And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Currently browsing the "Great DVDs" category.

Ca$h

Two of my favorite Frenchmen are in this movie: Jean Dujardin and Jean Reno. And it just proves that The Artist was not a fluke. The camera does love Jean Dujardin’s face. He is the epitome of suave playing the title character Cash, the consumate con man (who I’d happily fall for any time.) Ca$h is essentially a French Ocean’s Eleven with Dujardin and Reno playing two of the many Parisian thieves vying to pull off an enormous diamond heist. And it is a lot of fun.

Safety Not Guaranteed

Sometimes not knowing what you’re getting into can be a great thing. Indie films are perfect for that since they haven’t usually been hyped and marketed to death. And though I had heard about a movie that dealt with time travel, one of my favorite subjects, I did not know a lot more about Safety Not Guaranteed, which happens to be a great little indie flick. No big stars. No special effects. All right, maybe just a few. No homage to another film. Just an original, well-done comedy love story about a bunch of misfits.

Headhunters (Hodejegerne)

Headhunters is one of those movies that grows on you. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it when it was over, but then days after, I kept thinking about it. It is a twisty Norwegian crime thriller about an insecure though powerful headhunter (of the executive search variety) who has overextended himself financially in order to take care of his tall blond super-modelish wife, who he is sure would leave him except for the lavish lifestyle he provides. And so he supplements his income by stealing art. His decision to steal one particular piece puts him in the sites of a very dangerous man.

The Hidden Fortress 隠し砦の三悪人

The Hidden Fortress may not be one of the most well known of Kurasawa’s films, but it is a wonderfully entertaining mix of adventure, comedy and drama. It opens with two bedraggled peasants wandering the countryside bemoaning their fate. This is Japan during its feudal period, and these two thought they would go into a clan war to make a fortune, but got there too late and were taken prisoner and forced to dig graves for the war dead. Now they are headed home penniless. But in a stroke of luck, they discover that there is a big reward for locating the defeated Akizuki clan’s Princess Yuki and the gold she took with her, and they set out to find her only to stumble upon a stick with a piece of gold inside. When they start looking for the rest of it they run into another man (Toshiro Mifune) who tricks them into joining forces. But he is not who they think he is. He is in fact the great General Rokurota Makabe who is guarding Princess Yuki and her gold.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an ode to the greatest sushi chef in the world, Jiro Ono. This 85-year old sushi master has been at his craft for 75 years and still loves what he is doing and thinks he can do even better. His restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro located in a subway in the Ginza district of Tokyo is one of the few sushi restaurants to earn 3 Michelin stars, and serves just 10 people at a time for 30000 Yen a pop (approx. $350). He does not serve appetizers or drinks or anything except sushi. You get what he serves you, with each taste planned to complement the next. One piece at a time, so they are as fresh as can be. I would imagine that people who aren’t sushi lovers might not be as enthralled with this documentary as those of us who are. The beautifully shot close-ups of Jiro’s little masterpieces of fishy goodness really did make me ache for a decent sushi restaurant, which my town is sorely lacking. And I’m sure that since this film came out, you can’t get a seat for many months, but if I could afford the fare, I’d fly over for a meal in a heartbeat.

Barbara

East Germany in 1980 really must have been a dystopian hell on earth. In the film Barbara, a doctor is exiled from Berlin for a minor offense and forced to work in a small town in the hinterlands. She’s subjected to round the clock conspicuous surveillance, and the not so secret police also search her apartment and force her to submit to cavity searches on a regular basis. So it is understandable that she is not all that open and trusting. Anyone she meets could turn her in and have her sent to an even worse place. One of her patients, a young girl named Stella is from one of those places that she fears, a forced labor prison Barbara refers to as a death camp. She doesn’t want to release the girl who is pregnant, to send her and her baby to their certain deaths, but she is forced to let her go.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The problem with being a wallflower is that wallflowers can come and go virtually undetected. So while I generally liked The Perks of Being a Wallflower when I saw it a few weeks ago, it didn’t resonate for very long. It’s certainly a decent psychological drama/coming-of-age movie that takes some interesting turns, but I suspect that this wallflower will have a hard time getting noticed amid the bigger, louder and dare I say, more mainstream offerings hitting theaters this weekend and beyond. That said, if you’re a fan of 80s music and mixed tapes, it may be worth seeking this one out for the totally awesome soundtrack.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower stars Logan Lerman as Charlie, a charming but introverted freshman who finds acceptance, friendship and even romance when he’s embraced by his high school’s merry band of misfits. The oddball group revels in their outcast status (often to the aforementioned soundtrack of “old” songs from the likes of The Smiths, Air Supply, Dexys Midnight Runners, and David Bowie). And while they all have ‘issues’ of some sort, Charlie’s, we come to discover, run rather dark and deep.

Searching for Sugar Man

I have to say this movie is amazing! It is a documentary about an American musician who inspired a generation in South Africa to fight apartheid and was more popular there than The Rolling Stones, and yet we in the US never heard of him. His name is Rodriguez and he recorded two albums in the early 70s before fading into obscurity. But by chance his music made its way to South Africa, and he became a Rock Star. His albums went platinum there and stories of his tragic death were a part of their music history.

The Intouchables

The Intouchables is my new favorite French feel-good film! Based on a true story, I must admit, the premise sounded like a total downer. A rich Parisian quadriplegic hires an angry, young black man from the projects to take care of him, and they develop a real friendship. It’s a cross-cultural buddy film plot that could easily have fallen into cheesy clichés, but instead is funny, sweet and totally engaging with a kickin’ soundtrack. A large part of the film’s success lies in the casting of the two leads. Omar Sy plays Driss, a ne’er do well who has no interest in the job, but only shows up at the interview to get a paper signed so he can say he has applied and get his welfare check. And Francois Cluzet plays Philippe, the super-rich aristocrat who became wheelchair bound after a paragliding accident and is sick to death of being pitied.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild is probably not a movie for Mainstream Chick. It isn’t a straightforward narrative. It is more a modern fable, which some have compared with The Tree of Life for its blend of fantasy and realism. It is a simple little story though, and extremely well told. At its center is a little girl named Hushpuppy, played by 6-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis. She isn’t the usual cutesy kid. She is self-reliant and defiant, has a rich inner life and is filled with wonder about everything around her. She and her Dad live in the wild Louisiana bayou on a sliver of land of they call The Bathtub. They are poor as can be, existing in the middle of squalor, but the film doesn’t care about their poverty. It is all about their love of the life they have that is slipping from their grasp. It is about their hold on their normal.