Film Review: The Glass Castle – a teacher in family dynamics and how it shapes us


The Glass Castle is a vibrant feature film by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) based on former gossip columnist and American writer Jeanette Wall’s 2005 memoir of the same name.

The film recounts Walls’ tumultuous childhood which saw the Walls family move constantly, squat in unimaginable living quarters and deal with unkept promises by Wall’s unrealistic and alcoholic father, Rex (Woody Harrelson).

The Walls family consists of siblings Lori (Sarah Snook), Jeanette (Brie Larson), Brian (Josh Caras) and Maureen (Brigette Lundy-Paine), mother Rose Mary, played by Naomi Watts, and Rex.

Rose Mary, as we get to learn early on in the film, is an absentminded artist with a total hands-off approach to raising her kids. She is completely immersed in her world of canvases where kids seem to need no discipline nor a helping hand.

Rex, at first encounter, seems to be the perfect travel companion: open-minded, adventurous and playful.

“You learn by living,” he says by taking the family car for a joyride off the paved highway, which later turns into a painting day for Rose Mary and a night under the stars for the whole family.

As the story progresses, we quickly observe the dysfunctionality of the family and its consequences.

We find out that Rex’s use of escapism, which he uses to deter his kids’ attention from their constant conditions of poverty, isn’t always sweet and tender. We see him abuse the bottle on one too many occasions, and as the kids grow, Rex imposes his anti-“system” views further by being strongly opposed to any sort of structured education.

Harrelson’s performance as Rex is powerful and will leave you questioning his non-conforming methods with the more classic styles of child-rearing .

On one end, we want to cheer on Rex for the magic he creates for the kids. On another, we witness the neglectful behaviours of both parents and shake our heads in disgust and sadness when the kids go hungry.

The Glass Castle is a good teacher and a good lesson. It teaches constant resilience, perseverance and growth. It taught Walls and her siblings how to “swim or sink” quickly – perhaps too quickly, to the point where the kids awoke, not in adulthood, but as youngsters swimming for air from Rex’s radicalism. It also taught them self-discipline when it came to finding a way to an education.

The Glass Castle teaches an equally good lesson that shows up as the “self”, symbolically portrayed in Rex. The quote “hurt people hurt others” rings true here and Rex is no exception. Inner turmoil, we all have it, and by watching The Glass Castle, we observe the sabotaging of the “self” and others when its healing is not made a priority.

All in all, The Glass Castle is a film to be curious about. Some critics say it was romanticized, and it might have been.  Some say the past and the present weren’t linked effectively. But, these are technicalities I do not care about. I’d like to think childhoods, no matter the degree of traumatic, shape us into the person we were always meant to be, Walls’ being no exception and rather an example of the beauty of adversity.

Calgary Cinematheque’s Annual Focus Series puts spotlight on actress Tilda Swinton

CALGARY — This season, the Calgary Cinematheque has made British actress Tilda Swinton their centre of interest for its Annual Focus Series.

Four films featuring Swinton were carefully selected: the British arthouse film The Last of England, directed by the late English director Derek Jarman; I Am Love, the Italian drama by director Luca Guadagnino; the thriller Young Adam by Scottish director David Mackenzie; and finally, 2008’s Julia, a French crime drama directed by Erick Zonca.

Most are likely to be familiar with Swinton’s current role as the “Ancient One” in Marvel’s Doctor Strange or perhaps her role in the mainstream series The Chronicles of Narnia as Jadis, the White Witch.

However, Swinton’s extensive portfolio of cinematic work extends beyond the mainstream, and into arthouse, world and British cinema – all with extremely powerful performances that make her one of the most versatile, idiosyncratic and influential actresses of our time.

Felicia Glatz, programming director at Cinematheque, says that the programming committee has been sitting on the idea of having a Tilda Swinton series for years. She also shares that this season seemed like the perfect opportunity to turn their usually director-driven spotlight onto the performer who sits on the other side of the camera.

“…[I]f I had to distill our reasoning down to a few characteristics [to why we chose Tilda Swinton as our focus for our spotlight series], it would have to be her dexterity as an actress and collaborator, and the humble studiousness that she maintains across all of her projects,” writes Glatz in an email.

Furthermore, Glatz says Swinton is immediately “recognizable” and is “indefinable”.

“Somehow, she never overshadows herself and embodies each character fluidly,” she adds.

Professor James Ellis, who currently teaches 16th and 17th-century poetry and prose at the University of Calgary, has taught British Cinema in the past. He says he first encountered Swinton while doing research for his book on film director Derek Jarman. It was then that Ellis was able to explore in-depth Swinton’s performances in Jarman’s late-70s to early-90s films.

Ellis says that Swinton has been famous for a long time within the alternative art film community and world cinema and is recognizable for her striking androgynous looks and her complete devotion to her art.

“I think part of it dates back to her association with Jarman who was [a] fiercely political, non-commercial artist who believed strongly in collaborative work and experimental art,” he says.

“And now, she’s in Doctor Strange. I think a ton of people are going to see her in that role and hopefully they’ll wonder, ‘who is this person,’ and actually come out and see these films,” he says of the Cinematheque’s Focus Series.

Arthouse film The Last of England (screening come and gone as of writing time) is the perfect example of Swinton’s close collaboration with Jarman.

“[It’s] a very personal and visceral retaliation to political sanctioned homophobia during the Thatcher era and endures as an essential component of New Queer Cinema,” writes Glatz.

In I Am Love, Swinton learned to speak Italian with a Russian accent, the perfect example of her collaborative spirit and fruitful dedication to her art and her strive for more “sensational cinema.”

In Young Adam, Swinton plays opposite Ewan McGregor. Set in 1950s Scotland, she plays a “hard and unforgiving” woman who negotiates a husband and a lover. The film was chosen for her severity in her role of Ella.

Finally, the French crime drama Julia was chosen for this series as it is a type of role rarely portrayed by Swinton, ultimately demonstrating her multifaceted performance capabilities.

“From full-blown calamity to a last hope, Swinton truly epitomizes a woman clawing her way toward some sort of atonement,” shares Glatz.

Calgary Cinematheque ultimately chose films of comparative texts, “in the hope of conveying our own admiration of her craft,” states Glatz, “but mostly to showcase her contribution to what we feel are some powerful and dense films.”

Showtimes (as of press time):
“I Am Love” (2009) – December 1, The Globe Cinema
“Young Adam” (2003) – December 8, The Plaza Theatre
“Julia” (2008) – December 15, The Globe Cinema
For more information, visit 

Story published here

Archive: Calgary indie songstress Samantha Savage Smith releases sophomore album

photo courtesy of

January 12, 2015

CALGARY — It’s hard not to love local heroine Samantha Savage Smith. Her persona is down-to-earth, she sings sweetly and strums gently, releasing feel-good, gentle indie rock songs that more often than not leave you with chills.

When she’s not jamming in her basement or recording an album with local producer Lorrie Matheson, she’s jamming in Nordic nations with Icelandic songsmiths or touring with her band. Despite all this, she remains easy to talk to; she emits a completely genuine love for music, one that is deeply rooted. Indeed, Smith began singing at age nine and playing guitar at 11. She says once she figured out how to play a few chords together, she started writing “bad crappy songs” and playing them for her mother and brother. Although Smith went on to play in bands in high school, her self-doubt became crippling until Matheson stepped in: he heard some of Smith’s demos and worked with her to develop and record her debut. She was just leaving her early 20’s when her debut Tough Cookie was released, first on Western Famine, then by Toronto’s Arts & Crafts for wider distribution.

With much more musical experience under her belt, Smith is now releasing Fine Lines, her sophomore album on Winnipeg indie label Pipe & Hat. The album delivers a more refined, evolved “grown-up” sound that stays true to Smith’s indie folk-rock identity. It’s still very authentic, yet charming and better defined.

“I would say the songs are more complex now. I have personally put a lot more thought and effort into them,” says Smith, admitting the writing process took much longer than that for her previous album.

Fine Lines offers more than love and heartbreak, she says.

“It’s about life challenges, my own personal challenges with myself. It’s grown because I’m older.”

Smith and her band mates recently wrapped up a two-week Canadian tour promoting Fine Lines. It stretched out east as far as Winnipeg, passing through Saskatchewan, going all the way west to Victoria.

“We tour in a mini-van. It [gets] tight,” she says with a laugh. “It’s long drives; you’re driving for eight or nine hours every day at least, sometimes 12.”

Touring, though, is something Smith enjoys.

“The first week is kind of the hardest because you’re not in it quite yet,” she says of the “weirdly” long days that come with touring the vast Canadian landscape. By the time they get to play their set, she says, they wrap up and are on the road again.

Right before touring begun, Smith found herself in Iceland once more for the annual Iceland Airwaves music festival. She was invited back for a second round of a collaborative talent exchange called EMBASSYLIGHTS. The collective includes Calgary musicians Mark Andrew Hamilton from Woodpigeon, Smith, Clinton St. John and Laura Leif, alongside two of Reykjavík’s most intriguing songsmiths Benni Hemm Hemm and Prins Póló. The idea stemmed from Woodpigeon’s Hamilton, who wanted to focus on collaborative song writing.

“We met up with [Hemm Hemm and Póló] in Reykjavík, sat in their room for three or four days and wrote an album. We played a show our first night in Reykjavík and on the Sunday, we recorded all of it [within] the day,” she recalls.

Iceland is all too dreamy, a Mecca for the musically curious and hungry. It was Smith’s second time in the territory. She describes the music scene there as similar to the one we have in Calgary, only much bigger.

“[At Iceland Airwaves]there’s [around] 250 bands and only a small percentage of international bands [who] can only go and play once. They never do repeat acts and showcase mostly all Icelandic bands,” she says.

Back home, Savage Smith took part in the PEAK Performance Project Alberta, a radio competition that saw Edmonton’s The Wet Secrets take home the winning prize of $100,953 after months of boot camps. Although the experience came with some downsides, including a few scathing assessments of her musical approach, it was a learning experience she valued as it forced her to “question quite a bit of things you haven’t been really been forced to think about.”

“The actual competition itself is really hard work. You do the showcases, there’s this crazy final report you have to [hand in]. You have to meet deadline and figure out how to prioritize. It definitely takes it out of you,” she describes.

The experience was ultimately positive as it got Smith deeply considering her focus.

“I’m stoked,” she says. “It [got me] to want to move forward and do my own thing.”

With Fine Lines, Smith went back into Arch Audio, Matheson’s cozy Inglewood recording studio. Two main elements shifted; meaning Fine Lines is a different beast than Tough Cookie.
Firstly, lyrically, Fine Lines moves away from the personal intensity of its predecessor, although Smith swears her songs still come from a very personal place.

“[Although it] may be a disconnected experience from myself, I’m still writing about myself,” she says.

Her song “Kids in the Basement,” for example, is about making music.

“It’s the highs and low of doing that, the grassroots of trying to be a musician, what you give up for it,” she says. “It’s pretty obtuse in what it can mean because it directly doesn’t really need to be about anything. I don’t know if they intentionally do, but I want songs to rather give a sense of feeling than have a direct message,” she describes.

Secondly, although Matheson had quite a bit of studio input on the songs for Tough Cookie, pre-production differed this time around. It was co-produced by Smith and band member Chris Dadge, with whom she demoed the songs at home. The end product features contributions from an array of Calgary indie musicians, including members of Snailhouse, Woodpigeon, Lab Coast, Friendo, Ghostkeeper and Chad VanGaalen’s band.

She says the overall experience was relaxed and “a lot like recording with your pals.”

Being Calgary born-and-raised (as well as clearly having a strong support group from local musicians), means Smith loves cities like Montreal and Toronto but calls Calgary home.

“I had a lot of hometown love and support from people which made a huge difference for me,” she says of her decision to stay in the city. She describes the music scene here as having a great community vibe.

“There was a point where you had heard of all the bands in Calgary but now you have to keep up to it, “ she says. “It’s good because that just means the scene is getting bigger.” That being said, she decries the increasingly high rents, which make it difficult for any artist to live in the city.

“ I used to live in Vancouver and the rent was crazy, but now in retrospect, the rent is the same!” she says.

Smith says there’s a certain appeal in moving to bigger cities, but ultimately, Calgary is where her heart (and couch) are to stay, even if it’s for logistical purposes.

“[Calgary] is my home base,” she says. “When it comes down to it, if your band is prepared to tour a lot, it really does not matter where you live. The idea is you’re on the road and are constantly present in all those cities anyway.”

She finishes, “And then you can go back to wherever you want to chill out on the couch.”

The release party for Fine Lines is January 23 at the Palomino Smokehouse and Bar.

Story published here

Bling Blings and a Not-So-White Wedding Dress

queen victoria
Queen Victoria in her white wedding dress

Today I was out shooting 125 Years of Wedding Fashion at the Lougheed House in Calgary, AB. It reminded me of the time I checked out a similar but larger exhibit in London, UK at the Victoria and Albert Museum back in 2014.

What a lot of people do not know is that the colour white only became popular when Queen Victoria chose to wear her wedding dress that way on her special day. It became trendy onwards.

My favourite era for wedding dresses? The 1940’s, of course. Since it was World War II, lavish expensive fabric was scarce and many women opted for shorter styled dresses in different hues ranging from emerald green to red. Interestingly enough, when Google takes me to 1940’s wedding dresses, they are 1940’s inspired present-day wedding gowns, all white and Hollywoodish; nothing really accurate for the everyday woman back then.

I like different. I like the the idea of mixing it up a little. I find it compelling when the bride and groom put their own spin. Suspenders? A red dress? Short dress? Flats for charity instead of the usual heels? Sign me up!

Other things that I like?

These amazing Etsy engagement rings.

They’re not your usual diamond rings! They have personality!

Disclaimer: I do not have wedding fever. I get inspired by everything, including cute engagement rings and fashion history ;)

Featured Image: Credit – Capucinne

Some of my favourites below:

Triangle uniqueness , Trillion Diamond Wedding Set – Artemer
Emerald and Diamond Bridal Set – Artemer
Tanzanite Ring – Capucinne
Emerald Engagement Ring – Capucinne

The Observer

Let others speak. You don’t have the answers to everything.

Let others express how they feel without interruption. Their emotions are valid too.

Let others be in the spotlight. It’s OK to be on the sidelines from time to time.

In return, you may find that there is a reward to all this.

There is beauty in being an observer, there is wisdom in being the silent one. You will learn to truly understand someone, you will become more aware, you will grow.

And when it’s your time to shine, shine unapologetically. Mean what you say and say what you mean.





Ringing in the new year & reflecting back on the one that went by too fast…

I always find it interesting that I get inspired to write when I hit all-time lows instead of all time highs. It’s like there’s so much turmoil inside me that I need to let it out. And the funny thing is, this turmoil is nothing bad, really, it’s just part of who I am…I don’t think I’m alone in this…we come to times when we feel we need to reflect on what’s been going on inside our brain. My brain? It’s buzzing at 100 Km per hour right about now. Is that a bad thing? No, and neither it is a good thing.

My all-time lows are mostly periods of uncertainty and temporary anxiety. Why do I feel this way? Should I feel differently? Why did I react like this? Why is this affecting me? What should I prioritize? Someone once told me my gut feeling is usually dead on and for some reason, even though I know deep down when something IS right or when something IS wrong, I second guess myself. WHY? I don’t know… I wish I had the answer for you. My intuition is usually right all along, no matter how much I want to deny it.

Perhaps I am just tired…I have a billion things on the go and the end of the year may have burnt me out. I was on an extreme high-on-life high for the months of November and December. I meditated throughout the month of November, which helped with the full plate of craziness…but I mostly partied so I don’t know if the meditation was done in the right frame of mind. December went by so fast, I can’t even believe we’ve already rang the new year and celebrated Christmas. Things are moving so fast, it scares me. I don’t even have time to sit down and think about any of the things that have been happening to me. Didn’t even have time to reflect on 2014…

Although I do like my newly-found social butterfly, I do like my introverted-self the best. That period of the day when I find myself alone, pondering, reading a good book, taking a bath, listening to music, writing… I don’t need much to be happy. A few candles, a notebook and a pen and I can spend my entire day being fully content with myself.

Back to why I’ve been feeling low…and again, I feel like I am not alone in this… it’s a mix of needing to regroup my thoughts and that rough first week of January…the cold, the shitty roads, the shooting in Paris, the shooting in Calgary on New Year’s…Is it just me or this new year is starting with not the kind of bang we had in mind? It’s been upsetting to say the least and has put a damper on my usually sunny self.

There’s this saying that goes, “It’s both a curse and a blessing to feel everything”. And THAT defines me completely. When the world is down, I’m down. When I see someone upset and down, I’m down. I feel absolutely everything, the energy in the room, the energy someone is emitting. When the energy is dark, I feel it, when the energy is bright, I feel it too. I feel so much for others and things around me that I end up living what they’re living. It’s been a tough one to override lately…my mind isn’t able to block out the emotional energy….

I was watching “One Week” the other night, this independent Canadian film with Joshua Jackson who is told he has stage 4 cancer. Two things really stroke a chord:

Number One: “If you had one week to live, what would you do?”
Number Two: “How do you know if you love someone?” The answer to that being “If you have to ask, you don’t”.

These three lines are so powerful, I don’t even know where to begin….

-Number One: If I had one week to live: I would spend it in nature.
-Number Two: I always knew I loved you.

I’ll let you ponder that one…

Back to 2014….

What a year, honestly! I could have not been more grateful for the people that walked into my life, the good AND the bad experiences I’ve lived, the friends and family that have been with me throughout all these years! I can’t believe I’m known my J-girls for the past 7 years already!! This year, I’m truly blessed and touched by the people who have inspired me to become a better and healthier person and go after my dreams of living a creative life. No matter how small or insignificant you think you may be, trust me, you are not, definitely not to me. I have learned so much from all of you, it’s the greatest gift I could have ever gotten… the gift of people who touched my soul, who I’ve seen transform, who have seen ME transform, people who are wise beyond their years, who live, love and learn, people who are not afraid of taking risks. Because really, life is all about growing, loving and living. Living life. That’s it, that’s all. You need to live YOUR life the way YOU want to live it. Don’t let the bad days get to you, we all get those…actually, BE grateful for those days as these are days we need for creation.

Life’s great, love life and life will love you back.

Be good to yourself this new year. I know I need to take my own advice on that one and stop being so hard on myself. When I find myself feeling low, you wouldn’t believe how hard I become on myself: why are you feeling this way?? You are NOT allowed to feel this way!, I tell myself. I can tell myself that all I want but what I really need to do is let myself feel this way. It’s allowed, it’s permitted, perfection is an illusion, you cannot feel HIGH all the time, although, man, I wish I did, because I love when I feel that way.

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone. May we continue this journey in the upmost trust and belief that it will be filled with love, success, and that dreams will become our reality. Don’t forget love also…because without love, we are absolutely nothing.


What inspires you? On giving back, living life and meditation

I am on day 17 of the 21-day Oprah + Deepak Chopra meditation challenge. My mom sent me a link the day before the start of the challenge, and just like that, I decided to be up for the challenge and to stick with it. There has been a couple days where I missed a meditation or two but was always able to make it up the next day. I meditate in strange ways quite frankly. I sometimes sit crossed-legged on my yoga mat with a lit candle, but more often than not, I find myself in savasana-style pose, in my bed right before I go to sleep or in my bath. I figured there were going to be days where I wasn’t up for the ‘traditional’ meditation sesh and I decided to be OK with that and do what felt right at the time. Meditating in the bath gets chilly and meditating right before bed (and usually around 11:30 at night!) puts me to sleep. Sometimes I wonder if I reap the benefits of this challenge because half the time I feel fidgety and my mind is going a million miles an hour and really, I don’t really sit THAT still…. What has changed though is my mind isn’t going a million miles an hour with worry or anxiety. It’s acting this way because this meditation challenge has helped me realize what I truly wanted to do in life, something I feel like I have always known but until now, had no idea how to access that desire. The meditation challenge has completely changed me. There was a switch that has been dormant in me for the past few years and a couple of meditation sessions switched it right back on. How crazy to think something as simple and easy as meditation would put me back in tune with my true desires!

It’s truly been a fantastic journey that has opened me up to my highest desires and which has gotten my mind buzzing with motivation and anticipation! This is great news and continuing meditation will help me stay grounded in my desires, which I believe remains important for any great success to come!

I still cannot believe how alive I feel right now. So much to do, so much to create!

A friend and I drove to Canmore on Sunday and I shared with her my aspirations. It felt so great to be open about what I’ve been up to and where I saw myself take my life next. She too is going through a similar phase and it was just pure joy to be able to share my goals and thoughts with her. To boot, the mountains were overwhelmingly beautiful as always. I always find that they give me the strength and courage to go on and follow my intuition, my gut feeling…their beauty is inspiring; always turn to nature for inspiration. It is where you will find true unspoiled beauty and true unspoiled beauty inspires, always… It was a quiet Sunday afternoon amongst the Rockies, a truly magical and inspiring Sunday afternoon hangout beyond words. What a gorgeous day!

All this new development in my life got me thinking of all things that inspire me. Books inspire me, nature inspires me, people who believe in living their dreams, not simply watching them from afar. People who are not afraid to take a risk; people who live life in honesty and who give back inspires me greatly too! I stumbled upon The Giving Keys, a company who employs those transitioning out of homelessness. Their concept is amazeballs! Or The Rocky Mountain Soap’s new toxic-free campaign! Wow! It’s great to hear of people coming up with new concepts that have meaning and that give back!! Bring it on world!

Meditation and yoga will never seize to inspire me; lately, even swing dancing has inspired me. What a great way to let loose, live a little, not be afraid to look silly and let go of one’s busy day! What a great way to be a part of a community too! It is rare nowadays to find a community of people who get together to dance, live and laugh. Might as well enjoy it while we can! Community is important! We are too disconnected!! Dance brings people together, it makes you connect and it makes you feel alive!!

Fashion has always inspired me. Being unique in how you dress, trying something new, the love for beautiful things, beautiful textiles, beautiful objects…candles, vintage suitcases…

As always my list can go on and on because the world truly inspires me. A crack in the sidewalk inspires me! The snow, the fog, the wind…

Tears of joy inspire me…reading about random-acts-of-kindness made my day. Read about it here. I really like the train story (the things we can do when we unite!) and the opponent’s cake story (wow, beautiful).

Anyway, enough about me….I want to know what inspires YOU? Leave your comments, pass it forward.

Live your life.