Tag: 2011


Oranges and Sunshine

July 7th, 2014 — 12:08am

***Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 1.07.56 AM

Oranges and Sunshine-nf This film is a good example of how we might rate a film 3/5 and yet highly recommend it as one that should be seen by anyone who cares about social injustice. There are many better examples of dramatic films with unforgettable performances by talented actors and directors, which will win Academy Award nominations. But this Australian film directed by Jim Loach with a screenplay by Rona Munro plods along but rivets our attention because it tells the true story of a historical event that we and we are sure many other people had no idea had occurred. It is about a British social worker by the name of Margaret Humphreys who in the 1980s stumbles upon the situation that in the 1940s and 50s the British government deported to Australia young children born to troubled poor mothers who couldn’t care for their kids. The mothers were often told that the children were being adopted in England by various couples although if they did make efforts they would not be able to track them down. The truth was that they lived in various orphanages in Australia in very dire circumstances, were treated very badly and many were abused. During this blight on British history there were 130,000 children who went through this pipeline to Australia. They never had a chance to find out who their mothers were and whether they were still alive. Margaret Humphreys (played by Emily Watson) at first took on the task of trying to help some of these now adults find their mothers. She then devoted herself to exposing this great injustice in addition to reuniting these adults with their mothers when possible. We see how she set up a program in Australia where most of these orphans lived and held some reunions with each other. We also see a scene in a monastery, which may have been the site of some of the stories of abuse. There was a scary episode where an intruder who seems to be warning her to cease her efforts, threatens Ms. Humphreys at night. It is a weakness of the film that we never learn more about the nature of these threats. Ms. Humphrey made efforts to publicize the story of these mass deportations in the media and to get the government to help in her endeavors. She spent an increasing amount of time in Australia, away from her own family. Some of the horrors that the children went through are related in excellent performances by Hugo Weaving and David Wenham. We learn during the credits at the end of the film that it was not until 2010 that the British government acknowledged its mistake and the Prime Minister apologized. It was at that point that we learned of the tremendous number of children that had gone through this disruption of their lives with all its repercussions. As a sidebar we are reminded of the large number of films that we have seen as well as some true life stories that we have heard, which  in some way recount the desire to reunite with one’s biological parents. Of course in the situations recounted in this film, these people did not have parents who adopted them. Some discussion of this topic can be found in MB’s blog http://www.psychiatrytalk.com/2014/04/the-search-for-a-persons-biological-identity/  (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History

Romantics Anonymous

July 13th, 2013 — 5:34am

Romantics Anonymous****

Romantics Anonymous- nf- (French with subtitles) This is a romantic comedy about an extremely anxious and shy woman (Isabelle Carre)  who is hired  at a chocolate factory to be a sales representative,  by the owner (Benoit Poelvoorde), who is equally anxious and shy. In fact, he sees a therapist on a regular basis who gives him little assignments to carry out to try to socialize him. She is in a therapy group of equally afflicted men and women who tell their stories while supporting each other. She is actually a talented chocolate maker but is afraid to let it be known because she feels she couldn’t handle the recognition. The screenplay is by Diane Bardinet and by Director Jean Pierre Ameris. The writing, direction and magnificent  acting  results in a laugh out loud comedy which also tugs at your heart and has you rooting for the characters. Perhaps it is characteristically French that even after the couple eventually have sex together they are still hilariously shy and anxious about being together. This is really a gem of a movie that should not be missed.(2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Foreign, Romance

New Year’s Eve

June 8th, 2013 — 6:10pm

New Year's Eve***1/2

New Year’ Eve –nf  This is a movie that is perfect to see with your lover, young or old and might be especially nice to curl up with this person on New Year’s Eve. It is also a New York film  and a good part of it includes Times Square, getting ready to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve as well as Mayor Bloomberg. The screen play, by Katherine Fugate, consists of several stories that show people’s various romances and loving situations  which is brought out in anticipation of the new year. So this a romantic film  in the traditional sense  with the usual clichés but it also includes the love between a mother and her young daughter and a daughter and her older father. The new year brings new beginnings and also new chances for the future. However, the film is also a comedy which should not be surprising since the Director is Garry Marshall. Part of the fun of this movie is to identify this amazing cast which is somewhat characteristic of a Marshall film. It  includes Hilary Swank, Zac Efron, Ashton Kutcher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Katherine Heigel, Robert DiNero, Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Sophia Vegara, Mathew Broderick, Josh Duhamel, Jim Belushi  and others. These stars don’t just have walk on parts, as each one plays an important role in his or her mini-story. There are also acting and singing roles for Jon Bon Jovie and Lea Michele (of Glee fame). In the film you can also find Garry Marshall’s sister Penny, his wife Barbara, his granddaughter and a couple other people named Marshall. There is a small role for Hector Elizondo, a veteran actor and friend of the director  who     is in many of his films. The movie offers several surprises and in the end you should feel satisfied. If you stay for the credits you get a bunch of out takes which adds to the fun experience of seeing this film. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

In the Land of Blood and Honey

July 24th, 2012 — 9:37pm

***

In the Land of Blood and Honey-nf –Most people probably have some understanding that there was a very bitter civil war in the former Yugoslavia, now Bosnia and Herzegovina which took place between 1992-1995. The acclaimed actress Angelina Jolie  who has served as UN Goodwill Ambassador during her travels learned some the details of the horrors of this conflict which included attempts at ethnic cleansing mostly by the Bosnian Serbs against the Bosnian Croats many of whom have Moslem background. This led her to write this screenplay which she directed and co-produced. It is the story of Danijel (Goran Kostic), a Bosnian Serb soldier serving under his father’s command who encounters his pre-war girl friend, Ajla (Zana Marjonovic) when she is captured by his troops and forced to work as a sex slave. She has seen the able bodied men of her city rounded up and systematically executed while so many of the women are brutally raped and made to serve the captors. Yet she is drawn into this complex and conflicted relationship with Danijel. In a most painful 2 hours and 7 minutes the horrors of this war taking place in and around the city of Sarajevo which is in a state of siege are shown. There were many graphic and dramatic scenes. Using women as hostage shields as the Serbs approached their enemy who were firing from a building was quite unforgettable. Some of the dialog between the characters attempted to describe the history of this conflict but it is much too complex for it to be clearly appreciated . We are given the impression that the Serbs were the really bad people in this conflict, which was probably true. The romance between the two lovers is also shown to be quite complex and we are never sure of Ajla’s true feelings about her captor/lover. Both of the lead actors  were born in this region of the world and there were two versions of the film made, one in English and the other in their native language. It must of have been quite an accomplishment for Jolie to pull off the latter feat. It was difficult enough for us to absorb the full meaning of this terrible period of history even in English. (2011)

1 comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, Romance, War

50/50

April 24th, 2012 — 10:26pm

***

50/50- nf  A 27 year old single guy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)  gets a diagnosis of cancer with a 50/50 chance of survival. His girl friend (Bryce Dallas Howard) gets him a boney dog but can’t handle the situation and they break up. His mother (Angelica Huston) as usual tries to smother him. His best buddy (Seth Rogen) sticks by him and decides that this will be a great pick up line to get girls. Rogen’s comedic style carries the movie and allows a painful subject to be appreciated in a more palatable manner. Admittedly as a psychiatrist and a social worker who have trained medical students and physicians how to talk to patients, it was disappointing to see the cancer specialist as being quite insensitive. It also was a little disheartening to see the student therapist (Anna Kendrick) who was supposed to help him deal with the situation, act out a romantic crush that she developed for him. But it was done in good taste and, after all, it is only a movie. On the other hand the back-story for the film is quite authentic. As shown in the bonus feature of the DVD, the script writer (Will Reiser) actually lived this story and his best friend who stood by him through this ordeal was Seth Rogen. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Bernie

April 7th, 2012 — 9:46pm

***

Bernie-sp  This film is what you might call a dark comedy in that it is funny but about a somewhat morbid subject. It is set in a small east Texas town. The story features numerous characters from this town who like a Greek chorus comment on the main protagonist, Bernie Tiede (Jack Black).  He was most beloved man to just about all the folks, even after he did something which according to any law, especially Texas law, should be unforgivable. Tiede is an assistant funeral director, comforter of those grieving, a creative employee, a talented musical director, actor and ultimately even a generous philanthropist. Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) is one of the many widows who Bernie genuinely wants to comfort. She differs from the other widows we meet in two ways. She is ultra wealthy and ultra nasty. Danny Buck  (Matthew McConnaughey, somehow made to be more lanky than hunky) is the local district attorney who has the job to call it like it is, even if the town folks Greek Chorus feels otherwise. We get the feeling from the producer Judd Payne, who spoke at our screening and grew up in such an area, as did writer and director Richard Linklater, that you have to be from that kind of a small western or southern town to appreciate how authentically the average folks in the film were depicted. To us they seemed somewhat stereotyped even after we learned many of these character actors were from small towns in this area.

Black’s portrayal dominates the screen as he gets into the skin of his unusual character. it also gives him a little chance to dance and sing in addition to emoting. The end result is more than just a fun experience as you come away with some questions to ponder in analyzing the films resolution. (2012

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Crime

Beginners

March 14th, 2012 — 5:29pm

***

Beginners- nf   We chose to see this movie after Christopher Plummer was awarded the Oscar as best supporting actor for playing a dying 75 year old man who reveals to Oliver his son (Ewan McGregor) that he is gay and wants to come out. He finds a  lover , Andy (Goran Visnjic-we remember him from the  “ER” TV series  ) and has his brief time as a man in love. During this time Oliver meets a quirky beautiful French actress (Melanie Laurent). They are both drawn to each other and it becomes apparent that they both have trouble with relationships perhaps because of the nature of their parent’s relationships. He, having a hidden gay dad, a mom who thought she could fix him and was depicted as not feeling fulfilled. She, with a father who confesses his despair and suicidal thoughts to her rather than to his wife. Director Mike Mill’s put together this story based on his own relationship with his own father and attempts to fill in the picture with mostly skillful shifts of time sequences. It isn’t the story that gives the movie value but it is the complex portrayal of the characters which is done very well. However, with the exception of Oliver we don’t have much of a back-story of the other characters, so in the end, the movie didn’t meet it’s full potential or our expectations. (2011) 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Footnote

February 23rd, 2012 — 5:03pm

 ***

Footnote – sp  Imagine a father and son both working in the same scholarly professional  field.  The son receives wide recognition that has always eluded the father. One day the father receives a phone call telling him that he has finally been awarded the countries top award for work. in his field. The son receives a frantic phone call to come to a special meeting where he was told that his father was mistakenly notified by the person who made the call who thought she was calling the son. This is part of the original premise of this screenplay by Joesph Cedar who also directed the movie  and earned for this Israeli entry one of the five nominations for best foreign films in this year’s Oscar race.  This film examines the father (Sholomo Bar Aha)  son (Lior Ashkenazi ) relationship in the context where the father does not respect the academic work of the son . The movie is set in the esoteric world of Talmudic scholars specializing in philology (which is the study of language in written historical documents), which in this case takes place at an academic department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Bar Aha who is a well known television and stage actor in Israel,  has very few lines in the film which he dominates with his presence and his ultimate dilemma . The unique plot is riveting at times and while there are universal conflicts embedded in the story, some of the lack of empathy that father has for son and son has for his own son will be difficult to identify with by most of the audience. You will leave the film, stimulated and provoked, but not likely very satisfied.(2011),

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Uncategorized

The Forgiveness of Blood

February 13th, 2012 — 7:29am

***

The Forgiveness of Blood- sp  This  film takes us  to a place in northern Albania about which we know very little. We see people living in a rural setting filled with horse drawn carts and pickup trucks but yet homes with satellite TV and the Internet as well as teenagers going to school and hanging out with cell phones. Then we are introduced to the existence of  a practice that has been in existence for at least a half of a millennium  of blood feuds that occur when someone has killed a person and revenge is exacted on the members of the murderers family by the dead person’s family.  This means that the males of the targeted family must stay hidden at home away from work or school or risk being killed. This leaves the wife and the daughters with the task of going to work. Although this form of justice takes place outside the nascent legal system of this former communist country, it can be modified by mutually agreed upon  mediator with a besa  (or truce) being arranged all under guidelines of some ancient set of oral rules passed down through the many generations. The story of how this phenomena was recognized by an American filmmaker who started off with no special connection to Albania and was turned into a script and then a movie is almost as interesting as the film  itself. Joshua Marston (director and writer of Maria Full of Grace) after hearing about these feuds decided to travel to Albania and try to make a movie about it. He made a connection with Andamion Murataj, an Albanian filmmaker living and working in New York for the past 15 years. They traveled to Albania, visiting as many people, families and schools to understand this widespread situation which has been still estimated to effect thousands of people in the last 20 years. They wrote a screenplay which shows their story through the eyes of an 18 year old boy who is  caught in the middle of such a feud when his father kills another man in a fight over the right to drive his horse pulled delivery truck over another man’s property. Many of the actors  especially the teenagers and younger siblings were chosen from improvised casting sessions in local schools. The resultant film is a very professional, realistic depiction  of the painful impact on the families of the  blood feud, especially on the children. The filmmakers tendency to linger on the experience that the targeted  family members were going through made you appreciate their despair although at times it seems that we were living through it in real time. Nevertheless, you come away from this movie moved and informed about an ancient practice that continues in modern times in a distant land. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

February 10th, 2012 — 7:31pm

*****

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- rm   It is very fitting that on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 a major movie should emerge that captures the personal emotion that so many New Yorkers experienced as over 3000 lives were evaporated in just a few hours with probably close to 10,000 children losing a parent. The screenplay by Eric Roth (who also wrote  Forest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)  based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, achieved this feat by not only recreating the pieces of horror that so many people went through that day but it went several steps further and deeper. The movie exposed the idealized bond between father and son which when it is there, is the most extreme tragedy to lose. We also come to appreciate how sad it is when it was never there and what could have been. Just as you think that this is just about the father-son attachments, we are shown the  love and attachment that a surviving mother might have to her grieving child. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock are excellent as the parents as is Thomas Horn as a quirky pre-teen (possibly with Asbergers Syndrome)   who finds a way to speak or show what he is thinking and feeling. John Goodman, Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright turned in great performances in smaller but key roles in the film.  Stephen Daldry should get kudos if not some tangible award for   pulling all this together as the director. However it is Max Von Sydow the veteran 83 year old actor,  who plays the old man with a special connection to the others, who never utters one word in the movie but  may have turned in the standout performance of this film. The storyline may be considered by some to be a little contrived but we understood it to be an allegory where a a young boy’s trip  through the five boroughs of Manhattan is a search for growth in himself.  We  found this movie to be a tear jerker in no uncertain terms. All Americans identified and connected to those fateful events.  But if you were in New York during 9/11 and even if you were fortunate enough not to have lost a loved one, you had to have been affected by what was going on around you. We recalled the cars in our suburban parking lot that were not picked up that evening by the commuters who never came home. We remember the thousands of homemade posters that were put up all over Manhattan describing their loved ones who were listed “as missing” when it was clear that they really had perished. We know all our lives will never be same again. Having lived through this, makes this film all the more meaningful.  It will be interesting to see if people are ready to see this movie or if the painful hype that invariably will accompany it will keep it from being a big box office success. If New Yorkers were the only ones voting it might emerge as the Oscar winner but in any case this movie will be part of the history which will define  this past decade. (2011)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

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