Category Archives: Movie Prizes

The Woman in the Window

In luscious black-and-white, the screen flickers and takes us back to a world filled with crimes, intrigues, and elegant men and women with dark pasts. Film Noir. I’m a die hard fan and have been for years. Thus, I was delighted to win tickets to the screening of my choice during The Cinematheque‘s recent Film Noir series. I chose The Woman in the Window. It’s not as well-known as some other Noir classics, but I had to see it.

The primary reason was the lead actor, Edward G. Robinson. I feel about Robinson the way many people felt about Lady Gaga after she sang The Sound of Music classics at The Oscars. Why, exactly, had this woman with a fantastic voice been wasting her time singing songs like “Poker Face” all these years? Robinson played so many gangster roles throughout his career that it’s easy to think his abilities as an actor were limited to these parts, but a few performances showed audiences that he was capable of so much more. The Woman in the Window was one of the films that demonstrated his ability to convey pathos, inner turmoil, and utter despair. Yet, he displayed a subtle, restrained sense of humour at other points in this movie, as well. He goes from being a rather staid, middle-aged professor to a man bewitched by beauty and capable of acts that we, the audience, couldn’t have conceived of him doing moments earlier.

I would encourage all of you to seek out this film, if not for Robinson’s performance, but for the ending. I’m not one for giving away key plot points, but let’s just say there are two endings to this film. The first is the real ending. The ending that the film would have had if it were made today. Instead, it concludes with the censors’ ending. Even in Film Noir, bad guys don’t get off scot free and bad deeds don’t go unpunished. The world was always portrayed as a generally good place, even when it was really in the midst of World War II.

Well, this latest win brings my total to $225 for 2015. Look for my next installment when I describe the experience of being a finalist in a photo contest and going on my first rollercoaster ride.

Win #2: Far From The Madding Crowd

Putting Words to Paper

For months now, a win has evaded my grasp! It has not been for lack of trying on my part. How many times have a typed my name, age, and contact information; retweeted, liked, and more over the last few months? Far too many. However, the drought has ended. I received passes to the movie premiere of Far From The Madding Crowd at the Fifth Avenue tonight, courtesy of The Georgia Straight.

Although I love English literature, particularly late 19th century English literature, Thomas Hardy has never been one of my favourite authors. He is, in fact, a major buzzkill. If you’re feeling happy, open up Jude the Obscure and all feelings of elation and joy will leave your spirit almost instantaneously. In fact, I found that particular Hardy novel so depressing I never read another, including Far from the Madding Crowd. However, that said, a period drama set in rural England is basically kryptonite to this superwoman. So, I left modern day Vancouver behind and surrendered myself to Dorset.

The film centres around Bathsheba Everdene who is pursued by not one, not two, but three men (we should all be so lucky). I won’t reveal who she chooses, if any, of the three gentlemen, but I’ll describe them to you.

I’ll begin with Frank Troy. He’s a soldier who oozes charm and wields his sword with a great deal of panache. In a modern context, he’d be the guy at the bar who buys everyone drinks and commands the attention of men and women alike. He’s the wrong guy. He’s the one a woman should never, ever, get into a relationship with.

Then, there’s William Boldwood, a rich landowner who is considerably older than the heroine. He dotes on her. He promises her everything she could possibly want. He wants little in return, not even love, as long as she marries him. Again, in today’s world, he’s not an unfamiliar character. He’s probably divorced, 50+, and has had his head turned by a woman half his age. It is possible that he will treat her well and give her everything he promises, but that’s not enough. Not for the woman, and really not for him. He’s just too insecure to see that.

Bathsheba’s third suitor is Gabriel Oak. He makes his living as a sheep farmer and works hard. He would be the man I would choose, not because I have a particular fondness for sheep farmers, but because Oak has qualities that are rarer and more valuable than rubies.

A hard-working man who is self-motivated and sees the intrinsic value in being industrious is a keeper. The fact that he also works well alongside Bathsheba to achieve a common aim is telling too. Another rare characteristic he has is his ability to listen, and think through his responses carefully before offering them. He’s the quiet type, but not because he’s shy or insecure. He’s quiet because he knows that getting all the information first and weighing the options before articulating his ideas is the prudent way to proceed.

I don’t think I would have appreciated such a man in my 20s, and neither does Bathsheba, at first. I believe that it is only in maturity and after considerable life experience that a woman can know to bypass the flashy, the superficial, and the needy to seek out a person of substance.

So perhaps for all his doom and gloom, Hardy does indeed deserve a read…

Note: The approximate value of this prize would be $25.

Win #1 of 2015: Two tickets to The Tempest – Globe on Screen

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”
― William Shakespeare, The Tempest

The Tempest was one of Shakespeare’s last plays and, in my opinion, one of his greatest. It’s most certainly the work of someone who has lived a long life and seen much. Someone who can look back at successes and failures, times of joy and sadness, and understand how they all fit into the grand scheme of things.

Yesterday, I got  to see this play on the big screen as it was performed in the Globe theatre (this is part of the Globe on Screen series). As the woman behind me said to her companion, “this is the next best thing to being in London and in the theatre itself”. One day, I hope to have such an opportunity.

Roger Allam (The Woman in BlackEndeavour) played Prospero just as I imagined him when I first read the play at age 17. I envisioned Prospero as this larger than life figure that at one moment could be a kind and loving father and the next a frightening presence with magical powers.

Caliban was just as horrific and revolting as I pictured, as well. This was due not only to the actor’s performance, but the excellent costume and make-up he sported as the island’s monster. Also, the spirit Ariel was beautiful and graceful and had the perfect other worldly quality needed.

The other characters are less interesting, and I am rather bored by the romance between Prospero’s daughter Miranda and Ferdinand in the play. Yet, how Prospero manipulates that relationship and causes the young couple to fight for one another is interesting. He basically tells the audience that love that is too easily won is not a deep or lasting love. When people have to struggle to be with one another, their relationship is often stronger.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot because I really hope all of you will read it, watch it, or at least check out some of the play’s great quotes. In my opinion, this play isn’t read enough, and should be appreciated as much as HamletMacbethOthello, and other more well-known Shakespearean masterpieces.

Now, to the contest details: I won this prize through an online contest put on by Bard on the Beach. The tickets were worth $29.98. The year is off to a great start and I’m looking forward to many more wonderful experiences in the “brave new world” of 2015!

Win #5: a pair of tickets to the Vancouver Women In Film Festival!

Here we are in March and I’ve already won five contests: a Canucks t-shirt; a pass to the opening of Arctic Air; tickets to Colourful World with the Turning Point Ensemble; a bag of goodies at a friend’s Oscar party (I guessed the winners of 13 categories correctly); and my most recent win, a pair of tickets to the Vancouver Women in Film Festival, courtesy of 24 Hours.

I was allowed to go to one festival screening of my choice and I selected Hopes, Dreams + Schemes. I chose this screening because it showcased a series of short films from various countries and I have always enjoyed international films and have wanted to see more short films.
While watching all the films, one thought kept resounding in my mind: the roles that a woman takes on are seemingly limitless: artist, intellectual, nurturer, friend, adventurer, etc…We move so seamlessly from one role to the next, too. I know this may seem like an obvious idea, but the suddenness of this realization made it very powerful. I was in awe of my own gender, my own femininity in a way I never have been before.


The two films which I enjoyed the most were Move Out Clean and The Soldier Game (Le Jeu des Soldats). In about 12 minutes, Move Out Clean encapsulated the reflective and transformative nature of cleaning. Before you say, “Huh?” hear me out. Yesterday, when I cleaned an orange spot off the kitchen cupboard, I remembered the ripe, juicy mango I ate the day before. This morning, when I swept up pieces of thread, I recalled that I sewed up my coat pocket which ripped when I jammed my hand into it on a cold winter day. And, as I emptied the shredder into the recycler, I watched the half-remembered pieces of words and phrases tumbling into the bin, thinking I should write this review tonight.


Move Out Clean is about this experience. An artist cleans out the apartment he shared with his girlfriend. He plasters up holes in the walls and remembers how he put them there. He cleans up the empty beer bottles, recalling how they transformed him into someone he ultimately decides he doesn’t want to be. In the end, the apartment is clean and he has reached a new level of awareness. He knows who he was and what it cost him: the love of a wonderful woman. He can now resolve to be his best self as he starts anew.

The Soldier Game was beautiful. First, it was a visual indulgence. The green fields of Northern France. The home with its vintage charm. The storybook that Antoine, the boy at the centre of the story, reads. Yet, at the same time, it was also beautiful in its poignancy. Antoine’s world is turned upside down when his father leaves to fight the Nazis, so he decides to secure his home with the help of his grandfather and the Napoleon of his imagination. Through all this, his mother tries to comfort him, telling him they are safe from invasion. Yet, no one feels safe. In the end, however, it is Antoine who offers his family comfort.

A truly enjoyable evening for me. I wish you good luck this morning, as we all attempt to “spring forward”.

My Review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

As some of you may remember, I originally won passes to an advance screening of The Descendents. Unfortunately, the screening filled up very quickly and I could not get in. The Georgia Straight kindly then gave me two passes to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I attended the screening last night.

I’d like to preface my review of the film by saying that I have obviously been living under a rock and did not know anything about this movie before last night. So, I went in not knowing about the novels or the Swedish films. Upon watching the opening credit sequence, I was prepared to watch something similar to a James Bond movie. The images presented were like something out of Goldfinger interpreted by someone who had seen The Matrix. Yet, I was in for a shock when I quickly realized that I was watching something far edgier and deeper than a Bond movie.

The basic plot involves disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) investigating a 40-year-old crime. He is asked to find out what happened to Harriet, a 16-year-old girl who disappeared from an island inhabited by the most dysfunctional family you are ever likely to meet. His assistant on the case is Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) who has considerable issues of her own. There is also a secondary plot involving Blomkvist and the source of his disgrace: a conviction for libel.

This movie is very, very graphic in its depictions of violence, particularly violence against women. The title of the original novelMän som hatar kvinnor – Men Who Hate Women, prepares the audience for this. The dark, misogynistic world these characters inhabit is a difficult one to watch. I was certainly not the only one cringing during the screening of the film. However, the main story is a compelling mystery and the character of Lisbeth Salander is incredibly complex. At times, she is an avenging angel. At other moments, a skilled and brilliant investigator. I found myself feeling sympathy for her throughout the film, too. She yearns for love and compassion, but is understandably reluctant to open herself up to it.

I was glued to the screen whenever the main, mystery story was in progress and when Salander’s life away from the case was being presented. The libel subplot was not as compelling and I felt that the way the movie was bookended with it was unnecessary. Without giving anything away, it seemed that the movie had come to a natural conclusion long before the actual conclusion was shown. I would recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with the following advisory:

If you are looking for a heart-warming, Christmasy story – go see Hugo; it’s great! The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo lives up to its tagline: “It’s the feel bad movie of Christmas.”

My Review of The Far Country and The Man from Laramie

On June 30th, my husband and I went to a double bill of The Far Country and The Man From Laramie at the Pacific Cinémathèque.  Before I present my review of the films, I’d like to pay a brief homage to the cinema itself.

The Pacific Cinémathèque has been our go-to cinema for classic and foreign films for decades.  It was there we first saw Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, David Lean’s Oliver Twist, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, and many other unforgettable movies.  Long before we got Turner Classic Movies, the Cinémathèque was where we went for something other than the summer blockbusters.  Soon, the Cinémathèque will be relocating and becoming part of the TELUS garden development in downtown Vancouver.  Next year will also be its 40th anniversary, so I strongly recommend checking it out and enjoying a truly memorable moviegoing experience.


The Far Country and The Man From Laramie were two Anthony Mann westerns from the 1950s starring Jimmy Stewart.  The former depicts Stewart as a nomadic, self-reliant man in the late 19th century.  He makes his money driving a herd of cattle from the United States to Canada and then taking his profits to stake a claim during the gold rush.  The latter shows a highly ethical, yet vengeful Stewart on a quest to find the man responsible for selling repeating rifles to the American Indians.


It was fantastic to see these two films back to back, as the range of Stewart’s talent is clearly evident.  Stewart is often thought of as playing himself in every movie, but I strongly dispute that claim.  It is hard to believe that the same man embodies both these characters, as one is easy to dislike and the other evokes sympathy even as he exacts his revenge.  The Man from Laramie is by far the better movie, though.  The complexity of the story and the supporting characters outweigh the rather thin plot of The Far Country.  Yet, this gold rush odyssey is still worth watching for its strong female characters and the beautiful scenery of Jasper, Alberta, where the movie was filmed.


All in all, I very much enjoyed my sixth prize and am looking forward to win number seven! Wish me luck for July!

Win #6: Two tickets to a double bill!

I am delighted to report that I have won my sixth prize since I began this blog back in January. The Pacific Cinémathèque has awarded me two passes to a double bill of Jimmy Stewart westerns.

I am especially happy to win this prize, as I had my first date with my husband at this theatre and I love Jimmy Stewart. The screening takes place on June 30th, so look for my review in July!
Oh, yes, the money, this adds $27.00 to my current total winnings of $309.24.

My Review of Blue Valentine

After many days of doing other “delightful tasks,” I finally sat down and watched Blue Valentine. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, given that all I knew was the movie was “critically acclaimed” and the DVD cover has Michelle Williams (Cindy) and Ryan Gosling (Dean) looking lovingly at one another. It turned out I was in for a very emotional cinematic ride.

The movie intercuts the early days of Cindy and Dean’s relationship with their present day relationship. The former depiction is that of a passionate and tender pair who are a delight to watch. The best scene in the movie involves the two displaying their hidden talents. According to director Derek Cianfrance, this scene was entirely improvised, with the actors really showing each other their hidden talents for the first time. It looks very natural and the joy of their respective discoveries is incredibly palpable.


Juxtaposing the youthful enthusiasm and joyous love of this pair with the embittered and pained duo we see years later is almost a cruelty to the eyes and heart. We don’t see the degeneration of the relationship, but we can guess what has taken place and how Cindy and Dean have grown apart.


I won’t reveal more than this, as it is easy to give away too much in describing this film. Suffice it to say, that I was hugely impressed by Blue Valentine. Williams and Gosling give fantastic performances and the dialogue is incredibly real. It is not an easy movie to watch for two reasons, though. First, its realism has a bluntness and in-your-face quality that is almost confrontational. It’s like Cianfrance is challenging his audience to examine their own relationships; to juxtapose in their own minds what they were like when they first met their significant other and how they interact with that same person now. Second, the film is also very honest about the sexuality of its characters and it depicts their physical interactions with the same unrelenting boldness it does all their other interactions. The film was originally given an NC-17 rating, but had it reduced to an “R.” That said, the sex scenes are in no way gratuitous. I didn’t find them offensive in any way and thought they were integral to the story.


So, given all I’ve just written, I think it’s clear that this movie is not for the You’ve Got Mail/Bridget Jones’ Diary fans. However, if realism, rather than escapism is what you’re in the mood for give Blue Valentine a shot, though maybe not on Valentine’s Day.


*So, where am I at in my winning streak? For those of you keeping score, I have won five prizes so far: Tickets to the Talking Stick Festival; Passes to West is West, $100 worth of Dutch cheese; Tickets to an International Dance Day performance; and passes to Something Borrowed, a regular popcorn, and a DVD of Blue Valentine. The approximate total of my winnings is $282.24. I should mention that I have won a $5 off coupon to East Side Mario’s, a free Tim Horton’s coffee with Roll up the Rim, and other percentage off coupons, but I am not counting those, as I don’t really consider coupons a prize and, well, I had to buy a tea to get the cup to roll up the rim, so yeah, that doesn’t count either. I’m quite happy that I’ve basically won one prize a month since I started, so here’s hoping for an even bigger win this month!

Something Borrowed

How I ended up watching Something Borrowed:


As I mentioned in my last post, I was happy to receive two passes to A Wake, courtesy of The Georgia Straight. Unfortunately, the movie’s run ended prior to my win. So, the paper kindly rectified the situation by giving me two passes to Something Borrowed, a free regular popcorn, and a DVD of Blue Valentine, about which I will write a review in a future post. I was really happy about this because I wanted to see a movie about a wedding this year, as my brother is getting married in September and I’m feeling a bit sentimental these days.


In any case, I dragged my husband to the movie, as none of my friends were able to make it on such short notice. I did feel slight pangs of guilt as I knew chick flicks were not our usual movie-going fare. Yet, we enjoyed the convoluted plot; the shameless Heineken product placement; and the Tom Cruise clone that is Colin Egglesfield. I think, on my own, I wouldn’t have laughed out loud. So, I guess what I’m saying is that my husband, 15 years after I met him, is still my pal.


Win tickets to Something Borrowed or watch it when it comes on T.V. Spending money on it is probably not a good idea. However, spending a Thursday night with someone you love definitely is.

Win #5! Run of engagement passes to A Wake

A couple of days after I won tickets to “Taking Your Experience for Mine” I was notified by The Georgia Straight that I had won two run of engagement passes to A Wake.

I was delighted to win tickets to this particular movie because it is loosely based on Hamlet, my favourite Shakespeare play. I have watched every version and seen every performance I could ever since I first read it at age 17. I’m very much looking forward to seeing it at Fifth Avenue Cinemas, as the place has special significance for my husband and I, as we shared our first kiss outside the theatre.


Stay posted for my review in the coming weeks.