MUD: McConaughey on the Mississippi is an instant classic

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Searching for a movie full of heart and soul?   Mud is a scrappy bit of Americana, hewn from the banks of the Mississippi River.   Filmmaker Jeff Nichols taps into his Arkansas roots to craft an instant classic, like Tom Sawyer, circa 2013.    But Mud isn’t just a sentimental glance back to life on the Mississippi.   It is a heartfelt paean to the power of love amidst trying circumstances.   The crippling effects of poverty may threaten families and undermine stability, but the desire to build a … [Read more...]

EYES TO SEE: TO THE WONDER

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To the Wonder aspires to nothing less than showing us Absolute Reality in the face of brokenness.  It is a sun kissed paean to the power of love that unfolds at a maddening pace.   Director Terrence Malick has made a ballet, a symphony, a kaleidoscope that harkens back to the glory and simplicity of silent film.   Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki captures luminescent moments.  Five editors (!) were called upon to craft the free flowing improvisation into musical passages.   It is cinematic sympho … [Read more...]

APPRECIATING EBERT: IN SEARCH OF TRANSCENDENCE

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On the occasion of Roger Ebert’s funeral, I pause to offer two days of appreciation.   My movie love preceded “Siskel & Ebert At the Movies,” but not by much.   For my generation of film fans, they were the key critics at the right moment.    Their weekly, televised reviews arrived in the eighties at the same time that so many classic movies arrived on home video.   What had previously been the province of film societies suddenly opened up to a much broader audience.   Gene Siskel and Roger E … [Read more...]

ZERO DARK THIRTY is the Best Film of 2012

Zero-Dark-Thirty-Jessica-Chastain

1.  Zero Dark Thirty—A brilliant distillation of the costs, compromises, resolve, and results of a manhunt.   Screenwriter Mark Boal grafts news reports we heard and ignored alongside intelligence gathering techniques we’d rather not acknowledge into the best part for any actress this year.  Heroism has many faces, but none more meticulous than the lead investigator, Maya.   Jessica Chastain evolves from innocence to insistence, navigating two intransigent systems. The Oscars may have snubbed dir … [Read more...]

OSCARS 2013: Lincoln Leads but Beasts and Amour Surprise

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With the Oscars just announced, many were shocked to see Benh Zeitlin, young director of Beasts of the Southern Wild get nominated over Ben Affleck, director of Argo.   The Academy can be mercurial.   The sheer joy pouring from Zeitlin’s take on a Bayou Bathtub somehow exceeded the respect for a Hollywood insider’s homage to the power of movie magic to befuddle Iranian authorities.    I enjoyed the craft of Argo more than Beasts, but kudos to Zeitlin for his burst of independent originality.   Wh … [Read more...]

LES MISERABLES: A Truly Moving Picture

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Adapting a beloved novel to the big screen is a dicey undertaking.   Bringing a rapturously remembered musical to the movies is even more risky.   Following up an Oscar winning film is also fraught with danger.   And yet, Tom Hooper expands his remarkably assured direction of The King’s Speech in the epic, poetic, and nearly overwrought Les Miserables.   Opening on Christmas Day, Les Miserables embodies the Easter narrative—sacrifice, death and resurrection.   It is about the eternal tension betw … [Read more...]

THE HOBBIT: PATIENCE REWARDED?

the-hobbit-gandalf cate blanchett

As we head into the thick of winter, the comforts of home are more appealing than ever.   A favorite sweater, comfortable couch, and a hot cup of coffee comprise some of the most profound and simple pleasures in life.   So it is understandable why Bilbo Baggins might slam the door on a wizard offering an adventure.   If thirteen rowdy dwarves barged into your kitchen pantry, you’d probably be as miffed as our hobbit.Director Peter Jackson takes his time, immersing us within Bilbo’s comfor … [Read more...]

PARENTAL CHALLENGES in THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN

The Odd Life of Timothy Green Joel Edgerton

You may have missed The Odd Life of Timothy Green.   It slipped into theaters at the end of the summer just as we were heading back to school.   It is a lovely autumn movie, filled with golden leaves and burnished tones.   The Odd Life of Timothy Green arrives on DVD as that rare film that works for parents and kids, giving all of us a deeper appreciation of the gift and challenge of family.   It is also a compelling portrait of adoption, how waiting and longing can turn into redemption for all. … [Read more...]

LIFE OF PI: Visual Splendor and Spiritual Hunger

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Life of Pi begins in a magical, animal kingdom in Pondicherry, India.    Birds and monkeys flight through the trees is especially vivid in 3D.   The seamless blend of real animals and digital replicas makes us sit back and relax, confident we are in the hands of a masterful storyteller.  Director Ang Lee staged magical moments in his Academy Award winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  The crouching tiger in Life of Pi is also Oscar worthy.   He commands our attention, a tribute to the visual e … [Read more...]

CLOUD ATLAS: SERIOUS FUN

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I’m disappointed by the dismal box office returns for Cloud Atlas because it is serious fun.   Those two concepts, “serious” and “fun,” are rarely melded together in movies.   Juggling those disparate tones is particularly tricky when you have six stories in play.   The effort to adapt David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, to the big screen may have been doomed to failure (or at least, misunderstanding) from the beginning.   Yet, I found it both engaging and entertaining, highly deserving of … [Read more...]


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