Three days away until #MSPIFF38 – Check out the MINNEAPOLIS ST. PAUL INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2019 lineup!

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival returns for its 38th year, presenting more than 250+ bold, exciting, and moving works from new and veteran filmmakers from around the globe.ar, presenting more than 250+ bold, exciting, and moving works from new and veteran filmmakers from around the globe. #MSPIFF38

OPENING NIGHT: ICÍAR BOLLAÍN’S YULI

Yuli is a dazzling dramatization of the early life and work of legendary Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta. Inspired by Acosta’s 2007 memoir No Way Home, which detailed his rise from the streets of Havana to the heights of classical ballet. The film was helmed by the distinguished Basque director Icíar Bollaín and adapted for the screen by her frequent collaborator Paul Laverty. The Opening Night Ticket includes the film screening, complimentary champagne and popcorn, and the after-party.

WOMEN + FILM INITIATIVE

The MSP Film Society also announces the expansion of their WOMEN & FILM INITIATIVE for the 38th Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival and the launch of a new Fiscal Sponsorship Program for local women filmmakers, which will charge a mere 1.9% fee, instead of the industry standard of 5- 10%.

“When we read that women accounted for only 1.9% of the directors of the 100 top-grossing US films in 2014, this statistic propelled us to find ways within our organization to begin to address this disparity and inequity,” says Susan Smoluchowski, Executive Director of the MSP Film Society. “In 2015, we developed and launched a major MSPIFF program entitled Women & Film to highlight the work of women filmmakers from around the globe. Every year since, a growing number of films directed by women and programs highlighting the work of women directors have been included in our annual MSPIFF line-up, and in 2019 we expand that commitment.”

The 38th MSPIFF will include 75+ films directed by women filmmakers spanning all programs, from the Opening Night film Yuli, directed by Spanish actress, director and screenwriter Icíar Bollaín, to the Nextwave program of shorts directed by aspiring teen filmmakers.

LUMINARY TRIBUTE to the ORIGINAL WOMAN IN FILM:
ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ – Saturday, April 13, 2019

The MSPIFF Luminaries Tribute will include a screening of the riveting documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice GuyBlaché, directed by Pamela B. Green and narrated by Jodie Foster, followed by the MSPIFF Centerpiece Party at the A-Mill Artist Lofts to celebrate all the women filmmakers and special guests attending this year’s festival, including Ann Hornaday, Chief Film Critic from the Washington Post.

BROWSE THE FULL LINEUP

The 38th MSPIFF runs April 4 – 20, 2019 and showcases over 250 dynamic narrative films, engaging documentaries, and innovative shorts by both emerging and veteran filmmakers hailing from 70+ countries around the world.

WOMEN & FILM FEATURE TITLES

RAISE HELL: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins

Six feet of Texas trouble, Molly Ivins took on Good Old Boy corruption wherever she found it. Director Janice Engel charts her early days, from the Minneapolis Tribune, where Ivins was the first woman police reporter covering the turbulence of the late 60s, to joining the New York Times in the mid-70s, and freelancing everywhere from The Nation to TV Guide. Ivins served up her quality reportage with a heaping dollop of humor, and by the height of her popularity in the early 2000s, she was a best-selling author of seven books, and over 400 newspapers around the country carried her column. Raise Hell premiered last month at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

PERSONAL STATEMENT

Director, Producer and Cinematographer Julie Dressner’s debut feature-length documentary follows three seniors from Brooklyn who are determined to get their entire class to college, even though they aren’t sure they are going to make it there themselves. They are working as peer counselors because many of their friends have nowhere else to turn for support. They struggle and they stumble, but refuse to succumb to the barriers that prevent so many low-income students from attending and graduating from college. Personal Statement premiered at the 2018 AFI Docs, where it was the Opening Night Film. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

HUGH HEFNER’S AFTER DARK: Speaking Out in America

In the wake of both Hefner’s death and the #MeToo movement, Academy Award-winning Filmmaker Brigitte Berman returns to a familiar subject, Hugh Hefner, this time focusing on the Playboy icon’s brief but impactful television ventures. Penthouse and Playboy: After Dark were talk shows that aired in the late 50s and 60’s, respectfully, and featured numerous celebrity guests, musicians, public figures and more. Told through interviews and a collection of riveting archived footage, this documentary makes it clear how and why Hugh Hefner deserves a spot in television history. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

CRYSTAL SWAN / Хрусталь

The year is 1996. Young Belarusian DJ Velya dreams of starting a new life in Chicago, the place that first inspired her love of music. Desperate to claim her own version of the American Dream, young Velya is instead stuck in farcical limbo. From Director Darya Zhuk, who previously directed the documentary Gogol Bordello NonStop, Crystal Swan is her first narrative feature film, and premiered at the 2018 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

HAIL SATAN?

Director Penny Lane charts the meteoric rise and influence of The Satanic Temple, a religious group catapulted to the spotlight in 2015 after pleading for the removal of the Ten Commandments from the Oklahoma State Capitol in exchange for an 8-foot tall statue of occult deity Baphomet. Both controversial and widely misunderstood in the public consciousness. Lane follows members of the religion with an unbiased gaze as they tell the real story. Hail Satan? premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival.

AFTERWARD

An examination of the trauma shared between victims and victimizers alike, director and trauma expert Ofra Bloch serves as her own subject director as she visits to Germany, Israel and Palestine to confront her own demons in the wake of the recent surge of anti-Semitism. Afterward premiered at 2018 DOC NYC.

4 KATE NASH: Underestimate The Girl

Director Amy Goldstein’s unfiltered documentary follows English punk renegade-turned-TV wresting star Kate Nash through the tumultuous highs and lows in her life, alternating between explosive live performances and vulnerable moments of personal betrayal and insight. Kate Nash: Underestimate The Girl premiered at the 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival.

ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch

Travelling across twenty countries and six continents, filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky explore and investigate the vast, undeniable and lasting human impact on the planet. Anthropocene premiered at 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, followed by Sundance and Berlin.

CORE OF THE WORLD / Serdtse Mira

Egor is a vet at a training facility for hunting dogs in a remote region of Russia, where he is surrounded by foxes, deer, and badgers. He cleans the kennels, oversees the workers, and meets with the clients and treats their dogs. Egor is willing to take on any job to get closer to the facility’s master, and his near and dear. He wants the impossible —to become a member of that family. Core of the World premiered at 2018 San Sebastian, followed by Toronto and Rotterdam International Film Festivals.

THE DAY I LOST MY SHADOW / Yom Adaatou Zouli

In the war torn Damascus countryside, a Syrian pharmacist named Sena is separated for her son. Forced to venture outside of town alongside to siblings, Sena navigates a landscape of brutality, loss and trauma. Working primarily with exiled Syrian cast and crew, first-time director Soudade Kaadan’s cinema vérité style is melded with touches of magic realism. The Day I Lost My Shadow premiered at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, where Kaadan received the Lion of the Future award.

FIG TREE

Ethiopian-Israeli writer-director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian makes a startlingly confident feature debut with this story of 16-year old Mina, whose Jewish family is planning to flee war-torn Ethiopia for Israel. But this plan leaves out the person Mina loves most: Eli, her Christian boyfriend. Fig Tree premiered at the 2018 Haifa Film Festival, followed by Toronto International Film Festival.

GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY / 柔情史

A hilarious and heartfelt telling of the relationship between mothers and daughters, Yang Mingming’s feature film debut follows duo Wu (played by Yang) and her mother (Nai An) as neurotic writers who are as rebellious as they are codependent. Girls Always Happy premiered at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.

THE GOOD GIRLS / Las Niñas Bien

This stunning feature from director Alejandra Márquez Abella highlights the stark reality of Mexico’s financial crisis of 1982 through the eyes of a young couple, Fernando and his socialite wife Sofia (beautifully portrayed by Ilses Sala.) With the world now spinning on its head, they are forced to adjust to a life without wealth. Las Niñas Bien premiered at 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

THE LITTLE COMRADE / Seltsimees Laps

This poignant coming-of-age story shows the effect of the Stalinist terror visited on the Baltic countries in the 1950s from the point of view of a traumatized six-year-old Estonian girl, who sees her school principal mother arrested and taken away at gun-point. Based on autobiographical novels by Tungal, who is one of Estonia’s most beloved writers.

LOVE THEM FIRST: Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary School

Principal Mauri Melander Friestleben grew up just blocks from the school she now leads, Lucy Laney Elementary School in North Minneapolis, which is facing the state’s harshest penalty for failure in a state where the achievement gap between black and white students is the largest in the nation. By building a culture of unconditional love and high expectations, test scores rise for the first time in two decades. World Premiere.

NOTE: My personal friend and composer of my short film Hearts Want, Charlie McCarron, is one of the two composers working on this film!

MUG / TWARZ

Carefree metalhead Jacek is engaged to beautiful Dagmara and working construction on what is supposed to be the world’s tallest statue of Jesus when a shocking accident completely changes his life. This tragi-comedy offers a powerful indictment of provincial Poland’s hypocrisy, prejudice and fear of difference, as a young man’s face transplant brings out the worst in his small town neighbors. Mug premiered at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival.

THE SHARKS

Director Lucía Garibaldi’s film features the unusual conceit of a rumor of actual sharks storming the beach where a pair of young lovers also happen to be taking their first measured steps towards a lasting romance. Unfazed, Rosina pursues Joselo as a self-aware heroine of her own hopes and agency. The Sharks premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

THE SILENCE OF OTHERS / El Silencio de Otros

Filmed over six years, Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar’s gripping documentary explores the aftermath of General Franco’s 40-year dictatorship of Spain through a group of citizens whose parents were disappeared, whose newborn children were taken, or who were imprisoned and tortured by the regime, as they pursue the groundbreaking ‘Argentine Lawsuit’ against the Spanish government. The Silence of Others premiered at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival.

SOFIA

Honor and social appearance prove more important than the truth in this caustic look at contemporary Moroccan society, where it is still a crime for a woman to give birth out of wedlock. Faced with this dilemma, the title character, a 20-year-old from a middle-class family, has little choice. Sofia premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

THE THIRD WIFE

In 19th century Vietnam, 14-year old May has been married off to a rich landowner, becoming his third wife. Her husband is kind to her, so long as May produces the male heir she is all but expected to. But when May witnesses a taboo affair happening behind closed doors, the discovery spurs a flood of new emotions that she never knew existed. The Third Wife premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG / Tarde Para Morir Joven

Chilean director Dominga Sotomayor Castillo third feature-film is a dynamic tale of adolescence set in a rustic community of artists. It’s almost New Year’s Eve and Sofía, Lucas and Clara are navigating the complicated road of growing up, a road littered with first loves, dysfunction and all-too adult stakes. Too Late to Die Young premiered at the 2018 Locarno International Film Festival.

VISION

From auteur Naomi Kawase, whose work spans over three decades and includes numerous award-winning and nominated documentaries and narrative features, Vision tells the story of Jeanne (celebrated French actress Juiliette Binoche) as a travel writer in search of a healing herb who is joined on her journey by a young translator and a local skeptic. Vision premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

WORKING WOMAN / Isha Ovedet

This riveting drama about workplace sexual harassment centers on a young Israeli mother of three whose successes on the job are accompanied by increasingly overt advances by her boss, a luxury real estate developer not used to hearing the word “no.” Director-writer Michal Aviad is widely acclaimed for her portraits of Israeli society seen through the prism of gender. Working Woman premiered at the 2018 Jerusalem Film Festival, followed by the Toronto International Film Festival.


7 MORE FILMS I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE

These films are made by female filmmakers or featuring strong female protagonists, which are in keeping with WOMEN & FILM INITIATIVE. But then again, I’ve always been a huge of supporter of #womeninfilm since I started this blog more than a decade ago!

Go Back To China – Emily Ting

Actor, filmmaker and Youtube sensation Anna Akana stars in this hilarious dramedy about wealth, heritage and overdue adulthood. After burning through her trust fund, Sasha Li (Akana) is commanded by her father (Richard Ng) to “go back” to China, where she will be forced to work at her family’s toy company. While the order seems like a devastating sentence at first, Sasha gradually takes steps beyond the self-serving life she’d known and grown accustomed to while living large in Los Angeles. Blending coming-of-age themes with family drama, Ting’s film sees Sasha reconnect with both her cultural heritage and her family, which includes her half-sister (Lynn Chen) and mother (Kelly Hu).

I love Emily’s first film Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, one of my favorites from Twin Cities Film Fest 2015. This film debuted at SXSW so I’m thrilled that it’s playing here at MSPIFF!

Red Joan – Trevor Nunn

Widely named as the “most important female agent ever recruited by the USSR” the story of Melitta Norwood (known in the film as Joan Stanley) is infamous. Here, Academy Award-winner Judi Dench brings history to life alongside famed theater and film director Trevor Nunn. Together, Dench and Nunn masterfully illustrate the life and career of “Red Joan”, including the various hardships and dangers she faced during her time of service. Dench plays Joan in the year 2000, where she is met with a danger she’s never faced before–a charge of treason. After the death of one of her former colleagues brings to light her work as a spy decades prior, Joan is forced to tell her side of the story. We are then transported to Cambridge shortly before the war, where a young Joan (Sophie Cookson) is about to take her first steps into the world of espionage.

Dame Judi as a former spy? YES PLEASE!! As a huge fan of the British thespian and a lover of the spy genre, this is a movie NOT to be missed!

NON-FICTION – Olivier Assayas

A literary editor is propelled into the future by changing industry demands and one particularly determined new employee. The editor in question, Alain (Guillaume Canet), is about to reject the latest from his longtime client, Léonard (Vincent Macaigne), due to its overweight narrative–to be frank–it’s a story he’s heard before. Pulling from the internet to pad his experiences, Léonard’s writing methods have not only bored Alain, but confused him. Alain’s wife, Selena (Juliette Binoche), is a famed television actress who is more accustomed, than her husband, to the modern age, and is also in the midst of a casual affair with Léonard. When Laure (Christa Théret) is hired by Alain’s publishing company to help propel them into a new age of modernity, the older characters find themselves in her orbit, which only complicates their relationships.

It’s tradition that I see a Juliette Binoche film nearly every year at MSPIFF. She always have something intriguing to watch, and I like two of Olivier Assayas films so far, so yeah I’m up to see this one!

OPHELIA – Claire McCarthy

A vivid retelling of Shakespeare’s classic drama, Hamlet, from the perspective of Ophelia, Claire McCarthy’s breathtaking drama stars Daisy Ridley (Star Wars) as the titular protagonist in a film that reinvisions the doomed young woman as the heroine of this tragic tale of love, loss and prophecy. Packed with a powerhouse cast that includes Naomi Watts, Clive Owen and George McKay, Ridley’s Ophelia is caught in a web of royal machinations and dark prophecies, all of which threaten the blossoming love between herself and McKay’s Prince Hamlet.

Not sure why there isn’t a trailer yet since this film premiered at Sundance last year, but The Hollywood Reporter called this a “…vigorous, colorful and clever melodrama smartly rethinks both the play and the character, making her a far more proactive figure than Shakespeare did in addition to entirely re-imagining her fate.”  I quite like re-imaginings of classic tales and this cast is pretty awesome.

Claire Darling – Julie Bertuccelli

Director Julie Bertuccelli’s spirited adaptation of Lynda Rutledge’s novel brings mother/daughter duo, Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni (Deneuve’s own daughter), to the big screen. On a gorgeous summer day in the village of Verderonne, Claire Darling (Deneuve) makes a decision. She places various items from her spacious estate out on her front lawn for the garage sale of a lifetime, with no spoken reason other than the sunny weather. This prompts her neighbors to swarm her property, barreling over each other to swoop up the lavish items Claire has marked for sale at suspiciously low prices. As her neighbors shop, the reason for Claire’s abrupt change in lifestyle comes into view–she has decided to die. After alternating between Claire’s memories of love, loss, and an altogether eccentric life, the film takes another turn when Claire finds a long-lost face at her door, one that she has not seen in over 20 years; her daughter, Mary.

I enjoy French films (just listening to them speak is delightful). I haven’t seen Deneuve in ages, and I love Laure Calamy in Call My Agent! series, too!

This Changes Everything – Tom Donahue

Building upon the long-overdue Me Too movement and revelations of the rampant sexism in Hollywood, This Changes Everything continues the movements mission by breaking down and exposing the true depth of Hollywood corruption. Tackling the central, often unspoken, injustices that have plagued the industry for over a century, this documentary doesn’t leave anything under the table. Sexism, the unequal and often distorted representation of women in film, both in front of and behind the screen, and the big question of “what now?” serve as the the film’s main themes. While there is an understandable amount of anger associated with the Me Too movement and its cause, the film isn’t marred by conjecture–instead, it presents the factual and well-documented examples of corruption in film in order to inspire a brighter future.

This sounds like a well-balanced documentary about a timely topic that any female filmmakers and their allies should watch. I’m also curious as to find out more about ‘what now?’ now that this movement has been evolved since 2017 when sexual-abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein were first widely reported.

Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story – Louise Woehrle

Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story is told by WWII U.S. Eighth Air Force Bombardier Lt. Charles Woehrle, one of 10,000 prisoners in the German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III, depicted in the iconic film “”The Great Escape.”” At age 93, this remarkable man and gifted storyteller takes us from Pine City, Minnesota to war-torn Europe as he relives his experiences with vivid detail that include his B-17 getting shot down, capture by the Nazis, an unexpected parcel from Geneva, and surviving two long years of uncertainty and tremendous hardship as a prisoner of war.

I LOVE World War II films and this documentary is billed as ‘A saga filled with grit and grace’ AND it has a Minnesota connection! Apparently the filmmaker Louise Woehrle is the niece of Charles Woehrle himself, one of the countless heroes from the Greatest Generation who has much to teach us about war and about life.


The Film Society programming screens at the St. Anthony Main Theatre 115 SE Main Street, Minneapolis, MN 55414 Film Society

Tickets: $15.00 General Admission | $11.00 Film Society Members | $8.00 Students

*special ticket pricing may apply for special presentations and other events

MSPIFF is presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul, a dynamic 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to fostering a knowledgeable and vibrant appreciation of the art of film and its power to inform and transform individuals and communities.

Connect with MSPIFF:

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#MSPIFF38 #MSPFILM


My Minnesota friends, I hope to see you at MSPIFF this year! As for the rest of you, which of these film(s) are you looking forward to seeing?

MSPIFF review: L’Attesa (The Wait) starring Juliette Binoche

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It seems tradition that during every film festival in town that I have at least one Juliette Binoche movie on my schedule. Well, she’s still the main reason to see this one.

The film centers on two women who’s somehow thrown together just before Easter, set in a picturesque Sicilian town. The actors speak in both Italian and French which is just incredible as sometimes I can’t even tell which language they’re speaking. The film opens with a close-up of a statue of Christ, and later it’s revealed we’re at a church during a funeral. We’re not told who the deceased person is, but it’s pretty much hinted throughout who it is. We meet Anna (Binoche) in mourning, just as a young girl Jeanne (Lou de Laâge) arrives at the airport to spend time with her and her son Guiseppe.

The title of the film refers to the time the two of them waits for the arrival of Guiseppe for Easter. It wouldn’t really be a spoiler to say that Guiseppe isn’t coming because it’s pretty obvious that Anna is struggling to mention to Jeanne what has happened to her boyfriend. There are some heart-wrenching moments between the two, especially when Anna makes up a lie about why Guiseppe isn’t coming home.The Catholic references in Piero Messina‘s feature film debut is apparent. It might’ve been partly inspired by Michelangelo’s Pietà sculpture where Mary cradled his dead son Jesus’ lifeless body. It’s heart-wrenching to see a mother mourning the loss of his son, something Anna still can’t quite come to grips with. If somehow she could still keeps his son alive even if it’s just in his girlfriend’s mind, perhaps he’s not really truly gone.

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The film itself requires a lot of patience as it’s deliberately s-l-o-w and reflective. At times it feels overly indulgent and tedious, but thankfully we have two excellent performers that help keep my interest. Binoche is superb as always, believably conveying genuine sense of dread and grief. Laâge, whom I’ve never seen before, is equally compelling as the young and enchanting Jeanne and she has quite a natural intensity that is well-matched for Binoche. The stunning backdrop of Sicily is another plus, which also adds an atmospheric and mystical tone to the movie.

That said, I appreciate this movie more than I love it. I’d say it’s worth a watch if you’re a huge fan of Binoche as it could be wearisome in the way the story played out. But for me, I’m still glad I watched it and was quite moved by the lead performances. The story has a haunting quality that lingers long after the end credits, but it also requires an extensive amount of patience to fully appreciate it.

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Have you seen ‘L’Attesa’? I’d love to hear what you think.

Weekend Roundup: counting down to MSPIFF 2016 + ‘Meet the Patels’ documentary (2014) review

How’s your weekend everyone? It’s kind of an uneventful one for me but April is going to be quite busy with the Minneapolis/St Paul Film Fest coming next weekend!!

MSPIFF2016

I can always rely on MSPIFF to bring an excellent selection of world and regional cinema and independent films, many of which I never would’ve been able to see on the big screen!

I wish I could see at least a couple of films a day but given that I have a 9-5 job, I can only see a handful of them (maybe more if they have online screeners, so we’ll see). If you’re in the area, be sure to take part in MSPIFF and support MN film society. You can see what films are playing here which you can search by genre/country/language, etc. and they have a handy daily schedule as well.

Here are some films I’m looking forward to:


Lots of female filmmakers represented, from MN-made Dragonfly to TWO films by Deepa Mehta (Beeba Boys & Bollywood/Hollywood). I wish I could see the Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language film Mustang, but the screenings are both in Rochester which is almost 2 hours away from where I live. It’s tradition that I see one movie with Juliette Binoche at MSPIFF, and this year we’ve got L’atessa, a drama set in Sicily.

So stay tuned for my MSPIFF coverage later this month!


Well, I started my April movie viewing with a mixed bag of movies.

Daredevil2003

The first was Daredevil which I saw out of sheer curiosity. The fact that I just finished Netflix’s Daredevil season 2 last week and also saw Ben Affleck playing yet another superhero (this time from DC) that is Batman in Batman V Superman, made it all the more interesting that I finally saw the 2003 movie. Well, I mainly watched it for the laughs and with that kind of expectation, I wasn’t disappointed 😉

It’s as cheesy, silly and hilarious as people say, my gosh the first fight between Matt and Elektra (played by Affleck’s now ex-wife Jennifer Garner) was so cringe-inducing! Funny that when this movie was made they weren’t even married yet and now they’re already divorced, well that’s Hollywood for ya. As bad as Affleck was in the role though, I think the worst performer is Colin Farrell as Bullseye but really that’s the most idiotic character ever-written. That’s gotta be in the top 3 of Farrell’s most ridiculous roles, right up there with Oliver Stone’s Alexander and whatever his name was in the abominable Winter’s Tale.


The second movie I saw this weekend was a real winner however…

MeetThePatels

I saw the trailer of this doc a while ago but finally got around to seeing it. I tell you, it’s one of the most fun and poignant cultural documentaries I’ve ever seen. Directed by brother and sister Ravi and Geeta Patel, it centers on Ravi himself on a quest to find a wife, with the help of his parents and extended family. Ravi is an Indian-American man who grew up in the United States, and as he’s about to turn 30 with no prospect for a wife, naturally his parents are worried (you could even say panicking).

The journey follows him and his family in looking for a suitable wife in the traditional Indian way. I knew that arranged-marriage has been and still is common among many Indians, I have a few friends who got married in this way and they made no qualms about it. But Ravi, who resides in L.A., is very Americanized and it’s clear he’s got issues with this centuries-old tradition, especially since he’s still not quite over his ex-girlfriend Audrey. The film takes place mostly in the US, but the first act includes him (and his parents) traveling all the way to India, which was quite amusing. But the craziest part was the fact that he flew all over the country and met with various Indian women from coast to coast!
MeetThePatels_familyMeetThePatels_RaviAudrey

It’s really a hilarious documentary from start to finish. It’s decidedly NOT the most visually-arresting doc, as Ravi himself mocked his sister that she’s not really a cinematographer, so the film often looks like a family vacation video shot with a handy-cam. But the *imperfections* are really part of the charm and adds to the authenticity of the movie. What Ravi and Geeta are great at is in the storytelling, which includes fun cartoon segments to illustrate certain scenarios that Ravi go through. I was fully-invested in Ravi’s journey and got a glimpse of what goes on inside a traditional Indian parents when one of their children is in *Code Red*, that is ‘almost 30 and never married.’

All of the people in the docs are Patel’s own family and friends, none of them are played by actors. It also includes interviews with some of Ravi’s friends who are both single and married (either arranged or on their own) so we get interesting perspectives about the subject matter. It’s inevitable that you’ll fall in love with the Patel family and learn a thing or two about Indian culture in the most delightful way. I can’t recommend this one enough, it’s part documentary and part romantic-comedy that’s wonderfully entertaining.

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So that’s my weekend recap folks. What did you see this weekend, anything good?

MSPIFF 2015 Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

MSPIFF15reviewsCloudsOfSilsMariaAt first glance, the film sounds like another commentary on the state of the entertainment industry. But it’s a rarity to see a complex female character at the center of it, and the film benefited from three excellent performances by Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz. An unlikely trio to be sure, yet each brings such authenticity to their character and they keep the film grounded despite the sometimes aimless wandering of Olivier Assayas‘ direction.

Binoche plays an international film star Maria Enders who’s at the peak of her career. She reluctantly accepts a role in a revival play, Maloja Snake, that made her famous twenty years earlier. Back then she played the role of Sigrid, a young girl who has an intense but eventually catastrophic with her much older female boss, Helena. Of course this time Maria’s asked to play Helena, which brings some sort of internal crisis as she grapples with the dark themes of the play, as well as the issue of aging and the shift of entertainment landscape in general. The dialog between Binoche and Stewart who plays her dedicated personal assistant Valentine are revelatory and amusing, I enjoy the honesty and frankness of their relationship. Val seems to understand Maria more than she’s given credit for, and despite their sometimes prickly banters, they obviously have a strong bond together.

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Some have compared the story to Birdman and All About Eve and they do share similar themes, but there’s enough uniqueness in the protagonist’s journey and relationship. Moretz’s character Jo-Ann, a Lindsay-Lohan type starlet who’s talented but self-destructive is fascinating, as you could say that it resembles Stewart who was quite the tabloid fodder during her Twilight years. During a rather hilarious conversation where Val’s trying to convince Maria that there’s more to Jo-Ann and her seemingly shallow sci-fi character, I couldn’t help but think of Stewart herself. This could very well be Stewart’s answer to the naysayers (me included) that she could act, that she’s more than just a ball of nerves who can’t stop fidgeting. I have to say that she succeeded with this role and she earned her groundbreaking César award.

I read on IMDb that the film’s premise was Binoche’s idea, she pitched that to writer/director Olivier Assayas and he wrote a script with the idea. So no wonder Binoche was perfect in the role of Maria and no doubt it’s a character the international film star herself could relate to. Even at 51, she’s still as stunning as her much younger co-stars. There’s a certain self-assuredness as well as raw vulnerability in Maria that Binoche captured perfectly. She’s frustrating at times but never irritating, at least not to me. There are also some humorous moments when she googled Jo-Ann and was shocked/amused by all her shenanigans captured by paparazzi.

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The film is shot 35-mm film and it’s simply stunning. It can practically serves as a travel video to the Swiss Alps, especially the resort town St Moritz. The Maloja Snake refers to the thick white low-lying cloud formation that *slithers* its way along the mountainsides and it’s captured beautifully on screen. The classically-tinged score is lovely too, it’s definitely the kind of music I enjoy and it fits the mood and tone of the film well. I’m really glad I saw this on the big screen and it’s become one of my favorites of the year. There are some slow moments and the ending dragged on a bit, but for the most part I was quite engrossed in the story. It’s rare to see such a well-developed, female-centric dramas these days, so kudos to Assayas for writing/directing one that also feels authentic. But the stars truly belong to both Binoche and Stewart, especially the latter who’s able to convince me that she’s an actress worth writing about.

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Have you seen Clouds of Sils Maria? Well, what did you think?

MSPIFF 2015 is here once again! April 9-25: 17 days, 250+ films!

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The Film Society kicked off the 2015 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival last Thursday with the Opening Presentation, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (actor Cory Peterson attending). This hilarious Swedish comedy, the highest grossing film in the country’s history, launches 17 days of more than 250 remarkable films, visiting filmmakers, exciting parties, and enlightening panel discussions.

I’ve said this before but really, I’m fortunate to live in a city that has TWO film festivals, one in Spring and the other (TCFF) in Autumn, two of my favorite seasons! Founded in 1962, The Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul is Minnesota’s foremost film exhibition organization, and a 501(c)(3) non-profit. We bring the best of international and independent film to Minnesota audiences through the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, numerous niche film festivals and series, and nightly programming 365-days a year.

Check out the awesome MSPIFF official trailer:

One of the exciting 2015 programs of MSPIFF is that the Women and Film program, featuring 40+ films under that category/genre.

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is dedicated to representing the work of women filmmakers as a critical part of its programming. Look for the Women and Film tag as you decide what to see at the 2015 Festival. It identifies the outstanding films by women directors and related events that are part of the Festival’s program this year.


Check out the full MSPIFF 2015 Schedule

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Photo courtesy of mspfilm.org

Last year’s opening night film, Amma Asante‘s period drama Belle, ended up being one of my top 10 films of 2014, and it’ll likely be one of my fave films of all time! I wonder which other films I’ll be seeing this year will also make my top 10 of the year. Unfortunately, this year I won’t have time to see as many films as I did last year, but I have Josh from JJames Reviews to help me out again like last year. So hopefully between the two of us, we’ll get to about a couple dozen films.

Here are a sampling of films we hope to catch in the next three weeks:

FEATURE FILMS

Clouds of Sils Maria
At the peak of her international career, Maria Enders is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous twenty years ago, only this time she will take the role of the older woman. Seeking refuge in Sils Maria, a remote region of the Alps, to rehearse the play, she takes stock in her career and her unknown future with her young assistant. Director Olivier Assayas takes pleasure in being coy by with his two stars—Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart—as he knowingly layers references to their own lives and roller coaster careers.

USA | 124 min | English
Directed by: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz

The Center
Produced by Jonathan Demme and shot locally in St Paul, Charlie Griak’s atmospheric debut focuses on a vulnerable young man who falls into the trap of a cult-like group. Ryan is a recent college grad searching not only for a job but also for a meaning in life. When he comes across a self-help organization, simply known as The Center, with a charismatic leader, Ryan seems to have found what he has been looking for.

USA | 72 min | English
Directed by: Céline Sciamma
Starring: Matt Cici, Judd Einan, Ramon Pabon

The Connection
Inspired by true events, The Connection tells the story of real-life Marseilles magistrate Pierre Michel (played by Jean Dujardin from The Artist) and his relentless crusade to dismantle the most notorious drug smuggling operation in history: the French Connection. In his crosshairs is charismatic and wealthy kingpin, Gatean “Tany” Zampa (aka La French), who runs the largest underground heroin trade into the States. Shot entirely on 35mm, Cédric Jimenez’s The Connection is a throwback to a time when 70s Italian and American crime dramas reigned supreme.

France | 135 min | French
Directed by: Cédric Jimenez
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Ce´line Sallette

Girlhood (Bande de filles)
Oppressed by her family setting, dead-end school prospects and the boys law in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of 3 free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted in the gang, hoping that this will be a way to a new life. Director Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies,Tomboy) cements her cinematic expertise in exploring the many facets of young female identity with her most powerful film yet.

France | 112 min | French
Directed by: Charlie Griak
Starring: Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamouh

El Critico
A playful yet heartfelt take on the rom-com genre, El Critico follows Victor Tellez, a world-weary Buenos Aires film critic who prefers to think in French and eschews romantic clichés…until he finds himself living one. Tellez drifts from screening to screening in search of cinematic perfection, casting judgment on filmmakers and their films with scathing incisiveness. But when a chance meeting throws him into the jarring world of gorgeous thrill-seeker Sofia, he starts to question his meticulous, intellectual routine and realizes there’s more to his story than he ever dreamed.

Argentina| 98 min | Spanish/French
Directed by: Hernán Guerschuny
Starring: Rafael Spregelburd, Dolores, Blanca Lewin

….

Marshland
True Detective, Spainsh-style! A series of brutal murders of adolescent girls in a remote and forgotten town bring together two disparate characters—both detectives in the homicide division—to investigate the cases. With deep divisions in their ideology, detectives Juan and Pedro must put aside their differences if they are to successfully hunt down a killer who for years has terrorized a community in the shadow of a general disregard for women rooted in a misogynistic past. Alberto Rodríguez paints a gritty noir portrait of rural Spain circa 1980, rich with style, ambience and character.

Spain | 105 min | Spanish
Directed by: Alberto Rodríguez
Starring: José Antonio Félez, Mercedes Gamero, Ricardo García Arrojo

Labyrinthus
Discovering a backpack containing a USB key and a strange old camera, 14 year-old Frikke unknowingly starts a computer game that uploads real children, animals, and objects from his world into a gigantic labyrinth in the gaming world. Ordinarily, Frikke is expert at computer games; but this one is real! Frikke’s avatar must help his friends, Nora and Marco, through the labyrinth, escape from the game’s evil creator, and break the code that will release them. At least one third of the action takes place in a CGI animated alternate reality; the rest in Ghent, Belgium. Frikke must find the connection between these two worlds, before its too late!

Netherlands | 95 min | Dutch
Directed by: Douglas Boswell
Starring: Spencer Bogaert, Emma Verlinden, Felix Maesschalck

Chagall-Mallevich
A story of love and passion, hatred and egotism, and the clash of huge creative personalities, Chagall – Malevich is based on real events that occurred during the time of Marc Chagall’s short-lived Vitebsk period (1917-18), a time in which he created an Academy of Modern Art inspired by dreams of a bright and beautiful future. More than 140 copies of paintings by Chagall and his brilliant colleague Kazimir Malevich were made for the film. Here, too, is the story of Chagall’s wife Bella and her selfless love for her husband. It’s a story further complicated by her former childhood friend and one-time suitor Naum, a bitter man who is now a Soviet Commissar.

Russia | 120 min | Russian
Directed by: Aleksandr Mitta
Starring: Leonid Bichevin, Anatoliy Belyy

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The Golden Era
Hong Kong master Ann Hui vividly brings the life of pioneering 20th century female novelist and poet Xiao Hong to the screen. Hui’s lavishly shot period piece shifts perspective, narrators, and time periods freely as it chronicles Xiao Hong’s struggles—an oppressive family, an arranged marriage, a fiery affair with fellow writer Xiao Jun, and her passion, compulsion and talent for writing—until her death at age 30 in 1942.

China/Hong Kong | 178min | Chinese (Mandarin)
Directed by: Ann Hui
Starring: Tang Wei, Feng Shao Feng

To Life! (Auf Das Leben!)
Fate has taken its toll on the aging cabaret singer Ruth and the young but terminally-ill Jonas. Yet despite their great age difference and their entirely opposite experiences in life, they form an intense bond and give each other a reason and purpose to live.

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Germany | 90 min | German
Directed by: Uwe Janson
Starring: Hannelore Elsner, Max Riemelt, Sharon Brauner

Gods
Riveting, fast paced, compelling and filled with humor, Gods is the story of the rebel cardiac surgeon, Zbigniew Religa, who performed the first successful heart transplant in Soviet controlled Poland in 1984. With the support of his renegade medical team, he battled everyone including fellow doctors, the communist bureaucracy and a shocked religious community, Religa, to make history and become a national hero.

Poland | 120 min | Polish
Directed by: Lukasz Palkowski

Secrets of War
In a Nazi-occupied Dutch village that’s slowly changing, 12 year-olds Tuur and Lambert initially incorporate the war into their childhood games. Until the boys begin to question what they see: a toy appearing out of a passing train; traces of people’s belongings in the underground caves; secretive parents. Befriending Maartje, a new girl in town, the boys’ friendship is tested when they learn a powerful secret of their own and the reality of war changes their childhoods forever.

Netherlands | 95 min | Dutch
Directed by: Dennis Bots
Starring: Maas Bronkhuyzen, Joes Brauers, Pippa Allen

… 

DOCUMENTARIES

The Dinkytown Uprising
The year is 1970 and the disastrous Vietnam War keeps escalating. Protests are erupting all over U.S. campuses. But in Minneapolis, word that the national Red Barn Restaurant chain wants to erect a new fast-food franchise in old, venerable Dinkytown, the “war at home”  takes a different turn. This stunning documentary chronicles the unprecedented 40-day, 40-night continuous Dinkytown “Occupation” to prevent construction of an unwanted hamburger joint.

https://vimeo.com/121387504

Directed by: All Milgrom

The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful companion piece to The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence focuses on a family of survivors who discovers how their son was murdered in the 1965 Indonesian genocide, as well as the identities of the killers. The youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, decides to break the suffocating silence by confronting the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to accept responsibility for their actions.

Directed by: Joshua Oppenheimer

 

Every Face Has a Name

In Every Face Has A Name, a sequel of sorts to Harbor of Hope (MSPIFF 2012), director Magnus Gertten tracks down and interviews survivors from German concentration camps seen in a 35mm archival film reel showing their arrival at the harbour of Malmo, Sweden on April 28, 1945.

The group includes Jews from all over Europe, Norwegian prisoners of war, Polish mothers and children, members of the French resistance, British spies, as well as a young Italian-American accused of being a spy—with personal reactions that are both powerful and moving.

Directed by: Magnus Gertten

All the Time in the World

Concerned with the fundamental disconnect of living in the city, a family of five leaves the comforts of home behind for a remote cabin in the Yukon wilderness camera in tow. Without running water, electricity, phone or even direct road access, Suzanne Crocker, her husband and three children (ages 10, 8 and 4) embark on a nine month experiment. Making do with no crew and limited equipment, Crocker skillfully chronicles her family’s unique personal discovers and turns them into a universal story on life, family, and everyday struggles.

Directed by: Suzanne Crocker

… 


Get your tickets and MSPIFF passes before they sell out!

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Regular Screenings
General Admission: $12.00
Film Society Members: $10.00
Students w/ID: $6.00

NEW! Beginning this year, tickets can be purchased online at mspfilm.org.

DOWNLOAD THE OFFICIAL GUIDE & FULL SCHEDULE 

 


What do you think folks, does any of these films interest you?

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Thursday Movie Picks #37: All in the Family Edition – Mother-Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

ThursdayMoviePicks

Happy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Mother/Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

This week’s TMP topic is a bittersweet one for me. I had a loving, albeit brief relationship with my late mother. In fact, we were very close up until she died on my 16th birthday. I have to admit at times I feel a pang of sadness whenever I see a mother and daughter depicted on screen, I often still wonder how life would be life if she were still around. In any case, for my three picks, I try to have a variety of mother/daughter relationship, so here are my three picks:

BRAVE (2011)

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Pixar’s first *Princess* movie centers on a headstrong n spirited girl who like many of today’s girls her age tend to rebel against what’s expected of her. I love that the movie is centered on her relationship with her equally headstrong mother, Queen Elinor, instead of the typical romantic pursuit. I LOVE Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson who provide the voice work for Merida and Elinor. In case some of you still has seen this movie, let’s just say there’s a magical physical transformation that happens that drastically changes how they have to relate to one another. Through it all, the two end up forging a bond that’s even stronger than ever before. It’s quite an adventure that’s full of humorous & even peculiar moments, but also poignant ones that made me laugh and cry. It’s definitely one of my fave cinematic mother/daughter relationship that truly moved me.

1000 Times Good Night (2013)

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Juliette Binoche plays a war photographer who often risks her life on the job, but even after a nearly fatal accident, she still can’t give up her career. Her eldest daughter Steph looks up at her and is obviously drawn to her mom’s globetrotting career that certainly looks cool and glamorous on the outside. The daughter in this film is a young teen and so immediately picture myself in her shoes, as my late mother was an amateur photographer. She kind of had the same free spirit personality and I always thought my mom was fearless. One key scene is when she ended up tagging along with her mom to Africa, much to the chagrin of her marine biologist dad. A traumatic incident made Steph realize just how dangerous her profession really is. The mother/daughter moments in the scene that followed really connected with me, and there’s a wonderful chemistry Binoche and Lauryn Canny who plays Steph. Here’s my full review of the film, which is now on Netflix.

August Osage County (2013)

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Now this is an example of the kind of mom I’m glad I didn’t have. Meryl Streep‘s Violet Wetson is a venom-spewing, pill-popping mother of three daughters who seem hellbent on driving a stake between her and everyone around her. That also includes her own husband, and the film takes place during his funeral. Violet has mouth cancer, partly due to her years of chain smoking, but even so it’s really hard to sympathize with her. Out of the three, Julia Roberts’ Barbara is the one who has the biggest conflict with her mother. The fact she herself is dealing with her own issues with her estranged husband and angsty teenage daughter adds to her exasperation. The Wetson family is as dysfunctional as they come  – they constantly bicker with each other, and the more things are said, the more secrets are revealed that made things worse. The screaming match are quite overwhelming, and it made me appreciate my own family. The craziest scene is when Barbara literally hurls at her mother trying to prevent her from taking any more pills, it was pretty bizarre and quite hilarious. I think it’s an especially interesting film to watch for mother and daughter, if anything, it’d make each of them think of what NOT to do to one another.

BONUS PICK:

Beyond the Lights

BeyondTheLightsMotherDaughter

This is one of my fave films I saw last year, and the casting of Minnie Driver and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as mother/daughter is one of the reasons I love it. Glad Paskalis included this movie on his list, I couldn’t believe I almost didn’t include that here. An ambitious and driven single mother who wouldn’t take failure as an option, Macy succeeds in turning her daughter into a star. But at what cost? Macy’s controlling behavior ultimately drives Noni away and there’s a heart-wrenching moment when Noni finally said enough is enough. It’s not that Macy didn’t love her daughter, but sometimes, some people just don’t know how to love. Apparently, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s search for her own birth mother was the catalyst of the mother/daughter story in the film (per this indiewire article).


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

Weekend Roundup & MSPIFF14 double reviews starring Juliette Binoche

Happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend.

I took a bit of a break from blogging this weekend, but this week has been pretty busy in terms of movie watching. It’s the last week of the MSPIFF 2014 and I saw three more films, one short of what I intended to see but fortunately there’ll be a press screening of Locke next Monday. As the film fest continues with Best of Fest screenings all week, there’ll be more reviews coming from both me and Josh 😉

Here are the three new movies I saw over the weekend:

WeekendViewingApril20

I’ve blogged about All Things To All Men quite a while ago and finally it’s available on Netflix streaming. Remember how I always say some movies are well worth seeing just for the cast. Well, in this case, the ONLY thing worth seeing is the three actors: Toby Stephens, Rufus Sewell and Gabriel Byrne in that order [I’m having a serious crush on Toby, didn’t you notice?] Alas, the film itself left so much to be desired, and leaves me scratching my head why these actors signed on to do such a project. Did they lose a bet or something? I’m not sure I could even review it, but let me just say that unless you’re absolutely in love with any of the cast, I can’t exactly recommend it.

These two from MSPIFF, on the other hand, is well worth a look.

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A Thousand Times Good Night

Rebecca is one of the world’s top war photographers. She must weather a major emotional storm when her husband refuses to put up with her dangerous life any longer. 

This is one of those dramas that at times play out like a thriller. Even from the first moments when the protagonist is witnessing a ceremonial custom of an Afghan suicide bomber being prepped for self sacrifice, it’s quite an emotional roller coaster all the way to the very last scene.

For Rebecca (Juliette Binoche), covering the war is not just a job, it’s her way of life. When she comes home injured from Afghanistan, it’s apparent that it’s just as tough for her family to deal with her dangerous job. It’s apparent that her husband Marcus is constantly worried sick for Rebecca and this incident puts him over the edge which compels him to give her an ultimatum. It’s her family or her job. At first I felt that it’s not fair of him to do so, but as the film progresses, we’re shown how her two young daughters are dealing with her absence whilst she’s away in a war zone. It’s a tricky dilemma that I find myself grappling with as I watched this film. I read that this film is semi-autobiographical as Norwegian director Erik Poppe was a war photographer himself. No doubt this story is quite a personal one for him.

AThousandTimesGoodNight_Stills

The main quibble I have with the film is the slow pace. I don’t mind quiet moments on film, but at times it felt a bit too indulgent that it threatens to grind the film to a halt. The metaphor of Rebecca drowning/suffocating by her life dilemma also grows repetitive. But the cinematography is simply stunning, nearly every shot is like a work of art. It’s also very atmospheric and the conflict felt genuine. The sense of authenticity comes from a committed performance from the always-reliable Binoche, as well as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays her sensitive & caring husband. I’ve always been a big fan of Nikolaj from his short TV stint in New Amsterdam, long before he played Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones, and he proves himself once again to be a capable and versatile actor. Lauryn Canny as Rebecca’s eldest daughter Steph is also quite good. When they’re in Africa, something happened that was quite traumatic for Steph. Some of the most emotional scenes in the film feature the two of them.

The heart of the film is no doubt Binoche. She conveys so much even in scenes where no words are spoken. This is the first of two films I saw her in and she’s absolutely excellent in both of these. There’s a certain aura of mystique about her that seems unreachable, and she’s very convincing as an fiercely idealistic woman. There is a fine line between bravery and recklessness and I think this film often blurs that line. There is a hint at the finale where Rebecca is back in Afghanistan that perhaps she’s a changed person after what happened between her and Steph, but the film lets us interpret that for ourselves.

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Words and Pictures

An art instructor and an English teacher form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important.

Romance that’s sparked out of rivalry has been done many times before, but with the right cast, it can still feel fresh. The pairing of Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche is what intrigues me about this film and they’re still the reason to watch to movie.

Owen is Jack ‘Mr Mark’ Marcus, a gifted English teacher at an upscale prep school. His best days as a published author seems to be behind him and he’s got a drinking problem. Perhaps that’s a result of his disillusionment with his life, as he seems to have lost his mojo, as well as in danger of losing his job. Meanwhile, a renowned painter Dina Delsanto (Binoche) has just been hired at the school. Her nickname is icicle for obvious reasons, but her coldness seems to also stem from her disappointment that she can no longer paint as much as she did due to her server Rheumatoid arthritis.

WordsAndPicturesStills

The two couldn’t be more different from each other, but as they say, opposites attracts. It’s fun to watch Owen in a softer role like this where he’s not firing a gun every two seconds, but his intensity is still there as he bud heads with the school principal and board members. He’s a deeply flawed character and in the most vulnerable moments, especially between him and his estranged son, is where I enjoyed his performance most. I wish the film would focus more on these two characters, as all the drama with the students are not as intriguing to me, and they don’t really add much to the story. The whole school competition of Words vs Pictures is more of a personal *war* for Marcus and Delsanto, and though it’s predictable that they’d end up together, it’s still fun to watch their banters. I personally like the pairing of Owen and Binoche more than him and Julia Roberts in Duplicity, which I find rather contrived. The only other actor I like in this movie is Bruce Davison as one of the more sympathetic faculty members.

Binoche is lovely here and it’s a testament to her versatility that she is also very convincing as a painter. I didn’t know that she’s an artist herself but in the credits I noticed that the Delsanto’s work is by Binoche, wow! I think out of the two films I saw last week, her dramatic chops perhaps suits something like A Thousand Times Good Night better. I like the idea of two broken people finding each other and to see a romantic film between people over the age of 40. Alas, I think the ending is almost as rough as Owen’s unkempt stubbles. Even the finale of the competition just didn’t have the oomph needed to make the story soar. Overall it’s an enjoyable dramedy though, eons better than a lot of the rom-coms are churning out these days. If you’re a fan of these two actors, this one is definitely worth a look.

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So what did you see this Easter weekend? Anything good?