A beautiful animated film wrapped up in the traditions and folklore of Mexico’s Dia de los Muertes (Day of the Dead). Twelve-year-old Miguel wants to be a musician, but his family has banned music from their lives for several generations. Intent on pursuing his dream, his ends up in The Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertes to find his great-great-grandfather who was a famous musician. Miguel not only discovers his family’s real history but also finds out the importance of family in his life.
When Jamie McAllan, a WWII fighter pilot, returns home to his family’s Mississippi Delta farm, he cannot leave the horrors of war behind. Ronsel Jackson also returns to the Mississippi delta to resume sharecropping with his family on the McAllan farm. A decorated war hero, Ronsel struggles as he must readjust to life in the Jim Crow South. Ronsel and Jamie become friends, and it is this friendship that lends an uneasy tension to the film. Jamie drinks too much, and Ronsel chafes at the rules that make him a second-class citizen. Superb acting and cinematography make Mudbound a challenging and enriching film to view.
Rauol Peck’s documentary based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, about the lives of his friends, civil rights leaders Medgar Evans, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and their assassinations, will grab you with its powerful imagery and narration. Actor Samuel Jackson provides the voiceover narration pulled from Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript and passages taken from his other works. Old news reports, archival footage of Baldwin speaking, clips from classic movies, images of the civil rights movement and from the present accompany the narration. In I Am Not Your Negro, Peck has crafted a powerful, relevant examination of race in the United States from the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter.
Fleeing her abusive boyfriend, Jean (Jennifer Lopez) and her 11-year-old daughter head west to her father-in-law Einar’s (Robert Redford) Wyoming ranch. Einar’s longtime friend and ranch hand Mitch lives on the ranch where Einar cares for him. Mitch needs daily shots of morphine to handle the pain he suffers from injuries he received when a grizzly bear attacked him. Mitch is full of compassion for Einar who continues to mourn the death of his son and to blame Jean for his son’s death. The unexpected and threatening arrival of Jean’s ex-boyfriend forces Jean to confront her past. An Unfinished Life is a heartfelt story of healing and forgiveness.
When Ray Eddy’s husband flees the hardscrabble town of Massena in upstate New York, he steals Ray’s hard-earned down payment for a new doublewide trailer home. Faced with eviction, Ray has to come up with an impossibly large sum of money to keep a roof over her sons’ heads. Ray unwittingly becomes involved with Lila, a young widow on the nearby Mohawk reservation who smuggles. Lila has resorted to smuggling to keep herself fed and to earn money to reclaim her baby boy who has been taken from her.
Ray and Lila form an uneasy alliance as they drive from the rez across the frozen St. Lawrence River to Canada where they pick up illegal immigrants. A paean to single mothers whose love for their children sometimes drives them to desperate measures, Frozen River will touch your heart.
Star Wars fans may not be familiar with mythologist Joseph Campbell whose work influenced George Lucas’ Star Wars. In 1988, conversations between journalist Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell about mythology and its importance to society were filmed at Skywalker Ranch. Campbell’s book The Power of Myth was based on these conversations and includes many references to Star Wars characters. I recently re-watched the documentary, The Power of Myth, and found that Campbell’s ideas remain relevant and thought-provoking.
Tomas and Ebba, along with their two children, are enjoying a family ski vacation in the French Alps. A controlled avalanche comes perilously close to the outdoor restaurant where they are enjoying lunch. As diners run in panic, Ebba calls for Tomas to help her. Tomas, however, has grabbed his cell phone and fled. No one is harmed and the family resumes their vacation, but Ebba cannot forgive Tomas’ instinct to run and his refusal to acknowledge that he failed to protect his family.
Force Majeure, a well-executed psychodrama, will have you questioning Ebba’s and Tomas’ role in the incident that caused a shift in the family’s dynamics.
In Swedish with English subtitles.
Based on the life of Wilhelm Furtwangler, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Taking Sides examines Furtwangler’s role during the Nazi era. Was he a collaborator as hard-nosed U.S. Major Arnold sets out to prove? Or was he an artist who walked a tightrope as he tried to keep his music separate from politics?
This entertaining documentary may not inspire you to go out and buy a juicer, but it will make you aware of the debilitating effects of obesity and an unhealthy diet. Australian filmmaker Joe Cross is overweight and suffering from the side effects of a steroid he takes to treat an autoimmune disease. In desperation, he goes on a 60 day juice fast as he travels across the United States. As he regains his health (and loses weight), he shares his story with people he encounters, including a morbidly obese trucker from Iowa who suffers from the same autoimmune disease Cross had.
Lincoln lives up to reputation as an outstanding historical drama. Director Steven Spielberg reveals the personal and political struggles that Lincoln faced during the last four months of his final presidential term. Lincoln was determined to have Congress pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, thereby guaranteeing the abolishment of slavery.
The film vividly recreates the divisive legislative battle over the passage of the 13th amendment, and the political maneuvering that Lincoln and his supporters used to obtain the necessary votes. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a stunning (and Academy Award winning) performance as Lincoln capturing his down-to-earth style, folksy humor, his political astuteness and oratory skills, as well as his tenderness toward his young son Tad and affection for his wife Mary Todd.
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