The Water Diviner takes a refreshing dive into one of history’s footnotes

Review of The Water Diviner, Directed by Russell CroweRussell Crowe’s freshman directing effort tells the story of Australian farmer Joshua Connor (Crowe), who travels to Turkey to recover the bodies of his three sons, all of whom were killed fighting in the battle of Gallipoli during World War I. On its face, Connor’s journey is a fool’s errand, and so the story is weighted with an honorable pointlessness reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan. What does it really matter that he finds his sons’ … [Read more...]

Underdogs and the power of faith: director Alejandro Monteverde on Little Boy

Based on Interview with Alejandro Monteverde, Director of Little Boy The “faith-based” boxWhen it comes to telling stories, director Alejandro Monteverde doesn’t believe in a sacred-secular dichotomy.“I’m constantly being put in a box, he says, “constantly.”At first blush, it’s not hard to see why. His new film Little Boy tells the story of a young boy in a sleepy California coastal town during World War II whose father leaves to fight in the Pacific Theater. Pepper Flynt … [Read more...]

There are still new stories to be told in the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Review of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Directed by John Madden“Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life,” writes Roger Angell, longtime editor and staff writer at The New Yorker, in an essay about life in his nineties, “but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love… I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight.”This sentiment goes right to heart of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films. Director Jo … [Read more...]

A Schaeffer’s Ghost Oscar Review Roundup

The Oscars air Febrary 22, 2015. Last year Schaeffer’s Ghost covered several of the eventual Oscar nominees, including multiple nominees in the Best Animated Film and Best Foreign Film categories.Catch up on what we thought of these nominees before the envelopes are opened Sunday night.BEST PICTURE / BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR / BEST EDITING / BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY / BEST SOUND MIXINGWhiplash (Christian Hamaker)The Imitation Game (Andrew Collins)The Imitation Game (Liz Wh … [Read more...]

McFarland, USA Shows How to Run the Race

A Review of McFarland, USA, Directed by Niki CaroThe film business, like TV and radio, has devolved into niche programming, as film companies increasingly target their products to different audience segments. Younger male audiences are especially catered to—witness the surplus of superhero movies in recent years, and planned for years to come. Then then are kids’ movies, movies for older adults, and the much-desired “four-quadrant” hit that manages to pull in both young and old, male and fema … [Read more...]

Timbuktu Rejects Jihadism

A Review of Timbuktu, Directed by Abderrahmane SissakoImage: Attached, from the Cohen Media press materials page atTimbuktu, one of the current Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Film, is a study in religious extremism. A story about Muslims, the film—the first ever nominated from Mauritania—is a quietly persuasive work about the destructive effects of jihadism. The story’s context is Muslim culture, but application can be made to other forms of strict, letter-of-the-law obedience that delig … [Read more...]

Jupiter Ascending: A Real Letdown

Review of Jupiter Ascending, Directed by Andy Wachowski, Lana WachowskiThis is the story of how the movie Jupiter Ascending was written.Two little boys got together and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could rollerblade and fly at the same time? And isn’t outer space awesome? And isn’t Mila Kunis hot? Let’s make a movie!”OK, not really, but might as well have been.Jupiter Ascending was an awkward travesty of a movie — at times painful to watch, with plot holes galore.I will attempt to e … [Read more...]

Moral Discussions Engage in “Winter Sleep”

Review of Winter Sleep, Directed by Nuri Bilge CeylanWriter-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest film, Winter Sleep, is rolling out slowly in North American markets. Despite winning the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, this talky, three-hour-and-16-minute drama from Turkey is challenging fare even for the North American arthouse crowd. But like last year’s 250-minute Norte: The End of History from the Philippines, Winter Sleep is a deeply engaging moral drama and rich cinematic … [Read more...]

Lasseter, Miyazaki and Moore: “Song of the Sea” Expands Ranks of Great Animators

Review of Song of the Sea, Directed by Tomm MooreIn the arena of contemporary animation, the dominant names are Pixar chief John Lasseter (American), and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hiyao Miyazaki (Japanese). But with two features now under his belt, Irishman Tomm Moore has made his bid to join the ranks of the world’s elite animators.Moore’s The Secret of Kells (2009) imaginatively adapted a story from Irish mythology through two-dimensional, hand-drawn animation that felt surprisingly cont … [Read more...]

“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?”

Review of Leviathan, Directed by Andrey ZvyagintsevIn a recent blog post for the New York Review of Books, journalist Masha Gessen makes a “bizarre and disturbing” observation about her experience in Russia: people kept dying.  It wasn’t like there was a war or epidemic, but the death rate was inexorably high, going back nearly half a century.Upon digging into the question, she concluded that Russians seemed to be dying from a lack of hope. And despite some improvements since the collaps … [Read more...]