Currently Browsing: October 2009

Chatting with Lone Scherfig

Click HERE to read my review for WomenArts. Click HERE to read my chat with Danish Director Lone Scherfig about her new film AN EDUCATION.  What are YOU doing THIS weekend?  If you support WITASWAN, then your answer should be: “I’m going to see AN EDUCATION!”  Nag, Nag, Nag J

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WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS

In only 84 packed minutes, Boll tells a complex multi-dimensional story of obstacles still facing women artists in 21st C America. As doc proves, women make great sacrifices to serve their artistic imperatives, so it is essential that women in the audience mobilize in support–for our own benefit as well as theirs! Film not yet […]

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WENDY & LUCY

Williams will absolutely break your heart here as “Wendy,” a young woman in a battered old car trying to make it cross-country with only her dog “Lucy” for company. Williams is in every scene, tightly scrutinzed by still mysterious. Where did she come from & where is she going? Everything is present tense–we will never […]

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THE UNFORESEEN

Fascinating story about real estate pressures in Austin, TX undermined by overly-artsy direction. As a parable of our time (with a diagnostic appearances by George Bush & Karl Rove to boot), doc required balance & precision. Novice filmmaker deserved better from executive producers Terrence Malick & Robert Redford. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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UNDER THE SAME MOON

Beautifully acted & heartfelt story about a Mexican kid (Alonso) looking for his mother (del Castillo), now working illegally in LA”s underground economy. Kudos to America Ferrara for using her clout by taking an unsympathetic bit part to help open narrow minds in the current “immigration debate.” Yes, a bit long & a bit contrived, […]

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TWILIGHT

Jan loved this swoon-inducing romance about star-crossed lovers living in a Twin-Peaksy town in the Pacific Northwest made extra moody by Carter Burwell”s great soundtrack. Sure, so Edward”s a “vampire,” but this isn”t a film about fangs & blood, it”s about feeling overwhelmed by new passions dimly understood. Not yet seen by Rich. Click HERE […]

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TROUBLE THE WATER

Award-winning doc about Hurricane Katrina melds first person and third person perspectives into a taut 96 minutes that both captures the moment and provides the context.  Aspiring rap artist Kimberly Rivers Roberts just happened to have a new camcorder with her as storm clouds started building over New Orleans, and that helped her to become […]

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AN EDUCATION

Lone Scherfig’s terrific new film “An Education” opens in a classroom in an English suburb in the early 60s. The subject under discussion is Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre. Written over one hundred years before scene one, Jane Eyre still maintains its curious hold on the female imagination. Must we be forever reminded that Mr. […]

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AMELIA

Easy to like but impossible to love, this is a surprisingly conventional BioPic about a very unconventional woman: aviatrix Amelia Earhart (played by Hilary Swank). Film has some very poetic flight scenes and you can feel the world get smaller as Earhart’s planes grow bigger & ever more sophisticated, but on the ground everyone is just […]

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THE BEACHES OF AGNES

Cesar-award-winning first-person doc tied to the 80th birthday of French screen legend Agnès Varda. Starts slow & wistful, but builds to powerful, life-affirming conclusion as Varda recounts her intense private & professional collaborations with filmmaker Jacques Demy (who died of AIDS in 1990. Film not (yet) seen by Rich. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE

Spectacular performance by Del Toro with strong back-up from supporting cast somewhat undone by Berry, who doesn”t have sufficient intensity to hold the center as a widow coping with the violent death of her slightly too-perfect husband (Duchovny). Del Toro”s an addict shaken clean by events. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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THEN SHE FOUND ME

April”s biological clock is ticking so loud that she”s unable to attend to almost anything else in her life, but by film”s end she”s learned to broaden her view of parenthood & open herself to genuine Tikun Olam. Hunt directs herself in lead role, eliciting warm performances from her very strong cast. Click HERE for […]

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SUGAR

Miguel ‘Sugar’ Santos (Soto) is a Dominican teenager with a great arm. Nurtured in local baseball camps, he’s brought north to play on a Minor League team in Iowa. Everyone’s got great intentions, but the pressure weighs heavy on Sugar’s young shoulders. Well-told, intimate story contrasting first world/third world expectations & lifestyles. Click HERE for […]

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STRANGE DAYS

Incredibly violent, sexually abusive sci-fi/rogue cop mash-up written by James Cameron. Despite Bigelow’s directorial skill, this future world is way too ugly for us & inadvertently obsolete (everytime characters said “2K” instead of “Y2K,” we groaned). Fiennes & Lewis are OK, but acting by everyone else is way over the top. Click HERE for FF2 […]

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STOP-LOSS

Act One: Tikrit. Superb! Act Two: Texas. Very Good! Act Three: Road Trip. Um, unfocused & meandering. We both wanted this heart-felt, well-intentioned film to be better, but still applaud Peirce”s direction & all the acting. No matter what you think about Iraq, we should all realize that sacrifices have not been equally shared. We […]

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SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2

Not seen by Rich. May NEVER been seen by Rich. Definitely “a chick flick,” & definitely recommended by Jan, even tho PANTS #2 isn”t quite as strong as PANTS #1. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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THE SECRETS

Too much of a good thing: Nesher locates his excellent cast in a school for young Orthodox women, where they’re surrounded by the ghosts of prior generations of Kaballah scholars who also walked up & down these same stone steps of Sfat. Add in a murder mystery, fine. But then he went one step too […]

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THE SAVAGES

Thirtysomething Manhattanite (Linney) puts her own life on hold when her estranged father (Bosco) succumbs to dementia. Caring for him with a brother she knows only slightly better (Hoffman) becomes life-changing for both of them. Jan”s agog, but while Rich loved performances, he found frequent “shifts-of-tone” between comedy & tragedy disorienting. Click HERE for FF2 […]

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SALAAM BOMBAY!

Nair’s first film (made with frequent collaborator screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala) achieved instant acclaim, winning multiple awards worldwide & receiving a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination. Bombay street kids survive amidst the squalor and danger of the adult world around them. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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RAILS & TIES

Sincere drama about a withdrawn man (Bacon) nursing his cancer-striken wife (Hardin). When a kid appears in the life of this childless couples, they take him in, but the story unfolds naturally with strong character development & a well-earned tear-filled ending. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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RACHEL GETTING MARRIED

Druggie (Hathaway) gets a weekend pass from rehab so she can attend her sister”s wedding. Jan: Film went on & on forever, & 2nd screening added NO new insights. Who ARE these people??? Vague Jewish references never explained amid all the saris, Brazilian Carnival costumes, etc, etc. Rich: OK, it”s not a great film, but […]

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THE PROPOSAL

Starts as a The Devil Wears Prada wannabee with Sandra Bullock in the “Meryl-Streep-as-Devil” role, but quickly becomes Ryan Reynolds’ film. Bullock just needs to be game & she is here. But Reynolds is surprisingly good as an Alaskan scion who wants to create his own destiny. I found Anne Fletcher’s film enjoyable albeit totally […]

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PRAYING WITH LIOR

Kid born with Down’s Syndrome loses Mom to cancer in early childhood, but it’s OK because everyone loves him. Filmmakers ask NO hard questions (e.g., does anyone in this family work for a living?), & all the uplift feels manufactured for the cameras. Impossible not to cry during Bar Mitzvah scenes, but Oy! Rating = […]

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PERSEPOLIS

Compelling personal story about a young woman coming of age during the Iranian revolution. Wonderfully-expressive animation based on writer/director Satrapi”s first-person graphic novel. Aesthetically elegant with fasciating insights into one of the major cultural upheavals of our lifetimes. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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PENELOPE

Charming fable about a rich girl burdened by a family curse (Ricci) who finds love despite the demands of her intrusive mother (O’Hara). Dinklage provides perfect counterpoint as a newspaper man also learning that appearances can be deceiving. Kudos also to McAvoy & Witherspoon as well as screenwriter Leslie Caveny. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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PARALLEL LINES

NYC doc director just happens to be working in LA when the Twin Towers are attacked on 9/11. Afraid of what she will find back home, she decides to drive cross-country to give herself time to “adjust” before facing the reality head-on. Along the way, she converses with countless “average Americans” with varying POVs. Click […]

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PAPER HEARTS

Too twee for Jan. Not (yet) seen by Rich. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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NOODLE

Luminous Mili Avital stars as an El-Al flight attendant struggling to reunite a small Chinese boy with his missing mother. Menahemi creates a ornery role for Waxman, so that some comic relief prevents her poignant dramedy from getting too icky as widow & orphan bond despite cultures, languages & time zones. Click HERE for FF2 […]

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NICK & NORA’S INFINITE PLAYLIST

SPLIT DECISION: Two NJ high school students in bad relationships find each other in an all night search for their favorite band. Jan sensed just enough warmth in Nick (Cera) & Nora (Dennings) to forgive the endless binge drinking & purging “jokes,” & boring drive arounds, but Rich saw nothing here worth recommending. Click HERE […]

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MUERTO DE LA PENA

DEAD FROM THE PAIN–Argentine satire starring Pinto as an aging bureaucratic who becomes a one day news sensation when he has his “I’m mad as Hell & I’m not going to take it anymore” moment. Quick-witted & amusing, we suspect it’s also chockfull of sly local references but universal enough to recommend in any language. […]

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