The Lighthouse

This mild psychological nautical horror movie is set in the late 1890s and is filmed in black and white, which in my opinion symbolizes the basis of this movie, namely an inflexible mind that can’t cope with the grays of life’s swells. The manner in which this picture is shot resembles old classics like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, and Psycho, so it might not be for everyone. I don’t really like scary movies myself per se but this one isn’t too scary and I did want to watch it because I absolutely love lighthouses. Also, I think Willem Dafoe who plays Tom Wake the senior lighthouse keeper and master light operator/logbook attendee is one of the best actors in Hollywood. This movie is a psychological escapade whereby keeping the lighthouse is equated to solitary confinement and the breaking down of the mind that occurs as a result of tedious monotony, and utter boredom. The movie depicts how ‘wickie’ Ephraim Winslow played by Robert Pattison gradually loses his mind, likened to waves slowly eroding the shore. This movie also taps into self-loathing brought on by recognizing personal weaknesses and lack of mental might. Soundness vs. Instability – isolation might be the ultimate test of intellectual mettle one can experience. Let us all guard our sanity with our most formidable will. This is the take-away message of this movie.

Directed, produced, and co-written by Robert Eggers this film displays the diluted humanity experienced when human contact is severely limited, and subservience is required. Sinister to say the least when madness takes over. The psyche can be a very dark vestibule with lots of twists and turns – around and around it goes (hint hint – a lighthouse’s spiral staircase). In short, aloneness is not fun and can entertain one’s darkest thoughts, giving them prime opportunity to emerge and takeover in the silence; that is, slipping down the cold damp well of severe depression.  As the saying goes, “Beware of wandering into your head alone. It’s a dangerous neighborhood.” —poet Gary Snyder. The negativity that lurks can make people do the most heinous deeds. Trying to escape such treachery can be near impossible. Even sound minded individuals pursing the highest level of education are asked “can you handle solitude” as you must spend a lot of time alone to complete a PhD. Yikes, a lesson I learned first hand. This is because the mind plays tricks while separated from society and can happen no matter the circumstances. Though with practice and fortitude sequestering can be mastered and conquered with great benefits. But this doesn’t happen in this movie. What we see is just how low a person will stoop to be top ‘sea’ dog! Oh yeah, Ahoy mateys, for seafarers there is plenty of maritime phraseology too, which adds to the film’s authenticity! That said, the irony of this movie is that in real life lighthouses are lifesavers not lifetakers, and I will forever see them as one of the most beautiful shining structures of all time, despite how films like this one depict them. They aren’t frightening – they’re fabulous! 😊 This movie is nominated for an Oscar in cinematography, though it probably won’t win as 1917 is the front runner in this category.

P.S. My son Oje who went to university in Halifax and often visits, was lucky enough to meet up with Willem Dafoe at Pete’s Boutique while he was filming The Lighthouse in Nova Scotia last year. The two had a very pleasant exchange. Oje later commented on how humble, approachable and respectful Willem was, as all good men tend to be. Thank you Willem for being so nice to my son – it’s greatly appreciated. Also as previously mentioned, I truly love lighthouses. So much so I joined the Sylvan Lake Lighthouse Rebuilding Committee when the existing lighthouse was in disrepair, and The Owen Hart Foundation provided the seed funding to get the project off the ground. The new lighthouse, like the old one was modeled after the Iconic Peggy’s Point Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove NS (a site I always visit when I’m in the Maritimes) and was graciously acknowledged by the NS government as such. The Sylvan Lake Lighthouse proudly remains the only lighthouse in landlocked Alberta and it happily connects the two very different provinces in a most unusual way as seen in the link below.

globalnews.ca › news › iconic-alberta-lighthouse-unveiled-in-sylvan-l…
Iconic Alberta lighthouse unveiled in Sylvan Lake – Global News
Iconic Alberta lighthouse unveiled in Sylvan Lake. By Jill Croteau Global News. Posted July 1, 2016 3:36 pm. Updated July 1, 2016 5:18 pm. 1:52 Iconic Alberta …

Dr. Hart at the unveiling of the new Sylvan Lake Lighthouse in Western Canada’s Sylvan Lake AB on Canada Day July 1st 2016 with Canada’s finest RCMPs, and with son Oje at Eastern Canada’s Peggy’s Point Lighthouse in Peggy’s Cove, NS.

Jojo Rabbit

This satirical movie showcases an interesting take on the holocaust mainly from the perspective of a child. The film centers on Jojo Betzler (well played by Roman Griffin Davis) a young Hitler Youth male recruit who is enamored with his idol and imaginary friend Adolf Hitler. That is until he slowly starts to warm up to his mother’s unexpected young female Jewish hide-away Elsa Korr (well played by Thomasin McKenzie). Initially I wondered about the logic of making a funny, engaging, and even handsome Hitler character (actor Taika Waititi has beautifully shaped brown eyes – transformed to blue for this role) but it works because truthfully in his day Adolf Hitler must have been an extremely charismatic endearing person (as many psychopaths can be – think Ted Bundy) to achieve the enormous following he did. Although this movie stages a lighthearted depiction of the atrocities inflicted on the Jewish people during WWII it is effective in stressing the importance of critical thinking and coming to conclusions on one’s own accord regardless of outside influences. In short, deciding for yourself what you think of a situation based on your own informed thoughts should be everyone’s default. With this in mind, the moral message of this film is the frightening dangers of groupthink (a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome) on impressionable unassuming people. Compliance vs. Nonconformity – individuals seen as hesitant because they don’t indiscriminately accept the popular populous are perhaps not timid (like a rabbit) or indecisive but instead the strongest and bravest of them all. The old adage ‘don’t mistake my kindness for weakness’ comes to mind. Let us all remember to think for ourselves and not be influenced by the masses.

Directed by Taika Waititi (who also does a superb job spoofing Hitler) this movie is bolstered by acting greats Sam Rockwell who plays non-threatening Nazi Captain Klenzendorf and Scarlett Johansson who is delightful as Jojo’s mum Rosie. This movie shows how young minds can be easily poisoned but also artfully shows how people hunger for leadership and will follow their superiors like children even if their message is regretfully repugnant. Before trailing anyone consider that a good leader possesses “a clear vision, is courageous, has integrity, honesty, humility and clear focus. … Great leaders help people reach their goals, are not afraid to hire people that might be better than them and take pride in the accomplishments of those they help along the way” – and being a part of a group can be rewarding but groupism is hazardous. I suspect some people may not fully appreciate this movie because making Hitler out to be likable or comical violates our expectations. In modern times it is almost inconceivable to think of Hitler as encompassing any redeeming qualities, but it’s good to be reminded that wickedness can be pleasantly packaged, and shameful deeds often happen in full sight so beware. That said, this picture also draws on the prospect that there is perhaps some good in bad people and some bad in good people. Another example that life isn’t black and white or cut and dry, but in the end, everyone recognizes the bad for what it is – sooner or later – and that’s a good thing. This unique movie is up for Oscar’s Best Picture but it has tough competition so probably won’t win, though it’s still such an honor to be nominated regardless and it is deserving of at least that.

P.S. I have visited Nazi Concentration Camps several times in my life. Once when I lived in Austria/Germany early in my marriage and once more recently when I was in Salzburg for work – and there is absolutely nothing waggish about it or the horrors that happened during WWII. It’s beyond awful and deeply disturbing to think people could be so horrendously malevolent. Bless all those who suffered this terrible fate.

I took this picture of Owen when we visited the Mauthausen–Gusen concentration camp (located on a hill above the market town of Mauthausen – it was one of 20 main camps that also included nearly 100 further subcamps located throughout Austria and southern Germany) when we lived in Linz Austria early in our marriage. Note how emaciated these poor men were in this life size picture. How sad.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

This film came out a while ago but since it is a front runner at the Oscars, I decided to do a throwback and write about its meaning, which in fact I think is quite fundamental.

This dark comedic action flick is set in the late 60s in Hollywood seen through the lens of a flailing actor’s fameless downward spiral that features a parallel universe take on the Manson Killings. This movie definitely highlights the importance of friendship and loyalty, however the running theme seems to concentrate more on the foundation of self-concept (a factual description of how you perceive yourself), which is derived from self-esteem (respect for the self), and self-efficacy (a person’s belief in their ability to accomplish some specific goal or task). In my opinion, the key meaning of this movie might leave viewers pondering where they get their self-worth from? This movie shows the downside of seeking approval from the outside world rather than looking inside. In sum, chasing admiration from others is a disappointing quest. In psychology we refer to this as having an external locus of control (a belief that life is controlled by outside factors) as opposed an internal locus of control (a belief that one can control one’s own life). Basically, people who possess the latter know who they are, and they don’t need constant reassurance or validation from others to feel good about themselves because they get it from within. I thought Leo’s character (and to a lesser degree Margot Robbie’s character – Sharon Tate) did an exceptional job showing what people with an external locus of control look like. It’s exhausting and usually leads to self-centered behavior. In real life some performers do struggle with their self-concept as portrayed in this film. Though for performers it may just help their craft – giving them the drive to dig deeper for the next great performance/applause but as far as their mental health goes – well that’s another story. Outer vs. Inner Identity – confidence, accurate self-evaluation, sense of accomplishments, and a willingness to take risks are the rewards of having a strong sense of self; achieved by inward resolve. The good news is we can all get there but it starts with eliminating negative self-talk, owning one’s own mistakes, accepting criticism and rejection, while recognizing individual strengths and self-value. That doesn’t mean that a pat on the back every now and then is a bad thing, just don’t fall apart and beat up your trailer if you don’t get it – Leo. ha ha

Directed by Quinton Tarantino, this film like so many of his masterpieces right the wrongs in life and turn the odds in favor of the underdog. He likes to rescript antiquity with an ending that should have been – Django – need I say more. With Leonardo DiCaprio playing B-lister cowboy actor Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt playing his very devoted and reliable stuntman/friend Cliff Booth who intersect with the Manson family, this film is very entertaining to say the least. I also really loved the Bruce Lee fight, and the marathon scene at the end is a graphic extravaganza of classic heroism. If only history had been so kind. With these solemn events in mind bless all the real victims of that horrible night at the Tate/Polanski house. Life isn’t fair. I’m sure this is exactly why Tarantino’s creative genius led him down this path of hypothetical justice. BTW Brad Pitt will no doubt get the Oscar for best supporting male actor; he’s very good in this role and taking his shirt off most likely sealed the deal. It’s good to see he’s still working out! ha ha

PS. I really appreciated the unwavering loyalty displayed by 3-year old Pitbull Brandy (Sayuri in real life) towards her master Cliff (Brad Pitt’s character), albeit a bit grim. Having a 3-year old Valley Bulldog as our family pet I can truly relate. Our dog Bean is the loyalist canine I’ve ever seen. She is so sweet but would defend her family at any cost if need be. I think she’s the cutest dog ever! Her big brown eyes, all her face folds, and that charming underbite – so adorable. I just love her, and best of all she loves me too.

Martha & Bean

The BAFTAS

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts were held last night at the beautiful Royal Albert Hall. Again, it was great to see so many of my favorites taking home the gold. Every single big winner at the BAFTAS are my official picks for Oscars, with the exception of one. Though not nominated for a BAFTA for best supporting actress Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) is my pick for the Oscar – yes she’s nominated so fingers crossed. That said, whoever wins the Oscar for best supporting actress is very deserving as all the actresses in this category did an outstanding job in their roles.

Categories and Winners are in BOLD.

P.S. I’m so glad that the English movie 1917 was so deservingly recognized at the BAFTAS. This World War One film was the big winner with seven prizes in total. I’m so happy that I was able to see this great film in London where I can tell you that people still carry the wounds of the great wars. My neighbors in Cambridge England, whom I just visited, and who have firsthand knowledge of war talked to me so many times about the terribleness of warfare and how it defined their lives; Ray an RAF fighter pilot during WWII who worried everyday he would be killed, Ann as a young mother had to ration food and lived in fear of the bombs flying overhead nonstop, and Jay as a child who didn’t understand why life was so grim. That’s why films like this are important because younger generations of 1st world countries are not familiar with such hardships. We want to keep it that way but in order to do so we need to make sure we do not forget how bad war really is.

Best Film

“1917” *WINNER

“The Irishman”

“Joker”

“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”

“Parasite”

Outstanding British Film

“1917” *WINNER

“Bait”

“For Sama”

“Rocketman”

“Sorry We Missed You”

“The Two Popes”

Best Director

Sam Mendes (“1917”) *WINNER

Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”)

Todd Phillips (“Joker”)

Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”)

Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite”)

Leading Actress

Jessie Buckley (“Wild Rose”)

Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”)

Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”)

Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”)

Renée Zellweger (“Judy”) *WINNER

Leading Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”)

Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”) *WINNER

Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”)

Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”)

Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”)

Supporting Actor

Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood”)

Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”)

Al Pacino (“The Irishman”)

Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”)

Brad Pitt (“Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood”) *WINNER

Supporting Actress

Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”) *WINNER

Scarlett Johansson (“Jojo Rabbit”)

Florence Pugh (“Little Women”)

Margot Robbie (“Bombshell”)

Margot Robbie (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”)

Adapted Screenplay

Steven Zaillian (“The Irishman”)

Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”) *WINNER

Todd Phillips, Scott Silver (“Joker”)

Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”)

Anthony McCarten (“The Two Popes”)

Original Screenplay

Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Katie Silberman (“Booksmart”)

Rian Johnson (“Knives Out”)

Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”)

Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”)

Han Jin Won, Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite”) *WINNER

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

Mark Jenkin, Kate Byers, Linn Waite (“Bait”) *WINNER

Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts (“For Sama”)

Alex Holmes (“Maiden”)

Harry Wootliff (“Only You”)

Álvaro Delgado-Aparicio (“Retablo”)

Original Score

Thomas Newman (“1917”)

Michael Giacchino (“Jojo Rabbit”)

Hildur Guđnadóttir (“Joker”) *WINNER

Alexandre Desplat (“Little Women”)

John Williams (“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”)

Cinematography

Roger Deakins (“1917”) *WINNER

Rodrigo Prieto (“The Irishman”)

Lawrence Sher (“Joker”)

Phedon Papamichael (“Le Mans ’66”)

Jarin Blaschke (“The Lighthouse”)

EE Rising Star Award

Awkwafina

Kaitlyn Dever

Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Jack Lowden

Micheal Ward *WINNER

Film Not In The English Language

Lulu Wang, Daniele Melia (“The Farewell”)

Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts (“For Sama”)

Pedro Almodóvar, Agustín Almodóvar (“Pain and Glory”)

Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite”) *WINNER

Céline Sciamma, Bénédicte Couvreur (“Portrait of a Lady On Fire”)

Documentary

Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert (“American Factory”)

Todd Douglas Miller (“Apollo 11”)

Asif Kapadia (“Diego Maradona”)

Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts (“For Sama”) *WINNER

Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim (“The Great Hack”)

Animated Film

Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho (“Frozen 2”)

Sergio Pablos, Jinko Gotoh (“Klaus”) *WINNER

Will Becher, Richard Phelan, Paul Kewley (“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon”)

Josh Cooley, Mark Nielsen (“Toy Story 4”)

Casting

Shayna Markowitz (“Joker”) *WINNER

Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler (“Marriage Story”)

Victoria Thomas (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”)

Sarah Crowe (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”)

Nina Gold (“The Two Popes”)

Editing

Thelma Schoonmaker (“The Irishman”)

Tom Eagles (“Jojo Rabbit”)

Jeff Groth (“Joker”)

Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker (“Le Mans ’66”) *WINNER

Fred Raskin (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”)

Production Design

Dennis Gassner, Lee Sandales (“1917”) *WINNER

Bob Shaw, Regina Graves (“The Irishman”)

Ra Vincent, Nora Sopková (“Jojo Rabbit”)

Mark Friedberg, Kris Moran (“Joker”)

Barbara Ling, Nancy Haigh (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”)

Costume Design

Christopher Peterson, Sandy Powell (“The Irishman”)

Mayes C. Rubeo (“Jojo Rabbit”)

Jany Temime (“Judy”)

Jacqueline Durran (“Little Women”) *WINNER

Arianne Phillips (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”)

Makeup and Hair

Naomi Donne (“1917”)

Vivian Baker, Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan (“Bombshell”) *WINNER

Kay Georgiou, Nicki Ledermann (“Joker”)

Jeremy Woodhead (“Judy”)

Lizzie Yianni Georgiou (“Rocketman”)

Sound

Scott Millan, Oliver Tarney, Rachael Tate, Mark Taylor, Stuart Wilson (“1917”) *WINNER

Tod Maitland, Alan Robert Murray, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic (“Joker”)

David Giammarco, Paul Massey, Steven A. Morrow, Donald Sylvester (“Le Mans ’66”)

Matthew Collinge, John Hayes, Mike Prestwood Smith, Danny Sheehan (“Rocketman”)

David Acord, Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, Stuart Wilson, Matthew Wood (“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”)

Special Visual Effects

Greg Butler, Guillaume Rocheron, Dominic Tuohy (“1917”) *WINNER

Dan Deleeuw, Dan Sudick (“Avengers: Endgame”)

Leandro Estebecorena, Stephane Grabli, Pablo Helman (“The Irishman”)

Andrew R. Jones, Robert Legato, Elliot Newman, Adam Valdez (“The Lion King”)

Roger Guyett, Paul Kavanagh, Neal Scanlan, Dominic Tuohy (“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”)

British Short Animation

Maryam Mohajer (“Grandad Was a Romantic”) *WINNER

Kathrin Steinbacher (“In Her Boots”)

Naaman Azhari, Lilia Laurel (“The Magic Boat”)

British Short Film

Myriam Raja, Nathanael Baring (“Azaar”)

Hector Dockrill, Harri Kamalanathan, Benedict Turnbull, Laura Dockrill (“Goldfish”)

Sasha Rainbow, Rosalind Croad (“Kamali”)

Carol Dysinger, Elena Andreicheva (“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl”) *WINNER

Lena Headey, Anthony Fitzgerald (“The Trap

Visiting Cambridge neighbors Ann (above) and Jay, and outside the Empire Theater in London where I saw 1917 on a recent trip to England.

Marriage Story

The Oscars are just one week away so I will be posting more than usual this week to get as many of my picks out there. With that out of the way let’s get to the discussion about Marriage Story (my first Netflix movie post) and its chief take-away message.

This film is a sad story of marriage gone wrong and the complications surrounding uncoupling. In short, this picture lays out how difficult it is when a SO relationship needs to be dismantled. This tale walks us through the breakdown of Charlie (played by Adam Driver) and Nicole’s (played by Scarlet Johansson) crumbled marriage and the reasons why the two diverge. Things get worse when their lawyers get involved and the couple begins to rip each other apart – sometimes without even really intending to. Laura Dern does a brilliant job playing Nicole’s tough LA attorney Nora, while husband Charlie gets lightweight lawyer Bert (played by Alan Alda) before trading him up for cut-throat lawyer Jay (played by Ray Liotta). Both sides are fighting to out-do each other to win custody of their 8-year old son Henry (played by Azhy Robertson). Yet the fight is not really about winning access to their child it’s about exercising power in their effort to be the individuals they feel compelled to be. So what is the parting message of this film you ask? In my opinion it’s about everyone’s human need to be heard and appreciated as a full functioning individual inside or outside of a relationship. Progression vs. Stagnation – allowing your partner to grow is essential for healthy bonds to flourish yet instead of embracing change it often brings out insecurities that shut down communication and understanding between couples. Before long the damage is irreparable. To avoid this heartbreaking fate guard your love and prevent the silence of bitterness from chipping away at it. Compromising is easier than people think so don’t find out the hard way!

Director Noah Baumbach wrote this screenplay in 2013 when his own marriage was unraveling from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh yet claimed to The Times, “This movie is not autobiographical; it’s personal, and there’s a true distinction in that.” That said, because this fictional couple are both involved in the Arts the Academy will no doubt reward this film with some Oscar wins. Regardless of occupation all can relate to the fact that love and marriage are complex; no one really knows the mystery behind other people’s marital arrangements. Though typically there are three types of marriage styles; Validating (good communication and problem-solving teamwork between couples), Volatile (couples who enjoy conflict and passionate make-ups), and Conflict Avoiding (couples who minimize conflict – agree to disagree but never address differences). All types can work and be successful if excess anger is kept out of the equation and is not linked with negative emotions (e.g. criticism, contempt, defensiveness, withdrawal, loneliness, isolation) because anger thwarts and blocks the ability to achieve effective conflict resolution as it minimizes reflective functioning and in turn breeds indifference, which is the true killer of love. Another unfortunate fact is that the end of many love stories can often be found in the beginning if you look close enough. In short, whatever obstacles couples face at the start of the relationship, if any, usually show up at the end if not dealt with. Also, the endearing qualities that people initially find attractive in someone can be the same things that years later tear them apart if not modified. Yet there is a lot of hope and there should be because love is wonderful; it’s the greatest gift one can give and receive, and marriage should be the crowning glory that reflects such affairs of the heart. To my point, there is one very basic safeguard that contributes to a great marriage as well as good mental/physical health – and that is expressing gratitude. Simply just saying ‘thank you’ raises an individual’s self-esteem and encourages a positive outlook on life plus ‘increases happiness, improves relationships… lowers your blood pressure and strengthens your heart.” – Robert Emmons, University of California. Wow! All that power in a humble ‘thank you’ – who knew! ha ha  

PS. I was married for 10 years and thankfully I loved every minute of it. Bless.

Martha & Owen’s Wedding Day – age 22

1917

This WWI movie will have audiences entranced from beginning to end! Set April 6th 1917 on the Western Front near the Hindenburg Line in northern France this film is based on anecdotal truths. The story centers on British lance corporals Tom Blake (played by Dean-Charles Chapman) and William Schofield (played by George MacKay) who are ordered to hand-deliver a dire message to call off a planned attack on the Germans, who have not retreated as thought, but instead have counter-planned an ambush.  At stake is the devastating loss of 1,600 2nd Battalion English soldiers of the Devonshire Regiment, including Blake’s older brother Joseph. Time is of the absolute essence as these two fledgling fighters have mere hours to navigate an impossible mission. This picture takes viewers on the men’s perilous journey through horrific war-torn regions over enemy lines to the extremely dangerous town of Soissons (one of the most ancient communes in all of France) located on the Aisne River only 62 miles from Paris. This film is harrowing to say the least and the challenging single-shot film technique used to shoot this drama really adds to the shocking reality of war. It does this by filming long complicated takes with a single camera and in doing so creates the impression of walking shoulder to shoulder with these brave young men. This picture leaves viewers shaken by the ghastliness of trench warfare without needing to show explicit gratuitous violence. Bravo! The real thing is scary enough – no need to exaggerate. I really liked the simplicity of this film and how it touches on the blessings of friendship, levity, obligation, and perseverance, which as the picture illustrates can be found through the most unlikely means, even delicate cherry blossom pedals. However, the parting boon is even more than this. In my opinion the core takeaway message of this picture is the necessity and ability to exercise mental compartmentalization; an essential trait of psychological grit needed to survive during very difficult times. Stoic vs Emotive – when dealing with catastrophic events learning to be strong by putting emotional matters on the shelf for a time is needed in order to focus on the task at hand. Once the job is done, then and only then is it safe to remove the heart’s armor and open the box where you secretly hold your emotions and those dearest to you. A practice in clarity that’s easier said than done. I can certainly attest to that, but as Cayla Mills reminds us, You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

Directed by Sir Samuel Alexander Mendes, a Cambridge University graduate who was appointed the CBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 and knighted in 2020 has indeed proven he deserves to be recognized for his “services to drama”. Critics a plenty have commended Mendes for his vision in telling this incredible story, including the brilliant cinematography, poignant realism, moving musical score and of course the impeccable performances by all. 1917 also cleverly includes several heavy hitting actors (Colin Firth as General Erinmore, Benedict Cumberbatch – CBE, Colonel Mackenzie to name a few) whose appearances are just a bit more than cameos but very effective in solidifying the magnitude of this film’s importance. Yet these Hollywood giants do not overshadow Chapman and Mackay who definitely carry the movie. I also liked the brief appearances of black and East Indian soldiers, reminding us of inclusivity and of all who fought to protect Britain and its democratic values. Also, making this film in color brings these characters to life imparting the message that no matter when people died, they lived in color just like us. To me this movie really depicts the British mentality of stiff upper lip, duty, and just get on with it attitude. The inspirational English slogan Keep Calm & Carry On crossed my mind many times while watching this film. A bit of trivia – the original Keep Calm & Carry On motivational poster was officially produced in 1939 by the British government to prepare for World War II. It was intended to raise morale amongst Brits who were threatened with massive air attacks on major cities. In 2000 this popular saying was reintroduced when a bookseller found the old war poster in a box of books bought at an auction; he hung it over his cash register and alas 60 years on the saying has now become commonplace again. Slogan or not, England has always proudly maintained this enduring steadfast mindset that clearly was in development many years prior to the poster’s inception. That said, war should never be glorified and in my opinion should only be implemented as a very last resort, and even then, it should be reconsidered. Especially given so many men sent to fight are little more than children; age 19 is amongst the highest of the fallen at military cemeteries even in modern times. With this in mind it is not surprising that most dying soldiers regardless of culture, race, or ethnicity cry out for their mothers as the movie subtly implies and excepts from WWII confirm ‘…soldiers dying on the battlefield cry out for their mothers. People walking through the carnage at Normandy heard grown men calling out ‘Mommy!’’ Even Kamikaze pilots who upon crashing their suicide planes were told by superiors to yell out “Long live the Emperor” did not – instead – “…they yelled out in terrified voices “Mother!” How sad. Life is precious and fragile – lest we forget. This film will be a serious contender for Oscar’s Best Picture and fingers crossed that Canadian Dennis Gassner wins for Best Production Design for the epic war film – it’s his 7th Oscar nod – and he deserves it.

P.S. I thought it would be fitting to write this post now given that I am currently visiting all three countries involved in this movie – England, France, and Germany. It always amazes me how everything in life really depends on a moment in time. To my point, in 1917 Europe was the last place on Earth anyone would want to be; but at present it’s beautiful here, the weather is lovely and I’m enjoying all the sites. That includes seeing this film at my favorite Empire Theater in London on Haymarket Street at Piccadilly Circus as the movie was just recently released everywhere here in the UK. Also, many thanks to cinema execs Ken and Louis for all of their hospitality.

Dr. Martha Hart this past week in Paris France (with son Oje), in London England at the famous Odeon Theater in Leicester Sq., and in Dusseldorf Germany.
Dr. Martha Hart with cinema exec Louis in living color at the Empire Theater on Haymarket Street London.

Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards

The 26th annual SAG Awards looked to be a dazzling affair, and as always, a prelude to the Oscars. With this in mind, it was nice to see my favorite picks continuing to win this awards season, namely Joaquin Phoenix (Joker– OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE) and Renée Zellweger (Judy – OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE). I’m also glad Brad Pitt won too (Once Upon A Time… Hollywood – OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE). Since I was in flight to Europe, I had to wait up late to see the highlights but it was worth it.

SAG Awards category winners are in bold (just for motion pictures).

P.S. When it comes to watching films, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I really enjoy seeing my flicks on the big screen when possible. See you at the movies. Too much fun!

FILM

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari

Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Taron Egerton, Rocketman

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Lupita Nyong’o, Us

Renée Zellweger, Judy

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Al Pacino, The Irishman

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Joe Pesci, The Irishman

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Nicole Kidman, Bombshell

Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers

Margot Robbie, Bombshell

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A STUNT ENSEMPLE IN A MOTION PICTURE:

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Avengers: Endgame

Joker

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE

Bombshell

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Parasite

Happily at the theater where the movie The Lighthouse was featured staring Willem Dafoe, which will be one of my upcoming posts.

Just Mercy

This movie takes place in Alabama in 1987 and is based on the infuriating true story of death-row inmate Walter ‘Johnny D’ McMillan (well played by Jamie Foxx) who was wrongfully convicted of murder. This film pivots on Harvard educated social justice activist lawyer Bryan Stevenson (equally well played by Michael B Jordan) who undecidedly takes on the near impossible job of defending a broken, reluctant, and downhearted, albeit innocent JD. I must say this show had me feeling so angry and enraged and frustrated from practically start to finish at the absolute injustice and downright racism that surrounded this picture and this case. The bigotry throughout was almost too much to take. It made me feel embarrassed to be Caucasian and left me wondering just how anyone could tolerate or carryout such unfairness. That said,  thank god there were morally sound white characters in the narrative that significantly fought for right, namely legal operations director and crusader Eva Ansley (played by Brie Larson), who to this day continues to work with Stevenson’s racial justice team. In my opinion the underlying meaning of this film is not ‘just mercy’ as the movie’s title suggests because that would imply the ‘need’ to be compassionate or forgiving towards someone who is within one’s power to punish or harm – and completely innocent people should never require this form of grace. Instead the takeaway message of this story is how easy it is to adopt, endorse, and preserve an attitude of sheer indifference rooted in hostility that functions to cloud otherwise rational judgement. Equality vs. Treachery – it is the lowest common denominator to treat human beings with prejudice. Let us not forget that the only thing worth hating is hate.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton this picture sheds light on a corrupt legal system and will no doubt strike a stark nerve with law enforcement agencies and judicial systems throughout the USA. The entire time I watched this film I had to keep reminding myself that these events actually happened. Fact not fiction. Image how awful to be targeted, framed, unjustly condemned, imprisoned, and sentenced to death based on your skin color and social status. How appalling. With this in mind, everyone should be very worried about the state of the legal system as depicted in this film. Thank god for real-life influential lawyers like Stevenson who refuse to give up on wrongful conviction cases like Johnny D’s; ones built on multiple lies and absurd falsehoods. It’s such a shame the Oscars snubbed this film and its profound message along with it. Regardless, Foxx and Jordan should be very proud of this movie and the wonderful job they did acting these difficult roles. Their good work goes further than receiving gilded awards and accolades; their reward is even better. Audiences a plenty will appreciate their bravery in telling this important story and for outing the true racialistic offenders.

Although subtlety understated, this film also taps into the long ugly history of slavery in America and the overt discrimination witnessed in deep southern states; the odd scene brandishes the confederate flag. I think Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, said it best, “As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash” ―  A perfect quote since To Kill a Mockingbird is spotlighted several times in this film as like the movie, this masterpiece was set in Monroe County. This flick reminded me of my work visit to Charlottesville Virginia just over a year ago and the unnerving feeling I had knowing that months earlier white supremacists had overtaken the city (chosen by hate group rallyists since this city once headed the confederate state) much to the dismay of the lovely people that live there. Thus proving that despite positive efforts to change, shaking the past is not that easy. To this day, southern states like Virginia and Alabama still exhibit questionable civil war monuments (e.g. a bronze statue of Robert E. Lee). It’s important to preserve history so that we do not forget or repeat it but such hurtful reminders displayed in plain sight rub salt in the wounds rather than heal deep-seated pain. An aside, as a researcher I naturally observed that on my flight from New York to Charlottesville all commuters were white. Therefore I thought it was wholly golden when the skilled pilot responsible for safely getting us all to our destination was black! I loved it! Exiting the cockpit he bid farewell to his valued passengers; upon deboarding I thanked him and gave him a winking smile – he got the message and reciprocated – take that haters! What irony.

P.S. There’s been so much buzz about this movie I really wanted to attend premier night but with  Calgary’s freezing -30 weather and rampant flu season affecting so many including me I had to wait (BTW thanks Ben and Michael for the extra theater popcorn – is there anything better!). Getting back to the premise of this movie, namely helping those sentenced to death unfairly; given that my son is pursuing a career in human rights law, the OHF is trying to do its part and is proudly helping to free death-row inmate Magai Matiop Ngong in South Sudan. I am a firm believer in trying to right the wrongs of society and showing mercy for the meek. To help please donate to: amnesty.ca.

In Charlottesville Virginia at Miller’s Downtown (Winery/Pub) – a favorite haunt of the Dave Mathews Band where a young Dave bartended. Miller’s is located on the normally very friendly and peaceful pedestrian walkway where on August 12, 2017 a self proclaimed KKK member plowed his car into pedestrians/vehicles as anti-“Unite the Right” counter-protesters marched through downtown Charlottesville, injuring 28 and and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer – how awful.

Judy

This biographical drama (true story – my favorite kind to write about) depicts a segment of Judy Garland’s life in 1968 when she was penniless and desperate to make money. As a result, she chooses to perform at London’s Talk of the Town cabaret club (one of her last performances as she died 6 months later), in an effort to retain custody of her two under-aged children. The story touches on the tortured struggles Judy faced with drug abuse, body image issues, and celebrity to a degree via flashbacks and how such exploitative events negatively affected her later in life. Judy definitely made and owned her share of bad choices while taking her life’s journey somewhere over the rainbow down stardom’s yellow brick road. However, the underlying message of this film is not about the destructive effects of fame, it’s about a single mother’s love, especially at a time (late 60s) when pioneers of single-motherhood became more prevalent as women could decide to leave bad relationships if so desired. Devotion vs. Exoneration –”Perhaps one daytheyll understand all the sacrifices she gladly made out of love for them.”John Mark Green. Who needs a superhero when you have a mum! Right! But seriously, typically most mothers love their children, even the ineffective ones, so let’s remember to honor them accordingly for their efforts.

Directed by Rupert Goold, this screenplay written by Tom Edge and adapted from Peter Quilter’s stage play End of the Rainbow is beautifully acted by all, but Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland is exceptional and the lone star of this movie. Zellweger has already earned a Golden Globe for this role and is a shoe-in for the Oscar as well in the Best Actress Category. The movie sees Judy struggling with her notoriety and being a single mother who sadly states her normality but stresses that no one can see past her celebrity into the real person who like everyone else has desires and goals. On that point, single parenthood is fraught with demands, invariably due to dealing with additional challenges such as self-doubt, exhaustion, being overworked and overtaxed, having no one to turn to especially when making decisions, effectively managing anxiety and stress about the future, about money, about losing a sense of self. On top of that single parents need to overcome the fact that the image of family life they envisioned is different than a nuclear family arrangement, and co-parenting means sharing the children, which isn’t always ideal either. That said, it might be good to keep in mind that regardless of family structure mothers (and/or fathers) can’t take all the blame or all the credit for their children – so single parents need not worry so much. As Anne Frank stated, “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Whew! Thank god.

P.S. I know firsthand how daunting it is to be a single mother or rather a lone parent, but also how difficult it is to be raised by one since I was from age 3 onward. It’s a chore for both mothers and children who live in such arrangements but certainly very doable with great outcomes! Single parents can do a remarkable job on their own and children can thrive even if one parent is just good enough – not an all-star – just good enough. As renowned developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind suggested ‘good’ parenting balances ‘responsiveness’ and ‘demandingness’ – sometimes easier said than done. Also, thankfully science shows that females tend to have slightly higher levels of resilience overall, which is good since mums are still more likely to be the primary caregiver. One lucky break for us women (but kudos to all those single dads too – it’s equally tough for them if not more). Personally, I tried not to let being a single mum limit me or my kids in any way and the best way to do that is to totally ignore the critics. Clearly, they are not as busy as any single parent I know, especially if they have time to be smug and evaluate others. Just keep you head down and don’t give up – that’s my motto!

Two generations of single mothers breaking the mold and rocking it!

The Golden Globes

It was so entertaining to watch The Golden Globes – the first red carpet awards event of 2020, and I’m so glad some of my favored choices won, namely Joaquin Phoenix (Joker- Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama) and Taron Egerton, (Rocketman – Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy). The Golden Globes category and winners are in bold (of just motion pictures).

P.S. I always enjoy film awards season, and watching movie awards shows that honor the best in cinema and reward outstanding talent, especially when the awards jurors/committees/academy… agree with me, and my picks win! ha ha

Best Motion Picture — Drama

  • 1917
  • The Irishman
  • Joker
  • Marriage Story
  • The Two Popes

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama

  • Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
  • Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
  • Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
  • Charlize Theron, Bombshell
  • Renée Zellweger, Judy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama

  • Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari
  • Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
  • Adam Driver, Marriage Story
  • Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
  • Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy

  • Dolemite Is My Name
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Knives Out
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Rocketman

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy

  • Ana de Armas, Knives Out
  • Awkwafina, The Farewell
  • Cate Blanchett, Where’d You Go, Bernadette
  • Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart
  • Emma Thompson, Late Night

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy

  • Daniel Craig, Knives Out
  • Roman Griffin Davis, Jojo Rabbit
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Taron Egerton, Rocketman
  • Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

  • Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
  • Al Pacino, The Irishman
  • Joe Pesci, The Irishman
  • Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Original Score — Motion Picture

  • Little Women – Alexandre Desplat
  • Joker – Hildur Guðnadóttir
  • Marriage Story – Randy Newman
  • 1917 – Thomas Newman
  • Motherless Brooklyn – Daniel Pemberton

Best Director — Motion Picture

  • Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
  • Sam Mendes, 1917
  • Todd Phillips, Joker
  • Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
  • Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Original Song — Motion Picture

  • “Beautiful Ghosts,” Cats – Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber & Taylor Swift
  • “I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” Rocketman – Music by Elton John, Lyrics by Bernie Taupin
  • “Into the Unknown,” Frozen II – Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez
  • “Spirit,” The Lion King – Music and Lyrics by Timothy McKenzie, Ilya Salmanzadeh & Beyoncé
  • “Stand Up,” Harriet – Music and Lyrics by Joshuah Brian Campbell & Cynthia Erivo

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

  • Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
  • Annette Bening, The Report
  • Laura Dern, Marriage Story
  • Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
  • Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Best Motion Picture — Animated

  • Frozen II
  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  • The Lion King
  • Missing Link
  • Toy Story 4

Best Screenplay — Motion Picture

  • Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach
  • Parasite – Bong Joon-ho & Han Jin-won
  • The Two Popes – Anthony McCarten
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino
  • The Irishman – Steven Zaillian

Best Motion Picture — Foreign Language

  • The Farewell
  • Les Misérables
  • Pain and Glory
  • Parasite
In February 2017 Oje Hart captures the moment at his London flat when his visiting mum realizes that La La Land did not win the Oscar for Best Picture as erroneously announced – instead the Oscar went to Moonlight. BTW La La Land was my #1 Oscar pick and not just because Canadian actor Ryan Gosling was so incredible in this movie. But then again his soul-stirring passional glance/smile alone at the end of the film while sitting at the piano was truly epic and worth the win. I totally agree with Caroline Preece who stated, “It’s one of the most beautiful depictions of regret mixed with closure that I’ve ever seen on screen – one look a perfect distillation of what could have been, what was, and what is able to be now because of it.”