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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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Into the Wild-DVD Review *** 10/13/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Based on true story, César Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, David di Donatello Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Highly recommended, Movies, National Board of Review, Screen Actors Guild Awards, Young Artists Awards.
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INTO THE WILD (American) 2007 ***
Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless
Adapted from the book by Jon Krakauer

Screenplay written and directed by Sean Penn
Starring Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Hal Holbrook

Into the Wild received many awards and nominations, too numerous to list here.

In the early 1990s, Christopher McCandless graduates from college but does not follow the path to law school that his parents (played by Harden and Hurt) expect. Instead, he takes all the anger he feels toward his dysfunctional family and escapes from civilization, intending to live totally in the wild, completely untethered to society. Renaming himself Alexander Supertramp, he does so – for a time.

Outstanding cinematography and performances by respected actors make this a film definitely worth seeing. Hirsch does a superb job of balancing anger toward his parents and openness to life. Hal Holbrook plays a kindly grandfatherly type who is one of several interesting people who cross Alexander’s path. A young Kristen Stewart, who appears as a brief romantic interest, shows her singing ability.

Author Jon Krakauer has authored other bestselling books about the wilderness, including Into Thin Air, about climbing Mt. Everest. McCandless himself left behind photographs and journals. For a wealth of related information and links, check here.

Highly recommended. (#170 on IMDB’s Top 250)

149 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Into the Wild

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

Bernie-DVD Review 06/09/2013

Posted by dmbinder in American, Based on true events, Comedy, Crime, Golden Globes, Gotham Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
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Bernie (American) 2011
Based on actual events

Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Shirley MacLaine

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy (Black), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Best Ensemble Cast (McConaughey, Black, MacLaine; Best Film, Gotham Awards
NOMINATED, Best Feature; Best Male Lead (Black), Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Top Ten Independent Films, National Board of Review
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (McConaughey); Second Place-Best Actor (Black), New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Bernie Tiede (Black) moves to the small town of Carthage, TX and finds work at a funeral parlor. He proceeds to impress the entire town with his engaging and caring personality. He even wins over Marjorie Nugent (MacLaine) the wealthy, curmudgeonly widow of the bank president, a task that was thought to be impossible. But Mrs. Nugent gradually shows her true colors, and Bernie concludes that the way she treats everyone, including himself, is just not right.

A funny, documentary-style telling of events that surely fall into the category of “truth can be stranger than fiction.”

Jack Black especially amazes with his singing voice (who knew?), and Shirley MacLaine’s facial expression is spot on for her character.

99 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Bernie

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)

Le Havre-DVD Review *** 01/19/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Cannes Film Festival, César Awards, Chicago International Film Festival, Comedy, David di Donatello Awards, French language film, Light Drama, Munich Film Festival, National Board of Review.
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Le Havre (French) 2011 ***

From the Criterion Collection

Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Starring Andre Wilms, Blondin Miguel, Kati Outinen, and Jean-Pierre Darroussin

Among many other wins and nominations:
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize; Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention; NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (all Kaurismäki), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Gold Hugo-Best International Feature (Kaurismäki), Chicago International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Director; Best Film; Best Production Design, César Awards, France
NOMINATED, Best European Film, David di Donatello Awards
WINNER, Arri-Zeiss-Award (Kaurismäki), Munich Film Festival
WINNER, Top Five Foreign Films Award, National Board of Review

In the harbor city of LeHavre, Marcel Marx (Wilms) is an older man who shines shoes for a living. When his wife Arletty (Outinen), who is seriously ill, goes to the hospital for treatment, Marcel accidentally meets Idrissa (Miguel), a boy who has immigrated illegally with his family. Idrissa managed to run away when authorities caught up with them, but he is actively being sought. With the help of friends and neighbors, Marcel harbors the boy in his home.

Winner of, or nominated for, many awards (see above), Le Havre’s story is touching and quietly funny at times. Prolific Finnish director Kaurismäki has boldly taken on a film in French, which is not a language he speaks or even understands fluently. Likewise, Kati Outinen, who plays Marcel’s ailing wife, is also Finnish and speaks French somewhat haltingly. Kaurismäki has chosen his French actors wisely, as you would never know they were receiving their direction either non-verbally or through a translator.

Highly recommended.

93 min. Not rated. Suitable for teens+ because of subject matter.

For more info:
Le Havre

White Material-DVD Review 11/11/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Drama, French language film, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics Awards, Satellite Awards, Venice Film Festival, Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards.
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White Material (French) 2009
The Criterion Collection

Directed by Claire Denis
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Christopher Lambert, Isaach De Bankolé, and Nicolas Duvauchelle

WINNER, Top Five Foreign Films, National Board of Review, USA
THIRD PLACE, Best Foreign Language Film (Denis), National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Satellite Awards
NOMINATED, Golden Lion (Denis), Venice Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards

As civil unrest invades the countryside, Maria Vial (Huppert), a headstrong but not totally rational white woman, is determined to remain on the African coffee plantation that has been in her family for generations.

Isabelle Huppert is physically slight and somewhat vulnerable-looking; her portrayal of Maria Vial combines that appearance with an inner strength that inexplicably refuses to acknowledge the very real physical and emotional dangers facing herself and her family. At times the story does seem disjointed and confusing; this I think is mostly because there are so many different factions active, and the story covers a very short span of time (about two days). Still, Huppert’s performance (as well as those of the other actors named above) definitely makes it worthwhile watching.

105 min. Not rated. Adults and older teens.

Check it out on Amazon: White Material (The Criterion Collection)
or
Netflix

The Accompanist-Film Review 11/06/2012

Posted by Films to consider in César Awards, Drama, FIPRESCI Award, Istanbul International Film Festival, National Board of Review, World War II.
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The Accompanist (French) 1992
L’accompagnatrice

Directed by Claude Miller
Starring Richard Bohringer, Elena Safonova, and Romane Bohringer

NOMINATED, Best Cinematography; Best Sound; Most Promising Actor (Julien Rassam), César Awards, France
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize; also Special Prize of the Jury (both Claude Miller), Istanbul International Film Festival
WINNER, NBR Award – Top Foreign Films, National Board of Review, USA

During the winter of 1942-43 in wartime France, while some people are starving, the musical crowd still indulges. Sophie (Romane Bohringer), a young woman who is a skilled pianist, is hired to accompany Irène Brice, a famed opera singer. Brice’s husband Charles (Richard Bohringer) is a businessman who collaborates with the Germans. Spending so much time in the company of the kind and caring Irène, the reserved, somewhat naive, but observant Sophie learns about love.

Notice that there are two Bohringers–father and daughter in real life–listed in starring roles; I just found that Richard Bohringer, who was also a director and singer, passed away two days before this post on Nov. 4, 2012. Romane Bohringer was especially suited for the role of Sophie, who has much in the way of talent herself, but is so understated in her personality compared to the crowd she becomes exposed to.

This film is from the early 1990s and I happened to watch it on a VHS tape, but the DVD is available (both are listed below). The music is absolutely outstanding; I believe there is an accompanying CD, but I couldn’t find a link to it.

102 min. Rated PG.

Check it out on Amazon:
DVD: The Accompanist (All Region Import)

VHS: The Accompanist [VHS]

or Netflix

The Best of Youth-DVD Review *** 08/06/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Cannes Film Festival, César Awards, David di Donatello Awards, European Film Awards, Movies, National Board of Review, Seattle International Film Festival.
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The Best of Youth (Italian) 2003 ***
La meglio gioventù

Directed by Marco Tullio Giordano
Starring Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Jasmine Trinca, Maya Sansi, Sonia Bergamasco, and Adriana Asti

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Un Certain Regard Award (Giordano), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best European Union Film, César Awards, France
WINNER, Best Director (Giordano); Best Film; Best Editing; Best Producer; Best Screenplay; Best Sound; NOMINATED, Best Actor (Lo Cascio); Best Supporting Actor (Fabrizio Gifuni); Best Supporting Actress (Trinca), David di Donatello Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actor (Lo Cascio); Best Director (Giordano); Best Screenwriter, European Film Awards
WINNER, NBR Award-Top Foreign Film, National Board of Review, USA
WINNER, Golden Space Needle Award, Best Director (Giordano), Seattle International Festival

An epic Italian film about two brothers, starting out during their young adult years in the 1960s and following them through several tumultuous decades into the early 2000s, a time during which their lives separate but often intertwine. Nicola (Lo Cascio), the thoughtful and responsible brother, becomes a psychiatrist; Matteo (Boni), impetuous and hot-tempered, ignores his true yearnings and becomes a policeman.

When I say the film is epic, I mean long, and, in this case, I mean very long (approximately 6 hours), but viewing times can easily be broken up as the story covers different parts of the brothers’ lives. The entire ensemble cast is outstanding and, similar to reading a good lengthy book, I didn’t want their stories to end. And if the ending doesn’t make you tear up or yell “Kiss her, you fool,” don’t brag about it.

According to Wikipedia, Director Giordano made a previous film about the death of controversial Italian poet and director Pier Paolo Pasolini. The title of this film is taken from one of Pasolini’s poems.

Highly recommended.

366 min. Rated R (language and brief nudity).

Check it out on Netflix
or
Amazon: The Best Of Youth

The Ghost Writer-DVD Review 05/06/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Berlin International Film Festival, British, César Awards, European Film Awards, National Board of Review, Political Thriller, Suspense.
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The Ghost Writer (British/German/French) 2010

Adapted from the novel The Ghost by Robert Harris
Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, and Olivia Williams

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Silver Berlin Bear, Best Director (Polanski); NOMINATED, Golden Berlin Bear (Polanski), Berlin International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Director (Polanski); Best Music; NOMINATED, Best Cinematography; Best Sound, César Awards
WINNER, Best Actor (McGregor); Best Composer (Alexandre Desplat); Best Director (Polanski); Best Film; Best Screenwriter (Polanski and Harris); NOMINATED, Audience Award-Best Film, European Film Awards
WINNER, NBR Award-Top Independent Films, National Board of Review, USA

When a ghost writer (McGregor) is hired to write the memoirs of Adam Lang (Brosnan), a former British Prime Minister, he discovers that the writer he is replacing died under mysterious circumstances. He becomes caught up in political intrigue and physical danger when the Prime Minister is accused of war crimes.

Although this movie is somewhat long (just over two hours), the suspense builds enough to keep interest going. The scenery, a desolate shoreline area, contributes to the spooky atmosphere as the ghost writer (who remains unnamed throughout) uncovers the mystery behind the unlikely political rise of Adam Lang.

Director Polanski, despite his ongoing troubles, does know how to show-and-tell a good story.

128 min. Rated PG-13.

Check it out on Netflix
or
Amazon: The Ghost Writer