Dilettante's Diary

Nov 10/14

Who Do I Think I Am?
Index: Movies
Index: Writing
Index: Theatre
Index: Music
Index: Exhibitions
Artists' Blogs
Index: TV, Radio and Misc
MAY 27, 2024
Nov 3, 2023
Aug 2, 2023
July 4, 2023
Apr 21, 2023
Feb 10, 2023
Jan 24, 2023
Jan 11, 2023
Dec 2, 2022
July 26, 2022
July 4, 2022
June 2, 2022
March 25, 2022
March 11, 2022
Feb 14, 2022
Nov 19, 2021
Oct 2021
Sept 16, 2021
July 21, 2021
July 15, 2021
June 11, 2021
Apr 23, 2021
March 12, 2021
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Jan 5, 2021
December 2020
Autumn Mysteries 2020
Aug 12/20
May 25/20
Apr 30/20
March 12/20
Dec 6/19
Jan 29/20
Nov 10/19
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Aug 2/19
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June 16/17
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Jan 30/17
Dec 19/16
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Nov 20/16
Sept 17/2016
Aug 21/16
July 17/16
June 29/16
June 2/16
Apr 23/16
Feb 28/16
Feb 1/16
Jan 27/16
Winter Reading 2016
Dec 15/15
Nov 19/15
Fall Reading 2015
Oct 29/15
Sept 16/15
Sept 4/15
July 29, 2015
July 1, 2015
June 7/15
Summer Reading 2015
May 19/15
Apr 30/15
Apr 19/15
Spring Reading 2015
March 23/15
March 11/15
Winter Reading 2015
Feb 20/15
Feb 8/15
Jan 29/15
Jan 20/15
Highs 'N Lows of 2014
Dec 19/14
Dec 2/14
Nov 10/14
Oct 29/14
Fall Reading 2014
Sept 17/14
Summer Reading 2014
Aug 22/14
Aug 8/14
July 11/14
June 16/14
May 28/14
Apr 30/14
Apr 16/14
Apr 2/14
March 21, 2014
March 13/14
Feb 11/14
Sept 23/13
Favourite Works: 2004-2013
Two Novels by BARBARA PYM
Sabbath's Theater by PHILIP ROTH
July 18/13
Summer Reading 2013
June 19/13
May 30/13
Spring Reading 2013
May 10/13
Apr 18/13
Mar 29/13
March 14, 2013
The Artist Project 2013
Feb 25/13
Winter Reading 2013
Feb 7/13
Jan 22/13
Jan 12/13
A Toast to 2012
Dec 19/12
Dec 16/12
Dec 4/12
Fall Reading 2012
Nov 17/12
Nov 6/12
Art Toronto 2012
Oct 23/12
Oct 4/12
Sept 28/12
Summer Reading 2012
Aug 26/12
Aug 8/12
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2012
July 14/12
June 28/12
May 27/12
May 20/12
May 4/12
La Traviata: Met's Live HD Version
Apr 21/12
Apr 6/12
Mar 22/12
Mar 9/12
The Artist Project 2012
Academy Awards Show 2012
Feb 26/12
Feb 11/12
Jan 23/12
Jan 15/12
Jan 7/12
Dec 20/11
Dec 12/11
Nov 27/11
Nov 18/11
Nov 7/11
Art Toronto 2011
Oct 22/11
Oct 17/11
Sept 30, 2011
Summer Reading 2011
Aug 11/11
July 28, 2011
July 19/11
TOAE 2011
June 25/11
June 20/11
June 2/11
May 14/11
Apr 29/11
Toronto Art Expo 2011
Apr 11/11
March 24/11
The Artist Project 2011
March 11/11
Feb 23/11
Feb 7/11
Jan 21/11
Jan 17/11
Dec 21/10
Dec 6/10
Nov 11/10
Fall Reading 2010
Oct 22/10
Summer Reading 2010
Aug 9/10
Aug 2/10
TOAE 2010
July 16/10
The Shack
June 27/10
June 3/10
May 5/10
April 17/10
Mar 28/10
Mar 17/10
The Artist Project 2010
Toronto Art Expo 2010
Feb 22/10
Feb 3/10
Notables of '09
Jan 11/10
Dec 31/09
Dec 17/09
How Fiction Works
Nov 24/09
Sex for Saints
Nov 11/09
Oct 22/09
Oct 6/09
Sept 18/09
Aug 23/09
July 31/09
July 17/09
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2009
Toronto Fringe 2009
Zen Wrapped In Karma Dipped In Chocolate
June 28/09
June 6/09
Myriad Mysteries 2009
May 10/09
CBC Radio -- "The New Two"
April 14/09
March 24/09
Toronto Art Expo '09
March 1/09
The Jesus Sayings
Feb 8/09
Jan 26/09
Jan 10/09
Stand-outs of 2008
Dec 24/08
Dec 4/08
Nov 16/08
Oct 27/08
Oct 16/08
Sept 26/08
Sept 5/08
July 21/08
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 08
July 5/08
June 23/08
June 4/08
May 18/08
May 4/08
April 16/08
March 26/08
Head to Head
Feb 26/08
Feb 13/08
Jan 30/08
Jan 17/08
Notables of 2007
Dec 30/07
Dec 8/07
Nov 22/07
Oct 25/07
Oct 4/07
Sept 18/07
Aug 29/07
Aug 8/07
Summer Mysteries '07
July 20/07
June 28/07
June 8/07
May 21/07
May 2/07
April 14/07
March 23/07
Toronto Art Expo 2007
March 8/07
Feb 16/07
Feb 2/07
Jan 24/07
Notables of 2006
Dec 27/06
December 11/06
November 28/06
Nov 8/06
October 14/06
Sept 22/06
Ring Psycho (Wagner on CBC Radio)
Sept 6/06
August 12/06
July 18/06
June 27/06
June 9/06
May 23/06
Me In Manhattan
May 2/06
April 12/06
March 17/06
March 9/06
Feb 16/06
Feb 1/06
Jan 11/06
Dec 31/05
Dec 12/05
Nov 25/05
Nov 4/05
Oct 24/05
Sept 7/05
Sept 16/05
Sept 1/05
Aug 10/05
July 21/05
Me and the Jays
July 10/05
June 15/05
May 18/05
April 27/05
April 18/05
April 8/05
March 21/05
Feb 28/05
Feb 21/05
Feb 4/05
Jan 28/05
Jan 19/05
Jan 5/05
About Me
Dec 20/04
Dec 5/04
OTHER STUFF: Art Exhibitions, Concerts, etc.

The date that appears above is the date of the most recent reviews. As new reviews are added, the date will change accordingly. The new reviews will appear towards the top of the page and the older ones will move further down. When the page is closed, the items will be archived according to the final date on the page.

Reviewed here: The Good Lie (Movie); Pride (Movie)

The Good Lie (Movie) written by Margaret Nagle; directed by Philippe Falardeau; starring Reese Witherspoon, Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, Kuoth Wiel, Corey Stall, Joshua Mikel, Jimi Kocina

We start with a bit of recent history. Voice-overs and text on screen tell us a bit about the Sudan war in the 1990s. Not much of the political context is established, but maybe that’s appropriate, given that we’re focusing on the lives of some children to whom the politics might not be very relevant. All they know is that their village in the south of Sudan has been destroyed and their parents killed. A little band of about six kids sets out to walk to safety. First they head to Ethiopia; then they hear that Kenya is safer.

The next fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie give us the kids’ arduous trek across barren lands. We keep getting subtitles that tell us how many days and how many miles have passed. We see the escapees suffering through sickness, thirst, hunger, fatigue. One of them dies and is buried by the others; another is taken captive.

Through all of this, I was conscious not so much of the kids’ ordeal but of the toil of the filmmakers. I kept thinking of how they would have had to manage these children (not very good actors) to get brief snippets of usable film. You could almost hear the director: "Now I want you to look scared..." "Now you need to look tired....," "Try to sound really angry here...." All these directorial efforts pay off to the extent that the tale gets told in a stately, plodding way, with heart-rending closeups and panoramic shots of the searing beauty of the landscape, all accompanied, of course, by soulful music. Nothing spontaneous. Since the different personalities don’t emerge clearly, it’s hard to identify with them as individuals and to appreciate each one’s struggle accordingly.

Things pick up when we jump about ten years forward, to 2000. The four kids who survived the journey have become young adults while living in a refugee camp in Kenya. Word comes to them that their names are on a list for emigration to America. On arrival in Kansas City, there’s predictable humour about their bafflement when confronted with things like telephones and packaged food and women who support themselves without the help of a husband. All interesting, in a way. But where’s the dramatic hook? Are we just going to watch these guys settle in? Or are there any interactions among characters that are going to lead to anything? Any plot, in other words?

Well, there’s the problem about Abital (Kuoth Wiel), the young woman who accompanied the three men to the US from Kenya. She was sent to Boston, because no home in Kansas City was willing to take her. The men are allowed to live in an apartment together in Kansas City but it’s unthinkable to the locals that Abital be allowed to live with them. The men refer to her as their sister but it was never quite clear to me whether she was biologically a sibling of any of them. In any case, they very much want to have her with them. Will they be able to?

Also, there’s a bit of a problem when one of the men (Emmanuel Jal) begins to question his identity in the American scene. Part of this guy’s problem is that he’s discovering an attitude to life that’s so different from the one he learned back in his village. This new outlook on things is coming to him thanks to a couple of co-workers in a factory. These two guys (I think they’re Joshua Mikel and Jimi Kocina) give devastatingly accurate versions of a couple of not-very-bright-and-not-so-cultured average American dudes. They stand out as a couple of the most real people in the movie.

And then there are the problems with the employment counsellor who’s supposed to be finding jobs for the refugees. Reese Witherspoon serves up the character as a woman who’s feisty, efficient and brisk but not overflowing with the milk of human kindness. Because she doesn’t know much about the background of these guys, some conflicts arise between her and them. When she begins to care more about these clients of hers, there’s the risk of her performance tipping over into sentimentality, but it marks a high point of the movie when she does finally beam one huge, approving smile on them.

The other stand-out performance comes from Arnold Oceng as the young man who has been forced to take on the leadership of the little band of emigrs. The title of the movie comes from a scene in an American lit class where he learns about Huck Finn’s lie that was deemed a good lie because it saved the life of his friend Jim. I kept wondering what relevance this had to the developments in this movie but it turns out, eventually, to have bearing on a magnanimous act of altruism that comes as a complete surprise. Mr. Oceng handles this incident with the subtlety and nuance that help to make it very moving.

So you come away from the movie feeling that you’ve seen a good story. Also, you’ve learned something about life in a refugee camp. And there’s something satisfying about being informed, via the final credits, that many of the actors are actual refugees from Sudan. But, given that the movie doesn’t really engage you until about half way through, you can’t say that it’s a great one.


Pride (Movie) written by Stephen Beresford; directed by Matthew Warchus; starring Ben Schnetzer, George MacKay, Andrew Scott, Joseph Gilgun, Monica Dolan, Faye Marsay, Chris Overton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, Jessica Gunning, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy.

What a great concept for a movie: Group A, which is downtrodden and persecuted, decides to support Group B, which is also downtrodden and persecuted. Only trouble is, Group B is suspicious of Group A. If Group A proceeds with its kindly intentions, that will create one hell of a lot of conflict with Group B.

In this case, that great setup happens to be a true story. Group A consists of some gays and lesbians living in London. Given that this is the mid 1980's, they’re not exactly basking in public approval. They notice that the miners in Wales, struggling to sustain their strike against the indomitable force of Margaret Thatcher, are also suffering a lot of harassment. So the London group, under the leadership of Mark Ashton, a kind of social activist, decides to form a collective known by the acronym LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support Miners). They start collecting money, then find a village in Wales that needs help because of the strike. But the village is not exactly ready, to put it mildly, for help from these people.

If you’re looking for one of those perfectly constructed British comedies along the lines of Billy Elliot, this is it. Yes, the movie – like its predecessors – is contrived and manipulative. The lines between the good guys and the bad guys are clearly drawn. But it’s excellently done with great dialogue, entertaining characters, brilliant pacing and editing. In those respects, it’s very theatrical. People are always tossing off clever quips that you don’t get in real life and scenes are perfectly constructed. In other words, it’s by no means a movie of the Mumblecore genre. There’s lots of peppy music to keep things moving – although I’m sorry that we had to wait until about half way through for some glorious Welsh choral singing.

Of course, none of this would work without the top-notching British acting. As Mark, the leader of the LGSM’s, Ben Schnetzer struck me, at first, as rather an odd casting choice. There’s something babyishly pretty about his face; he doesn’t look like an activist. But he grows on you, and, in the end, you can’t doubt the sincerity of the character. Paddy Considine, as the union rep who first meets with the Londoners, gives a lovely portrayal of a man whose horizons may be limited but who is open to being understanding and accepting. Bill Nighy, looking older and more frail than I’ve seen him before, gives us a Welsh villager who seems to be struggling with some inner pain that makes him compassionate towards others. Faye Marsay does a rip-roaring job as a snarky lesbian who turns out to be one of the most loyal and trustworthy people in the movie. After Imelda Staunton’s perfect performance in Vera Drake, she seems to be over-acting the few other times I’ve seen her, but it could be that her gusto suits the character of the Welsh villager she’s portraying here.

In the midst of the politicking and bickering, there are more personal dramas going on. George MacKay plays a young Londoner who happens to be underage according to the British laws of the times (he’s not yet twenty-one). Trying to accept that he is gay, he has to hide his involvement in LGSM from his parents. Andrew Scott is intriguing as a forty-ish gay man who welcomes the LGSM’s to meet in his bookstore but there is sadness about him: he hasn’t been home to Wales for many years because his mother rejected him for being gay. And, this being the mid-1980's, there is the additional stress of the dawning awareness that AIDS is beginning to sweep through the gay community.

To me, one of the most interesting things about such a crowd-pleasing movie is that it takes for granted that we viewers today can accept gays with the open-heartedness and equanimity that were lacking in that Welsh village back in the 1980's. (If you have problems about the acceptability of homosexuality, this isn’t the movie for you.) In that sense, you could say that, although the miners eventually lost their fight, the gays won theirs.

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com