Review of the Documentary “Gilbert”

I am a Gilbert Gottfried fan without really understanding why. There is something innocent about him, even when telling the worst inappropriate jokes,  that leads to humour.  Gottfried, who, is the voice of the parrot, in Aladdin and has been a fixture on the talk show circuit for years.

I was intrigued enough about seeing him in person to make the trek down to Hot Docs from Thornhill and was able to get tickets to the premiere of the Documentary Gilbert at which he, the director and his wife were present.

Gottfried pulled up in a cab and dashed by me into the theater. A diminutive man in person, he seemed to be a bit dazed by the buzz around him. He held tightly to the railing at the theater and seemed to pull himself up the steps onto the stage. The sense of fragility juxtaposed with the three filthy jokes he told on stage before the film started was shocking and led to loud laughter from the crowd. Gottfried has perfected squinting and shouting in his odd voice into an art form. He doesn’t offer preamble it is just him shrieking: “three Jews walked into a bar.”

The documentary in which he reluctantly participates offers the viewer some insight into how this unusual comedian came to be. We first see him wandering around his apartment in a white bathrobe and slippers (possibly stolen from a hotel) and he confesses that he sometimes feels like a stranger in his own life. The 3 million dollar apartment came after marriage to longtime girlfriend Dara Kravitz in 2007 followed by the birth of his two adorable kids. The whole family appears in the film.

But the real clues into his deepest feelings come from the scenes about his family of origin. Part of poor Jewish family from Brooklyn, his first home was on Coney Island in a tiny apartment that was above the hardware store that his father ran.  Although his father died at age 42, quite some time ago, his sisters mention how hard he was on Gottfried as a young boy. He constantly chastised him by saying he wasn’t good enough and would never amount to anything. Did this lead to his push to be on stage at age 15 at local comedy clubs? The audience can only speculate.  Several comedians weigh in during the film and they attribute Gilbert’s quirky mannerisms to having to speak over drunk crowds at a young age.

One of the repetitive themes of the film is how difficult it is for Gottfried to express love directly. His wife reads old cards given on their anniversary where he writes “ Happy Anniversary, go F…yourself.”  Luckily she finds this funny.  He seems uncomfortable with saying I love you or initiating physical affection. There are many scenes where he is being hugged by his wife and kids and reluctantly hugs back.  Dara tells me after the film that saying I love to Gilbert either gets no response or comedic swear words.

But his love of family does shine through. The scenes in the film where he is in his sister’s cluttered apartment are poignant. He admits to visiting daily and in another emotional scene, we see him accompany her to chemotherapy, where she discloses to the camera that she has stage four breast cancer. He makes her laugh with goofy faces and comments. This is how he expresses love. With his unique brand of humour.

This film is making the festival circuit and should be released in New York and LA this Fall. The director, Neil Berkeley, is also working on an exclusive streaming deal with Hulu. I highly recommend giving it a view. Watch for interviews throughout the film, with a variety of comedians including Bill Burr, Joy Behar, Lewis Black and Whoopi Goldberg–who all regard Gilbert Gottfried as “the comedian’s comedian”.  He will go wherever he has to go for the laugh.

 

Top 10 Canadian Films List: In honour of Canada Day 150!

Happy Canada 150!

Neilia's Notes: Film and Play Reviews

Canada Day is approaching and I thought that this would be a great time to come up with my 10 favourite Canadian films of all time. We are a young country and have already contributed so much to the entertainment world. And even though Grammarly is telling me to lose the ‘u’s as American spelling is more consistent–No way! I’m a proud Canadian and my spelling will alway convey that.

1.The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz-1973

Here begins my crush on Richard Dreyfuss. Fresh off his role in American Graffiti, He lands the tile role in this film and does he ever crush it. Those of us who have been watching him for years have seen various versions of this character but make sure to see him here in this Canadian classic by Mordecai Richler ( both book and film) set in post war Montreal. Duddy is determined to make it even…

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Top 10 Canadian Films List: In honour of Canada Day 150!

Canada Day is approaching and I thought that this would be a great time to come up with my 10 favourite Canadian films of all time. We are a young country and have already contributed so much to the entertainment world. And even though Grammarly is telling me to lose the ‘u’s as American spelling is more consistent–No way! I’m a proud Canadian and my spelling will alway convey that.

1.The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz-1973

Here begins my crush on Richard Dreyfuss. Fresh off his role in American Graffiti, He lands the tile role in this film and does he ever crush it. Those of us who have been watching him for years have seen various versions of this character but make sure to see him here in this Canadian classic by Mordecai Richler ( both book and film) set in post war Montreal. Duddy is determined to make it even if he has to make morally bankrupt decisions. But you can’t help rooting for him–his chutzpah alone is dazzling.

2. Lies my Father Told Me-1975

This film came out in 1975 and starred Jeff Lynas who was actually the little brother of one of my classmates in high school.   The film takes place in Quebec and is about a Jewish family and the relationship between a young boy and his grandfather in the 1920’s. I was 15 when it came out and what a tear jerker. Lynas and Yossi Yadin as the grandfather had great chemistry.  I can still remember crying during the film’s pivotal scene. I have a younger brother  who was the same age as Lynas way during the film and he even looked like him which got to me even more. An evocative period piece about Jewish life in Montreal and the powerful ties of family. It won best foreign film at the Golden Globes that year as well as best breakout male star for Lynas.

 3. Meatballs-1979   

Who doesn’t love a good camp movie!  This comedic film launched the career of Canadian director Ivan Reitman.  Meatballs takes place at an overnight camp like many of us attended in our youth.  It stars a young Bill Murray in his first major film role and I actually know someone who acted in it–shout out to Allan Levson as the angry kid at the bus. Yes it is from 1979 and I was a teenager when I first saw it, which is part of the nostalgia that comes over me when I see this movie on late night tv. It is funny, romantic and irreverent.  It was actually filmed at Camp White Pine  in Halliburton and many of the real campers ended up in the movie. Check it out Millennials!

4. Atlantic City–1980

I well remember the 1980 Academy Awards because a Canadian film was actually nominated. Not only that but this film, directed by Louis Malle and starring Susan Sarandon and Burt Lancaster is among the 41 films to be nominated for all  of the “Big FiveAcademy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay, and one of only eight among this group to not take home a single award. How frustrating. It starts with Sarandon applying lemons to her lovely breasts for which she is still famous.  Seriously, it is a film about the struggles of dreamers who are lured to Atlantic City, where they turn to crime while looking for love.

5. The Fly–1986

It is pretty horrific but you can’t take your eyes off this film starring Jeff Goldblum as a scientist who develops fly like characteristics after a terrible mistake that occurs during one of his experiments.  Geena Davis stars as his love interest and the film is a parallel exploration of a doomed love triangle. David Cronenberg leads the way for his ability to combine horror and modern day life is such a complex manner.  He never shies away from his unique vision and his take on  themes such as life, love, sex, disease and death  has lead to a subgenre of film–the biological horror film.  An vivid and detailed take on how science and progress can go wildly wrong.

6. Dead Ringers–1988

Prolific director David Cronenberg has made a lot of good films in his trademark horror genre but I have to say this is my favourite. It involves twins, gynaecology and love obsession. Jeremy Irons does a great job playing both twins and I still remember being riveted when I first saw it.  I’m really getting in the mood to hunt these movies down and see them again.

7. Double Happiness–1994

Way before Gray’s Anatomy the dynamic Sandra Oh starred in this film about a young Chinese-Canadian woman at odds with her family’s cultural ways. This is a very common Canadian story : a child of immigrants trying to please her parents but also to pursue her own dreams–thus looking for double happiness.  Oh won the Genie for best performance by a leading actress and went on to star in many high-profile projects. This low-budget film is worth a watch.

8. Juno-2007

Though technically an American film, the fact that it has a Canadian Director ( Jason Reitman who has gloriously followed in his father’s footsteps), two break-out young Canadian stars and was filled in Vancouver makes this film Canadian enough for my list. This engaging film is about an outspoken quirky young woman who gets pregnant the first time she has sex.  She has to figure out what is best for her and the baby.  Wonderfully acted by Ellen Page and Michael Cena as the teenaged couple and a great supporting cast, this movie is a must watch. Entertaining, original and just plain fun to  take in,  Juno resulted in an Academy Award win for its screenplay written by   Diablo Cody.

9. A History of Violence-2005

Viggo Mortensen is astounding  as the lead in this film.  A History of Violence was so different from the typical Cronenberg film–I didn’t realize that he was the director until years later. It  was a departure from the out-and-out horror as it is more of crime thriller. I was mesmerized from the first scene. Without giving too much away, it is one of those double life films–where a character literally becomes someone else before your eyes.  Most of the film was shot in Millbrook Ontario, with the climatic scene taking place at the historic Eaton Hall in King City.  The film explores the idea that there is  good and evil in all of us and leaves you wondering whether or not someone can really change.

10. Barney’s Version-2010

Boy do I love Paul Giamatti. It is fitting to end this list with a film based on another Mordecai Richler book. This one stars the dynamic Giamatti in the lead role. This film is based on one of Richler’s most popular books and looks at the life of a man who is unlucky in love but keeps trying anyway.  With an all-star cast including Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver and Rosemund Pike, Barney’s Version was filmed in Montreal, New York and Rome.  Look for cameos from Canadian directors– Denys Arcand, Atom Egoyon and Paul Gross.

Honourable Mentions

Eastern Promises–“Oh those Russians”–another star turn by Viggo Mortenson

Room–High grossing and filled with Canadian connections

Exotica— Slow paced and interesting by the prolific Atom Agoyan.

 

Please add a comment about your favourite Canadian film.

Top 10 Canadian Films List: In honour of Canada Day 150!

Canada Day is approaching and I thought that this would be a great time to come up with my 10 favourite Canadian films of all time. We are a young country and have already contributed so much to the entertainment world. And even though Grammarly is telling me to lose the ‘u’s as American spelling is more consistent–No way! I’m a proud Canadian and my spelling will alway convey that.

1.The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz–1973

Here begins my crush on Richard Dreyfuss. Fresh off his role in American Graffiti, He lands the title role in this film and does he ever crush it. Those of us who have been watching him for years have seen various versions of this character but make sure to see him here in this Canadian classic by Mordecai Richler ( both book and film) set in post-war Montreal. Duddy is determined to make it even if he has to make morally bankrupt decisions. But you can’t help rooting for him–his chutzpah alone is dazzling.

2. Lies my Father Told Me–1975

This film came out in 1975 and starred Jeff Lynas who was actually the little brother of one of my classmates in high school.   The film takes place in Quebec and is about a Jewish family and the relationship between a young boy and his grandfather in the 1920’s. I was 15 when it came out and what a tear jerker. Lynas and Yossi Yadin as the grandfather had great chemistry.  I can still remember crying during the film’s pivotal scene. I have a younger brother who was the same age as Lynas way during the film and he even looked like him which got to me even more. An evocative period piece about Jewish life in Montreal and the powerful ties of family. It won best foreign film at the Golden Globes that year as well as best breakout male star for Lynas.

 3. Meatballs–1979   

Who doesn’t love a good camp movie!  This comedic film launched the career of Canadian director Ivan Reitman.  Meatballs takes place at an overnight camp like many of us attended in our youth.  It stars a young Bill Murray in his first major film role and I actually know someone who acted in it–shout out to Allan Levson as the angry kid at the bus. Yes, it is from 1979 and I was a teenager when I first saw it, which is part of the nostalgia that comes over me when I see this movie on late night tv. It is funny, romantic and irreverent.  It was actually filmed at Camp White Pine in Haliburton and many of the real campers ended up in the movie. Check it out Millennials!

4. Atlantic City–1980

I well remember the 1980 Academy Awards because a Canadian film was actually nominated. Not only that but this film, directed by Louis Malle and starring Susan Sarandon and Burt Lancaster is among the 41 films to be nominated for all  of the “Big FiveAcademy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay, and one of only eight among this group to not take home a single award. How frustrating. It starts with Sarandon applying lemons to her lovely breasts for which she is still famous.  Seriously, it is a film about the struggles of dreamers who are lured to Atlantic City, where they turn to crime while looking for love.

5. The Fly–1986

It is pretty horrific but you can’t take your eyes off this film starring Jeff Goldblum as a scientist who develops fly like characteristics after a terrible mistake that occurs during one of his experiments.  Geena Davis stars as his love interest and the film is a parallel exploration of a doomed love triangle. David Cronenberg leads the way for his ability to combine horror and modern day life is such a complex manner.  He never shies away from his unique vision and his take on the intersection of life, love, sex, disease, and death has lead to a subgenre of film–the biological horror film.  A vivid and detailed tale on how science and progress can go wildly wrong.

6. Dead Ringers–1988

Prolific director David Cronenberg has made a lot of good films in his trademark horror genre but I have to say this is my favourite. It involves twins, gynecology and love obsession. Jeremy Irons does a great job playing both twins and I still remember being riveted when I first saw it.  I’m really getting in the mood to hunt these movies down and see them again.

7. Double Happiness–1994

Way before Gray’s Anatomy the dynamic Sandra Oh starred in this film about a young Chinese-Canadian woman at odds with her family’s cultural ways. This is a very common Canadian story: a child of immigrants trying to please her parents but also to pursue her own dreams–thus looking for double happiness.  Oh won the Genie for best performance by a leading actress and went on to star in many high-profile projects. This low-budget film is worth a watch.

8. Juno–2007

Though technically an American film, the fact that it has a Canadian Director ( Jason Reitman who has gloriously followed in his father’s footsteps), two break-out young Canadian stars and was filled in Vancouver makes this film Canadian enough for my list. This engaging film is about an outspoken quirky young woman who gets pregnant the first time she has sex.  She has to figure out what is best for her and the baby.  Wonderfully acted by Ellen Page and Michael Cena as the teenaged couple and a great supporting cast, this movie is a must see. Entertaining, original and just plain fun to take in,  Juno resulted in an Academy Award win for its screenplay written by  Diablo Cody.

9. A History of Violence–2005

Viggo Mortensen is astounding  as the lead in this film.  A History of Violence was so different from the typical Cronenberg film–I didn’t realize that he was the director until years later. It  was a departure from the out-and-out horror as it is more of crime thriller. I was mesmerized from the first scene. Without giving too much away, it is one of those double life films–where a character literally becomes someone else before your eyes.  Most of the film was shot in Millbrook Ontario, with the climatic scene taking place at the historic Eaton Hall in King City.  The film explores the idea that there is  good and evil in all of us and leaves you wondering whether or not someone can really change.

10. Barney’s Version–2010

Boy do I love watching Paul Giamatti. It is fitting to end this list with a film based on another Mordecai Richler book. This one stars the dynamic Giamatti in the lead role. This film is based on one of Richler’s most popular books and looks at the life of a man who is unlucky in love but keeps trying anyway.  With an all-star cast including Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver and Rosemund Pike, Barney’s Version was filmed in Montreal, New York and Rome.  Look for cameos from Canadian directors– Denys Arcand, Atom Egoyon and Paul Gross.

 

Honourable Mentions

Eastern Promises–“Oh those Russians”–another star turn by Viggo Mortenson

Room–High grossing and filled with Canadian connections

Exotica— Slow paced and interesting by the prolific Atom Agoyan.

Wonder Woman–See it if you like the Superhero genre with a major feminist twist.

I’m not a big fan of superhero movies because there are just too many reboots and bad ones. So I didn’t go looking to see this movie but I did enjoy it and here is why.

Gal Gadot–is a beautiful Israeli actress who kicks some serious butt–but with humour and grace. Before turning to acting she was Ms. Israel and a model. She was also in the Israeli Defense Force for two years. Combine her beauty, her strength, her adorable accent-which is supposed to be Amazonian but is obviously Israeli–and you have a winner. She is also funny, her fish out of water scenes with Chris Pine had me laughing.

It is directed by a woman Patti Jenkins and, as my 16-year-old son reported to me, it is a feminist film. But he liked it and I’m sure most guys will. I heard there was backlash because Gadot is not as buxom as the Wonder Woman of old but once you see her on-screen all  fit and intense, you forget about the need to have her boobs hanging out ( What did that accomplish exactly…?) Watching her protect all the men who had guns with her bare hands did my heart good. When you see a strong woman who can defend herself well–you realize that it is not a typical image in film, even in 2017.

The underlying themes of the film such as good vs. evil, human vs supernatural and man vs woman are thought-provoking. What will it take to make us treasure the world and each other? That is what I was left wondering by Wonder Woman.

Top 20 Favourite Films of the 20th Century

In no particular order, here are my  20 favourite films from before the year 2000.

  1. Mary Poppins  
  2. Sophie’s Choice  
  3. Terms of Endearment
  4. Fiddler on the Roof
  5. West Side Story
  6. An Affair to Remember
  7. The Shawshank Redemption
  8. The Sting
  9. Annie Hall
  10. The Goodbye Girl
  11. North By Northwest
  12. Vertigo
  13. Coming Home
  14. Jaws
  15. All About Eve
  16. The Graduate
  17. Notorious
  18. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  19. It’s A Wonderful Life
  20. The Philadelphia Story

Do you have other suggestions? Please post them below.

Go See Get Out!

If you missed it the first time around on the big screen–you must make sure to see Get Out. The film defies genre–I call it–horror/comedy/social commentary. It is out on Blue-Ray now. It is difficult to discuss without spoilers . Think of it as an extremely modern version of Look Whose Coming to Dinner ( look it up) but with unexpected psychological twists. There is so much to take in the first time–it is absolutely worthy of an additional viewing.  I have seen it twice at theatre and at home–I recommend seeing it on the big screen for added creepiness. Just the shot of the trees at the beginning with some of the weirdest music you have ever heard sets the stage for Peele’s debut film. All of the acting is great, especially the leads who play boyfriend and girlfriend. I thought the actor who played the brother was way over the top and took away from the enjoyment of the film but that is my only complaint. See it and comment here–I want to know what you liked and what you didn’t like.

About Me

I have always loved movies. As a child, I was taken to see my father’s favourities: Charlie Chaplin and Jerry Lewis. While that was fun, my tastes at that age ran more towards musicals ( Mary Poppins) fantasy ( Bedknobs and Broomsticks) and character driven comedy ( Father Goose with Cary Grant ). I have never missed the Academy Awards.  Watching a movie means getting lost in another world and living through the characters on the screen. It can also be excellent cheap therapy–when you find yourself crying in the dark. Catharsis anyone?  Film reviews, recommendations and best of lists can be found here. Maybe I will see you in line at film festival. Thanks for stopping by.