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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

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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

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

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

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

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

Disgrace-DVD Review 06/03/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Australian, Australian Cinematographers Society, Australian Writers Guild, Based on a novel, Emotional Drama, Film Critics Circle of Australia, Taipei Film Festival, Thriller, Toronto International Film Festival.
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DISGRACE (Australian/South African) 2008
Based on the novel by J. M. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Directed by Steve Jacobs
Starring John Malkovich, Jessica Haines, Eriq Ebouaney, and Fiona Press

WINNER, Award of Distinction-Feature Film (Arnold), Australian Cinematographers Society
WINNER, Awgie Award, Feature Film-Adaptation (Anna Maria Monticelli-screenwriter), Australian Writers Guild
NOMINATED, FCCA Award, Best Screenplay (Monticelli), Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards
WINNER, International New Talent Competition – Grand Prize (Jacobs), Taipei Film Festival
WINNER, International Critics’ Award (FIPRESCI), Toronto International Film Festival

In Capetown, South Africa, middle-aged Professor David Lurie (Malkovich) is accustomed to taking advantage of his female students. When he gets caught having a relationship with one, he chooses to leave in disgrace rather than defending his actions as expected. He visits his daughter Lucy (Haines), who lives alone on a remote farm. Despite the obvious dangers in her surroundings, he cannot convince her to leave.

I read Coetzee’s novel, which won the 1999 Booker Prize, recently and was interested to see how it fared as a film adaptation. It is a story with some very grim aspects; director Jacobs treats them fairly, with the same measured tone as the novel, and without sensationalizing them. John Malkovich’s reserved manner suits the role of the self-centered professor, who knows he has done wrong but doesn’t seem able to feel sorry about it.

119 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Disgrace

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

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