Dilettante's Diary

Feb 26/17

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
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Jan 11, 2023
Dec 2, 2022
July 26, 2022
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March 25, 2022
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Feb 14, 2022
Nov 19, 2021
Oct 2021
Sept 16, 2021
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Apr 23, 2021
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December 2020
Autumn Mysteries 2020
Aug 12/20
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March 12/20
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June 16/17
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Feb 26/17
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Sept 17/2016
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Feb 28/16
Feb 1/16
Jan 27/16
Winter Reading 2016
Dec 15/15
Nov 19/15
Fall Reading 2015
Oct 29/15
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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: La La Land (Movie); Toni Erdmann (Movie)

Toni Erdmann (Movie) written and directed by Maren Ade; starring Sandra Hller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl, Trystan Ptter, Ingrid Bisu, Hadewich Minis, Lucy Russell, Victoria Cocias, Alexandru Papadopol

A delivery man arrives at a door with a package and rings the bell. The door is opened by a guy who says that the package is for his brother who, as it happens, has just finished serving a prison sentence for sending mail parcel bombs. Then the guy who opened the door steps inside, coming back after a moment with a wig and a set of prosthetic teeth, pretending to be the brother. When ominous beeps are heard, the guy assures the delivery man that they’re not coming from the package but from his blood pressure monitor. You can’t blame the delivery man for being a bit disconcerted.

As are we, the audience members, on our introduction to Winfried. A German in late middle age, he turns out to be quite the jokester. The story that develops, in the context of his on-going pranks, is that he travels to Bucharest to visit his daughter, a business consultant who’s in the process of trying to close an important deal. Father/Daughter communication doesn’t go all that well – they love each other, apparently, but they’re not able to express affection or to be comfortable in each other’s company – so Winfried leaves Bucharest.

Or pretends to. Thereafter, in the guise of a kook named Toni Erdmann, he keeps popping up in various situations and bumping into his daughter. You might say he’s stalking her. Always with that ragged wig and those horrible teeth. He keeps embarrassing her and creating awkward situations, until she starts to play along, pretending to accept him for the enigmatic stranger he’s posing as. In one case, for example, he presents himself to a group of her acquaintances as the German Ambassador to Romania.

And so it goes, for nearly three hours. This is certainly one of the most original studies of the Father/Daughter relationship. A far cry from the works on that subject by Giuseppe Verdi and William Shakespeare. Here, nobody launches into any arias or engages in any profound dialogue that explores the issue of how fathers and daughters feel about each other. But we can accept the lack of eloquence as probably more real for many people these days than the classical dramas would be.

In spite of Toni’s being willing to look like a fool, there’s ultimately a sadness about him, a quality that goes with a lot of the great clowning roles.There’s no plot, other than that he seems to be trying to break through his daughter’s reserve. In a way, this strikes an achingly true note. We all know how difficult it can be sometimes for parents to connect in a meaningful way with their adult offspring. Peter Simonischek is affecting and poignant as the shambling dad and Sandra Hller deserves a special award for responding to all his provocations with a heroic attempt at sangfroid that, nevertheless, doesn’t deny an underlying loyalty.

A lot of people see this, in spite of the pervasive melancholy, as a hilarious comedy. I can’t help wondering if that sort of response is a way of congratulating themselves for liking something that’s so non-Hollywood. If it is a comedy, though, it’s definitely a one-joke movie. The dad’s antics go on and on, with no development or resolution. In that respect, the movie amounts to something of a shaggy dog story. We keep wondering when we’re going to get to the point, if there is one.

Apart from the father/daughter subject, the movie touches on other issues. Some bizarre sexual stuff appears to be thrown in for no reason other than to show that this aspect of life, just like the rest of it, is devoid of any purpose or reason. In its depiction of the daughter’s working world, the movie does offer some social commentary in the way it highlights the vapidity and the insincerity of the cocktail parties, the schmoozing, the presentations and team-building exercises. Sometimes, though, we’re drawn too deeply into the daughter’s business negotiations that can be difficult to follow. Is this, too, meant to make us realize that a person’s working life can be as shallow and irrelevant as everything else?

In the end, the movie does make a tiny bit of a statement, tosses out just a hint of meaning, but did it need to take so long to get that kernel of truth? Do you need to subject viewers to so much tediousness and meaninglessness in order to show how tedious and meaningless life is?


La La Land (Movie) written and directed by Damien Chazelle; starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

Here’s the opening scene of this movie:

A traffic jam on the freeway in Los Angeles. A long line of immobile cars. So what do all the frustrated drivers do? Why, of course, everybody gets out and starts singing and dancing on the hoods of their cars. And, by the way, they’re all under thirty, in excellent shape, and good looking.

Gimme a break!

How is a curmudgeonly geezer supposed to react to this???

Well, he could sit tight and learn that Hollywood has discovered that a good romance, lots of great choreography, catchy songs, colourful costumes, flair and pizzazz can make a movie that will entertain even a curmudgeonly geezer.

It helps, of course, if your two stars are oozing charm, as these two are (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone). And there’s great chemistry between them. Their first duet is one of those classic I-don’t-like-anything-about-you-and-I’m-not-attracted-to-you things. The movie hits several of the other touchtones for great musicals, most notably the climactic Climb-Every-Mountain aria, how you’ve got to follow your dream, fight the good fight and all that.

The plot is thinner than a strand of spaghetti. Sebastian (Mr. Gosling) wants to be a jazz pianist in the purist tradition but, for the sake of the money, he has taken a job with a hugely successful but schlocky band that does a sort of pop jazz. Meanwhile, Mia is getting fed up with humiliating auditions that aren’t getting her any closer to her hopes of an acting career, so she’s settling for a barista job. The big dramatic conflict that eventually comes is predictable and simplistic. Still, the stars make it gripping by throwing themselves into it with gusto. When Mr. Gosling yells at Ms. Stone for giving up on her dream, it makes you sit up straighter in your seat.

But the movie’s not about plot. It’s about glamour, fun and romance. What might be called surrealistic or magical touches – things that I dislike usually – enhance this movie’s appeal. When Mia and Sebastian visit a planetarium, they start dancing and, next thing you know, they’ve levitated and they’re cavorting – to wondrous effect – among the stars.

Whether or not this movie will win the Oscar for best film, I can’t say, but it deserves to win for no other reason than that it’s such a glorious example of the kind of thing Hollywood does best: escape entertainment. It deserves special credit for an ending that boosts the movie into a meaningful realm of art not often reached by the typical musical. It’s difficult to say much about that ending without spoiling it. Let’s just say it’s realistic and believable in a particularly contemporary way. One of the most memorable moments in the movies of recent years comes near the end of La La Land where Mr. Gosling leans into a microphone and purrs: "Welcome to Seb’s." He gives those three simple words enough irony and pathos to send you home reeling.

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com