The Academy Award nominations made the big news this week. Everything Everywhere All At Once (fittingly with that name) got the most: 11.
To me a bigger story is the success James Cameron is having. Avatar 2 got four nominations and this week surpassed $2 billion in ticket sales. He is now responsible for three of the six highest grossing movies of all time. That's according to the news site, The Wrap.
Canadians are big in new films too this week, while a flimsy but entertaining time-waster starts us off.
Shotgun Wedding: 2 ½ stars
Infinity Pool: 3 ½
All That Breathes:: 4
Haiti Betrayed: 4
What people are reading
Love Charlie: 3 ½
Pamela A Love Story: 3
SHOTGUN WEDDING: Easy to take, warm and sunny, no depth at all. That pretty well sums up this comedy aimed at couch potatoes who don't want to be challenged, just distracted for a while. Jennifer Lopez stars and is listed as co-producer. Josh Duhamel plays opposite her while Ryan Reynolds who was originally to be in that role is now co-executive producer. Apparently it's taken a long time to get this film made. I don't know why. It's pretty straight forward.
JLo and Josh are a couple getting married. They hold the wedding in the Phillipines and bring along family and friends played by the likes of Jennifer Coolidge, Cheech Marin and Sônia Braga. Also there's Jlo's ex played by Lenny Kravitz and then a band of pirates who hi-jack the celebration. Reality this is not but after a lackluster start with weak jokes and superficial situations it turns surprisingly entertaining. Thank the actors; they're having a good time (Jlo proves adept with a live grenade) and the story twists out a surprise in why the pirates are there at all. No comparison though to Coolidge's hit series White Lotus. It's also a tropical vacation, but not at all as smart. (Prime Video) 2½ out of 5
INFINITY POOL: Brandon Cronenberg doesn't mind comparisons to his famous father, David, so I'll make them too. He's inherited quite a bit of the body horror of his dad's films but downplays it somewhat here. We do get a twisted tale about depravity and despotism in a foreign land. You could dream about this happening on a vacation trip and Brandon has said it was inspired by an all-inclusive package he took once and came to wonder what life was like outside the resort. He filmed in Croatia and Hungary and shows what he imagined.
ALL THAT BREATHES: There aren't many movies that take on climate change directly. So support this one. It's a mesmerising documentary, has won awards at Cannes and Sundance and is nominated for an Academy Award. It's from India about one of the results of the man-made crisis and the efforts of a pair of brothers to do something to help.
In Delhi the air is so smoggy that birds actually fall out of the sky. The brothers rescue the so-called Black Kites, fix their wings, feed and rehabilitate them. The director, Shaunak Sen, found them after he saw a bird fall, wondered what will happen to it and was directed to them. They run a small workshop where they take injured birds (as many as 28 at once in one scene) and care for them until they're ready to fly off again.
This is a very inspiring film. The brothers learned to care for wildlife from their mother when they were small boys. They struggle to get grants to keep going and during the course of the film (which took three-years to make) establish a wildlife rescue hospital. As the film says at the end, they can't abandon these birds because “Life is kinship. We're all a community of air.” The same can be said for what's going on around them. As Muslims they live in the poorest part of Delhi. There are demonstrations, riots and killings because of a discriminatory law the Indian government has passed. The two parallel situations make this a very rich film. Excellent cinematography too. (In a few theaters now; like the VIFF Centre in Vancouver, and on HBO—that's Crave in Canada—next month.) 4 out of 5
HAITI BETRAYED: If you're in or near Vancouver you can see a startling new documentary that'll make you question Canada's benevolent reputation in world affairs. Remember, Jean Chretien keeping us out of Iraq when the Americans asked us to go? Well, we didn't want to say no twice so we did join them, and France, in Haiti back in 2004. We were helping settle down a country in political turmoil, our government said.
LOVE, CHARLIE: THE RISE AND FALL OF CHEF CHARLIE TROTTER: Foodies may know the name but he was new to me. He's credited with making Chicago a centre of fine dining, a destination actually. As the film says guests flew in on private jets just to eat at one of his two restaurants. He elevated American cooking after studying how its done in France. He won a two-star Michelin rating and transformed food photography for cookbooks that he wrote. He wasn't much on TV like those other celebrity chefs but he was in the Julia Roberts movie My Best Friend's Wedding. He died at age 54. I didn't pick up exactly what his culinary innovations were but Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and others are in the film praising them, so I'll believe.
What does come through strongly in this film by Rebecca Halpern is his drive. He had a tough father and was determined to make him proud. His work ethic turned into an obsession, brought him into conflict with a protege chef, Grant Achatz, and also his staff. They sued him at one point. That makes this a universal story, a cautionary tale about pushing yourself so hard chasing your goal that it consumes you. (Available on VOD/Digital starting Tueday) 3 ½ out of 5
PAMELA, A LOVE STORY: The world's most downloaded blonde bombshell is back where she started, in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island, and as a headline in the New York Times said last Sunday, “Pamela Anderson is Doing Just Fine.” That's also the cheerful message she passes on in this sprightly documentary co-produced by her son Brandon and directed by Ryan White. And what a life it recounts. A dreamer as a young girl, seen on the Jumbotron at a football game, lured to pose for Playboy (more cover pictures than anyone else) drawn into acting, a world-wide icon for her role on the widely-seen TV show Baywatch. Running slow motion on the beach was her trademark.
She married six times, twice to one guy and once each to two rock stars. “She loves getting married,” Brandon says. Except the endings weren't pleasant. She filed for divorce from Tommy Lee alleging spousal and child abuse. He says he just pushed her. She admits she's “very dramatic.” The stories keep coming because Pamela is working to explain herself. As a child: “I would leave my body and float away. I would make my own little world.” With Tommy she felt “full on, heart to heart, explosive kind of love.” When their sex tape was stolen and went viral: “Everything blew up.” It's a fascinating life we hear about and see, maybe a bit self-serving because it's mostly her telling it. And only skin deep. No matter. (Starts on Netflix on Tuesday) 3 out of 5