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78 reviews in total 
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Silence (2016/I)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Unapologetic story of faith, conversion and martyrdom, 2 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SILENCE is beautifully filmed and strangely involving for such a grim and slow-moving tale. For a 2 hr 40 min movie, I never felt bored or felt that the story was unnecessarily stretched out. As an ex Catholic who, as a child, was intrigued by the idea of martyrdom and by tales of the saints who were killed because they refused to renounce their faith (and so, got an express ticket to heaven - a very attractive end result for one who feared hell as much as I did), I could identify in a more distanced way with the protagonists and their Catholic followers in Japan.

I expected that in telling a story set 400 years ago, Scorsese would provide some kind of modern day insight (psychological, political,sexual) to the true events depicted in his narrative. Instead, all I could glean was that this was a film by a devout Catholic, about devout Catholics. Who would have thought Scorsese was possessed by such primal and dogmatic religious feelings?

Shockingly, the Japanese culture is referred to more than once as a 'swamp' where nothing truly spiritual, much less Catholic, can grow. The inquisitor who persecutes the Catholics is portrayed by a lizardy actor with a high pitched voice, doing what I guess is the Japanese equivalent of a moustache-twirling villain. Cruelty, execution and torture take up a large part of the picture, and while accurate I suppose, is probably no worse that what was done by the Catholic inquisition in Europe.

I was hoping for some kind of statement about religious fanaticism, and at one point, when a Buddhist is trying to reason with the priest, asking why it isn't better to focus on the common elements of the world's different religions, I thought the film was going in that direction. But it ends on an 'upbeat' religious note, when it is revealed that the priest held onto his faith in the Catholic god right up to the end. The film was premiered at The Vatican which says a lot about where it's coming from. There is a dedication to the priests and converts in Japan.

I wasn't impressed by Andrew Garfield in the central role. I felt like he was miscast, so it's mostly not his fault - too young and modern (and who kept his hair so coiffed in the first half of the movie?). Adam Driver was excellent as always, but not sure why he felt he needed to lose all that weight for the role, he was really skinny and sunken-eyed. Liam Neeson, also miscast with his very tall stature and hard-to- disguise Irishness was good in a thankless role. The Japanese actors (except for the inquisitor) were fine, but most of their characters were never really developed into anything more than simple-minded worshippers or cruel torturers.

1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A really excellent and unusual film - what one would expect from Ang Lee., 27 November 2016

A really excellent and unusual film - what one would expect from Ang Lee. Saw it at AMC Lincoln Square in NYC - the high frame rate 3D was pretty great. I hope to see more films produced in this process. It's not showing this way anywhere else except L.A. but the film should be just as powerful in regular 3D or just flat. Be warned though, it's a bit of a bummer, and the war scenes are truly harrowing, possibly because of the super real 3D, and definitely because of the context within which they are set. The film hit me particularly hard because of recent Thanksgiving encounters with family war vets and sports fanatics. The film is brutally honest and pulls no punches - in the end that is the best way to honor the real soldiers portrayed in the movie.

Arrival (2016/II)
4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Powerfully emotional, 11 November 2016

This is an intelligent, entertaining and powerfully emotional movie about an international close encounter of the third kind. The film's catharsis released a flood of emotion in me - it's that good. Definitely worth seeing. The Canadian director straddles the art-film and commercial film worlds. As a commercial enterprise, the film is unusual in that it is devoid of guns, explosions, chases, fistfights and the other tropes of alien visitation movies, that it has a female protagonist, and that gives precedence to feelings of love and loss over those of terror and aggression. Can't say enough about Amy Adams' performance. The score by Johann Johannsson adds immeasurably to the film's effectiveness.

Moonlight (2016/I)
10 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
MOONLIGHT at the NYFF **spoilers**, 3 October 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Three-act movie tells the story of a young gay boy/teen/man. First two acts are gritty realistic depictions of sexual confusion, abuse, bullying and homophobic violence with surprising comfort and refuge coming from unlikely characters. Third act shifts into some kind of 'Now Voyager' gear with the main character's transformation into a super hot drug kingpin with a gay heart of gold. I admit I'm no expert on the lives of down low African American thugs, but the idea that this smokin hot brother spent ten years denying himself sex with men (in the 21st century!) until his true love came back into his life was a bit much. At least the unlikely cowboy lovers in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN actually had a months-long sexual relationship. This guy waits ten years for the guy he masturbated with once on a beach. The whole thing ends up more like a romance novel (without a kiss or a final sex scene) than one would expect from the excellent realistic first two acts.

The BFG (2016)
8 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
So good I immediately went to see it again, 4 July 2016

This film is so rich in every department: visually, musically, in its excellent, charming, witty script, and the casting of actors who bring their best to the screen in their roles. For once a children's tale without the tiresome clichés that currently dominate kids' movies; a sometimes quiet and intimate film with sensitive, feeling characters who talk to each other in longish dialog scenes. This is a fable in an old fashioned mode, and yet is made from pure 21st century movie magic. As great as Mark Rylance is, and he is amazing, Penelope Wilton is unbelievably funny as a combination uptight, take charge and yet completely empathetic Queen. The whole breakfast scene, in fact the entire Royal Palace section, is one of the funniest things I've seen in ages. The film is doing poorly at the box office so catch it on the big screen before it's gone - it's absolutely gorgeous. And speaking of gorgeous, John Williams, collaborating with the some of the world's greatest musicians including Heather Clark on flute, has written a symphonic work that underscores just about every minute of the film. It's a masterpiece that ranks with the very best of what he has written for film in his long career.

6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Bummer. Pointless but pretty., 15 January 2016

Beautiful in a self-conscious way, but often tedious. Aside from occasional moments of elevated humanity, it's mostly an overlong, gruesome spectacle of cruelty, pain and anguish, which after a while becomes almost comic in the unrelenting and extreme nature of the main character's ordeals (and the implausibility of him surviving them). Aside from a moment when DiCaprio's character gains insight into the pointlessness of his behavior, this is an unexceptional survival and revenge story gussied up by how-did-they-do-that? cinematography, portentous music, and a performance that screams "Look what I went through to get my Oscar!" I didn't believe any of it for a minute.

132 out of 262 people found the following review useful:
The film equivalent of a coffee table book about Lili Elbe, 16 September 2015

First the good: Alicia Vikander gives an excellent performance in a poorly written role. The music, when it's not loudly substituting for a decent script, is often lovely. And the historical context is illuminating, especially the very real danger of institutionalization. Other than that, what a mass of prestige picture clichés, laughably symmetrical camera set-ups and gorgeous landscape cinematography. And poor Eddie Redmayne. Completely out of his depth in the central role. Obviously, no one knows how well Lili Elbe passed for a woman, but no one, and I mean absolutely no one, would mistake Redmayne's Lili for anything else but an awkward, clumsy male in a bad wig. Granted, that would make an interesting take on this story: someone who believes they look like a woman but who doesn't. But that's not what this film proposes. Quite the opposite, which is why the audience consistently laughed every time the film suggested that Elbe herself, or other characters believed in the success of the transformation. The script is so cliché ridden and repetitious that even an actor as fine as Matthias Schoenaerts can't liven it up. And for some reason he is made up to look like a sweaty cadaver. And again,I felt bad for Mr. Redmayne, that he didn't get the directorial help he needed in the role and a better script that left him more to say than the trite and predictable lines in this one.

58 out of 75 people found the following review useful:
Best film so far at the New York Film Festival, 8 October 2012

At the time of writing this review, Ginger and Rosa has a 4.8 rating!! I don't know who these voters are, but this is a very fine film: insightful, funny, and wise. The acting is across the board phenomenal. Cast spoke of long rehearsal period during Q&A and it shows. Every shot captures real life in all its expressive complexity. Elle Fanning, 13 playing 16, gives one of the greatest child performances I have ever seen - truly astonishing as well as touching, funny/sad, and beautiful. Great script, gorgeous cinematography and design, perfectly chosen period music. This is a must-see, and sure to be a break-out role for Fanning.

20 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Great Film needs new English title!, 11 March 2012

This marvelous film is based on a Pagnol novel which I had never heard of. Maybe it's well-known in France and so the title is familiar to audiences there. But in the US "The Well Digger's Daughter" should keep people away from this film in droves. In fact, the film is an old fashioned fable set in the French countryside during the period of World War I. Even though the plot turns are seen coming a mile away, the film has such charm and simple feeling and wisdom, that there is enormous pleasure in watching the story unfold. Auteuil is perfect as the father, as is every other actor, especially Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as the daughter of the title and Nicolas Duvauchelle as her 'prince'. And the music by Andre Desplat is one of his best scores. The setting and the lives of the characters are so beautifully depicted, there is so much pleasure to be had in entering their world for two hours, that it seems a shame that American audiences will have to overcome their disinclination to see a movie about a well-digger and his daughter when there is this rich and deeply emotional story waiting for them in the cinema.

6 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
I left after a half hour as well, 22 September 2011

Agree with previous reviewer that this film was a poor choice for TIFF where usually the quality of the films is quite high. The absurdity of the set up was laughable: gorgeous surfer boy leaves monastery and returns to his favorite beach to ride the waves and commune to God. I wanted to ask: who maintained his highlights at the monastery? Apparently the cinematographer was unable to get many decent shots of him surfing, so we are left watching endless underwater shots of nothing, accompanied by the sound of gurgling water. The actors all looked like they were in a soap opera, with the usual anxious staring instead of dialog.

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