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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)

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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

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

Café de flore-DVD Review *** 03/19/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Atlantic Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, French (Canadian) language film, Genie Awards, Highly recommended, Jean-Marc Vallée, Jutra Awards, Movies, Romance, Satellite Awards, Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, Vancouver Film Critics Circle.
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Café de flore (Canadian/French) 2011 ***

Written and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring Vanessa Paradis, Evelyne Brochu, Hélène Florent, Kevin Parent, and Marin Gerrier

Among other wins and nominations:
WINNER, Best Canadian Feature, Atlantic Film Festival
WINNER, Best Leading Actress (Paradis); NOMINATED, Best Director (Vallée); Best Motion Picture; Best Supporting Actor (Gerrier); Best Supporting Actress (Florent); Best Screenplay (Vallée), Genie Awards
WINNER, Best Actress (Paradis); Best Cinematography; NOMINATED, Best Director (Vallée), Jutra Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Florent), Satellite Awards
NOMINATED, Best Canadian Film (Vallée), Toronto Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Best Canadian Film (Vallée); Best Supporting Actress (Florent); NOMINATED, Best Actress (Paradis); Best Director, Vancouver Film Critics Circle

Café de flore is a somewhat complicated story, the result of two intertwined, and seemingly unrelated, tales about love from different time periods. In one, in late 1970s Paris, a young woman struggles to raise her Down Syndrome son; in the other, a modern Montreal family copes with the parents’ split and the father’s new marriage.

I admit that for a time I mostly stuck with the film because of the great soundtrack, and the way the director beautifully juxtaposed scenes from the two time periods. Eventually the story did make enough sense to make the watching more than worthwhile.

Acclaimed actress Vanessa Paradis (who plays the mother in the earlier time period) is a popular French singer/actress who lived with Johnny Depp for a number of years (they have two children). I recently saw her in the just-okay French comedy Heart Breaker.

Café de flore is the only film credited to the remarkable, award-winning young Marin Gerrier, who portrays her son.

Highly recommended.

120 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Cafe De Flore DVD

Under the Sun-DVD Review *** 11/18/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Brothers Manaki International Film Festival, Cinequest San Jose Film Festival, Comedy, Guldbagge Awards-Sweden, Highly recommended, Light Drama, Movies, Romantic comedy, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Swedish language film.
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Under the Sun (Swedish) 1998 ***
Under Solen

Directed by Colin Nutley
Starring Rolf Lassgård, Helena Bergström, and Johan Widerberg

NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards
WINNER, Silver Camera 300, Brothers Manaki International Film Festival
WINNER, Audience Favorite Choice Award, WINNER, Best Feature (both awards for Nutley), Cinequest San Jose Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actor (Lassgård); Best Supporting Actor (Widerberg), Guldbagge Awards
WINNER, Special Mention (for quality acting); NOMINATED, Golden Seashell (Nutley), San Sebastian International Film Festival

Olof (Lassgård) is a shy farmer who lacks experience in matters of the heart. He is lacking sexual experience as well. At 40, he decides that it is time to find a mate. Olof, who can’t read, enlists help to place an ad in the paper looking for a housekeeper. When Ellen (Bergström) arrives, it doesn’t take long before Olof is totally smitten with her. But his friend Erik (Widerberg), whose motives are questionable, tries to convince each of them separately that the relationship has no future.

A very sweet and entertaining love story about an unlikely couple. The film is filled with funny scenes, especially via “friend” (and Elvis admirer) Erik.

Highly recommended.

130 min. Not rated. Not suitable for children (sexual content and language).

Check it out on Amazon: Under the Sun (Under Solen)

or Netflix

Poetry-DVD Review *** 09/23/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Asian Film Awards, Cannes Film Festival, Chlotrudis Awards, Drama, Highly recommended, Korean language film, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Movies.
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Poetry (South Korean) 2010 ***
Shi

Written and directed by Chang-dong Lee
Starring Jeong-hie Yun, Da-wit Lee, and Hira Kim

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Director, Best Screenwriter (Chang-dong Lee); NOMINATED, Best Film, Asian Film Awards
WINNER, Best Screenplay; Prize of the Ecumenical Jury-Special Mention; NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (all Chang-dong Lee), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Best Original Screenplay (Chang-dong Lee); NOMINATED, Best Actress (Jeong-hie Yun), Best Movie, Chlotrudis Awards
WINNER, Best Actress (Jeong-hie Yun), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

In her mid-sixties, Mija (Jeong-hie Yun) wants to learn how to write poetry, something she has wanted to do since she was a child. Although she has just received a diagnosis that she is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, she starts taking a class at the local community center. Mija is raising her surly teenage grandson Jongwook (Da-wit Lee); soon she must also face the consequences of his participation in a horrible crime.

Jeong-hie Yun was a well-known South Korean film star from the 60s to the 90s. This was her first return to films since 1994. Her graceful presence and natural simplicity adds much to the film’s complex and unpredictable story line.

Highly recommended.

139 min. Not rated. Suitable for older teens.

Check it out on Netflix
or
Amazon: Poetry

The Last Station-DVD Review*** 07/29/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Based on a novel, Biographical, British, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Hessian Film Award, Highly recommended, Independent Spirit Awards, Michael Hoffman, Movies, Romance, Satellite Awards.
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The Last Station (British) 2009 ***
Based on Jay Parini’s 1990 novel, The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy’s Last Year

Directed by Michael Hoffman
Starring Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, James McAvoy, and Paul Giamatti

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Mirren); Best Supporting Actor (Plummer), Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Mirren); Best Supporting Actor (Plummer), Golden Globes
WINNER, Best International Literature Adaptation (Hoffman), Hessian Film Award
NOMINATED, Best Director (Hoffman); Best Feature; Best Female Lead (Mirren); Best Screenplay (Hoffman); Best Supporting Male (Plummer), Independent Spirit Awards
NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actor (McAvoy), Satellite Awards

As renowned and beloved author Leo Tolstoy’s (Plummer) life approaches its end, unwanted drama surrounds him in the form of his family and associates. His associates aim to convince Tolstoy that, in his final will, his works should become the property of the Russian people; his passionate wife, Countess Sofya (Mirren), fears that she and her children will be left with nothing.

Plummer’s Tolstoy tries (but doesn’t always manage) to retain a sense of peaceful dignity as he contends with his distraught wife. Mirren’s Sofya pulls no punches with increasingly erratic behavior as she once again puts in an outstanding performance that makes this a film worth seeing.

Highly recommended.

112 min. Rated R.

Check it out on Netflix
or
Amazon The Last Station

The Chorus-DVD Review *** 06/01/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, César Awards, David di Donatello Awards, Drama, French language film, Golden Globes, Highly recommended, Lumière Awards.
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The Chorus (French) 2004 ***
Les choristes

Directed by Christophe Barratier
Starring Gerard Jugnot, Jean-Paul Bonnaire, Marie Bunel, François Berléand, and Jean-Baptiste Maunier

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Music in Feature Film; Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Music; Best Sound; NOMINATED, Best Actor (Jugnot); Best Director (Barratier); Best Film (Barratier); Best First Film (Barratier); Best Design; Best Supporting Actor (Berléand), César Awards, France
NOMINATED, Best European Film (Barratier), David di Donatello Awards, Italy
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Film (Barratier), Golden Globes
WINNER, Best Film (Barratier), Lumiere Awards, France

In post-war France, Clément Mathieu (Jugnot) takes on a new job teaching music at Fond de L’Etang, a school for incorrigible boys. Mild-mannered but tough, Clement has an unusual approach – he teaches the boys to sing. One in particular, Pierre Morhange (Maunier) has a special talent. Although Clement soon finds himself on the outs with the cruel Principal Rachin (Berléand), he finds solace in the knowledge that he has played a role in helping Pierre’s talent get recognized.

This was the first film for director Christophe Barratier, and it met with much critical acclaim. The lyrics of the Academy Award-nominated song “Look to Your Path” (Vois sur ta chemin) were written by Barratier. The film’s story line is certainly not unique, but it is definitely worth seeing. Besides outstanding acting by all parties, the music is absolutely beautiful, as is Jean-Baptiste Maunier’s angelic voice.

Favorite line: Action – reaction! (Principal Rachin’s chilling modus operandi for punishment)

Highly recommended.

97 min. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual references and violence

Check it out on Netflix
or
Amazon: The Chorus (Les Choristes)

Still Life-DVD Review*** 03/02/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Asian Film Awards, Durban International Film Festival, Highly recommended, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, Kinema Junpo Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Venice Film Festival.
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Still Life (Chinese) 2006 ***
Sanxia haoren

Written and directed by Zhang Ke Jia
Starring Tao Zhao, Zhou Lan, and Sanming Han

Among other awards:
WINNER, Best Director (Zhang Ke Jia); NOMINATED, Best Composer; Best Film, Asian Film Awards
WINNER, Best Direction (Zhang Ke Jia), Durban International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Silver Ribbon-Best Non-European Director (Zhang Ke Jia), Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists
WINNER, Best Foreign Film; Best Foreign Director (Zhang Ke Jia), Kinema Junpo Awards
WINNER, Best Cinematography (Nelson Yu Lik-Wai); Best Foreign Film (Zhang Ke Jia), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Golden Lion (Zhang Ke Jia), Venice Film Festival

To document the ravaging effects of the Three Gorges Dam project on a town along the Yangtze River in southeast China, director Zhang Ke Jia combines his visual observations with parallel fictional stories of two people separated from their spouses. Sanming has traveled to Fengjie looking for the wife and daughter he hasn’t seen for sixteen years. Shen Hong (Zhou Lan) has come back to visit her husband after two years apart. The stories are punctuated by the pounding of sledge hammers as buildings are destroyed.

The controversial Three Gorges Dam project is one of the largest artificial projects in Chinese history, flooding 60,000 hectares of land; many 2,000-year-old towns, along with the history and culture they contained, are being quickly destroyed. In the process, more than 1,000,000 people must be relocated, with many family members ending up in vastly different parts of the country.

The simplicity and pace of the stories might not appeal to some. I appreciated the opportunity to see what is happening to these towns, villages, and cities. The director’s interview is worthwhile viewing, as it gives a perspective on what he was trying to accomplish and how. The film is separated into four parts: cigarettes, liquor, sweets, and tea. Although the country now has a “market economy,” these are reminders of the “planned economy” projects of the past, when such items were rationed.

Highly recommended.

111 min. Not rated.

For more information about the Three Gorges Dam, click here and here.

For more about the film:
Still Life

The Station Agent-DVD Review *** 12/13/2011

Posted by Films to consider in American, BAFTA Awards, Comedy, Drama, Highly recommended, Independent Spirit Awards, Movies, Sundance Film Festival.
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The Station Agent (American) 2003 ***

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Original Screenplay, BAFTA Awards
WINNER, John Cassavetes Award; Best First Screenplay Award (McCarthy); Producers Award; NOMINATED, Best Male Lead (Dinklage), Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson), National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA
WINNER, Audience Award-Dramatic (McCarthy); Special Jury Prize-Dramatic (Clarkson); Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (McCarthy), Sundance Film Festival

Written and directed by Thomas McCarthy
Starring Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, and Peter Dinklage

A funny and emotionally engaging film about three people living in rural New Jersey. Olivia (Clarkson), who is separated from her husband, moved away from her previous town so she could deal with her little boy’s death. Joe (Cannavale), a friendly and easygoing guy from New York, is there to care for his ailing father and look after his food truck. Fin (Dinklage), a dwarf, is a loner obsessed with trains. When he inherits a train depot building on the outskirts of a small town and decides to move there, he meets up with the other two. The three form an unlikely friendship.

Patricia Clarkson has appeared in many films and television series; she often plays quirky characters. Cannavale is especially known for his roles in television series such as Third Watch, Law & Order, and Cold Case, among others. Dinklage has appeared in stage, film, and television productions.

Highly recommended.

For more info:
The Station Agent