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The new normal - Changes are coming in the film industry

Changes are coming in the film industry in the new normal

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Changes are coming in the film industry in the new normal

A dramatically altered new normal is coming to the film business – in how and who makes the films and how and why we will watch them. No one can say with certainty today what the future will look like, but it is now apparent it will never be what it was.

You might think this is because of the seismic shift that the global pandemic has forced into our daily lives, including in our cultural pursuits. True enough, but the seeds of change were already sown in film before COVID-19 started its deadly spread, prompting most countries to slam on the brakes and shutter public venues, including movie theatres.

The grip of the legendary Hollywood studios was already loosening. Just look at how streaming services – notably Netflix – had challenged the studios and started beating them at their own game by buying indie films outright or creating originals.

Oscar-nominated Yalitza Aparicio plays a nanny who shows her transformational love for her harsh employer's children in Roma.
Oscar-nominated Yalitza Aparicio plays a nanny who shows her transformational love for her harsh employer’s children in Roma.

The titles include some of the most exciting films of the 21st century. With Netflix, the list is already impressive: Beasts of No Nation (2015), starring Idris Elba; Tallulah (2016), starring Ellen Page; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), an eccentric Coen Brothers creation; Roma (2018), Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron’s family masterpiece; Dolemite is My Name (2019), featuring Eddie Murphy in a renaissance performance; and The Irishman (2019), Martin Scorsese’s riveting gangster epic starring a mafia of his old actor pals.

Netflix’s singular success even obliged the Academy Awards to change its eligibility rules to accommodate films such as Roma and The Irishman, after the racially charged embarrassment of denying Beasts of No Nation.

Meanwhile, commercial theatres were already feeling the pinch. Canada’s largest exhibitor, Cineplex, negotiated a lucrative buyout by Britain’s Cineworld. When the pandemic hit, the deal soured. Both companies are now suing one another. Cineplex is in a crisis. Expect some cinemas to close permanently.

Cineplex, and other world distributors such as Cineworld, will survive only by booking Hollywood’s flow of family animations and youth-friendly blockbusters fueled by comic book heroes. That is a limited niche, despite the billions generated so far. The wave will pass.

The truth is that more and more adult film fans, who are already exploring the joys and convenience of streaming, will stay put at home, finding what they want online.

Film festivals are also damned, on a certain level. The excitement had already been draining from the elite festivals, including Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival. The giddy excitement I remember from TIFF’s 1976 launch as the Festival of Festivals disappeared a decade ago. Ditto for Cannes. The allure of discovery was dulled by corporate commercial branding.

Then COVID-19 derailed Cannes altogether in 2020, along with dozens of other festivals. Toronto will proceed, but only as a shadow memory this September. It is a gut-wrenching spectacle.

The future? The music business underwent a total tear-down transformation in this century, not always for the better. Now it is time for even more significant changes in film. And, if that makes stunning films such as Roma more accessible and celebrated, it could be a good thing.

Bruce Kirkland‘s career spans more than four decades, working for The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Journal and finally, as the senior film critic, for 36 years at The Toronto Sun.

bruce.kirkland@hotmail.com


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La Mansion Prince Painted Purple Is For Sale!

La mansion Prince painted purple is for sale!

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La mansion Prince painted purple is for sale!

It may have been the most infamous house-painting job in Los Angeles history in 2005 when mega-rocker-star Prince painted NBA-star Carlos Boozer’s Beverly Hills home in purple stripes. New to the market, the home just as elegant as when Prince and Elizabeth Taylor lived there decades before, is now for sale priced at $29.995 million.

When Alaskan-native Boozer signed with the Utah Jazz in 2004 for big money, he wanted a home in the sun and bought a stunning Southern California tennis estate, decorating it with the best expensive furnishings. Almost as good as his new home, his music idol, Prince, offered him $95,000 per month for a one-year lease and soon moved in. A couple of months later when Boozer was back in LA, he discovered that Prince had changed almost everything about his house. His beautiful furnishings were gone and replaced by black-and-purple everything. The weight room was now a disco dance floor with a DJ booth and his bedrooms converted to a hair salon and massage parlor. Boozer called “foul” and threatened to sue but Prince soon returned everything back to the way it was when he first rented the home. The two became best friends up until Prince’s death in 2016.

Today, the mansion is on an estate comprising the main house of approximately 15,101 square feet and an English Tudor home of 3,300 square feet, along with two extra parcels of land making up the total compound of 2.15 acres. The palatial main house has 10 bedrooms, 13 baths, a ballroom, wine room, large terraces for entertaining with views of city and ocean, a rooftop tennis court, and a pool with stone grotto reminiscent of the Playboy Mansion. Built in 1953 at the cusp between Old Hollywood and the new, it is a home that was designed for entertaining and saw many a grand party over the years, including a few Prince concerts for his friends.

Now seeking its next new owner, one of L.A.’s most significant homes and former residence of Prince and Elizabeth Taylor, is for sale at $29.995 million, or for lease of the main mansion at $80,000 per month. Brokered by the Oppenheim Group in West Hollywood, its leader Jason Oppenheim and bevy of starlet real estate agents are seen on the Netflix series Selling Sunset.

Photo credit: The Oppenheim Group


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Watch renovation themed shows on Netflix – White Gold and Tin Men

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Watch renovation themed shows on Netflix – White Gold and Tin Men

White Gold is golden

First off, this BBC Two series now airing on Netflix is definitely NSFW (not safe for work), but if you’re looking for a funny, raunchy, industry related show to binge watch, White Gold could be for you.

Set in a small English town east of London in the mid-1980s, the white gold in the title refers to the framing material for vinyl windows, and the plot revolves around the shady – and sometimes revolting – dealings of a group of salesman who will do just about anything to close a deal.

Be warned, there’s lots of sex, drugs, and 80s rock-and-roll, but if you’re okay with that, there’s plenty of British wit and laugh-out-loud scenes. There are two seasons of six episodes each currently airing on Netflix.

Tin Men

Looking for something a little less raunchy – but still profanity-laced – that also takes a comical look at the sleazy side of home renovation salespeople? Then consider Tin Men.

This dark 1987 comedy stars much younger versions of Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito playing aluminum siding salesmen in 1960s Baltimore. The two work for rival siding companies and will do anything – legal or otherwise – to close the deal. And, of course, win the girl (played by Barbara Hershey). For a snippet, check out this profanity laced clip.

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ROMA - An elegiac cinematic poem

ROMA – An elegiac cinematic poem

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ROMA – An elegiac cinematic poem

As I write this, Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma has been acclaimed to a remarkable level with 10 Oscar nominations, and another 140-plus citations from critics’ circles and awards organizations world-wide.

By the time you read this, Roma will have churned through its awards season. At centre stage are the Oscars on February 24th. Roma is expected to compete with the other film tied for the nominations lead: Greek-born Yorgos Lanthimos’ wildly operatic The Favourite – an 18th century British history lesson.

No two films among Oscar’s eight best picture nominees could be more dissimilar. Their stories are radically polarized. The Favourite rips into the rich tapestry of the inept reign of Queen Anne, circa 1702 to 1714. Roma weaves a quotidian tale of a middle-class family, focusing on the clan’s indigenous nanny, in Mexico City, circa 1971.

The contrast between the two films is true for tone, mood, pace, attitude, impact, subtext, raison d’etre, socio-political acumen, stark images, and the way each director handles emotional highs/lows. Yet, both are great films.

For me, though, Roma is the stunning and timeless masterpiece, while The Favourite is a bawdy entertainment that might soon be forgotten.

Cuarón is already a double Oscar-winner for directing and editing his space drama Gravity (2013). Hurrah, but what happens (or has happened) to Roma at this year’s Academy Awards will not change its place in cinematic history as an elegiac cinematic poem. Roma is already an outlier. First, because it was produced by, and shown on, Netflix, instead of by a Hollywood studio and screened in theatres. Second, because Cuarón photographed it in lambent black-and-white, instead of lurid colour. Third, because his Spanish-language story is an intimate journey through personal memory, not a familiar English-language drama with a constructed plot.

Cuarón dedicates Roma to Lido, his own nanny of indigenous heritage. Lido raised Alfonso and his siblings from infancy. He calls her, “a second mother to us all.”

Lido is “fictionalized” as Cleo in Roma, yet feels real and authentic. She is played in her acting debut by Oscar-nominated Mexican educator Yalitza Aparicio. Her naturalistic performance is as shattering as it is understated.

Cleo works alongside Adela (also played by an indigenous newcomer, Nancy Garcia Garcia). They serve a chaotic family headed by Senora Sofia (Oscar-nominated Marina de Tavira). The husband is a lost cause. The four kids are a crazy handful. Granny is doddering. Roma charts a year of personal upheavals in their collective lives. Daily events are vividly set against the maelstrom of Mexico City earthquakes, student protests, fascist uprisings, state-sanctioned murders, government corruption and brutal oppression of indigenous people.

Yet Roma is always lyrical at its heart, if unsentimental. Much more is communicated by image than dialogue. The film’s micro scale is sometimes joyous, sometimes heart-breaking, while Cuarón subtly transcends obvious class differences. Ultimately, beautifully, the tendrils of love stretch across the class divide. Roma is a life force.

Bruce Kirkland‘s career spans more than four decades, working as a film critic for The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Journal and for 36 years at The Toronto Sun.

A life-long film buff, Bruce now shares his passion and insight with Active Life readers.

bruce.kirkland@hotmail.com


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