Never a slavish follower of hackneyed conventions, Sarah Polley has forged a fresh approach to film as a writer, actor, and director. She continues her unusual and provocative career with the personal documentary "Stories We Tell." Writer and director Polley pursues one of the toughest questions she could ask: Who really is my father?
The child asks for a lullaby, and the mother complies. She sings “Rock-a-bye, Baby,” a little ditty that lulls in melody but not lyric. The words, about infanticide and fear, set the scene for “What Maisie Knew.” Maisie is the child, her mother is full of the words of love but not the actions.
Sometimes all that's wanted or needed for a most enjoyable summer movie is a light-hearted romp with serious undercurrents. A strong entry in this category, Danish director Susanne Bier's "Love Is All You Need" boasts a fine international cast of actors showcasing exquisite comic timing while also registering the sting of romantic entanglements, betrayals, and disappointments.
Except for a few scenes, painfully funny, most of “Frances Ha” is not a comedy, no matter how the producers try to sell it. Perhaps feminism is to blame: after all, for years, we ranted that women deserve as much of a chance to get away with being idiots and slaggards as men do.
Academy-Award Nominee Scott Hamilton Kennedy's "Fame High" documents the talent and dreams of four students at the prestigious Los Angeles County High School for the Arts over the course of a school year. A superbly edited mix of candid comments from the aspiring individuals, their friends, parents, and teachers, plus rehearsal and performance footage yields a rich series of profiles.
Based on a true story, "The Iceman" plunges deep into the actions and reactions (or lack thereof) of psychopath Richard Kuklinski, a hitman and murderer for over three decades, killing well over 100 men. Co-writer/director Ariel Vromen wastes no time on unnecessary details of the crimes or reasons for most of the murders depicted.
The true story of the balsawood raft known as the Kon-Tiki boggles the mind. April 28th, 1947, under the direction of Norwegian ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl, he and five crewmen set sail from Peru fervently hoping the ocean currents would push them the 4300 nautical miles to the Polynesian Islands.
Set in rural Iowa, "At Any Price" watches a contemporary farm family under stress, coming apart from external and internal pressures. Unforgiving corporations, genetically modified seeds, small versus large farms, and younger generations that want to pursue life away from the rural environment: all factor into multiple crises.
It makes sense that, if you’re telling the story of your country's divorce, the partition of your patrinomy, that you will use the time-honored story of babies switched at birth. And, thus, does Salman Rushdie tell the story of “midnight’s children.”
Director Patrick McGrady's personal documentary "Wagner & Me" confronts a profound issue. How does British actor/writer Stephen Fry, entranced by Richard Wagner's superb music, reconcile his passionate love of that music with what he knows about Wagner's personal anti-Semitism and historical use, revered as Wagner was by Hitler and the Nazis.
For avant-garde film fans, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel's experimental documentary "Leviathan" will amaze and delight. For those who want at least a bare bones narrative or some guided insight, "Leviathan" will become an exercise in tedium before its 87 minutes have concluded. Count me in the latter category for this effort.
Born in India, a graduate of Delhi University and Harvard, director Mira Nair seems the perfect candidate to convey an astute outsider's perspective on the American experience. And her new film "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" requires exactly that in the story of the young Pakistani man Changez, a Wall Street success before 9-11 who becomes bitterly alienated in its aftermath.
What filmmakers have never understood is that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is not about the parties. Their hands get all sweaty at the idea of filming those grand, balloon-filled ballrooms. The Great Gatsby is a classic because it’s not just a backdrop brought forward, not just about showering shirts down from a magnificent closet.
“In the House” began as the play “El Chico de la ultima fila” by Juan Mayorga; director Francois Orzon translated it from stage to screen. The story asks the question, “Is art life or is life Art?” It asks it over and over, and enchantingly.
Focused on the famous impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir late in his life, French director Gilles Bourdos's "Renoir" resembles nothing so much as Renoir's work, which is to say that details accrue slowly but beautifully. The film relishes the lovely light of southern France and the languorous moods captured gloriously in the paintings and the scenes devoted to their creation.
There are consequences to being a sperm donor. Let’s say you become one just to raise some ready cash, not to raise children. And, then, let’s say that the hundreds of progeny born from those donations want to meet you? How do you manage such introductions without looking like a man who seems to enjoy sperm production a bit much?