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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

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I’ve Loved You So Long-DVD Review *** 07/07/2014

Posted by Films to consider in BAFTA Awards, César Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, European Film Awards, French language film, Movies, Vancouver International Film Festival.
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I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG (French) 2008 ***
Il y a longtemps que je t’aime

Screenplay and Directed by Philippe Claudel
Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Serge Hazanavicius, Laurent Grévill, and Frédéric Pierrot

Among many awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Film Not in the English Language (Yves Marmion and Philippe Claudel; NOMINATED, Best Screenplay-Original (Claudel); Best Leading Actress (Thomas), BAFTA Awards
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Zylberstein); Best First Film (Claudel); NOMINATED, Best Film (Claudel); Best Actress (Thomas); Best Original Screenplay (Claudel); Best Music Written for a Film, Jean-Louis Aubert, César Awards
WINNER, Best Actress (Thomas), European Film Awards
WINNER, Most Popular Film (Claudel), Vancouver International Film Festival

Juliette (Thomas) is released from prison after fifteen years and welcomed into her sister Léa’s (Zylberstein) home. The secrets and circumstances surrounding her crime are gradually revealed.

This debut feature film of director Philippe Claudel is a beautifully rendered and unpredictable story in which the viewer learns about the past along with Juliette’s sister, Léa. Kristin Scott Thomas is one of my favorite actresses, and she plays Juliette with a mixture of strength and vulnerability that is a pleasure to see. Also worth mention is Elsa Zylberstein as Léa, who grew up with no understanding of what happened but remained loving and faithful to the sister she remembered.

Highly recommended. ***

117 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
I’ve Loved You So Long

The Adjustment Bureau-DVD Review *** 04/27/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy of Science Fiction, Action/Thriller, American, Based on a short story, Black Reel Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, Drama, George Nolfi, Movies, People's Choice Awards, Romance, Science Fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
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The Adjustment Bureau (American) 2011 ***
Based on the short story by Philip K. Dick

Directed and screenplay written by George Nolfi
Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Michael Kelly, Anthony Mackie, and John Slattery

Among a few other nominations:
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Blunt); NOMINATED, Best Science Fiction Film, Saturn Awards, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
NOMINATED, Outstanding Supporting Actor (Mackie), Black Reel Awards
NOMINATED, Bram Stoker Award-Screenplay (Nolfi),Bram Stoker Awards
NOMINATED, Favorite Drama Movie, People’s Choice Awards
NOMINATED, Bradbury Award, (Nolfi-writer/director), Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

David Norris (Damon), a politician on the rise, accidentally finds out from the “Adjustment Bureau” that he is not meant to be with Elise (Blunt), a dancer he fell in love with after a few minutes of conversation.

A fast-paced and interesting movie that combines a believable romance with a quirky sci-fi/action story about the forces that shape our lives: human decision-making and chance versus the possibility of other powers-that-be. [Note: said “other powers-that-be” must wear hats of some sort or other!!! I’m just saying . . .]

As a side note, Matt Damon claims this is his first romantic lead role, and he proves himself up to the task; Emily Blunt, who had no formal dance training prior to getting herself prepped for this role, does too.

Highly recommended.

106 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
The Adjustment Bureau

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

The Tree- DVD Review 02/15/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Bratislava International Film Festival, César Awards, Chicago International Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, Fantasy, Julie Bertuccelli, Movies.
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THE TREE (Australian/French/English) 2010

Directed by Julie Bertuccelli
Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Morgana Davies, and Marton Csokas

Among several other nominations:
WINNER, Best Actress (Gainsbourg), Bratislava International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Gold Hugo, Best New Director (Bertucelli), Chicago International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Gainsbourg); Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Music for a Film, César Awards, France

When her husband dies suddenly, Dawn (Gainsbourg) and her four children try to cope with their loss by defending/transforming the enormous fig tree that is threatening to overtake their house and their lives. Eight-year-old daughter Simone (Davies) convinces her mother that her father speaks to her through the tree.

Part fantasy and part emotional family drama, for me this story was surprisingly moving. Charlotte Gainsbourg sometimes shows up in unusual roles that allow a true acting talent to shine through. I thought this was one of them. And that is one impressive tree. Filmed in Queensland, Australia, with beautiful cinematography of the surrounding area.

100 min. Not rated. Not suitable for children.
For more info:
The Tree

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)

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

Amador-DVD Review 12/07/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Dark Comedy, Drama, Emotional Drama, Spanish Actors Union Awards, Spanish language film.
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Amador (Spanish) 2010
From Film Movement

Screenplay written by Fernando Léon De Aranoa
Directed by Fernando Léon De Aranoa
Starring Magaly Solier, Celso Bugallo, Fanny deCastro, and Pietro Sibille

NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actor (Bugallo); NOMINATED, Best Actress (Solier), Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain
NOMINATED, Award of the Spanish Actors Union, Film: Supporting Performance, Female (DeCastro), Spanish Actors Union

When Marcela (Solier), a young immigrant from Peru, discovers she is pregnant, she hides the fact from her boyfriend because she’s not sure about their future together. To make money for their plans to open a flower shop, she takes a job caring for Amador, an elderly invalid man. Her plans go awry when Amador dies.

This movie took me by surprise. Without revealing more about the plot, there was a backdrop of dark humor behind a story that generally has sad overtones. Director De Aranoa and actress Magaly Solier do an admirable job of holding the two elements in balance. I’m surprised that it didn’t receive more accolades, at least according to IMDB’s listings.

Also watch the short film, How It Ended, starring Debra Winger.

112 min. Not rated.

For more info:
Amador

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

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