’s no secret that I love adaptations of true stories, and this year there is certainly no shortage. A few of my top picks project the best and worst of humanity’s soulful and sinful qualities, with all sharing one common thread that plays a huge role in the outcome of each film! From the seven heavenly virtues (faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence) to the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth) let’s explore where each film falls on the spectrum and what mystery theme ties them all together.

King Richard: Will Smith does an incredible job portraying Richard Williams, dedicated father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, who coached his two daughters straight outta Compton right into superstardom on the Wimbledon track. It’s no small feat that a father from one of the poorest most violent cities in America was able to train this triumphant twosome to reach unthinkable heights and wealth – all thanks to their dad’s strategic planning and unwavering commitment to their success. This movie is a definite crowd pleaser and I liked it a lot. I am sure that their journey was a long difficult uphill battle, much as the movie depicts. After all there is no way two poor little black girls could climb to the top of a predominately white middle-class sport without a lot of fortitude and hard work by the girls and their papa. However, since Venus and Serena Williams are both executive producers on the film, dad Richard comes across glowingly royal, though it’s very obvious that this rose-colored view of their famous father is a dramatization unlikely shared by his other unmentioned children he apparently abandoned. That said, there is no doubt Richard’s prudent hard work and temperance were major factors in his two young daughters rise to fame. On this point, when stories are billed as true they are so compelling to watch, and even more so when this claim is actually true. That said, Will Smith (a personal favorite of mine) deserves the Oscar nod for this performance, but I don’t think it will earn him the win.

tick, tick… BOOM!: Andrew Garfield stars in this heartfelt musical tribute to Jonathan Larson, the sensationally talented Broadway composer who tragically died at age 35 due to aortic failure, just prior to opening night of his award-winning smash-hit show Rent. This triumphant true story tells the tale of Larson’s bumpy voyage to victory prior to his prized creation. Instead the film focuses on his first crack at musical magic entitled Superbia that flopped. Although this futuristic stage fantasy (that no one could understand) never left the ground it paved the way to prosperity by catching the attention of legendary composer and musical theatre giant Stephen Sondheim, who inspires Larson by giving him valuable advice about his wedged writers block and slothful procrastination that keeps him from completing his masterpiece(s). Like a tragic Greek opera this film mirrors so many heartbreaking theoretical journeys to fame. Yet despite setbacks in success Larson refuses to give up on his pipedream and resists settling for a boring stable line-of-work. Larson is an adorable sweet charming creative likeable genius who audiences are rooting for. He never stops believing all his efforts will pay off one day, which is such an admirable quality. Of course his determination is greatly rewarded, only he’s not around to witness his own achievements. Andrew Garfield is also in the running for an Oscar in the Best Lead Actor category, a nomination also very deserving but again I doubt this performance will earn him the gong.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye: Jessica Chastain does a stellar job playing ditzy purposely clued out televangelist Tammy Faye in this biopic that focuses on how she and husband Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) rose to the top of the bible thumping belt, and how they became filthy rich through the misuse of their followers’ funds. The film depicts how the holly duo took their forward-thinking views of Christianity and widely projected them through the boob-tube generating a colossal viewing trend of faith-based programming. Throughout the movie Tammy Faye comes across as a troubled person who never figures out where she fits in. This trusting polite misguided airhead with a good heart seems a bit too tuned out, thus falsely exonerating her from fully understanding her part in the fraudulent scandal that yanked her and her husband off their high pulpit. The two ambition evangelists worked hard to build their ministry brand, but then ended up corrupting it by bilking their audiences out of millions, which led to Jim Bakker’s conviction, jail time, and if you’re a believer – God’s wrath via man’s justice. The film true-to-life portrays an overdone Tammy Faye who flaunts her extravagant lifestyle with puttied on make-up (some permanently tattooed onto her face), coupled with gaudy clothes as she lives in the lap of luxury. All while her own husband makes fun of her behind her back, as he gets far too chummy with his male assistant among others. All in all, it’s hell to watch. Tammy Faye comes across as a victim thus giving her a pass for praying on the charity of others as well as the thievery she jointly entered into and greedily benefited from. The movie does its job – viewers do end up feeling truly sorry for Tammy Faye who never seems to give up on her faith as she vigorously works to redeem herself. Poor Tammy Faye and well-done Jessica Chastain who does a superb job in this role. She deserves to win the Oscar for this performance and probably will do.

House of Gucci: This film does a deep dive into the sad real-life story of Italian Gucci family fashionistas and the deadly saga that befell this wardrobe ruling dynasty. Patrizia Reggiani (aka Lady Gucci) is fabulously played by Lady Gaga, who is the focal point of this film that centers on industriousness, greed, lust, infidelity, money, betrayal, murder, a fortuneteller, and fashion of course. Directed by Ridley Scott this film is adapted from Sara Gay Forden nonfiction book of the same name and walks audiences through the rocky relationship between Patrizia, a go-getter who comes from a truck-driving family, and dorky awkward Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), grandson of Guccio Gucci (founder of the brand). From the start of their spicy courtship in the 70s to their sinister demise in the 90s, this lengthy film takes viewers step-by-step through all the revolutions of their relationship that ends with both characters as shells of their original selves. Al Pacino does an impressive job playing bubbly businessman Uncle Aldo (father of imbecilic son Paolo so over played by Jared Leto), who co-owns the Gucci Fashion House with his reserved gravely ill brother Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons), Maurizio’s father. Sickly Rodolfo despises Patrizia and views her as a lowbrow hustler who has mesmerized his meek nerdy unassuming son Maurizio with her shameless chasing. A view not shared by Uncle Aldo who is completely bemused by Patrizia, fatally swinging the family business door wide open for his mild-mannered nephew and Patrizia to walk through, ultimately leading to them clawing away the company and the demise of their own union. The switch from bliss to blowout in the Patrizia/Maurizio marriage happens quickly, which catches viewers off guard, especially given the long running time of this film; perhaps a bit more prep could have been spent on unpacking the marital breakdown with less focus on other insignificant parts of this torrid tale. Nevertheless the ending is dramatic, but spun sympathetically towards Patrizia, which probably cost Lady Gaga a much-deserved Oscar nod. Al Pacino was also robbed as he definitely deserved recognition for his outstanding performance in the Best Supporting Actor category for this well-delivered role. How ironic that such a great film, who at its core is about work-related injustice, only received Oscar acknowledgment for Make-up and Hairstyling. Wow!

The Lost Daughter: This directorial debut from Maggie Gyllenhaal that explores the dark side of motherhood is inspired by real-life experiences and is an adaptation of a 2006 novel by Elena Ferrante of the same name. The film centers on Leda (Olivia Colman) a British American professor of comparative literature at Harvard University who slips away to the Greek Isles alone for a much-anticipated break. As she settles into her relaxing beachy holiday she is unexpectedly confronted with her past, triggered by a loud overbearing family who with their noisy children in tow, invade her beach space. As the story unfolds parallel flashbacks to a young married Leda (played by Jessie Buckley) slowly reveal her obsessive/compulsive choices surrounding work and love that result in her destroying her own family life and compromising her relationship with her two young clingy daughters. What follows are episodes of explosive unresolved guilt experienced by a woman who chose to live her life for herself rather than for others. Throughout the film, Leda (in youth and mid-life) seems to be an unbalanced emotional mess, unpredictable and unable to manage her thoughts and feelings with no reprieves. This is a frustrating story of selfishness, with some scenes cringeworthy, especially when an older Leda awkwardly flirts with the opposite sex as she did when she was young only to realize her beguiling stock in the dating world has dwindled. The gist of this story is that young Leda envies a life she doesn’t have and is fed up with familial responsibilities thus longing to be free. She acts on her gluttonous impulses and achieves career success but loses everything else in the process. Yet oddly enough Leda never seems to gain the internal equilibrium she is seeking. This movie explores the uncomfortable shift from individual to parental identity that for some can be too much to bear or accept; the ugly untold underbelly that can accompany the challenges of parenthood. This loss-based tale that takes place on an island did not miss the opportunity to throw in a symbolic lighthouse in the opening scenes, which sets the tone of being ‘lost’ right out of the gate. But you will have to watch this film to find out if Leda is ever found. Olivia Colman received an Oscar nod for this role and rightly so, she is a tremendously talented actress, but I do not think this performance deserves the gold.

The Power of the Dog: This cerebral slow-paced film is inspired by the personal experiences of famed closeted gay author Thomas Savage, who grew up on a Montana ranch. Set in the 1920s this movie focuses on the secretly queer sweaty macho ranch-hand Phil Burbank (Benedick Cumberbatch) who bullies his more refined well-dressed brother George (Jesse Plemons) as both operate the successful family ranch. It’s not Brokeback Mountain but some of its content is reminiscent of this popular more modern-day movie of homosexual cowboys. The film heats up when brother George marries widowed café worker Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and moves her and her feminine son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) into the family home, which enrages boorish brother Phil. Yet underneath his proud brute and bravado, bad-mannered Phil is really a lonely dysfunctional heartbroken man who longs for his lost love fellow rancher Bronco Henry, who showed young shutdown ‘friend of Dorothy’ (FOD) Phil the ropes. This film is a sad realistic depiction of how difficult it must have been for gay men to exist during a time when sexuality was not a topic of discussion and homosexuality was completely unacceptable and off the table, especially for those employed in jobs synonymous with toxic manliness, where male ego required a tough-as-nails persona. Given this story’s premise, how on earth does the movie’s title relate? The term The Power of the Dog comes from Psalm 22:20, which reads: “Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.” Unpacked this phrase refers to biblical times, when dogs were considered deprived pack animals who scavenged and attacked the vulnerable. Translated – The Power of the Dog equates to how shunned and defenseless exposed gays were during the early 20th century, with many having to hide their true identity and instead ‘pose’ as manly men to avoid persecution. Fast fact: in the state of Montana same-sex sexual activity was not made legal until 1997. This film tells a moving story, has beautiful cinematography, and Cumberbatch, Dunst and Smit-McPhee will all most likely receive Oscars for their performances as Hollywood loves these types of movies. But this film is not for everyone – just ask Sam Elliott!

Overall Take-Away Message: All the above-mentioned movies are amazing and worthy of their own post, but due to the Oscars looming and my busy schedule I’ve had to group them together. The good news is that surprisingly all these films share a common central theme – work! To elaborate, King Richard is entirely about exerting tons and tons of effort and then more effort, tick, tick…Boom is about slogging along in a lowly life to follow a hard-earned dream despite failure. The Eyes of Tammy Faye is about well-crafted religious-based fabricated falsehoods projected through TV productions designed to steal from believers. House of Gucci is about masters of betrayal evilly climbing the career ladder on someone else’s back. The Lost Daughter is about regretfully choosing academic pursuits over family, and The Power of The Dog is about living up to a tough guy image associated with the job of being a herdsman. Vocation (calling) vs. Occupation (paid task) – whatever one’s chosen employment, work is no doubt an important part of life but that doesn’t mean it should own or fully define one’s individuality. Each of the movies’ lead characters fall into the forbidden trap of allowing their personality to be deeply shaped by their livelihood, which for some leads to their demise. They all suffer from ‘workism’, which is a belief that work isn’t merely just a means to make money but the centerpiece of identity and self-worth. But why should work hold life’s sole purpose and why should promoting personal wellness involve just doing more and more work? It shouldn’t. The truth is work should be purposeful, but it should only ever be part of who we are, not encapsulate all of who we are. As wisely stated by Awolumate Samuel, ‘Life is full of mysteries, but your identity should not be one of them’, and to add my own quote, ‘Identity should not be exclusively dictated by profession.’ – Martha Hart

P.S. I’m still trying to see a few more movies (Belfast, Licorice Pizza…) before Oscar showtime March 27th, especially the film CODA since I’ve recently learned a bit of sign-language from my son Oje who signs quite well. Fingers crossed. I watched Nightmare Alley (good but trippy) and I tried to watch the movie Dune twice but just could not manage to get through it. The acting is great, but I need to be in the mood for sci-fi and I guess I’m just too grounded in reality and true-to-life stories these days. I did however find 3 hours to watch old Oscar favorite and true story Out of Africa (1985), which always makes me cry. I love this film and several others with Africa at its core (The English Patient 1997…). Maybe it’s because I wrote a lot of my own true story in Africa while visiting Kenya and Tanzania, so such films make me feel nostalgic. On this point, here is one of my favorite Karen Blixen quotes from the movie Out of Africa; ‘The Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road’ to which I would add ‘Thank God for this small mercy, otherwise I would never get out of bed!’ – Martha Hart

Me with another very famous larger-than-life statue at the Buddha Bar in Monte Carlo.

Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards 2022

Cheers to the 28th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards that took place last night. Although I was unable to watch the show live due to a time change conflict, I was absolutely thrilled to see the event honored Ukraine and paid tribute to the unprovoked unacceptable war leashed on these innocent people by Russia. The art of filmmaking often focuses on highly emotional complex subject matter that can serve as a catalyst for real world change. So it’s wonderful when platforms that celebrate this incredible craft couple it with bringing to the fore raw controversial current-events content. The SAG Awards also draws immense viewership as chosen winners are usually a prelude to who will walk away with coveted Oscar gold. Therefore it’s nice to know that a large audience heard the many heartfelt messages of support from the entertainment community for the Ukrainian people and their formidable leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy. There were also some surprise picks with SAG Awards categories/winners in bold below (just for motion pictures).

P.S. One highlight of the evening was the ‘A Star Is Born’ reunion between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, with an embrace that looked a lot like love to me. Another was seeing Helen Mirren receive the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award. Nicely done.


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos”

Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog”

Andrew Garfield, “Tick, Tick… Boom”

Will Smith, “King Richard” *WINNER

Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” *WINNER

Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”

Lady Gaga, “House of Gucci”

Jennifer Hudson, “Respect”

Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Ben Affleck, “The Tender Bar”

Bradley Cooper, “Licorice Pizza”

Troy Kotsur, “CODA” *WINNER

Jared Leto, “House of Gucci”

Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Caitríona Balfe, “Belfast”

Cate Blanchett, “Nightmare Alley”

Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story” *WINNER

Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog”

Ruth Negga, “Passing”

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture



“Don’t Look Up”

“House of Gucci”

“King Richard”

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

“Black Widow”


“The Matrix Resurrections”

“No Time to Die” *WINNER

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”

Cheers to the SAG Awards for paying tribute to Ukraine!