Elevate Difference

Reviews by Neil Flowers

Neil Flowers

Neil is an award-winning playwright who has worked as a writer, actor, and director in theatre, television, radio, and film. Various venues have published his stories, articles, poems, and book and film criticism. An intellectual property he co-authored was made into a feature by Jim Henson Films. He has worked as a script doctor and a story editor in film, and editor-in-chief of a blog; written coverage for a film production company; and authored a column on screenwriting. He was assistant director on a feature film (Blur). For five years he was a writer, actor, and director on the nationally syndicated radio show, Rebels Without Applause. For 15 years, he has taught private classes in screenwriting to Hollywood production people and at Los Angeles City College, where he also taught critical thinking and genre studies. He has an MFA in Dramatic Writing and an MA in Theatre and Dance.

Last Train Home

The establishing longshot of this documentary tilts down to show a few policemen in an open, paved space. Slowly the camera pans left, and the entire frame fills with thousands of people standing in a drizzle. Many hold bright, pastel-coloured umbrellas. It’s a beautiful image. The following shot, from ground level, shows that huge crowd rushing in pandemonium past the camera into a train station. These two shots are emblematic of the film: beauty and chaos inextricably interwoven.

Small Source of Comfort

Full disclosure: Bruce Cockburn (COE-burn) is Canadian; I’m Canadian. There aren’t that many of us. We’re the world’s second largest country, with a population smaller than California. So we back our homeys when they’re world-class: Angela Hewitt, Frederick Banting, Sandra Oh, Denys Arcand, Jim Carrey, Diana Krall, Leonard Cohen, Karen Kain, Tom Thomson, David Suzuki, Cirque du Soleil.


Mutum is a coming of age, low-budget feature about a subsistence farming family living in the sertão, the hardscrabble outback of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The family is so dirt poor and isolated that nearly every meal is rice and a little meat, the roof leaks buckets in a rainstorm, and a person can die from lack of treatment for a minor scrape that becomes infected.

Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Suss

Harlan reworked brilliantly the Jew Suss film. This will be the anti-Semitic film. - From the diary of Joseph Goebbels, December 15, 1939. You’re a talented, ambitious film director, lauded in your homeland and feted elsewhere for your movies. You can choose your projects. Producers throw money at you and don’t interfere with your work. You have final cut. You’re well paid. You lead a privileged life. You are married to a beautiful actress, who is your leading lady.

White Material

The title of this grave work derives from Black African slang for Whites and for the objects Whites own, e.g., a gold cigarette lighter (an important symbolic prop in the film). Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert) is the main white material here, a middle-aged woman trapped by the colonial past and present civil war in an unnamed African country.

Dear Pyongyang

Yonghi Yang and her parents are Zainichi, meaning a Korean who lives in Japan. During the division of Korea in 1948 and the war that followed, the Zainichi took sides just as those who dwelled on the peninsula did. Yang’s parents had never been to North Korea, but were so enamoured of communism and the country that in 1971 Yang's father sent his three teenage sons to live in Pyongyang, the capital, as part of the Zainichi “Return Project.” This emigration occurred between the 1950s and 1970s when “Returnees” hoped for a better life in the “fatherland.” This better life never materialized, yet Returnees were forbidden to go back to Japan.

Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town

"Anybody that’s ever lived on earth knows that the earth is the geography of our being." - Charles Olson Dogtown is a rocky 3,000-acre swath occupying the interior centre of Cape Ann Peninsula in the northeast corner of Massachusetts. Gloucester, renowned as a fishing village, is located on Cape Ann (the fishermen of The Perfect Storm worked out of Gloucester).

From Paris With Love

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent — Isaac Asimov Luc Besson is credited with the “story” for this violent comic book of a thriller that is an insult to Paris. Years ago, Besson wrote Le Dernier Combat and The Fifth Element, flicks that are still worth seeing.

44 Inch Chest

Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone) is a pot-bellied British gangster happily married to Liz, his wife of twenty-one years (Joanne Whalley). The problem is she’s not happily married to him. When Liz tells Colin she’s leaving him for a lover, he slides from incredulity to rage. Marital delusions wrecked, he resorts to gangster methodology. He assaults his wife (mostly off-screen) to get the lothario’s name—a studly French waiter (Melvil Poupaud). Colin has a four-man crew with whom he toils at their underworld trade.

Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

Cutting to the chase: The three authors of Marijuana is Safer—all active politically in pro-marijuana organizations—argue in favour of a regulated system for the distribution and sale of marijuana in America to allow its responsible use by adults. The evidence they accumulate to support their position is based on health, logic, science, and money. A couple of chapters sum up the history of how, after U.S.


Nothing is so perfectly amusing as a total change of ideas. - Laurence Sterne Anybody that doesn't want to get killed best clear on out the back. - William Munny (Clint Eastwood), Unforgiven Christine Montalbetti is the best shot in town. She'll slay you in the street at high noon. So if tender, easily digestible reads are your favorite, best clear on out the back. Jane Austen or Suzie Ormond, Western ain’t.

The Box

Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) receive a small box with a red button on top delivered by a mysterious man (Frank Langella) with half the left side of his face missing (gruesome, courtesy of CGI). It’s a Faustian deal. Press button and receive a million bucks. The catch: Someone unknown to you dies. Here’s a good thing about The Box: The special effects water and its climax are très cool.

The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons from the Natural World

“Poor deer,” quoth he, “thou makest a testament/As worldlings do…” - As You Like It, Act II, Scene 1 Oak trees plan ahead. In any given area, in any given year, they produce shrunken acorns by design not disease. Such meagre bounty keeps in check acorn-eating animals. Deprived of autumn calories, many of these animals starve to death come winter. Thus fewer ravenous mouths eat healthy acorns in years following; thus more acorns survive; thus more new oaks sprout and thrive. In fall 2007, the oaks around Peterborough, New Hampshire, resorted to shrunken acorns.

When I Forgot

This kind of forgetting does not erase memory, it lays the emotion surrounding the memory to rest. – Clarissa Estes The protagonist of this short, dense novel is Anna Louhiniitty, a twenty-something Finnish journalist. It’s a slushy April day in Helsinki. Anna sits at a café table. She’s supposed to be transcribing an interview. On the table sits a copy of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, that famous novel of war, suicide, and society parties.

Garden Anywhere: How to Grow Gorgeous Container Gardens, Herb Gardens, and More—Without Spending a Fortune

Gardens are a form of autobiography. - Sydney Eddison Alys Fowler is British. Her book, The Thrifty Gardener, has been a hit in England. Garden Anywhere, the re-titled North American version, deserves the same success in Canada and the U.S. as it has across the pond. Fowler started gardening as a teenager. Now roughly 30, she goes against the grain of British gardening—or so it seems.

Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America and Found Unexpected Peace

Faith: not wanting to know what is true.- Frederick Nietzsche William Lobdell was a twenty-something flake. He blew one marriage and was on his way to blowing a second when a friend dragged him to a gathering of evangelical Christians. Lobdell was born again, and he started attending Sunday services. His wife, a lapsed Catholic, appreciated his newfound Christianity and joined with him in a subsequent odyssey through various Christian denominations. Lobdell was a born again with one difference: he was a journalist.


Human beings are interested in two things. They are interested in the reality and interested in telling about it. – Gertrude Stein Reality is an olive that rolls away to elude your fork. There are ways of dealing with this. Mashing flat the olive helps. When sitting in the john, consider chess moves by the Hungarian master, Gyula Breyer. Even if you’re a guy, pedicures are nice in the struggle with reality. Pap smears too (women only), but, ladies, the smear should be fresh.

Lucky Billy: A Novel about Billy The Kid

Anything that the imagination can concoct in the way of murders and desperate deeds may be heard upon the streets now in regard to Billy The Kid, but getting at the truth of the many rumors is another thing altogether. -- The Daily New Mexican, May 5, 1881 Billy they don’t want you to be so free. -- Bob Dylan I: Backstory Billy The Kid earned his renown in the Lincoln County War (1878-1881), a mercantile conflict that tore apart New Mexico.

The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito: An Exhibition of His Work (5/8 - 6/29/2008)

"One day I encountered the line in the Great Parinirvana Sutra that reads, ‘One who gives priority to making Buddha images and stupas, and takes great joy in doing so, will thereupon be born in the Land Immovable (the realm of resolute determination)’" - Shinjo Ito Shinjo Ito (1906-1989) is one of Japan’s great modern Buddhist artists, although he thought of himself as primarily a religious man.

The Five-Forty-Five to Cannes

No point beating about the bush. Might as well get the finale over with right now at the top, instead of coyly building to it with flourishes of logic and neat exempla. Here goes. This is one terrific book Tess Uriza Holthe has written. It's tough, slapstick, delicate, witty, bawdy, rueful and superbly crafted. One minute she throws her head back in laughter; the next she whips out a blade and knifes you in the ribs. Can't trust her at all, meaning she's the best sort of writer.