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The 33 – Movie Review 12/10/2016

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, Drama, Imagen Foundation Awards, Movies, Spanish language film.
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The 33  (Chile/Spanish/English) 2015
Based on true events

Directed by Patricia Riggen
Starring Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, and Juliette Binoche

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Picture, Best Director (Riggen), Best Actor (Banderas), Best Actress (Binoche), Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress; NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress (all for Feature Film), Imagen Award

When a copper-gold mine in Chile collapses in 2010, 33 miners are trapped inside. As the miners deal with the reality that they have only a few days worth of supplies to survive on, the horrible working conditions of the mine are revealed.

Mario Sepúlvedo (Banderas) emerges as the leader of the men, rationing out the food available until supplies can be sent down to them. Aboveground their families, including María Segovia (Binoche), the sister of one of the miners, keep watch. They refuse to allow the mine owners or government authorities to give up trying to reach the men. The ordeal continues for an incredible 69 days.

Although the story of the miners’ survival is already known, the film keeps the tension going throughout. My admiration for The 33 is tempered by ongoing questions about compensation for the miners, however.

127 min.

For more info:
The 33

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Wolf Totem-Movie Review *** 07/02/2016

Posted by Films to consider in Beijing International Film Festival, China Film Directors' Guild Award, Drama, Hong Kong Film Awards, Movies.
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WOLF TOTEM (Chinese) 2015

Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud
Starring Shaofeng Feng, Shawn Dou, Ankhnyam Ragchaa

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Tiantian Award-Best Director, Jean-Jacques Annaud; Best Visual Effects-Christian Rajaud , Jianquan Guo, NOMINATED, Tiantian Award-Best Picture, Beijing International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Screenplay (Wei Lu), China Film Directors’ Guild Award

During the Cultural Revolution in China, two students are sent to live with a nomadic tribe of sheep herders in Inner Mongolia for two years. There they are to teach the herders, and also work with them. One of the students, Chen Zhen (Shaofeng Feng), has an encounter with a wolf that has a profound effect on him. He decides to capture a wolf cub and raise it.

A beautifully filmed story from French director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, known for movies such as Seven Years in Tibet, Quest for Fire, and The Name of the Rose, among others. Some of the Special Features about the film show how the wolves were trained and treated before, during, and after the filming.

Highly recommended. ***
121 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Wolf Totem

Tristana-Movie Review *** 11/16/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Black & white, Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Classic film, Drama, Emotional Drama, Fotogramas de Plata, Luis Buñuel, National Syndicate of Spectacle, Premios ACE, Psychological Drama, Sant Jordi Awards, Spain, Spanish language film.
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Tristana (Spanish) 1970 ***

Directed by Luis Buñuel
Starring Catherine Deneuve and Fernando Rey

NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Film; Best Actor (Rey); Best Director (Buñuel), Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain
WINNER, Best Spanish Movie Performer (Rey); NOMINATED, Best Spanish Movie Performer (Lola Gaos), Fotogramas de Plata
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Lola Gaos); Best Film; Best Male Star (Rey); Best Cinematography, National Syndicate of Spectacle, Spain
WINNER, Best Actor (Rey), Premios ACE
WINNER, Best Film (Buñuel); Best Performance in a Spanish Film (Rey), Sant Jordi Awards

When Tristana (Deneuve), an innocent young woman, loses her mother, she is sent to Toledo to live with Don Lope (Rey), a poverty-stricken nobleman, as her guardian. Lope is a lecherous man who is losing his charm as he ages. He seduces the innocent Tristana and tries to keep her in his clutches.

A psychological drama spotlighting the talents of two popular actors: a young Catherine Deneuve and the seasoned Fernando Rey. Famed writer and director Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) often took on the hypocrisy in Spanish society and in the Catholic Church, and this story includes both those themes. Although not a big award winner outside Spain in the early 1970s, the film, which was shot in black and white, stands as part of Buñuel’s legacy.

*** Highly recommended.

95 min. Rated PG-13

For more info:
Tristana

The Two Faces of January – Movie Review 08/10/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Academy of Science Fiction, Action/Thriller, Based on a novel, British, Drama, London Critics Circle Film Awards, Online Film & Television Assoc., Thriller.
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The Two Faces of January (British) 2014

Directed by Hossein Amini
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and Oscar Isaac

AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS:
NOMINATED, Saturn Award-Best Independent Film, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
NOMINATED, Breakthrough British Filmmaker ALFS Award (Amini), London Critics Circle Film Awards
NOMINATED, OFTA Film Award, Best Feature Debut (Amini), Online Film & Television Association

In the early 1960s, Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst) live an upscale lifestyle, supported by Chester’s skill as a swindler. As they are traveling across Europe, they meet up with Rydal (Isaac), a young guide who does some small scale cheating of his own. When Chester accidentally murders a private detective hired by some of his American victims, Rydal agrees to help the couple and the three get caught up in emotional turmoil.

A pretty good thriller, despite some plot holes that must be overlooked. The film is based on a novel by the prolific Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train. Director Hossein Amini garnered a few nominations for his debut film.

96 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
The Two Faces of January

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

The Broken Circle Breakdown-DVD Review *** 05/15/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, César Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, Flemish language film, Movies, Norwegian Int'l Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival.
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The Broken Circle Breakdown (Flemish) 2012 ***

Directed by Felix Van Groeningen
Starring Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Foreign Film (van Groeningen), César Awards
WINNER, Audience Award (van Groeningen ), Norwegian International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Motion Picture-International, Satellite Awards
WINNER, Best Actress-Narrative Feature (Baetens); Best Screenplay (Carl Joos and Felix Van Groeningen); NOMINATED, Best Narrative Feature (Van Groeningen),Tribeca Film Festival

In Belgium, Elise (Baetens) and Didier (Heldenbergh) meet and fall in love. Elise is a tattoo artist; Didier is a singer with a band that plays American country music. They marry and have a daughter, but soon the couple must face a heartbreaking tragedy that strikes their family.

Highly recommended.

111 minutes. Not rated (adult themes).

For more info:
The Broken Circle Breakdown (English Subtitled)

Days and Clouds-DVD Review 04/04/2015

Posted by Films to consider in David di Donatello Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, Italian language film, Moscow International Film Festival, Movies, Rome Film Fest.
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Days and Clouds (Italian) 2007

From Film Movement
Directed by Silvio Soldini
Starring Margherita Buy, Antonio Albanese, Alba Rohrwacher, and Paolo Sassanelli

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Actress (Buy); Best Supporting Actress (Rohrwacher); NOMINATED, Best Director, David Di Donatello Awards
WINNER, Best Actress, Moscow International Film Festival
WINNER, Premiere Prize-Special Mention (Soldini), Rome Film Fest

Elsa (Buy) and Michele (Albanese), a middle-aged couple in Genoa, face financial hardship when Michele loses his job. Their formerly well-to-do lifestyle must change, and as it does, their relationship changes as well.

Soldini, director of Agata and the Storm (2004), and Bread and Tulips (2000) presents a thought-provoking and engaging look at a relationship in crisis, this time from an economic impact that affects the couple’s individual identities as well.

115 min. Unrated. Adult themes.

For more info:
Days and Clouds

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)

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 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