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.
As "Dallas Buyers Club" opens, the camera is trapped in a rodeo pen, peering through the slats at Ron Woodroof sexually engaged with two women. In an adjoining pen, a trapped bull and rider are getting ready to be turned loose for their combat. An apt metaphor, Woodroof will find himself similarly trapped, ready for battle, and fighting mad.
Beginning with a roar as a speeding motorcycle races by, director Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" injects nerve-jangling excitement into a tried-and-true drug trafficking disaster. The set up is elegant and quick. The Counselor, committing to marry his adored Laura, agrees to participate in a routine drug deal. His greed will, unsurprisingly, connect him with a ruthless drug network.
Minimalist to the extreme, "All Is Lost" proves the adage that less certainly can be more. Under the astute direction of J.C. Chandor, with a mesmerizing performance by Robert Redford, the pared down, unpretentious story is simple. Alone on a 39 foot yacht, the central character finds himself stranded in the Indian Ocean, 1700 nautical miles from the Sumatra Straits.
A visually gorgeous film, "Mother of George" tells a very personal story through an impressionistic style that foregrounds moods and emotions. Minimalist and slow by Hollywood standards, it explores profoundly and carefully the cultural and familial expectations dictating that newly married Andenike is expected to bear a child. When she fails to become pregnant, Nike's world threatens to shatter.