Reviews by Lois Siegel
Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Directed by
Stephan Elliott, 104 minutes, 1994,
A wonderful comedy about two drag queens and a transsexual woman performer who
travel across the Australian outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a bus named
Priscilla. Their shows are terrific and funny, the acting is outstanding:
Terence Stamp. During their travels, they confront the homophobic attitudes
of rural Australia.
Academy Award, Best Costume
Design, Lizzy Gardiner and
Tim Chappel, 1995
Seattle International Film Festival, Best Actor
Terence Stamp, Best Film
American Splendor, directed by
Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini,101 minutes, 2003, USA
Documentary and fiction are combined in this very unusual film about Harvey
Pekar who is known for his autobiographical comic book "American Splendor."
Sundance International Film Festival: Grand Jury Prize; Academy Award
Nomination: Best Screenplay.
Cannes International Film Festival: Fipresci Award (International Film
Critics Association Award).
Angels & Insects Directed by
Philip Haas, 116 minutes,
The film is based on the novel "Morpho Eugenia" by A.S. Byatt. Byatt won
the Booker Prize for her novel, "Possession." It's also interesting to note that
she's the sister of novelist
Angels and Insects is an infestation of sexual mores, where wealthy society has
its secrets, and to survive, one must escape. The film stars Mark Rylance and
Kristin Scott Thomas. Both are excellent, as well as Annette Badland as
Lady Alabaster and Douglas Henshall as Edgar Alabaster.
As It is in Heaven,
132 minutes, 2004, Sweden
There have been many feel-good documentary choir films in the past. “Close
Harmony,” USA, features two generations: fourth and fifth graders who give a
concert combined with seniors. The film won an Academy Award for Best
Documentary Short Subject (1982). “Cool and Crazy” (2001) focuses on a men’s
choir from Norway. “Young at Heart, 2007, U.K. proved “You’re never too old to
Rock.” These 70 and 80-year-olds swing with the Bee Gees, James Brown and the
Pointer Sisters. They definitely are “Stayin Alive.”
Daniel Dareus (Michael Nyqvist)
“As It Is in Heaven” is a feature film. Daniel Dareus (Michael Nyqvist), an
accomplished orchestra director, quits his stressful job for health reasons. He
decides to retire to his hometown village in the Swedish countryside – a
location of good and bad memories, where he first played the violin and was
bullied by other kids.
The town’s people have one small, not so great, choir. Once they discover that
Dareus is a musician, they recruit him to improve the quality of their singing.
The usual process evolves – they slowly get better, but one of the country
toughs is still there, older, but just as nasty. In a small town, gossip and
rivalries disrupt every activity. Everyone’s business is everyone’s business.
Despite all this, the choir survives. There’s a wonderful sequence towards the
end of the film that expresses the contagious joy of music.
“As It Is in Heaven” received an
Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language
Away from Her,
Directed by Sarah Polley, 110 minutes, 2007, Canada
Starring Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, and Olympia Dukakis
One of the best
Canadian films ever...
And definitely one of the best love stories
Superb acting giving a sense of reality to an emotional situation
Sarah Polly confronts a difficult subject with maturity and sensitivity
in this film
based on a short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by
In the film, Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) have been
married for 50 years.
We are given hints that their relationship has not always been without
but they are now at a time of their lives when all is good.
But we quickly realize that something has started to go wrong.
Fiona is showing signs of mental deterioration.
Alzheimer's is the definite suspect.
What's interesting about this film is that
it focuses not just on the victim of the disease,
but specifically on the emotions of the husband who truly loves his wife
and is desperately afraid of losing her. Gordon Pinsent's performance
Directed by Irish Writer-Director John Carney,
If you're a
musician, I think you will love this film. If
you're not a musician, you still will. It's
definitely a feel-good movie. Dan (Mark
Ruffalo) has been in the music business in New
York City. He was very successful,
creating hits, but now he drinks. He split with
his wife (Catherine Keener) and occasionally
sees his teenage daughter who dresses like
"Jodie Foster in "Taxi Driver," - "American
Apparel" sexy. He's quickly moving downhill.
Dan drives a once fancy car now on
its last legs. He listens to CDs of wannabe stars as he drives
whose music he mostly hates and tosses the really bad ones out the
window as he downs alcohol and pills.
In a somewhat drunken stupor, Dan
enters a bar and discovers Greta (Keira Knightley) as she performs a
song she wrote "Lost Stars." She has been dumped by her not so
interesting boyfriend who has sold out to the music industry. Dan is
attracted to the song, and he orchestrates the tune in his head in
an elaborate arrangement. It's a wonderful sequence because we
learn how music is constructed with its many layers into a full
track as he visualizes it happening.
Now he has to convince Greta that he can promote her and the song.
He comes up with the idea of an independent record label....
recording all over the New York City outdoors with his car as a
mobile studio. He finds talented young student musicians and
some pros offering a deal on the back end. Anyone in show business
knows that this means deferred payment - the money may or may not
Recordings take place in a row
boat, a subway station, the rooftop of a tall building....
There's a wonderful beat box sequence in the film when Dan is
recruiting a few professional musicians and another great scene when
Dan has to bribe a group of noisy young kids in an alley to keep
quiet while he's recording.
What happens to the recording reflects the power of social media.
Stay for the credits at the end of the film...the story continues.
Note: John Carney also
directed "Once," a romantic story about musicians and their
struggles. Academy Award, Best Achievement in Music Written
for Motion Pictures, Original Song, Glen
Hansard, Markéta Irglová -
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Directed by John Madden, 124
When I first heard the title
of this film, I thought, what an awful title. I will never remember
it. The problem was, I didn't understand how it fit the film. That
all chanced once I saw "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." The title
suddenly was perfect.
The Marigold Hotel is advertised as the dream retirement spot for
those ready for a change in life - the elderly who are no longer
working. The ads convey a sense of luxury.
A disparate group of British hopefuls descend on India with anxious
anticipation. They are lonely and financially insecure. They
are looking for excitement in an exotic land.
The cast is outstanding: Judi
Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith,
Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton. In their age bracket, you can't
get much better than that.
What they encounter is not exactly what appeared in the ads. Instead
they discover a rather dilapidated building, that was once a palace.
Greeting them is Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel). You'll remember him as the star of
"Slumdog Millionaire." Sonny runs the hotel. His enthusiasm gushes and
overflows. He's a mixture of the the right kind of
ambition and energy to make this endeavor work. Hyperactive is an
The film becomes an adult fairytale about growing old and
accepting one's fate. But life isn't over yet for these strangers.
They still have some living to do, so don't count them out.
These seven adventurers have lots of
adjustments to make. One is the food. "If I can't pronounce
I don't eat it," Maggie Smith blurts out.
There are great street scenes in this "Geographic Magazine" of the
Eastern World. It's an assault on the senses. The crowds are
overwhelming - a riot of noise and color. There are elephants on the
"Dive into it, and you'll swim out the other side," they
Coping is Step No. 1. and then adapting
to their new environment. They can't bring back the past. They can
only live in the present.
"Everything will be all right in the
end. If it's not all right, then it's not the end," Sonny insists.
The film oozes with charm.
See this film. It's one of the
best this year.
Bloody Sunday, Directed by
Greengrass, 110 minutes, 2002, U.K./Ireland
"Bloody Sunday" reveals the events of a peace
march in Northern Ireland, January 30, 1972, that ended in
Activist Ivan Cooper (James
Nesbitt) is the organizer who leads the people of Derry into
tragedy, despite warnings by the British that they will not permit a
march. A trigger-happy group of British soldiers kill 13 protesters
and wounds 14 unarmed marchers. British authorities whitewash the
Because the film is shot in
hand-held, documentary style, a real sense of being there forces the
viewer to identify with everyone involved. The film is shot
chronologically, in short sections, cutting back and forth between
the marchers and the British army.
International Film Festival, Golden Berlin Bear, Paul
Greengrass; Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Competition - Paul
Audience Award, World Cinema - Paul Greengrass, 2002.
Blow-up , directed by
Michelangelo Antonioni, 111
minutes, 1966, U.K./Italy
The film could be any photographer's adventure or fantasy. A young David
Hemmings plays a fashion photographer who happens upon a strange scene one day
while in the park. His camera may have captured a murder. Also featured
are Vanessa Redgrave, model Veruschka, Jane Birkin, and The Yardbirds.
Hemmings explains, "Antonioni
painted the park in Woolwich a complete green: bark of trees, fences, grass
leaves and various other odd spots. Took about two days while we waited, laying
certain claim to the old adage that movie making is fundamentally 'Hurry up and
"The original story, as
translated into English, was called "A Girl, A Photographer, and a Beautiful
April Morning, and that is what Antonioni wanted to call the film. Finally,
"Blow-Up" was the decision, and all earlier versions of the story were changed
to reflect that."
"The studio used in the film was owned by photographer John Cowan." The film is
based on an intriguing short story by
Cannes Film Festival, Golden Palm, 1967.
The Brave One, directed by Neil Jordan, 119 minutes, 2007, USA
Jodi Foster and Terrence Howard give outstanding performances in this drama
about brutalized robbery victims in New York City.
Erica Bain (Foster) is a radio host. She becomes an unlikely vigilante after her
fiancé is murdered one summer night by thugs in a park. Detective Mercer
(Howard) is the investigating cop on the case.
Irish Director Neil Jordan is known for his
outstanding films "The Crying Game,"
"Mona Lisa," and "The Butcher Boy."
Pane e tulipani (Bread
and Tulips), directed by
Silvio Soldini, 114 minutes, 2000, Italy
Guild of German Art House Cinemas, Guild Film
Silver Award for Foreign Film, Silvio Soldini.
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists,
Swiss Film Award, Best Actor, Bruno Ganz
U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, Film Discovery Jury
Award, Best Screenplay, Doriana Leondeff, Silvio Soldini
Directed by John Wells
DVD: Ottawa Public Library
From what we’ve seen on TV,
we know that fancy restaurants have chefs that yell a lot. This film is no
exception. We learn about Adam Jones’ past (Bradley Cooper: bad childhood,
dreams crushed by a life of alcohol and drugs. But the film has surprises.
Yes, he smashes things in the kitchen and catapults less than superior food onto
the floor. But the characters are interesting and the story holds our
attention. And the food looks amazing.
It’s a story about love and
perfection and what it takes to master one’s métier. Adam
began his career by quitting school and working 20 hour days, 6 days a week
shucking oysters for 10 years in Paris. After 1 million, he leaves and becomes a
top chef. “He’s like the Rolling Stones,” but his wild lifestyle does him in.
When he recovers, he convinces his past
maître d' to
hire him. Adam’s goal: a third Michelin star. To get that star, everything has
to be flawless. We see how he gets there.
Recommended reading: “Waiter Rant”
by Steve Dublanica and “Service Included” by Phoebe Damrosch.
Capote, directed by
Bennett Miller, 98 minutes,
"Capote" is one of the most riveting films in a long time.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's
performance is so strong, that I suspect many men will squirm watching his
effeminate gestures and mannerisms and hearing that high-pitched voice. But
there is no doubt that the contrast of seeing Capote such as he is in backwoods
Kansas in the 1950s will make everyone uneasy. He just doesn't fit into the
landscape. Place all this into the context of a brutal murder, and you have the
makings of a very strange story. And Capote manipulates those around him
to get the story he wants. We also realize that writing is not an easy
occupation. The research, time, travel, and patience required becomes evident
over the four-year period Capote writes his book "In Cold Blood."
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote
Catherine Keener as Harper Lee
As the film jumps back and forth from a lively New York party scene to a
much more sedate Kansas tranquility, we are amazed by Capote's ability to deal
with it all. It also becomes evident that we will never really get to know
Capote. And that is what makes his character so fascinating.
Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, Christophe Waltz
There is something special about viewing a film
with outstanding actors.
Their talent binds the film and makes the story
relevant. In "Carnage,"
one location is transformed into a small world, revealing the lives of two
couples. At first they are quite polite, but
then, with the aid of alcohol, their other
selves appear, brimming with accusations,
revelations, and embarrassments. The film is a
history of relationships
and how they are never perfect.
"Carnage" starts with a seemly innocent scene
the opening titles. We see young schoolboys
outside being boys.
They talk, they jostle, they fight.
What happens next is the real story... how
parents become involved
and try to handle the situation when one boy has been harmed by another.
Christophe Waltz, Kate Winslet
The film becomes a cross between "Who's
Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1966),
"Lord of the Flies."
"Virginia Woolf," directed by Mike Nichols
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as an older couple
who sling brutal accusations at each other
in the presence of a younger couple, George
Segal and Sandy Dennis.
The film won five Oscars.
"Lord of the Flies," (1990), directed by
Harry Hook, focuses on a group
of young boys who, stranded on an island without adult supervision,
lose their dignity and become savages.
film, what starts as civilized behavior
between four adults,
quickly deteriorates into a spectacle of
unpleasant occurrences and
It's when a bottle of 18-year-old Scotch is
that the secrets pour out as the couples tell
stories about each other
and tensions and emotions are pushed to
The characters are strong, the shooting is
amazing for a small location
and the film is 'theatre' at its best.
Review by Lois Siegel
Caught on a Train, directed by
Peter Duffell, 1980, U.K./USA
BBC Production in Association with Time Life Films
You can’t beat BBC drama. There’s something compelling about good actors
and a good script that’s well directed. The twists and turns of this story
that’s unpredictable will hold your attention, even if you don’t like everything
that takes place. You’ll find yourself fascinated with the characters, and you
become involved in their lives.
The train is a major character in the film. It’s like a moving home with
visitors who live there for a short period of time, bringing their peculiar
lives along with them. We glimpse snippets of their personalities as they try to
co-exist in small compartments.
the film, a young, English businessman (Michael Kitchen) is confronted with an
overbearing elderly Viennese lady (Dame Peggy Ashcroft). They repel and
attract each other as they move through the night on the Ostend-Vienna express.
Producer, Director, Writer,
Actor Jon Favreau (a talented “one-man band”), 115 minutes,
Owners of restaurants (Dustin Hoffman) and their chefs (Jon Favreau) don’t
always get along. Add a famous food critic to the mix (Oliver Platt), and you
have good conflict to get the story going. The restaurant critic is coming to the
restaurant, and the owner wants his chef to present a traditionally favorite
menu. The chef doesn’t agree. He wants to prepare something new, but he does
what he’s told. The critic pans the food. One bad review, and the story
thickens. The film has a predictable storyline, but excellent actors make it
work… and the A-list of celebrities does the trick: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett
Johansson, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Gary Clark Jr., Gary
Shandling, and Amy Sedaris.
Our chef finds a solution. He opens a food truck business, and
the adventure is on.
What makes Chef unusual
is a 10-year-old kid (Emjay Anthony) who plays Percy, the chef’s son. He doesn’t
have cutesy lines like most kids in films. He’s sensitive, intelligent, and
sincere. His charm makes the film work, as do the terrific cameo scenes. One
features Robert Downey Jr. wearing blue disposable
polypropylene shoe covers, the kind you are given in your doctors’ office in
winter to keep the floor clean. Downey’s performance is definitely delightfully
off- the- wall. And there’s a fun sequence with comedian Russell Peters playing
a Miami cop.
Watch the credits at the end of the film. Favreau is coached by Roy Choi,
Korean-American chef on How to make a grilled
cheese sandwich. Choi created the gourmet
Korean taco truck, Kogi. He’s one of the founders of the food truck movement,
and he was named
Food and Wine Magazine’s
Best New Chef, 2010. He plays himself in the film.
Chef is a funny and “yum” film to watch.
Review by Lois Siegel
(The Choir), directed by
Barratier, 96 minutes, 2004, France
A touching story with excellent casting and the
familiar drama of bad guys versus good guys.
Clément Mathieu undertakes the daunting task of teaching music at a boy's
boarding school where discipline is rigid and humanity non-existent. His choir
transforms the lives of those he inspires through music.
nominated Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion
Pictures, Original Song
(lyricist) - For the song "Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton
Chemin)" and Best Foreign Language Film of the
Austin Film Festival,
Audience Award, Best Narrative Feature.
Bangkok International Film Festival, Best Director.
César Awards France, Best Music Written for a Film,
Best Sound. European Film Awards, Best Composer. Ft.
Lauderdale International Film Festival, Jury Award Best Film.
The Chumscrubber, Directed by
Arie Posin, 108 minutes, 2005,
A dark version of the TV comedy "Weeds,"
this film is a very funny look into a suburban neighborhood where all the people
are in dreamland, on some kind of fantasy pill. Cast includes Glenn Close,
Allison Janney, William Fichtner and Jamie Bell, but it's Ralph Fiennes who is
hilarious as a fiancé gone berserk.
The City of Your
118 minutes, 2010, USA
A young academic travels to South American to convince a
family (brother, widow,
mistress) that he should write the authorized
biography of the famous deceased writer Jules Gund.
This film has epic dimensions as a history of the unusual Gund
family. It spans time and reveals the complex living situation of a
multi-layered family having fled German and now living in a sprawling mansion in
the countryside of Uruguay. The intertwining
of lives evolves as the film progresses.
The acting is superb: Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, Charlotte Gainsbourg,
Omar Metwally, Alexandra Maria Lara, and the
screenplay, of course is written by
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. She is part of the triumvirate: Merchant, Ivory,
Jhabvala. Based on the novel by Peter Cameron.
The film is excellent.
Directed by Anne Fontaine
Whether you like biographies or not, see this film for
the clothes and the outstanding cinematography.
Both are excellent. There are already rumblings of an
Oscar for wardrobe. The acting is superb. Audrey Tautou
plays Coco, the famous French fashion designer whose
work reflected a more masculine look, stressing
simplicity. Her designs were elegant and sophisticated,
rather than overstated and flamboyant. She dressed
in pants suits with vests and ties, minus the fluff of
the times where ladies wore jewellery “showing off their
silverware.” Coco wore black to high-class parties when
all the other women were dressed in white.
strongly influenced fashion in the 20th Century, and her career
lasted 60 years. “Coco Avant Chanel” is a romantic, unpredictable biography.
The Commitments, Directed by Alan Parker, 118 minutes, 1991,
Ireland, UK, USA
This film has become a band classic. It
never grows old. The images of Dublin’s tough North Side are wonderful. Our
first glimpses of Jimmy Rabbitte are at a flee market filled with wonderful
pictures of amateur musicians and peddlers. We meet Jimmy as he is trying to
sell CDs and T-Shirts from a satchel he lugs around from booth-to-booth.
Jimmy wants to be a band manager. We watch as he assembles a motley gang, mostly
of unemployed musicians, to form a soul band. He checks out a local wedding
where a guitar player uses a beer glass (full) to play his instrument like a
Dobro (rather than fingering chords, the Dobro player usually uses a metal
slide). Jimmy figures a Soul Band will sell. He puts an announcement in
the local paper: “Have You got soul,” and we see a hilarious array of hopefuls
who knock on his family’s door to audition. There’s a lovely collage including a
bad harmonica player, singing, tap dancing girls, a guy with a tall, pink
Mohawk, some out-of-tune singers, a terrible heavy-rock player, and a guy who
plays a guitar perched on his head. The best musician is a bagpiper, but he
isn’t exactly soul.
Jimmy’s father sings Elvis. Jimmy:
“Elvis is not soul.” Father: “Elvis is God.”
A guy shows up doing a Cajun version of Elvis. Jimmy’s father yells,
The scene is hilarious.
Jimmy does collect some good musicians: There’s 45-year-old trumpet player, Joey
"The Lips" Fagan who likes being around young girls and a 16-year-old, large,
paunchy singer Deco (Andrew Strong, son of Irish soul singer Rob Strong). His
"Mustang Sally" is outstanding.
Jimmy doesn’t have much money, but he promises them, “Lads, when this band’s
happening, you will be fighting women off. They’ll be throwing their knickers on
the stage.” He makes a good sell.
great music throughout the film, and if you’ve ever played in a band or had
illusions about playing in one, this film is a ‘must-see.’
The Damned United
Directed by Tom Hooper
You don’t need to know anything about football (soccer) to enjoy this film.
It’s essentially about
greed, blind ambition, and true friendship.
Michael Sheen, who played
an excellent Tony Blair in “The Queen,” is Brian Clough, a British football
manager. He seeks the most coveted job in England, Head of the Leeds team.
It’s a steep climb to the top, but this is something he really wants. He’s
Sheen’s a wonderful actor
and a delight to watch. There’s rivalry between Clough and the current manager
of Leeds United, Don Revie (Colm Meaney, egged-on by dirty football plays by
Revie’s team. The production design by Eve Stewart, who won an Emmy for Art
Direction for “Elizabeth I,” reflects the 60s and 70s, complete with tacky
wallpaper. “The Damned United” is based on real people and events. Black and
white documentary newsreel footage is interspersed as the story moves back and
forth in time.
You’ll also see Jim Broadbent as Derby
County's chairman Sam Longson and Timothy Spall as Clough's assistant Peter
Dan in Real Life, Directed by
98 minutes, 2007, USA
If you like light comedies, this is the perfect film for you. Dan (Steve
Carell) is a single father with three daughters. He writes an advice column in
the local newspaper. Ironically, in real life, what he needs is advice on how to
find a wife. He drags his kids to occasional weekends with all the relatives in
the country. On one such visit, he meets a lovely woman in a bookstore,
but there are complications that will keep you laughing.
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards,
Nominated Critics Choice Award, Best Comedy Movie, 2008
Dans La Maison
(In the House)
Francois Ozon, 105 minutes, 2012, France
Ernst Umhauer and Fabrice Luchini
Take “Fatal Attraction” and add some bizarre
twists… and you have the haunting film “Dans La Maison.”
Location: Lycee Gustave Flaubert, a high school where they’ve just instituted
obligatory uniforms, so that everyone will be equal. But in this film, not
everyone is equal.
(Fabrice Luchini) teaches French Literature.
First assignment: 24 hours in the
Life of a Teenager…. What did you do over the weekend? His students bore him.
They write: “I don’t like Sundays. I like Saturdays.” Their observations
are mundane, about cell phones and pizza. He calls them barbarians.
But then Germain comes across a paper that
Enter 16-year-old Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer).
His paper describes an ‘invasion’
into the life of a family: father, mother, son. Claude has been observing the
“family,” particularly the wife of Rapha Artole, from afar. To get closer to
them, he offers to tutor the family's teenage son, a classmate, who is doing
poorly with math. "There's always a way to enter a house," Claude says. He
writes: “The singular scent of a middle-class woman...She has the eye color of
the sofa" – to be continued.
Claude claims to be following a normal family. He's too young to know that
'normal' is a relative term.
Germain is intrigued. He reads
the paper to his wife, Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas). She warns Germain that
this situation could be dangerous, but Germain sees Claude as a rebel… someone
to mentor and encourage. Germain crosses the line between teacher/pupil. He
becomes involved, obsessed with helping this young man. He allows Claude to
continue with his examination of the family.
Essentially, Claude evolves into
the "Peeping Tom" that he knows will excite Germain.
The relationship with the 'normal' family
grows more complicated as Claude continues writing his episodes of what happens
in the house. And with each paper he submits to Germain, it's clear he's
becoming more daring as he explores his little experiment with the life of his
chosen family. We watch the disturbing effect this has on Germain.
What is real becomes confused with what is
imagined... except for the harsh reality of Claude’s real family life, revealed
only at the end of the film.
Message: Be careful how engaged you become
with someone else’s life.
Review by Lois Siegel
Decline of the American Empire, Directed by Denys Arcand, 102 minutes, 1986,
Men talk about women and women talk about
men. It's clever and humorous, and you haven't seen another film like this
one. What has become of the relationships among the sexes? A quiet
interlude in the country reveals all.
The film won 9
Genie Awards in 1987: Best Motion Picture, Best Achievement
in Direction, Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Film
Editing, and the Golden Reel Award.
Dialogue avec mon
jardinier, directed by
104 minutes, 2007, France
A charming film, "Dialogue avec mon jardinier," presents two men who are direct
opposites. Although they were in the same class in grade school, pulling a
childish prank on their teacher, they went their separate ways. One became a
other a railroad labourer and eventually the painter’s gardener.
From different worlds, they reflect on
their lives and influence each other. The gardener, although not from a cultured
environment, has a way of affecting his more sophisticated friend by revealing
his way of seeing the world and appreciating a simple life. The painter takes
times to look at things and interpret them abstractly. The gardener works
with his hands; the painter is more cerebral.
The film is full of wonderful, humorous details about people... other characters
in their worlds. They become caring friends and, in a sense, begin to depend on
each other. They create nicknames Dupinceau (Daniel Auteuil) and
Dujardin (Jean-Pierre Darroussin). Darroussin is outstanding as a sensitive,
down-to-earth, caring man, and Auteuil's character begins to change and become
more like him as their lives intertwine.
This is a lovely film about friendship.
Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Jean Becker, Daniel Auteuil
The Dreamlife of
Angels, directed by
113 minutes, 1998, France
The female leads are terrific: Elodie Bouchez (Isa) and Natacha Regnier (Marie).
Two young women try to get by with little money and no real ambition.
Gus Van Sant, 81 minutes,
This film is terrific. It's a very stylized approach to the 1999 massacre
at Columbine High School, but the images create such an eerie atmosphere, that
you can't help being constantly involved in what is happening. Long tracking
shots, overlapping scenes that are suddenly discovered when the same scene
re-occurs minutes later from a different angle. The content focuses on a
day-in-the-life of a school. You are never sure what will happen next.
The story develops slowly, with cameo appearances in classrooms or in the
hallways of the school as to what the students are doing or thinking about. The
main 'villains' are so glib about their lives that it's impossible to understand
why they decide to kill for the fun of it. The focus of the film is limited
basically to a few select students in the school, but these students represent a
range of teenage frustrations, concerns, and desires.
Festival De Cannes,
2003; Palme D'Or Festival De Cannes,
New York Film Critics Circle Awards,
Best Cinematographer, Harris Savides; Village Voice Film
Best Director, Gus Van Sant, Best Cinematographer, Harris Savides.
El Sol del membrillo (The Quince
Tree, aka The Dream of Light) directed by
Victor Erice, 133 minutes,
A slow, contemplative study of a painter at work, combining documentary and
fiction. The Spanish artist,
Antonio Lopez Garcia, plays himself. Filmed with the extreme care.
Cannes Film Festival: Fipresci Award & Jury Prize.
Embrassez Qui Vous Voudrez (See How They Run), directed by
Michel Blanc, 2002, France/U.K./Italy
Michel Blanc also plays the psychotically jealous husband in the film.
I saw this film at the
Montreal World Film Festival,
Great cast, including Charlotte Rampling and Jacques Dutronc. A comedy: instead
of a 'ménage
à trois,' it's more a 'ménage à 13.'
Entre Les Murs (The Class)
Directed by Laurent Cantet, 128 minutes, 2008, France
Festival Palme d’Or
The students in a high school in a tough Parisian neighborhood
and a teacher who tries to find ways to reach his multi-cultural students
are the stars of this film.
The African, Arab and Asian 14-15-year-olds trigger
the stark realization that life is different in other parts of the world.
It's a portrait of the kind of school that you can hardly imagine.
The students are brash and undisciplined.
They have come from elsewhere and are trying to eke out a life in a new
Entre Les Murs will certainly expose you to a classroom
you haven't experienced before.
The subject of teacher versus students has been tackled before
in both fiction films and documentaries:
Blackboard Jungle (Richard Brooks, USA, 1955)
High School (Frederick Wiseman, USA, 1968)
Une Vie du Prof, (Hervé Chabalier, France, 1994)
Chabalier's film inspired
Plus beau métier du monde, starring Gerard Depardieu (Gérard
Lauzier, France, 1996)
The Elementary School (Jan
avoir (Nicolas Philibert, France, 2002)
Trailer Review by Xan Brooks
The Class by David
Even Emus Need to Dance, directed by
Michael Rubbo, 2007,
"Emus" is an experiment in improvisational acting. The film revolves
around the life of an elderly lady who lives in a large house. Her greedy
sons-in law want to take over her home and sell it in order to pay off debts.
The film is very interesting. It mixes fiction and documentary, based on
true stories from the people of Maleny, with non-professional actors. No
rehearsal were allowed.
It may be the beginning of the new Australian Dogme cinema. Definitely a unique
approach to filmmaking in the hinterlands.
directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, 120 minutes, 2001, Germany
The film is based on a famous experiment conducted at Stanford University, Palo
Alto, California in 1971. Twenty-four male students participated in a
psychological study of the effects of prison life, guards versus prisoners, and
the resulting power struggle. The study was shut down after six days to avoid
118 minutes, 2006, U.S.A./Germany
Hal Hartley is, as Jay Stone of The Ottawa Citizen calls him, fiercely
independent. Don't expect a regular, run-of-the-mill type of film with "Fay
Grim." But if you like off-beat films, then this is the film for you.
It's a comedy - a spoof on thriller films, and everything about it is
unconventional. Even the cinematography by
Sarah Cawley is askew, with
the framing of the actors at a slight angle.
But the film is intriguing because it is
unpredictable and funny in a camp sort of way. And there are lines like
"Anything that can be sold is worth publishing." The film follows Fay Grim
(Parker Posey), who gets
involved with a CIA agent (Jeff
Goldblum) and runs off to Paris to locate notebooks that belonged to her
ex-husband who has vanished. She did a deal to spring her brother, a
famous poet, who was in jail for abetting a crime... or something like that.
The story is confusing, but that doesn't matter, it's part of the fun and the
tongue-in-cheek attack on these kinds of whodunit films. Everyone is very
earnest, everyone shoots everyone, and everyone is a spy.
The film is very stylized, but Parker Posey
is perfect for her "Grim" role. My only complaint is that the film is too
long. It's a strange thriller and worth a look for those who like over-the-top,
but still engaging, weird films.
Festival in Cannes directed
by Henry Jaglom, 100 minutes,
Comedy: It's all hype when it comes to making deals in this film. Everyone is
trying to get an edge and do the next deal or make their first deal. Every funny
cliché is exploited, but it all seems so real. If you are in or interested in
the film business, a must-see.
Fists in the Pocket, Directed by Marco Bellocchio 108 minutes, 1965, Italy
Lou Castel gives an outstanding performance as Alessandro, an epileptic
sociopath who lives with his dysfunctional family in a decaying villa. He's the
second oldest of four children. His mother is blind; she doesn't see the cat
eating off her plate. Augusto is the eldest. Other siblings are Leone, who is
developmentally disabled, and Giulia, who is psychologically unstable.
family is isolated. Their relationships are strained, incestual, and sadistic.
ultimate dysfunctional bourgeois family living in a decadent villa.
Pugni in Tasca (1965) was one of 15 titles selected by New York's Museum of
Modern Art for its "Second Act" retrospective of post-war Italian cinema in the
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists,
Silver Ribbon, Best Original Story, Marco Bellocchio, 1966
Lorcano Interational Film Festival, Silver Sail,
Marco Bellocchio, 1965.
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Written by Robert D. Siegel
Persistence: that’s what makes Ray A. Kroc
(Michael Keaton) tick. He learned this from a
self-help record. When we first meet him, it’s
1954. He’s a failing milkshake mixer salesman
from St. Louis, Missouri who makes cold calls on
fast food joints. One problem is that the mixers
he sells are too big for the average mom and pop
outfit. Suddenly, an order comes in from San
Bernardino, California for multiple mixers. He
can hardly believe it. Kroc drives off across
country to find out who these buyers of eight
discovers two brothers, Dick (Nick Offerman) and
Mac (John Carroll Lynch) who found a way to
automate the delivery of food with amazing
speed: 30 seconds from order to take away. Their
business has no car service, just a window, so
there’s lots of loitering teens around, and
their limited menu is the key to fast service.
Their machines are custom built, designed by
them. They choreographed a layout for their
business on a tennis court in chalk, using their
workers to walk through the motions of the
process of making the food – a kind of pantomime
to the terrific tune of “Music for a Found
Harmonium” by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Kroc
is impressed. He’s determined to be involved
with this operation, and he’s a fast learner.
Dick is the cautious brains behind the
operation. Mac (as in Big Mac) towers over
everyone. He’s very tall and sensitive. These
‘boys’ are a challenge to Kroc. They don’t see
things the way he does. Kroc is excited and
impatient. He talks them into signing a contract
with him… one that they will eventually regret…,
you see, Kroc is not really a nice guy. He
focuses on what he can get out of something.
He’s greedy and doesn’t really care what other
people think of him.
Kroc’s wife Ethel (Laura Dern) puts up with all
his flawed schemes and even forgives him when he
almost loses their house, but he dumps her when
business starts to boom.
Franchising is his vision. He starts with one
‘McDonalds,” and then expands. There’s no limit
to what he wants to do. “If you increase supply,
demand follows,” he insists. And it’s his idea
to exploit the brother’s Golden Arches –
something people will remember. He pretends he
created McDonald’s, but he merely takes the
brothers’ ideas and runs with them.
warp: Hamburgers are $15 cents. People smoke in
movie theatres. McDonalds is like the New
American Church, open seven days a week.
Essentially, Kroc made McDonalds huge and took
over many stores across the States. He made
McDonald’s what it became.
Kroc’s big breakthrough occurred when he met an
accountant who told him to own the land
underneath McDonald’s. This led to his
financial success. But he did give the two
brothers over a million dollars each in the end
for their company. Unfortunately, I’m sure he
robbed them of their pride. It was a case of
traditional values versus Ray Kroc…
April 8-14 2011
Directed by Daniel Roby
Written by Steve Galluccio
Out in Montreal
It's not just that Montréal
was disco funky in the mid to late 70s. It was
also a vibrant place to be where life was
changing quickly. In 1976 Montréal was awarded
the Olympics and Crescent Street was blocked off
every night for partying athletes and beautiful
people. René Lévesque founded the Parti
Quebecois and became the 23rd Premier of Quebec.
and businesses started leaving for Toronto.
In 1977, the French language was declared the
official language of Quebec. And in 1979,
Billboard Magazine called Montreal the
second-most important market in North America
for disco music, with its 50 dance clubs,
including Kébek Elektric, the Limelight,
The film "Funkytown" centres
around stories of seven people affected by the
fast-moving scene in the city. Bastien Lavallée
(Patrick Huard) is a central
figure. Based on the true story of Alain
Montpetit, we follow his downfall from radio and
television fame to his destructive dependence on
cocaine and a failed affair with a young wannabe
starlet and a suspicious murder in NYC.
Another story depicts the flamboyantly gay
Jonathan Aaronson (Paul Doucet) based on the
life of Douglas Leopold, aka Coco, who threw
wild debaucheries at his spacious loft on Queen
Street in Old Montreal. No pun intended. A
hammock was strung between beams, clothes were
in open cupboards, two telephones sat
side-by-side on a pillow, and the telephone
never stopped ringing. The bathroom was
wall-to-wall photos, some of famous people,
almost all included the occupant: Douglas
He was an entertainment and
gossip columnist, as well as a publicist, and
hosted parties at Régines at the Hyatt Regency
Hotel. I wrote about him in "Cinema
Canada." Douglas: "I just realized I have to be
in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City - all in
three hours. I just keep saying 'Yes' to
everyone. I raised $4000 myself this weekend by
going on stage at Place Des Arts. Maybe I should
raffle someone's jock strap from the Alouettes."
Photo by Lois Siegel
Douglas Leopold and The Great Antonio
Montreal World Film Festival
In "Funkytown," The Starlight
disco is fashioned on the former Limelight on
Stanley Street. There's a special floor for
"homos." It's the era of
gay-bashing....where homosexuals meet under a
bridge - the designated gay pick up spot.
Sex was often traded for stardom. Music
promoters who represented future stars were
known to hold their auditions in hot tubs, if
you get my drift. They also dubbed other singers
voices over their lip-syncing favorite sex
objects who couldn't sing worth a damn.
Essentially, the film is about
people who mess up their lives. The characters
are classics. If you have any nostalgia for
Montreal in the 70s-80s, this is a film you'll
want to see or if you don't really know
Montreal, you'll get a taste of what it was like
in the disco years.
132 minutes, Bilingual:
English and French with English subtitles.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, 116 minutes, USA/Australia, 2008
Walt Kowalski, Korean War Veteran
Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) plays a great curmudgeon - a
tough, grumpy, old bigot who lives alone in a neighborhood that is being taken
over by Asians in "Gran Torino." He's racist and doesn't like these foreign
"gooks," as he calls them, moving in. He refuses to let them touch his property
or to help them in any way. But his neighbors don't give up trying to be friends
with him. After they invite him over for a BBQ, he softens. Then he becomes
their protector. When a gang harasses the neighborhood boy, he steps in with his
guy, and he means business.
The family next door becomes more important to him than his
own greedy, overweight family who would rather stash him in a retirement home
and take over his possessions. The 1972 Gran Torino
is Walt's car. It becomes an offering of love and respect for those he really
The film is filled with humor and good characters. Steve
Campanelli, camera and Steadicam operator, wrote: "We shot it in 32 days, and we
finished before lunch about 50% of the time! Crazy!."
See it. "Gran Torino" is the highest grossing movie of Eastwood's career and you
won't forget "Walt." Eastwood turns 79 in May. He's still going strong.
Photo by Anthony Michael Rivetti
(L-R) Director Clint Eastwood, camera operator Steve
Campanelli, 1st Assistant Camera Bill Coe, and actor Bee Vang on the set
of Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures
'Gran Torino.' The film stars Clint Eastwood and is distributed by Warner Bros.
Grazie, Zia , (Thank You, Aunt)
directed by Salvatore Samperi,
94 minutes, 1968, Italy
In the same genre as I Pugni in Tasca: disabilities and dangerous games.
The Greatest Game is
good viewing for the entire family; it’s produced by Walt Disney Pictures.
The Greatest Game
Ever Played, directed by
120 minutes, 2005, USA
The Greatest Game in the film is golf. Based on a true story, it focuses
on the 1913 U.S. Open tournament when a young, amateur golfer,
20-year-old American Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf), defeated his idol, 1900 US
Open Champion, Englishman, Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane). The film reveals
class differences and the prejudice towards those from the other side of the
The acting and cinematography are very good,
and a special treat is 10-year-old Eddie Lowery (Josh Flitter).
He’s a short, chubby caddy, full of energy and determination.
Shia LaBeouf, Josh Flitter
directed by Greg Harrison,
86 minutes, 2000, USA
One night at an all-night San Francisco underground Rave. The story is the
"We'd throw a rave for 30 seconds and then yell,
'Cut!' and say, 'OK, it was great.
But when you freak out, make sure you freak out a little to the left.'"
— Greg Harrison
Happiness, Directed by
Todd Solontz, 134 minutes,
Starring Jane Adams, Jon Lovitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Baker, and Ben
Solontz is one of the most interesting and daring directors around. In this film
he focuses on the 'perfect' dysfunctional family. He also directed
"Welcome to the Dollhouse."
Great black humor.
95 minutes, 2012, France
"Haute Cuisine" is based on "Mes carnets de cuisine. Du
Périgord à l'Elysée",
the memories of Danièle Delpeuch, the first and only female chef
having worked for the French President François
Mitterrand at the Palais de l'Elysée.
This is the best food film I have seen. It's a 'must-see' for Foodies
or anyone who loves to eat. It's not just the exquisite food that will
but it's the story and the lovely way it unfolds. There are actually two stories
that are intertwined, a before and after. One takes place at the Palais de
the other on - the Crozet Islands, sub-Antarctica Territories.
The film focuses on Hortense (Catherine Frot), who is strong-minded and
determined in her task to create simple, but delicious food based on her
'Cuisine de Mere" - food the president loves. Frot is terrific in her role as a
very competent 'chef.' She works in the private kitchen of the President, with a
talented assistant. The general kitchen is run by an old-fashioned, traditional
chef in an all-male kitchen filled with macho young men. They call Hortense
"Madame Du Barry," after the official mistress to
The beautifully photographed cuisine will amaze you. There will be recipes you
have not seen before. They are created with precision and deliberate care. Be
prepared to be immersed in impeccable food throughout the film.
Conflict begins when the meals for the
president have to be altered because of heath concerns. When Hortense decides
she can no longer contend with the authorities control
over her kitchen, she quits and answers an ad for a male, 25-year-old cook. Her
credentials, obviously, are good. She gets the job - at a remote research base
on an archipelago in the middle of nowhere, in the southern Indian Ocean, in
to her previous palatial setting. But, smart lady that she is, Hortense creates
the same splendid food for the workers as she did at the Palais de l'Elysée. The
effect is heartwarming.
Review by Lois Siegel
Jérôme Prébois / Albertine
Productions - Gaumont
Directed by Christian
98 minutes, 2015, France
In French with English Subtitles
Starring Fabrice Luchini and Sidse Babett
I will see any film with
Fabrice Luchini. His acting is superb. In
"L'Hermine, he plays Racine, a criminal judge
who insists on being referred to as "Court
President Racine." The people who work around
him don't like him. The defense knows that he
often hands out harsh sentences.
Conflict arises when Racine
recognizes one of the jurors - a lady ... someone who
treated him after an accident... someone he
The backdrop to all this is a serious
trial involving the death of a 7-month old baby.
It's not an easy situation. The man charged with
a possible murder insists that he is not guilty.
He keeps repeating: "I did not kill Melissa"
whenever he is asked a question. His wife looks
like a basket case on drugs. She's is rather
unresponsive and dreary. As we follow the
proceedings, we learn how difficult criminal
cases can be. They can't always be judged
because there is often reasonable doubt. Proof
has to be solid to convict. Justice is theatre.
We may never know the truth.
An interesting detail throughout the trial are
the drawings of an artist who sketches the
various characters involved in the trial. The
images are excellent.
We eventually learn that Racine's favorite
juror is Ditte Lorensen-Coteret (Sidse Babett
Knudsen), a 45-year-old divorcee with two kids.
She's originally from Copenhagen, but she has
been in France for 20 years.
We meet Ditte's daughter. The kid is constantly
on her phone. She gets calls every few minutes. That's
what teenage kids do - they are addicted to
their simple lives of immediate contact with
each other. They live online. They are
Essentially, L'Hermine is a love
story. The Hermine - or ferret has fur that
turns from brown and white to all white in the
winter.... Racine wears a white fur in court.
This reflects the judge's personality. It can
change like the Hermine's fur. And it's not
always what it appears to be on the surface, not
unlike the situation with the trial. We can only
guess the outcome.
Review by Lois Siegel
A History of Violence,
Directed by David Cronenberg,
96 minutes, 2005, USA
Tom Stall runs a local diner.
One day two robbers come through the front door just as he’s about to close, and
Tom reacts to defend himself, his store, and his customers. He kills the
would-be robbers with amazing swiftness, saving everyone’s lives. Tom is
declared an American hero, but being a hero is not always what it’s alleged to
be. Sometimes it’s a bad thing. People begin to question why Tom is so good at
killing people, and the sheriff starts making assumptions. Where does a country
boy develop these skills?
The multiple twists in “A History of Violence” keeps the viewer riveted. “A
History of Violence” is a film you will not forget.
Mortensen as Tom Stall
History of Violence: A Story of Second Chances by Lois Siegel
The Hurt Locker,
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, 131 minutes, 2008, USA
This action-packed film is intense and informative. It’s
about an elite U.S. Army bomb squad unit in Iraq that finds and dismantles
deadly explosives. Jeremy Renner plays Staff Sergeant William James. He’s a live
wire who takes lots of chances and doesn’t care about danger. Renner likes
the buzz that it gives him. “War is a drug.” His job is a lethal business, but
he’s good at it. And being in Iraq is the perfect location for that everyday
The film is often shot in handheld close-up … you feel like you are right there,
part of a news documentary taking place as you watch. Also, you learn something
about this type of bomb squad and the inhumane techniques insurgents use to hide
You may recognize Renner as Detective Jason Walsh in the TV
show “The Unusuals,” a great comedy/drama cop show that was, unfortunately,
Ice Men, directed by Thom
Best, 108 minutes, 2004, Canada
"The Big Chill" with men. This
Canadian drama looks more like an American film because of its slickness, strong
acting, and skilled cinematography. "Ice Men" is Best's feature directorial
debut. He's better known as a Toronto cinematographer.
As director of photography, his work includes "Men with Brooms" (2003). He was
also cinematographer for all four seasons of the North American version of the
TV series "Queer as Folk," and he directed two of the episodes himself.
Martin Cummins as Vaughn
"Ice Men" focuses on the relationships of five men spending the weekend together
at a cottage. Within a short period of time, their lives change.
Ian Tracey as Trevor
Budget for the film was close to $1 million.
Rick Warden, producer.
World Premiere: Montreal World Film Festival, 2004
Image et Nation Film Festival, Montreal, 2004
Atlantic Film Festival, 2004
I Know Where I'm Going,
Michael Powell & Emeric
Pressburger, 92 minutes, 1945, U.K.
Starring Wendy Hiller (Joan Webster) and Roger Livesey (Torquil MacNeil).
Great performances from both. Wendy
Hiller also starred in the 1938 classic
"Pygmalion." In "I Know
Where I'm Going," she plays another shrew who needs to be tamed. Roger
Livesey with his wonderful voice does a good job as a handsome navel officer in
this romantic comedy.
The weather is a main character in this
film. Hiller, the young woman, heads for the Scottish Hebrides where she plans
to marry an old, wealthy industrialist. She is more interested in the money than
she is in him. City girl comes to the country. But bad weather prevents her
reaching him on a secluded island, and she finds herself falling for another
very patient man, the absentee Laird of Killoran, a striking contrast to
Hiller's anxious character.
Filming locations: Mull, Argyll, Scotland,
U.K., including Duart, Moy, and Torosay castles and The Gulf of Corryvreckan,
Carsaig Pier, and Tobermory.
Roger Livesey was starring in a West End
play at the time, so he never went on location. All his scenes were shot
in the studio. A double was used for long shots. Cinematographer
Erwin Hillier didn't use a
light meter during the shooting of the film. Erwin's first professional job was
as a camera assistant on
first sound film, M (1931),
The film is completely different from
director Michael Powell's Peeping
Juan Antonio Bayona,
114 Minutes, 2012, Spain
PG: Not Recommended for Young Children
In December 2004, a devastating
tsunami struck the Southeast Coast of Asia.
Without warning, thousands of people were
swept away to their deaths. We know
the story from newspapers - we just don't
know the details. There were survivors...
severely injured... mentally and physically.
Families were torn apart. Children
disappeared, never to be seen again.
Thousands were orphaned. But the newspapers
don't provide the pictures, the feelings,
the sounds of this disaster. The movie does.
It's a very emotional film.
The direction is excellent, the
outstanding: floating lamps in the sky on
Christmas Eve, close-ups of bugs and debris.
You feel like you are there, experiencing
The film is called "The
Impossible." It could also be
identified as unfailing perseverance. Based
on a true story about a real Spanish family,
it follows a family (British in the film) on
vacation in Thailand. They are happy,
enjoying fun on the beach - a landscape that
unexpectedly becomes the worst nightmare of
Because the family is divided
when the tsunami hits, we follow their
struggle to reunite in two parts....
following the mother and a son and the
father and two sons.
An amazing young talent is Tom Holland, who
plays the eldest son, Lucas. He shows
maturity beyond his years and is definitely
someone to watch.
"The Impossible" intersperses moments of
happiness among the many moments of sorrow.
Devastation is everywhere on the screen.
When the camera pulls back to reveal miles
of destruction, it's almost impossible to
imagine what it might be like to be on the
ground.... and then the camera moves in to
put you right into the situation.
Veteran actress Geraldine Chaplin, daughter
of Charlie Chaplin, appears in a cameo role
as an old woman talking to 7-year-old Thomas
(Samuel Joslin) ... she's terrific.
The film is
an enormous production with hundreds of crew
members, 15 stunt people, and over 100
special effects and visual effects artists.
A tsunami is created, including underwater
photography. Everything looks real.
You begin to understand what it was like
being there as dangerous debris comes
rushing past you... skeletons of cars moving
quickly with the current, large structures,
feel the silence... and the reoccurring
sound as another tsunami approaches. and
then there's the chaos of the aftermath.
Thai natives help rescue people, others
transport bodies in the back of open-air
trucks. Separated from families,
injured people move recklessly on dirt roads
- thousands look for relatives in makeshift
shelters. Names are scribbled on scraps of
paper. Medical staff are obviously
"The Impossible" is a film about humanity
under the worst circumstances imaginable.
Review by Lois Siegel
Inside Man, Directed by
Spike Lee, 129 minutes, 2006,
Spike Lee's best, slickest
film yet. A great action/thriller written by
that never stops moving. The film also keeps you guessing as to what is
The basic premise is a bank robbery planned by a Dalton Russell (Clive
who knows exactly what he is doing, but there's much more going on.
and eye-catching photography by
The opening and closing music is terrific.
"Chaiyya Chaiyya Bollywood Joint (featuring Panjabi MC)"
Written by A.R. Rahman,
Sampooran Singh Gulzar (as
Gulzar) & MC Punjabi
Performed by Sapna Awasthi &
Irena Palm, Directed by Sam Garbarski, 103 minutes, 2007,
Marianne Faithfull, of 60s rock star groupie fame, gives an outstanding
performance in this unconventional approach to fundraising to support a sick
grandson. In Soho, London's red light district, grandma is admired for her
strong hands. Essentially, this is a love story. Beware: This is not the
type of film that will be reviewed in the “Ladies’ Home Journal.”
Sam Garbarski and Marianne Faithfull
The life of singer Marianne Faithfull, former wild girl of rock, is to be made
into a film.
Italian, Directed by Andrei
Kravchuk, 99 minutes, 2006, Russia
Kolya Spiridonov, Maria Kuznetsova, Dariya Lesnikova
Director of Photography:
Vanya (Kolya Spiridonov)
The cinematography is outstanding in this film about children as
orphans sold by greedy individuals who are only interested
in the money they bring in.
The acting and the visual landscape create a timeless, memorable
Berlin International Film Festival:
Best Feature Film
Academy Awards, Official Selection from
Best Foreign Language Film 2005
Toronto Film Festival: Official
Rated Parental Guidance
Mature Theme, Language May Offend
Sold as Objects by Lois Siegel
Italian for Beginners,
97 minutes, 2000, Denmark
The idiosyncrasies of the characters make this film unpredictable and
captivating. No one is perfect, but their quirkiness works out in the end.
Romance a la mode.
Berlin International Film Festival:
Jury Prize: Lone Scherfig
FIPRESCI AWARD: For advancing the Dogme movement
by permitting the cast to bring humanity and humour to her film.
the Ecumenical Jury
Hearts Club by John Kerkhoven
107 minutes, 2005, USA
One of the most interesting films to appear in 2005, "Junebug" doesn't rely on
violence, nor does it make fun of its unusual characters. Instead,
it relies on pure drama - the simple interactions between a family.
Shot in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the setting and tone of the southern town
give the film an authentic reality to the life of its inhabitants. Amy Adam's
performance is outstanding. She creates an unforgettable character. All
the acting is at such a strong level that you can't help but be impressed. It's
Phil Morrison is a director to watch, and
Angus MacLachlan is a very talented writer. The January 23, 2006 issue of
Newsweek listed "Junebug" its
DVD "pick of the week," calling it "one of the greatest, best-acted films of
2005 you've never heard of." The film also has a great selection of
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, Best
Central Ohio Film Critics, Breakthrough Film Artist
Amy Adams For her performance; Gotham
Awards, Breakthrough Amy Adams;
National Society of Film Critics, Best Supporting
Actress Amy Adams; San Francisco Film Critics Circle,
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams; Southeastern Film
Critics Association Awards, Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams;
Sundance Film Festival, Dramatic, Amy Adams, For
Kill the Irishman, Directed by
106 minutes, 2011, USA
The film is based on a true story... 36 bombings during the summer of 1976 in
Cleveland, Ohio. Danny Greene survived it all. He was Irish, and he was
tough. The story focuses on the 70s when Greene worked for the mob.
There's a documentary element with flashbacks to the real criminals. The
character actors are outstanding: Ray Stevenson as Greene, Vincent D'Onofrio
(Law and Order: Criminal Intent), Christopher Walken, Paul Sorvino, Steven R.
Schirripa (The Sopranos).
Lawrence (II), 121 minutes, 2001, Australia
Starring Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey, this murder
mystery has good acting, twists and turns, and passion. It works on many levels
simultaneously, with each new person somehow being connected to another in the
Laundry, Directed by
126 minutes, 2001, Japan
This charming film
focuses on a young man who has suffered a brain injury. He meets his match in a
young lady who hasher own problems. Some beautiful photography, lovely story,
The screenplay for "Laundry" received Sundance/NHK
International Filmmakers Award.
Learning to Drive,
Directed by Isabel Coixet, 90 minutes, 2015, UK, USA
Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson
In many ways, Learning to Drive is a
“love story,” but it’s not your usual romantic fare. It’s a strong connection
between very good friends. The main characters come from very different
cultures, and as their stories constantly intercut, we gain a perspective on how
some people’s lives are not always like our own.
Wendy (Patricia Clarkson) is a literary critic. She works at home, and that’s
where her life has been – stuck in books. Her 21-year-marriage loses its luster,
and her husband, instead of having a mid-life crisis where he buys a sports car,
has an affair. Reality hits when Wendy realizes he has left for good and isn’t
At the insistence of her
daughter Tasha (Grace
Gummer), Wendy decides to learn
how to drive. All this time, she didn’t have to. Her husband drove her. Darwan
(Ben Kingsley), a Sikh Indian, becomes her instructor. He’s struck by her
sadness and wants to help her live an active life again.
Darwan lives in a rooming
house in Queens. He teaches driving during the day and drives taxi at night just
to survive. He’s not rich, and he’s not married. His sister’s son lives with
him. We see glimpses of his life during religious services, cooking at home,
doing laundry, and watching cricket matches with the guys in the rooming house.
In his country, marriages are arranged.
He gives Wendy driving
lessons, but he also adds words of wisdom… Driving: You must see everything. Be
aware of living.
When bullies harass him
in the street yelling “Osama,” he says, “You can’t always trust people to behave
properly. People think I look dangerous.” But he seems to take things in
stride….This is the way things are.
Wendy faces various driving obstacles: night driving and crossing a bridge.
Darwan calls it “The road in the sky.” He warns her about road rage “Be calm,
and in life as well.” You can arrive in 1, 2, or 3 pieces. His philosophy hits
home. The film is full of subtle humor.
Darwan faces his own
challenges: His sister in India sends a wife to him - someone he has never met.
He meets her in the airport by holding up a placard with her name on it: Jasleen
Choudhury). That is the
‘romantic’ setting where he first meets her. She doesn’t speak much English, is
uneducated, and scared.
There are changes in both
Darwan and Wendy’s lives. Wendy gets ‘fixed up’ with Peter (Matt Salinger - son
of J.D.) at a restaurant dinner party. Jasleen watches TV to learn English. All
their lives are constantly intercut in the film. It’s only when Jasleen finally
ventures outside the small apartment that her life comes alive. The film seems
to be saying: One has to make life happen. It’s up to you.
Passing the driving test
is just a backdrop for the real stories in the film.
Darwan and Wendy have a solid friendship that could lead to something more, but
they live very different lives and because of this, they must move on.
Stay for the credits. The story continues visually.
Review by Lois Siegel
The Life of David
Gale, directed by
130 minutes, 2003, USA/Germany
Stars Kevin Spacey as a philosophy professor who takes his ideals to the extreme
to prove a point.
Great acting, lots of twists and turns.
The Little Fugitive
Directed by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin, 1953, U.S.A.
“The Little Fugitive” is an independent, low-budget film gem from the past,
situated in Brooklyn, New York. Children often have a natural ability to
act. This one feels more like a documentary than a feature film. Joey
Norton (Richie Andrusco) and Lennie Norton (Richard Brewster) are excellent as
two brothers who fight like other siblings, but who deep-down really care for
Richard Brewster and Richie Andrusco
The story entails a misunderstanding. Seven-year-old Joey thinks he has
killed his older brother Lennie. It’s all a practical joke, but Joey is duped
and runs away.
His destination: Coney Island – every kid’s
dream – where there’s a grand amusement park with a merry-go-round, and bumper
cars, with pony rides, a beach and cotton candy. Joey takes sneaks money
from home and heads out to a fantastic adventure. We follow him as he wanders
round the park, exploring the fun such a place has to offer. Shot in black
and white, we view scenes of the crowds of Coney Island and people on the
streets of New York, accompanied by a haunting soundtrack played on a lone
Richie Andrusco and Jay Williams (Pony-Ride Man)
“The Little Fugitive” is perfect for the
holiday season. It’s a great film to see with your kids or to view alone,
reminiscent of times past.
Little Girl Blue
(Tagnosti), directed by
2007. Czech Republic
The Lives of
Others, Directed by
Von Donnersmarck, 137 minutes, 2006, Germany
In a repressed society, everyone fears everyone else. There are informants
who work for the government. They may be regular employees of that government,
or they may be people on the street who are paid to inform, or who are
threatened and then succumb to becoming informants.
Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich
It's not a happy situation. Suicide is the only escape for some. In "The Lives
of Others," a member of the secret police (Stasi) is assigned to wire the
apartment of a well-known writer and listen in on his everyday movements and
Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich
Mühe), is the focal point of the film as he
becomes more and more involved in the lives of those he is stalking. His life
becomes intertwined with theirs...and, in a strange sense, they become his
family, people he cares about and will protect at all costs.
In 2007, the film won an Academy
Award: Best Foreign Language Film of the Year,
Ozpetek, 110 minutes, 2010, Italy
Life is not always full of happiness if you follow what everyone tells you to
do. What you really want in life is the most important decision you can make.
"Loose Cannons" is a film about achieving happiness despite the desires of other
people, including your family. It's the history of a well-off Italian
family, focusing on Tommaso, a young man who is not 'out of the closet.'
We meet him as he is struggling, yearning to be free from hiding from his true
"Loose Cannons" is not all serious. There are wonderful, humorous moments that
will make you laugh out loud.
Lovely and Amazing, Directed
Nicole Holofcener, 89
minutes, 2001, USA
Dysfunctional families make for interesting films. Raven Goodwin steals
the show as 9-year-old Annie Marks. She wasn't predictable, and her strong
attitude added spirit to the film. She did what made sense to her, despite what
others wanted. More a chick-flick than a macho man's movie.
Me and You and
Everyone We Know, directed by
Miranda July, 90 minutes, 2005, USA
There's something captivating about this film. It's definitely
unpredictable and, thus, refreshing. The dysfunctional
family at its best, we watch as a father in the midst of separating from
his wife, sets his hands on fire as his two boys watch. Brandon
Ratcliff is amazing in his role as the young Robby Swersey.
Other characters include an
artist lady who talks to herself. There are wonderful scenes with an evil lady
who deals with the business of art. The relationships between all
the people in this film are bizarre. There are no conventional relationships in
"Me and You"
took the Special Jury Prize at Sundance.
It won at
Cannes, San Francisco, Los
Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Forth Worth, Philadelphia, Stockholm…This
says something about a film. It’s unique and unpredictable and the
interrelations between the characters will keep you guessing, laughing
A very young
boy gets on the Internet and explores computer ‘dating.'
art gallery snobs are everything you wish they weren’t, but know they
are, and one wishes there were more films like this, bold enough to tell
it like it is.
Sundance Festival, Special Jury Prize, Originality
of Vision, 2005; Cannes, Camera d'Or, 2005;
Philadelphia Film Festival, Best First Feature,
2005; Los Angeles Film Festival, Audience
Award - Best Narrative Feature; Newport
International Film Festival, Best Director, Audience Award, 2005
Earl and the Dying Girl
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
DVD – Ottawa Public Library
Me and Earl and the Dying
Girl is an innovative and unusual film. You can’t predict what will
happen. Sometimes an animation suddenly appears. There are titles to
each sequence, and there’s humour despite a very sad situation.
Greg (Thomas Mann) tells the
story during in his senior year in high school. He’s independent and
doesn’t have many friends, except Earl. They are theatre and movie dorks
and make spin-offs of classic and foreign films: “Eyes Wide Butt”
(Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut), “Senior Citizen Kane,” (Orson Wells),
“Rosemary’s Baby Carrots,” (Roman Polanski), “400 Bros” (Francois
Truffaut), and Vere’d He Go (Hitchcock’s Vertigo). You get the idea.
Greg’s parents are eccentric, to say the least. His father (Nick
Offerman – Parks and Recreation) is a sociology prof who we only see on
his many days off wearing long robes from different countries and
offering East Asian and other unfamiliar foods to anyone he encounters
in the house.
figures out ways to survive in a chaotic environment. He becomes
friendly with all the different cliques at school on a superficial
level. That keeps him safe.
Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a classmate he barely knows, is diagnosed with
stage 4 leukemia, his emotional safety is crushed because his mother
(Connie Britton – Nashville) wants him to spend time with her. She won’t
take ‘no’ for an answer. She also wants her son to carry around a “Book
of Colleges” until he finds one he likes.
Greg arranges to meet Rachel. He titles this “The Day of Doomed
The development of their relationship is strong and emotional. He and
Earl decide to make a film dedicated to Rachel, who is dying.
Islam (Cat Stevens),
Film Festival Grand Jury Prize - U.S. Dramatic
Sundance Film Festival Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic
di ferragosto: Italy’s biggest
Director, writer, lead actor
Gianni Di Gregorio, 75 minutes, 2008, Italy
“Mid-August Lunch” is a celebration of old age. You might think
that a film peopled by the elderly would be boring. It’s not. It’s
delightful and charming.
Gianni lives with his mother (Valeria De Franciscis), 93.
He doesn’t have a job and likes going to the
tavern. Problem: he owes three years’ rent on their small apartment.
solution is offered by his building manager who wants to spend the
holiday with a lady friend. If Gianni takes care of his mother,
the manager will reduce Gianni’s debt. The manager also
turns up with an auntie, and Gianni’s doctor dumps his mother on him as
Gianni becomes cook and caretaker.
Gianni Di Gregorio
film feels like a documentary. The doctor’s mother craves macaroni and
cheese, even though her digestive system will revolt, and a small TV set
becomes an object of desire.
A certain “joie de vivre” makes us feel good as we watch these aging
individuals celebrate a special holiday in style. We realize that
memories of the past are all these ladies have left, but they can still
enjoy life, concentrating on little details that add to their
experience: lovely flowers, fine china, fresh fish from the river.
And we realize that the simple things in life and good friendships are
the most precious things we have.
François Dupeyron, 94 minutes,
Outstanding performances by
as Monsieur Ibrahim and
as Momo in this touching film about a relationship between an old Muslim
shopkeeper and a young boy coming of age.
Chicago International Film Festival, Best Male
Performance: Pierre Boulanger,
2003; César Awards, Best Actor (Meilleur acteur),
Omar Sharif, 2004;
Venice Film Festival, Audience Award, Best Actor
Mohamed Saïd Fellag
Based on a
one-man play by Evelyne de
Philippe Falardeau, 1hr 34 minutes, Quebec,
Oscar Nominee "Best Foreign Language Film"
The opening moments of "Monsieur Lazhar"
are filled with happy children outside
a Montreal elementary school, early one morning.
This is their world...where they face
the same problems all kids face.
But this day their lives are
going to change.
Something happens at the school that no one
Something happens that rips the protective
that schools are supposed to provide.
Grade 6 students, 11- 12-years-olds, suddenly
have to face
the reality of a tragedy. Enter Monsieur Lazhar,
an Algerian immigrant who becomes their new teacher.
We soon learn that his own circumstances
are not that different from that of his students.
Monsieur Lazhar has his own problems,
but he is most concerned with the lives of his
In a way, he's the perfect mentor for this
Defying academic regulations, he chooses to take
in order to help his class of young, confused,
This film is a must see. The casting is
The children excel, the directing is precise.
The photography is sensitive.
Monsieur Lazhar (Mohamed Saïd Fellag) is perfect
in his role of a stranger in new surroundings.
We feel for him as he tries to survive in a
- his previous world also having been torn
We respect and cheer his courage.
The film is in French and Arabic with English
Review by Lois Siegel
Montreal Main, Directed
by Frank Vitale, 86 minutes, 1974, Canada
Identities: Montreal Main (1974)
Review by skykid
Sandra Nettelbeck, 107 minutes, 2002, Germany
The story focuses on
an 8-year-old who loses her mother in a car accident. Martha is a chef. She
'inherits' the child. Sergio is the 'counter' chef. He doesn't always get along
with Martha in the kitchen. The film is full of amazing culinary delights and
good chemistry between Martha and Sergio by the film's end.
acting by Martina Gedeck and Sergio Castellito is wonderful, and 10-year-old
Maxime Foerste is a real find. Castellito’s charm will remind you of Marcello
Women's Film Festival,
France, Grand Prix; European Film Awards:
Best Actor Sergio Castellito; German Film Awards:
Outstanding Individual Achievement, Actress: Martina Gedeck;
German Film Critics Association Awards:
Best Actress: Martina Gedeck.
111 minutes, 1986, Sweden
All the people involved in this avant-garde theatre production are crazy.
Mr. Holland's Opus, directed by
145 minutes, 1995, USA
With this wonderful cast: Glenne Headly, Olympia Dukakis, William H. Macy, Jay
Thomas, Terrence Howard, Jean Louisa Kelly, and starring Richard Dreyfuss,
you can't go wrong.
The story is about a composer who takes a job teaching music in a local, small
town high school.
Olympia Dukakis and William H. Macy
At first he hates the job and becomes frustrated because the students are
Finally he understands that they won't get better unless he really works with
He begins meeting with the students one-on-one, and then he starts to see
His life turns around as he realizes that he loves teaching music.
The film is full of humor and emotional moments.
A history of the time from the 1960's to the
1990's is brilliantly captured through photographs
as the years move on. The film follows Mr. Holland until he is forced to
Mr. Holland is consumed by a desire
to continue his work with the students of John F. Kennedy High School,
but because of budget cuts to the arts, this will not be possible.
Richard Dreyfuss and Jay Thomas
Dreyfuss was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
UK, France, Germany, 150 minutes, 2014
Biographical Drama: British Painter J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851)
Mr. Turner is a must see for anyone interested in the arts or
The film covers the
century of the painter’s life starting when he is 51–years-old.
England is recreated in detail.
It’s a fascinating history lesson with pictures of the era
scenes of epic proportions, much like the paintings of Turner - sensitive
impressions of light and colour.
age of 14, Turner was in the British Royal Academy of Arts, but he wasn’t like
prodigies we are accustomed to. He came from a working class family. His
demeanor was rather brusque.
grunted, was rather sullen, and quite eccentric.
Actor Timothy Spall plays a captivating Turner, who is intently focused on his
painting. He travels in order to find magnificent land and seascapes. At one
point we see him
strapped to the
mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm.
An unusual character, Turner has lovers, but remains single. He’s not a family
He’s visited by a lady who claims he is the father of her two children. Turner
will have nothing to do with her or her daughters. He has a dedicated
housekeeper who occasionally satisfies his sexual needs, and he frequents
brothels but also mingles with aristocrats, artists and architects.
film opens on a vast landscape with a windmill. People appear out of the
background. A man is sketching:
J. M. W.
Turner. He lives with his father in his London studio. The elder Turner, a
former barber, becomes his studio assistant. His mother spent time in St. Luke’s
Hospital for Lunatics.
a painter, Turner experiments with materials, sometimes stabbing the canvas with
his brush. He blows powder on a painting, uses his finger and a cloth to rub it,
and even spits to bind the pigments. Other artists laugh and make fun of him.
He’s is not always appreciated.
do sometimes see his sensitive side, once when he is listening to a woman play
the piano and another time when he sketches a young prostitute and then cries
when he discovers she is only 22-years-old. Michael Leigh’s screenplay: “Turner
now breaks down. Uncontrollable tears grow into a painful howl of despair.”
Turner consults with a Mrs. Somerville, a “natural philosopher” who experiments
with magnetic properties and prisms of colour. She says,
is my strong belief that all things on this earth are connected. Nothing exists
You are a man of great vision,
Mr. Turner. The universe is chaotic and you make us see it.”
Spall spent almost two years learning how to paint in preparation
for his role. He says, “Turner knew he was a man of destiny.”
has been nominated for four Oscars: Cinematography: Dick Pope, Costume Design:
Jacqueline Durran, Original Score: Gary Yershon, and Production Design: Suzie
Davies and Charlotte Watts.
Spall won Best Actor at Cannes, along with Pope who won a Special
Jury Prize for Cinematography.
Review by Lois Siegel
Directed by Stephen Frears
U.K. , 97 minutes, 1985
the titles move through the spin dry sequences to swirl onto the screen, the
viewer immediately knows that something unusual is up. “My Beautiful
Laundrette” washes its way into your heart and makes you wish you could also
bring your laundry to England and meet the characters on the screen.
film has a bit of everything: politics, social comment, punks, good guys, band
guys, cars, trains, love, and soap suds.
is an alcoholic, ex-Pakistani journalist who lives with his son Omar in a
run-down flat. Omar is enticed into the world of riches by his businessman Uncle
Nasser who wants to help his brother. He gives Omar a job. The film reeks of
nepotism, but Omar’s uncle makes him pay his dues, - by washing expensive cars
for a few days. Then Nasser promotes him to accountant and presents him with a
car. Next, Omar is given his uncle’s failing laundrette to operate in a
punk-infested district of London as a final test.
re-decorates the place into a slick, state-of-the-art, fashionable, colorful
gallery where the delighted local clientele slither in. But Omar doesn’t
transform the place single-handedly. He recruits an old school chum – Johnny, a
lower-class, two-toned punk.
The duo is charming in their attraction to each other, and unpredictable is the
key to this movie. Nothing happens as one might expect, and everything happens
the other characters in “Laundrette” are equally marvelous. There are hilarious
scenes with traditional Pakistani superstitions clashing with modern living,
including a successful attempt at voodoo by a wife towards her husband’s
mistress. There’s also a scene with greasy punks who crawl over a stalled car,
terrorizing the inhabitants.
One location is particularly haunting. A labyrinth of trains, constantly moving
in all directions, passes outside a decrepit apartment building creating a
cacophony of images and sounds. The effect is stunning.
You may not recognize him, but Johnny is played by a young Daniel Day-Lewis.
You will be exposed to a new world when you enter “My Beautiful Laundrette.”
Your wash will never look the same.
Review by Lois Siegel
My Family and
Other Animals, based on the book by
Durrell, directed by
Masterpiece Theatre, 90 minutes, 2005, U.K.
The drama is Gerald Durrell's classic account of
growing up on the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930's.
Twelve-year-old Gerald is fascinated by animals. He collects them and studies
They overrun the family home. The acting is superb in this tale of
adventures and challenge
in a series of country villas, away from the rest of society on the brink of
The characters are diverse and entertaining. The eldest son, Larry, is a writer
soon to be the famous Laurence Durrell, the next son, Leslie, is obsessed with
guns, the daughter, Margo, is at the age where all she thinks about is flirting
Good film for the entire family.
My Life Without
Me, Directed by
106 minutes, 2003, Spain/Canada
What would you do if you were told you were going to die? Would you make a
list of the things you want to do? Would they include making a stranger fall in
love with you, even though you are married and have two children? Ann
(Sarah Polley) does all of this and more. The cast is excellent: Laurie (Amanda
Plummer), Lee (Mark Ruffalo), Dr. Thompson (Julian Richings), and Ann's mother
(Deborah Harry). The two little girls who play Ann's daughters are perfect for
The film deals with real issues, but it's very quirky. How many men do you
know who don't bother to buy food or furniture for their apartments?
The writing is outstanding and unpredictable. Isabel Coixet wrote the script
based on the short story "Pretending the Bed is a Raft" by
Nanci Kincaid. Pedro
Almodovar is one of the Executive Producers.
Nói albínói (Nói
the Albino), Directed by
Iceland is a country that most of us know little about. The film
takes place in a remote village in cut off in winter from the rest of the world.
The extremely isolated area is surrounded by mountains, creating an eerie
effect. Snow is everywhere.
Nói, the main
character, barely exists. His
life is going nowhere. He's still in high school but hates it. He
constantly cuts class and wanders around the village in his own dreamland. He
lives with his grandmother, who is not all there. Her life consists of doing
jigsaw puzzles and shooting a shotgun to wake him up in the morning.
The humor is often very bizarre, and the film is unpredictable.
This is not an easy film to watch, but, despite this, you may be intrigued to
see what happens next.
Edinburgh International Festival,
New Director's Award - Special Mention, 2003
Rotterdam International Festival, MovieZone Award,
Denver International Film Festival, Best European
Não Por Acaso
By Chance), Directed by
90 minutes, 2007, Brazil
Barcinski is known for his short films; he’s won
over 40 awards. “Not by Chance” is his first feature. He spent five years
developing the screenplay.
Time well spent. The film is complex,
sensitive and impressive
follows a sequence of occurrences in the lives of two men in São Paulo, one of
the largest cities in the world: Pedro (Rodrigo Santoro), who loves to play
snooker and works as a carpenter making pool tables and Enio (Leonardo
Medeiros), who is a city traffic engineer.
Enio (Leonardo Medeiros)
Life is unpredictable. In the film each of
these men loses a woman he loves in separate accidents. Their lives suddenly
change, and they slowly realize that because they have been obsessed with, in
one case the intricacies of playing a game, or in the other, regulating the
complex set up of city streets, they cannot fully enjoy life because real life
cannot be controlled.
Chicago International Film Festival, Silver Hugo,
New Director, Philippe Barcinski, 2007
is Unpredictable by Lois Siegel
John Carney, 85 minutes, 2006, Ireland
"Once" is a terrific film. Be patient with the opening moments; the film just
keeps getting better. It's a romantic love story about a Guy (Glen Hansard) and
a Girl (Markéta
Irglová) who meet by chance on the street, and
their relationship isn't predictable. The two main characters are
naturals, and their original music makes the film work. John Carney's direction
is outstanding as he creates one charming moment after another.
Glen Hansard and
Slowly" is a magical duet that will stay with you long after you have seen
the film. Shot in 17 days, it shows an image of Dublin from times past... a
working class city. It's a film possessed by music, and it's a touching story
about would-be musicians and the struggles they go through to produce their
Academy Award, Best
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song,
Irglová - "Falling Slowly."
News: The critically acclaimed,
low-budget musical film is set for a stage adaptation. Award-winning theatre
producers John N. Hart Jr., Jeffrey Sine and Frederick Zollo have purchased
worldwide theatrical rights to adapt writer-director and musician John Carney's
film for Broadway.
One Hour Photo,
Written and Directed by
96 minutes, 2002, USA
Robin Williams is outstanding as Sy Parrish, who we quickly realize is very
creepy when compared to normal people who go about their days with a variety of
activities. He's a loner, lives in a sterile, dull apartment and doesn't
have much of a life. Sy has this thing about being part of a family. To
'brighten' his days, he makes copies of other people's photos for himself. He
can do this because he's the photo guy at the neighborhood Big Box Store. His
obsession becomes obvious when we see his wall of photos....those he has
collected over the years from the rolls of film of one family. An eerie
feeling hovers over this film when Sy begins to stalk this family, watching what
they read, what they do, and finally their marital problems. To say that
Williams is a genius is an understatement.
The Director of Photography is
Jeff's shooting style is strong. The way he shoots the rows of merchandise in
the box store, the way Williams is captured on the screen, and the final moments
of the film as he sits in a secluded room at the police station....all lead to a
solid vision reflecting the world of a very disturbed man.
Eriq La Salle
James Van Der Zee) is impressive in his role as a detective. His
feelings are apparent as he attentively listens as Sy relates the tragic
upbringing he experienced as a child.
The film is so well crafted, that it holds your attention
throughout. And the strength of the film is the realization that any of us
could be stalked at any time. We are all vulnerable.
of the Assassins, Directed by
Barbet Schroeder, 98 minutes, 2000, Columbia
The film explores the relationship between a man in his 60s and a 16-year-old
boy. "Assassins" is a haunting film because the poverty, isolation and violent
atmosphere keep coming back at you. Where we live, how we survive, what concerns
us and the importance of the individual are all considerations. Filmed in
Medellin, a city that displays the sign: ''No dumping of corpses.''
Venice Film Festival,
The President of the Italian Senate's Gold Medal,
Pauline en Paulette, Directed by
Debrauwer, 78 minutes, 2000, Belgium
Terrific acting by Dora van der Groen
as a 66-year-old mentally retarded lady dependent on her sisters.
Selection of the Director's Fortnight at
the Cannes Film Festival, 2001
Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - Special Mention,
Flanders International Film Festival: Joseph
Plateau Award for Best Belgian Actress, Dora van der Groen and Ann Petersen,
Best Belgian Director, Best Belgian Film, Best Belgian Screenplay, 2001
A Perfect Day
Directed by Fernando Leon de
Somewhere in the
middle of the Balkans, suspended between war and
peace, there are very few perfect days.
A "cease fire" doesn't mean much here. It's the
last days of the Bosnian War.
work for "Aid Across Boarders," you don't carry
a gun, but there is danger everywhere: rebels,
roadblocks, treacherous, narrow, winding roads
with deadly drop offs, and dead cows
booby-trapped with land mines ... you get the
Benicia de Toro and Tim Robbins star as "crazy"
and "crazier" in a film that will move you to
tears and have then you rolling over in
convoys are targets for attacks. You have to
stay away from them. "Cities" have been bombed
out, walls are inscribed with nice sayings, such
as "Welcome to Hell," and there are young kids
centre of the story is an obese corpse in a deep
well. It will contaminate the water that people
need if it isn't removed,
but this is not an easy feat. There are few
supplies. It's even difficult to find a length
of rope. But the people in the countryside need
help. They become your family, so you go to
great lengths to do exactly that.
Perfect Day" received a 10-minute standing
ovation at Cannes. That should tell you
in the film is timely and perfect for each
Check out the lyrics by Lou Reed at the end of
the film: "There Is No Time."
This is no time for celebration
This is no time for shaking hands
This is no time for backslapping
This is no time for marching bands
This is no time for optimism
This is no time for endless thought
This is no time for my country right or wrong
Remember what that brought
There is no time....
Directed by Stephen Frears, 98 minutes, 2013,
U.K., U.S., France
"Philomena" is a sad film. It follows the story
of a retired Irish Nurse who, as a
pregnant, unwed teenager, was sent to a convent.
Her child, Anthony, was kept separate from her
at the residence, and she could only see him one
hour a day. The action of the nuns at the
convent seems cruel and unusual punishment.
Children at the convent were fair game for
adoption. The nuns burnt records and sold babies
to Americans for 1000 pounds (1952). Philomena
loses track of her child. The Catholic 'sisters
of little mercy' don't seem to care about the
The story is 'inspired by true
events' and is based on the book
"The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,"
by Martin Sixsmith. Judi Dench plays Lee
and Steve Coogan plays Sixsmith, a journalist
who has lost his job and who needs work. He
pitches the story to an editor and begins to
investigate what happened to Anthony. Together
he and Lee begin the process of finding what has
happened to her son.
Besides the story of evil nuns,
tracking down Anthony reveals all sorts of
surprises, twists and turns. It's an amazing
journey. And the relationship between Sixsmith
and Lee is precious. There is mutual respect,
kindness, and persistence in this incredible
experience. The story unravels gradually,
revealing many layers. As T. S. Eliot observed:
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end
of all our exploring will be to arrive where we
started and know the place for the first time.
(The Four Quartets)
Stephen Frears, Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
The director, Stephen Frears, you
might remember from "My Beautiful Laundrette"
and "The Queen." He's a very accomplished
The acting is outstanding. It's a difficult
film, but well-worth seeing.
Review by Lois Siegel
Directed by Jason Moore, 112 Minutes, 2012, USA
“Pitch Perfect” makes “Glee” look like “The Sound of Music.”
Be ready for visual surprises
(don’t eat a big lasagna dinner before coming to the show) and sex talk.
The variety of characters is wonderful: Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) does a
‘creative’ mermaid dance and Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) whispers her way into stardom,
“I set fires to feel joy.”
Beca (Anna Kendrick) is an amazing talent,
with perfect timing and charm, her singing is terrific.
You may remember her in “Up in the Air,” the George Clooney flick.
She plays a know-it-all, young keener whose job is to fire people.
For her role, Kendrick was
nominated for an Academy Award -
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (2009).
story centers around the “Rock Stars” of A Capella –
organized nerd singing competitions for university students.
“They sing with their mouths.”
Barden University is the setting.
Would-be singers audition
for the various choral groups. Reminiscent of the great auditions scenes
in “Taking Off” directed by Milos Forman (1971) and in “The Commitments,”
directed by Alan Parker (1991), the short clips in “Pitch Perfect”
are highlighted by the performance of Beca
who pulls off a rhythm-perfect, percussion riff,
flipping and drumming on a large cup.
Fat Amy and Beca
Beca likes modern music and wants to be a DJ.
Her father, who teaches Comparative Literature at Barden,
wants her to join a club and be part of the world.
He promises to send her to L.A. if she does.
With this incentive, Beca checks out the school Activities Fair
and hooks up with the “Bellas” -
unaware of their ‘stick-in-the-mud’ director who orchestrates tunes
from ‘the middle ages.’
She has no idea what she’s in for: some of the competition
is A Capella with Sock Puppets….
(John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks)
who run a great ‘play-by-play’ during the musical competitions,
“Pitch Perfect” has great
energy and humor.
If “Glee” doesn’t do it for you, this film certainly will.
Review by Lois Siegel
Directed by Nicole Holofcener, 90
minutes, 2010, USA
“Please Give” is not your conventional film. It’s about New Yorkers who try to
make the best of their routine lives. The film opens with a humorous tune about
“a man who has no chin, and a man who has no neck…. Some folks lose and some
folks win,”- a twisted take on the saying, “I felt sorry that I had no shoes,
until I met a man with no feet.” This ditty is accompanied by close-ups of
breasts of all sizes being positioned for mammograms - lots of flabby images
from different angles
The film bounces back and forth between comedy and the not so funny. It’s
quirky and full of people’s idiosyncrasies. We focus on Kate (Catherine
Keener). She’s married to Alex (Oliver Platt). They have a teenage daughter who
wants $200 jeans for her birthday.
Kate and Alex run a shady business. They descend like vultures to buy furniture
from the children of elderly dead people and then resell everything at a hugh
profit. They are the ambulance chasers of the table and chair business. Kate
obsessively gives money to people on the street…. $5 here, $5 there. Perhaps
this relieves her guilt. Her daughter hates this. She wants expensive jeans.
Two sisters supervise the care
of their grandmother (Ann Morgan Guilbert) who lives next door to Kate and Alex.
The grandmother has sold Kate and Alex her apartment, but she is allowed to live
there until she dies. She already is mostly dead, and her life becomes an
obituary watch. Guilbert’s performance is outstanding. She’s brash and to
the point. She doesn’t care what people think. Great casting.
Ann Morgan Guilbert
“Please Give” is full of good details. Sometimes you will laugh, sometimes
you will cry.
It’s a wonderful mixture of emotions.
Review by Lois Siegel
Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story, 4-hour
miniseries, 2006, Canada
Directed by John N. Smith
This CBC Television miniseries first aired in 2006. The acting is
excellent, especially Michael Therriault as Douglas and Kristin Booth as his
The scriptwriter is Smith’s son Bruce, who adds a good dose of humor to the
“Prairie Giant” is a
history lesson. It reveals the steadfastness of the politician who oversaw the
legislation of Canada’s first universal healthcare program as Premier of
Saskatchewan. Douglas and his Canadian Commonwealth Federation introduced other
important social programs: The Bill of Rights, government insurance, the
eight-hour work day, and government funding for the arts (something our current
government seems to be eliminating).
"Prairie Giant" features some of Canada’s best
actors and has excellent production values. Included are extra features: The
making of the production and a tour of the set - both interesting additions.
The film tells the story of a small-town pastor
in the 1930s who fights poverty and injustice. He’s an excellent speaker and has
the power to change what people think. When he enters politics, he becomes the
first socialist elected leader in North American.
Alain Renais, 104 minutes, 1977, France
Renais creates a type of stream of consciousness. The style of the film becomes
part of the story.
89 minutes, 1938, USA
"Pygmalion" is a wonderfully entertaining version of 'the taming of the shrew.'
Based on the play of the same name by George Bernard Shaw, who is credited with
scenario and dialogue, the film introduces us to Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller),
a street urchin, who is transformed by Professor Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard)
into a lady who can speak the most proper English and fool all the high class
socialites she meets. A fine romantic comedy.
98 Minutes, 2012, UK
Dustin Hoffman's directing debut
You don't have to love opera or classical
music to love this film. It's charming and
delightful. See it.
Yes, Quartet deals with old age, but we will all
be there. And the film is actually
uplifting because of the energy of the
characters. The location is Beecham House, a
lovely home for retired musicians. It's named
after Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor and
impresario. We are told his father made money
Beecham is a countryside mansion. It's upscale,
but the residents are fighting for survival.
They need money to keep it going. They've
scheduled a fundraising concert. These are not
the elderly who sit around all day. They
practice their voices and instruments. We see
them in rehearsal.
It's evident that music and their co-habitants
fulfill their lives. Not everyone has visitors.
We hear their arguments about music. They
insult each other. The dialogue overflows with
A new arrival appears who has a history with
one of the residents. Conflict occurs.
There are characters... particularly Wilf (Billy
who is a
womanizer and very naughty boy. He pinches
women's behinds every chance he gets.
Dustin Hoffman (right)
The cast is outstanding: You will remember
these exceptional actors/entertainers from the
past: Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic
Marigold Hotel), Tom Courtenay (The Loneliness
of the Long Distance Runner), Billy Connolly
(comedian), and Pauline Collins (Shirley
And pay attention to the credits at
the end of the film. The cast includes famous
musicians and actors who are no longer in the
public eye, but who were once recognized as some
of the best. These instrumentalists and singers
perform throughout the film. The screen is
filled with music.
the credits, you will see their images and then
a former professional photo of them with their
names. What a wonderful idea.
These former stars are tucked away in
Beecham, but when they advertise their concert,
people come. Their talents are not forgotten.
It's a concert
to celebrate Verdi's birthday - a gala to
"Old age is not for sissies."
Quartet is filmed in Taplow,
on the east bank of the River Thames.
The Music: Puccini, Rossini, Saint-Saens,
Boccherini, Gilbert and Sullivan, Haydn, La
Traviata, Rigoletto, The Mikado, , Pavarotti....
Review by Lois Siegel
The Real Blonde,
Tom DiCillo, 105 minutes,1997, USA
Great comedy-spoof on the entertainment business. If you liked
"Living in Oblivion," you'll
love this one. Cast: Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Daryl Hannah, Matthew
Modine, Christopher Lloyd, Kathleen Turner, Buck Henry, Marlo Thomas and Maxwell
(Jizda), Directed by
, 90 minutes,
1994, Czech Republic
Filled with humor, this film is a road movie like you've never seen before.
Radek and Franta,
pick up a hitchhiker, and their lives change. Svěrák
also directed "Kolja"
(1996), Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film. His father,
played the lead.
Jan Svěrák studied documentary filmmaking at the Film and
Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts
(FAMU) in Prague.
Wyler, 118 minutes, 1953, USA
Filmed in Italy, Audrey Hepburn plays a pampered princess who is fed up with the
monotonous routine of her life. She flees for 48 hours, meets an American
newspaper man (Gregory Peck) and learns there’s more to life than fulfilling her
royal obligations. A delightful, romantic comedy, this 1953 film continues to
entertain. Hepburn won an Oscar for Best Actress.
The Ron Clark Story,
90 minutes, U.S./Canada
This Made-for-TV film is the story of one man's belief that he can teach kids,
any kids, to learn. Matthew Perry plays a small-town, rural North Carolina
teacher who moves to New York City after he sees an ad in a newspaper "Teachers
Wanted." He finds a job in Harlem. The story is based on true events.
Safe, Directed by
119 minutes, 1995, USA
What happens when the world takes over and you become super sensitive to
everything around you. The stark, long shots in an expensive, grand suburban
home are riveting. The individuals within become objects in their environments.
Sea, Directed by D. J. Caruso,
103 minutes, 2002, USA
The Salton Sea is a very bizarre film well-worth watching. You have not seen
anything quite like it. Val Kilmer is good in this one, and
Vincent D'Onofreo is probably
one of the creepiest characters in filmland as Pooh- Bear the nose less.
D'Onofreo is know for his chameleon portrayals. He gained 40 pounds for his
role. Other actors include Anthony
Schultze Gets the Blues,
Directed by Michael Schorr, 107 minutes, 2003, Germany
The discovery of Zydeco music leads the recently retired Schultze to a new life.
travels from his Germany polka land to the more hip Louisiana back country.
Accordion in hand, he discovers another world. The film is slow moving, but
worth the wait.
Cake, Directed by
U.K./ Canada, 2006
This unusual film will capture
your attention as it unveils the relationships between people who are thrown
together as the result of an accident. The acting is excellent, and the
storytelling is full of surprises. "Snow Cake" stars Alan Rickman, Sigourney
Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss, who won a Genie Award for Best Performance by an
Actress in a Supporting Role. All the starring actors deserve awards.
Weaver gives a superb performance as a
high-functioning autistic lady. Rickman displays a full range of emotions
of a man torn by the past, trying to confront his future.
Sigourney Weaver prepared for her role as Linda by
spending time with
Blackburn, a high-functioning autistic woman from England. Although not a
direct portrayal of Ros (who in real life cannot live independently and cannot
read or write), many of Ros's mannerisms and characteristics are very apparent
in Linda, as well as the passion for trampolining and things sparkly. Ros
Blackburn gives public talks on what it is like to experience life as a person
Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman
"Autism is the inability to single out people as special, separate, unique entities - different from bits of
the furniture, different from even the family pet dog," Blackburn says.
Snowcake was shot in 27 days
in Wawa, Ontario. The writer,
Angela Pell, has an autistic son.
The Social Network, Directed by David Fincher, 120 minutes,
Executive Producers: Aaron Sorkin and Kevin
It’s not that often that a geeky film
captures the minds of large audiences. “The Social Network” does just that.
It’s brilliant. It’s the tale everyone wanted to hear: the origins of Facebook:
“You Don’t Get to 500 Million Friends Without Making a Few Enemies.” And
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, made a few enemies.
Basically, Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is
hired by a group that has the idea for a social network on the Internet. He runs
off with the idea and pursues it himself, developing what we know as Facebook
today – the lifeline of millions of people, some of whom practically live
online, feeding it new information about themselves every day, telling all to a
gossip hungry populace.
The film flips back and forth between the
lawsuits that ensued when those who had the original idea for the network
discover that Zuckerberg has beat them to it. What happened to cause the
riffs between the main characters is revealed in stages. At first, this
moving back and forth in time is a bit confusing, but we soon understand the
sequence of events.
It’s the story of head shark versus mini
sharks, dotted with lawyers.
Justin Timberlake/Sean Parker
Andrew Garfield/Eduardo Saverin
of the Nerds"
Review by Lois Siegel
Soft Fruit, Directed by
Christina Andreef, Black comedy, 101 minutes, 1999, Australia
Executive Producer Jane Campion.
Australian Film Institute:
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Best Performance by an an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Australian Guild of
Best Original Music for a Soundtrack:
For the genuine expression of dramatic family reunion in a
post-Chekhov style and with the unique Australian humour.
Torino International Festival of
Jury Special Prize, International Feature Film Competition:
Directed by Maggie
Greenwald, 109 minutes, 2000, USA
“Songcatcher” is a study of how country folk music originated from
Scottish and Irish ballads sung in the 1600s by people who came to
America and settled in Appalachia. In 1907, musicologist Doctor Lily
Penleric visits her sister in the mountains of Appalachia. She
discovers people who know the songs that have been passed down over
generations by immigrants in the area. Penleric begins to document
the history of the music and record the songs on wax cylinders.
The soundtrack is outstanding, including traditional music by
Harris, bluesman Taj Mahal, alt-country singer Iris DeMent, and
bluegrass singer Hazel Dickens.
The Sundance Film Festival:
Special Jury Prize for
Outstanding Ensemble Performance
"Appalachian Song Collector"
by Paal Juliussen
Michael McGowan, 102 minutes, 2012, Canada
James Cromwell and Geneviève
There’s something to be said about
persistence. Some people know what they want and stick to it – risking all.
“Still Mine” is about getting older and facing limitations. The Morrison’s,
Craig and Irene, face life changes. Irene shows signs of Alzheimer’s. Craig
needs to find ways to protect her. At times, the film is predictable regarding
the process of Alzheimer’s, but it is also full of surprises, twists and turns
that keep us interested.
The acting is superb; casting choices excellent. Geneviève Bujold (Irene) gives
an outstanding portrayal of a senior experiencing obstacles she doesn’t always
understand or remember. The talented James Cromwell (Craig), is inspiring as
her husband, devoted to the well-being of his wife. As a solution to their new
challenges, Craig decides to build a new house on his country farmland – a
one-story home where his wife can be safe from second floor falls. He’s a
skilled carpenter, so this seems to be a good decision.
There are the usual exchanges with adult children who are very concerned about
their parents who live alone on a farm. Craig can handle that, but when he
starts building without the required permits, he gets into trouble with an
insensitive government bureaucrat Rick (Jonathan Potts) who reads off
construction rules like an automaton. Potts skilfully plays a very dislikeable
character. To fight “City Hall,” Craig hires his long-time friend/lawyer Gary
(the engaging Campbell Scott, son of George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst).
“Still Mine” is an emotional film, but it’s
also uplifting because a determined individual with a meritorious cause is
someone to celebrate.
It is important to note that the film is based on a true New Brunswick story.
The real Craig Morrison built things for 70 years.
Director Michael McGowan has conscientiously
told his story with care and concern.
See the film. It’s about self-reliance and freedom, and it’s a wonderful love
Review by Lois Siegel
Directed by Stuart Gordon, 85 minutes, 2007, Canada, USA, UK Germany
What first attracted me to this film was that Stephen Rea
and Mena Suvari were acting in it. I really like Rea, and I couldn't imagine he
would act in a bad film... so I was curious. I didn't know anything about the
film. Then I learned it was based on a true story... but 'based' is
a loose word.... it doesn't really end up following that real story, and that
"Stuck" is a thriller. It never lets you down. Not for a minute. Even the
opening scenes in an old-folks home lend reality to the real world of care
workers. It's not a fun place to be.
The basic story focuses on an accident. A young social worker gets drunk
and runs down a homeless man... not your usual homeless man, but one who had a
job and was laid off. The bureaucracy of a bad social system destroys him,
and he is left on the street.
The film is not easy to watch. There is blood and violence committed by
desperate people. Stephen Rea is excellent....in a difficult role. Mena Suvari
is over the top at times, but her character comes through.
It's the kind of film that doesn't let you move away...you
want to see what happens...and the ending is a surprise.
"Stuck" was shot in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Super 8 Stories, Directed by
Emir Kusturica, 90
minutes, 2001, Serbia-Croatia
"Super 8 Stories" is frantic, hilarious, unpredictable documentary filmmaking at
its best. The film is filled with music by Kusturica's "No
Smoking Orchestra," a Balkan punk band. Chicago International Film Festival,
Silver Plaque, Best Documentary.
Sweet Dreams, Directed
Saso Podgorsek, 110 minutes,
A coming of age film, circa 1970 Yugoslavia, filled with humor and charm.
Slovene Film Festival, Vesna, Best Feature Film,
Best Screenplay, Best Actress.
Land, Directed by Ali Selim, 110 minutes, 2005, U.S.A.
If you like beautifully shot, romantic films, directed with
style, then you will like this film. "Sweet Land" isn't overly sweet. Its
charming, humorous and touching in a sophisticated way. The location is rural
Minnesota in the 1920's. The story centers on an arranged marriage and the
complexity of a German immigrating to American. Inge
arrives to what may see the middle of nowhere... small town farm country, to
marry a young Norwegian farmer, Olaf.
The film took Selim 15 years to finance. While working on
the script, he directed television commercials. No Hollywood studios were
interested in making the film. The film was shot in 24 days, and local residents
served as extras and provided farming props.
The acting is superb. You might recognize
Kingston who plays
Brownie in the film. She's best known as Dr.
Elizabeth Corday on television's “ER.” "Sweet Land" also stars
John Heard, and
And the cinematography by David Tumblety is breathtaking.
Directed by Frank Perry, Screenplay Eleanor Perry, 95 minutes, 1968, U.S.A.
This is the same couple who
made the classic film “David and Lisa,” the story of David, a teenager in a
mental hospital and his relationship with Lisa, who suffers from schizophrenia.
In “The Swimmer,” Burt
Lancaster (Ned Merrill) stars as a bored, Connecticut suburbanite who decides to
travel home via the swimming pools of his wealthy neighborhood friends. He
encounters women, some from his past, along the way in a waterland where dreams
don’t come true. With an excellent performance by Lancaster, we see Merrill's
life unfold before us. He's an out-of-work advertising executive caught in the
present, remembering better days in the past.
The film is based on a
story by John Cheever.
Swimming Pool, Directed by
Francois Ozon, 110
minutes, 2003, France/UK
Charlotte Rampling plays a wonderful vamp in this thriller. The moral of the
never trust a writer.
Take This Waltz
and Written by Sarah Polley, 116 Minutes, 2011, Canada
Music: “Take This Waltz” by Leonard Cohen
Margot (Michelle Williams) with Daniel (Luke Kirby)
Some people will never be happy with their situation in life.
To ease their pain, they dream.
Margot (Michelle Williams) lives with Lou (Seth Rogen). He works at home writing
She has some kind of job writing for Parks Canada. They play stupid little
games with each other,
threatening murder with dangerous weapons, but that's about it for amusement.
When they go out to eat, Lou doesn't talk. He's only into the food. Margot is
She meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) while working on a story at the Fortress of
Louisbourg in Nova Scotia.
Then she sits in the same row as he is on the plane back to Toronto.
Then she finds out he lives across the street. And away we go......
The film is sexy. The best sex is verbal. Sitting in a cafe,
Margot asks Daniel to tell him what he would do to her. He does - in explicit
If this doesn't turn you on, nothing will.
Daniel (Luke Kirby)
The film is funny.
You can't have Sarah Silverman (Margot's "Alcoholics Anonymous" sister-in-law -
Geraldine) in a film
and not laugh out loud whenever she appears. Silverman is terrific.
But so are all the actors. Damien Atkins as the Aquafit Instructor is hilarious.
The casting is excellent.
Geraldine (Sarah Silverman)
The problem with
extra-marital affairs is that you take all your demons with you.
Changing partners doesn't change you. And as Geraldine says, "A happy life is
not always guaranteed."
In this case, we aren't really sure what is real and what is only in Margot's
but the journey with her is quite outstanding and memorable. It just might hit
Ladies, don't take your husband with you to see this film.
Tell him to see it on his own or not....
Review by Lois Siegel
Carlos Saura, 115 minutes,
The city is Buenos Aires, Argentina. Film director Mario Suarez is trying to
make the quintessential tango film. Love complicates the situation. "Tango" is a
creative delight, full of emotion and amazing visuals.
by Azazel Jacobs, 105 minutes, 2011,
We've all seen coming of age films, but "Terri,"
about a teenage fat boy who
wears pyjamas everywhere he goes because they
is a bit different. Yes, he's harassed at school
classmates, but he takes most of this in stride.
Terri Thompson (Jacob Wysocki) has
responsibilities that other kids don't have. He
is the sole caregiver for his Uncle James
who is only lucid some of the time.
He must have Alzheimer's or dementia...all we
know is that he forgets things and takes lots of
The film is about life and survival. It's
about how people relate and how
they take care of each other. It's slow moving,
but this gives you time to think about
what is happening.
Terri is a misfit, and he becomes part of a
of 'bad' kids who have to go to the principal's
office for various offenses.
The vice principal, Mr. Fitzgerald (John
C. Reilly), is special. He
dotes on his collection of weird kids.
Fitzgerald sums it up: "Life's
a mess, dude. People do the
best they can. I screw up all the time because
that's what people do."
Terri is about all the mistakes we make and how
we just keep
hanging in there....doing the best we can.
The film was a hit at the Sundance Film
That should tell you something.
Review by Lois
The Theory of Everything,
James Marsh, 2014,
Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones)
Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne)
The Theory of Everything is a romantic story
revealing the relationship between Stephen
Hawking and his wife Jane. It also shows the
devastating effects of Lou Gehrig’s disease on a
man who has become one of the most famous
scientists in the world, despite his severe
Science: Stephen Hawking is a theoretical
physicist. He tries to mathematically explain
how the universe works. Hawking is known for
recognizing that radiation is
released by black holes.
The story starts in Cambridge, England, 1963.
Hawking is a cosmology student, studying
He meets Jane Wyatt, who is studying medieval
Spanish poetry. He’s an atheist. She’s a member
of the Church of England. Opposites attract.
The story progresses quickly. Hawking begins to
drop things. When his condition becomes worse,
he’s diagnosed with motor neuron disease and
given only two years to live. Depression sets
in. It’s Wyatt who saves him. She refuses to
abandon him. They marry, and she supports him in
any way she can.
The film is outstanding as a biographical
portrait. Science is referred to but not
developed to any extent. This is a film about
people’s lives and how they cope with the
unexpected. Wyatt and Hawking’s fortitude
through these tenuous times is amazing. And
whatever turns their relationship takes, they
The acting by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones
They Shall Have Music, Directed by Archie Mayo, 105 minutes, 1939, USA
This 1939 film will delight the entire family. It tells the
story of a young boy who, running away from home and the law, stumbles onto a
music school for poor children. The children at the school are played
by members of the Peter Meremblum California Youth Symphony Orchestra. Their
performances are outstanding.
The highlight of the film for classical music lovers
are the live performances by
He plays the "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso" by
Camille Saint-Saëns with an
orchestra conducted by Alfred
Newman. The scenes where Jascha Heifetz is seen performing were
actually directed by William Wyler. Because of Heifetz' schedule, Sam Goldwyn
had to complete those scenes before he had assigned a director to film the rest
of the movie.
Things You Can Tell Just by Looking
at Her, Directed by
109 minutes, 2000, USA
The film has a great cast of actors: Glenn Close,
Cameron Diaz, Calista Flockhart, Holly Hunter, and Gregory Hines. Written and
directed by Rodrigo Garcia, son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez ("One Hundred Years of
Solitude"), the writing is reminiscent of Raymond Carver - rather
It won "Un Certain Regard" at Cannes 2000.
Directed by Eric Mendelsohn, 88 minutes, 2010, USA
One of the most
interesting and unusual films I’ve seen in a long time is “3 Backyards.” It’s
the exploration of three lives in one day in their lives, three stories that are
interwoven with each other. The pacing is slow and at the beginning, you are
not sure what is happening or what the theme is, but the stories grow on you and
by the end you are puzzled and transfixed on this peek into various lives of
individuals caught in a world they don’t always understand.
The acting is superb: Edie
Falco (Sopranos), Kathryn Erb (Law and Order: Criminal Intent), Elias Koteas
(Crash), Embeth Davidtz (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Danai Gurira, Rachel
“3 Backyards” won the Sundance
Directing Award 2010. Mendelsohn is the only director who has achieved this
award twice, first for “Judy Berlin” 1999.
Together, Directed by
Kaige Chen, 116 minutes,
A child violin prodigy travels with his peasant father to Beijing to pursue a
career in music. The scenes of China are wonderful. The performance music is
actually played by Li Chuanyun, a former prodigy who studied at Juilliard, not
the boy acting in the film.
San Sebastian International Film Festival: Best
Director, Kaige Chen, 2002.
Florida Film Festival: Audience Award, Best International Feature Film,
Too Far to Go,
Directed by Fielder Cooke, 98 minutes, USA
has a way of forcing people apart, either through their own doing or because of
circumstances. Cooke is a superb director. Every moment of the film is riveting.
Based on a series of short stories by John Updike, "Too Far to Go" stands out
from other films because of its precise language. Every word conveys a sharp
meaning - revealing the deterioration of a relationship that is disintegrating
after 20 years of marriage. For Richard (Michael Moriarty ) and Joan (Blythe
Danner) Maple, divorce is ahead. Neither one really likes the idea, but it is
inevitable, the result of a series of extramarital affairs. Their experiences
together are not without memories. Flashbacks of happier times are inserted into
the reality of the present. The film is sad because, in some ways, they really
do still like each other.
Days in the Valley, Directed by John
Herzfeld, 104 minutes, 1996, USA
Great acting, humor and constant unpredictable action, murder by day and night.
Sympathetic characters versus the bad guys, but there are good and bad guys on
both sides of the action. Very strange. Very entertaining.
Two-Lane Blacktop, Directed by Monte Hellman, 102 minutes, 1971, USA
This classic film is a must see for anyone who likes fast cars and road movies.
Two drag racing fanatics, obsessed with their cars, race across the countryside.
James Taylor stars in the film as The Driver of a 1955 souped-up Chevy.
Actor Warren Oats, his older rival, aka G.T.O., shows off his 1970 Pontiac. The
Mechanic is Dennis Wilson, drummer for The Beach Boys. And then there is Laurie
Bird, The Girl, a strange, hippy drifter who moves from one car to another, on
her way to nowhere.
They all seem to bond in a bizarre
friendship. Winning the race becomes secondary to something else along a
lonesome road always stretching ahead.
"Two Lane Blacktop" is an unusual trip with a variety of hitchhikers and
wonderful small-town scenery and townies in the southern states.
But don't expect any depth to the limited dialogue.
G.T.O.: I go fast
The Driver: You can never go fast enough.
95 minutes, 2006, U.K.
Starring Peter O'Toole, 75-years-old, still kicking
Growing old is not fun, unless you find out ways to make it more fun. Maurice
(Peter O'Toole) does his best to do just this. He's an aging actor looking for a
sensual diversion. He targets the niece, Jesse (Jodie Whittaker) of his best
friend, Ian (Leslie Phillips). What else is there for old folks to do.
Share pills ...the blue colors are good ones. What is there for an old man
to look forward to: rectal exams, needle pricks. An old actor can play a corpse.
That's about it. Or you can check out the obituaries every day to see who
gets the most column space. "When you die, everyone wants to be your friend,"
Ian says. But you can't even cut your own toenails.
The film becomes a bit of a taming of the shrew. The
unrefined niece has rough edges. O'Toole offers poetry like no one else
can in an attempt to soften her up, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day...."
Shakespeare and Maurice at his best.
The film is touching and humorous.
Perhaps O'Toole's Swan Song.
"Venus" was written by the talented Hanif Kureishi, author of "My Beautiful
Laundrette," directed by Stephen Frears. An extra treat: Vanessa Redgrave plays
Beauté (institut), Directed by
105 minutes, 1999, France
This film will test your patience with the up and down emotions of its main
But keep with it until the end. It's just quirky enough to work.
César Awards, 2000,
Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Young Actress.
2000 Seattle International Film Festival: Best
Actress (Nathalie Baye).
Adrienne Shelly, 107
minutes, 2007, USA
Can she bake a cherry pie? She sure can. This quirky comedy starts slowly,
but you quickly get sucked in to the off-beat nature of the film. It's not
predictable, and the acting is fine for this type of film - it's fun with
good characters. Adrienne Shelly, the director, skillfully plays Dawn, a
wallflower type, and
that creepy, psychotic "Six Feet Under" guy:
(Brenda’s younger brother),
plays Earl, aka Earlie.... and he's as creepy
is wonderful as Ogie... he looks like the name sounds. Ogie writes
spur-of-the-moment poetry.... and uses his verse to woo Dawn.
The main character is Jenna (Keri
Russell) a small town waitress at Joe's
Diner. She pregnant, has a nasty husband, but also has a knack for making
wonderful pies, which she names according to her mood. I didn't like the
ending of the film at all. It fell into the Hollywood, 'riding off into the
sunset' melodrama, but the rest of the film was worth it.
Shelly is best known for her association with
independent filmmaker Hal
The tragedy of this film is that
it was Adrienne Shelly's last. She was murdered November 1, 2006 in
NYC. Shelly died before learning her film,
"Waitress," had been accepted by the Sundance Film Festival.
Waydowntown, Directed by
87 min., 2000, Canada
Young office workers stake a month's salary on a bet to see who can stay
indoors the longest.
Good humor, inventive scenes,
as Brad creates a wonderful character. Great comedy.
The Way Way Back,
Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, 103 min.,
There have been many Coming-of-Age films over
the years: The 1959 classic “400 Blows” by
Truffaut starring Jean-Pierre Léaud;
Gregory’s Girl, 1981 Scottish comedy, written
and directed by Bill Forsyth, starring John
Gordon Sinclair, and 1991 “Flirting” by
Australian John Duigan, starring Noah Taylor,
Thandie Newton and Nicole Kidman.
Fast forward to 2013,
“The Way Way Back,” directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, centers around
Duncan (Liam James), 14, who is shy and awkward around others. His mother is
dating Trent (Steve Carell), who plays a really irritating, self-centered,
obnoxious divorcee. He’s very good at this, having lots of experience on the
TV show “The Office.”
We pick them up as they
are driving with Trent’s bratty daughter to his summer cottage in a small
village. Upon their arrival, we meet a ‘gang’ of reprehensible cottagers
who are loud and loathsome. This may turn you off the film, but wait. Give
it time. It gets much better. We need to know what Duncan is up against.
Enter Sam Rockwell, who
plays Owen. Sam works at Water Wizz water park. He’s a laid-back, hilarious
beach guy who loves a good time. His antics are entertaining and endearing.
His lines keep us laughing. And he becomes a mentor for Duncan. The water
park is a refuge for Duncan and for the audience. It offers relief from the
sad reality of family life that has gone wrong – where dysfunctional
relationships are the norm. The water park scenes will keep you laughing.
Incidentally, both of the film’s directors appear in the film and are very
funny in their water park roles as Roddy and Lewis.
Le Week-End, Directed by Roger
93 minutes, U.K./France, 2013
you remember the 60s and 70s, you may be living
this film. “Le Week-End plunges us into the life
of Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay
Duncan). They travel by train to Paris, where
they honeymooned 30 years ago, but we soon learn
that everything they have dreamed about is not
quite the same. They are older, they move
slower, their relationship is fraught with
conflict of desires. When the inexpensive hotel
they’ve chosen is disappointing, Meg flees, Nick
in chase, to a fancy location, with an elegant
suite and rooms with a view. All that’s required
is a credit card. Nick worries about money.
“What if we live longer,” he says. Meg wants to
enjoy life now. She raids the well-stocked
refrigerator as he frets.
Little things about Nick bother Meg. She
complains when he makes noise as he eats.
“People don’t change,” Nick says. “They do,” Meg
retorts. “They get worse.” The lyrics to Bob
Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” play in the
does it feel, how does it feel? To be without a
home - Like a complete unknown - Like a rolling
Meg wants a new start…excitement. Nick doesn’t
want his life to change. He dreads being
deserted. He loves her very much and clings a
bit. Despite their differences, they have
adventures together. They don’t have a lot of
money to spend, so they find solutions. Laughter
Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan)
By accident, they run into Morgan (Jeff
Goldblum), an old friend. He’s a successful
writer. “It’s a bad day for the English
language,” quips Nick about Morgan’s books. But
Morgan makes money - something Nick would love
to do. Nick is a philosophy professor who is
being forced into early retirement. Morgan is
flamboyant, excitable, vain and obviously rich.
His son from a former marriage is visiting from
the States. He says of his father, “Even his
emails are loud.” Morgan has a new, younger wife
who adores him for the moment. He knows this
won’t last, but for now she’s his “Mona Lisa.”
He invites Nick and Meg to a dinner party
celebrating his new book in his expensive abode
situated in a good Parisian neighborhood. The
guests all have credentials: writers, sculptors,
professors, journalists. It’s here that
unexpected revelations occur, changing the way
we look at Nick and Meg. We begin to understand
love and friendship and life goes on…
Nick (Jim Broadbent), Meg (Lindsay Duncan),
Morgan (Jeff Goldblum)
Week-End is a love story, although you’re not
always sure during the first part of the film.
It’s like Ernest Hemingway’s Moveable Feast:
“Never to go on trips with anyone you do not
love.” “If you are lucky enough to have lived in
Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for
the rest of your life, it stays with you, for
Paris is a moveable feast.”
acting is stellar. The writing masterful, filled
with humour, as well as sadness. Writer Hanif
Kureishi is known for his comedy dramas. You may
remember that he’s the screenwriter of “My
Beautiful Laundrette,” directed by Stephen
Review by Lois Siegel
Words and Pictures,
Directed by Fred Schepisi,
Juliette Binoche, Clive Owen
Words and Pictures is a romantic comedy.
The film opens cross-cutting between the two
main characters - the images take place at the
same time in two different locations. We see
them getting ready to go somewhere early
That somewhere happens to be an upscale
prep school. They are both teachers. Dina
Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) is an artist and new
to the school, and Jack Marcus
(Clive Owen) is an English instructor. He's been
there for many years.
Delsanto is also handicapped and walks with
difficulty, using a cane. She has rheumatoid
The two main
characters go through a series of conflicts in a love/hate/love relationship. The
screenwriter is Gerald Di Pego. What makes
this film work, besides the excellent acting, is
the cleverly written humour and the interesting
discussions about words and pictures by the two
Most of the students
only care about getting into a good school after
they graduate. Grades are key. Marcus calls then
Droids, as in robots possessing artificial
Delsanto is described as a painter who is known
The Icicle. It's rumoured that she caned a student
at her last school. But she's been a successful
artist, selling her work. Marcus, once a
talented writer, is now an
Delsanto teaches Honours Art, the Marcus teaches
Delsanto talks about skill plus feeling...
painting is a fine art. She says that words are
lies and a trap. That doesn't go over well with
Marcus. He loves
the power of words. He cares about them and
plays word games, challenging others.
The 'war' is on. Marcus challenges
Delsanto to a Words versus Pictures assembly in front of the entire school.
Review by Lois Siegel
A Year in
Provence, Directed by David Tucker, 90 minutes each episode, broken into
the four seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, U. K, 1993.
Produced by BBC-TV, in association with the
Arts & Entertainment Network.
Year in Provence,” is
a delightful film based on the book by Peter Mayle of the same name. The
Mayles leave their London digs and their busy lives and flee to a
200-year-old farmhouse in Provence to indulge in what they assume will be
the French joie de vivre. But these ideas suddenly change as they face many
unexpected traditions and a much slower pace in the countryside. One humorous situation after another
occurs as they learn to deal with everyday challenges.
“A Year in Provence” stars John Thaw as
Peter Mayle and Lindsay Duncan as Annie Mayle. The acting is superb. "A
Year in Provence" is a wonderful film about life in Southern France.
Directed by Volker
Schlöndorff, 87 minutes,
Based on the book
"The Confusions of Young Törless,"
by Austrian writer Robert Musil, "Young
is a chilling tale of things to come. The film focuses on Matthieu Carriere
who plays Luther, an intelligent boy attending an Austrian military boarding
school. He's shy and an observer. Luther watches his classmates'
sadistic behavior and abuse of power. The time is the early 1900s.
Filmed in black and white, the stark light and shadows convey a sense of
gloom as Luther discovers:
"There's not an evil world and a good world.
They exist together in the same world."
Törless" won the
1966 Cannes Film Festival
International Critic's Prize for First-Time Director. Volker Schlöndorff
worked as an assistant director with
well-known French filmmakers
Louis Malle and
Alain Resnais. He went on to win many
awards for his films. There's a wonderful interview with
Schlöndorff on the DVD.
The Young Victoria,
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, 100 minutes, 2009, UK &
A palace can be a prison, the young Victoria insists
when we first meet her. Indeed, she can’t even
walk down the stairs by herself. Someone has to
accompany her and hold her hand. When you are a Royal,
there are strict rules to be obeyed. Victoria adheres
to them until she becomes the new Queen, then she begins
to exercise her new-found power. But she has to learn
that people have agendas, and she doesn’t always make
the right decisions, with dire consequences.
Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend
from politics, the film is a romantic period piece about Victoria’s life
with Prince Albert. It is intriguing to view because of the elaborate sets,
the costumes, and the re-enactment of life at the time. The acting is
superb: Victoria (Emily Blunt), Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) and King
William (wonderfully interpreted by Jim Broadbent).
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