Not Forgotten. Movies Reviewed: The Face of Love, Advanced Style, The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz PLUS Hot Docs
Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.
Things change, people die, time passes… But some things – and some people – are not easily forgotten. This week I’m looking at three movies about people who should be remembered.
There’s a romantic drama about a widow who can’t forget her husband; and I’m looking at two films coming to Hot Docs – Toronto‘s International Documentary Film Festival. One’s about a young man, a hero of the internet; the other’s about some stylish, elderly women becoming famous on-line.
Nikki (Annette Bening) and her husband (Ed Harris) are still deeply in love after decades of marriage. They live in LA, and go to a beach resort in Mexico every year. But one day his dead body washes up on the beach, and Nikki is devastated. Can she go on without him?
Five years later, things seem normal. Nikki’s working again. She dresses houses for real estate dealers to make them look lived-in, even though they are empty and lifeless. Sort of like Nikki. But she goes through her daily routine: talking with her neighbour Roger (Robin Williams) and skyping with her adult daughter. Roger used to be her husband’s best friend, but now he has feelings for Nikki (she’s not interested).
Tom (Ed Harris) is an artist and teacher. And after some clever stalking and faked coincidental meetings, Nikki manages to meet Tom, and date him. She is madly in love with her late husband, and finds what she’s missing in Tom. He sees her adoring eyes and takes it as the sort of passion he never got from his ex-wife. She sees Tom as her actual husband, returned to her.
For Nikki it’s like a dream, and she’ll do anything to stop from “waking up”. She hides Tom from her daughter and from Roger next door. And she hides from Tom the fact he’s her late husband’s doppelgänger. And Tom has a deadly secret of his own that he’s not telling her. Is Nikki crazy? Is Tom deluding himself? Is this love or just an illusion? And can it last?
I kind of liked this mysterious romance: it feels like a soft-core Alfred Hitchcock movie: mystery without murder, conspiracy without crime. Ed Harris and Annette Bening make a good couple, simultaneously low-key but also passionate. It’s not an exciting movie, though. Don’t expect a thriller from a movie about relationships.
Ari Cohen is a young man who lives in New York City. He’s a photographer and a blogger. Because of his great respect for his own grandmother he decides to celebrate the many older women he sees decorate that city’s sidewalks. He approaches women over 60 and asks if he can take their picture for his blog (also called Advanced Style). But he’s not looking for just any old lady. They have to have charm, style, and panache. He looks for women who use their clothes, makeup and hats to construct a work of art: themselves.
And these women all have their own stories. One worked as a dancer in Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre in the Depression. Another was a magazine editor. One is a renowned party hostess, another teaches art. And they each have their own style trade marks, from a woman who constructs elaborately stylized bright orange false eyelashes; to another who owns a vintage clothing shop, to a punk-rocker in her 60s.
It’s not like their lives are perfect. Says one woman, “everything I have two of, one hurts.”But they’re finding a second (or third) wind with their looks on display on posters, on TV, in fashion magazines and now in this great movie. Advanced Style is a hilarious, heart-warming and surprising crowd-pleaser.
Aaron Swartz might not be a famous name, but it should be. He grew up with the internet, and was lecturing computer scientists and lawyers as a teen. He helped launch crucial features of the Internet, including RSS, Creative Commons. He played an essential role in the social network and news comment site Reddit, and was a millionaire many times over while still a kid. But instead of retiring to an easy life in silicon valley, he decided to devote himself to internet freedom through activism and hacktivism.
You may have heard of SOPA. It was an attempt to give US government control over web content. Basically, if a site was seen by the film and music industries as violating their copyright, the government could just close a site down. It was thought of as an easy, anti-piracy law, and it easily passed in Congress. But thanks to Aaron’s efforts, 115,000 websites – eventually including huge ones like Wikipedia, Google and Facebook – turned opinion around and defeated the very restrictive bill. This film is a biography of all the things Aaron Swartz did, and how he was dragged
down and eventually driven to suicide (not a spoiler) after being relentlessly pursued by the FBI and government prosecutors. The filmmaker directed the excellent We Are Legion a few years ago, and this extremely moving and informative film is even better. I think everyone should see this movie.
The Face of Love opens today in Toronto, check your local listings; And The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz has its international premier on Hot Doc’s opening Night next Thursday, with Advanced style having its world premier the following Tuesday. Go to hotdocs.ca for more information.
This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com