Review: Styx

Currently browsing the "Scandinavian" category.

Quick Takes: Never Look Away; Transit; Woman at War

With Arty Chick off to parts unknown to direct a documentary, it’s possible her reviews will be fewer and farther between for a while. So I will try and highlight some of the artier films that I happen to see (and like). I’ll also note if they’ve been discussed on my weekly podcast, “The Cinema Clash” with Charlie Juhl, who tends to share Arty Chick’s passion for smaller, indie and foreign films. If we both a like a particular film, there’s a good chance you will too! Topping my list of recent forays into foreign-film land is the Oscar-nominated German film, Never Look Away. It’s part psychological drama, part war drama, part period romance. It takes place over the course of about 30 years, which helps explain the film’s three-hour running time.

Quickie Review: Border (Gräns)

You probably won’t see a more satisfyingly strange film this year than Border. The main character is Tina, a Swedish customs agent with an extraordinary talent. She can smell fear and deceit, so she regularly catches people bringing in contraband, too many bottles of wine, and even porn. But when a strange man named Vore passes through her line, she knows there is a something there, but she can’t read him. And she’s attracted to him. And the more she gets to know him, the more she learns about herself and why she has always been so different from everyone else. For her it’s a voyage of self-discovery and her first real romance. For him, it’s political. For us, it’s a bizarrely fun ride.

Review: Becoming Astrid

This lovely Swedish biopic tells the story of the challenging early life of Astrid Ericsson (Lindgren) who would go on to write the children’s classic Pippi Longstocking and a slew other memorable books. Born in a rather idyllic if strict farming community, at 16 she was offered a job at the local paper and fell for the married editor. Though it was reciprocated, an unplanned pregnancy caused her to make some very difficult decisions that colored the way she saw children and undoubtedly made her the writer she was to become. Played by Alba August (The Rain), Astrid is initially brimming with curiosity and energy, but her pregnancy and the choices she is forced to make with the child take a heavy toll. Fortunately, it all works out by the end, or we wouldn’t have her wonderful books.

Review: The Guilty

This Danish thriller aka Den skyldige is simply amazing. There is just one man on camera through almost all the film’s 85 minutes, and you can’t look away for a second. Asger (Jakob Cedergren) is a cop who’s been put on desk duty. Tomorrow is a trial and its outcome will decide if he’s back out with his partner. In the meantime, he’s answering the phone at 211 (Danish 911) and counting the minutes until he’s gone. That is until he answers a call and it’s a woman who’s being kidnapped.

Review: Under the Tree (Undir trénu)

There are actually two storylines running concurrently in this very dark dramedy from Iceland. In one, everyman Atli is caught by his wife watching a sex tape in which she is not a participant, is kicked out of the house, and has to go live with his parents. In the other, Atli’s parents Baldvin and Inga are in an ever escalating fight with their neighbors Konrad and Eybjorg over a tree in the backyard. And while Atli tries to make amends with his wife and get to see his cute little daughter, he’s living with a mother who doesn’t have a firm grasp on reality and a father who is taking his cues from her in the battle over the tree’s future. The theme that runs through both stories is how easily people think the worst and act on their assumptions. And how nothing good ever comes from it.

Review: The Square

Winner of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival’s Palme D’Or, The Square is a darkly funny satire set in the art world. Christian (Claes Bang) is the head curator at a prestigious Swedish modern art museum staging an exhibition calling for a trusting and compassionate society, who realizes how hard that actually is to accomplish. The film has less a story line than a series of tableaux one walks through ending up with an impression. It opens with an unseen artist building a square of brick right in from of the museum and laying a plaque in it saying,”The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” And everything that happens afterwards refers back to that statement, revealing modern society’s greatest failing.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Festival Download

What a great festival! It’s my first year at Middleburg, now in its 5th year, but I was truly impressed by their  selections. It’s a small festival, as yet pretty unknown, but not for long, I suspect. In all I went to 14 films in just over 3 days. It was exhausting, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Films included here are: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ; Mudbound; Last Flag Flying; Faces/Places; I, Tonya; In the Fade; The Divine Order; Lady Bird; Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold; Meltdown; Loveless; Darkest Hour; The Other Side of Hope; and Hostiles.

Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2016

It’s that time of year – when friends, family, and strangers in the elevator ask, “Hey, Did you see [fill in the blank]? Is it any good? What’s your favorite movie of 2016?” Well, here I attempt to answer those questions as succinctly as possible — with a countdown of my top ten movies of the year (12 if you count the ties), as well as a bunch of honorable mentions. They are films that resonated for one (positive) reason or another and represent a broad range of genres. Check ’em out!

A Man Called Ove (En man som heter Ove)

This adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s bestselling novel is one of my favorite films of the year. Written and directed by Hannes Holm it’s a Swedish curmudgeon finds his humanity story that could easily have been sappy and cliched, but balances the mean and the sweet just right for a totally enjoyable ride.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Jonas Jonasson, which I thoroughly enjoyed, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a fun little Swedish flick about an old man who, just before his nursing home keepers can sing him happy 100th, climbs out the window and has a big adventure. It is in Swedish, feels kind of Forrest Gumpish, and it involves a biker gang and an elephant.