Currently Browsing: January 7, 2008

Oscar Noms for AWAY FROM HER?

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assoc (the people behind the Golden Globes), the National Society of Film Critics, & multitudinous others have made Julie Christie a front runner for this year’s Best Actress Oscar, so I just gave the film a second look. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Julie Christie & I think she’s wonderful […]

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THE BAND’S VISIT Rant

      I just came from my 2nd screening of THE BAND’S VISIT, winner of the Israel Film Academy’s 2007 Ophir Award for Best Feature Film.  The first time I saw it, I enjoyed it well enough, but it left a sour taste in my mouth & now I know why.  SPOILER ALERT: Why does Dina sleep […]

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BLACK BOOK Rant

      The first time I saw BLACK BOOK, I was at a critics screening, so I saw it way before anyone else I knew (except selected Chicago colleagues, of course).  I absolutely LOATHED this film, & I assumed others (especially women) would too.  So imagine my amazement when various friends (several schvesters among them) told me they […]

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WAITRESS

Charming fairy tale about an abused woman (Keri Russell) struggling to find the inner courage to build a new life for herself. Told completely from Jenna’s POV, none of the male characters amount to much but the camaraderie between working women on the job (one of whom is played by writer/director Adrienne Shelly) is beautifully […]

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Film Review: THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

PRIDE & PREJUDICE twisted inside out. Five sisters with a manipulative mother & a distracted father enter adolescence under neighborhood scrutiny. The pressure proves too great, & the five girls kill themselves. Their story is told by the neighborhood boys, who become obsessed with their failure to prevent the tragedy. More on THE VIRGIN SUICIDES.

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Film Review: VIRGIN

Like THE SCARLET LETTER, this film depicts a conservative community dealing with an illegitimate pregnancy. Here, however, the condition is the result of drug-induced date rape & the expectant mother, who has no memory of the incident, sincerely believes hers is another child of God. Moss’s perfect performance anchors everything. More on VIRGIN.

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Film Review: VANITY FAIR

Becky Sharp (Witherspoon) is a plucky young woman scheming for her place in English society during the Napoleonic Wars. But unlike more refined adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels, the Empire (especially India) is a colorful counterpart to the goings-on, giving a modern edge to infighting over money & class distinctions. More on VANITY FAIR.

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Film Review: UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN

Unabashedly life-affirming film about a woman taking a second chance after facing crushing disappointments – the female empowerment version of “If you build it, they will come.” Lane grows luminous as she escapes her San Francisco depression by piecing together the elements of her new life as an Italian earth mother. More on UNDER THE […]

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Film Review: TULLY

Preposterous plot (involving mysterious hospital bills) weighs down a number of excellent performances in this coming-of-age drama set on a small Nebraska family farm. Burrus is particularly moving as “Tully Senior,” a quiet man who hides his deep emotions under rigidly fixed habits. The sun shines when he finally smiles. More on TULLY.

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Film Review: THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT

August, 1984: Deborah Sykes goes missing. Winston-Salem police zero in on a black man, Darryl Hunt, who is quickly arrested, convicted, & imprisoned for life. It takes 20 years for North Carolina authorities to exonerate & release him. Compelling story, but the telling is too linear, literal & plodding. More on THE TRIALS OF DARRYL […]

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Film Review: A THOUSAND ACRES

Adaptation based on Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning meditation on KING LEAR. This searing film rages against residents of an Iowa town for averting their eyes while a power-mad tyrant (Robards) abused his daughters. Pfeiffer’s ferocious as the middle daughter. Cast totally against type, it’s the best performance of her career. More on A THOUSAND ACRES.

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THIS IS MY LIFE

Probably sensing that this was her one shot as a lead, Julie Kavner (beloved for her TV roles as “Brenda Morgenstern” & “Marge Simpson”) hits a homerun in this dramedy about a divorced mother of two who wants to be a stand-up comedienne. Samantha Mathis also shines as her teenage daughter. Writer/Director Nora Ephron makes […]

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Film Review: THIRTEEN

Two out-of-control L.A. teens drink & shoplift, then experiment with drugs & sex, while their bewildered parents/guardians, obsessed with problems of their own & watching from the outside, try to figure out what’s “normal” for today’s adolescents. Hunter’s particularly impressive & both girls are strong, but Jan wanted more backstory. More on THIRTEEN.

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Film Review: THINGS BEHIND THE SUN

A 12 year old girl is brutally gang-raped. Years pass & her life is controlled by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She has flashbacks she can’t put into context, & keeps finding herself standing drunk in front of a house she can’t identify. A sincere & moving depiction of an important story. More on THINGS BEHIND […]

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Film Review: THELMA & LOUISE

Split decision: While “Highly Recommended” by both of us, we each see this film differently. Jan sees an exhilarating feminist classic celebrating the ebullient chemistry between Davis & Sarandon. Rich sees two abused women in an alcoholic haze spiraling out of control. Diagnostic incident: when the truck explodes. You decide! More on THELMA & LOUISE.

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Film Review: THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD

First Broadcast date = 3/6/05 on ABC-TV. Jan enjoyed the ABC broadcast even with all the commercials, but Rich got frustrated & gave up, so he advises you to wait for the DVD. Beautifully acted version of Zora Neal Hurston’s classic novel. More on THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD.

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Film Review: THE TAO OF STEVE

Dex was one of the “cool guys” in college, but 10 years have passed & he’s still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. He’s reintroduced to Syd at the reunion; he barely remembers her, but she sure remembers him. Charming, low-key romantic comedy. More on THE TAO OF […]

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Film Review: TALK TO ME

Biopic stars Cheadle as “Petey” Greene, a radio DJ who became the voice of Black Washington after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Terrific story, fabulous performances; captures both the man & his times in high-energy mix of comedy & tragedy. Oscar noms NOW for Cheadle, Henson & Lemmons. More on TALK TO ME.

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Film Review: SWEPT FROM THE SEA

Romantic tale based on a minor Joseph Conrad novella. Smoldering chemistry between two relatively unknown leads, stalwart support from veterans Kathy Bates & Ian McKellan, & an gorgeous score by John Barry all suffice for the home viewer denied access to the full beautify of the Cornwall coast on wide-screen. More on SWEPT FROM THE […]

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Film Review: SUZANNE

After losing their son to Algerian terrorists, Frank & Madelaine move their daughter Sabine back to France. Years pass, but the bombing still haunts them, especially when Sabine brings home a new Algerian boyfriend. Then Mado dies, and after a period of depression, Frank meets Suzanne. Somehow 2 lyrical halves don”t quite make a whole. […]

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Film Review: STEPHANIE DALEY

Very pregnant forensic psychologist (Swinton) has to decide if a shy teenager (Tamblyn) knowingly murdered her newborn baby while dealing with her own marital issues & worries about a miscarriage. Great acting but plot parallels are a bit too forced. More on STEPHANIE DALEY.

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Film Review: STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME

Amsterdam couple meets in 1943 & marries in 1946. In between they’re “sent East” (first the Westerbork Transit Camp, then the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp), thereby, like many Dutch Jews, taking the same path as Anne Frank’s family into the horrors of the Holocaust. Extraordinary doc marvels at human survival strategies. More on STEAL A PENCIL […]

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Film Review: SONGCATCHER

Lots of talent went into this film, but midway thru it loses its nerve & turns too predictable. Cultures clash as a turn-of-the-century musicologist stumbles on the rich folk traditions of the North Carolina mountains. Despite initial hostility, she succeeds in winning the trust of the residents. More on SONGCATCHER.

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Film Review: SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE

Keaton & Nicholson play amusing versions of their public selves in this romantic comedy about an aging Peter Pan who finally finds his Wendy. They handle their close-ups with aplomb, inviting the camera to cherish every line & wrinkle. They’re wonderful! Unfortunately, they’re surrounded by name actors playing stock characters… More on SOMETHING’S GOT TO […]

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Film Review: THE SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS

Lyonne is the daughter of a divorced father raising 3 kids. Dad (Arkin) is “between jobs” & Aunt Rita (Tomei) is “between fiances,” but Vivian still has to deal with her first bra, her first boyfriend & her 2 teenage brothers. The bittersweet moments are balanced by a deft comic touch. More on THE SLUMS.

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Film Review: SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE

Entertaining romantic comedy about a widower whose young son tricks him into pouring his heart out on a nationally broadcast radio talk show. Letters pour in from far & wide, but his true soul-mate is about to marry someone else in Baltimore. Best of several Hanks/Ryan pairings. More on SLEEPLESS.

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Film Review: SINCE OTAR LEFT

Slice-of-life drama set in Tbilisi, Georgia, where the characters struggle to adjust to the post-Soviet capitalist economy. A widow who lost her husband in Afghanistan shares an apartment with her mother & her daughter. The grandmother pines for her son Otar who left them to seek his fortune in Paris. More on SINCE OTAR LEFT.

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SHUT UP & SING

The Dixie Chicks run afoul of their country music fan base when lead singer Natalie Maines publicly mocks President Bush in the early days of the War in Iraq. Almost everyone & everything in this documentary was new to us, but the directors stitch together a highly compelling narrative for both novices & aficionados. (JLH: 4.5/5.) Click […]

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Film Review: SHOWBUSINESS: THE ROAD TO BROADWAY

Brilliantly-executed doc digs deep into the dynamics of the 03/04 Broadway season leading up to be one of the most dramatic TONY races in recent memory. TONY-winning producer Berinstein has incredible “insider” access & captures the stress & sweat behind-the-scenes as well as audiences & eye-opening “Greek chorus” of critics. More on SHOWBUSINESS.

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Film Review: SHERRYBABY

Gyllenhaal’s powerhouse performance anchors this grim drama about a drug addict trying to get her life back on track after she’s paroled. Tiny Simpkins plays her daughter, wary of the embrace of an over-eager woman who’s almost a stranger. Gyllenhaal manages to push every button: we weep for her, but also still fear her. More […]

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