Echoes of Alice

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Published: Jan 16 2015, 01:01:am

Friday, January 16, 2015

    In early November, an old friend asked me about my reaction to the film Away from Her. He had just seen it, he said, and the subject "struck a very close note." His brother and two other friends have Alzheimer's.

    At the time I had no answer for him. Although I owned the DVD, I'd never really found the right moment to watch it. I knew that it was the directorial debut of actress Sarah Polley, that it starred Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie. A Canadian feature film, it had been nominated for eight Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television awards. In February, 2008, it won seven Genies, including best picture, actor, actress and director.

    Polley and Christie were also among 2008's Oscar nominees; Christie for best actress and Polley for her screenplay, an adaptation of author Alice Munro's 1999 short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain. In 2013, Munro became the first Canadian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, yet another reason for me to catch up to Away from Her.

    My friend, a former newspaperman and broadcast reporter, told me some years ago that he believed dementia to be "the largest crisis facing humanity." And now the popular culture seems to be catching up with his insight.

    Julianne Moore is considered the odds-on favourite for an Oscar for playing a variation on Julie Christie's Away from Her role. Based on Lisa Genova's self-published 2007 novel, Still Alice tells the story of a 50-year-old woman dealing with early-onset Alzheimer's.

    In addition to acting, Moore has actively worked for a number of socially-progressive organizations such as Planned Parenthood and Save the Children. If she wins the Oscar on February 22, her acceptance speech should be one to remember.   

    Here at the Reeling Back website, my ten most recent memories are:

KAFKA — One week after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, our 21st century world is becoming ever more like the 1919 Prague envisioned by director Steven Soderbergh in his 1992 mystery-thriller based on the life of the innovative Czech writer. (Posted January 14)

LOOK WHO'S TALKING TOO — The second in a trilogy of films shot in Vancouver, this domestic comedy came at the moment when television comedienne Kirstie Alley seemed on the brink of major motion picture stardom. (Posted January 12)

LINDA LOVELACE — The most unlikely of motion picture celebrities, adult film actress Linda Lovelace visited Vancouver in 1975. In an interview, she discussed the making of her greatest hit, Deep Throat, and the new film in which she represented the "freaks of America," Linda Lovelace for President. (Posted January 10)

OUR FEATURE FILM FEST: 6 — In Part 6 of a 20-part series, Reeling Back continues its restoration of the 1997 Greater Vancouver Book Feature Film Festival, with notes on the 11 features in a program called Lovely Couples.(Posted January 9)

THE EXORCIST — In late 1973, with the Watergate scandal dominating the headlines, movie audiences were ready for the encounter with pure evil that director William Friedkin's shock drama delivered. (Posted January 7)

SHOOT TO KILL — This 1988 pursuit thriller, in which Sidney Poitier plays an FBI agent involved in a shootout aboard a B.C. Ferry, was the result of Ottawa-born director Roger Spottiswoode's first working visit to Vancouver. (Posted January 5)

HEAVEN — An Oscar winner for her performance in 1977's Annie Hall, Diane Keaton may have intended this documentary feature, her debut as a movie director, as a message to her former co-star and paramour Woody Allen. (Posted January 5)    

THE LORD OF THE RINGS — Before director Peter Jackson took on the task of producing a three-film live-action recreation of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy, daring animator Ralph Bakshi packaged its first two volumes into this ambitious 1978 cartoon feature. (Posted January 3)    

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA — The original version of the critically acclaimed sci-fi epic was a 1978 TV series, a project considered so special that its pilot episode was recut for release internationally as a theatrical feature film.  (Posted January 3)
SOUTH OF WAWA — A late entry into the cycle of "Great Canadian loser" films, director Robert Boyd's 1992 drama was made the same year that the United Nations first declared Canada the most liveable place in the world. (Posted January 1)