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Tristana-Movie Review *** 11/16/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Black & white, Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Classic film, Drama, Emotional Drama, Fotogramas de Plata, Luis Buñuel, National Syndicate of Spectacle, Premios ACE, Psychological Drama, Sant Jordi Awards, Spain, Spanish language film.
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Tristana (Spanish) 1970 ***

Directed by Luis Buñuel
Starring Catherine Deneuve and Fernando Rey

NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Film; Best Actor (Rey); Best Director (Buñuel), Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain
WINNER, Best Spanish Movie Performer (Rey); NOMINATED, Best Spanish Movie Performer (Lola Gaos), Fotogramas de Plata
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Lola Gaos); Best Film; Best Male Star (Rey); Best Cinematography, National Syndicate of Spectacle, Spain
WINNER, Best Actor (Rey), Premios ACE
WINNER, Best Film (Buñuel); Best Performance in a Spanish Film (Rey), Sant Jordi Awards

When Tristana (Deneuve), an innocent young woman, loses her mother, she is sent to Toledo to live with Don Lope (Rey), a poverty-stricken nobleman, as her guardian. Lope is a lecherous man who is losing his charm as he ages. He seduces the innocent Tristana and tries to keep her in his clutches.

A psychological drama spotlighting the talents of two popular actors: a young Catherine Deneuve and the seasoned Fernando Rey. Famed writer and director Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) often took on the hypocrisy in Spanish society and in the Catholic Church, and this story includes both those themes. Although not a big award winner outside Spain in the early 1970s, the film, which was shot in black and white, stands as part of Buñuel’s legacy.

*** Highly recommended.

95 min. Rated PG-13

For more info:
Tristana

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Whiplash-DVD Review *** 07/12/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Based on true events, Drama, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Gotham Awards, Movies, Sundance Film Festival.
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Whiplash (American) 2014

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (Simmons); Best Sound Mixing; Best Film Editing; NOMINATED, Best Motion Picture; Best Writing, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (Simmons); Best Editing; Best Sound; NOMINATED, Best Original Screenplay; David Lean Award for Direction (both Chazelle), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Best Actor (Teller), Gotham Awards

Andrew (Teller), a student at a prestigious music academy, is obsessed with the idea of becoming the next great jazz drummer. His talent and determination get the notice of Fletcher (Simmons), a top teacher at the school. To force his students to be their best, Fletcher uses a style of teaching that can only be called outright abuse.

Director Chazelle wrote this film as a result of his own experiences trying to break into the jazz drumming world. As he mentions in an interview, the reason he became a director and not a jazz drummer is essentially the story of the movie. Teller does a great job in the drumming sequences; Simmons goes over and above the call of duty in becoming the kind of teacher you don’t want to have. Chazelle and Simmons especially garnered many wins and nominations.

Highly recommended. ***

107 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Whiplash

The Broken Circle Breakdown-DVD Review *** 05/15/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, César Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, Flemish language film, Movies, Norwegian Int'l Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival.
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The Broken Circle Breakdown (Flemish) 2012 ***

Directed by Felix Van Groeningen
Starring Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Foreign Film (van Groeningen), César Awards
WINNER, Audience Award (van Groeningen ), Norwegian International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Motion Picture-International, Satellite Awards
WINNER, Best Actress-Narrative Feature (Baetens); Best Screenplay (Carl Joos and Felix Van Groeningen); NOMINATED, Best Narrative Feature (Van Groeningen),Tribeca Film Festival

In Belgium, Elise (Baetens) and Didier (Heldenbergh) meet and fall in love. Elise is a tattoo artist; Didier is a singer with a band that plays American country music. They marry and have a daughter, but soon the couple must face a heartbreaking tragedy that strikes their family.

Highly recommended.

111 minutes. Not rated (adult themes).

For more info:
The Broken Circle Breakdown (English Subtitled)

Nebraska-DVD Review *** 11/23/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, AFI Awards, American, Cannes Film Festival, Comedy, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies.
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NEBRASKA (American) 2013 ***

Directed by Alexander Payne
Starring Bruce Dern, June Squibb, and Will Forte

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Picture; Best Leading Actor (Dern); Best Supporting Actress (Squibb); Best Cinematography; Best Director (Payne), Best Original Screenplay, Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Picture; Best Actor (Dern); Best Supporting Actress (Squibb); Best Director (Payne), Best Screenplay, Golden Globes
WINNER, Movie of the Year, AFI Awards
WINNER, Best Actor (Dern), NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (Payne), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Best First Screenplay (Bob Nelson); NOMINATED, Best Feature; Best Director (Payne); Best Male Lead (Dern); Best Supporting Female (Squibb); Best Supporting Male (Forte), Independent Spirit Awards

When senile and curmudgeonly Woody Grant (Dern) becomes convinced that he must travel to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to claim the grand prize, neither his wife Kate (Squibb) nor his younger son David (Forte) can change his mind. David decides to take his father on a trip that includes a family reunion and a visit to the prize headquarters.

This film must have been up against some tough award competition; although it was nominated for many, it only won a few. Bruce Dern and June Squibb will surely remind you of some couple you know. Bob Odenkirk (lately of Breaking Bad fame) appears as the older son. Alexander Payne also directed Sideways and The Descendents.

*** Highly recommended.

114 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Nebraska

Saving Mr. Banks-DVD Review *** 11/06/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Based on true events, Empire Awards, Golden Globes, Irish Film and Television Awards, Light Drama, Movies, Satellite Awards.
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Saving Mr. Banks (American) 2013 ***
Based on real events

Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, and Colin Farrell

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Actress (Thompson), Empire Awards, UK
NOMINATED, Best Original Score, Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress-Drama (Thompson), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actor-Film (Farrell), Irish Film and Television Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Thompson); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Hanks); Best Motion Picture, Satellite Awards

In the early 1960s, Walt Disney (Hanks), at the helm of the successful Disney Studios, is determined to fulfill a promise made to his daughters: that he will make a movie of their favorite book, Mary Poppins. Used to getting his way, he sets out to convince the stubborn author, P. L. Travers (Thompson), to give him the rights, pledging that the musical he has planned will honor her story. As negotiations continue, flashbacks reveal the author’s less-than-perfect childhood that inspired the tale.

I was prepared to merely “like” this movie but found that I truly enjoyed it. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson play off each other very effectively as Disney vs. Travers. Colin Farrell does well as Miss Travers’ charming but ne’er-do-well father, who encourages his young daughter’s flights of fancy. Note that the end credits have actual tapes from the negotiations and meetings that mirror what is shown in the film.

Highly recommended. ***

125 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Saving Mr. Banks

Animal Kingdom-DVD Review *** 06/25/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Action/Thriller, Australian, Australian Film Institute, Australian Writers Guild, Chlotrudis Awards, Golden Globes, Movies, Satellite Awards, Sundance Film Festival, Suspense.
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ANIMAL KINGDOM (Australian) 2010 ***

Written and directed by David Michôd
Starring Jacki Weaver, James Frecheville, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Ben Mendelsohn, and Sullivan Stapleton

Among many other wins and nominations (too many to list; here are just the wins from one):
WINNER, Samsung Mobile AFI Award for Best Film (Liz Watts); Best Direction (Michôd); Best Lead Actor (Mendelsohn); Best Lead Actress (Weaver); Best Supporting Actor (Edgerton); Best Editing (Luke Doolan); Best Original Music Score (Antony Partos, Sam Petty); Macquarie AFI Award for Best Original Screenplay (Michôd), AFI Members Choice Award (Liz Watts); Readers’ Choice Award (Liz Watts), Australian Film Institute

When teenager Josh “J” Cody’s (Frecheville) mother dies from a heroin overdose, he gets reacquainted with the rest of her family. And what a family it is. Grandmother Janine (Weaver), who is affectionately referred to as Smurf, is the matriarch. She has three sons, each of whom is in his own way a hardened criminal. Janine herself will stop at nothing to keep her family together.

A very suspenseful thriller from start to finish. Jacki Weaver, who might be familiar from her role as a very different mother, Dolores in Silver Linings Playbook, gives a chilling performance as a mother who is overly involved in her sons’ lives. Director Michôd has a more recent film, The Rover, which has received excellent reviews from viewers.

Highly recommended for a good action thriller.

113 min. Rated R.
For more info:
Animal Kingdom

Another Year-DVD Review *** 03/02/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, British, Cannes Film Festival, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Chlotrudis Awards, David di Donatello Awards, Emotional Drama, European Film Awards, Light Drama, Mike Leigh, Movies, Romance.
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Another Year (British) 2010 ***

Directed by Mike Leigh
Starring Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Oliver Maltman, Peter Wight, and David Bradley

among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Leigh), Academy Awards
WINNER, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention (Leigh), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Manville), Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Manville); Best Ensemble Performance (cast members); NOMINATED, Best Movie; Best Director (Leigh); Best Original Screenplay (Leigh), Chlotrudis Awards
NOMINATED, Best European Film (Leigh), David di Donatello Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Manville); Best Composer (Gary Yershon), European Film Awards

Another Year follows a year in the life of a happily married middle-aged couple. As Tom (Broadbent) and Gerri (Sheen) interact with their family and friends, humor and happiness appear in equal measure with poignant moments and sad developments.

This movie will not appeal to those looking for a complicated plot or a lot of action, but the depiction of lifetime friendships and the changes in the characters were very moving. As noted above, actress Lesley Manville garnered honors in her role as Gerri’s needy workplace acquaintance, Mary.

Highly recommended.

130 min. Rated PG-13 (but subject matter unlikely to be of interest to a teen!)

For more info:
Another Year

Autumn Sonata-DVD Review *** 02/04/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, César Awards, David di Donatello Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Highly recommended, Ingmar Bergman, Movies, National Society of Film Critics Awards, Psychological Suspense, Swedish language film.
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AUTUMN SONATA (Swedish) 1978 ***
Höstsonaten
Criterion Collection

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Starring Ingrid Bergman, Liv Ullmann, and Halvar Bjork

Among several other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Ingrid Bergman); Best Screenplay (Ingmar Bergman), Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Foreign Film; NOMINATED, Best Actress-Drama (Ingrid Bergman), Golden Globes
WINNER, Best European Film (Ingmar Bergman), César Awards
WINNER, Best Foreign Actress (both Ingrid Bergman and Ullmann), David di Donatello Awards
WINNER, Best Actress (Ingrid Bergman), National Society of Film Critics Awards

Charlotte (Bergman), a famous concert pianist, visits the isolated home of her daughter Eva (Ullmann), who lives quietly with her minister husband Viktor (Bjork). The two haven’t seen each other for years, and the visit starts out on an optimistic note. But soon the family secrets work their way to the surface.

Autumn Sonata provides an opportunity to see two outstanding actresses face each other under the direction of a master of portraying emotions. During his lifetime, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman was nominated for a total of nine Oscars and won many other awards. Director Ingmar and actress Ingrid, who are not related, reportedly had some differences of opinion during the making of Autumn Sonata, and much has been made of the parallel situations in this film and Ingrid Bergman’s own much-publicized personal life, something she too acknowledged. This was her next-to-last film; she died in 1982. Actress Liv Ullmann is still making films; her latest is Two Lives (2012), a thriller set in Norway.

Highly recommended.

93 min. Rated PG (harsh and highly emotional situations)

For more info:
Autumn Sonata (Criterion Collection)

Kon Tiki-DVD Review *** 11/11/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Adventure, Amanda Awards, Based on true events, European Film Awards, Golden Globes, Movies, Norwegian Int'l Film Festival, Norwegian language film, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Satellite Awards.
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Kon Tiki (Norwegian) 2012 ***
Based on true events, as also recorded in a book and documentary film by Thor Heyerdahl.

Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Starring Pal Sverre Hagen and Odd Magnus Williamson

Click here for IMDB’s complete list of awards and nominations
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globes

Very interesting and engaging story of a real-life adventure, undertaken by a group of Norwegians (and one Swede) led by Thor Heyerdahl. In 1947, with little to no experience on the open seas, they set out to prove Heyerdahl’s idea that the Polynesian Islands were long ago populated by people from Peru.

The men construct a raft using mostly methods and materials thought to be used by Peruvian sailors 1500 years ago. After sailing nearly 5,000 miles westward across the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, they make landfall in Polynesia after 101 days. They survived against some incredible odds, and their story has become a legend in Norway and elsewhere.

I watched the Norwegian version of the film, but there is an English version, which in this case I suggest watching. The English subtitles left something to be desired, and I had to keep stopping the movie to read them. The Special Features are worthwhile mostly for some interviews with Heyerdahl and with people who knew him.

Look for the original documentary created by Thor Heyerdahl, which includes actual footage shot on board the raft. This film won an Academy Award in 1951. Although the documentary gives the impression that they did not have much in the way of difficulties, the later film (and apparently the book, which I have not read) understandably shows otherwise.

Highly recommended.

118 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info (this is the English language version):
Kon-Tiki

A Royal Affair-DVD Review *** 10/28/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Based on true events, Bodil Awards, César Awards, Danish language film, Drama, Emotional Drama, European Film Awards, Golden Globes, Historical Drama, Movies, Philadelphia Film Festival, Romance, Satellite Awards.
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A ROYAL AFFAIR (Danish) 2012 ***

Directed by Nicolaj Arcel
Starring Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, César Awards

Based on true events during the reign of Denmark’s King Christian VII (Følsgaard). When young Princess Caroline (Vikander) is “imported” from England to become his queen, it soon becomes apparent that the king is not in his right mind. Queen Caroline and the king’s German doctor, Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mikkelsen) fall in love, and together they try to put things right in the country.

Mads Mikkelsen adds a gentler touch to his character than might be expected from some of his other roles, and Alicia Vikander has a regal presence befitting her role of queen. But it is Mikkel Følsgaard who deserves special mention; in his first movie role, he plays a complicated, increasingly manic character, who is nominally in charge of an entire country’s fate.

Highly recommended if you like this kind of movie (and I do). ***

138 min. Rated R.

For more info:
A Royal Affair