The Swedish documentary The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 offers a unique, insiders' perspective on the American black power movement during those nine volatile years. After director Goran Hugo Olsson found journalists' 1960s and 1970s footage in the Swedish television archives, footage largely unseen in the U.S., he decided to reexamine these nine years through Swedish reporters' lenses adding contemporary commentary.
Beginning with the prospect of an eerie, menacing storm, Take Shelter finds Curtis LaForche in a quizzical state of apprehension facing the ominous clouds. His puzzled, uneasy wariness will increase as nightmares intrude into his sleep and hallucinations populate his waking hours. Is he exhibiting the early signs of paranoid schizophrenia, as his mother did in her mid-30s?
Moneyball's behind-the-scenes drama is a terrific companion piece to the World Series' on-the-field excitement. Based on the real-life experiences of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, Moneyball asks tough questions, especially how to compete against the wealthiest teams. And it finds answers as creative as Beane's 2001 solution to having an operating revenue one-fourth the Yankees' budget, for one example.
Steven Soderbergh is a very smart director. He's proved this already with an amazing range of films: Traffic, The Limey, Out of Sight, Ocean's Twelve and Thirteen, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Now add his recent film Contagion. Knowing the apocalypse extravaganzas, Soderbergh astutely chooses a different tack with the terrifying idea: the worldwide, rapid spread of a deadly virus.
At the heart of director Gus Van Sant's film Restless is a delicate, difficult situation. Sweet teenager Annabel has terminal brain cancer and knows she faces imminent death. In her final months, she finds love with Enoch, a distraught soul mate whose parents died in an automobile accident that nearly killed him. Tentatively, cautiously they provide each other support.
Margin Call imagines insiders' actions and reactions when, in 2008, they realized the financial world faced immediate, catastrophic collapse. A fictitious, 107-year-old, international Wall Street firm claims $8 trillion in assets, soon to be unequivocally worthless. This well-written scenario, "inspired by real events," unfolds over 24 hours of tense power plays, confrontations, and loss—emotional as well as monetary.
Impressively minimalist, Le Quattro Volte contains not one intelligible word of dialogue and no discernible plot. Instead, writer/director Michelangelo Frammartino inhabits the rural, Calabrian region in southern Italy. There he documents the primary activities: goat herding with emphasis on one shepherd and his dog, one kid, villagers harvesting a huge fir tree and then cooking its estimable wood into charcoal.
The Mysteries of Lisbon is an intriguing but demanding film—not that it's difficult to follow but at 4¼ hours, it requires a commitment of time and energy. Set in the 19th century in Portugal, France, Italy and Brazil, this stylized costume drama opens with a caution: "This work is not my child, nor my godson. This work is a diary of suffering."
In southern Sudan, a tragic, on-going story provides the backdrop to director Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher. Muslim army forces brutally slaughter Christians and force captured children to fight as their soldiers. When US ex-con drug dealer Sam Childers finds Christ and learns about this appalling situation, he travels from his Pennsylvania home to Africa to help, establishing an orphanage.
The title—The Ides of March—alludes to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and its nefarious literal and figurative back stabbing in that political world. George Clooney's film of that title portends equally grim, venomous double-dealing. The good news is that it delivers as a dramatic, gripping morality tale echoing contemporary scandals in this adaptation of Beau Willimon's play Farragut North.
Doing what the French cinema does best, My Afternoons with Margueritte mines the gems found in relationships with friends and chance encounters while reproaching those who criticize others. Witness fiftyish Germain Chazes, caring for his dotty mother who has made clear to Germain from an early age that he is a mistake, incompetent, and will never amount to anything.
In the early years of the 20th century, so-called silent films didn't play in silence. They screened with everything from a lone piano player to full, glorious orchestral accompaniment. Recreating that marvelous environment through imaginative interpretations, the Alloy Orchestra has brought "silent" movies to life since 1990, and it has played to packed houses around the world, including St. Louis.