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Cicha noc (2017)
9/10
Not exactly a holly jolly Christmas
14 November 2018
The Polish film Cicha noc (2017) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title Silent Night. It was written and directed by Piotr Domalewski.

The movie takes place in a single day--Christmas Eve in a rural Polish region. Dawid Ogrodnik portrays Adam, a young man returning from Holland to have Christmas with his family and his pregnant fiancee, Asia. During the entire film, Adam is talking to Asia on the telephone, promising to be with her soon. This in itself lends an edginess to to the movie. Ogrodnik is a good actor, and does well in his role as protagonist.

Adam's family is almost completely dysfunctional. During the day we witness alcoholism, spouse abuse, and violence. Then things get worse.

The opening and closing scenes both show us Adam riding a bus--to home and from home. The plot is what happens in between those bus rides.

The acting is excellent throughout--especially by Tomasz Zietek, who portrays Adam's younger brother Pawel; Agnieszka Suchora who plays Teresa, Adam's mother; and Arkadiusz Jakubik, Adam's father.

I have yet to see a Polish narrative film that wasn't grim. Silent Night is no exception. It's a very powerful movie, with a solid IMDb rating of 7.2. I think it's even better than that. However, I don't think there was even one frame in the film that would bring laughter. We saw the movie on the large screen at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. It was shown as part of the outstanding Rochester Polish Film Festival. It will work well on the small screen as well.

Fair warning: This isn't a movie for a first date, and it certainly won't replace Charlie Brown's Christmas.
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Cold War (2018)
9/10
Romeo and Juliet in Cold War Poland
14 November 2018
The Polish movie Zimna wojna (2018) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title Cold War. It was co-written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski.

The movie stars Joanna Kulig as Zula, a young woman whom we first see as a trainee at a folk dance school. It's there she falls in love with Wiktor, portrayed by Tomasz Kot.

Zula is a rural girl, whereas Wiktor is a sophisticated professional. Despite this, they fall desperately in love. The plot of the movie is that of star-crossed lovers who want to be free in a time when no one was free in Poland.

This was a very good movie, but not a great movie. Although the lovers endlessly say that they love each other, in my opinion the chemistry wasn't there. Also, they make very bad decisions for reasons they don't explain. So, partly, the star-crossed lovers are to blame for their bad fortune.

Still, although it's grim, the film does keep your interest throughout, and the music that they create is worth hearing.

The two protagonists are good actors, as is Borys Szyc, who portrays Kaczmarek. Kaczmarek probably would have chosen another role in life, but he accepts the situation as it is. He's the link between the dance group and the Polish/Russian Communist apparatus. He's always watching, and always seeing.

We saw this film at the excellent Little Theatre as part of the outstanding Rochester Film Festival. It will work well on the small screen.
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7/10
Each frame is painted in oil
14 November 2018
Loving Vincent (2017) was co-written and co-directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. (It's a Polish-English co-production.)

The plot of the film is easy to follow. A young man comes to Arles trying to learn more about the death of Vincent Van Gogh. Interesting, but nothing special.

What makes the film important is the way it was produced. First, it was shot as a live film with actors. Then it was turned into animation. Then each frame was hand painted in oil. I can't even imagine the effort that was expended to bring this movie to the screen.

Certainly, the effect is spectacular. The film has a psychedelic quality, and the colorful images leap off the screen right onto your retina. Here's a instance where you really have to see the movie to understand its impact.

Loving Vincent has a very high IMDb rating of 7.8. I didn't think it was quite that good. Yes, it's colorful, but you can't see actors acting, and the plot is almost tacked on as an afterthought.

Another drawback is that the movie won't work nearly as well on the small screen. It's really meant to be seen in a theater. We were lucky to be able to see it at the excellent Little Theatre, as part of the wonderful Rochester Polish Film Festival. If you decide to watch it on the small screen, you won't be sorry. However, I suggest that you read the reviews of other reviewers who liked it better than I did. Maybe I missed something that they didn't miss.
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Saint Judy (2018)
9/10
She isn't a saint, but she acts like one
14 November 2018
Saint Judy (2018) was directed by Sean Hanish. It's a narrative film, based on the life of Attorney Judy Wood, played by Michelle Monaghan.

Wood is an immigration attorney who truly believes that the U.S. should welcome, not reject, people seeking asylum. She fights for these people--particularly women--and often saves them from deportation and death.

The problem is that this kind of commitment requires her to neglect other aspects of her life. Personal and financial matters keep pulling her in one direction, while the work she does pulls her the other way.

The plot of the film consists of Attorney Wood moving toward the moment of truth in a deportation hearing in the Federal District Court.

The acting in the movie is excellent, and the message is profound. I think this film is good enough to recommend it to everyone. If you're an attorney or a human rights activist, it's a must see. It will work well on the small screen.

We saw Saint Judy at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. It was shown as part of the Rochester High Falls Women's Film Festival, where it won the audience award for Best Narrative Film.
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White Orchid (2018)
9/10
Did they see the same film that I saw?
14 November 2018
White Orchid (2018) was written and directed by Steve Anderson. It stars Olivia Thirlby as Claire, an independent investigator who often works for the county department of social services.

A woman has been horribly butchered by someone. Of course, that's the job of the sheriff, not social services. However, in California, the law says that if there are no relatives, social services must investigate as well.

Claire takes the case, and travels to the site of the woman's death, and has access to the home she had rented. What follows next does, indeed, fall into the classic category of "girl detective." However, the way the movie plays out, there's much more to it than that.

The most striking part of the movie for me was how director Anderson and Olivia Thirlby managed Claire's transition from a quiet, almost mousy character into a highly feminine, desirable woman. Of course, Olivia Thirlby is strikingly beautiful, so the trick wasn't to make her attractive, but to make her unattractive at the beginning of the film. It couldn't have been easy, but they did it.

The movie is one of those films where at the end, you say, "OK--who was the dead woman, and who killed her? People walk out of the movie trying to make sense of it. Director Anderson was in the theater for Q&A, and he says that all the clues are there, but he wouldn't tell us the answer. (Of course he knows the answer--he wrote the script.)

OK--but even if you're not quite sure about the loose ends of the plot, the film holds your interest throughout. The California scenery is beautiful and the acting is excellent.

We saw this movie at the great Little Theatre as part of The Rochester High Falls Women's Film Festival. It won't work quite as well on the small screen, because you'll miss the glorious scenery. Even so, it's worth finding and seeing.

"What movie did they see?" This film has a terrible IMDb rating of 5.0, with 224 ratings. It's not a great movie that will be remembered forever, but it's much better than 5.0. I suggest you see it and decide for yourself.
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8/10
Dishonorable people behaving dishonorably
13 November 2018
Ziemia obiecana (1975) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title The Promised Land. It was written and directed by the the legendary director Andrzej Wajda.

In 1898, Poland was being transformed from a rural nation into an industrialized nation. The city of Lodz was becoming the hub of the textile manufacturing industry.

Three young men--a Polish aristocrat, a Jew, and a German--join in the rush to make their fortunes by building a factory. They connive, they scheme, and they show total disregard for their workers or anyone else.

The plot of the movie follows them as they follow their dream.

The film is well acted and, of course, well directed. However, it's a grim film that probably portrays the situation very well. The problem is that the situation was ugly, and it's hard to enjoy a movie about amoral people acting dishonorably.

We saw this movie at Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum. It will work well enough on the small screen. The Promised Land was shown as part of the excellent Rochester Polish Film Festival.
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The Judge (2017)
10/10
Brilliant documentary about justice in Palestine
13 November 2018
The Judge is a documentary film about Judge Kholoud Al-Faqih. Judge Al-Fagih was the first woman appointed to a Shari'a court in the Middle East. The movie was directed by Erika Cohn.

In Palestine, most courts are secular. The exception is family courts, which are religious courts under the rule of Shari'a, or Islamic law. Judge Al-Fagih is highly qualified to be a family court judge, but the cultural bias against women has held her back.

As the movie begins, we find out that Al-Fagih has been made a judge. The rest of the movie documents the ongoing struggles that she faces when her activity is opposed by a large number of people in her society.

My friend Michael, who is very knowledgable about the Middle East, has written this: I think the fact that the judge is Palestinian is relevant to mention. In other Muslim societies there aren't role models. The struggle of the Palestinians has had a positive (but still limited) impact on the role of women, plus the interaction with Israeli society has influenced how women see things.

We saw this movie on the large screen at Rochester's great Little Theatre. It was shown as part of The High Falls Women's Film Festival. It will work well on the small screen. FInd it and see it!
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7/10
They just wanted some freedom to be themselves
15 October 2018
Cherry Grove Stories (2017) is a documentary directed by Michael Fisher. It's about the Cherry Grove community on Fire Island, a tiny piece of land off the coast of Long Island.

Houses in Cherry Grove were bought by gays and lesbians in the 1950's. We have to remind ourselves of how hard life was for gays and lesbians 60 years ago. It's still not an easy life, but it's far better than it was then.

Cherry Grove was a location where lesbians and gays were in the majority. It must have been almost magical to be openly gay or lesbian in that community. How many other places were there, even in New York City, where you could feel comfortable with displaying your sexuality?

Cherry Grove served that purpose, and still does. However, then, as now, society could and would intrude. Police would raid the community, and still do. Cherry Grove wasn't exactly heaven on earth, especially in the 1980's when the HIV/AIDS epidemic struck. Still, even then, if you were gay or lesbian, it was better to be in Cherry Grove than almost anywhere else.

The documentary consists mostly of talking heads, but what the people want to tell us is interesting. There's some archival footage that's interesting as well. However, even at just 77 minutes, the movie appeared too long to me. How many shots do we need of waves rolling onto the beach?

We saw this movie in the Little Theatre, as part of Rochester's excellent ImageOut, the LGBT Film Festival. It will work well enough on the small screen.
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9/10
Subtle movie about the friendship of two young men
15 October 2018
Mi mejor amigo (2018) is an Argentinian movie shown in the United States with the translated title My Best Friend. The film was written and directed by Martín Deus.

The movie stars Angelo Mutti Spinetta as Lorenzo, a shy, quiet young man who is chosen last for sports, but who is a classical guitarist and an avid reader.

His life is changed by the arrival of Caito, portrayed by Lautaro Rodríguez. Caito is tough, muscular, and well versed in life on the street. He's the exact opposite of Lorenzo, but they still become friends.

Caito has been sent from his father's home in Buenos Aires to stay with Lorenzo's parents. He's had serious troubles, brought on by his impulsive behavior. He pushes limits every chance he can, and those chances often involve Lorenzo.

Both actors are excellent. Director Deus deserves credit for knowing how to bring their talent to the screen.

The film is subtle in the way it portrays the bonding of the young men. Actually, the entire movie has a subtlety about it. No one is a villain, no one sets impossible standards, and no violence occurs. It's a gentle film, but there's always a sense of foreboding about it. You'll have to watch it to learn what motivates Lorenzo, Caito, and Lorenzo's parents.

We saw this film at Rochester's Little Theatre. It was shown at ImageOut, the excellent Rochester LGBT Festival. This was its New York State premiere. It will work well on the small screen. Right now this movie has an IMDb rating of 8.4, which is remarkably high. However, less than 100 people have rated it, so that number could change. That high rating reflects my own thoughts about the film. I hope the rating remains high, so more people will want to see it. It's worth finding and viewing. It will work well on the small screen.

P.S. Watch for Mariana Anghileri in the unheralded supporting role of Lorenzo's mother. She's a great actor as well as being very beautiful.
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10/10
Four Dame Commanders of the British Empire
15 October 2018
The English documentary Tea with the Dames (2018) was directed by Roger Michell.

It stars Dame Eileen Atkins, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright, and Dame Maggie Smith. These four friends have gotten together on occasion over the span of may years. Finally they decided--or were convinced--that a documentary would involve audiences in their lives and thoughts.

All of these women have had fabulous careers in theater, cinema, and TV. Now, in their 80's, they are retired or semi-retired. (Dame Joan is blind, so she formally announced her retirement.) However, they still are as intelligent and witty as ever. And, of course, they know how to work with a camera crew.

The result of this filming is pure magic. It opens a window into what inspired these actors so that they could inspire us. I've seen other documentaries of people talking with each other in somewhat informal situations, but I've never seen a movie like this.

We saw this film in Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. It will work very well on the small screen. The movie carries a strong IMDb rating of 7.6, and I would say it's even better than that. Don't miss it!

Personal P.S. One of the topics discussed by the four women is the difficulty of playing the role of Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. All of them say that they didn't have the courage to play the role. One of them says to Maggie Smith, "Well, you played it." She answers, "Yes, but in Canada."

Obviously all four of them meant the English theater. Apparently, it's obvious to them that playing Cleopatra for Canadian audiences isn't quite the same.

That may or may not be true, but in 1976 we saw Maggie Smith as Cleopatra at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, and she was magnificent. It's one of those performances that you never forget. Dame Maggie spent four seasons in Stratford (1976 - 1980) and everything she touched turned into gold. She was adored by Canadian and U.S. lovers of great acting in great plays. So, in "Tea with the Dames," her Canadian work sounds trivial. In real life it was anything but trivial. She is still my favorite actor of all time.
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9/10
It's worse than a miseducation
14 October 2018
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) was co-written and directed by Desiree Akhavan. The film stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Cameron, a young lesbian woman who is sent to a Christian conversion center that is supposed to help teens struggling with "same-sex attraction."

The school is directed by Dr. Lydia Marsh, brilliantly portrayed by Jennifer Ehle. According to the movie's hype about the center's staff, these "would-be villains are almost sympathetic."

To me, Dr. Marsh isn't almost sympathetic. She's not even close to being sympathetic. She's a person who has teenagers in her power, and she makes their lives miserable with a detailed system of reinforcements and punishments.

Conversion centers are legal in 41 states. That's a horrifying reality. New York State--where the movie takes place--has made it difficult, but not impossible, to run a conversion center. Each year the NYS Assembly passes legislation to make these centers illegal. Each year the NYS Senate kills the legislation. (Whether the NYS Senate will be changed after the 2018 elections remains to be seen. Even if that happens, we will have to see if they will pass protective legislation.)

The acting of all the teens at the facility is strong. Director Akhavan must have a magic touch to bring out such strong performances. She doesn't need a magic touch for Chloë Grace Moretz, who is already a skilled performer.

Of course, Jennifer Ehle is a brilliant actor. She makes us believe in her (hateful) behavior. It wasn't clear to me whether she truly believed that she was helping the children placed within her charge, or whether she was just doing this to make a living and exert her power. Either way, she portrays a woman you wouldn't want to cross.

We saw this film at Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre at The George Eastman Museum. It was shown as part of Image Out, the excellent Rochester LGBT Festival.

It will work on the small screen. Seek it out and watch it!
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Funny Story (2018)
6/10
Interesting premise, but a very hard movie to like
14 October 2018
Funny Story (2018) was co-written and directed by Michael J. Gallagher. It stars Matthew Glave as Walter, a former star of a TV series. The show has ended, but Walter is still making a comfortable income from re-runs and from appearances at fantasy conventions.

The movie opens with two unusual scenes. One is the appearance of a young woman named Kim (Emily Bett Rickards) at her mother's funeral. In a clumsy bit of exposition, we learn that Kim has been estranged from her mother, and didn't visit when her mother was dying.

Walter is breaking up with his girlfriend until she suddenly announces that she's pregnant. For better or (probably) worse, he will stay together with her.

Jana Winternitz portrays Nic, Walter's estranged daughter. She tells her father that she can't visit him because she's going with friends to a resort in Big Sur. Walter asks if he can join them, and Nic agrees.

Then, in the next five minutes, Kim's car breaks down, and she needs a lift to Big Sur. Walter is enlisted to give her a lift, and they have to stay overnight at a motel. When they get to the motel, they learn that there's only one room available. (Not kidding--this all happens in the first 15 minutes of the movie.)

The next day they arrive in Big Sur, where Walter meets Nic's friends, all of whom are lesbians. (Well, one likes to "Dabble.") It turns out that Nic and Kim are a couple, and they're going to get married at the resort in Big Sur.

Then matters really get weird. One of the guests is a woman named Moon, who is very spiritual. This could have worked, except that she is so spacey that all you can do it laugh at her. Why couldn't the spiritual person be portrayed as just serious and committed to her beliefs. Why did director Gallagher make her an object of laughter?

Walter asks the friends some questions about lesbian relationships that, in reality, he wouldn't have asked. He's a sophisticated guy, and he would know the answers, or he would know better than to ask the questions.

We see clips of Walter's TV series, and they are truly terrible. No one expects great art from a TV fantasy series, but I've never seen a fantasy series so ridiculously portrayed. Is it an in joke from director Gallagher that he can get away with showing us something so ghastly? You may not be into Game of Thrones, but the acting and production values are reasonably high. Walter's show is like a parody.

The question asked in the movie's hype is, "What if you knew a secret that would ruin somebody's life? Would you tell? Or, would you keep it to yourself?" That sounds intriguing, but it really isn't the correct question in the plot.

We saw this film at the Little Theatre as part of Rochester's excellent ImageOut, the LGBT Film Festival. It won't quite work as well on the small screen, because you'll lose some of the grandeur of the Big Sur location.

Of course, that assumes that you'll want to seek it out and see it. Despite the interesting premise, there are too many things wrong with the movie for me to recommend it. You'll have to decide when more ratings are in, and when some other people take the time to review it.
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8/10
"I Love the theater; it reinvents itself every night."
14 October 2018
Every Act of Life (2018) is a documentary directed by Jeff Kaufman.

It details the life of the prolific, successful playwright Terrence McNally. McNally is openly gay, and many of his plays address the issue of what it means to be gay in the United States.

McNally has won numerous awards, including four Tony Awards. At age 79 he's still writing. He is probably the best known and successful living playwright in the United States.

A documentary about Terrence McNally can't miss. That's certainly true of this biography. It's a solid, careful piece of work. We see quite a bit of historical footage, and many interviews with McNally and his friends and colleagues.

McNally's life has had it's share of great highs and terrible lows. Still, if what we see on screen is true, he's doing well and is happy and reasonably healthy in 2018.

I'm really a fan of movies, not theater, so this film wasn't as meaningful to me as it would be to someone who is a true theater fan. Still, it worked for me and I enjoyed it.

We saw this movie at The Little Theatre, as part of Rochester's excellent ImageOut, the LGBT Film Festival. It will work well on the small screen.
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9/10
Was Emily Dickinson a Lesbian?
14 October 2018
Wild Nights with Emily (2018) was written and directed by Madeleine Olnek.

It stars Molly Shannon as Emily Dickinson and Susan Ziegler as her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert Dickinson.

The story comes to us in flashback, as narrated by Mabel Todd, portrayed by Amy Seimetz. Mabel lectures to women's groups, discussing Emily's poems and suggesting to them that Dickinson had a lesbian relationship with Susan.

It's clear that Mabel is a scheming opportunist. However, it's considered highly possible--in the movie and in real life--that Todd is correct.

The plot of the movie revolves almost entirely around the relationship of Emily and Susan. The film works because the actors are so good at presenting us with women in whom you can believe. It's wonderful to see two extremely talented actors bring their characters to life. (In her supporting role, Amy Seimetz does an excellent acting job as well.)

We saw this movie as in the Little Theatre as part of Rochester's ImageOut, the LGBT Film Festival. It will work well on the small screen.

The movie has a fairly weak IMDb rating of 7.0. However, it has been rated by less than 100 people, so it could still climb to a better position. I liked the film and highly recommend it.
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Buddies (1985)
9/10
1985 was a very hard year for gays, but some people wanted to help
13 October 2018
Buddies (1985) was written and directed by Arthur J. Bressan Jr.

The movie stars Geoff Edholm as Robert Willow, a young gay man dying from HIV/AIDS. David Schachter portrays David Bennett, a young man who volunteers to be a "buddy" to Robert.

The buddy concept was new to me. Humanitarian groups would assign people to visit people dying from HIV/AIDS if they had no other support system. This must have been common, because many gay men had partners who were dying or had died, and people were afraid to go near people with HIV/AIDS because no one knew how it was transmitted.

This film could have been just a sentimental movie about people dying from a dread disease. It was much more than that. It showed us the human face of people dying from HIV/AIDS, and a human face to those brave enough to help them maintain their dignity.

This movie must have been made on a tiny budget, because the two main characters are about the only actors we see. Many people who would normally have appeared on screen were just speaking parts. The sets were essentially just a hospital room and a gymnasium. (David isn't naturally athletic, but he works out so he won't be a "wimp.") Still, it was effective as a two-person film, so the low budget didn't really interfere.

It's hard to say that you "enjoy" a movie like this, but I can say that I learned from it and am glad that I saw it. It was shown at Rochester's great Dryden Theatre at The George Eastman Museum. The movie was presented as "ImageOut of the Archives" by ImageOut, the excellent Rochester LGBT Film Festival. It will work on the small screen.

Buddies has a very strong IMDb rating of 8.2. Yes--it's that good. Find it and watch it.
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1985 (2018)
9/10
It wasn't easy to be gay in Forth Worth in 1985
13 October 2018
1985 (2018) was written and directed by Yen Tan. It stars Cory Michael Smith as Adrian, a young gay man who is out of the closet in NYC, but still in the closet in Fort Worth. Adrian is handsome and athletic. He doesn't look or act like the stereotyped version of a gay man.

His parents are working class evangelicals. All they want is for Adrian to marry Carly, the girl friend he left behind. (Jamie Chung, a Korean-American portrays Carly. It's interesting that no one objects to Adrian marrying an Asian-American woman.) Virginia Madsen plays Eileen, Adrian's loving mother. Michael Chiklis portray's Adrian's father Dale, who fulfills the stereotyped image of a tough, blue-collar right-wing guy.

This movie could have been a simple coming-out story, but it isn't. There are complexities within each character, and there are unexpected moments of love and concern.

We saw this film at The Little Theatre, as part of ImageOut, the excellent Rochester LGBT Film Festival. It will work well on the small screen.

1985 carries a weak IMDb rating of 6.8. I think it's better than that.

P.S. In a brilliant piece of programming, ImageOut showed the movie "Buddies" on the same day as it showed 1985. Buddies was produced in 1985. It was the first movie that openly referred to the HIV/AIDS crisis. The year 1985 was a really bad year to be gay.
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Retablo (2017)
9/10
Excellent film about folk artisans in Peru
12 October 2018
Retablo (2017) is a Peruvian film written and directed by Alvaro Delgado Aparicio. The dialog is spoken in both Spanish and the indigenous language Quechua.

Amiel Cayo portrays Noé, who is a true folk artist. He makes retablos, which are an ornamented altarpiece type of painted structure. The word retablo means different things in different countries. In this movie, they are like small tryptychs which open to display a religious or secular display.

Noé is recognized for his skill and called "maestro." However, he doesn't have an easy life, because he sells his art in various cities and villages all over the region. Peru is a mountainous country, so travel isn't easy.

Noé has a son, Segundo, portrayed by Junior Bejar. Segundo is learning the craft. He's a fine young man and already a skilled artist.

The plot revolves around what happens in this rural society when long-hidden secrets are brought into the open.

Both lead actors are very effective in their portrayals. The movie is well made and definitely worked for me. It has an excellent IMDb rating of 7.5.

We saw this film at the Little Theatre, as part of ImageOut, the excellent Rochester LGBT Festival. It will work well enough on the small screen, although you'll miss out on some breathtaking scenery.

Retablo won the ImageOut Jury Award as the best narrative film at the 2018 Festival.
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9/10
Interesting, dynamic Brazilian movie
12 October 2018
The Brazilian movie Berenice Procura (2017) was shown in the U.S. with the title Berenice. It was directed by Allan Fiterman.

Cláudia Abreu portrays Berenice, who is a taxi driver by choice. Her husband, Domingos (portrayed by Eduardo Moscovis) works as a reporter for a TV station. Apparently, Domingos makes enough money to support them both, but Berenice likes her freedom.

Their son, Thiago (Caio Manhente) spends much of his time at a club with a transgender performer named Isabella. (Portrayed by transgender performer Valentina Sampaio.)

The plot begins at the beginning of the move when Isabella is murdered. The question is not only who carried out the murder, but why anyone would want to kill Isabella.

I enjoyed this film because it was partly about a mystery, partly about interpersonal family relationships, and partly about the transgender scene in Brazil.

The acting was excellent, the plot made sense, and, of course, the Copacabana beach is a world of its own.

We saw this movie at the Little Theatre as part of ImageOut, Rochester's excellent LGBT Film Festival. It will work almost as well on the small screen.

This film has an anemic IMDb rating of 6.6. It's better than that. Seek it out and watch it.
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9/10
Interesting film about two women who live on a houseboat on London's canals
12 October 2018
Anchor and Hope (2017) is an English movie co-written and directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet. The film stars Oona Chaplin as Eva, and Natalia Tena as Kat. They are happily in love. They do, indeed, live in a houseboat.

The situation changes when Kat invites her childhood friend Roger to stay with them in the houseboat for "a few days or weeks." It doesn't take an large leap of imagination to expect that two women together is one matter, but two women and one man together is something very different. That's where the plot takes off.

This picture is billed in the hype as that "sexual orientation isn't really a plot point. Nobody comes out. There are no homophobic characters or issues. It's essentially a romantic comedy/drama that happens to feature a lesbian couple." Don't believe it. It's a lesbian film. What's wrong with that?

I think it's a very good movie, with an interesting plot and great acting by all three lead actors. I recommend it.

We saw this movie at Rochester's Little Theatre as part of Image Out, the excellent Rochester LGBT Film Festival. It will work almost as well on the small screen.

P.S. Look for Geraldine Chaplin in the supporting role of Germaine, Eva's mother. We know that she is, indeed, Oona Chaplin's mother. Great casting!
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9/10
A scattered film with a powerful message
12 October 2018
Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) was written and directed by Michael Moore.

This is an interesting, unusual move. As is typical in Michael Moore films, he himself is the star. With his shambling, just-one-of-the guys manner, Moore is able to go places and speak to people where other directors could not. Some documentary directors are never seen or heard onscreen. Moore is right in the center of it.

The weakness of Fahrenheit 11/9 is that is Moore is so disgusted with the U.S. in 2018 that he vents his anger in every direction. The good news is that every one of his topics is important. You could make a documentary about each of the matters he shows us. For example, the Parkland shooting and the student empowerment in the wake of it is one topic. The Flint, Michigan water supply is another.

Moore is fiercely anti-Trump, but he doesn't spare Obama either. For example, in an extraordinarily disgraceful gesture, President Obama came to Flint, Michigan and publicly drank the water. (Well, he wet his lips.) Why would he do this in a situation in which thousands of children had been poisoned by that water? Why would he support the Republican governor who had knowingly let this poisoning continue?

I would translate Moore's basic message this way. Democracy is not something that necessarily will always be with us. Democracy could be on the verge of destruction in the U.S. We'd better do something fast and effective if we expect to remain a democracy.

This movie has an incredibly low IMDb rating of 5.5. The ratings come out in the most perfect bimodal curve that I've ever seen. About 1,100 voters rated it a 10. About 1,500 voters gave it a 1. Hardly any voters were neutral. That's how a movie obtains a 5.5. To me, the vote is both informative and frightening.

We saw this film at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. It will work very well on the small screen.
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Tucked (2018)
9/10
Everyone needs a little faith.
9 October 2018
Tucked (2018) is an English movie written and directed by Jamie Patterson.

The film stars Derren Nesbitt as Jackie, a straight man who performs as a woman at a nightclub. He's not just Jackie, as he tells us. He's "The one and only Jackie."

Within the first few minutes of the movie, we learn that Jackie has a particularly aggressive form of cancer. His physician tells him to ease back a little, but naturally that's exactly what Jackie doesn't want to do.

Enter Jordan Stephens as Faith, a new performing artist at the club. We're never sure if Faith is straight or gay, and that's the way he wants it. He's very talented, and he certainly could be successful, especially after Jackie takes him under his wing.

There's a subplot about Jackie's estranged daughter, which is predictable, but works well enough. Actually, the entire film is fairly predictable. We know the beginning and we know the end.

What makes the film work is what happens along the way. It helps that the acting is truly outstanding. We learn to care about both Jackie and Faith and to care about exactly what will happen next.

We saw this movie at Rochester's great Little Theatre, as part of the outstanding Image Out, the Rochester LGBT Film Festival. It will work well on the small screen.

This movie has too few IMDb ratings to be meaningful, and I believe that I'm the first IMDb reviewer. So . . . you'll have to take my word for it that Tucked is worth seeing. Or, as Faith says, "Everyone needs a little faith."
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Arábia (2017)
7/10
A working class laborer moves down the road
9 October 2018
The Brazilian film Arábia (2017) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title Araby. The movie was co-written and co-directed by João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa.

The film stars Aristides de Sousa as Cristiano, a working class man who has to settle for jobs involving unskilled labor. He travels down the road, always looking for a better job and a better life.

This film had some real strengths. It demonstrated the fate of an unskilled laborer who can never find a job has any meaning or gives him any satisfaction. de Sousa is a fine actor, and he makes his role come alive.

I found the movie discouraging, because Cristiano never attempts to improve his situation in any way. He talks about how his father organized a strike among fruit pickers, but he himself doesn't organize. He's likable enough, and he makes friends, but when he move on, he leaves them behind.

A previous reviewer called this a "A movie about hope," but I would call it "A movie without hope."

We saw this film at Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum. It was part of the excellent Rochester Labor Film Series. It will work well on the small screen.
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10/10
Unusual, superb film from Iran.
8 October 2018
Chaharshanbe-soori (2006) was shown in the U.S. with the title "Fireworks Wednesday. It was written and directed by Asghar Farhadi.

This movie really has two plots. One plot line involves a young working class woman who who will be married in a week. She starts work at the apartment of a wealthy family. Just a few minutes into the plot we realize that this is a dysfunctional family. The husband has flown into a rage and smashed a window with his fist. (He has a bandage in his hand throughout the movie.) The wife suspects that her husband is having an affair. She enlists the young maid to spy for her.

The relationship between the wife and the husband is the second plot line. Is the husband truly having an affair, or is this a neurotic obsession on the part of the wife?

(There's a third subplot about a man who parks his car just outside the gates of the apartment. He appears friendly enough, but I could never figure out what he was doing there. Probably everyone who saw the movie in Iran understood perfectly well what was happening. I couldn't get it. Even so, two solid plots are plenty for one movie.)

The reason the movie is called "Fireworks Wednesday" is because it's the Persian New Year, and everyone is shooting off fireworks. Fireworks are everywhere. I've never been to a movie--including war movies--with so many explosions in it. After a while, your brain partly shuts out the sound, but it's always there.

This is a powerful, dramatic, well-acted film. Although it's a drama, there are many funny moments. For example, the young outside worker and the older woman who works as concierge bond immediately. They'll never be in the upper class, but that doesn't mean they can't laugh at the weird rich people for whom they work.

The two female leads in the movie are extraordinarily talented. Hedye Tehrani plays the wife & Taraneh Alidoosti plays the domestic worker.

We saw this movie at home on the small screen, and it worked very well. It has a very high IMDb rating of 7.8, so I'm not alone in my admiration of it.

If you like unusual, interesting foreign films, with great direction and great acting, find this movie and enjoy it!
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Kynodontas (2009)
1/10
Can a movie be both boring and disgusting? Sadly, yes.
27 September 2018
The Greek film Kynodontas (2009) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title "Dogtooth." (Don't ask.) It was co-written, co-produced, and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

For the record, this movie has a solid 7.3 IMDb rating. Half of the raters gave it an 8, 9, or 10. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

The only explanation I have is that the people who gave it high ratings saw a different film from the one I saw. (Truth in reviewing: I gave up when the movie was about 2/3 over.)

It's interesting to me that many IMDb reviewers had the same outlook that I had. I think many of the people that gave it a high rating didn't bother to review it.

We saw Dogtooth on the small screen. I think it will work just as badly in a theater.
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9/10
Excellent film about a man being strangled by bureaucratic red tape
25 September 2018
I, Daniel Blake (2016) was directed by Ken Loach. It stars Dave Johns as Daniel Blake, and Hayley Squires, a down-and-out single mom who is befriended by Blake.

As the movie opens, we learn that Blake has suffered a heart attack. His doctor tells him that he'll be OK, but he can't work at his job as a carpenter for a while yet.

Automatic disability, right? Wrong. Blakes runs afoul of the person who "scores" disability. In an unethical (and maybe unlawful) act, she declares that he's not temporarily disabled.

The plot takes off from there. It's not an easy movie to watch. In fact, it's hard to take when you see a decent man being beaten down by bureaucracy.

However, it's an important film to see, even if it makes you uncomfortable. This movie was shown at Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre as part of the excellent Rochester Labor Film Series. It will work well on the small screen.

I, Daniel Blake has a very strong IMDb rating of 7.9. I think it's even better than that.
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