Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z (pronounced zed in the British fashion) tells the story of the real Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy) who was sent to Bolivia in 1906 to map the country’s borders for the Royal Geographic Society (RGS) and stumbled upon clues to a lost civilization deep within the Amazon. He made numerous trips back and forth between England, where his wife (Sienna Miller) and children lived, and the Amazon. And he eventually disappeared into the jungle. The film is a beautifully shot tale of obsession in the last age of the great world explorers. Slightly too long, it is nonetheless entirely worth your time.

Cézanne et Moi

Cézanne et Moi offers a view of a friendship that spanned nearly a lifetime. It’s the story of the bond formed in an Aix-en-Provence childhood between two great artists of the late 19th century, painter Paul Cézanne and writer Émile Zola. Surprisingly devoid of paintings and writing, it’s mostly about the men’s relationship. There are warm moments you recognize as signs of a deep friendship but also painful scenes of betrayal. Not terribly deep, it’s an entertaining trip through the Paris art world as the world is leaving behind the Impressionists, as seen by one of the great post-Impressionists whose work was not yet recognized for its greatness and a writer on the rise.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

Just in time for Passover… a new Holocaust movie! It’s hard to believe that 80 years after Hitler hatched his maniacal plan to exterminate Jews, there are compelling stories of faith, survival, heroism and sacrifice still making their way to the big screen. The Zookeeper’s Wife isn’t nearly as gripping and powerful as the likes of Diary of Anne Frank or Schindler’s List, but it’s a valiant effort and comes along at a time when the nation – and the world- can use a good reminder to “never forget” what happened, how it happened, and the dangers of a lunatic leader with a cult following. Not to mention the importance of resistance – and persistence. For that very reason alone, it’s worth checking out The Zookeeper’s Wife, based on the nonfiction book by Diane Ackerman. It recounts how a Polish couple who ran the Warsaw Zoo helped save hundreds of Jews during the German invasion, by using the zoo as a way-station for men, women and children to escape from the ill-fated Warsaw Ghetto.

Life

Life begins as a space drama reminiscent of The Martian or Gravity and morphs into a horror movie that’s more like Alien. It’s a mash-up that didn’t really work for me, so I left the theater disappointed, grossed out, and less than enthusiastic about the prospect of a sequel. Yes, Life leaves the capsule door open for a Life 2, just in case the sci-fi thriller finds itself an audience. I put Life on par with recent (weak) space fare, including The Space Between Us and Passengers, and a few notches below Arrival, which features a similar alien blob that is more visceral than literal in its threat to humanity. The alien creature that co-stars in Life is a flesh-hungry critter that picks off its cast-mates one by one. So don’t get too invested.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast represented near-perfection for an animated musical when it competed for Best Picture honors in 1991. So it’s hard to imagine that any reimagining of the “tale as old as time” could possibly hold a candle – or a lumiere – to that instant classic. But Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast does what it set out to do, and that’s bring a strong cast, a contemporary vibe, and a few new songs to audiences old and new. And while it’s not perfect, it is quite enchanting.

Toni Erdmann

This father-daughter dramedy/farce from German director Maren Ade may clock in at 162 minutes, but I never got bored and it certainly didn’t drag. The film starts with a familiar premise, but doesn’t go to the sentimental or obvious places you’re expecting. It pits Ines (Sandra Hüller), an über-focused young corporate consultant, against her semi-retired dad Winfried (Peter Simonischek) who just loves a good gag or practical joke. He drops in for an unannounced visit with Ines and tries to get her to loosen up and have a life, and all she wants is for him to go home so she can get back to business. Though it does lead to a happy ending, the journey is full of absurd scenes and uncomfortable moments.

Frantz

French writer/director François Ozon has made some of my favorite films these last few years. With The New Girlfriend, In the House,  and Potiche he’s shown himself to be very adept with comedy and unusual situations. But with his new film Frantz, he enters the realm of historical drama and shows he is equally skilled in more serious films. A semi-remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s Broken Lullaby, it’s set just after the first World War, in a small German town. It’s the story of Anna (Paula Beer), a beautiful, young German woman whose fiancé Frantz (Anton von Lucke) died in the war and Adrien (Pierre Niney), a sad young Frenchman, who comes to town having been close friends with Frantz in Paris before the war. She discovers him as he is laying flowers on Frantz’s grave, and he becomes a source of happy memories for her and for Frantz’s grieving parents.

Cinema Clash podcast: Kong Skull Island; The Ottoman Lieutenant; The Last Word; Neruda; The Marseilles Trilogy

On this edition of the Cinema Clash with Charlie and Hannah: An epic monster movie that’s thin on story but big on spectacle; a love triangle wrapped in a weak war drama set in the Ottoman Empire; Shirley MacLaine gets the The Last Word in a film that Charlie detests and Hannah struggles to defend; a Chilean poet-turned-politician gets the fictionalized biopic treatment; and not one, not two, but three French films for the cinephilic Francophile (aka Charlie). Ooh-la-la! Listen now, or download for later!

Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island is a monster movie spectacle. If you like the likes of King Kong, Godzilla, and Jurassic Park, with a bit of Apocalypse Now thrown into the mix, then you’ll surely be satisfied with Kong: Skull Island. If the aforementioned titles don’t get your cinematic juices flowing, then you can skip this latest spin on a really, really big ape and the island he reigns over. I didn’t not like it, but I wasn’t blown away either, because I’m simply not a monster movie maven. It took me decades to get around to seeing the original Jurassic Park. This film has a similar vibe. Humans invade the turf of giant creatures and pay a hefty price.

Cinema Clash podcast: Logan; Table 19; Before I Fall; Land of Mine; My Life as a Zucchini

On this edition of the Cinema Clash podcast with Hannah (Mainstream Chick) and her movie nemesis Charlie: A grim final farewell to Logan; Table 19 serves up some lukewarm wedding comedy; Before I Fall aims for the YA crowd; Land of Mine wins Charlie’s vote for best foreign language film; My Life as a Zucchini (Ma Vie de Courgette) offers up a smart, animated tale about orphans, not veggies; and Hannah mixes up her mammals. #oops #BeerFail #WhatIsAWolverineAnyway?

Just click on the box and Tune in!