a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Quebec’

Louise Penny Has Done It Again!”A Great Reckoning” Is Great!

A Great REckoningI admit it! I’m an unabashed Louise Penny fan! And I’ve read every single one of her terrific mystery/crime novels about Quebec’s former Chief Inspector of the Surete, Armand Gamache, but with her newest one, “A Great Reckoning” she’s done it again! “A Great Reckoning” is great! The best so far. She’s really topped herself! I haven’t been able to do anything since I picked up this 12th book in her Gamache series.

I could not put it down!

And neither will you! It’s what a page-turner should be. Suspenseful, taut, fast-paced, totally absorbing and thrilling with a capital “T”.

I’ve read an early critic’s edition, as it were, so there are limits to what I can and can’t say. I can’t quote from it, but I can say there are beautiful descriptions of her beloved Quebec and the irresistible village of Three Pines. You really want to move there and retire, just like Gamache & his devoted, smart, beautiful wife Reine-Marie have. Except of course, it’s a fictional location where corpses and murders abound. And it’s in Quebec, where it’s almost always snowing.And her descriptions of the food Olivier & Gabri prepare in their adorable bistro ~ MOUTH~WATERING!

Also writing about a thriller like this is difficult, because you can’t reveal any of the mysteries, or you’ll spoil it. And suffice it to say that there’s a LOT to spoil. There are twists upon twists, and a really bang-up unguessable conclusion. And all your favorite characters, the colorful Quebecquois townspeople, are all back, Clara, Myrna, Ruth Zardo and her pet duck, Rosa. And the gay couple to end all gay couples, Olivier & Gabri, and their wonderful bistro/B&B, that you’ll wish you could dine at and stay at. But alas! They’re all fictional! But that’s the sign of great writing. It all comes alive for you, Penny tells her stories so well.

Taken altogether as one massive novel, it reminds me of “War and Peace”! That’s how the Gamache series  deepens and grows on you.Throughout the twelve preceeding novels(and you really should read all of them, in order, if you can), the characterizations just build and build and build til you feel you know Clara & Myrna & Ruth etc.,etc. It’s like visiting old friends, in their loveliest of homes. But you can read the Gamache series of mysteries and enjoy them as stand alones, too.

This mystery is set in the Montreal Police Academy, which has made Gamache its’ head and lured him out of retirement, and the scenes shift between the school and Three Pines, but I will say no more than that. No spoilers here! “A Great Reckoning” hits stores August 30. But you can pre-order, mais oui!

And as strong and suspenseful as “A Great Reckoning” is, it’s even MORE amazing how quickly after Penny’s last Gamache book ,N.Y. Times bestseller “The Nature of the Beast”, came out. Less than a year! How does she do it? But then that’s the timetable Agatha Christie kept to and Louise Penny is nothing if she’s not a modern, French-Canadian Agatha Christie. Miss Marple had St. Mary Mead and Gamache and co. have Three Pines. Murder mysteries set in small, cozy, seemingly idyllic villages.

And when you read her acknowledgements at the end, she heart-breakingly reveals that her much-loved husband Michael has gotten dementia. And they live together in a small village in Quebec’s townships. but it’s not Three Pines. So her writing this wonderful, complicated thriller so FAST and so WELL is even more amazing! That she wrote this great book in the middle of all this personal sorrow and tragedy is astonishing. All my best to Louise and to Michael, too.

#Louise Penny # Three Pines # Inspector Gamache # Murder Mystery#Agatha Christie #Canada # Montreal # Quebec

Louise Penny Has Captured My Imagination and Is Holting it Prisoner!

Louise PennyI haven’t yet read all ten of Quebecquois author Louise Penny’s ten novels, but I know that soon I will! I just can’t put them down! She’s amazing! IT’S amazing and she’s been around now for quite some time and I’m coming late to the Louise Penny party, but I’ve just subscribed to her chatty newsletter and I recommend you all, dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of literature and the theatre, so check out http://www.louisepenny.com and you can friend her on Facebook!

What a lovely writer! And how unusual is it for novels that routinely debut at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List (hardcover and paperback) to be set in Montreal?!?! And mostly the tiny little village of Three Pines. It boasts a bar and a bistro and all the characters have French names, but Louise Penny writes so beautifully about them, in English.

Her descriptions of the seasonal changes in her(and my) beloved Montreal and Quebec are just magical. They make you want to be there all year ’round! And I’ve neglected to say just what these novels are all about. Well, believe it or not, they’re mysteries!

Whodunits! Not since Agatha Christie have I’ve found myself so obsessed! Her leading man is the beguiling Chief Inspector Gamache of the Surete. The Montreal police. And Penny doesn’t just stop there. She’s created a GALLERY of adorable characters around him, Clara Morrow, the painter, Myrna, the black Used Bookshop keeper, Olivier and Gabri, a delightful gay couple who run the Bistro and most memorably for me, the foul-mouthed nonogenarian poet (and drunk) Ruth Zardo, who has a pet duck, Rosa! A pet duck! I love that!

And Three Pines is off the grid! Inspector Gamache and his hearty side-kick Jean-Guy Beauvoir are constantly frustrated because there’s no Internet there! I love that!

I love Ruth and Rosa, and I immediately wanted to move to Three Pines, but of course, anyone who does so does so at his peril. Because delightfully hidden getaway to end all getaways, you could very well end up murdered. As many of its’ tiny citizenry do. On a regular basis.

My favorite? So far “Fatal Grace” which is set in Three Pines at Christmas time.

Penny, a former CBC broadcaster, miraculously turned her life and career around, at the midway mark, and began to produce these ASTOUNDINGLY successful, delicately written thriller-dillers. “Fatal Grace” kept me up until 3AM a few nights ago! I couldn’t put it down!

And Penny wrings changes on the tried and true mystery form, which she seems quite frankly at once in love with but also tired of. She does this by continuing her characters exploits and their stories from novel to novel. One saga involving Olivier goes on for two books!

And she develops her characters lovingly as she deepens their stories from book to book to book!

I don’t know which Louise Perry novel I’m going to read next! But I can’t wait!

My advice, start with the first one “Still Life” and then the second “Fatal Grace” and continue reading them in succession. You’ll be glad you did!

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Who is Rosamund Pike? She’s the “Gone Girl”!

So ladies and gentle-persons, meet Rosamund Pike, a big star in her home country, England and picked by film director David Fincher, who is very discerning in these matters of choosing female stars. He wanted the comely Rosamund because she’s “all that” AND she’s a VERY good actress and at the same time not very well-known to world audiences.

This according to Sasha Stone http://www.awardsdaily.com in her podcast with Jeff Wells at http://www.hollywoodelsewhere.com

So you can judge for yourself whether Fincher has made the right choice or not. And Rosamund talks, briefly, about being married to Owen Wilson “for a brief,fleeting moment.” And that she was embarrassed that his blond hair looked better than hers.

She was sitting down to chat about the great dramedy “Barney’s Version” which netted Paul Giamatti a totally surprising Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical.

And of course, if you’ve enjoyed this interview with Rosamund you can find literally HUNDREDS more at http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

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ANOTHER Oscar Nominee! “Buzkhashi Boys” Sam French ~ Best Live Action Short!

I know it’s an Oscar category that nobody ever pays attention to ~ until now ~when I give the full-on “Stephen Holt Show” interview experience to the dynamic Sam French, a filmmaker who lives and works in Kabul, Afghanistan! “Buzkashi Boys” is about two street kids who dream of growing up to be Buzkhashi horsemen, which is the national sport of Afghanistan. I’ll let Sam descrbie exactly what it is. Even though a short, this film was really powerful, shot completely on the streets and locations in Kabul, capturing sights never seen before on film.

I interviewed Sam this summer at the Montreal Film Festival. We went to see the final screening of his film in the Cinema ONF of the National Film Board of Canada on one of the days before it was about to be torn down! An historic moment!

Camera-Cody Michaels
Editing-Kevin Teller

Who will win the Audience Choice Award at TIFF?

Well, it’s an important Oscar question and somebody HAD to ask it. Who will win the Audience Award at TIFF? Last year, the award went to, and I knew it would, “The King’s Speech” which had a groundswell of opinion and support at last year’s TIFF. It was on everyone’s list. And at the top at that and beloved, even then.

So when it eventually went on to win the Oscar, I wasn’t surprised.

Of course, this was an award granted by English Canada, to an English film.

This year, I felt none of that consensus. So predicting this award is virtually impossible. Or is it? Well, I’m going to do it any way or at least list some films it MIGHT be.

“The Artist” I thought, after seeing the tumultuous, joyous reception it got at Montreal and that I heard that it got at Cannes,  I thought this would be a slam dunk. Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone loved it. And I did too. The black and white and SILENT hat trick is a truly marvelous cinematic achievement. A French film about the Silent Film Era AND in black and white! How can this film overcome all that to win people’s hearts? But it does. This is what I thought going in to TIFF.

But—

I didn’t feel “The King’s Speech” groundswell/consensus at TIFF. It should’ve been there. But it wasn’t. This surprised me. Maybe it has something to do with this being a French film….and well, y’know, there is still much antipathy to the French speakers in the OTHER big Canadian province, sad to say. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. And this may explain the lack of amour for the marvelous “Artist.” I don’t think Toronto audiences ever have rewarded a French film in this category. The only one they award!

Maybe it will eventually triumph with the Audiences of Toronto. But there’s also the George Clooney movie “The Descendants” which unfortunately I haven’t seen, but will catch up with soon at the New York Film Festival, which is already upon us.

Many people liked this Alexander Payne film. His “Sideways” had that same TIFF launch, also, many years back, and that also went on to win the Audience Choice award. “Sideways”  went on to win many, many Oscar nominations but only won one, for Alexander Payne for Original Screenplay. But I think Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” has that one sewn up. They loved George. I did sense I was in the middle of Clooney-mania…but…was it his performance more than the film? Or will Alexander Payne after a long absence from center stage be back in the spotlight, and an Oscar front-runner, if “The Descendants” wins this important award, from the people of Toronto, remember. NOT the press. No critics were involved. TIFF doesn’t hand out prizes like Cannes, and Montreal, and many other festivals do. It’s the people’s choice.. And Torontonians are such committed, avid film buffs all. They literally have to suffer and go through hell to see these movies, the demand is soooo great. They sell every seat. Yes, they do.

Then there’s also “Machine Gun Preacher” which was the best film I saw. Will socially conscious Toronto audiences respond to its’ challenging subject matter? The genocide in Sudan and Darfur. A subject that has never been treated by a mainstream award-worthy film? Like “Slumdog Millioniare” a film I didn’t take seriously til it won here. And then I was like, “Whoa! Have I missed something?” And “Slumdog Millionaire” as improbable as it sounded at the time, WAS the film you were hearing about constantly.

I didn’t see “Shame” or “Ides of March” but the reaction to both was mixed . I would be SHOCKED, SHOCKED! if it was Toronto home boy David Cronenberg’s latest misfire “A Dangerous Method.” Toronto audiences…do they have a habit of embracing their own? Not so much….but…

Well, it may be one of these films. There. I’ve narrowed down the list and lessened the unbearable suspense.

On Sunday, we’ll know.

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