Film Review: A Separation — 4 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwEgDPPATy0

ONE WORD REVIEW: Tragic!

SUMMARY: An Iranian man’s wife leaves him to care for their daughter and his aging father. The woman he hires to help brings a new set of problems that may just ruin his family and his good name.

DETAILS: A Separation is an Iranian film (The Separation of Nader and Simin) that won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards. Also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, A Separation tells the story of the tragic breakup of an Iranian middle class couple, Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami), and explores the consequences of their decision that includes lies, deceit, miscarriage/murder, child custody, and ultimately a quest for justice. The story begins with Simin attempting to divorce her husband who refuses to leave the country with her in order to stay and care for his aging father who suffers with Alzheimer’s. Their separation forces Nader to find a caregiver for his father and this is where their troubles begin. Nader hires a woman from a lower class who desperately needs work, but who (due to the intimate nature of care-giving involved) is forced to lie about her employment. A Separation beautifully explores the issues of class, marriage, parental care, sin, love, and the tragedy of a couple splitting up. The film is a slow and steady, beautifully shot, dramatic piece that I highly recommend for anyone desiring a glimpse into modern day Islamic life. The aging, nearly silent, grandfather in the film is wonderfully played by Ali-Asghar Shahbazi whose actions, mannerisms, and portrayal of a man with Alzheimers should have earned him a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. This film proves that the power of storytelling is truly a universal gift.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 4.0 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2011
RATING:PG-13
FOREIGN FILM: Iranian
ACADEMY AWARD: Best Foreign Language Film

Film Review: The Sapphires — 3.5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJv1epnHKM4

ONE WORD REVIEW: Fun!

SUMMARY: Based on a true story, an Indigenous girls band from Australia earns the opportunity to travel to Vietnam to entertain the American troops during the war.

DETAILS: The Sapphires is That Thing You Do meets soul music and the Vietnam War. A group of Indigenous singers in Australia catch the attention of a makeshift music promoter (Chris O’Dowd) who helps them transition from country to soul music and take their show to Vietnam. Loosely based on a true story, their new manager secures an audition in Melbourne that will change their lives. The girl singers (Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, and Miranda Tapsell) change their name to The Sapphires, and head to war-torn Vietnam to entertain the American servicemen. The Sapphires contains romance, laughter, and a fantastic soundtrack of 1960’s soulful music. The film deals with issues of race, belonging, and the universal language of music. Although I mentioned That Thing You Do to create a mental picture, this film doesn’t quite reach the same mark as that Tom Hanks classic. Ultimately, The Sapphires wants to soar at great heights, but instead settles for a low, but elegant glide across the screen… but regardless, this film does have a great soundtrack and is worth watching.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2012
RATING: PG-13
FOREIGN FILM: Australia

Film Review: La Ragazza del Lago (The Girl by the Lake) — 2 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-7sIWNu4F4

ONE WORD REVIEW: Disappointing

SUMMARY: The body of a woman who everyone knew is discovered near an Italian lake and the small town investigator must determine who is guilty of the crime… but no one is talking.

DETAILS: Alright, let it be known that the only reason I watched this film is because I wanted to see Toni Servillo’s performance. I had enjoyed his acting in La Grande Bellezza and wanted to see some of his other films, but La Ragazza del Lago (The Girl by the Lake) left me disappointed on several levels. It’s the story of a woman’s body who is discovered naked, covered with a coat, by the lake in a small town in the Italian alps. The film begins with mystery and intrigue and the web is spun, but by the story’s end, you realize that most of the web was irrelevant. It just didn’t come together like it could have. Servillo’s performance is not up to his screen presence in La Grande Bellezza, but ultimately, this story just falls flat. Spend your 95 minutes on something more worthwhile.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 2 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2007
RATING: NR
FOREIGN FILM: Italian

Film Review: Man with a Movie Camera — 5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qflBTX-PfQ

ONE WORD REVIEW: Magical!

SUMMARY: A celebration of modernism as seen through the eyes of a 1929 Soviet Silent Filmmaker.

DETAILS: Man with a Movie Camera is the most magical display of early filmmaking and avant-garde editing I have ever seen. A Russian film made in 1929 by Dziga Vertov, this silent picture celebrates machinery, industry, ingenuity, and beauty in ways no other film ever has. From weddings and divorces to funerals and childbirth we see the juxtaposition of emotion and imagery. It is certainly the earliest film about the art of filmmaking that I’ve seen and perhaps the first one ever made. It showcases the work and creativity of the Camera Man throughout the picture, even making him superhuman in a god-like scene where he looms like a giant above the city and the populace. There is also a special section featuring the film editor and her critically creative work. Man with a Movie Camera is edited amazingly well, with quick cuts, fast pacing, a beautiful images. Director Dziga Vertov was lightyears ahead of his time. I highly recommend this film to anyone who loves movies and especially to any student of film or any filmmaker. You won’t be disappointed.

WATCH THE TRAILER
WATCH THE FILM
SCORE: 5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 1929
RATING: NR
SILENT FILM
FOREIGN FILM: RUSSIAN

Film Review: La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) — 3.5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Beautiful

SUMMARY: An aging socialite realizes that the social scene he rules leaves him wanting a greater beauty.

DETAILS: Winner of the 2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, La Grande Bellezza tells the story of Jep Gambardella (wonderfully played by Toni Servillo). Jep is an aging socialite who rules the night life in Rome, but when he turns 65 he begins to realize that there is much more to life than the social scene he helped build. He discovers that his first love from his youth has died. She had married and spent her life with another man but, unbeknownst to anyone but her diary, she secretly longed for Jep. This begins Jep search for a greater beauty in this wonderful world. Beautifully shot on Italian locations, La Grande Bellezza contains subtle echoes of the book of Ecclesiastes… simple hints that “all is vanity”. There is a good bit of female nudity throughout this 2 hour and 20 minute production, but the film is enjoyable and one that even though I didn’t feel like I “got it”, I didn’t want the credits to roll. I was enjoying my time in Jep’s world and I was captivated by Toni Servillo’s performance. I will definitely track him down in other films.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2013
RATING: NR
FOREIGN
ACADEMY AWARD: Best Foreign Language Film

Film Review: Cavite — 2.5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Slow

SUMMARY: An independent, foreign, gritty attempt to make a repetitive walking tour of the Philippines seem exciting.

DETAILS: Adam is a Filipino-American who returns to the Philippines for his father’s funeral, but upon his arrival he receives a phone call that leads him into a dark world of Muslim extremism and Jihad. The film is slow and repetitive, but given that it was made gorilla style, run-n-gun, probably without a single release form, I will give this film 2.5 out of 5. I like the independent, can-do spirit that the film embodies so well. We see plenty of the day-to-day reality, but I would have loved to have seen some breathtaking scenery of the Philippines.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 5
RELEASE: 2005
RATING: NR
FOREIGN

Film Review: Antonia’s LIne — 3.5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Women!?

SUMMARY: Antonia returns to her small, Dutch community of quirky, wonderful characters where she leaves a legacy of love and laughter in the midst of life’s pains.

DETAILS: Winner of the 1995 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Antonia’s Line shows the connectedness of family and community and the lineage we leave behind. Following World War II, Antonia and her daughter return to the village of her birth. The cast of this film is filled with wonderfully, quirky characters who breathe much life into the first half of this film. As the film progresses we see that Antonia and her line do not really need men (other than for occasional sex). Antonia ages throughout the story and we eventually see her line develop. The film is rated R for a reason, but the fun, quirky characters make this a fun film to watch.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5
RELEASE: 1995
RATING: R
FOREIGN

Karakter (Character) — 4.5 out of 5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Compelling

SUMMARY: A bastard child is strengthened by every opposing move his father makes

DETAILS: 1920’s Netherlands is the beautiful backdrop for this film about a boy who’s mother was impregnated by the town’s oppressive bailiff. The story begins with the death of the father on the day the son becomes a lawyer and the son his the last to see his father alive… a bloody visit where we don’t know all the details. The story then takes us back in time as we learn of the boy’s origins, his struggles to make a life for himself, his mother’s continual rejection of his father, and his father’s continual attempts to make life difficult for his own son… a conflict designed to build Character.

This film won the Academy Award for best foreign film of 1997.

SCORE: 4.5 out of 5
RELEASE: 1997

RATING: R
FOREIGN