Archive for category Film
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011)
–filmed from 1967 to ’75, this is previously unreleased footage of major figures in the Black Power movement, creating hours of footage that remained unreleased for decades. Stokely Carmichael, Huey P. Newton and Angela Davis discuss the movement’s evolution. Truly moving and powerful film.
Dark Girls (2011)
Director: D. Channsin Berry, Bill Duke
–examines prejudices dark-skinned women face throughout the world, includes the roots of classism, racism and the lack of self-esteem within a segment of cultures. Thoughtful, provocative and detailed.
Soundtrack for a Revolution (2009)
–celebrates the intersection of a political movement and music. Featuring new performances of freedom songs by artists such as Mary J. Blige, Wyclef Jean and John Legend, the film also includes archival footage and interviews with civil rights leaders.
Good Hair (2009)
Directed by: Chris Rock
–in this amusing, warm and touching documentary, Chris Rock travels the world to understand African-American women’s hair. He contemplates women’s self-esteem and their looks and the application and purpose of the weave. Rock wanted to understand what his three daughters would go through.
4 Little Girls (1997)
Directed by: Spike Lee
–a member of the Klu Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham, Ala. church and killed four young girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair. He put the bomb there to “send a message.” The tragedy served as a catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement. Another sad senseless act of violence in the name of white supremacy.
The Murder of Emmett Till (2003)
–PBS “American Experience” documentary examines the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till and the subsequent acquittal of his killers. While visiting the Deep South, Till whistled at a white woman, an act which led to his brutal killing. Activists organized after Till’s mother let national newspapers run pictures of her unrecognizable son. A disgusting and disturbing act of racism. Extremely upsetting and unbelievable.
I’ll choose indie, quirky and dark over anything else anytime. Also quite clear that I support women screenwriters and directors and women in film. I also immensely like Kristen Wiig, Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss. THREE films from Knightley make the list. Themes running through my list: depression; finding oneself; feeling wayward; and musicians.
For two years while I worked at Harvard Business School I was a film critic for the newspaper The Harbus. I wrote reviews for several other publications but I’ve always been primarily a music critic. I’ve also become a book critic. I appreciate great films but don’t write about them.
incredible film about the power of music, redemption and perseverance.
starring: Miles Teller, JK Simmons
written and directed by: Damien Chazelle
2. Begin Again
promising singer-songwriter gets her shot at recording an album.
starring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Catherine Keenar, Adam Levine
written and directed by: John Carney
3. Under the Skin
a weird mesmerizing film. stunning cinematography.
starring: Scarlett Johansson
written by: Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer
directed by: Jonathan Glazer
In 19th century England, a young black woman gets brought up alongside her white cousin. She learns that she’ll never be treated equally despite their similarities. Belle [Gugu Mbathal-Raw] battles racism and joins the fight for equality under the law.
starring: Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Gugu Mbathal-Raw
written by: Misan Sagay
directed by: Amma Asante
5. The Skeleton Twins
touching film about estranged twins with depression and stagnant lives. perfectly played by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader.
starring: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader
written by: Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson
directed by: Craig Johnson
didn’t expect to like this film as much as I did and I was blown away. it’s riveting and disturbing. Gyllenhaal outstanding in every scene.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Written and directed by:Dan Gilroy
loved this film about not being quite an adult and no longer being a teenager either. That point where you just don’t know what to do with yourself anymore but know that you can’t remain in a stagnant life.
starring: Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell, Chloe Grace Moretz
written by: Andrea Seigel
directed by: Lynn Shelton
sometimes the best (or most memorable) artists are eccentric, sad or both. Frank is about such a musician leading an indie group who makes it to perform at SXSW.
starring: Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson, Scoot McNairy
written by:Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan
directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
9. The Homesman
Not generally a fan of westerns this one got me. a feminist Western with a strong, uncompromising woman [Hilary Swank] at its core.
starring: Hilary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto
written by: Tommy Lee Jones and Kieran Fitzgerald
directed by: Tommy Lee Jones
10. The Imitation Game
amazing story about the small group of mathematicians led by Alan Turing [Benedict Cumberbatch] who broke the Nazi’s Enigma Code during WWII. what happens to Turing in the 50s– getting prosecuted for being gay– is horrific. The film is wonderful. Keira Knightley excellent as the lone female in the group.
starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Good, Allen Leech, Mark Strong, Charles Dance
directed by: Morten Tyldum
written by: Graham Moore
An important film about civil rights. So moving. I cried. Martin Luther King Jr. works to secure equal voting rights during the 1960s with a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth, Lorraine Toussant, Tom Wilkinson
written by: Paul Webb
directed by: Ava DuVernay
12. Listen Up Philip
starring: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter
written and directed by: Alex Ross Perry
Acerbic wit. Arrogant self-centered writer (aren’t most writers?). Highly quotable and darkly amusing film.
Recently watched The Drop. It’s just like the book as Dennis Lehane wrote the screenplay for the film based on a short story and then wrote the novel based on the screenplay. It stars Noomi Rapace, Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini and a cute cute cute puppy! Plenty of Dennis Lehane novels have been adapted to film– Shutter Island, Gone Baby Gone.
Even though I’m not an avid mystery/thriller reader, I’ve sought out a few Dennis Lehane because he’s a local author and many of his books take place in Boston.I took Live By Night out of the library because Ben Affleck will be directing the film version of that one this summer. Read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout when it came out many years ago [Strout is also a lively speaker] and am delighted to see such a quality miniseries on HBO with Frances McDormand. I don’t read a lot of mystery/thrillers so if they’re adapted to film I’ve likely not read all that many of them.
Like most people I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars as well as The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins before I saw the wonderful film versions. Sometimes the film version is better than the book but often the book is better than the film. Sometimes it’s a good story either way. I’m a bibliophile but not a literary snob that must read every book before seeing its cinematic adaptation. Most Nicholas Sparks, fantasy, romance or YA I’ll give a pass.
It’s usually best to read the book a while before the film comes out or cast announcements unless you want to envision certain actors in the role. I read Shutter Island right before I saw the film so I pictured Leo DiCaprio the entire time. Not a bad thing. I plan to read Wolf Hall in the next month before the BBC mini-series starring Damian Lewis as Henry XIII.
some 2015 film releases and the source material:
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
starring: Simona Brown; Hetty Baynes; Lolita Chakrabarti
release date: February on BBC One
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
starring: Carey Mulligan; Tom Sturridge; Matthias Schoenaerts
release date: May 1
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
starring: Tom Hardy; Gary Oldman; Noomi Rapace; Paddy Considine; Dev Patel and Charles Dance.
release date: April 17
Serena by Ron Rash
starring: Jennifer Lawrence; Bradley Cooper
release date: March 27
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
starring: Charlize Theron; Chloe Grace Moretz; Christina Hendricks; Nicholas Hoult and Corey Stoll.
release date: TBD
The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
starring: Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara
release date: TBD
The Mordecai Trilogy by Kyril Bonfiglioli
starring: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow; Ewan McGregor
release date: January 23
Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes
starring: Emilia Clarke; Sam Claflin
release date: August 21
Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill
starring: Johnny Depp; Benedict Cumberbatch; Kevin Bacon; Juno Temple
release date: September 18
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
starring: Rooney Mara; Vanessa Redgrave; Eric Bana; Jeremy Irons
release date: TBD
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
starring: Jessica Chastain
release date: TBD
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
starring: Robert Redford; Nick Nolte
release date: TBD
“You’ll need a country retreat if you want to get anything done.”
“It’s a very impulsive decision and I’m pleased with myself for that.”
“I’m glad he’s replaced himself with a younger surrogate for forlorn moping.”
“I can’t process how grossly dissatisfied I find myself feeling. Things I’ve coveted for years are mine now and all I feel is miserable.”
Aaliyah, the young, determined teen with a magnetic style and powerhouse vocals rose to fame quickly at 15 with her multi-platinum album Age Aint Nothing But a Number. It sold 3 million copies. The niece of Gladys Knight [Elise Neal], her uncle Barry Hankerson [Lyriq Bent] worked at Jive Records and started his own label Blackground Records. Aaliyah had connections but also talent or she wouldn’t have sold millions of albums. She dated and married R. Kelly who produced her first album. He was nearly twice her age at the time. She insisted on developing her own style which was a crop top, baggie low-ride pants and a thick headband. Very Gwen Stefani. Later she dated Damon Dash [Anthony Grant], eight years older than her but at that time Aaliyah was 21. She died in a plane crash while filming a video in the Bahamas at age 22. Lifetime’s Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B skims over everything. There’s no depth and not much to care about.
The R. Kelly [Cle Bennett]/ Aaliyah romance races past. One minute they’re in the studio, the next minute they’re married. Kudos to the production team for showing her parents horrified reaction to the union. Her father says: “I can’t understand that a grown man would be with a young girl. It’s statutory rape.” Her father forbids them any further personal or professional connection or he’ll have R. Kelly arrested. I wonder how many other young woman would’ve been saved from R. Kelly’s predatory actions if that had happened 20 years ago. Someone as driven and confident as Aaliyah certainly possessed qualities making her seem older than her 15 years but there’s no excuse for R. Kelly’s actions. She was still 15. This knocks Aaliyah into a funk for a while. But then for her second album Aaliyah insists on working with producers Timbaland [Izaak Smith] and Missy Eliot [Chattrisse Dolabelle]. Then unknowns. “It’s my career. It’s my album and I think it should be my decision,” Aaliyah stresses when her label balks at this request.
Alexandra Shipp turns out a vibrant, heartfelt performance as Aaliyah. She sinks into the role. It’s a treat to watch the potential. Everything falls flat outside her believable and invested portrayal. My top complaint is a typical one for Lifetime movies: it’s written and directed by men. A biopic about a young woman always turns out better with a female screenwriter and female director.
Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B premieres Saturday, November 15 on Lifetime.
“I am the industry-wise transition girlfriend to his soon to be model-fucking teen heartthrob.”
“I’ve decided to embrace my defects. It’s all part of the package.”
–Ellie [Toni Collette]
there are quite a few great films out there on DVD/Netflix. highly recommended. Here’s a round-up.
Kelly & Cal 
starring: Juliette Lewis, Jonny Weston, Josh Hopkins
directed by: Jen McGowan
written by: Amy Lowe Starbin
Juliette Lewis [Kelly] is fantastic as a former punk rocker turned suburban mom. Kelly’s not thrilled to be so isolated and away from her friends and life in the city. She’s second-guessing being a mom and thinking about her lost youth. She befriends a neighborhood high-school student named Cal [Jonny Weston]. A bond develops between the two over their love of music and art. It’s sweet and genuine.
starring: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins
written and directed by: Kat Candler
This one is dark, harsh and sad with outstanding performances by Aaron Paul [Breaking Bad] and Juliette Lewis. It’s about a teenage boy [an impressive Josh Wiggins] who’s behaving badly after his mom died. Such awful behavior that he’s jeopardizing his younger brother as well.
Lucky Them 
starring: Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church
directed by: Megan Griffiths
written by: Emily Wachtel and Huck Botko
In a stand-out performance Toni Collette plays the superbly flawed GenX music critic Ellie Klug. Ellie’s still figuring it all out. She hooks up with artists she interviews. She’s messy. She’s unapologetic. And it’s absolutely fantastic. As a music critic I could see myself in this character. Her editor [Oliver Platt] assigns her a story about her ex, a renowned musician who disappeared a decade ago. She takes along a strange old friend Charlie [Thomas Haden Church] who plans to film a documentary about her search for the elusive Matthew Smith [Johnny Depp]. It’s funny, smart, moving and one of the best films I’ve seen about music journalism in a long time. At one point, Charlie and Ellie are talking about how it’s impossible that Charlie doesn’t like music. She says that she’ll play him music at her place. He admits that there is one Canadian artist he likes.
Ellie throws out a few artists like Rufus Wainwright, as she’s all about alternative music. Turns out it’s Bryan Adams.
directed by: Jillian Schlesinger
Just see this inspirational documentary about a brave teenage girl, Norwegian Laura Dekker, who at 14 sets out to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone. It’s filled with a lot of footage that Laura shot by herself on the boat. Also interspersed with some interviews and her background into how she got into sailing. She’s a fun teenager. When she lands in one country she colors her hair from blonde to red. She meets cool people along the way, makes stops in beautiful places like Cape Town, St. Maarten, the South Pacific islands and Australia. She enjoys her solitude and grows up out on her own. A beautifully edited must-see documentary that shows just what girls can do when given the opportunity.