And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: Bergman Island

You don’t have to be a fan of the legendary director Ingmar Bergman to enjoy this film, but it certainly does help. In it a couple of American filmmakers, Chris (Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread) and Tony (Tim Roth, Selma, The Hateful Eight), take a summer trip to Fårö island in Sweden where Bergman lived and shot some of his best known movies. Both of them are hoping for some inspiration for the films they’re working on. One of Tony’s films is showing in the annual Bergman Week there, and he and Chris are in residence at the house where Bergman shot his award winning series Scenes from a Marriage, about the disintegration of a marriage. And while theirs doesn’t, it’s clearly seen better days.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Alice Through the Looking Glass; Maggie’s Plan; A Monster with a Thousand Heads

Alice Through the Looking Glass – I didn’t see Tim Burton’s 2010 re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland, but did read up on it a bit before heading into this sequel from director James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted) featuring the colorful characters created by British author Lewis Carroll. I might otherwise have been quite confused. As with its cinematic predecessor, Alice Through the Looking Glass is not an instant classic by any stretch, but it’s a fine family film that is visually quite stunning and features a strong female lead in Alice, played by the extremely versatile Mia Wasikowska. Mia has a knack for making mediocre movies better than they might otherwise be. In this case, she plays a sassy and headstrong ship’s captain (in 1874 London) struggling to make it in a man’s world. With the fate of her personal and professional life in flux, Alice stumbles across a magical mirror (as opposed to a rabbit hole) that takes her back to the fantastical realm of Underland, where she discovers that her friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is literally dying of sadness because he thinks his long-lost family may still be alive, but nobody believes him. Alice is skeptical, but in an effort to save her friend, she steals a device from ‘Time’ (embodied by Sasha Baron Cohen) and heads to the past to see what became of Hatter’s clan. It’s an ill-conceived plot, a bit heavy-handed with the morals (It’s about time—making every second count; you can’t change the past, but you can learn from it; the only thing worth doing is what we do for others; the only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it’s possible…), but in the end, it’s kind of sweet and sappy in a weird, eccentric, whimsical sort of way.

Maps to the Stars

David Cronenberg has always brought us characters and situations that are unsettling. His early films were smart horror flicks like The Fly and Dead Ringers, and I thought he’d moved into his more mature years with serious dramas like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. But Maps to the Stars feels like a step backwards or perhaps an attempt to blend his earlier and later genres into one. It is a semi-horror satire of the Hollywood film world run amok, complete with ghosts and murder and incest. Every single person in the film is only out for themselves. And if you’ve never been to LA, Maps to the Stars will make you never want to go near the place.

Wild (and Tracks)

I wasn’t particularly wild about Wild. And I didn’t read the best-selling book, so I can’t really compare the two. But friends tell me the book is much stronger in terms of developing the peripheral characters who crossed the path of the real-life Cheryl Strayed. Reese Witherspoon portrays Strayed, a hiking novice who decides that a solo, thousand-mile trek across the Pacific Crest Trail could make her a better person. She’s been dealing with a lot – the dissolution of her marriage (to a good guy) after years of reckless, destructive behavior, and the death of her mother (played in flashbacks by a superb Laura Dern). It’s an ambitious and cathartic adventure that I can admire in theory, but certainly don’t envy or care to emulate. So more power to her! And to her ginormous backpack and bloodied toenails!

Albert Nobbs

What an odd little film! Every few years a gender switching film comes along and everyone gets excited about it (Linda Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie.) This time Glenn Close plays the title character Albert Nobbs, a timid little butler in a second-rate Dublin hotel around the turn of the 20th century. The film has a very Upstairs, Downstairs feeling, mostly downstairs, with one of the maids getting knocked up by a handyman, a typhoid scare shutting down the hotel, and the usual petty personality quirks keeping things interesting. Unfortunately, the character at the center of this film, Albert Nobbs, is not part of the fun.


I got restless watching Restless. In other words, I was bored.

Jane Eyre

A quick check of IMDB reveals that Jane Eyre has been made no less than 22 times since the advent of film; the earliest was in 1910. Charlotte Brontë wrote the classic from which it has been adapted in 1847 and it has been a must read ever since. But does it really need one more interpretation? The last time it was remade was in 1996 and starred William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg. I saw that one, too, but I’d say the new one is much better, which leads me to say, yes, we do need a new one every few years for the people who don’t know this story.

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.)

Alice in Wonderland

With his Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton is back with a film that may look in some ways like one of his others but in a lot of ways is a different animal. Mia Wasikowska (In Treatment, Amelia) plays 19 year old Alice, a young woman who has always had vivid dreams and is being shoved into marrying to a total prig. She falls down the infamous rabbit hole while running away from her “engagement party” to think about her options. And once down in this strange world, she encounters all the usual suspects, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp with a strange lisp), Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, etc.