What We Learned This Week: October 14-27

LESSON #1: THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON MAY BECOME THE MOST IMPORTANT FILM OF 2019— Look at me writing a clickbait headline.  I, and many others, think the world of this film (5-star review), but it is now making an impact far bigger in the grand scheme of things than another Scorsese masterpiece entry or Marvel blockbuster. Thanks to its emerging star Zack Gottshagen, The Peanut Butter Falcon has started a groundswell of hiring and representation for performers with intellectual disabilities, as outlined in a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter. That is absolutely huge and a benefit far greater to the industry than hardware and money. This is, without a doubt, the best industry story I’ve seen this month and maybe this year. Folks, see this film for how special it is and not just because of the “special” people in it. 

LESSON #2: GET THE BIG MONEY OUT OF THE OSCARS— I wonder if casual fans notice as much of the “For Your Consideration” stuff as a film critic like myself does.  I’m guessing people see the extra language on marketing materials and maybe the occasional magazine ad. Folks, let me tell you, the studio-powered promotion machines to get their films front-and-center for awards season are unchecked and on the same level as all the wild political campaigning you see in public life.  While I’m happily inundated with screeners and materials during this time of year as a critic in two awards-voting bodies, I can do the math on the sheer volume of money being spent just to get a name or two mentioned and it’s completely too much. Sadly, these full-court press tactics work on the weak groupthink voters at all the levels of this industry.  Voters should be more discerning rather than easily fickle and the pushiness should stop. More people are finally standing up to say something about it and I’ll join them.  

LESSON #3: THERE ALMOST ALWAYS COMES A POINT WHERE A FREE GOOD THING WILL SOMEDAY COST MONEY— I was as surprised and bummed as any other casual box office statistics fan when levels of the Box Office Mojo site where absorbed by the subscription-required IMDb Pro site. Amazon has owned Box Office Mojo since 2008, where I’m surprised it took this long for such a switch.  The basics are there, but the original site was so much tighter and immersive with its data. The new one is very watered down. Let’s see if it can evolve back into an industry leader.

LESSON #4: EASY ON THE INFLATED TROPHIES, HOLLYWOOD BEAN COUNTERS— Speaking of Box Office Mojo, the congratulatory headlines were inescapable this week that Joker will “officially” become the highest grossing R-rated film of all-time.  Child, please.  I do this often, but go to the inflation-adjusted numbers and slow your roll, folks.  Joker has earned over $250 million domestically and triple that overseas and deserves every success, no doubt.  But wake me up when it touches (let alone climbs near the top of) the Top 200 on the all-time inflation-adjusted list before you start handing out those title belts. It’s not catching The Exorcist at #9 or many more of the R-rated films on that list.  Dream on, Warner Bros.

LESSON #5: EVERYONE NEEDS A BREAK AND SHOULD TAKE ONE— I applaud 23-year-old Timothee Chalamat who spoke to Vogue about desperately needing to take a break from acting after a solid few years of constant work. Other actors have done it for years and it’s always a smart play for physical, mental, and emotional recharge and renewal.  As they say, “absence away makes the heart grow fonder.” Expect a committed and improved Chalamat when you see him after. More actors should do this, if even for the fact of not becoming overused and overexposed, let alone to recuperation.

LESSON #6: DON’T BEAT DEAD HORSES— In the latest log on the fire stoked by many of Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy, something that was ran into the ground will now be dusted off and run into the ground again.  Disney has tabbed Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin to join franchise writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio to reboot the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.  I know I’ve said it somewhere before in this column, but put some time between death and rebirth.  Sure, when you go all the way back to 2003, it will be nearly 20 years since the first movie, but it’s only been two years since its last one.  Wait twenty years after that instead and then dazzle us with a new take in 2037. Go away and try your own “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” We still freshly remember the s–t show.

LESSON #7: SLOW THE F–K DOWN, YOU BINGER— Speaking of taking a break, the entertainment you consume is supposed to be rich and entertaining experience.  Why would you speed it up just to get more? Word around the campfire is Netflix is experimenting with the possible setting of showing its content at 1.5x speed.  Come on, man.  Have some patience.  Part of the magic of film and TV shows is the editing of pace and timing.  Those are crucial and deliberate creative traits. Don’t ruin that because of your impatience.  

LESSON #8: IF YOU WANT CUSTOMERS, GIVE SOMETHING EXCITED AWAY— Verizon isn’t hurting for business or customers, but you know they’ve dropped the swag of swag in offering full-year Disney+ subscriptions to new and existing unlimited data home and wireless customers.  That sure beats a toaster or set of steak knives. Good luck topping that, Sprint and T-Mobile. Well played, Verizon.  

LESSON #9: TURN UP THE BRIGHTNESS ON THE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE— I won’t jump to the alarmist “ruining the the theatrical experience” level that Edward Norton in implying in a recent interview in The Daily Beast, but the firebrand actor that never minces his words is right.  Improper brightness and poor sound in cheap and untrained theater chains can make a bad enough viewing experience to turn off ticket-paying moviegoers.  If you’re going to pay today’s full prices on the promises of a superior experience to the 4K and HD stuff capable from your couch, you should get it. The luminosity talk in his interview was fascinating.  I notice it too and he isn’t wrong.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#119)

What We Learned This Week: September 1-14

LESSON #1: MY FELLOW FILM CRITICS, CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE— As a press credentialed and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic myself, I’m sorry in advance, but I need to partially call out a one of my own. The first is Alex Billington of First Showing for being too much about being F1RST.  His work is solid and his site is one of the more dependable websites for actual movie news and less click bait, but, simply put, he broke the rules he agreed upon when he put on the Venice Film Festival press badge.  He was upset when one of his reviews broke embargo rules.

Here’s the link to the “open letter” editorial that followed. For those of you playing at home, we critics are bound to something like reverse deadlines, namely firm times requested by the studios that are the earliest reactions and reviews are allowed to run.  I don’t like them anymore than Alex does, but they are the rules and the studios or festivals have the right to control thier message and product.  Abiding by embargoes are part of the deal of being so damn lucky enough to be in Venice, Telluride, Cannes, or Toronto seeing a huge movie for free before everyone else.  Access is the reward before your page clicks.  Be happy you have it in the first place.  We are spoiled every week by an embarassment of riches for shiny pieces of entertainment.  Besides, we critics get to cheat with social media before full reviews:

This is where I can agree with Alex.  However, that small shout-out should be enough to keep business and attention going.  Harmony and health take patience.  I don’t like it, but I respect the rules.  People that break them can ruin things for the rest of us lower down the ladder.

LESSON #2: THE ASSIGNED DESCRIPTORS OF “GARBAGE” OR “TRASH” IS NOT PROFESSIONAL FILM CRITICISM— I’ll take another shot at my own kind, but I’ll leave the name out this time.  Call this a general warning for anyone who sounds even close to this, even at at the Letterboxd level.  If, as a supposedly professional film critic, all of your learned expertise, curated reflection, and skillfull high-mindedness within the medium of film, lead you to the molehill peak of calling a film “trash” or “garbage,” then, I’m sorry, you’re not a professional film critic.  You are BS artist of hyperbole and click bait.  You haven’t learned tact.  You haven’t met a thesaurus.  You haven’t learned creativity in putting substance into opinions.  Using that poorly formed wording in what is supposed to be a professional piece is a careless and irresponsible trigger.  And when you don’t back it up, you’re just asking for folks to call into question the quality of your writing, if not the quality of your personal character as well.  Aim higher.  Write better.

LESSON #3: STREAMING SERVICES DESERVE BETTER— Just when I thought the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put a positive public gavel down for the inclusion of films from streaming services in year-end awards for the whole industry to follow, we digress to a story like what came out of the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival this week.  Certain theater vendors would not welcome Netflix or Amazon-backed films to screen for competition during the festival.  This has been silly and elitist for too long.  Have the likes of Roma taught us nothing? Let the art compete.  Source shouldn’t matter.

LESSON #4: YOU NEED TO BE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF IMDB TV— In the recommendation slot of this week’s column, I, a new Amazon Fire Stick owner, have discovered the IMDb TV app.  Their selection of streamable films and shows, which includes award winners like La La Land and Silver Linings Playbook and classics like Dune, High Noon, and The Karate Kid, is outstanding for the free price of sitting through some occasional ads.  Seek it out on your devices and players at home.


 

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#115)

What We Learned This Week: August 11-17

LESSON #1: “YOU KEEP USING THAT WORD. I DO NOT THINK IT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS”— No, I’m not calling on Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride to talk about “masterpiece” again.  The word this week that is coming out all wrong from too many people is “monopoly,” as in “Disney is/has a monopoly and needs to be broken up.”  Let me boldface pieces of three variations of the word’s definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:exclusive ownership through legal privilege, command of supply, or concerted action,” “exclusive possession or control,” and “a commodity controlled by one party.”  Look, I’m not a fan of Disney’s dominance any more than the next discerning consumer, but what’s happening isn’t a monopoly.  No matter how many brands they own or manage, Disney not the exclusive or singular entity dictating any possession or control beyond their own property.  There are plenty of other entertainment providers, movie studios, merchandise makers, and whatnot. What’s really going on is sustained success. Monopolies of success aren’t illegal.  The competitors are just aren’t doing as good of business as Disney. If you want to beat Disney, make better products and do better business, plain and simple. So, until Disney buys Sony, Comcast (Universal), Warner Bros., Viacom (Paramount), Netflix, Amazon, and about a dozen smaller shingles where they are the only store on the block, stop calling what them a monopoly.  

 

LESSON #2: JUST MAKE A NEW OR REPACKAGED SPECIALTY BRAND ALREADY— Speaking of Disney and their monstrous image, their larger flaw of vanity is thinking everything with their logo on it has to be family-friendly.  Word around the campfire is that Disney investers are “worried” about the farcical and crude Nazi content of Taika Waititi’s awards season contender Jojo Rabbit and the negative optics it would bring to the brand.  Combine that with the Fox cuts listed in this column space last week and we’re seeing more buyer’s remorse than creative courage. Come on, Disney. You’ve reached a point where your brand is nearly untouchable.  And, if you’re so worried, take a page out of your own playbook from decades ago and revive/create a new brand or branch to launch the non-kiddie stuff that has potential. Disney used to start and own distributor hubs like Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Dimension Films, and, for a time, Miramax.  Bring one of those back or, hell, call it 20th Century Fox. Problem solved and the creators and audiences don’t lose out to the prudes.

LESSON #3: SMOKING SHOULD NOT BE PUT ON THE SAME LEVEL AS SEX AND VIOLENCE— Here’s a taller soapbox then Lesson #1.  Forty-three attorney generals from our nation of fifty recently composed a letter addressed to the major entertainment companies (including Disney, Amazon, and Netflix) urging a so-called “open dialogue” about the steps to “eliminate or exclude tobacco imagery in all future original streamed content for young viewers” and demanding “content with tobacco imagery should be rated R or TV-MA and be recommended only to adult viewers.”  Yes, tobacco is a national health problem, but not to this degree. Doing so would penalize many classic movies rather than make those films teachable moments with smoking’s inclusion.   The editorial staff from the Chicago area’s Daily Herald outlined several examples of movies, from Casablanca to Ghostbusters, whose value and messages supercede the superficially visible tobacco use.  I feel like the mistake in this, isn’t the movies. It’s the parenting that throws any movie on and doesn’t take interest or talk out what is being shown for entertainment or enlightenment.  Parents, this should be on us and not new ratings.

LESSON #4: BOX OFFICE DATA IS ANOTHER PIECE OF EVIDENCE THAT 2019 HAS BEEN A DOWN YEAR FOR BLOCKBUSTERS— Back in the day, a movie hitting $100 million domestically was considered a splashy hit.  Today, with inflation and bigger budgets being thrown around, that magic number feels more like $300 million.  According to data posted in The Hollywood Reporter for a story entitled “The Vanishing $200 Million Blockbuster” by Stephen Galloway, six movies so far in 2019 have topped $300 million stateside (some have of those have doubled it).  Oddly though, no movie has finished between $200-$300 million in their final tally after eight movies did a year ago.  Now you see where the story title comes from and the feast-or-flop vibe feels spot-on when you look beyond the top dogs to the rest of the 2019 spring and summer earning performances.   The duds outnumber the studs by a large margin. These are just the big totals, though. This has nothing to do with profit. There’s still a whole cottage industry of horror and genre films that triple their shoestring budgets in their opening weekends, let alone their entire run.  Still take this as a temperature check of box office health for this down year.

LESSON #5: SPIKE LEE HAS DAMN GOOD TASTE— In the recommendation slot, we go from Christopher Nolan last week to Spike Lee this week.  On his Kickstarter page, the BlacKKKlansman Oscar winner has a famed list of 100 essential films for every aspiring director.  It’s a doozy of a roster with wide representation and solid tastes. Make it your own college course at home like you’re online undergrad enrolled at NYU and let streaming services and library rentals take care of the rest.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#111)

What We Learned This Week: July 28-August 10

LESSON #1: PRICE POINT ALWAYS WINS— I’ve brought out this lesson often over the years here on WWLTW because it’s continuously true.  The latest case is the ocean of drool and the shipwrecks of dropped jaws this week when Disney revealed the initial bundled price to add ESPN+ and Hulu to their upcoming Disney+ streaming service.  As if the bulk year price of $69.99 or $5.83 per month wasn’t already amazing (and with this opening lineup menu), the triple-service package will only cost $12.99.  That’s the wealth of Disney, the range of Hulu, and the top network for all-things sports for LESS than the price of just Netflix.  Sure, Disney might (and certainly will) raise that price within the first year or two, but, by golly, they are playing hardball with price point and competition.  $13 for all that will make digital lines around the download block come November 12th.  Your move, Amazon (who re-upped with Bleecker Street’s content) and Netflix, especially for the latter which just had its first drop of subscribers in company history and a recent $26 billion fall in market value.  Yikes!

LESSON #2: WHEN ONE DOOR OPENS, ANOTHER ONE CLOSES, AND THEN ANOTHER ONE GETS REPAIRED— Before Disney becomes even more flush with steady cash this November, the Mouse House did announce what they consider a business loss this week.  According to reports, the Fox movies they acquired from their buyout under-performed to a $170 million quarterly loss.  Even for a profitable place like Disney, that’s haircut that still stings.  The Disney brass announced they will scale back film development under the Fox label while rebooting/remaking key properties and franchises like Home AloneNight at the MuseumDiary of a Wimpy KidCheaper by the Dozen, Planet of the Apes, and giving the Marvel titles to Kevin Feige.  I can’t say I’m surprised by Disney’s lack of effort to support their Fox wing.  I think we all knew an eventual and full dissolution was possible.  Some of that starts here.

LESSON #3: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS REQUIRES INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR— Speaking of streaming services, I discovered this little story that may cause potential hazards for the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, and Disney.  Last year, the European Union passed a ruling requiring that VOD services have 30% of their content sourced in Europe, with Australian interested in a similar measure.  That’s a bold “buy local”-ish mandate that may have those streaming companies scrambling to stay within new requirements.  I think that counts as a powerful effort to retain and promote homegrown products next to the shiny imports.  This is a fascinating and fortunate victory for foreign filmmakers and entertainment entities.

LESSON #4: BELIEVE THAT SHIA LEBEOUF IS A NEW MAN— How many of us wrote off Shia LeBeouf in the last five to ten years?  Between social media rants, odd acting choices, and a tail-spinning personal life, the Transformers star hit rock bottom.  I am pleased to announce that he is back and has come through wise beyond his 33-years.  Variety has an excellent interview where the LeBeouf calls himself “softer.”  If you need evidence, seek out The Peanut Butter Falcon debuting this coming week in limited release.

It might be the best I’ve ever seen Shia LeBeouf act.  Yet, he looks like he’ll top himself in the semi-autobiographical film Honey Boy coming this fall that outlines a child actors tragic ups-and-downs with Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges ostensibly playing Shia while LeBeouf plays the hard father.

The guy is showing his talent and laying his soul bare.  Come and witness this because we don’t see resurrections like this often and I couldn’t be happier for him.

LESSON #5: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN HAS DAMN GOOD TASTE— In the closing recommendation slot, the verbiage of this lesson shouldn’t be a surprise among those here in the Feelin’ Film circle of Christopher Nolan worshipers.  While you all wait and over-analyze every shred of possibility for his upcoming Tenet before it arrives next year, build a playlist of thirty Nolan-recommended favorites and improve your palette and nose for damn good movies.  Compiled by Indiewire from interview quotes over the years, this list could fill a one-a-week education between now and Tenet.  Enjoy!

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#110)

You Should Be Watching: November 15-21

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

Just a couple weeks of FilmStruck availability left, so watch while you still can. Thankfully, Kanopy also offers a couple of this week’s featured picks, so you can watch there as well.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


8 1/2

  

Year: 1963

Director: Federico Fellini

Genre: Fantasy, Drama

Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo, Rossella Falk, Barbara Steele, Madeleine Lebeau, Caterina Boratto, Eddra Gale, Guido Alberti, Mario Conocchia, Bruno Agostini, Cesarino Miceli Picardi, Jean Rougeul, Mario Pisu, Yvonne Casadei, Ian Dallas, Mino Doro, Nadia Sanders

When the time came for Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini to follow up his 8th feature film, the highly acclaimed La Dolce Vita, he found himself with an extreme case of writer’s block. Rather than fight it, he embraced it and instead put it on film. The end result is one of the most fascinating, surreal, and frankly educational movies that blends reality with fantasy to immerse the viewer into the mind and creative process of a master artist. The main character of 8 ½ is Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), a famous filmmaker suffering from writer’s block, clearly a stand-in for Fellini himself.

The opening dream sequence makes it clear that this film will be nowhere near conventional. The man who is later revealed as Guido finds himself trapped in a car in the midst of a major traffic jam. Everyone else stares at him as he is being choked to death by gas pouring into his vehicle as he tries frantically to escape out the window. This representation of the emotions Guido is enduring are also mashed up into other aspects of the thought process–dreams, memories, hopes, fears, fantasies, regrets, and attempts to make sense of life. And as in a series of dreams, he jumps back and forth through the experiences and emotions of the past and present, from his Roman Catholic upbringing to the complicated feelings of puberty and struggles with lust as he visually and verbally attempts to process it all.


Secrets & Lies

Year: 1996

Director: Mike Leigh

Genre: Drama

Cast: Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Phyllis Logan, Claire Rushbrook, Lee Ross, Lesley Manville, Elizabeth Berrington, Michele Austin, Ron Cook, Trevor Laird, Brian Bovell, Emma Amos, Clare Perkins, Elias Perkins McCook, Jane Mitchell, Janice Acquah, Keylee Jade Flanders

Throughout this painful yet touching 1996 British family drama, director Mike Leigh demonstrates an understanding for what makes people tick. He gets their fears and foibles, their hurts and prejudices, their tendencies to hide uncomfortable truths from their loved ones, the struggles of both parents and children to connect, the way bottled up emotions can wreak havoc on a marriage. Quite simply, he gets people.

It doesn’t matter whether that person is an accomplished mixed race optometrist named Hortense Cumberbatch (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) who was adopted at birth and is now seeking her birth parents or whether that person is Hortense’s birth mother Cynthia Rose Purley (Brenda Blethyn), who is emotionally fragile and struggling to connect with the nearly 21-year-old Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook), the only daughter she’s ever known. Or then there’s Maurice, Cynthia’s brother, played by Timothy Spall, who finds himself trying to bear the weight of both Cynthia’s problems and his own frustrations and weariness with continually trying to care for his wife’s needs while simultaneously bear up under the emotional abuse he’s receiving from her due to her strained physical and emotional state. Everyone is going to great effort to keep uncomfortable truths hidden, with the effect that there is an ever present tension that is begging to be released.

The technical qualities of the filmmaking are brilliant, from the contrasts set up in the frame and between characters to the choreography of a tension-filled birthday dinner. And quite simply, it’s beautiful, thought-provoking storytelling and extremely relevant to anyone who might be tempted to go it alone.


Sansho the Bailiff

  

Year: 1954

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi

Genre: Drama

Cast: Kinuyo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Kyôko Kagawa, Eitarô Shindô, Akitake Kôno, Masao Shimizu, Ken Mitsuda, Kazukimi Okuni, Yôko Kozono, Noriko Tachibana, Ichirô Sugai, Teruko Omi, Chieko Naniwa, Kikue Môri, Ryôsuke Kagawa, Kanji Koshiba, Shinobu Araki, Reiko Kongo, Shôzô Nanbu

Kenji Mizoguchi directs this dark, tragic tale revealing the harsh realities of life in feudal Japan and how often what is lost can never be regained. This story of a family separated and its children sold into slavery to the titular Sansho brings to mind the far more recent film 12 Years A Slave and the thought of how hopeless it must feel to find yourself a victim of betrayal and suddenly a slave with no advocate, no way to prove you are actually a free person. Through the continued enslavement of the children Zushiō and Anju into adulthood, we see how alone a victim of atrocity could have their humanity crushed until they are inhuman themselves.

Mizoguchi’s production design details the contrasts between the comforts and abundance of humanity surrounding the haves and the austerity of the have nots. He also makes dramatic use of the depth of his frame to show distance, background activity or to fill it with a variety of characters and interactions. The returning motif Mizoguchi uses of the mother’s call and song, a symbol of her ongoing lamentation and desperate hope to see her children again is haunting and heartbreaking.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

November 15
Paddington (2014)

November 18
Girlhood (2014)

November 20
Gates of Heaven (1978)
The Thin Blue Line (1988)

AMAZON PRIME

November 15
Me Before You (2016)

November 19
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)

November 20
1984 (1984)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
The Great Escape (1963)
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
House of Games (1987)
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Lenny (1974)
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Mississippi Burning (1988)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
Valkyrie (2008)

November 21
De Palma (2015)

FILMSTRUCK

November 16
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Let There Be Light (1946)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

November 29
Everything else

HULU

November 30
American Psycho (2000)
Escape from New York (1981)
Get Shorty (1995)
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Primal Fear (1996)
The Terminator (1984)
They Came Together (2014)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

BuyBust (2018)
Green Room (2015)
Outlaw King (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

Bernie (2011)
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
Fox and His Friends (1975)
The General (1926)
Henri Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (2009)
Journey’s End (2017)
Orchestra Rehearsal (1978)

FILMSTRUCK

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)
Body Heat (1981)
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Dheepan (2015)
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
Ride the High Country (1962)
The Wild Bunch (1969)

HULU

Frances Ha (2012)
Sami Blood (2016)
The Wolfpack (2015)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

November 15
May The Devil Take You– NETFLIX FILM (2018)
The Crew– NETFLIX FILM (2015)

November 16
Cam– NETFLIX FILM (2018)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs– NETFLIX FILM (2018)
The Princess Switch– NETFLIX FILM (2018)

November 18
The Pixar Story (2007)

AMAZON PRIME

November 16
Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams (2018)

November 17
McQueen

November 21
Box of Moonlight (1996)

HULU

November 15
Cartel Land (2015)

November 18
Hero (2002)

November 21
Box of Moonlight (1996)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

You Should Be Watching: November 8-14

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

However, while there is still yet time, the November spotlight on FilmStruck continues. And while FilmStruck will be gone soon, Kanopy remains, and on the bright side, Netflix just released Orson Welles’ final film, 30 years after his passing along with a new documentary about its making. Also, Amazon Prime added a whole host of high quality films this past week from the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet, Billy Wilder, and many more.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Ordet

Year: 1955

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Cast: Birgitte Federspiel, Henrik Malberg, Emil Hass Christensen, Ejner Federspiel, Kirsten Andreasen, Sylvia Eckhausen, Ann Elisabeth Groth, Cay Kristiansen, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Gerda Nielsen, Ove Rud, Susanne Rud, Henry Skjær, Edith Trane

Carl Theodor Dreyer has an brilliant eye for frame composition, production design, lighting, and camera movement, and that’s just the technical side of this striking film. Dreyer’s script, based on a play by Danish Lutheran priest Kaj Munk, is a window into the life and faith (or lack thereof) of each of the Borgens, a farming family in rural Denmark, and the community in which they live. The main characters are the patriarch Morten and his grown children, Anders, Johannes, and the eldest Mikkel and his wife Inger, who is pregnant with her and Mikkel’s third child.

Each family member is distinct from the others with their own hopes, dreams, struggles, and personal journey of life and faith. Yet, they are still very much a family living under one roof and so the multiple narrative threads are woven together into a beautiful tapestry. The elderly Morten is set in his ways, as is Peter the tailor, the father of Anne, whom Anders pines after. Both Morten and Peter refuse Anders’ request to marry Anne because they are in different sects of Christianity, creating a proudly religious version of the Romeo and Juliet story. Mikkel has no faith, but his wife Inger is deeply religious. So when her pregnancy comes to trouble, Mikkel is forced into his own crisis of faith. In a crossing of history with fantasy, Morten’s middle son, Johannes, after having studied the works of the Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard, has become convinced he Johannes is Jesus Christ himself. He echoes the words of Jesus from the Bible and speaks prophecy that he expects to be believed. Each of these family member’s threads of life story and struggles with faith and reality crash into everyone else’s leading everyone to the critical moment where they are forced to decide what they truly believe and what they will do about it.


Where Is My Friend’s House?

Year: 1987

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Genre: Drama, Family

Cast: Babek Ahmedpour, Ahmed Ahmedpour, Kheda Barech Defai, Iran Outari, Ait Ansari, Sadika Taohidi, Biman Mouafi, Ali Djamali, Aziz Babai, Nader Ghoulami, Akbar Mouradi, Teba Slimani, Mohammad Reza Parvaneh, Farahanka Brothers, Maria Chdjari, Hamdallah Askarpour, Kadiret Kaoiyenpour, Hager Farazpour, Mohamed Hocine Rouhi, Rafia Difai, Agakhan Karadach Khani, Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh

Who doesn’t remember being a child, facing what to you was a life or death situation, but neither your parents nor any other adult grasped the gravity of your plight and instead kept harping on you to do what was important to them or what they were certain was in your best interest? But they didn’t stop to realize that you had every intention to do what they wanted except you had this emergency you needed help with first?

Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami perfectly captures the experience of being a child trapped in such a true-to-life, Kafkaesque nightmare. Ahmed (Babek Ahmedpour) and Mohamed (Ahmed Ahmedpour) are classmates. Their very strict and aggressive teacher has harshly berated Mohamed and threatened him with expulsion if he fails to do his homework in his notebook once more. Ahmed witnesses his friend break down into tears and we along with him suddenly find ourselves feeling great empathy for the boy. Yet later, there is a mix-up, and when Ahmed arrives home, he discovers he has both his own and Mohamed’s notebook, leaving him torn between obeying his mother, who won’t even listen to his plight, and doing everything he possibly can to return his friend’s notebook even though he lives in a neighboring town, and he has no idea where his house is.

With such a simple but universally relatable concept, we are drawn into the world of children and reminded that they need our compassion and understanding. How quickly we as adults forget the experience of being a child as the roles become reversed and we become the ones making demands of them. How much anxiety is caused when a child feels invisible to adults or when adults think they know what the child needs without caring enough to stop and listen?


Ikiru

  

Year: 1952

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Genre: Drama

Cast: Takashi Shimura, Haruo Tanaka, Nobuo Kaneko, Bokuzen Hidari, Miki Odagiri, Shin’ichi Himori, Minoru Chiaki, Minosuke Yamada, Kamatari Fujiwara, Makoto Kobori, Nobuo Nakamura, Atsushi Watanabe, Isao Kimura, Masao Shimizu, Yūnosuke Itō, Yoshie Minami, Kumeko Urabe, Eiko Miyoshi, Noriko Honma, Yatsuko Tan’ami, Kin Sugai, Kyôko Seki, Kusuo Abe, Tomo’o Nagai, Seiji Miyaguchi, Daisuke Katô, Hiroshi Hayashi, Fuyuki Murakami 

No matter where we are in life, we all know that we’ll eventually die, whether from cancer, an accident, or old age. Through Ikiru, master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa gives the viewer an opportunity for reflection as it provides an intimate view of one man’s experience of having discovered he has stomach cancer and only has months to live, leading him on a journey of introspection and regret that so much of his life had been spent in meaningless attitudes and actions.

Takashi Shimura plays Kanji Watanabe. Having worked as a government bureaucrat doing the same job for decades as well as being a widower with a son whose primary concern is his inheritance, he suddenly is left wondering what it was all for. What was the point? Ikiru means to live, and Kanji now finds himself desperate to figure out what it means to live. Along the way, he notices his young female subordinate named Toyo (Miki Odagiri) and becomes enamored not with her but with her personality that is positively brimming with the joy of being alive, so he develops a relationship with her to try to figure out her secrets.

The other side of the film, especially in the third act explores the way we make assumptions about other people and how often reality differs from what we think. It serves as a sober reminder that we should be careful about making judgments about others. We may not know the full story.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

November 11
Anna Karenina (2012)

November 12
Call Me Lucky (2015)

November 15
Paddington (2014)

AMAZON PRIME

November 11
Green Room (2015)

November 15
Me Before You (2016)

November 19
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

November 20
In the Heat of the Night (1967)

FILMSTRUCK

November 9
The Big Sleep (1946)
Dark Passage (1947)
Dogville (2003)
Petulia (1968)
To Have and Have Not (1944)

November 16
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Let There Be Light (1946)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

November 29
Everything else

HULU

November 30
American Psycho (2000)
Escape from New York (1981)
Get Shorty (1995)
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Primal Fear (1996)
The Terminator (1984)
They Came Together (2014)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018)
Into the Forest (2015)

AMAZON PRIME

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
The Apartment (1960)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Being There (1979)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Crossing Delancey (1988)
Deliverance (1972)
Diner (1982)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010)
From Russia with Love (1963)
The Getaway (1972)
Going in Style (1979)
The Gold Rush (1925)
Goldfinger (1964)
The Goodbye Girl (1977)
Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
Kes (1969)
Klute (1971)
The Last Waltz (1978)
Little Odessa (1994)
Logan’s Run (1976)
Lord of War (2005)
The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Mean Streets (1973)
Of Mice and Men (1992)
The Misfits (1961)
Moonraker (1979)
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Network (1976)
Night Moves (1975)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Performance (1970)
The Pink Panther (1963)
Point Blank (1967)
The Red Violin (1998)
A Shot in the Dark (1964)
The Song Remains the Same (1976)
Soylent Green (1973)
Star 80 (1983)
Summer 1993 (2017)
Westworld (1973)
What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
The Who: The Kids Are Alright (1979)
Wonder (2017)
The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
Zama (2017)

FILMSTRUCK

Adam’s Rib (1949)
The African Queen (1951)
The Lion in Winter (1968)
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
Stage Door (1937)

HULU

Europa Report (2013)
Kick-Ass (2010)
Wonder (2017)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

November 11
Outlaw King — NETFLIX FILM (2018)

November 12
Green Room (2015)

AMAZON PRIME

November 10
The Children Act (2017)

HULU

November 10
Big Hero 6 (2014)

November 12
The Wolfpack (2015)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

You Should Be Watching: November 1-7

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

In honor of this month being FilmStruck’s swan song, I am setting my spotlight on their rich catalog of films while I still can. But brace yourself. This week it’s going to get dark.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Elevator to the Gallows

 

Year: 1958

Director: Louis Malle

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly, Yori Bertin, Lino Ventura, Iván Petrovich, Elga Andersen, Jean Wall, Gérard Darrieu, Micheline Bona, Charles Denner, Félix Marten, Hubert Deschamps, Jacques Hilling, Marcel Journet, François Joux, Jean-Claude Brialy, Gisèle Grandpré

A predecessor to the coming French new wave, Elevator to the Gallows is a remarkable piece of nuanced French film-noir from first-time filmmaker Louis Malle that is enhanced even further with a pitch-perfect Miles Davis score. The striking opening shot of Jeanne Moreau’s eyes with everything else concealed in shadow is a bold start to the filmmaker’s career. The film opens on Florence (Moreau) and Julien (Maurice Ronet), lovers separated by two ends of a telephone call, conspiring to kill so they can be free to be together. Suffice it to say, things don’t go according to plan. The contemplative jazz score enhances our insight into the emotional state of the characters, especially that of Florence as she walks the streets in silence, lost in her thoughts as she searches for her missing lover,

What’s somewhat surprising is that the film isn’t content to be a mere thriller, though there is tension to be found. Malle’s interest is in more of a psychological exploration, a character study, not only of our two primary lovers, but also the younger pair of lovers, Louis (Georges Poujouly) and Véronique (Yori Bertin). They express the volatility, unpredictability, and naivete of youth, Their actions create a case of mistaken identity that not only finds themselves helplessly trapped but also traps Julien and Florence. Both couples have committed themselves to evil. But neither being spontaneous nor planning every detail gives either one what they want.


The Passion of Joan of Arc

Year: 1928

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Cast: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, André Berley, Maurice Schutz, Antonin Artaud, Michel Simon, Jean d’Yd, Louis Ravet, Armand Lurville, Jacques Arnna, Alexandre Mihalesco, Léon Larive, Jean Aymé, Gilbert Dacheux, Gilbert Dalleu, Paul Delauzac, Dimitri Dimitriev, Fournez-Goffard, Henri Gaultier, Paul Jorge, Marie Lacroix, Henri Maillard, Raymond Narlay

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s passionate portrayal of Joan of Arc’s famous trial has been heralded as one of the all-time classics of the silent era, and it’s easy to see why. Perhaps not until 89 years later with the release of Darren Aronofsky’s mother! would a woman’s face so consume the screen of a film. Through Joan’s Passion, so named for its similarities to the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, Dreyer presents a critique of the state church. A Church not just willing but with the power and obligation to torture and execute those deemed heretics.

Renée Jeanne Falconetti (aka Maria) as Joan is a constant presence. Dreyer uses extreme close-ups throughout to bring us intimately into her experience, as barely seconds go by without her tear-streaked, emotionally-strained face filling the screen. And when it’s not her face, it’s often one of her oppressor’s, so we as the audience more directly feel the weight of oppression as well. At times, Dreyer’s film is quite shocking, such as the threats of the torture chamber, Joan’s bloodletting–surprise, it’s real, not an effect, and the burning at the stake itself, which manages to be powerful despite not showing a lot of detail.

Were it not for the young Jean Massieu (Antonin Artaud) who tries with great compassion to help Joan out of and through her fate, the misery might be unbearable. But he is a reminder that every little bit of good we can do helps.


Night and Fog

  

Year: 1955

Director: Alain Resnais

Genre: Documentary, Short, History

Cast: Michel Bouquet, Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler, Julius Streicher

One of the most artful and moving documentaries ever created. It’s as much of a slow burn as a 32-minute documentary about the horrors of the Holocaust can be. Alain Resnais infuses a general sense of dread even when nothing shocking is occurring or when the most shocking thing is a Nazi walking by in an apparent good mood. The way he uses generally happy, even playful music reminds us we are in more pleasant times now, but when he keeps using it even when it stands in stark contrast to the horrific images being displayed, it creates unsettling internal tension in the viewer.

Combined with the narration that briefly touches on the unspeakable horrors before shifting the perspective and forcing the viewer to evaluate their own attitudes and assumptions, an uncomfortable yet poignant experience is established that will not be shaken. And the timeless message of the closing monologue along with the now peaceful images it’s spoken over declare a warning against complacency and are one of the most powerful and effective of their kind.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

November 3
The House of Small Cubes (2008)

November 4
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014)

November 6
Europa Report (2013)

November 11
Anna Karenina (2012)

November 15
Paddington (2014)

AMAZON PRIME

November 1
Morris from America (2016)

November 7
Into the Forest (2015)
Krisha (2015)

November 11
Green Room (2015)

FILMSTRUCK

November 2
Alphaville (1965)
Army of Shadows (1969)
Bob le Flambeur (1956)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Le Trou (1960)
Libeled Lady (1936)

November 9
The Big Sleep (1946)
Dark Passage (1947)
Dogville (2003)
Petulia (1968)
To Have and Have Not (1944)

November 16
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Let There Be Light (1946)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

November 29
Everything else

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Animal House (1978)
Cape Fear (1991)
Children of Men (2006)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Cloverfield (2008)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Dracula (1992)
The English Patient (1996)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Fearless (2006)
Filmworker (2017)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
The Raid (2011)
Shirkers (2018)
United 93 (2006)

AMAZON PRIME

Badlands (1973)
The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)
The Birdcage (1996)
The Black Stallion (1979)
Brewster McCloud (1970)
Dead Ringers (1988)
Duck, You Sucker (1971)
Excalibur (1981)
GoldenEye (1995)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Licence to Kill (1989)
Michael Clayton (2007)
My Girl (1991)
Triangle (2009)
You Were Never Really Here (2017)

FILMSTRUCK

The Body Snatcher (1945)
Cat People (1942)
Day for Night (1973)
The Headless Woman (2008)
The Leopard Man (1943)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

HULU

Title (year)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

November 2
The Other Side of the Wind–NETFLIX FILM (2018)

November 4
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

AMAZON PRIME

November 2
Wonder (2017)

November 3
Kick-Ass (2010)

HULU

November 2
Wonder (2017)

November 3
Kick-Ass (2010)

November 7
Europa Report (2013)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

You Should Be Watching: October 25 – November 1

Back after a brief hiatus, welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


The Florida Project

Year: 2017

Director: Sean Baker

Genre: Drama

Cast: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera, Mela Murder, Caleb Landry Jones, Aiden Malik, Macon Blair, Sabina Friedman-Seitz, Karren Karagulian, Sandy Kane, Carl Bradfield, Gary B. Gross, Sonya McCarter, Josie Olivo, Rosa Medina, Perez Jasineia, Ramos Kit 

Sean Baker’s spotlight on the world of the hidden homeless, filled with shockingly authentic performances and focused specifically on the children, is conflicting to experience. It’s the joy and wonder of kids being happy-go-lucky and saying the darndest things despite being surrounded by poverty, but they’re kids who are also often heavily influenced by crass and insensitive parents who are not necessarily the best of role models, so you’ll also hear them spouting obscenities towards others that show extreme disrespect. Of course, they’re just mimicking, they rarely have ill will toward anyone.

It’s easy to be angry at the parents in this film, specifically Halley (Bria Vinaite), for her unethical behavior and horrible influence on her daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince). But you also can’t help but feel sad for her desperate condition and whatever history she’s had that led to her being in it. Willem Dafoe’s tremendously understated performance as the compassionate, good guy hotel manager is the emotional bridge we need to connect with these people. He’s a responsible manager, but he also cares about these people under his care.

That’s the power of this film. It’s a window into a fragile, vulnerable people who have fallen through the cracks of society. It’s an appreciation that children are resilient and can find and bring joy to hopeless circumstances. And despite law and order needing to be kept, it’s a plea for compassion over condemnation.


The Impossible


FREE WITH ADS

Year: 2012

Director: J. A. Bayona

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Marta Etura, Sönke Möhring, Geraldine Chaplin, Ploy Jindachote, Jomjaoi Sae-Limh, Johan Sundberg, Jan Roland Sundberg, La-Orng Thongruang, Tor Klathaley, Douglas Johansson, John Albasiny, Gitte Witt

This is ostensibly a typhoon disaster movie, but unlike the majority of films in that genre, this is based on a true story. And as such, director J. A. Bayona’s intention seems to be to strip away any element of fun from the watching and replace it with overwhelming shock and horror and ultimately compassion as the family we’ve just started to get to know with Ewan McGregor playing the father and Naomi Watts the mother are brutally battered and separated from one another by the rushing waters and debris.

Watching this film, you feel every bit of misery the characters carry. There’s the physical misery as in the case of the wife and mother Maria, who is constantly in danger of losing her leg or worse. There’s also the emotional anguish of her son Lucas. Played by a supremely talented young Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming), he carries the film and is its emotional center. As far as Lucas knows, his father and brother died in the typhoon, so he’s out of his mind desperate not to lose his mother too. In the midst of horror, it’s beautiful to watch him learn to take that compassion and desire and turn it outwards to try to help all the other people desperate to find their loved ones.


Certified Copy

  

Year: 2010

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Genre: Drama, Romance

Cast: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Jean-Claude Carrière, Agathe Natanson, Gianna Giachetti, Adrian Moore, Angelo Barbagallo, Andrea Laurenzi, Filippo Trojano, Manuela Balsinelli

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami has an uncanny ability to weave of reality and fiction together and to challenge the viewer’s understanding of both. Watching this film feels like cinematic sleight of hand. On the surface, Certified Copy feels like an alternative version of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy, but while the latter is content to present an imitation of reality, the former thrives on manipulating our very perception of it.

English author James Miller (William Shimell) is in Tuscany touring his new book, also titled Certified Copy. While there, he encounters French antiques dealer Elle (Juliette Binoche) and they end up spending an afternoon together driving through the surrounding countryside and walking through the villages, finding themselves having deep philosophical conversations that force them to come face to face with the emotional baggage they’ve long been carrying. The deeper they go, the more they connect, the more they argue, the more intimate they become with their thoughts and feelings and emotions, the more reality becomes blurred as to what their relationship actually is to one another.

Kiarostami’s direction is brilliant, making full use of his environment, angles, props, and amazing production design to enhance the emotional beats and themes. Shimell gives a strong performance, but he is mostly stoic throughout. Binoche, on the other hand, covers a wide range of emotions, and she doesn’t hesitate to act flustered, hopeful, angry, coy, or passionate as her character is at a particularly volatile and vulnerable time in her life.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

October 27
Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

October 31
The African Queen (1951)
Amélie (2001)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Jurassic Park I-III (1993, 1997, 2001)
The Land Before Time (1988)
Oculus (2013)
The Reader (2008)

November 4
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014)

AMAZON PRIME

October 30
The Green Butchers (2003)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Mad Max (1979)
Thief (1981)

October 31
Barfly (1987)
Bull Durham (1988)
Children of Men (2006)
Eight Men Out (1988)
The Elephant Man (1980)
Fearless (2006)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Ghostbusters I & II (1984, 1989)
High Noon (1952)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Jaws (1975)
The Monster Squad (1987)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Sneakers (1992)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
United 93 (2006)
The Usual Suspects (1995)

FILMSTRUCK

October 26
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Ace in the Hole (1951)
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Footlight Parade (1933)
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Guys and Dolls (1955)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Stalag 17 (1953)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Tabu (2012)
What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

October 31
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

November 2
Alphaville (1965)
Army of Shadows (1969)
Bob le Flambeur (1956)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Le Trou (1960)
Libeled Lady (1936)

November 9
The Big Sleep (1946)
Dark Passage (1947)
Dogville (2003)
Petulia (1968)
To Have and Have Not (1944)

November 16
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Let There Be Light (1946)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

HULU

October 31
13 Going on 30 (2004)
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Babe (1995)
Barfly (1987)
Bull Durham (1988)
Eight Men Out (1988)
The Elephant Man (1980)
High Noon (1952)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Point Break (1991)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
Rescue Dawn (2006)
The Rock (1996)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Sleepers (1996)
Spaceballs (1987)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Unbreakable (2000)
Witness (1985)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

God Knows Where I Am (2016)
The Night Comes for Us (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

12 Angry Men (1957)
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
The Big Country (1958)
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
Devil (2010)
Donnie Darko (2001)
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Man from Reno (2015)
The Proposition (2005)
A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)

FILMSTRUCK

The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Billy Budd (1962)
The Candidate (1972)
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Dracula (1958)
I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

HULU

Burn (2012)
Ever After (1998)
Ghost Stories (2017)
Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

You Should Be Watching: October 4-10

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


The Conjuring

Year: 2013

Director: James Wan

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, Shanley Caswell, Kyla Deaver, Hayley McFarland, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, Joseph Bishara, Marion Guyot, Morganna Bridgers, Amy Tipton, Zach Pappas, Rose Bachtel, James D. Nelson

What’s October without a horror recommendation? James Wan’s The Conjuring, which launched a whole new horror-verse, is like a big budget version of the wildly popular Paranormal Activity, which set off its own series. Wan draws out a similar trepidation, tension, and terror but with a more fully fleshed out world and mythology. The central characters, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are paranormal investigators and demonologists based loosely on a real life couple and case. They are invited to investigate the paranormal events haunting the Perron family. Ron Livingston plays the father Roger and Lili Taylor his wife Carolyn. They have recently moved into an old farmhouse along with their 5 daughters. They each see, hear, and experience an unexplainable presence, at times seemingly innocent and others expressing frightening malevolence.

In addition to the Warrens’ character development both as individuals and as a couple, this film’s strength builds through its underlying dread, lightened only by the many cuts from night to daytime, representing the passing of another night and a hopeful return to safety until night falls again. There’s an inescapable sense of entrapment as plausible reasons why the family doesn’t move away enhance the dread even more. In a world that wants to pretend nothing exists beyond the physical, The Conjuring exists to remind us that there might just be more to the supernatural world than we realize.


Polytechnique

        

Year: 2009

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Cast: Maxim Gaudette, Sébastien Huberdeau, Karine Vanasse, Evelyne Brochu, Martin Watier, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Natalie Hamel-Roy, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Pierre Leblanc, Francesca Barcenas, Ève Duranceau

Following a nine-year gap after his sophomore effort, the yet unknown Denis Villeneuve directed this masterful and terrifying dramatization of the Montreal Massacre, a 1989 school shooting that based on the emotional weight of this film seems to have had a profound effect on him. It bleeds pain, terror, and sadness. Even at this early stage of his career, the fingerprints of his trademark style are evident–gorgeous, slow-paced cinematography, matching ominous music, mysterious characters, and brooding drama punctuated by intense, realistic violence.

Minimal dialogue means the actors have to show not tell the nightmare they are experiencing or in the case of the killer, enacting. Villeneuve’s tight focus on individual characters in the moment enables the viewer to intimately feel the experience. We are sickened by the evil heart of the shooter, saddened at the hurtful comments one of the female victims receives, and shocked at the sudden cold, brutal, Terminator-like violence of the killer as we reel in disbelief that there is no one to stop him.


Ball of Fire

Year: 1941

Director: Howard Hawks

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Cast: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, S.Z. Sakall, Henry Travers, Oskar Homolka, Tully Marshall, Leonid Kinskey, Richard Haydn, Aubrey Mather, Dana Andrews, Allen Jenkins, Elisha Cook Jr., Aldrich Bowker, Dan Duryea, Ralph Peters, Kathleen Howard, Mary Field, Charles Lane, Charles Arnt 

Not just screwball comedy. Howard Hawks creatively infuses romance and borderline noir drama with major chemistry between Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck who play Professor Bertram Potts and nightclub performer Katherine “Sugarpuss” O’Shea. Stanwyck practically takes the lead as she plays Sugarpuss with cool confidence, largely in control. An air of tension is established with never knowing for sure if her demonstrated feelings for Professor Potts are genuine. She is very convincing no matter what her intentions are. Cooper, while obviously intelligent, is delightfully awkward as Potts, trying to resist Sugarpuss’ advances.

Hawks uses many unique & memorable ideas & visuals, such as Sugarpuss stepping up on the books for some yum-yum, a wet washcloth bit, crazy amounts of obscure slang, Potts talking to Sugarpuss’ “Daddy”, and the whole initial setup of 8 professors living together for a multi-year project to create a definitive encyclopedia. The ending is also really clever as it makes use of the unique characteristics of each of the professors.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

October 5
The Beauty Inside (2015)
The BFG (2016)

October 7
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

October 13
The Babadook (2014)

October 14
Seven Pounds (2008)

October 16
Donnie Darko (2001)

October 21
The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

October 24
Big Eyes (2014)
Queen of Katwe (2016)

October 27
Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

AMAZON PRIME

October 15
The Fits (2016)

October 16
Louder Than Bombs (2016)

FILMSTRUCK

October 5
Infernal Affairs (2002)
The Narrow Margin (1952)
The Thing from Another World (1951)
White Heat (1949)

October 12
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

October 19
Casa de Lava (1994)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

October 26
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Ace in the Hole (1951)
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Footlight Parade (1933)
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Guys and Dolls (1955)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Stalag 17 (1953)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Tabu (2012)
What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

October 31
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

HULU

October 31
13 Going on 30 (2004)
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Babe (1995)
Barfly (1987)
Bull Durham (1988)
Eight Men Out (1988)
The Elephant Man (1980)
High Noon (1952)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Point Break (1991)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
Rescue Dawn (2006)
The Rock (1996)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Sleepers (1996)
Spaceballs (1987)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Unbreakable (2000)
Witness (1985)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

The Green Mile (1999)
Life of Brian (1979)
Black Dynamite (2009)
Blade (1998)
Blade II (2002)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Empire Records (1995)
Hold the Dark (2018)
Mystic River (2003)
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
The Shining (1980)
V for Vendetta (2005)

AMAZON PRIME

Bitter Moon (1992)
Carrie (1976)
Election (1999)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The General (1998)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
House of Usher (1960)
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)
The Illusionist (2006)
Let Me In (2010)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Raging Bull (1980)
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
RoboCop (1987)
Saving Face (2004)
Starship Troopers (1997)
The Strangers (2008)
To Sleep with Anger (1990)
Trees Lounge (1996)
The Untouchables (1987)
Wild Bill (2011)

FILMSTRUCK

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

HULU

American Psycho (2000)
Bitter Moon (1992)
Cinderella Man (2005)
Closer (2004)
Dheepan (2015)
Election (1999)
Frida (2002)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Insomnia (2002)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
The Music Never Stopped (2011)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Others (2001)
Platoon (1986)
[REC] (2007)
Raging Bull (1980)
RBG (2018)
RoboCop (1987)
Starship Troopers (1997)
Trees Lounge (1996)
Wild Bill (2011)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

October 5
Malevolent – NETFLIX FILM (2018)
Private Life – NETFLIX FILM (2018)

October 10
22 July – NETFLIX FILM (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

October 6
A Prayer Before Dawn (2017)

October 11
Monster’s Ball (2001)
The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)

HULU

October 6
Lowlife (2017)
Pyewacket (2018)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

You Should Be Watching: September 28 – October 3

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

Note, as of September 28, Jeremy Saulnier’s (Blue Ruin; Green Room) anticipated new film Hold The Dark is now available to watch on Netflix.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Scarlet Street

  

Year: 1945

Director: Fritz Lang

Genre: Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller

Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, Margaret Lindsay, Jess Barker, Rosalind Ivan, Charles Kemper, Anita Sharp-Bolster, Samuel S. Hinds, Vladimir Sokoloff, Arthur Loft, Russell Hicks, Richard Abbott, Rodney Bell, Richard Cramer, Dick Curtis, Tom Daly, Edgar Dearing, Joe Devlin 

Edward G. Robinson highlights this Fritz Lang all too relevant morality tale. Robinson plays the uncomfortably timid Chris Cross, a man embarrassed about and unhappy with his job as a cashier for a clothing store. He’s found himself stuck in a marriage to a shrew of a wife named Adele (Rosalind Ivan), who berates and belittles him constantly and has no respect for his only true interest of painting.

It’s no surprise that Cross’ misery leads to him falling for another woman, especially one as captivating as Kitty March (Joan Bennett). His relationship with her starts innocently enough, as these things so often do. He finds her being attacked and rushes in to help, unaware the assailant is her boyfriend. In their subsequent conversation, she falls under the impression that he is a wealthy painter, setting the stage for a con and a trap exploiting his attraction to her. A terrifically dark film with great performances, memorable dialogue, a tough message, and a minimal score.


Remember

Year: 2015

Director: Atom Egoyan

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Cast: Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Dean Norris, Henry Czerny, Bruno Ganz, Jürgen Prochnow, Kim Roberts, Peter DaCunha, T.J. McGibbon, Liza Balkan, Daniel Kash, Heinz Lieven, Stefani Kimber, Jane Spidell, Sofia Wells, Janet Porter, Amanda Smith

An elderly, frail Christopher Plummer impresses in this lesser-seen A24 studios film. First-time screenwriter Benjamin August’s inventive take on the revenge tale is directed by Atom Egoyan. Not only does it involve a necessarily elderly survivor finally discovering who killed his family at the Auschwitz death camp during World War II, but dementia and a ticking clock also plays a role as Plummer’s main character Zev is trying to accomplish his mission before he completely loses his mental faculties. This angle provides something of a Memento feel, though the plotting was not nearly as intricate.

At first, Plummer comes across as very old and almost helpless, but life infuses his body as purpose grows in him. He’s kept on track by a letter he keeps referring to which reminds him of all the important details of who he is and the importance of what he’s doing. Dean Norris provides a small but noteworthy, disturbing, and tension-filled performance as neo-nazi John Kurlander. It’s scary to think there are people just like him.


A Brighter Summer Day

 

Year: 1991

Director: Edward Yang

Genre: Drama, Romance, Crime

Cast: Chang Chen, Lisa Yang, Elaine Jin, Chen Shiang-Chyi, Chang Han, Lawrence Ko, Weiming Wang, Chiang Hsiu-Chiung, Wang Chuan, Chang Kuo-Chu, Stephanie Lai, Wang Chi-tsan, Tan Chih-Kang, Chang Ming-Hsin, Jung Chun-Lung, Chin Tsai

This incredibly ambitious nearly four-hour effort by director Edward Yang covers four years in the life of Xiao Si’r (Chang Chen), the fourth child in a large family living in mid-20th century Taipei. Featuring an enormous cast–nearly 100 relevant characters–and detailed set designs for the many locations within the village it’s set in, this is a dense film. It’s packed full of universal themes such as those accompanying adolescence, rival social groups, love, parenting, financial hardship, and life during political upheaval. Yet, the story explores life in a very specific time and place. Given all the diverse plot threads, it practically demands repeat viewings to be able to appreciate the diversity of characters and themes.

The village this film is set in, its homes, streets, and school feels very much lived in. There’s always activity going on around the characters, and sometimes the camera itself even seems to become distracted as it effortlessly shifts from following one character to another who happens to be passing by. The main plot itself often takes a backseat to the general exploration of post WWII Taiwanese culture and society. In lesser hands, that could just create a mess, but Yang handles it with care by creating rich back stories for every single one of the speaking roles. Everybody feels important. Everybody matters.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

September 29
The Commitments (1991)

September 30
The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
Blood Diamond (2006)
Boogie Nights (1997)
Cinderella Man (2005)
The Departed (2006)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Inside Man (2006)
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
The Lost Boys (1987)
The Mask You Live In (2015)
Menace II Society (1993)
Real Genius (1985)
Sin City (2005)
Trading Places (1983)

October 1
Out of Sight (1998)

October 2
Dheepan (2015)

October 3
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

October 5
The Beauty Inside (2015)
The BFG (2016)

October 7
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

October 13
The Babadook (2014)

AMAZON PRIME

September 29
Carrie (1976)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Miami Blues (1990)
Spaceballs (1987)
Stargate (1994)

September 30
American Psycho (2000)
Angel Heart (1987)
Babel (2006)
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
The Crow (1994)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
The Graduate (1967)
Hoosiers (1986)
Insomnia (2002)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
V for Vendetta (2005)
Witness (1985)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)

October 1
Raging Bull (1980)

October 3
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

FILMSTRUCK

September 28
Accattone (1961)
Being There (1979)
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925)
Ben-Hur (1959)
The Breaking Point (1950)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
East of Eden (1955)
The Gospel According to Matthew (1964)
JFK (1991)
Kes (1969)
Local Hero (1983)
The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
The Pianist (2002)
Rain Man (1988)
The Right Stuff (1983)
The Roaring Twenties (1939)
Teorema (1968)
Winter Soldier (1972)

October 5
White Heat (1949)
Infernal Affairs (2002)
The Narrow Margin (1952)
The Thing from Another World (1951)
Gigi (1958)

October 12
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

HULU

September 30
American Psycho (2000)
Angel Heart (1987)
Babel (2006)
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Bound (1996)
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Hoosiers (1986)
The Ladies Man (1961)
Miami Blues (1990)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
The Rock (1996)
Sleepers (1996)
Spaceballs (1987)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Witness (1985)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

20 Feet from Stardom (2013)
Nappily Ever After–NETFLIX FILM (2018)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

Bill Cunningham New York (2010)
City of Hope (1991)
The Golden Coach (1952)
Henry Fool (1997)
The Illusionist (2006)
I Never Sang for My Father (1970)
Limbo (1999)
My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)
Robot & Frank (2012)

FILMSTRUCK

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2009)

HULU

Iris (2001)
My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

September 28
Hold the Dark (2018)

October 1
Black Dynamite (2009)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Empire Records (1995)
The Green Mile (1999)
Life of Brian (1979)
Mystic River (2003)
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
The Shining (1980)
V for Vendetta (2005)

AMAZON PRIME

October 1
Carrie (1976)
Election (1999)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The General (1998)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
The Illusionist (2006)
Let Me In (2010)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Raging Bull (1980)
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
RoboCop (1987)
Starship Troopers (1997)
The Strangers (2008)
Trees Lounge (1996)
Wild Bill (2011)

HULU

October 1
American Psycho (2000)
Bitter Moon (1992)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Cinderella Man (2005)
Closer (2004)
Election (1999)
Frida (2002)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Insomnia (2002)
The Others (2001)
More than a Game (2008)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
The Music Never Stopped (2011)
Platoon (1986)
Raging Bull (1980)
[REC] (2007)
RoboCop (1987)
Starship Troopers (1997)
Trees Lounge (1996)
Wild Bill (2011)

October 2
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

October 3
Dheepan (2015)
RBG (2018)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.