“The Women’s Balcony” is directed by Emil Ben Shimon, written by Shlomit Nehama and stars Avraham Aviv Alush, Yafit Asulin, Orna Banal and others.

I saw this movie in Hebrew with English subtitles.

Before offering my opinion, I’d like to take a few steps back in this one. This spring, one of my dear friends fulfilled her life-long dream of publishing a book, when she came to Toronto for her book launch event I had the opportunity to have dinner with her, another friend and her publisher. During conversation, the publisher revealed that a few places she tried to sell the book, she was met with push-back, one book-seller saying that a memoir of a bisexual, polyamourous women would not find readers at that bookstore as people were “not interested”.

Putting aside affection for my friend, this confused me. I don’t need or want only stories about me and my experience to be the subject of art. I don’t read autobiographies to find out about people who are like me, I read them to find out about people who aren’t like me. I don’t watch movies to strictly enforce my work view, I watch them to expand and challenge my world view. I like art that entertains but I also like art that confronts and challenges. 

I am not clear if I am unique in this.

So, I went to see this movie, not because I’m Jewish, I went because I have little insight into what being Jewish means and wanted to see a movie that expanded my understanding of the world and others and hopefully entertained me in the process.

I’m going to review this movie and if I explain a little too much about things I didn’t understand, I hope you will understand this is my way of processing that which is new to me and  not as a way of judging or belittling anyone’s experience. 

I hope that my review is respectful of both the film and the culture.

I’m not saying now because this film is Jewish and set in Israel, I’m saying it only because this issue is on my mind.

So.

For a deceptively simple plot, this movie took on some complex ideas. The plot is the women’s balcony in a synagogue collapses which leads to an injury, the decline of the mental health of the rabbi and leaves the congregants effectively leaderless. A simple if act of kindness leads to the split in congrants along gender lines and the question what to live a life of faith means – it is following rules or being practical and loving about the embodiment of those rules.

It was surpassingly funny, with engaging characters and charismatic actors. The characters all had a strong sense of purpose and it was good to see how they often struggled with their words and actions, these are people who are trying and sometimes fail and them try again, 

One of the elements I most enjoyed was that every character – regardless of action or belief – was written and protrayed respectfully, there were no easy choices here and there was a lack of sense of malice, the character we see pushing a fundamentalist view does so gently and so subtlely that it was hard to track how a suggestion of women wearing a head scarf becomes breaking the law later.

Every character was loving written and acted and I loved that every character got a few laugh lines – it wasn’t toll in th aisles funny, but it was clever and witty and charming.

Just before I saw this movie, I read a review that explained that the tension between the men and women are something akin to Lystistrata-like tensions, I disagree, the film was neither bodily nor bosterious but masterfully subtle and sublimated (nice touch on the tasty fruit salad).

The relationships between the married couples was very nice and believeabke too – the characters truly loved and like each other and there was kindness even in the disagreements.

So that’s the bones of it, 

The meat is, of course, more difficult, 

What is religious fundamentalism? What is religious liberalism? In a situation where men seek control over the behaviour and bodies of women, what does it mean when women put pressure on other women to marry? How is faith best embodied – following rules or being practical and loving? Are fundamentalists incapable of small kindnesses? Is God impersonal or personal? Do we need a personal relationship which God to live a life of faith?

I’m not sure that this film answered any of these questions but it asked them.

I was also unclear about the setting – in Canada, I’ve never heard of a gender-segregated synagogue. Although I have heard of women wearing headsp coverings as a form of religious modesty and I wasn’t sure how the liberalism of not wearing a head covering was contrasted to the the gender segregation. The film refused to confront the overall problem of Israel and I think this was an excellent, decision, but I’m not sure that we can just ignore in art that which we don’t know how to confront or find inconvenient (yes, I am looking at you Sophia Coppola).

The simplicity, charm and humour of this film belied its deeper questions and problems. For that, I have to say it was very well done.

Not sure where you will be able to see this one, you may have to check the film’s website.

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Kong: Skull Island is directed but Jordan Vogt-Roberts, screenplay by Dan Gildroy, Max Borenstie and Derek Connolly, story by John Gatins, based on the character created by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. Kong stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson. 

 This movie expecting a fun, destructive good time. I was unprepared and very surprised at the anti-war, anti-colonial allegory and it came as a welcome surprise. The writing, acting and production worked together to ensue neither of these messages was heavy handed, so, if it doesn suit you, you can safely ignore. I like when my mindless entertainment is expectedly elevated so I was happy to embrace these messages.

The pacing was a bit rushed in this – with any “monster movie” you expect that many of the characters won’t make it to the end, so it’s crucial to pace so the audience has time to care about the characters so, when they do die, it matters to us. This film was very eager to rush through character building and many of the characters lacked any moments where you’d care about them enough so their deaths mattered.

Setting the movie just after the Viet Nam war was an interesting choice – the pride of USA is hurting, while Cold War tensions are mounting. I suspect one of the reasons we are seeing so many movies set in the past is that it is uninteresting to watch people stare a their phones and send text messages. Watching characters interact with one another is interesting.

For the most part, that casting was solid, although Tom Hiddleston is woefully miscast as an “Indiana Jones type”, he lacks the gravity and weight to be believable as a tracker or fighter, at one point in the film the characters are given a choice between following a course of action he suggests and a course of action Samuel L. Jackson suggests – it’s simply not believable anyone would follow over Jackson. Brie Larson too is miscast – she is extremely talented but I don’t buy her as a photojournalist and the there is little chemistry between the romantic leads. This is, in large part, to make up, hair and props. As a chick my day to day like requires a purses. A day trip requires a backpack that includes some water and my camera and phone charger. When I’m going on a day hike, it’s my backpack with some gear, including water and bug repellent, a change of socks,  a rain shell and my hair is tied up. None of the characters aside from the soldiers bring any sort of gear win them and both female characters wear their down, even though they travelling by helicopter. Hiddleston’s character doesn’t even bring along a machete for the brush!

Is the audience really this willing to disbelieve?

Cuz let me tell you, I was annoyed at the movie for this but I was livid when they mentioned the Hollow Earth Theory. Like. What if there are people out there (and there are) who are going to take this as proof or another reason why it must be true? Also, if you are going to tell me that no animals were harmed in the making of this film, shouldn’t you also tell me that that Hollow Earth Theory is a disproven idea and totally fictional. Quit making up your own science!

The fight sequences were too fast so it was difficult to get traction during them and, once again, too many tight shots which meant the over all choreography of many sequences was difficult to discern. I didn’t see this in 3D and I can’t imagine that it translated into 3D.

Some of the casting was very effective – Samuel L. Jackson always brings to this roles a sense of seriousness and likability, even when the character isn’t very likeable and you know you should be rooting for someone else. And John C. Reilly, who brings that sense of fun and reminds us that we are watching a monster movie and should be having a good time, Reilly also serves as the conscience and heart of the story which is a wise choice as the other characters aren’t particularly likeable.

I enjoyed the movie, it looks like they are starting off a franchise of these classic monster movies, so I’m hoping that they only get better from here. Unless you are a fan of monster movies, you can probably skip this one.  If you are a fan of these classic flicks then you’ll have some good nostalgia.

Lucky me!

A dear friend was in the area and invited me to be her guest to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit!

Well laid out floor plan and information made this exhibit a delight to attend. The information was informative and direct and the short film was concise and well done. 

The Freudian analysis of O’Keeffe’s work was addressed directly, without being overbearing, tracing it from the origins to her reaction and disavowal of such a reading. For me, I liked the reminded that Freudian analysis and readings aren’t always appropriate or true.

The exhibit was laid out in a good, accessible formations. Sigh lines were mostly clear and it was possible to get very close to the works. 

One of the things I enjoyed most about the exhibit was the opportunity to see more of O’Keefe’s abstract works, I’m much more familiar with her works featuring concrete figures that have abstract elements. 

This exhibit was interesting and enjoyable and I highly suggest seeing it.

 

Arg! Plane left at 11:50pm and we arrived in Trinidad around 5am or so.

The airport is blissfully air conditioned but I’m grumpy, read an excellent book on the flight down (shameful secret – loving Brother Cadfael mysteries) and didn’t sleep at all!

Dad putters and keeps telling me incorrect information “go find the bags, I’ll meet you there”, “where were you, I was waiting at Duty Free”, “why didn’t you bring the bags?” (I showed dad my two – count them! – hands)

Ummm?

Get Duty Free, the bags I’ve already set aside so we grab them and do the immigration and customs things.

The we leave the AC.

I begin a slow, grumpy melt. Dad’s friend isn’t anywhere to be found. Ack!

Oh wait! We find him. He has left the car parked so we have to wait for him to got get the car and come back.

We wait.

I’m melting.

We wait.

I’m seriously melting.

We wait.

I’m tired, my back hurts and I’m melting!

This is the worst thing ever and I was stupid to think I would be ok and visiting Trinidad is just as horrid as I remember it.

I promise myself never again!

Never. Again. 

The friend comes back and we pile our stuff and ourselves into the car.

The car is freezing with AC turned up to full.

I’m freezing.

I’m not sure how it or if it’s possible to freeze and melt in an overlapping way, but I’m doing it!

Yikes!

We drive almost an hour, against traffic – up and down, around traffic circles, on the wrong side of the road (it feels so wrong, driver’s side is also on the wrong side!) – until we are at my grandparents’ place. 

It’s mostly the same.

Except.

There are now two dogs that are attacking me!

I say “attacking”. 

They are jumping on me, yapping, yipping, generally being excitable. We all know they aren’t ting to cause harm or hurt me. They are trying to love me.

Is there any greater hell for a cat person to be beloved by dogs?

It happens everywhere. It’s like. The dogs know and are trying to convince me – like somehow, if they try hard enough, if they are enthusiastic enough, I will suddenly think “Dogs, eh? Well, what do you know! You really are better than cats!”

I’m done.

I’m so done.

I take refuge in the room with the AC and tell dad and Doll (my grandma’s and then my mum’s helper, truly a member of the family now) and the dogs I’m going to have a nap.

I sleep until it’s time for a late dinner.

So, what’s with Ethan Hawke doing all these interesting little films lately? It’s really refreshing that he is in full-force and using his talents to bring attention to projects.

Like this biopic of Canadian “folk” artist Maude Lewis.

“Maudie” is written by Sherry White, directed by Ailslish and, along with Ethan Hawke, stars Sally Hawkins (as Maude) and Kari Machette.

I need to disclose a couple of things – first, I know Maude Lewis through her art and stories about her, Maude Lewis is a source of great pride in Eastern Canada and her story is well known to art-loving Canadians. That said, I believe everyone should know a bit about Maude Lewis as I think her her artistic vision is unique and in order to fully understand art, we need all kinds of voices.

If I didn’t know Lewis’s art and story previously, the way this film was marketed would have been deceiving, the trailer I saw seemed to think this was a reluctant love story between Maude Lewis and the man she first worked for, then married. I was shocked because the way I had heard her story was that her husband was a cruel and abusive man and she left him a few times due to his treatment of her. I was ready to question this film based on this characterizing her story as a story of her husband growing to love her rather than a story about her development and success as an artist. Like. When the story of a famous artist is usual made into a movie, the movie focuses on their life, their vision and their – not usually the story of their relationship. (Except in cases where an exploration is the story as in “Surving Piacasso”.)

Happily the love story I was dreading didn’t materialize.

Maude’s artist notierity was the focus of the film, the relationship being treated with importance but not as the central story. The abuse in the relationship was treated seriously but with a light touch, it didn’t dominate the film or interactions but gave enough for us to understand.

Some lovely cinematography but not overwhelming so, Maude Lewis’s physical world was actually quite small and the film managed to show this with seeming claustrophibic and the changing external set reflected Maude’s evolution.

Great film about an artist people should know more about, I absolutely suggest seeing this one.

Yeah, um. I know I aid I would never again visit Trinidad. I know I go on and on about how much I hate it there. I hate the heat, the humidity, the noise, the bugs, the lack of good showers. I know, I know, ok?

When dad got home from his yearly stay it was snowing – in three days we had snow, a snow storm and another snow storm.

So when I went to visit him and say “welcome home dad!” I found him quite sad and a bit depressed, really.

After listening to him moan and complain (dad is an unnatural complainer, usually everything is awesome) I asked him “Why did you come back so early? It’s. It’s still winter here!”

Dad explained (patiently) that he had some appointments to take care of – he walked me through day by day.

And you know what? 

He had two appointments then this four weeks gap.

So I said. “Dad, do your first two appointments and go back to Trinidad then come back for the next round. It’ll end way warmer when you get back.”

Dad said he would think about it.

The next time I saw him, dad casually said “oh, yeah I’m leaving on Tuesday.”

Me: What? Where are you going?

Dad: Trinidad.

Me: What? You just got back!

Dad: Well, I’m going back for three more weeks.

Me: wow. Well. Good for you!

Dad: Hey. You aren’t working, you should come with me.

Me: Me? Oh, well. Sure. Not for three weeks though! Just one.

So that’s exactly what we did.

I admit that the last time I was in Vancouver I was interested in heading over to Vancouver Island and seeing Victoria again – my memories of it are lovely.

I suggested this before I got out there – maybe an overnight trip? I quickly became irritated at the negotiating details, would we over night, would we rent a car, would we go Thursday or Friday?

I suggested texting was not the way to make plans and that we could sort things out when I got there.

My friend wanted to make his game night so suggested Friday, renting a car instead. We went by his workplace to check to see if he could get a rental discount.

Turned out he could! 

And he booked a car for us for Friday.

When he told me, I expressed surprised as I thought we were still considering. And discussing. And I did want to go but.

Look. Sometimes it’s hard being around people who have really different sleep schedules. Last time I was there I stayed elsewhere so I went to bed early and got up early. I stayed totally within my schedule. And my friend stayed within his. I would have breakfast, go for a walk or go see something then we’d meet up and have lunch and dinner together. I’d leave to make my ten pm bedtime and he stayed up.

This time staying at his place meant that I couldn’t roam too far. So I’d often sleep in and then go out for breakfast. It also meant that if we were going anywhere together his idea of an early start and my idea of an early start varied widely.

 Truly by the time the car was rented I had lost my desire to go and Friday didn’t seem to be a good idea – my flight home was Saturday morning and I was pretty tired from the week.

So. We went. 

The ferry ride was pretty cool and I got some ok pics I think. It was a bit rainy and windy and I was very tired – I visited with my author friend the night before and barely slept.

In Victoria we grabbed an excellent fish and chips lunch and then went up to the “castle”. It was pretty cool, there was a lot of stained glass.

After the tour we headed back to the ferry dock, plenty of time to spare.

The ferry was cancelled.

For the rest of the day. No ferries running. 

The first ferry would run the next morning and all the reserved spaces were sold out. So we could come back and wait in line after it was closed.

Ok.

Ok.

Actually. Not ok. Not even a bit. Cuz I really want to go home.

We decamped to Starbucks so I could charge my phone, get some tea and we could figure out next steps.

Things are easier to deal with when there is tea.

I can’t. I was very worried.

I tried and failed to switch my ticket to a later flight but everything was booked. Everything in my price range.

Evything I could afford.

I was panicking.

Nothing.

And my back hurt.

And I wanted to sleep in my own bed.

Left Starbucks to find somewhere to stay the night or dinner.

I asked some question about the ferry and, as the answer wasn’t fast enough, checked online. 

Oh!

Oh crap! One ferry running from Nainamo to West Vancouver.

Which meant.

Which meant!

Not sure.

 I wasn’t sure where I was, let alone where I was in relation to anything else.

We decide to try.

We tore off, following the map and ended up.

At a closed ferry dock!

A tiny closed ferry dock.

The problem with GPS. The problem with not reading directions first.

The drive was. Beautiful, I guess? My energy was mostly devoted to not losing my self-control. Why did he just go ahead and book the car without confirming with me first? Why didn’t he check the weather report? Why didn’t he listen when I said I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to go? Why does he keep touching my knee? Why doesn he put the radio on? Why doesn’t he drive faster? Why does he keep critizing other drivers? 

And why? Why, when we get there and find out there is room on the new ferry does he start asking about a refund for the tickets for the ferry that was cancelled rather than just buying tickets first and asking questions after that is dealt with?

Also. I really had to use the bathroom so that poor timing.

Argh.

ARGH!

I don’t have control issues but when someone assumes control I want them to take care of the details – like if we are going up the mountain, wear things that are sensible so we can walk around in the snow.

I try so hard to remind in control of my emotions but sometimes I just want to explode. 

I didn’t. But I’m really happy that I got home.

I was ready to come home.

Too much excitement!

So yesterday was my friend’s book launch! 

During the day we made it up to the Nitobe Memorial Garden on the UBC campus and this time we didn’t get lost! Got a pile of really good snaps and walked about and about, just enjoying it. Truly one of my fav places to be.

Then it was lunch – Swiss Chalet! So much fun and so comfortable, love comes in many forms.

We related a bit at “home” then it was time to get ready for the event!

We didn’t get lost going there and the space was beautiful. My friend (you know who you are) saw me at the doorway and came for a hug – thrilled that I would travel from Toronto to Vancouver to help celebrate, she even thanked me in her speech! Said I was one of the most brilliant people she has ever met, I blushed (on the inside).

Listened to excerpts of her book, ate food and drank wine. 

After the structured part we mingled! Reconnected with her partner that I didn’t recognize when I got there and then connected him with my friend – we all game so it was brilliant to be able to do. I left them to delve and plumb and I went over to meet my friend’s newest partner, the last time I was here they just met and I was encouraging my friend to go for it. They did! It was an excellent conversation and I’m so happy that I took that walk over.

I’m so proud and happy I could burst.

After the event I was still wide awake so my friend and I went to this totally nerd pub! It was amazing. They have this game that you roll and 20-sided die and get a random shot. My friend decided to play and got “Essence of Gelfling”. Of course this was inspiring so I asked if I could roll, not for a shot but just to hear another name – our waitress agreed, I rolled and – Snow Crash! I said it’s one of my fav books so I’d take the shot, please.

Closed the bar, like a couple of idiot friends who couldn’t stop talking and drinking beer. It was wonderful. 

Today. Today, who knows. Both stayed up too late and tonig my friend is gaming so I’m to visit my author friend. I’m ready.

Got over to the Classical Chinese Garden yesterday and jumped in on a tour.

It’s as beautiful as I recall and so happy to see they are doing some restoration work.

The tour informative and fun – at one point I was waiting to get a photo of a flower that had dropped on the ground. I waited until after the guide stopped speaking and made my move – too slow! Someone picked up the flower to smell it! What ever happened to not disrupting things we find in gardens that aren’t garbage?

It’s funny, being three hours behind most of my friends, woke at 530am and already had some messages waiting – people up and about before it’s even a thought for me.

Didn’t really get back to sleep but breathed deeply and relaxed until around 730am. Makes for a very Bex by nighttime but I love being up and about.

It’s funny though, negotiating schedules with someone (you know who you are) who runs almost opposite.  Like, I’m ready to sleep when he is still going strong and I’m ready to go whe to go when he is still sleeping. 

It’s good, I find it affords both of us needed alone time.

So, breakfast in Starbucks again and getting caught up with everyone back home. And telling them about all the beer my friend and I are drinking. 

Yesterday we walked and walked and ate and drank, what an excellent day!

Today – more of the same!