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Letters to Father Jacob-DVD Review 03/09/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Dark Comedy, Emotional Drama, Finnish language film, Jussi Awards, Klaus Härö, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Movies, Palm Springs International Film Festival.
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Letters to Father Jacob (Finnish) 2009
Postia pappi Jaakobille

Directed by Klaus Härö
Starring Kaarina Hazard, Heikki Nousiainen, Jukka Keinonen

Among other wins and nominations (mostly wins):
WINNER, Best Film; Best Actor (Nousiainen); Best Director (Härö); Best Music; NOMINATED, Best Actress (Hazard); Best Script; Best Cinematography, Jussi Awards
NOMINATED, Best Film, Mar del Plata Film Festival
WINNER, Bridging the Borders Award (Härö), Palm Springs International Film Festival

Leila (Hazard), a hard-nosed woman in prison for life, gets pardoned due to the intervention of someone she doesn’t know, provided she goes to work for Father Jacob (Nousiainen). He is a blind priest living out his last days in a remote area, where he answers the letters that request his prayers. Leila’s job is to read the letters aloud and write his responses to the sender. When the letters stop coming and the priest is thrown into a state of despair, Leila starts revealing her own life story in the guise of a letter-sender.

An emotional story with slightly dark bits of humor scattered throughout. Kaarina Hazard is perfect for the role of the tough Leila.

74 min. Not rated.
For more info:
Letters to Father Jacob

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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

After the Wedding-DVD Review *** 08/01/2013

Posted by dmbinder in Academy Awards, Bodil Awards, Danish language film, Drama, Emotional Drama, European Film Awards, Highly recommended, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Rouen Nordic Film Festival.
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After the Wedding (Danish) 2006 ***
Efter brylluppet

Directed by Susanne Bier
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgård, Sidse Babett Knudsen, and Stine Fischer Christensen

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Christensen); NOMINATED, Best Actor (Lassgård); Best Actress (Knudsen); Best Film (Bier), Bodil Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actor (Mikkelsen); Best Director (Bier), European Film Awards
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize-Best Actor (Mikkelsen), Palm Springs International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Actress (Knudsen), Rouen Nordic Film Festival

Jacob (Mikkelsen) has dedicated his life to working in a Bombay orphanage. In order to secure funding from wealthy businessman Jorgen (Lassgård), Jacob is summoned back to Denmark. There, at the mercy of the manipulative Jorgen, Jacob is forced to confront his complicated and dissolute past.

Mikkelsen will likely be a familiar face, as he has appeared in movies such as Casino Royale and more recently A Royal Affair. He starred as Ivan in the 2005 crime comedy, Adam’s Apples (see my review of that film).

Highly recommended.

120 min. Rated R.

For more info:
After the Wedding

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

Declaration of War-DVD Review *** 05/06/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, César Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, French language film, Gijón International Film Festival, Movies, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Romance.
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Declaration of War (French) 2011 ***
La guerre est déclarée
Based on true events

Directed by Valérie Donzelli
Written by Valérie Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm
Starring Valérie Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Actress and Best Director (Donzelli); Best Film; Best Original Screenplay; Best Editing; Best Sound, César Awards, France
WINNER, Best Actor (Elkaïm); Best Actress (Donzelli); Grand Prix Asturias-Best Film, Gijón International Film Festival
WINNER, Directors to Watch (Donzelli), Palm Springs International Film Festival

Roméo (Elkaïm) and Juliette (Donzelli) are a young couple who meet, fall in love, and move in together. Soon they are having a baby, and all is well with their world, although the baby does cry a lot. When the baby begins to show other signs of distress, they take him to the doctor and receive the kind of diagnosis no parent ever wants to hear.

Based on true events. Although the brief description might make this seem like a sad movie, it surprisingly is not. The young parents, who are determined to “declare war” on their son’s disease, do not do so in the somber way one might expect.

Highly recommended.

100 min. Not rated. Suitable for older teens and adults, due to subject matter.

For more info:
Declaration of War

Biutiful-DVD Review 01/27/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Action/Thriller, Cannes Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Goya Awards, Image Awards, Movies, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Spanish language film, Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards.
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Biutiful (Spanish) 2010

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, and Guillermo Estrella

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Leading Actor (Bardem), Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Actor (Bardem); NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (Iñárritu), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globes
WINNER, Best Actor (Bardem); NOMINATED, Best Cinematography; Best Score; Best Production Design; Best Original Screenplay; Best Supporting Actor (Eduard Fernández); Best Supporting Actress (Ana Wagener), Goya Awards
WINNER, Outstanding Foreign Motion Picture, Image Awards
WINNER, International Star Award (Bardem), Palm Springs International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Foreign Language Film, Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards

In Barcelona, Uxbal (Bardem) is steeped in the world of corrupt cops, drug dealing, and illegal immigrant labor. Since his ex-wife Marambra (Alvarez) suffers from bipolar disorder, he raises their two children, Ana (Bouchaib) and Mateo (Estrella) as best he can. When he learns that he has terminal cancer, Uxbal lovingly tries to do his best to provide for their future, in increasingly negative circumstances.

Not an uplifting subject, and sometimes tough to watch, but it is well worth it for the very admirable performance from Javier Bardem (one of my favorite actors).

148 min. Not rated. Adult themes and language.

For more info:
Biutiful

Young Goethe in Love-DVD Review 07/08/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Bambi Awards, Based on true events, Comedy, Drama, German Film Awards, German Film Critics Award, German language film, Movies, New Faces Awards, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Philipp Stölzl, Romance.
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Young Goethe in Love (German) 2010
original title: Goethe!

Directed by Philipp Stölzl
Starring Alexander Fehling, Moritz Bleibtreu, and Miriam Stein

NOMINATED, Best Actor (Fehling), Bambi Awards
WINNER, Film Award in Gold for Makeup; NOMINATED, Film Award in Gold, Best Leading Actor (Fehling); Outstanding Feature Film; Best Production Design, German Film Awards
NOMINATED, Best Film (Stölzl), German Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, New Faces Award (Stein), Germany
NOMINATED, Audience Award, Best Narrative Feature, (Stölzl et al.), Palm Springs International Film Festival

A lighthearted and touching look at a year in the life of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Fehling). At 23, Goethe is not serious about the law career his father insists he follow but is serious about poetry and about the love he feels for Lotte Buff (Stein).

After Lotte marries someone else, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, based upon his romance with her, is published, paving the way for his literary fame. A period film for the romantics among us, perhaps not as satisfying to history buffs.

102 min. Not rated.

Check it out on Netflix
or
Amazon Young Goethe in Love