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REVIEW - Last Christmas

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Entries in Woman at War (5)

Tuesday
Jul092019

Watch at home: Strange things to tell the bees during the Peterloo massacre

Nathaniel R giving you the heads up on what's newly available to screen at home.

DVD/Blu-Ray/Rental
High Life - In which Dr Juliette Binoche gets nasty with her patients and Robert Pattinson mopes around in outer space while caring for an infant.
Tell It to the Bees - In which Dr Anna Paquin seduces her new friend Holliday Grainger (fine performance!) in a small homophobic British town in the 1950s. But it's actually a sentimental family movie of sorts. Watch out for the unintentionally hilarious killer bees! 

Also newish on blu-ray and/or DVD: Pet Sematary, The Best of Enemies, LittleAfter, Mojin: The Worm Valley, and Gotham (the complete series). 

iTunes 99¢ Deals
Titles you can rent on the cheap this week include the orgiastic French film Climax, 2016's Best Picture winner Moonlight, 2017's very best film Lady Bird, the new horror classic The VVitch, Bong Joon-ho's popular South Korean monster movie The Host, and the charming Eighth Grade.  They're also offering up Don Jon & Under the Skin in a stealth attempt to remind you of what a genre-hopping ridiculously talented and versatile actress Scarlett Johansson is. Be happy that she shakes off the Marvel shackles very soon (Black Widow is currently filming). Who knows what pleasures await when she can step out of that one genre and into all genres again!

Streaming this week

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Wednesday
Jul032019

Halfway Mark: Best of 2019 (Thus Far) 

by Nathaniel R

 
Let's wrap up the midyear review now with a general overview and behind the scenes beauty. Please don't consider this list 'official' awards since the back half of the year is usually more impressive than the first half due to annoying Oscar-focused distribution patterns. The point, nevertheless, is an important one: we should always be appreciating art and keeping lists so we don't forget delights that opened in non-awards season months like most awards voters do. 

TEN BEST MOVIES

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Monday
Mar182019

The winning films from SXSW and SLO Festivals

Austin's SXSW extravaganza (it's not just films there but music and comedy festivals simultaneously) and San Luis Obispo's 25th anniversary film festivals are both a wrap. And with festival wraps come jury and audience prizes! While each year's mainstream gold rush culminating in the Oscars sometimes get snarky reactions in terms of all the back-patting of already über successful people, festival prizes are different. They can be career-making or at least significantly augmenting moments for indie filmmakers, who don't have the benefit of millions in P&A budgets or A list careers to bolster public interest. Awards are often the way artists can begin to forge a creative career. So keep an eye out on these titles and people in case they work their way around to you.

SXSW WINNERS

Saint Frances

NARRATIVE, AUDIENCE AWARDS
• Main Slate: Saint Frances (Alex Thompson) This dramedy is about a young woman who takes a job as a nanny shortly after having an abortion.
• "Headliners": Longshot (Jonathan Levine) New comedy starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen
• "Spotlight": The Peanut Butter Falcon (Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz) <-- Abe reviewed this one for us. Shia Labeouf stars...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep212018

Strong Contenders from Iceland, Denmark, and Lebanon

by Nathaniel R

We're now up to 67 entries for Oscar's Best Foreign Language Film category. We're about two weeks away from the official announcement from the Academy which is typically about 90 films long. The latest announcements:

  • Bulgaria - Omnipresent 
    Drama about a man spying on neighbors and employees with hidden cameras. No US distribution yet.
  • Canada - Watch Dog 
    This drama stars French-Canadian actor Théodore Pellerin, who has a romantic scene with Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased. This is a very different performance as he's playing a violent troubled young criminal here. No US distribution yet but playing at Chicago Film Festival next month.
  • Denmark - The Guilty
    A crime drama about a kidnapped woman and a police office. Opens in the US on October 18th.
  • France - Memoir of War
    Sad news for the very passionate fans of French family drama Custody. They went with this WW II drama instead. The film stars Melanie Thierry and Benoît Magimel. In limited release in US theaters now.
  • Iceland - Woman at War 
    You already know I love this oddball environmental activist movie! It's from Benedict Erlingsson, a former actor, who with his second film, confirms that he's Iceland's most exciting new director. Magnolia Pictures will release in the US...date TBA
  • Lebanon - Capernaum
    This is widely expected to be Oscar-nominated. But a word of caution always with the foreign category: there are regularly surprises. Nadine Labaki's previous Lebanese submission Where Do We Go Now? was expected to be Oscar-nominated after winning prizes at Cannes and TIFF's People's Choice Award in 2011...but had to settle for a Critics Choice nomination only when the mainstream awards season hit. Opens in the US on December 14th
  • Macedonia - Secret Ingredient
    Dramedy about a man who makes his father a pot cake and soon has neighbors and criminals after him. I believe this is available on HBO Go but will have to double check.
  • Nepal - Panchayat
    Panchayat refers to an old style of local political systems in South Asian countries in which five elders would settle disputes between individuals and villages. No US distribution yet.
  • South Africa - Sew the Winter to my Skin
    An "existentialist-adventure" set in the 1950s about a Robin Hood like outlaw who steals from white settlers and becomes a hero to the indigenous population. No US distributor yet.

If patterns from past years hold we'll see one switcheroo with a different title than was previously announced and one other title will be mysteriously missing due to disqualification or whatnot. So these charts are accurate from press announcements until they're not should unforseen circumstances occur.

FOREIGN PREDICTIONS
Submissions pt 1 - Austria through Estonia
Submissions pt 2 - Finland through Montenegro
Submissions pt 3 - The Netherlands through Venezuela

Sunday
Sep162018

Women on the Verge at TIFF: abandoned wives, kindergarten teachers, and activists

by Nathaniel R

Why does anyone make movies about men? No, really. Female characters are inherently more fascinating. That's not only because they're allowed a wider range of feeling onscreen due to repressive gender norms which discourage men from embracing a full range of emotion, but because women's stories are more infrequently told and, thus, fresher. Herewith four recommended movies about women on the verge of either nervous breakdowns, or major crimes. 

WILDLIFE and WIDOWS
Chris has already reviewed these intense dramas about abandoned wives here and here. We'll have plentiful opportunities to discuss them during Oscar season but I just want to second his surprise rave of Wildlife  because it's spot-on. I'll admit, though, that I'm ever so slightly cooler on Widows than I initially thought. I attended the very starry premiere (seriously that cast!) and the screening and movie were both so electric that I was like 'favorite of the fest. wow' But it doesn't linger in quite the way you'd expect given how exciting it is in the moment (it's going to be a big hit). Still, it's the film from TIFF that I'm most eager to see a second time. 

WOMAN AT WAR
Woman at War is the story of a childless choir director Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir in a no-nonsense charismatic turn) who moonlights as a fearless environmental activist in her spare time. Halla has caused enormous problems for a local corporation by knocking out their power again and again. She evades capture with impressive physical skill, careful planning, and paranoid routines; there's a funny recurring shot in which she places her cel phone in a refridgerator before speaking to friends in person about secretive matters. Just as her corporate sabotage is beginning to make real world waves, she learns that she's going to be a mother via adoption proceedings she began years prior. How can she do both?

The Icelandic writer/director Benedikt Erlingsson arrived with Of Horses and Men, an indelible Oscar submission in 2013. This tense, twisty, and provocative sophomore feature is even better and confirms that that was no mere fluke. He's a singular talent, able to imbue sly visual and narrative humor with idiosyncratic depth of feeling. His boldest move in Woman at War, one that risks being a distracting comic gimmick but somehow elevates the picture into the sublime, is an on-camera orchestra. They give the picture a score that doubles as both interior monologue and greek chorus, commenting on but also entangled in Halla's complex possibly disastrous passions. Highly recommended!

THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Maggie Gyllenhaal is terrific and troubling (no surprise. That's kind of her thing) as a teacher who becomes obsessed with a student. Her favorite little student composes beautiful poems on the spot with little warning that the muse has struck. Fearing that his prodigious talent will wither and die if it's not nurtured she begins to step outside her proper place in the classroom and walks right into his life outside. For all of Mrs Spinelli's madness, the complicating factor is how right she often is when her behavior is all wrong. Despite the fascinating central character there's something that feels incomplete or slight about this intriguing drama that's remained difficult to put a finger on. Regardless, the final scene haunts and a great ending can go a long way.