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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

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Ida-DVD Review 01/16/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Drama, European Film Awards, Golden Globes, Independent Film Awards, Minsk International Film Festival, Movies, Pawel Pawlikowski, Polish Film Awards, Polish language film.
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Ida (Polish) 2013

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Starring Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, and Dawid Ogrodnik

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globes
WINNER, Audience Award (Pawlikowski); Best Director (Pawlikowski); Best Screenwriter; Best Cinematographer; NOMINATED, Best Actress (Kulesza); Best Actress (Trzebuchowska), European Film Awards
NOMINATED, Best International Film (Pawlikowski), Independent Film Awards
WINNER, Best Actress (Kulesza); Grand Prix Golden Listapad-Best Film (Pawlikowski); Listapad Silver Award-Art as Phenomenon (Pawlikowski); Yury Marukhin Memorial Award-Best Cinematography, Minsk International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Film (Pawlikowski); Best Director (Pawlikowski); Best Actress (Kulesza); NOMINATED, Best Screenplay (Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz); Best Cinematography, Best editing, Polish Film Awards

In 1960s Poland, young Ida (Trzebuchowska), who was raised in a convent as an orphan, is about to take her vows to become a nun. She must first visit Wanda, an aunt who is her only known relative and whom she has never met. When Wanda (Kulesza) reveals that Ida is of Jewish background, Ida’s faith and decision about her future are tested.

The film is shot in black and white, which adds to the pensive atmosphere behind Ida’s struggle to decide between the outside world and her commitment to God. Agata Trzebuchowska was a non-actress when tapped to play Ida; she was chosen after the director had already auditioned over 400 actresses. She received many accolades for her performance; so far this is her only role.

82 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Ida

The Grand Budapest Hotel-DVD Review *** 12/15/2014

Posted by Films to consider in American, Berlin International Film Festival, Comedy, David di Donatello Awards, Golden Globes, Movies, New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Suspense.
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The Grand Budapest Hotel (American) 2014 ***

Directed by Wes Anderson

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Mathieu Amalric, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum and several other big-name stars

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Director (Anderson); Best Motion Picture; Best Actor (Fiennes); Best Screenplay, Golden Globes
WINNER, Silver Berlin Bear-Grand Jury Prize (Anderson); NOMINATED, Golden Berlin Bear (Anderson), Berlin International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Foreign Film (Anderson), David di Donatello Awards
WINNER, Best Screenplay, New York Film Critics Circle Awards

In a formerly majestic hotel in a mountainous area of Eastern Europe, Zero Moustafa (Revolori), now an old man, tells the fantastic story of how he rose from lobby boy to owner, with the help of his former boss Gustave H (Fiennes). What ensues is a zany and fast-moving tale that features an all-star cast in roles ranging from supporting to cameo.

Highly recommended if you like a quirky comedy. Wes Anderson also directed The Darjeeling Limited and the Royal Tannenbaums.

*** Highly recommended.
100 min. Rated R.

For more info:
The Grand Budapest Hotel

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

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)

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

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