Currently browsing the "Award Winning" category.

Review: Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle

A couple of weeks before I saw this film, I read filmmaker Werner Herzog’s first novel “The Twilight World,” which draws on his meeting 25 years ago with Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who, not realizing that WWII was over, kept fighting his guerrilla war on a small Philippine Island for another 29 years. His story has been endlessly caricatured over the years, but the man himself and what he endured, and why and how he kept fighting have not been explored. It is a fascinating book. And now there is a film about him and his life in the jungle. 

Reviews: She Said and Women Talking

I saw these two films just days apart and they seemed to speak to one another. Both take on sexual predation, but from very different viewpoints. She Said is a journalistic thriller based on the true story of the female journalists who exposed Harvey Weinstein’s long history of abuse that led to his much deserved comeuppance and ignited the #MeToo movement. Women Talking is also based on a true story, that of a group of women in an isolated religious community who come together to decide how to deal with a long and horrifying history of rape by the men in their enclave. The women who tell their stories in She Said are fearful of losing their careers, while the ones in Women Talking are afraid they will lose their place in heaven. And so they all have to think long and hard about how to take on the monstrous men who hold power over them.

Review: Happening

Talk about a film arriving at just the right moment! This gripping French drama about a young woman in the early 1960s who gets pregnant and has to go through hell for an abortion will hit you right in the gut. If I’d seen it a month ago, I’d have described it as a cautionary tale. Now it feels more like a glimpse into our dystopian future.

Review: Hit the Road

This wonderful road trip drama traverses the Iranian landscape with a family and their dog. Along for the ride are a mother (Pantea Panahiha) and father (Hasan Majuni) and their two sons, one grown (Amin Simiar) and the other a bouncing off the walls 6-year-old (Rayan Sarlak). The story comes together in small hints as the family deals with their circumstances, attempting to shield the younger son (and the audience) from what is actually happening. It is by turns tense and warm and funny.

Review: Topside

This is a really gritty and entirely engaging little film. It’s about Nikki (co-director Celine Held) and her 5-year-old daughter Little (Zhaila Farmer) who’re living on the edge underground in a homeless camp beneath the city of New York. Their life is not easy by any stretch, but they have a warm bond and community and a place of their own. But when the powers that be decide to clear out the riffraff, Little is forced to accompany her mother into the unknown and noisy and VERY bright city. And the question becomes whether they will be able to survive and stay together up there.

Review: Licorice Pizza

This quirky coming-of-age rom-com was one of my favorite films of the year. The leads, Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, are unknowns, but there are some fabulous cameos from A-listers, particularly Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper. It’s a quietly unfolding love story with an older woman that takes place as a young man hustles his way around town and into her heart. 

Review: Drive My Car

Adapted from a short story by Haruki Murikami, one of my favorite authors, Drive My Car is a haunting drama about love and grief and reckoning. It centers on two main characters. Actor turned theater director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is two years removed from his wife’s sudden death and still grappling with the meaning of their relationship when he comes to Hiroshima to direct Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” for a theater festival. The organizers insist for legal reasons that he use their driver for the duration of his stay. She’s a taciturn young woman named Misaki (Toko Miura) who ended up in Hiroshima after her own personal tragedy. And as she shuttles him back and forth to the theater in his beautiful red Saab 900, they slowly bond over the unresolved sadness in their lives. And I say slowly because the movie clocks in at just about three hours, though it doesn’t feel long at all.

Review: The Power of the Dog

Set in the gorgeous wide open expanses of 1925 Wyoming, The Power of the Dog from Oscar-winning director Jane Campion (The Piano, Angel at My Table) is downright suffocating a lot of the time. This sure to be in the Oscar pool psychological thriller/western tells the story of a pair of rich ranching brothers, Phil and George Burbank, who are as different as night and day. Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch, TV’s “Sherlock”, The Courier) is the walking embodiment of toxic masculinity, violent and mean to everyone in his path. George (Jesse Plemons) is more gentle and less rugged. But when he marries the local widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst, Spiderman, Melancholia) and brings her and her teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road, X-Men franchise) home, Phil is anything but the welcoming brother-in-law, leaving no opportunity behind to ridicule them all.

Review: CODA

CODA doesn’t have the dramatic heft of Children of a Lesser God (for which deaf actress Marlee Matlin won an Academy Award), or the grittier themes of Oscar nominee Sound of Metal, but I totally get why it won the Grand Jury Prize, Best Director, Ensemble Acting, and Audience Award at Sundance earlier this year. It’s a sweet and moving crowdpleaser that proves it’s not just possible, but powerful to cast deaf actors in lead roles – and be all the better for it.

Review: Materna

The four women in Materna whose stories collide in a New York subway could not be more different. But they are connected by narratives exploring the theme of “mother”, what it means to be one, to have one, to contend with their expectations and our own autonomy. The film is essentially an anthology of four shorts connected by a violent incident on the subway, but each of their stories informs how they will react to their shared experience. It’s a fascinating, tension-filled ride.