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Wadjda-DVD Review *** 01/24/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Arabic language film, BAFTA Awards, Drama, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies, National Board of Review, Satellite Awards, Vancouver International Film Festival.
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Wadjda (Saudi Arabia) 2012 ***

Written and directed by Haifaa Al Mansour
Starring Waad Mohammed and Reem Abdullah

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Film-Non-English Language, BAFTA Awards
NOMINATED, Best First Feature, Independent Spirit Awards
NOMINATED, Best Motion Picture-International Film, Satellite Awards
WINNER, Freedome of Expression Award, National Board of Review, USA
WINNER, Most Popular International First Feature, Vancouver International Film Festival

Wajdja (Mohammed) is a feisty ten-year-old girl who attends a strict girls’ school in Saudi Arabia. Wajdja wants to get a bicycle, but her mother (Abdullah) patiently explains that girls aren’t supposed to ride bicycles.

When Wajdja, who is not a very dedicated student, hears about a prize competition at school, she is determined to win so that she can buy a bicycle for herself.

According to IMDB, Wajdja was both the first feature-length film set entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first feature-length film by a female Saudi director. The story, while set within such a conservative society, is lighthearted and often outright funny. Mohammed’s Wajdja is charmingly recognizable as a typical high-spirited and stubborn pre-teen girl.

Highly recommended. ***

98 min. Rated PG.

For more info:
Wadjda (Two Disc Combo: Blu-ray / DVD)

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The Butler-DVD Review 09/22/2014

Posted by Films to consider in American, BAFTA Awards, Based on true events, Drama, Emotional Drama, Historical Drama, Image Awards, Movies, Satellite Awards.
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The Butler (American) 2013
aka Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Based on true events

Directed by Lee Daniels
Starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Elijah Kelley, and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actress (Winfrey), BAFTA Awards
NOMINATED, Outstanding Male Actor-Lead (Whitaker); Outstanding Female Actor-Supporting (Winfrey), Screen Actors Guild Awards
WINNER, Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture (Whitaker); Outstanding Supporting Actor (Oyelowo, Howard, and Gooding); NOMINATED, Outstanding Motion Picture; Outstanding Supporting Actress (Winfrey)
Outstanding Writing (Danny Strong); Outstanding Directing (Daniels), Image Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Whitaker); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Winfrey), Satellite Awards

Cecil Gaines (Whitaker) grows up in the deep South, where he is given the chance to be a house servant instead of working in the fields. He excels and makes his way North; he is eventually hired as one of the White House butler staff. Cecil serves through eight presidencies, often putting the needs of his job above those of his wife, Gloria (Winfrey) and sons. The film follows Cecil through the turbulent decades of the Civil Rights movement, which causes estrangement between Cecil and his older son Louis (Oyelowo), and the Vietnam War, which takes the life of his younger son Charlie (Kelley).

The screenplay is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, who served in the White House from 1952-1986.

132 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Lee Daniels’ The Butler

I’ve Loved You So Long-DVD Review *** 07/07/2014

Posted by Films to consider in BAFTA Awards, César Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, European Film Awards, French language film, Movies, Vancouver International Film Festival.
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I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG (French) 2008 ***
Il y a longtemps que je t’aime

Screenplay and Directed by Philippe Claudel
Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Serge Hazanavicius, Laurent Grévill, and Frédéric Pierrot

Among many awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Film Not in the English Language (Yves Marmion and Philippe Claudel; NOMINATED, Best Screenplay-Original (Claudel); Best Leading Actress (Thomas), BAFTA Awards
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Zylberstein); Best First Film (Claudel); NOMINATED, Best Film (Claudel); Best Actress (Thomas); Best Original Screenplay (Claudel); Best Music Written for a Film, Jean-Louis Aubert, César Awards
WINNER, Best Actress (Thomas), European Film Awards
WINNER, Most Popular Film (Claudel), Vancouver International Film Festival

Juliette (Thomas) is released from prison after fifteen years and welcomed into her sister Léa’s (Zylberstein) home. The secrets and circumstances surrounding her crime are gradually revealed.

This debut feature film of director Philippe Claudel is a beautifully rendered and unpredictable story in which the viewer learns about the past along with Juliette’s sister, Léa. Kristin Scott Thomas is one of my favorite actresses, and she plays Juliette with a mixture of strength and vulnerability that is a pleasure to see. Also worth mention is Elsa Zylberstein as Léa, who grew up with no understanding of what happened but remained loving and faithful to the sister she remembered.

Highly recommended. ***

117 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
I’ve Loved You So Long

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel-DVD Review 01/13/2014

Posted by Films to consider in BAFTA Awards, British, British Independent Film Awards, Comedy, Golden Globes, Light Drama, Movies, Romantic comedy, Screen Actors Guild Awards.
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THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (British) 2011

Directed by John Madden
Starring Dame Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, and Dev Patel

Among other nominations (no wins are listed):
NOMINATED, Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical; Best Actress (Dench), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film (Madden), BAFTA Awards
NOMINATED, Outstanding Supporting Female Actress (Smith); Outstanding Cast, Screen Actors Guild Awards
NOMINATED, Best British Independent Film; Best Director (Madden);Best Actress (Dench); Best Supporting Actress (Smith); Best Supporting Actor (Wilkinson), British Independent Film Awards

A group of retired British citizens decide individually to move to India where they plan to take up permanent residence in what they soon find out is a rundown hotel.

An amusing story that makes little sense if/when you think about it, but it does provide a pleasant enough vehicle for some major British stars, all of whom give good performances as expected. Over two hours long, though.

124 min.
For more info:
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Searching for Sugar Man-DVD Review *** 05/15/2013

Posted by dmbinder in Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, Based on true events, Biographical, Critics' Choice Awards, Hamburg Film Festival, Malik Bendjelloul, Movies, Music documentary, National Board of Review, Rodriguez, Sugar Man, Sundance Film Festival, Vancouver Film Critics Circle.
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Searching for Sugar Man (Swedish/English) ***
Based on true events in the life of Sixto Rodríguez

Directed by Malik Bendjelloul; written by Bendjelloul and Craig Bartholomew Strydom
Starring Sixto Rodríguez and a cast of others involved in the search for him

Among many other wins and nominations (too numerous to list here):
WINNER, Best Documentary-Features, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Documentary Film, BAFTA Awards
WINNER, Best Documentary, Critics’ Choice Awards
WINNER, Art Cinema Award (Bendjelloul), Hamburg Film Festival
WINNER, NBR Award-Best Documentary, National Board of Review
WINNER, Audience Award and Special Jury Prize-World Cinema Documentary, Sundance Film Festival
WINNER, Best Documentary, Vancouver Film Critics Circle

A truly inspiring story about Sixto Díaz Rodríguez, whose career as a 1970s singer-songwriter received little recognition in the United States, although his music was often compared to Bob Dylan’s. Having failed to achieve his dream to bring his music to the world, Rodríguez returned to his job as a hard laborer in the city of Detroit.

Totally unknown to Rodríguez, his music and lyrics were inspiring generations of South Africans. He became famous in that country, although rumors and reports had spread about his onstage suicide in the U.S. This film is the result of two South African fans’ efforts to track down information about him and clear up the mystery about his life and death. They were astonished to find he was still alive and well.

An awesome story about an incredible man. Rodriguez is on tour; visit his website for more information about his upcoming tour dates. He was also just awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wayne State University in Detroit for his “musical genius and commitment to social justice.” “Sugar Man” is the name of one of his signature songs. Sample his music on YouTube.

Highly recommended.

86 min. PG-13.

For more info:

Searching for Sugar Man

About the soundtrack:

Searching for Sugar Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

The Usual Suspects-DVD Review *** 01/14/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Dark Comedy, Golden Globes, Movies, National Board of Review, Thriller.
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The Usual Suspects (American) 1995 ***

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (Spacey); Best Screenplay (McQuarrie), Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Editing; Best Screenplay; NOMINATED, Best Film (Singer), BAFTA Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (Spacey): Best Screenplay (McQuarrie), Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actor (Spacey), Golden Globes
WINNER, NBR Award, Best Ensemble (for nine actors) and Best Supporting Actor (Spacey), National Board of Review, USA

Directed by Bryan Singer
Written by Christopher McQuarrie
Starring Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Chazz Palminteri, and Pete Postelthwaite

A recent post by a friend prompted me to re-watch this movie. It’s a thriller, but one with a lighthearted twist, and was well worth a second look.

Verbal Kint (Spacey) is a small-time con man, rounded up for an unusual lineup – with four other known criminals. During his interrogation, Kint describes the convoluted happenings that led to many killings and a huge explosion on a ship docked in the port of Los Angeles.

Kevin Spacey is one my favorite actors, and he won many kudos for his role as the unassuming and not-very-bright Verbal Kint. Although a few critics panned the film, the response of most critics, and of the general public, was overwhelmingly favorable.

Highly recommended.

106 min. Rated R. Violence, bloodshed, and general mayhem.

For more info:
The Usual Suspects

The Station Agent-DVD Review *** 12/13/2011

Posted by Films to consider in American, BAFTA Awards, Comedy, Drama, Highly recommended, Independent Spirit Awards, Movies, Sundance Film Festival.
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The Station Agent (American) 2003 ***

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Original Screenplay, BAFTA Awards
WINNER, John Cassavetes Award; Best First Screenplay Award (McCarthy); Producers Award; NOMINATED, Best Male Lead (Dinklage), Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson), National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA
WINNER, Audience Award-Dramatic (McCarthy); Special Jury Prize-Dramatic (Clarkson); Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (McCarthy), Sundance Film Festival

Written and directed by Thomas McCarthy
Starring Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, and Peter Dinklage

A funny and emotionally engaging film about three people living in rural New Jersey. Olivia (Clarkson), who is separated from her husband, moved away from her previous town so she could deal with her little boy’s death. Joe (Cannavale), a friendly and easygoing guy from New York, is there to care for his ailing father and look after his food truck. Fin (Dinklage), a dwarf, is a loner obsessed with trains. When he inherits a train depot building on the outskirts of a small town and decides to move there, he meets up with the other two. The three form an unlikely friendship.

Patricia Clarkson has appeared in many films and television series; she often plays quirky characters. Cannavale is especially known for his roles in television series such as Third Watch, Law & Order, and Cold Case, among others. Dinklage has appeared in stage, film, and television productions.

Highly recommended.

For more info:
The Station Agent