Monday, March 4, 2019

Never Look Away (Werk ohne Autor - 2018)

I loved this story of a German artist from childhood to adulthood after World War II, struggling with totalitarianism and more. I always like to see the cinematography Oscar nominees, and this was even more than a pretty face. No one wanted to join me, due to its 3:09 running time, so I got to experience the pleasure of watching a movie alone with no one to bring me down. The movie was also nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Here's the list.

Cai Cohrs is adorable as six-year-old Kurt, whose free-spirited aunt Elisabeth, played by Saskia Rosendahl (blogged in Lore), encourages his artistry. Cohrs is well cast because he looks a lot like Tom Schilling (he had a small part in Woman in Gold, which I didn't mention and don't remember, and his face did not look familiar to me), who plays Kurt from about 19 to 36. Paula Beer (new to me), as Kurt's love interest Ellie, looks a bit like Rosendahl, and does appear naked in several sex scenes. Sebastian Koch (most recently in these pages for Unknown) is indeed a familiar face as Professor Seeband, a Nazi gynecologist. Brrr.

Director/writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (directed and wrote The Lives of Others (2006), which had lots of wins and nominations, though none from Oscar, and directed and co-wrote The Tourist (2010)) had several meetings with an actual German artist, Gerhard Richter, who is quite unhappy with this movie, loosely based on his life.

My regular readers may know that occasionally I'll refer to acts one, two, and three. This story has too many sections to number, beginning in 1937 with Elisabeth taking little Kurt to an exhibit of "Degenerate Art" reviled by the Nazis, the 1945 bombing of Dresden, the communistic period in Germany, the dangerous "escape to the West," the hunt for Nazi war criminals, and more.

This is the sixth Oscar nomination for Caleb Deschanel (profiled for shooting Rules Don't Apply) and he still hasn't won. Various German, Poland, and Czech Republic locations are beautifully photographed.

Max Richter's (last blogged for scoring Mary Queen of Scots) luscious soundtrack can be streamed on Spotify and Apple Music, among others.

Rotten Tomatoes's critics, averaging 75%, are actually harsher than its audiences at 86. I looked at my watch only a few times, and mostly because it lights up every time I move my hand.

Free Solo (2018)

Jack and I really liked this Oscar-winning documentary about the first and only person to climb the face of Yosemite's El Capitan without ropes, and watched it at home on Molly and Craig's recommendation.

Alex Honnold, a driven young man, does the climbing, part of his Yosemite Triple Crown: El Capitan, Half Dome, and Mount Watkins. Spoiler alert: he didn't die and showed up at the Oscars last month.

This is the sixth feature documentary for co-director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (she made two TV ones as well) and her husband and co-director Jimmy Chin worked on one of hers as also directed Free Solo 360, a short which you can watch on youtube. On my desktop computer I can move the youtube picture around 360° with the trackpad and on my phone I can move it with my finger, but I haven't watched the whole 360 yet on any device

I'm listening to the feature soundtrack by Marco Beltrami (last blogged for A Quiet Place) on Apple Music and it's also available on Spotify and others.

You don't need us to tell you it's good--Rotten Tomatoes' critics and audiences are averaging 95 and 95%, respectively. It's available for rent on all the usual platforms. I'm afraid of heights, and had to look away at times, but it was worth it!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Everybody Knows (Todos lo saben - 2018)

Ann, Jack, and I really liked this "thriller" about secrets and lies at a wedding in Spain. The acting is fantastic and the three headliners are easy on the eyes, as are most in the cast. I put thriller in quotes because Jack commented that it's the slowest moving [of this genre--he used a different word than thriller, but it's sort of a spoiler] he's ever seen.

Penélope Cruz (last blogged for Murder on the Orient Express) is Laura, mother of two, who has returned from Argentina to her small Spanish hometown for the wedding of one of her sisters. Javier Bardem (most recently in these pages for Skyfall) is her ex-boyfriend Paco, who runs what used to be the family's vineyard nearby. Ricardo Darín (last blogged for Wild Tales--I called him handsome there, too) is Laura's husband Alejandro, who appears after a while.

Iranian director/writer Asghar Farhadi began shooting this before The Salesman (Oscar winner for Foreign Film in 2017), stopped this one to finish The Salesman, and came back to this afterwards. He was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes for this but not for any of the awards that I've been tracking on my list.

Gorgeous photography of the beautiful people and glorious scenery are thanks to José Luis Alcaine (most recently in these pages for I'm So Excited).

17 minutes of Javier Limón's (scoring his sixth feature, though he's contributed songs to others) music can be streamed on Spotify and Apple Music, all with lyrics sung in Spanish.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics, averaging 74% are lukewarm and its audiences at 63 are luker. We liked it and are glad we saw it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

What Men Want (2019)

Despite dismal reviews Jack and I didn't hate this silly story of a woman who can suddenly read men's minds, using it to help her career in her male-dominated sports agency workplace. It's a remake of What Women Want (2000).

Taraji P. Henson (last blogged for Hidden Figures) and singer Erykah Badu (she does not sing in this movie as far as I remember) head the huge cast as Ali and the voodoo queen Sister, respectively. Badu is very funny, verbally and visually--maybe the best thing in the movie. Props to Josh Brener (with 42 acting credits he's best known to me as Big Head on 46 episodes of Silicon Valley) as Ali's assistant and confidant. Tracy Morgan (most recently in these pages for Top Five) has some funny bits as the father of a top athlete, and iconic actor Richard Roundtree (John Shaft in Shaft (1971) and all its sequels, among 152 credits, including a new Shaft (2019)) is Ali's understanding father.

Adam Shankman (helmed Rock of Ages) directs from a script co-written by Tina Gordon (co-wrote Drumline (2002)), Peter Huyck, and Alex Gregory (this is Huyuck and Gregory's second feature but they've written lots of TV including 146 episodes of Late Show with David Letterman 1996-97). The story is credited to Gordon and Jas Waters (staff writer on This Is Us).

I'm enjoying the peppy score by Brian Tyler (scored Crazy Rich Asians) and you can, too, on Apple Music or Spotify. A few other songs are listed here.

Dismal, I tell ya. Rotten Tomatoes' critics, averaging 45%, hate it even less than its audiences at 36. Should you want to stream it, it'll be available in May 2019.

Wildlife (2018)

Jack and I didn't love this Spirit Award nominated movie about an unhappy 1960 couple from the point of view of their teenage son, even though we agreed that Carey Mulligan's (last blogged for Mudbound) performance is noteworthy and the cinematography is beautiful. It's just that their discord and, especially, bad parenting bothered us. When those things are shown with humor we're almost always fine with it, but there are no intentional laughs in this picture. Jake Gyllenhaal (most recently in these pages for Okja) is reliably good and so is Ed Oxenbould as their son.

Paul Dano, making his directing debut, co-wrote the script with his domestic partner Zoe Kazan (most recently in these pages for writing Ruby Sparks, her screenwriting debut), adapted from the 1990 novel by Richard Ford.

I can't find online the soundtrack by composer David Lang (he scored Youth, in which Dano played a part).

Rotten Tomatoes' critics, perhaps less sensitive, are in opposition to us, averaging 94%, and their audience average is 73%. We streamed it about two weeks ago on Amazon Prime.

The Upside (2017)

Jack and I liked this remake of the French movie about a wealthy, refined, quadriplegic White man and his impoverished, pushy, Black caretaker. We loved the original, Intouchables, in 2012.

Bryan Cranston (last blogged for Isle of Dogs) is good in everything and does great things here as Phillip. Having seen only two of Kevin Hart's 85 credits (small parts in Little Fockers and Top Five), I can't say with certainty that this is his first dramatic role, but I can say that he plays Dell very well without constant jokes (don't worry, he's still funny). Nicole Kidman (most recently in these pages for Destroyer) is Phillip's no-nonsense assistant and Aja Naomi King (last blogged for The Birth of a Nation) is Dell's baby mama.

Director Neil Burger (introduced in the blog in Limitless) works from the script by Jon Hartmere (new to me) who adapted the other screenplay which was adapted from a memoir by a White Algerian caretaker for a White Frenchman.

Rob Simonsen (last blogged for The Front Runner) gives us nice music which can be streamed from Apple Music and Spotify.

Ooh, the critics hated this one, averaging a mean 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, while its audiences agree with us, coming in at 86%. Oh well. It may still be on big screens (we saw it two weeks ago) but is estimated to come to your streaming services in April 2019.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Capernaum (Capharnaüm - 2018)

Liz and I both found fascinating this story of a street smart 12-ish boy in Lebanon, raised in crime, yet with a strong moral code and survival instinct for himself and his siblings. The movie opens with him in court, suing his parents for having him and "too many" other children, but that's not really what it's about. Its overriding theme is that everyone needs "papers," i.e. documentation, no matter where they live, and kids have to grow up fast. The title translates to Chaos.

Nominated for the foreign film Oscar, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice Awards, among others, the movie also won three at Cannes and had one more nomination.

The movie proudly uses non-professional actors, headed up by young Zain Al Rafeea as Zain, Yordanos Shiferaw as Ethiopian refugee Rahil, and Boluwatife Treasure Bankole (a girl) as Rahil's son Yonas, a beautiful and mostly placid toddler. In fact all three are easy on the eyes. Here's a spoiler-free article about the casting and more.

This is the fourth feature for director/co-writer Nadine Labaki, working on this script with co-writers Jihad Hojeily (he co-wrote three of Labaki's previous projects) and Michelle Keserwany in her first outing. Screenplay "collaborators" are Georges Khabbaz (wrote two others, not Labaki's) and Khaled (or K.) Mouzanar, Nadaki's husband, who composed the music and is one of the producers.

While watching I wondered if the cinematographer was nominated for the wonderful images. Yes, Christopher Aoun is, but not any of the awards I track on this page of the blog.

As I write, I'm streaming Mouzanar's soundtrack (he composed one of her others) on Apple Music. It's also available on Spotify and likely other sites.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics are currently at 86 and its audiences at 77. I recommend this wholeheartedly.