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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.

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Fruitvale Station-DVD Review *** 09/04/2014

Posted by Films to consider in American, Based on true events, Cannes Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, Independent Spirit Awards, Movies, Satellite Awards, Sundance Film Festival.
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Fruitvale Station (American) 2013 ***
Based on true events

Directed by Ryan Coogler
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, and Ariana Neal

Among other awards and nominations too numerous to list here:
WINNER, Un Certain Regard-Avenir Prize; NOMINATED, Golden Camera; NOMINATED, Un Certain Regard Award (All for Ryan Coogler), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Best First Feature (Coogler); NOMINATED, Best Male Lead (Jordan); Best Supporting Female (Diaz), Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Breakthrough Performance Award (Jordan), Satellite Awards
WINNER, Audience Award-Dramatic; WINNER, Grand Jury Prize-Dramatic (both Coogler), Sundance Film Festival

At the end of 2008, Oscar Grant (Jordan) is a 22-year-old resident of the Bay Area who has had his share of ups and downs. He is determined to fix his relationship with his girlfriend Sophina (Diaz) and make a better life for his 4-year-old daughter Tatiana (Neal). But a trip to the city for New Year’s Eve turns tragic when a fight on the subway brings police, and Oscar and his friends get singled out as trouble.

Director Ryan Coogler based his telling of Oscar Grant’s story on personal interviews with family members and close friends. With a great cast that includes Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) as Oscar’s mother, the audience gets a balanced picture of a young man who’s charming but fits right into his tough environment. It’s frightening to see such a realistic portrayal of a situation escalating out of control, but a good reminder that it can happen anywhere, anytime.

Highly recommended.
85 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Fruitvale Station

Lorna’s Silence-DVD Review 03/21/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Action/Thriller, Belgian/French language film, Cannes Film Festival, César Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, European Film Awards, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Lumière Awards, Movies, Suspense, Toronto Film Critics Association Awards.
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LORNA’S SILENCE (Belgian/French) 2008
Le silence de Lorna

Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
Starring Arta Dobroshi, Jérémie Renier, Fabrizio Rongione, and Alban Ukaj

WINNER, Best Screenplay and NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (Dardenne & Dardenne), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Film (Dardenne & Dardenne), César Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Dobroshi), European Film Awards
WINNER, Best French Language Film (Dardenne & Dardenne), Lumière Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Dobroshi), Toronto Film Critics Association Awards

Lorna (Dobroshi) a young Albanian woman, is in a scheme to make money and create a new life with her boyfriend. She agrees to a fake marriage to Claudy (Renier), a heroin junkie in Belgium. After she becomes a Belgian citizen, the junkie will no longer be necessary. Lorna, as you might expect, is in cahoots with some very shady characters, and they won’t let their plan go awry.

The movie’s ending is unforeseen, and while it ends this part of Lorna’s story in a satisfactory way, her overall plight is unresolved. Her emotional turmoil remained so intriguing I could have watched part two.

105 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Lorna’s Silence

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!)

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Another Year

Broken Flowers-DVD Review 12/28/2013

Posted by Films to consider in American, Cambridge Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Comedy, Drama, Emotional Drama, Movies, San Diego Film Critics Society Awards.
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BROKEN FLOWERS (American) 2005

Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton

Winner of the following awards and nominated for several others:
WINNER, Audience Award-Best Film (Jarmusch), Cambridge Film Festival
WINNER, Grand Prize of the Jury, NOMINATED, Palme d’Or, (both for Jarmusch) Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Best Foreign Language Film (Jarmusch), Czech Lions
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (Wright), San Diego Film Critics Society Awards

Bill Murray gives an unexpectedly touching performance in this low-key drama/comedy. Don Johnston (Murray) is a man with little emotional connection to life. He receives an anonymous letter informing him that he has a nineteen-year-old son he knew nothing about, but no other details. From his past relationships, there are four possibilities. Urged on by his neighbor Winston (Wright), a family man with dreams of writing mystery stories, Johnston makes unannounced visits to his former girlfriends to see if he can figure out who might be the mother.

Some of the comedy falls flat, but somehow the overall story makes up for it.

106 min. Rated R for language, graphic nudity and brief drug use.

For more info:
Broken Flowers

La Moustache-DVD Review 10/02/2013

Posted by dmbinder in Cannes Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Chlotrudis Awards, Dark Drama, Emotional Drama, French language film, Psychological Suspense.
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LA MOUSTACHE (French) 2005

Directed by Emmanuel Carrère
Starring Vincent Lindon and Emmanuelle Devos

WINNER, Label Europa Cinemas (Carrère), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize (Carrère), Chicago International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Actor (Lindon); Best Adapted Screenplay (Carrère), Chlotrudis Awards
WINNER, Citizen Kane Award for Best Directorial Revelation (Carrère), NOMINATED, Best Film,
Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival

When Marc (Lindon) decides to change his image by shaving the mustache he has had for years, no one–including his wife Agnès (Devos) or his friends and coworkers–notices. Soon, he begins to doubt whether he actually had the mustache; eventually, he is forced to question his own sanity.

A psychological suspense story that keeps you guessing about what is real and what might be a brush with madness.

Vincent Lindon has a great face for showing the internal confusion his character experiences. Both he and Emmanuelle Devos are popular French actors.

87 mins. Not rated.

For more info:
La Moustache

A Time for Drunken Horses – DVD Review *** 07/21/2013

Posted by dmbinder in Cannes Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Drama, Independent Spirit Awards, Kurdish language film, Movies, National Board of Review.
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A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES (Iranian) 2000 ***
Zamani barayé masti asbha

Written and directed by Bahman Ghobadi
Starring Ayoub Ahmadi, Rojin Younessi, Amaneh Ekhtiar-dini, and Madi Ekhtiar-dini

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize, WINNER, Golden Camera, both Ghobadi, Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Silver Hugo-Special Jury Prize, Chicago International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Film, Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Freedom of Expression Award; WINNER, NBR Award-Top Foreign Films, National Board of Review, USA

In a Kurdish family living at the border between Iran and Iraq, 12-year-old Ayoub becomes the head of the household of four siblings when his father dies. His brother Madi is severely handicapped and needs immediate medical attention. Rojin, the older daughter, is forced into an arranged marriage in order to get the money for his surgery, but Ayoub chooses to enter the dangerous world of smuggling across the border.

It’s difficult to explain the story behind A Time for Drunken Horses without making it seem like something you might not want to watch. The film is commonly called heartbreaking (and it is), as viewers are given an intimate glimpse of life in this harshly beautiful area of the world. The children, who are not professional actors, will draw you immediately into their world of struggles and strengths.

I’ve also seen (and recommend) the very different 2009 film by director Bahman Ghobadi, called No One Knows About Persian Cats, about a band trying to leave Iran. I’ll post it sometime soon.

*** Highly recommended.

80 min. Not rated. Difficult subject matter.

For more info:
Time For Drunken Horses

Sound of Noise-DVD Review 06/18/2013

Posted by dmbinder in Cannes Film Festival, Chlotrudis Awards, Comedy, Crime, Molodist International Film Festival, Movies, Musical, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Swedish language film, Warsaw International Film Festival.
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SOUND OF NOISE (Swedish) 2010

Directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson
Starring Bengt Nilsson, Magnus Börjeson, Marcus Boij, Johannes Björk,
Fredrik Myhr, Anders Vestergard, and Sanna Persson

WINNER, Young Critics Award-Best Feature, Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Buried Treasure, Chlotrudis Awards
WINNER, Audience Award-Full-length Films, Molodist International Film Festival
WINNER, New Voices/New Visions Special Jury Mention; NOMINATED, New Voices/New Visions Grand Jury Prize, (both Simonsson and Nilsson), Palm Springs International Film Festival
WINNER, Audience Award-Feature Film; Free Spirit Award, Warsaw International Film Festival

A truly unusual story about six percussionists who wreak havoc around the city by performing musical numbers that use a variety of things–from the human body to vehicles–as instruments. It falls to tone-deaf policeman Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson) to pursue them. Warnebring, who was raised in a highly musical environment (his brother, a celebrated conductor, was a child prodigy), hates the sound of music.

Funny and entertaining. And definitely different. Loved the music! Listen to some here. Hope the link’s not too choppy.)

102 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Sound of Noise

Distant-DVD Review 05/25/2013

Posted by dmbinder in Ankara International Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, Istanbul International Film Festival, Movies, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkish language film.
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Distant (Turkish) 2002

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Starring Muzaffer Özdemir, Emin Toprak, and Zuhal Gencer

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Cinematography; Best Director; Best Editing; Best Film-National Competition (all Ceylan); WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Gencer), Ankara International Film Festival
WINNER, France Culture Award, Foreign Cineaste of the Year and also Grand Prize of the Jury (Ceylan); WINNER, Best Actor (Özdemir and Toprak); NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (Ceylan), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Silver Hugo-Special Jury Prize (Ceylan), Chicago International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Turkish Director of the Year; Best Turkish Film of the Year; FIPRESCI Prize Turkish Competition (all Ceylan), Istanbul International Film Festival

Yusuf (Toprak) travels to the big city of Istanbul to look for work after the factory he worked in closes down. He stays with his distant relative, semi-successful photographer Mahmut (Özdemir), who is still recovering from his divorce from Nazan (Gencer). The visitor was not expected, and he does nothing to make himself more welcome.

A moody, poetical film portraying the separateness and loneliness of the lives of the two men. There are a few light moments, mostly having to do with Mahmut’s friends and Yusuf’s awkward attempts to meet a woman. I found the movie a little low key and slow-moving, although the cinematography was outstanding. I liked director Ceylan’s 2006 Climates (Iklimler) more. Distant was highly acclaimed (see above).

105 min. Not rated. Adult themes.

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Elena-DVD Review 04/20/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Cannes Film Festival, Drama, European Film Awards, Ghent International Film Festival, Moscow International Film Festival, Movies, Psychological Suspense, Russian language film, Suspense, Thriller.
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ELENA (Russian) 2011

Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring Nadezhda Markina, Andrey Smirnov, and Elena Lyadova

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Un Certain Regard-Special Jury Prize; NOMINATED, Un Certain Regard Award (both Zvyagintsev), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Markina), European Film Awards
WINNER, Grand Prix-Best Film, Ghent International Film Festival
WINNER, Russian Film Clubs Federation Award (Zvyagintsev), Moscow International Film Festival

Elena (Markina), a middle-aged woman, marries for a second time, and her husband Vladimir (Smirnov) turns out to be a domineering man who is wealthy but tight-fisted. Even after Vladimir has a heart attack and comes close to death, he refuses to help Elena’s son financially.

The director makes good use of striking images and outstandingly suspenseful music (Philip Glass). The film is labelled a thriller on the DVD case, but I’d consider it more of a psychological suspense.

109 min. Not rated. Adult themes.

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