Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: Beanpole (Дылда)

War is hell. And life after war is, too. Most war films concentrate on the effects that the carnage has on men, but this Russian melodrama looks at how the women are scarred, too. Set in Leningrad just after World War II has ended, when the Siege may be over, but the people are still dealing with the hunger and deprivation, Beanpole is a character study of two young women, friends from the battlefield, both trying to make sense of their lives after the war.  Iya affectionately known as Beanpole (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) works in a hospital tending the wounded. She has a cute little boy at home that she dotes on. But she is afflicted with a condition caused by an explosion that makes her “freeze” from time to time – staring into space and making tiny clicking sounds until she comes back to life. And it causes her to make a tragic mistake. But then her wartime buddy Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina) arrives back from the front, and though it begins as a warm reunion, their relationship takes some very dark turns.

Mini-reviews: 2020 Oscar-Nominated Short Films

If you’re planning to watch the Academy Awards this weekend, chances are you haven’t had a chance to catch the shorts. I mean, who does? Unless you’re lucky enough to go to a lot of the festivals where they’re shown or search out the few that are streaming online, you only have a week in the theaters before you have to fill in a ballot at your Oscar party. And how are you supposed to win that pool without a bit of help?

There are three categories – Live Action, Animation, and Documentary. And short is really a misnomer for some of them. They can be up to 40 minutes and several of them are right at the limit. But I always enjoy watching them, and this year’s were a more diverse selection than the last few years. So here’s my yearly plea to theater owners out there: “Please start showing a short before the feature!”

And here’s my rundown/cheatsheet for Oscar night:

Review: Citizen K

In his latest documentary award winning director Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side) takes his audience into the world of the Russian oligarchs and their contentious relationship with Vladimir Putin. The citizen K of the title is Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was at one time the richest man in Russian and one of the 7 oligarchs who controlled 50% of the country’s economy. They stepped in when the Soviet Union collapsed and took advantage of the vacuum, taking over the media, the oil industry and all the state’s most valuable assets. And they were flying high during the 90s, but when Putin came to power with their help, they expected that it would be business as usual. Boy, were they wrong!

Review: What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael

My first experience with reading film criticism was with my mother’s New Yorker magazines. Most of what was in the magazine was too highbrow for me as an adolescent, but the film reviews by Pauline Kael were such fun to read. She was opinionated and frequently went against the consensus of the other critics who were mostly male. She had a voice that set her apart, seeing films as if she were in the audience not separated from them. This new documentary made me appreciate her even more. She was a feminist, having fought to get her foot into the boys’ club that was the film critics’ world of the 50s and 60s. She had encyclopedic knowledge of movies and wasn’t afraid to say when she thought something was derivative or a filmmaker was being repetitive, something she saw a lot in the beloved “auteur” directors of the 60s. She was loved by many and hated by many others. But even the haters admitted that she was a hell of a writer!

Mini-review: A Patient Man

This one is so very indie. Not a recognizable big-name actor in sight. That’s sometimes a good thing. You don’t know where to look, who is the important person. Sadly in the case of this film, you wish there had been a more recognizable, better actor in the lead. For a thriller, it comes off as less than engaging because you never connect with the central character. I can’t tell you the particulars because, it’s is one of those films that the less you know going in, the better, since things unfold slowly as the story drops a clue here and there. But the gist is that a man is returning to work after having been in a horrible traffic accident and he’s trying to piece it all together. But he’s also trying to figure out who is to blame and how to punish them.

Review: Weathering with You

I’m not a big animation watcher, at least not of the big Disney/Pixar variety. But anime is a different story. Films like Spirited Away or Akira feel every bit as “real” as any live action film. The stories are complex and the visuals stunning. I haven’t watched many lately though. But I was happy to return to the genre with Weathering With You. It’s the story of a climate disaster and a teenage girl who has a mysterious power to fix it, alongside a love story set in Tokyo with a runaway boy. It’s a narrative that will probably resonate most with adolescents, but adults will certainly appreciate it for it’s jaw-dropping animation.

Arty Chick’s 2019 Top 10

Unlike Mainstream Chick, I don’t think 2019 was a good year for movies. I didn’t come out of many saying, “That was amazing! I have to tell people about it!” There were a couple I really liked, but it seemed more like a year of great performances in just okay movies. Many of the films that have made it onto the lists of the big critics did not move me. The Irishman actually bored me. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a fun watch thanks to the two leads, but I can’t say it stuck with me. These would be my Top 10 (in no particular order), mainly because they’re memorable:

Review: Little Women

Louisa May Alcott’s 1860s novel Little Women has been adapted to film more times that I can count, beginning in the silent era. So do we really need another one? Yes, we do. In the hands of the talented Greta Gerwig, this story of the four March sisters in Concord, Massachusetts feels as fresh and as relevant as any modern story. And blessed with a perfect cast including Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, and Timothée Chalamet, it’s one of the gems of this awards season.

Mini review: Marriage Story

Both of us Chicks saw this one at the Middleburg Film Festival earlier this year where it was the opening night film. From director Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding, Frances Ha) it stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a New York couple whose marriage is coming apart. Nicole is a former TV actress married to Charlie who’s a theater director. And they have a cute little boy Henry (Azhy Robertson), whose custody becomes an issue when Mom moves home to the west coast to star in a TV show leaving Dad to commute if he wants to be a part of his son’s life. But once a couple of high powered LA divorce lawyers (Laura Dern and Ray Liotta) enter the story, what started out as an amicable split turns contentious. The film has some great performances, but sadly the story itself feels entirely too familiar.

Review: Bombshell

This movie has so much going for it – a knock-out cast, a ripped from the headlines #metoo #girlpower story, a humiliating takedown of the creator of Fox News – so why in the world isn’t it more compelling? Bombshell is taken from a true story. In case you missed it, a couple of years back, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) one of the blondes of Fox News was fired and rather than just take it on the chin, she sued her boss, Fox founder Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), for sexual harassment and opened the gates for a flood of other women within the organization to come forward with similar stories, culminating in his ouster. At about the same time another of the beautiful women of Fox, Megyn Kelly (channeled here by the amazing Charlize Theron) decided to have her very own #girlpower moment during a Republican presidential debate when she famously asked GOP candidate Trump about his sexist treatment of women and was the recipient of one of his memorable disses about “blood coming out of her wherever.” You might think these two women would be natural allies then. But it seems that at Fox News it was every woman for herself.