Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: Harriet

Harriet Tubman was an extraordinary woman and she deserves to have her story told (and to be on the $20 bill.) She was a tiny, illiterate slave, but she was also fearless and smart. She escaped her bondage, but returned into hostile territory to bring hundreds more people to freedom as a key figure in the Underground Railroad. And this new film Harriet touches all the high points of her heroic tale. But despite a great cast doing their best, the film never really rises to the level her amazing story deserves.

Review: GIFT

When I was in grad school, the first book we had to read was Lewis Hyde’s “The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.” It’s a beautiful meditation on the concept of gifting through cultures and history and folklore, and a wonderful read for anyone concerned about surviving our current consumer culture. Robin McKenna’s documentary GIFT is based somewhat on that book. She trains her lens on four separate art stories around the world where people are doing what they do for art’s sake, not for money. And the film just might make you want to go out and do something in a similar vein.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2019

Another super tiring weekend in the bucolic Virginia hamlet of Middleburg watching more films than I should! I predicted early on that this festival would outgrow itself and I think it has come to that point. Too many people know about it and the growing pains have become chronic overcrowding at venues without room for expansion. I’m already searching for another festival for next year. (All suggestions are appreciated.) I saw fewer films this year, too, just nine — Marriage Story, The Capote Tapes, The Aeronauts, Frankie, Waves, The Report, The Two Popes, Atlantics, and Knives Out. I only gave one of them four stars and several were surprising disappointments. For too many it was great cast and great performances in an otherwise just okay movie. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Review: Britt-Marie Was Here

We’ve seen this one before. An older woman finds out her husband has been having an affair and leaves him. First she struggles with it and then she finds herself. Last year’s Finding Your Feet explored this topic nicely. And now comes the Swedish version Britt-Marie Was Here, based on a novel by the same author that brought us the wonderful A Man Called Ove back in 2016. He certainly excels at writing older characters. Britt-Marie is no Ove, but it’s a pleasant enough little self-discovery flick for a matinee with some gal pals.

Review: Ms. Purple

This stylish drama set in L.A.’s Koreatown tells the story of a young woman’s dedication to family at the expense of her own happiness and her gradual return to a fulfilling life. Tiffany Chu stars as Kasie, a 23-year old first-generation Korean American who’s stuck working as a hostess/call girl in a karaoke bar so she can take care of her comatose father. But when her home health aide abruptly quits, she calls on her estranged brother Carey (Teddy Lee) for help, and she begins to reexamine her relationship with him and with the life she’s been living. It’s a slow, but beautifully wrought tale.

Review: Midnight Traveler

Stories of refugees and immigrants are all over the news these days. But mostly they’re about numbers and policy while the people are faceless and nameless. What this gritty documentary does is put names and faces on a family who are forced to flee their home and navigate the horrid landscape of the refugee system to find a safe place. Shot entirely on their smart phones, it’s the story of Hassan Fazili, an Afghan filmmaker who was marked for death by the Taliban and escaped with his family, crossing border after border to find a home in Europe. It’s a day by day chronicle of what a family has to endure to satisfy the requirements of various immigration systems. From leaving Afghanistan to finally getting asylum in Germany, they filmed themselves for almost two full years on their 3,500-mile journey.

Review: Neither Wolf Nor Dog

This ever so indie film was funded with a Kickstarter campaign and then self-distributed. And right now it is the longest-running US theatrical release in more than a decade, having premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival back in 2016. And it’s finally making its way to the big cities now. Set in Lakota Sioux country, the film takes a white author on a coerced road trip through Native America as an elder and his friend impart their wisdom to him. The elder is played by the late Dave Bald Eagle who gives the film its deep resonance. Adapted from a semi-autobiographical book of the same name, Neither Wolf Nor Dog isn’t destined to be a blockbuster, but its message from the Native American community is one that should be heard.

Review: Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins

If you don’t know who Molly Ivins was, you’ll be a fan by the end of this doc. If you do remember her, you’ll fall back in love. And after watching it, everyone will wish there were a journalist of her intellect and humor around today to take on the political class in America and abroad. Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins is a pretty straightforward telling of her life and times. But what times they were. She tackled some of the big stories from the late 60s to the era of W (she coined that moniker) with such a keen eye for people and their motivations, and she pulled no punches. The film is by no means the definitive story of her very full though cut short life, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to be with her for its 93 minutes.

Review: This is Not Berlin

In this coming-of-age film set in Mexico City in the 80s, 17-year-olds Carlos and Gera are on the cusp of adulthood. And when they’re invited to the coolest club in town, they’re suddenly thrust into the dizzying world of punk rock and drugs and unbridled sexuality, and everything changes, especially their friendship. This is Not Berlin is a paean to rebellious youth and the urge to find your tribe, seen through the eyes of an inquisitive young man. It’s an emotionally absorbing ride.

Review: Vita & Virginia

Vita Sackville-West was a British socialite and a popular writer in the 1920s. She was also fond of scandalizing the society in which she lived, especially with her female lovers. Virginia Woolf was also a writer at the time, though less popular, but Lady Sackville-West set her sights on her after meeting at a dinner party. What followed was a relationship that lasted a decade and was responsible for one of Woolf’s greatest books, “Orlando.” Vita & Virginia is the story of these two women as they come together passionately for a while and then remain friends for a while. The film feels a lot like the lost lesbian episode of Downton Abbey, and while the performances are quite good, the costumes gorgeous, and the sets to die for, this telling of the famous literary romance does leave you less than satisfied and wishing Julian Fellowes had had a hand in it.