And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: The Report

We Chicks both saw The Report at the Middleburg Film Festival last month. We were both fans of this political thriller that should be seen widely, and agreed that its audience may be limited by the subject matter. And that’s unfortunate, because it’s an important story, extremely well done, that could very well change hearts and minds about a very dark moment in our country’s all too recent past.

Review: Life Itself

Don’t let the trailer fool you. Life Itself is not This Is Us. Yes, it is a multi-generational family drama written and directed by This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, and yes, you will need tissues. But even Fogelman will tell/warn you that Life Itself is darker and heavier than his serial television weep-fest. It’s a melodramatic soap opera of a film that tells the story of two families – in New York and Spain – whose lives are connected by tragedy. It’s heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting even as it seeks to manipulate our emotions with a heavy-handed theme that ‘Life’ is an unreliable narrator of our story. The film is broken up into “chapters” to drive the point home.

20th Century Women

20th Century Women takes place at the end of the 70s in Santa Barbara, California. Dorothea (Annette Bening) is a bohemian, mid-50ish, single mom trying to raise her son, adolescent Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). They live in a big old house in the middle of renovations and have two boarders – budding photographer Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Zen mechanic William (Billy Crudup). And there is a teenage neighbor Julie (Elle Fanning) who frequently climbs in the window to lie chastely in bed with young Jamie, her BFF, to his growing dismay. Dorothea feels that she needs help with Jamie, and thinking they’re closer in age, she asks the girls to help her with his transition to manhood. What follows is both funny and touching.

Ginger & Rosa

It may be called Ginger & Rosa, but it is Elle Fannings’s movie. She plays Ginger, a 16-year-old in London in 1962 whose entire world is in a precarious position for a whole slew of reasons. Her family is coming apart. She is more and more concerned about the threat of nuclear war. And she is at that point in adolescence where the weight of everything just seems too much to bear. She has always been able to talk to her best friend Rosa (Alice Englert) about anything, but now that she is more interested in protesting for disarmament, all Rosa can think about is true love, and the two who have been best friends since birth begin to drift apart.

Ruby Sparks

I went into this film knowing absolutely nothing about it, except that Mainstream Chick had seen it and thought maybe as the Arty One, I would get something from it that she did not. Sadly, that is not the case. It is simply one of those interesting concepts that never makes the leap to the screen. The movie stars Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) as Calvin, a “genius” writer who’s had one early mega-success, but now struggles with severe writer’s block. So his therapist suggests he write just one page, which he is given permission to do badly. And that night a vivid dream about a kooky girl he meets in the park inspires him to run to his old fashioned typewriter, and the prose just pours out onto the page.

The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right is one of the smartest, funniest films of the year. Annette Bening is pitch perfect as the alpha-mom of the movie and really should get an Oscar for her performance. Which is not to say that the rest of the cast (Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson) are less than fabulous; this talented ensemble keeps you laughing from beginning to the end. (Okay, there are a few moments that are more serious, but fear not! They are few.)

Mother and Child

I’m not quite sure how I ended up watching Mother and Child instead of Shrek 4 this weekend, but I think it was the casting that ultimately roped me in. Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits. Really – how can you go wrong? Performance-wise, you can’t. These pros can make anything watchable. But the movie does have some major flaws in character development, and I’d be hard-pressed to recommend it except to those particularly interested in the subject of adoption.