The big film this week is definitely Dune Part 2 but here's a small note before we get to that.

Did you notice that of the films nominated for Best Picture by the Academy Awards this year three were directed by women? That's never happened before and maybe isn't just a one-time thing but a sign of progress. I mention that in this connection: if you're into that subject and are in or near Vancouver, there's an event you could take in.

It's now called GEMS (previously the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival) and brings you screenings, receptions and discussions about women in the industry. How to bring their numbers up equal to men. What are the hurdles to overcome? How have success stories happened? Some 37 films by women will be shown.

It runs March 5-9, 2024 at VIFF Centre and for more information check out

In a completely different field I'm noticing what Prime Video has just added to its streaming service today. Two Oscar nominees, Anatomy of a Fall and American Fiction and these films and sequels: four Robocops, three Back to the Futures and five Death Wishes. Binge watching anyone?

And now, back to this week's films:

DUNE Part 2: Unless you're really familiar with Frank Herbert's iconic novel, you'd do well to re-watch Part 1 before trying this. I did and found I was again really impressed by the world building on screen. It won Part 1 six Oscars for various crafts. But again, here in Part 2, the story is hard to follow because it is so complex.

Brief summary (very brief): a young man is out for revenge against an emperor who destroyed his family in conspiracy with a group of psychic witches called Bene Gesserit and invaders called Harkonnens. That all took place on the planet Arrakis, the only place where a spice is found that men take to improve their consciousness and thereby enable space travel. No wonder the planet is fought over.

Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Paul Atreides, played by Timothée Chalamet, is the young man. He's seen as a potential Messiah by a local leader played by Javier Bardem but is cautioned by the girlfriend he allies with (Zendaya) that when you talk about a Messiah people are willing to wait forever for him and that's a form of enslavement. It's the main theme in this story and relevant any time. This one is hundreds of years in the future when humans have migrated through outer space and live in something like a feudal system. The planet is mostly desert out of which giant sand worms appear and where water is in such short supply that it has to be recycled, even from dead people. One form, an elixir known as The Water of Life, gives women special psychic powers, especially when pregnant. The story is full of fantastical elements like that.

Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Stellan Skarsgård plays an evil baron; Austin Butler, who we recently saw as Elvis, plays a psychotic nephew who'll face Chalamet in a knife fight in a giant colliseum, Christopher Walken plays the emperor and Dave Bautista plays an enforcer. On the women's side, Florence Pugh plays the emperor's daughter and Rebecca Ferguson and Lea Seydoux are both in that ancient women's order, the Bene Gesserit. It's a great cast, many repeating from part 1, some new. Overall the film feels and looks like a grand epic, Lawrence of Arabia-style maybe, Kudos for that to Denis Villeneuve, the director from Quebec, who ends this on a cliff hanger and intends to make a third film from the sequel-novel, Dune Messiah. (In theaters) 3 ½ out of 5

500 DAYS IN THE WILD: This film is also an epic, the visual log of a long journey, taking us the entire length of the Trans Canada Trail. At 2,400 kilometers, from St. John's, Nfld. To Victoria, B.C., with a sidetrip to the Arctic, it's said to be the longest in the world and it took Dianne Whelan some 1,862 days to do it. She did it by foot, bicycle, canoe and snowshoe.over six years, presumably in sections. The trail is actually a number of trails linked together. They go over flatlands, mountains, across lakes and in one section require you to portage (i.e. carry your canoe) 168 times. There was also winter camping, fear of nearby bears and fighting off mosquitoes.

Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

A few times friends arrived and travelled with her. Most of the time she was alone, sort of. There were camera people along with her filming everything. She made some annoying mistakes too. One time she was lost and had to call by satellite phone to a friend in Winnipeg for help.

We get a great view though of the wilds of Canada in this film and for Whelan it was philosophical. She felt “the interconnections of all things” and the need to take care of the land that she learned from Indigenous people. “We used to live in a society,” she says. “Now we live in an economy.” One quibble: although she's from the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia she zips through the BC part of the trip way too fast. We see almost none of the spectacular scenery there, compared to other parts of the trip anyway. Still the film was the audience favorite at the Whistler Film Festival last fall. (In theaters now or next week in Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax and Montreal) 3 out of 5

ABOUT DRY GRASSES: Nuri Bilge Ceylan is surely the voice of the Anatolia region of Turkey. He's from there, his last film was Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, and this new one is also set there. It's hardly positive though; the central character is unlikeable and narcissistic. That's understandable; he's been stuck in a small village for four years doing mandatory service as a teacher. He calls it a hellhole and wants to get out and go to Istanbul. His world view is dreary. “Everybody's out to screw everybody else,” he says. He doesn't contribute; he's just selfish, he's told.

Courtesy of Sphere Films

Maybe it his demeanour, maybe it's how he treats a girl in his class like a teacher's pet, but somebody reports him to the school principal for “inappropriate conduct.” He's scolded but not told what it's about or who reported it. The bureacracy frustrates him. He takes it out with nastiness in class and worse, by deliberately breaking up a budding romance between a new teacher in the school and his best friend, also a teacher. For us it's a puzzle. Are these things connected? Is he at fault or just unpleasant enough to have us turn against him? We get clues only, but in a character study that'll have you engrossed. And probably debating. (In theaters: Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver now; Edmonton and Waterloo next week) 4 out of 5

WORK DIFFERENT: A major change that COVID brought to our lives involves work. Many people found they could do their work from home, rather than go into the office, Zoom meetings, document transfers and even just old-fashioned phone calls enabled it. So, now that people are being asked to come back to the office, what's best? That's the question that's considered, thoroughly and from several angles in this documentary by Julien Capraro, a former music reporter from France who has been in Vancouver for almost 20 years. Maybe it's that background that helped put a lively spin into this discussion.

Courtesy of the NFB

At the center is a former NASA engineer Jack Nilles in California. He originated the idea of telework and argues its benefits in terms of worker contentment, family life and other plusses. But he started with traffic and what can possibly be done about it. Keep cars off the road; don't make commuters drive to the office, work from home, he reasoned. It's logical and also a contribution to fighting what used to be called global warming. On the other side there's social isolation; you don't meet people, you're less likely to feel part of a team. New hires are less able to learn the corporate culture. You might feel lonely. Managers might suspect you're slacking off. “I need people where I can see them,” is their attutude, says Nilles. Other experts interviewed in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver say you'd probably be more productive and work longer. And you might be happier because there's nobody looking over your shoulder. It doesn't cover the gig economy or non-office jobs but is a very good and timely deliberation, available to watch for free on the National Film Board site, 4 out of 5