Friday, January 14, 2005

Movies watched in Canada

Sitting on the plane on the way back Tokyo. Again, economy class hell. Thought I will jot down notes of the movies I watched during my time in Canada. I am forgetting so much about the movies I watch these days, I had better get into the habit of writing them down.

Ararat

Directed by Atom Egoyan

A movie-within-a-movie.

In modern Toronto a group of Armenian-Canadians are making a documentary drama based on the 1915 Armenian massacre by the Turks. Various interpersonal conflicts among the cast members are portrayed, along with the emotions that inevitably rise up during such an exercise.

This movie did not try to preach or propagandize. Its objectives seemed to be rather to inform and to stimulate.

Much of the public is ignorant of the fact that there have been a number of genocides in the 20th century. While the Nazi Holocaust is given a great deal of attention (as it should be) other atrocities are in danger of being forgotten.

The other objective, to stimulate, was achieved by making people think about what it means to be victimizers and victimized. In one memorable scene, the Turkish-Canadian actor Ali (who is playing the part of a Turk in the movie) politely mentions to the young Armenian-Canadian main character Raffi that he was never taught that such awful things happened. There is a tense moment between Ali and Raffi. Ali says something to the effect that hey, this is Canada, our new country, nobody is going to round you up and kill you, let’s enjoy some champagne. Raffi doesn’t go for it. It is up to the viewer to decide who is correct in this case.

Intolerable Cruelty

Directed by Joel Coen

Black comedy in Coen brothers fashion starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones about a slick and successful pre-nup lawyer and a gold-digger who serially marries and divorces rich men and cleans up each time.

The Aviator

Directed by Martin Scorsese

I really liked the character of Howard Hughes.

He reminded of myself at work somewhat, trying to make neat stuff, being really picky about details, being vocal and hyper about it, but not really abusing or insulting anyone personally. So if we share this characteristic does this mean I will also be a billionaire?

While fighting against the forces trying to thwart his ambitions he also had to deal with an increasing set of quirks and eccentricities taking over his life. It was remarkable how he could put those away in situations that required him to be lucid and charming.

Ray

Directed by Taylor Hackford

A moving story of Ray Charles’ early struggles with blindness and racism, and his later struggles with heroin addiction.

Another great struggle for Charles was that with audiences and critics (boneheads all, then as now) for whom his crossover artistry was a bit too much to handle.

Charles was lucky to be born with a gift that allowed him to elevate himself out of circumstances that doubtless thousands of others who tried hard were unable to. While you are happy for him this movie also leaves you with a bitter sense of how unjust American society was at one time, and possibly still is in a less blatant way.