Dilettante's Diary

Apr 23, 2021

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
Feb 13, 2021
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
Oct 24/19
Sept 30/19
Aug 2/19
June 22/19
May 26/19
Apr 22/19
Feb 23/19
Jan 15/19
Dec 20/18
Dec 3/18
Oct 3/18
Sept 9/18
Aug 9/18
July 19/18
June 2/18
May 14/18
Apr 23/18
Feb 22/18
Dec 13/17
Nov 22/17
Nov 3/17
Oct 5/17
Sept 21/17
Aug 3/17
June 16/17
Mar 21/17
Feb 26/17
Feb 9/17
Jan 30/17
Dec 19/16
Dec 11/16
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.

Reviewed here: Joker (Movie) and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Movie)

Joker (Movie) written by Tod Phillips and Scott Silver; directed by Tod Phillips; starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Nero, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beets and Brett Cullen

One thing about not seeing movies until long after they’ve come out: you forget most of what you’ve heard about them, and what you do remember tends to be a bit vague and confused. That leaves you pretty much free to form your own impressions. What I do remember hearing about this one is that some thought it was objectionable, far too sinister to be endured, and others found it a worthy work of art.

I don’t ordinarily enjoy movies with a central character who’s mentally deranged. On the one hand, I find it too easy for an actor to play weird; I’m more interested in seeing an actor deploy the nuanced skill of presenting a more ordinary person to the camera. Also, a story about a deranged person can offer a spectacle that may be amazing to watch, but it sometimes doesn’t provide any insight into the kinds of lives the rest of us live.

What makes Joker work for me, however, is that you have a superb actor at the centre of it. True, the central character, Arthur Fleck is mentally disturbed, but, as played by Joaquin Phoenix, he is endlessly fascinating. You’re never quite sure what is going on with this guy. How disturbed is he? Is he actually quite perceptive? There’s that special light in his eye that always makes you think there might be more going with this guy than it seems on the surface. You’re constantly wondering: Could this near-wreck of a human being be saved? Couldn’t somebody speak up for him?

The story, set in 1981, is that Arthur is a man who has a difficult life; the wrongs and injustices keep piling up until he can’t stand it any more and he flips out, leading to a lot of violence. He had a difficult childhood, never knowing who his father was; he was apparently abused as a kid. Now, he lives with his elderly mother (Frances Conroy) in their cluttered, dingy apartment and attempts to take care of her as well as he can. He works as a clown, doing advertising gigs in the street, where he’s subject to a lot of ridicule and outright assault. He’s on a lot of prescribed drugs and he visits regularly with a social worker who tries, in a somewhat detached, bureaucratic and ineffectual way, to help him.

I’ve learned – belatedly – that the movie is based on characters from DC Comics and that it’s intended to give a back story for the character of the Joker, who has been Batman’s nemesis through many installments. That background could explain some of the garish elements of the movie. Sometimes, for instance, it’s hard to tell whether what’s happening is a delusion of Arthur’s or an event in real life. Some of the interaction with a tv talk show host (Robert De Niro) would seem highly improbable in real life but not at all out of context in a comic book. Would the comic book context give fans of that genre a bigger bang for their buck? Maybe. But I’m glad to have appreciated the movie without knowing anything about all that schlock.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Movie) written and directed by Quentin Tarantino; starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margo Robbie, Margaret Qualley, Dakota Fanning and Al Pacino.

It’s the late 1960s. Leondardo di Capprio is playing Rick Dalton, an actor who’s made a name for himself as the hero of a tv cowboy series. Rick’s career is on a downturn now and he’s trying to make a comeback in movies. Unfortunately, the studios are only offering him “bad guy” roles. Brad Pitt plays Cliff Booth who works as Rick stunt double and also happens to function as his chauffeur, Rick having lost his driving licence for some reason or other. Rick sometimes has trouble getting movie work for Cliff given Cliff’s somewhat unsavoury past. (Word is that he killed his wife and got away with it.)

The relationship between these two guys is intriguing. There’s a bond between them that can’t be broken. When Rick finally decides that he can’t afford to employ Cliff any longer, how do they mark the divergence of their paths? They go out and get drunk together, celebrating the history they’ve had with each other.

There are special pleasures to this movie for anybody who enjoys the fuss on the periphery of show business. At a Playboy Mansion party, a character identified as Steve McQueen points out who’s who and who is sleeping with whom. On set, Bruce Lee gets a comeuppance in response to his showing off. Al Pancio makes a surprisingly low-profile appearance as an agent trying to hustle work for Rick Dalton. We see Rick trying to learn his lines to a tape recording that gives him the cues, berating himself when he flubs them. We see the jublilation when his improvisation on set sparks the congratulations of the director and the crew. One particularly moving scene takes place when a precocious eight-year-old actress comforts Rick when he’s feeling blue during a break in shooting.

A nice touch of the actor’s narcissism comes in a scene where a director is describing the elaborate costuming and makeup that he wants for Rick Dalton. The actor: how will people know it’s me? The director: that’s the point, you’re supposed to be a different character! Does it matter that Mr. DiCapprio never quite looks the part of the desperado that Rick Dalton is supposed to be playing? Not really, maybe that’s the point. There’s always something of the nice guy lurking inside him.

And does it matter that Brad Pitt seems too charismatic to be a loser like Cliff? Not really. He’s interesting to watch, that’s all that matters. One of his best scenes is when a suspiciously young hitch-hiker (Margaret Qualley) tries to persuade him that she’s old enough to have sex with him. With undiminished charm, he informs her that he’s seen enough of the inside of prisons and he’s not prepared for a return visit because of her.

So far so good, as far as story goes.

But, this being a Quentin Tarantino movie, things are not straightforward in narrative terms. There’s a fragmentary quality to the movie. At one point well into the movie, a voice-over narrator whom we never heard before pipes up. We keep seeing characters who don’t seem to have anything to do with Rick and Cliff. Who are these people and what are they doing here?

Gradually, we realize that Mr. Tarantino is homing in on a historical event that took place in the late 1960s. For American viewers this connection might be obvious from the start. On the other hand, if you’ve read anything about this movie, you probably know what’s in store. But it’s not up to us here at Dilettante’s Diary to spoil the suspense. If you knew from the start where the moving was heading, it would lose some of its mystery.

I think we do have to reveal, though, that the movie doesn’t end quite the way you’re expecting. It’s one of those “What If?” movies. What if the historical thing that happened actually did not happen? Some people might not see the point of playing such games with history. But I feel there’s a tremendous significance to this “thought experiment.” It helps to emphasize the enormity of what did happen, it makes you feel the consequences of it all the more keenly, it makes you dream of how life might have been ...if only ....

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com