KPK on the CINEMA: (FEBRUARY 2017)

Cinema

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> Whew. Busy month, Brace yerself maties. The Sea of Cinema was bountiful in February! (A reminder: all films are rated on a 5 star basis, and cannot be rated 5 stars until after it becomes a “classic”, meaning that at east a decade has gone by.)

> This month I review the following 23 films:

VIRUNGA  (2014) ****

TRACKS  (2013) ***+

THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN COMES TO EDEN  (2014) ***+

THE WAVE  (2015) ****

MUSTANG  (2015) ****

ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS  (1964) ***

BEDAZZLED  (1967) *****

INTO THE INFERNO  (2016) ****

FINDING DORY  (2016) ***+

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR  (2016) ***+

LA LA LAND  (2016) ***

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL  (2016) ****

BOY & THE WORLD  (2015) ****+

THE SQUARE  (2013) ****+

ELVIS & NIXON  (2016) ***+

STAR TREK BEYOND  (2016) ***

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY  (2015) *+

SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU (2016) ***

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT  (1964) *****

THE BOY  (2016) ***

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  (2016) ****+

LIFE, ANIMATED  (2016) ****+

RAMS  (2015) ****

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

VIRUNGA  (2014) ****

From time to time, I fantasize about what I’d do with it, if I suddenly had more money than I’d ever need to live. (Doesn’t everybody?) One of my first altruistic instincts would be to contribute in some way to anti-poaching efforts. Now I know exactly where the windfall would go. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park is one of the ecological wonders of the world, awash with an amazing diversity of life. After seeing this searing documentary, I’m not sure it’s long for this world. Netflix had the social responsibility to make this Oscar nominated wonder about the severely-threatened home to 300 of the last surviving mountain gorillas, protected by a fearless cadre of dedicated rangers against the would-be ravages of an evil petroleum company that seems hellbent on drilling in this pristine park- an activity that would likely render them extinct. This is clearly against the law, but in the Congo, corruption is the law and money trumps all. As in colonial days, this British corporate interloper has bought off everyone who could be bought- and they are systematically harassing the rest. These rangers are moral giants standing, impossibly, against the ravages of globalism amid the ferocity of corruption amid the ravages of civil war. A long, long way from DisneyNature, this is simply stunning stuff. Virunga sits at a crucible of hell, and these poor gentle creatures find themselves in ground zero, and squarely in the crosshairs. Many rangers have paid the ultimate price for their dedication and loyalty. In a hyped-up mediaworld, the term “hero” is far overused. It fits here. These guys are heroes! And this film is breathtaking.

TRACKS  (2013) ***+

True story of Robyn Davidson, a woman who trekked across western Australia in 1977, walking more than 1700 miles over nine months, with four camels and a canine sidekick. The always-watchable Mia Wasikowska anchors this adventure with typical aplomb and her usual generous helping of spunky determination. Adam Driver is a National Geographic photographer who meets her along the way with provisions. Despite dogged resistance from Robyn who just wants to be left alone to wander, an awkward romance ensues. That part? Kinda predictable, though the ubiquitous Mr. Driver is a charming doofus, and Mia has undeniable charisma. Hard to tell how much of this is fictionalized. The ending felt a bit flat and anti-climactic, but this was a pleasurable trek- probably a good more pleasurable for us to watch than for Robyn to live!

THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN COMES TO EDEN  (2014) ***+

This one is a strange, complicated, surprising story of soap opera dynamics between early settlers to one of the Galapagos Islands, who abandoned civilization for privacy and isolation, seeking the freedom to create their lives from the ground up. IMBD describes it as “Darwin meets Hitchcock” which feels about right. In the ‘30’s the Galapagos Islands were a wild, primitive place that seemed to have one foot planted in the distant past. It’s a rugged and challenging location to forge a life apart. This documentary is about several families of early idealists, who left everything behind to pursue their own private versions of Eden, and it’s surprising how much original footage remains. But can a perfect society be realized on earth? How will lofty ideals and heady philosophies clash with the harsh realities of survival? The shit really hits the fan when a dubious “countess” shows up (the voice of Cate Blanchett), her lover and browbeaten husband in tow, announcing her intention to open a hotel in the heart of their experiment in earthly paradise. Expect constant twists and unexpected turns including possible murder when the nasty, scheming countess suddenly goes missing. Drowned at sea or murdered and buried on land? It’s a mystery that can never be solved. Cool!

THE WAVE  (2015) ****

Norwegian director Roar Uthaug delivers exactly what I want from this kind of thriller: seat-squirming, nail-biting, face-flushing tension and nearly unbearable suspense that almost drives one to the fast-forward button for relief. No wonder Holywood chose him to helm the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot. THE WAVE is a grand scale disaster film about one of the many impossibly scenic mountain villages along the fjiords of Norway that appear unimaginably tranquil, but face the threat of devastaing tidal waves in the event of a major rockslide on the steep surrounding cliffs. There are many spots where the rockface is fissuring and could give way at any time, giving very scant warning to denizens of low lying areas to evacuate to higher ground. The story revolves around a geologist and his family, just on the verge of moving away when the rackface he monitored for years begins to show signs of instability… Will it go? Hell yeah, it will go or Mr. Uthaug wouldn’t have much of a movie! The question is: who will survive and who will not. There’s plenty of heroism to go around, from small acts- like loaning a cellphone to a stranger when it is your only lifeline, to stunning acts of heroic self-sacrifice. The actors in the leads are really good, the production values are really high, and despite some of the cursory cliches of the exposition, when it kicks into gear, THE WAVE kicks ass!

MUSTANG  (2015) ****

The best Turkish film I’ve ever seen was just excellent in every way. MUSTANG is a sad tale about the way religious tradition can stifle female personhood. A brood of young pubescent orphan girls comes up against the constraints of their Islamic tradition, facing the backlash of intolerance. The girls are seen innocently goofing with a group of boys in a way that is considered salacious and scandalous. It’s horseplay that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in western culture, yet borders on the obscene in a small Turkish village. Their uncle, who has custody, reacts with an authoritarian clampdown that gets more draconian the further it is tested by the increasingly desperate girls, until they are living with bars across the windows, in virtual lockdown. And then, one by one, their abusive caretaker begins to marry them off, with heartbreaking and tragic consequences. All this is seen through the eyes of Lale, the youngest of the lot, who watches in abject horror, realizing that the soulless fate that befell the older girls awaits her, in the not too distant future. What will she do to avoid a life without choice? The entire cast is very good here, but as the young observer Lale, Güneş Şensoy is simply amazing. The camera loves this girl and she gives a startlingly nuanced and unselfconscious performance that haunts the memory. Dear God no! Don’t let this precious child be abused and stifled like all the women that came before her! This was exceptional filmmaking on every level. A breathless ending too! Highly suggested.

ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS  (1964) ***

Yep, I must be gettin’ old. I’ve begun to do something I swore I wouldn’t do: Go back to revisit memorable films of my youth, when there is a nearly infinite supply of fantastic unseen films for me to enjoy. It’s not always an altogether pleasant stroll down Memory Lane. Sometimes it’s a rude awakening, [WHERE’S POPPA?, Lt. ROBIN CRUSOE, U.S.N.] sometimes it’s a highly rewarding experience [THX-1138, BEDAZZLED, below], sometimes it’s just a simple confirmation that the first youthful impression was no mirage. This one falls in that category. A cheesy sci-fi take on the Robinson Crusoe story, I loved it as a kid, but didn’t expect much of it the second time around. After his comrade Adam West is killed, a lone astronaut is stranded on Mars with a monkey, where he begins to lay the groundwork for TV’s “MacGyver” to come. Taking refuge in a cave, our spaceman hero systematically tackles the challenges of long-term extra-terrestrial survival by using available Martian resources with clever ingenuity. Even with the company of a cute monkey, it’s a lonely life awaiting rescue on an uninhabited planet. That is, until space aliens arrive and force their slaves to mine the rock around him. One conscript escapes before the aliens leave, becoming his man “Friday”. It’s hokey as they come, but it’s all… not bad, really- for what it is. It was entertaining, even through adult eyes, and after a false start, it began to take the science half of the science-fiction equation more seriously than most space operas of its time. Too bad Batman had to die in the first reel though.

BEDAZZLED  (1967) *****

(SEE first sentence of above review.) Goin’ back to my cinematic roots with this mod Stanley Donen updating of the Faustian legend for the paisley sixties, set in swinging London town. As a child of 11, I got a real kick of BEDAZZLED because I was sophisticated enough to know that agewise, this sex farce was above my pay grade. It was all a bit naughty, and even then I realized some of the sly humor was whizzing right by me undetected. I suspected the presence of scintillating double-entendres that my child brain could not fathom. I was correct. Peter Cook wrote the sly, wicked script from an idea he developed with his comedic partner Dudley Moore, who also wrote the soundtrack. They were a great duo of their time, and here, poor put-upon shmuck Moore is a short-order cook madly obsessed by an unavailable waitress at the diner where he works. (Eleanor Bron, very familiar from HELP! and ALFIE, and later, the great WOMEN IN LOVE.) He would give anything to possess her! “Anything?” the Devil’s ears perk up. Cook plays Satan in a breezy, casually malicious way that makes the way he screws everyone over seem like it’s nothing personal- just a fallen angel doing his job. Successfully wooed, Dudley signs away his mortal soul for seven wishes- each of them hilariously stymied by the cunning Devil. By the time they get to the trampoline ceremony in the nunnery, it is pretty clear that this poor soul is a lost cause. So how will the little man defeat the Machiavellian Prince of Darkness? Look for Raquel Welsh typecast as “Lust”. It helps explain how she got typecast as a sexpot in the first place! Fractured five star fun!

INTO THE INFERNO  (2016) ****

Brilliant and prolific documentarian Werner Herzog continues his streak of riveting films exploring the wonders of our world. His target here: volcanoes and the way they have effected human culture throughout our existence. Of course there are many great shots of dynamic volcanism here: roiling rivers of molten lava flowing to the sea forming a temporary crust before being plowed under by the relentlessness of the flow, fountains of fire, awesome, thundering pyroclastic flows and spluttering magma in steaming calderas- but we also get the usual obsessed experts, waxing rhapsodic about the unfathomable powers of nature. In one case, Herzog gets a bit too interested in one colorful, effusive character, and I began to wonder if I was looking at an outtakes reel in the DVD special features. But when he gets back into the groove of it, Herzog delivers another thoughtful document about the way the natural world shapes and interacts with the cultural world, that is just riveting to watch.

FINDING DORY  (2016) ***+

This pleasant, entertaining sequel to Disney/Pixar’s very popular FINDING NEMO was one for the record books: In its initial theatrical run, DRY became destined to be the largest grossing animated film of all time. That was just a matter of timing and marketing to a previously cultivated audience that was thirsty for family friendly fare. There are many, many animated gems more deserving of this distinction, but the viewing public could do worse. As one might suspect, this sentimental tale is told with heart and occasionally cheeky humor. It’s a fairly long movie for its genre, and I kept wondering how filmmakers were going to tell a story that keeps the audience interest to the end. Credit a clever and kinetic script that kept dangling resolution in front of our memory-impaired heroine before suddenly yanking it away in a series of unexpected complications. The pastel colors are lovely, there are a few half-hearted attempts at song, and the secondary characters are all fun to encounter, thanks to the deft vocal talents of people like Diane Keaton, Albert Brooks, Eugene Levy and of course, the radiant Ellen DeGeneres who gives a warm, heartfelt, emotional performance in what is basically a story about learning to love and accept others who have mental or physical challenges that we don’t face.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR  (2016) ***+

This Marvel Studios retread is BIG in every way, from the massive action pieces to the running length, and though the first half seemed just one long extended fight sequence that was visually compelling but highly repetitive, it got really good. So many talented actors populate this silly universe. It’s just about impossible not to have a good time with it. Yeah. Thumbs up.

LA LA LAND  (2016) ***

Oh no! I struggled to give this void of a film a fill three stars. I think three is pushing it a bit. In the end I figured I was entertained throughout, and that is after all, the most basic requirement for any film. But the fact that it was entertaining is the only reason I could recommend this film to anyone. This retro/modern musical romance is like a Cheeto. It is colorful but has no nutrition whatsoever. It’s crunchy, but unsatisfying, and the longer you gorge on it the hungrier you get, because although it’s large in every way, it’s mostly inflated air- a celebration of nothingness. Critical darling? Record-tying Oscar recognition? Wha’? I dunno think so. Look, I’m a guy who loves movie musicals- considerably more than the average guy because I was a theater guy, and brought up on them. My mom’s record collection was filled with soundtracks to Broadway musicals. They are what I listened to. And I’m a romantic too. I like good romances. (Loved HAROLD AND MAUDE for example.) Though the radiant Emma Stone and the poised, G.Q. coverboy Ryan Gosling make a very appealing pair, as with everything else in this vapid movie, between them, there is no “there” there. The Best original Screenplay nominated (???) script doesn’t even pretend to get more than a single layer beneath the lover’s skins- a big problem, because there are almost virtually no secondary characters. It’s basically a large cast, two character film. The tunes are fine, inoffensive, they fill their space. But do audiences leave the theatre humming a tune, as in the glory days of the American musical? Surely you jest. LA LA LAND tries to harken back to the golden age of musicals with the glitzy production design, the style and glamour and dancing-on-air fantasy, the showbiz angle of two performers trying to make it against impossible odds in Hollywood, but it tries to impose a grown-up ending that seems at odds with the rest of the film. Poor Ryan Gosling is getting a good amount of whispering behind the hand criticizing his singing and dancing. Agreed, the guy can’t sing- but he pulled it off. And while not a natural Gene Kelly/Fred Astaire hoofer, he makes do- somewhat stiffly. Apart from the eye candy, (costuming, production design, cinematography- all nominated), the best reason to see this film is the central presence of doe-eyed goddess Emma Stone, who has the most alive face of any actress of her generation, I think- making her never less than a delight to drink in. Director Damien Chazelle‘s last film was the mighty WHIPLASH, also a ‘musical’ or sorts- or at any rate, another (much more serious) film about music- and in nearly every way a much, much better film. (Comparing the efforts is like comparing 50 Shades of Gray to War and Peace.) If this is the cream of the crop, 2016 must have been a pretty dismal year at the movies! Despite all my bitching and griping, I am glad to see someone attempting to breathe life into the musical. (It’s been a long time since HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH.) But if this wins Best Picture it will clearly be the worst picture to win since CHICAGO, the last musical to win the Oscar back in 2003, and a very poor choice indeed.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL  (2016) ****

In his fourth film, Jeff Nichols delivers another fascinating and unique experience. Looks like the great Michael Shannon is a Nichols regular. It’s his third film with the rising director, after SHOTGUN STORIES and TAKE SHELTER. (His other films were the excellent Matthew McConaughey vehicle MUD and the current film LOVING, which I hear great things about.) Here, Nichols pairs Shannon with the intense Joel Edgerton in a tense supernatural thriller. Michael and Joel are on the run with a young boy with astonishing and uncontrolled supernatural powers. They are on the lam, hunted by a strange cult that idolizes the child and wants him back at all costs, and by Adam Driver of the N.S.A. who has his own agenda to pursue. Kristen Dunst and the iconic Sam Shepard are along for the ride. And what a ride it is! Very satisfying sci-fi.

BOY & THE WORLD  (2015) ****+

This Brazilian Best Animated Feature nominee is, by any measure, a work of art. Bright and colorful and kinetic, it is dialogue-free and music-full. It presents a view of the big, busy world from a small child’s perspective. When “Boy” eavesdrops on the adults speaking, we hear gibberish- to simulate his comprehension of their interaction. Our attention goes where his attention goes. It’s a film that celebrates people and culture and humanity and families and labor. Boy lives with his parents in a rural village. He has no idea how hard life is. He’s just a kid, and perfectly happy in the moment. One day his father boards a train, emigrating to the Big City in search of work, leaving a heartbroken Boy behind. Dad has become a working drone, and the film vividly visualizes how labor can turn men into items. Yearning for the father he lost, Boy enters the World in search of him. In one remarkable segment he sees a massive commotion in the distance. It’s a party. A big one! Thousands of revelers at play. Mardi Gras, I’m guessing. And it was among the most colorful sequences I’ve ever seen in a movie, but it was so brief. Boy took one quick look and turned away. I was disappointed. I had hoped he would wade right in to that beautiful chaos. There was so much to enjoy here. BOY & THE WORLD had a visual style I can’t say I’ve ever seen before- yet for some reason I just didn’t feel very emotionally invested. Perhaps I did not know enough about Boy, or somehow failed to let go and enter his world. It would help to see this on a big screen, and not the little laptop that I have to make do with lately. BOY is gorgeous, but it’s also choppy and episodic, at least in part because like all kids, Boy has a short attention span, and he is easily diverted by the various wonders of the World. I found it occasionally hard to decipher, and finally, I just had to accept it as an impressionistic dream… which it was all along. I suspect the problem, if there was one, was me. Love incarnate!

THE SQUARE  (2013) ****+

I’ve been wanting to see this electrifying documentary since it was nominated for the Oscar in 2014. I finally found it streaming on Netflix, and it is a stunner! This story of the popular uprising against Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak during what came to be called the “Arab spring” takes you right down to ground level. You are there, with the brave protestors thronging in Tahrir Square, facing rampaging government thugs and getting their heads run over by army tanks. No, it’s not for the faint of heart. Almost everything I have to say about this film I’ve already said about the similarly themed WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM, which came out two years afterward. Both films chronicle organic uprisings of the oppressed against a fearsome machinery of the state. (One interesting fact that was omitted from THE SQUARE: When the oppressive government shut down the country’s Internet to keep the truth from emerging, citizens turned to their cellphones and got the word out via Twitter. That was the moment Twitter ceased to be a toy and began to be a tool.) This is history unfolding before our eyes with a scope and immediacy that grabs you by the throat and demands your attention. People power is just an awesome thing to behold.

ELVIS & NIXON  (2016) ***+

Kevin Spacey as Richard M. Nixon? Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley?! Oh yeah, baby- I am so there! The image of our former crook-president and the man simply dubbed “the King” posing together in the Oval Office is the single most requested photo in the National Archives. Clearly, the American public is very interested in this odd couple. It all began when The King decided he wanted to work undercover for the man. He simply showed up at the White House and requested an audience with Nixon. He was not allowed to waltz right in, but later that day, during Nixon’s scheduled afternoon siesta, the fated meeting occurred. Not great art, but hey: So. Much. Fun.

STAR TREK BEYOND  (2016) ***

This latest installment of the long-running popular series did well at the box office, but was not much loved by Trekkies and maligned by critics for its evident computer game feel, courtesy FAST AND FURIOUS director Jason Lin. I see their point, and hope this Taiwanese schlockmeister does not return to helm any more Star Trek films, but I enjoyed it a whole lot more than they appeared to. The thing is- this is by far the best cast yet, filling these familiar character shoes. Simon Pegg, (who co-wrote the script), makes a much less buffoonish Scotty, Zoe Saldana makes a lithe, sexy Uhura, John Cho is a more complex and interesting Sulu, Karl Urban is a more three dimensional Bones, as Captain Kirk, Chris Pine is a great improvement over the posturing original, and Zachary Quinto lets us feel more of the human half of Spock than the great Leonard Nimoy did. Idris Elba is a suitable villain here, but not among the best of the franchise. The opening sequence in which the Enterprise is destroyed and scuttled is pretty damn good, though there was zero suspense as to whether the great vessel would be rebuilt at the end. (Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods?) I enjoyed BEYOND, though it seemed to flag near the end as it felt more and more like a video game. I must say I found Sofia Boutella very sexy behind her heavily made-up black and white face. That’s one hot alien!

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY  (2015) *+

Been a long time since I sat through such a piece of pretentious hogwash. Here’s a perfect example of how easily critics are wowed by self-consciously arty puffery. 8.5?! Did we see the same film or were they all high on something I want to try? This dark, pointless film about sexual obsession between two lesbian lovers is occasionally dazzling on a superficial level, with its recurring flying moth motif- its languid images easy on the eye, if the pacing was unconscionably s-l-o-w at times. One of the key actresses is fairly compelling, the other hopelessly vapid. They play scripted humiliation games that only serve to humiliate the viewer… until the very end, when the film suddenly decides to get pretty good. This director’s previous film was the extreme weirdo BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO, and this baby’s not much less oddball. The trouble was, I just didn’t care about these women or their sadly dysfunctional S & M games passing for a relationship and standing in for love. Just, yuck!

SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU (2016) ***

How sweet it is! Whoever thought the first date between Barack Obama and the future first lady would make a heartwarming romance was right. It did! And the results are just such a delight to watch. From the instant Tika Sumpter opens her mouth, you would swear you were listening to the young Michele Obama. (Actually Michele Robinson at the time.) Although he had the cadence just right, actor Parker Sawyers playing her soon-to-be famous awkward suitor seemed less spot-on vocally, but he seemed to inhabit the storied man in more subtle and satisfying ways. Yes, it’s all a bit of a Democrat’s wet dream, but waddayagonnado? It’s also a romantically satisfying romp with the perfect conclusion, made all the more resonant by events that came after the ending.

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT  (1964) *****

I haven’t seen this classic British musical comedy in decades, and now that DVD’s are routinely captioned, I thought it might be safe to revisit a film whose dialogue I could barely comprehend as a Beatle-mad kid. Those Liverpudlian accents are brutal! Or they were. At eight, the words outside of the songs were pretty much gibberish to me. They are easy enough to comprehend now. Good thing. I could finally tell why this is considered one of the great films. I have always loved the work of director Richard Lester, from THE BED-SITTING ROOM to the MUSKETEERS trilogy to the sublime ROBIN AND MARION. (Not to mention A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.) But all of these followed. This was the film that put Dick Lester on the map. And what a self-assured effort it was! Freewheeling and exuberant, Lester made a musical Roger Ebert thought just as good as SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. In so doing, he invented the modern music video- as is apparent in every musical number. The wonderful script by Alun Owen takes a typical day in the Beatles famous lives and mythologizes it. This was the height of Beatlemania, and it’s there: screaming, wailing, writhing, exploding in every frame! It’s a fiction, but it’s part documentary. We see these lads at their happiest- while performing onstage, and the swooning teenage throngs you see are not actors- they are fans, weeping and screeching and fainting and tearing out their hair. All the hysteria looks pretty silly now, but the music? The music makes the teenager in you want to weep and screech and faint and tear out your hair! These lads were the hardest working boys in rock ‘n’ roll.

THE BOY  (2016) ***

I generally don’t get too enthused about horror/ supernatural thrillers, THE BABADOOK, IT FOLLOWS and CABIN IN THE WOODS notwithstanding. But I really liked the setup here: An American on the run from an abusive relationship agrees to take a short term nanny position for a wealthy couple in Great Britain, but when she gets there she discovers their sad secret: their “child” is a doll. It’s a stand-in for they boy they lost in a tragic fire years before. But she is instructed to treat the creepy thing as a real living boy, and carefully follow the daily routine while they are away on vacation. Of course the couple seem crazy, but when impossible things begin to happen, the au pair begins to wonder if it is not she who is the crazy one. Some of THE BOY is pretty good- but there is much regurgitation of proven horror idioms that have become predictable clichés. The idea is perhaps, better than the execution.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  (2016) ****+

I had been hearing that this and MOONLIGHT were the two films that really deserved to beat LA LA LAND for the coveted Best picture nod. After seeing it, I couldn’t agree more. I was absolutely involved in every moment of this fine film. A sometimes-harrowing take on love and death and family and unimaginable human loss, it nevertheless offers a Bergmanesque catharsis by the final reel. Casey Affleck is just superb here, as a working drone struggling hard to suppress the memory of a terrible tragedy, until a crisis in the family bring his furious grief and bitter self-loathing to the surface. It is a gorgeously photographed slice of working class life, with a resonant soundtrack and riveting performances from everyone involved. About an hour into it comes a scene between Affleck and the amazing Michele Williams (MY WEEK WITH MARILYN) that has as many emotional fireworks as I have ever seen in a movie. Both gave powerhouse performances that sputtered with electricity. Just thinking about it gives me shivers. Affleck deserved his award and Williams deserved her nomination! At one point Affleck tosses off a throwaway line, that doesn’t, at first blush, appear to have any deeper significance. I was a bit slow on the uptake. A moment later I realized how deep and profound and important the line was in context. I was thrilled when it turned out to be the final line of the film. Perfect! It is not possible to improve upon perfect.

LIFE, ANIMATED  (2016) ****+

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Ron Susskind and his wife had a beautiful baby boy. Owen had ten fingers, ten toes- a happy child, as bright and sweet and playful as they come. Then quite suddenly, that sweet little boy… disappeared. Owen withdrew into his own world. His speech gradually became gibberish. He seemed anxious and over-stimulated by everything. The only thing that seemed to calm him down and bond him to his older brother were cartoons- animated films- Disney films in particular. He would play them over and over and over again, and seem to disappear into the fantasy world they presented. Years went by, and Ron and his wife came to accept that this was likely to be as good as it would get with Owen, until one day he entered the room and expressed, in intelligible language, a very complicated concept comparing his brother’s feelings with those of a particular Disney character, before going back to watch the video again. They were flabbergasted. That bright, cognizant little boy was still there inside Owen! It had been there all the time. The challenge was to gradually reconnect to the lad through the wonderful world of Disney. And kudos to them, Disney was wise to allow the use of many clips from its classic repertoire to illustrate what Owen was going through in “graduating” from a school that trained him to live independently for the first time. It reflects very well on the studio. LIFE, ANIMATED is a beautiful, life-affirming movie about living and even prospering with autism. It is a deeply heartfelt and moving piece of documentary moviemaking. You absolutely fall in love with Owen and his expertise about all things Disney. You go through the pangs of first heartbreak with him. Be prepared to shed a tear when stung by his broken heart Owen asks his parents why life is so unfair. How do you answer that? Four-and-a-half stars!

RAMS  (2015) ****

Two brothers live side by side in wild rural Iceland, raising sheep on adjacent farms. They haven’t spoken in 40 years, communicating when necessary, via a message-bearing hound. But even this frigid truce is threatened, when after the annual competition for best ram in show, one brother notices his brother’s winning animal showing signs of a devastating disease. If he is right, an entire way of life is threatened, and both brothers will see their worlds come crumbling down. Tragedy seems unavoidable, looming directly ahead. What will happen when these lifelong enemies suddenly need one another? It’s really excellent stuff- certainly the most accomplished Icelandic film I’ve ever seen. The warring brothers are riveting to watch and the third act is just dynamite.

> Well that was… a lot! Sure am enjoying having access to streaming Netflix. Glad to see the strange turnabout at the conclusion of this year’s Oscar ceremony. I have yet to even see MOONLIGHT, but I have no doubt it was a better choice than the vapid LA LA LAND. First in the queue for March? MOONLIGHT! I can hardly wait. Until then: Vive Cine, fellow movie lovers!

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© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About KPKeelan

Fool, Philosopher, Lover & Dreamer, Benign TROUBLEMAKER, King and Jester of KPKworld, an online portal to visual and linguistic mystery, befuddlement and delight.
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2 Responses to KPK on the CINEMA: (FEBRUARY 2017)

  1. Must catch the wave. Hadn’t heard of it, sounds fab. Thank you

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