Movie Excuses. Films reviewed: Morning Glory, Sell Out!, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. PLUS EU Film Fest and Best Breast Film Fest

Posted in Acting, Cultural Mining, Drama, Harry Potter, Journalism, Malaysia, Manhattan, Movies, Musical, Romantic Comedy, TV, Uncategorized by on November 21, 2010

I like movies. They can be interesting, thrilling, edifying, moving, romantic, educational, funny, beautiful, cool, and a good way to keep your feet dry if it’s raining out. I don’t need an excuse to see one.

But there are a lot of people who will do just about anything not to see a movie. And believe me, I’ve heard a lot of excuses:

I hate Hollywood!
I already read the book.
I only watch movies with subtitles.
It’s too expensive!
No tits and ass? Then I don’t wanna see it…
Boring… I like TV better.
I’d rather give my money to charity.

So today I’m going to tell you about some movies that address these excuses.

You want to give money to charity? You love movies with lots of naked breasts? Check out the Breast Fest now on at the Royal Ontario Museum. Actually, this is a very real film festival that rethinks breast cancer. It’s showing documentaries about surviving, living with, or confronting breast cancer, along with workshops and discussions. Look online for information at

Do you think movies are too expensive? Do you hate Hollywood? Or maybe you just love movies with sombre Scandinavians staring pensively at still ponds? Well, be sure to check out the Toronto EU film festival, that started last night and will be on for the next ten days.

This is quite a remarkable film festival, if you’ve never been. It’s a chance to see 22 films from all across the European union, from Finland to Cyprus, Poland to Portugal in addition to the more established film industries like France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. It’s always a mixed bag, but some of the movies are always stupendous and with some hidden treasures there, too. And best of all, it’s absolutely free, all week at the Royal Cinema. But be sure to show up at least 45 minutes before the starting time if you want to get a seat. The tickets disappear very quickly. I’ll be reviewing some movies from the festival next week, but you can look at the schedule online at

“I like TV better”. OK, let’s look at two movies about TV.


Morning Glory
Dir: Roger Michell

Becky (played by Rachel McAdams) is a young TV producer from New Jersey, who gets laid off from her local, candy-coloured morning show. But she’s enthusiastic, charming and relentlessly hard working. So she’s thrilled to land a job as executive producer for a national network show broadcasting out of downtown Manhattan.

But, there’s a catch. She soon discovers all is not well. The on-air talent are all boring, vapid, worn-out, lecherous, or entirely lacking in charm. And if she doesn’t fix it up soon, the show might be cancelled. So she brings an eminent news anchorman (Harrison Ford) to be the new cohost. Will she get this crabby journalist to shed his hubris and participate? And will he and the longtime host (Diane Keaton) ever see eye-to-eye? And will Becky – who works 24/7 and is always on the phone — ever find love and romance? Morning Glory is a pretty funny movie about making TV shows. The plot’s totally cookie-cutter, but the setting – behind the scenes at the network – is hilarious and true-to-life. It’s a not-bad, run-of-the-mill, very commercial, light comedy.

Another movie:
Sell Out!
Dir: Yeo Joon Han

…couldn’t be more different. It’s a darkly satirical, comic look at Malaysia, seen through their TV, art, music, film, industry, and daily life, about how two young Malaysians face the dilemma of whether to stay true to their ideals or sell out.

Rafflesia is a Malaysian-Chinese TV host for FONY (as in SONY) TV a big conglomerate’s network. She’s competitive and jealous of an up-and-coming Eurasian hostess. Rafflesia’s attempt at making avant garde “art” for TV audiences – using film and poetry — is a dismal failure. But her ambition comes to the rescue when she finds a new way to attract reality-TV audiences – using death as the ultimate draw.

Meanwhile, Eric, is a brilliant, young engineer who works in the electronics division of FONY corp, has a crush on Rafflesia – but she won’t even look at him twice. Eric comes up with an amazing invention. You pour soybeans into one end, and press one of the buttons, and out comes soya milk, or tofu, or miso, soy sauce, tempeh – you name it. But according to the corporate bosses, it’s no good. What’s the flaw? It’s too durable – the company can only sell one per family. He didn’t design it to automatically break down as soon as the warranty ends.

So will Rafflesia make it as a Reality TV host? And will Eric stay true to his ideals or sell out? And will they fall in love?

That’s the storyline, but this movie has a lot more to it. It has something I’ve never seen before — its very funny dialogue is in what’s sometimes called “Manglish”, or Malaysian English (with subtitles). Not only that – the characters break into song every so often. It’s a comic, Malaysian-Chinese musical! And not only that – the movie also lampoons itself with scenes morphing into a karaoke video, (complete with words) or avant- garde cinema with dialogue spoken behind closed doors. It mocks the styles of Tsai Ming-liang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien but also the stupidity of mainstream pop culture. Some of the jokes are dreadful, but this is a unique funny satire, unlike any movie I’ve ever seen before.

What about the excuse “I’ve read the book”? Well, you still might want to see the movie version, like this latest, and second-to-the-last installment of the Harry Potter saga

The Deathly Hallows
Dir: David Yates

Just in case you’re one of the few people who has never heard of Harry Potter, it’s the story of a young English orphan with a lightning-bolt mark on his forehead, who discovers he is a wizard. He’s sent to the boarding school Hogwarts to learn his trade, and becomes best friends with fellow students of magic, Ron and Hermione. In this movie, the three of them set off on a journey to find destroy the Horcruxes – hidden items that contain a bit of dark power – before the villainous Voldemort gets a hold of them.

This episode is a bit risky. The series depends on the familiar surroundings of Hogwarts, with all of its quirky, strange, funny characters, and familiar images – the classic school uniforms, the strange magical paraphernalia, the building’s stone walls… but a significat part of this film is devoid of all that – just the three young actors, dressed in beige wooly sweaters, in a natural setting, dealing with their emotions. So that part dragged a bit for me. I wanted to see more magic, less grousing.

Luckily the rest of the movie had all that. There are some amazing scenes inside the Ministry of Magic with lots of clever, visual references to 1930’s fascist Europe — complete with the racist anti-muggle persecution, bad guys wearing black leather Gestapo trench coats, and foreboding, towering walls.

The movie downplays some of the book’s deaths, but is generally pretty close to the story. And though it only covers half the book, it ends in a way that leaves the viewer satisfied and without cheap cliff-hangers. Some great special effects, and the usual parade of virtually every single British movie actor making an appearances. Lot’s of fun, lots of scary parts. I liked this kids’ movie a lot, despite its dragging middle… no excuses needed.

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