Rarely does one living person participate in major international events over two and a half decades. But that's exactly what Yehuda Avner experienced as speechwriter and assistant to five Israeli Prime Ministers beginning in 1958. Director, co/producer and writer Richard Trank's informative, well-researched documentary "The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers" presents Avner on camera, narrating his behind-the-scenes observations.
Near the end of the documentary ""Design is One: Lella and Massimo Vignelli," an expert observes that a good designer is the "intermediary between information and understanding," making the complex clear. As directors Roberto Guerra and Kathy Brew work through illustrative examples from the Vignellis' work, what that means becomes crystal clear.
Producers and directors Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger bring a welcome restraint to their documentary "Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Show." Anyone familiar with Downey's nationally syndicated show from early 1988 to July 1989 remembers the loud, confrontational, trash-talking host who blew smoke in guests' faces while screaming at them.
"Out of the Furnace" wants to be a blue collar, gritty film, and it succeeds. Set in Braddock, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh) in 2008, the future for the steel mill workers looks about as bleak as the sky and the town. Two brothers pursue different paths: Russell still employed at the mill, younger Rodney floundering, heading off to Iraq.
Co-writer/director Alexander Payne has crafted a masterpiece in "Nebraska." Bruce Dern, who won Best Actor at this year's Cannes Film Festival, plays Woody Grant, an elderly curmudgeon who's convinced, via a letter, that he's won a million dollar magazine sweepstakes prize. Determined to claim it, Woody, with his resigned but reluctant son David in tow, heads from Billings, Montana, to Lincoln, Nebraska.
In a four film series, repeat a similar narrative without imaginative reinvention and invite disappointment. Unfortunately, "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" falls into that category as it repeats the first "Hunger Games'" formula and does it sluggishly. The story picks up after Katniss and Peeta's triumph in the most recent games now celebrated during a multi-district victory tour.
Based on Martin Sixsmith's 2009 book, the film "Philomena" is based on the true story of Philomena Lee. In a restrictive, Catholic Ireland in the early 1950s, a teenage Philomena becomes pregnant and, as with so many other such women, is sent to work at the Magdalena Sisters convent and home for those guilty of "carnal incontinence."
The 22nd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival kicks off Thursday, November 14th and continues through Sunday, November 24th. With 330 films offered in 201 screenings and programs, there's a wealth of riches. Fiction and nonfiction, live action and animation, feature-length and short selections represent 54 countries. I single out only a few of my favorites.
The 22nd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival concludes Sunday, November 24th with a feast of films on offer. Among the highlights will be three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, followed by a conversation with St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Joe Williams and a screening of Stone's "JFK." Equally brilliant is Erich von Stroheim's 1924 "Greed."
Tentatively exploring and gradually defining her sexual identity, Adèle flirts with, finds love, and then fixates on Emma, a confident young woman much more self-aware and secure in her values than Adèle. This succinctly summarizes director/co-writer Abdellatif Kechiche's "Blue Is the Warmest Color" but barely hints at the emotional depths and psychological trauma the film probes.