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Staff Picks: Movies

All Memories Are Traces of Tears

At its core, the Wong Kar-Wai film 2046 (2004) is about the anchor of memory and the struggle to move beyond the emotional stasis of ill-fated love. Developed as an associated sequel to his breathtaking classic In the Mood for Love (2000), it’s a poignant and heart-wrenching follow-up that restarts the story of Mr. Chow, an uninspired writer of pulp whose life as an aloof playboy incapable of emotionally connecting with the several women he encounters both in real life and in literature. While a central character from ITMFL is alluded to several times during the film, often hanging over the plot like a ghostly signifier for Chow’s past, one could conceivably view 2046 as a singular film about the pitfalls of timing but I would highly recommend beginning with ITMFL before undertaking the narratively intricate arcs of 2046 (there are countless allusions to the previous film that will function only to confuse the audience).

Mostly set in Hong Kong during the latter part of the 1960’s, Mr. Chow (played brilliantly by actor Tony Leung) is writing a Science Fiction story about the year 2046, a time and place where people go to relive their memories, a place where nothing changes. No one has ever come back from 2046 except for the teller of the tale, a Japanese man named Tak, a kind of stand-in for Chow. Chow’s unsentimental affair with a call girl who lives in an adjacent apartment (room number 2046) is achingly born out of Chow’s loneliness and boredom with his career but she has an earnest and quixotic plan for him that will force him to address his yearning for a past that has come and gone. Both films masterfully depict moodiness and atmosphere like few others in due part to the sensual cinematography of Christopher Doyle and use of melodic music to evoke the interior longing of characters. Prepare for a non-linear plot that jumps backward and forward throughout the film.


Calvary is a powerhouse of a film set in a small city along the picturesque coast of Ireland. The film’s themes concentrate around the power of religious faith, its practical limitations to address contemporary life’s complexities and the power of forgiveness in a world of lost belief and despair. Fiercely emotional, Calvary goes straight to the heart of whether or not forgiveness for unthinkable crimes is possible and whether one respectable priest’s fidelity to his vocation can be shaken by the varied reproaches echoed by those whose lives are mired in “well earned” melancholy and cynicism. Actor Brendan Gleeson is a decent priest who attempts to provide counsel and solace to several residents in the provincial town, most of whom mock and dismiss his honest intentions to provide comfort and guidance. 

From the opening scene of the film, we learn (without seeing the identity) that a victimized parishioner plans on murdering the priest, not because he’s been wronged by our protagonist but because killing an innocent person will in some way symbolically draw attention to the sex abuse crimes committed against thousands of Irish children like himself. It’s a brilliant, opening salvo that will force Father James to confront his own troubled relationship with belief, reconcile with his depressed daughter and come to terms with a fate that may well end with his life coming to a close. Billed as a dark comedy, Calvary has its moments of lighthearted quirkiness but the overall somberness of the film’s tone cannot be ignored. This is serious material handled with sensitivity. Even as the film’s core is suffused with an undeniable tension between righteous anger and its corrosive impact on the self, there are moments where we see genuine kindness expressed as in the case of the grieving French woman's scenes with Father James. 

That’s not to say that there are no problems with the film, some of which can be felt in the way the highly stylized characters of the foiling townspeople were written. Their ‘realness’ was clearly substituted for their capacity to represent the secular world’s various grievances with the church and its subsequent decline in status. In the end, the movie succeeds, mostly due to the stunning performance given by the veteran actor Gleeson.

Best of the Reissued Movies of 2014

It’s that time of the year to look at some of the notable films that have been restored and re-released back into cultural circulation once more. The Criterion Collection once again represents the gold standard in terms of packaging and supplementing these culturally significant works from the past.

1. The Long Day Closes
2. The Vanishing
3. Charulata
4. The Big Chill
5. La Vie de Boheme
6. Love Streams
7. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
8. Sundays and Cybele
9. Nostalghia
10. Safe

The Little Guitar in Movies

After watching one of the last episodes of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, in which one of the characters performs a poignant rendition of the classic ballad La Vie En Rose with a Ukulele, I began thinking about the cinematic role of this Hawaiian instrument (one of my favorites). Several recent films came immediately to mind (Her and Blue Valentine) but after a Youtube search, I discovered a few others films that feature this little guitar’s power to pluck an audience’s heartstrings. For fans of the instrument, check out Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder’s album Ukulele Songs.

From the movie Her

A compilation of movie scenes: 


From Femur to the Outer Reaches

Recent internet buzz about a leaked trailer for the newest installment of the Star Wars series and the release of Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar (in theaters now) got me thinking about the first, great science fiction film, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a beautiful enigma of a film that continues to stand up to the test of time given its enduring philosophical and scientific themes, not to mention its visual originality and marked refusal to conform to commercial and artistic conventions. It should be noted that it was not everyone’s cup of tea when it originally opened in movie theaters in 1968 and it’s glacial pacing, minimalist dialogue and conceptual approach to narrative won’t please many of today’s film viewers but for those willing to give into its pondering lyricism and subtle jabs at satire and social commentary, you will be rewarded.

Rosewood Lane

I chose to watch Rosewood Lane because Rose McGowan was in it. I’ve like her since Charmed. Rose McGowan is Sonny Blake a radio talk show therapist. Her alcoholic dad dies, and she moves into her childhood home. They briefly touch on that she tried to sell the house and could not but the movie had to have her move back home so that we can have the paperboy terrorize her. On her first day back the paperboy asks if she wants to subscribe and there is a good deal if she subscribes in the first 30 days. I wonder what would have happened if she had said yes. She doesn’t and the paperboy shows up in her basement, moves her swan and bear figurines, peeks through the fence. It doesn’t sound too terrorizing to have your swan figurine moved to where the bear figurine was and vice versa, but it was the visual indicator that he was in her house and that she was vulnerable to him. The neighbors say he is cunning and can do things that cannot be explained. Sonny sees the paper boy holding a cardboard sign which says Hickory standing by his bicycle on the road, she drives past him and bang suddenly he is in front of her holding another sign which says Dickory and again somehow he got in front of her and he is holding a sign which says Doc. We are left wondering if he is magical, a vampire or just knows some good shortcuts. Whatever, he is good at being creepy. Things escalate; the paperboy calls her station and says nursery rhymes. Sonny is convinced that the paperboy killed her father. The movie doesn’t give any reason why the paperboy is terrorizing her, other than he is a sociopath and on his newspaper route. The Director also directed Jeepers Creepers and this movie has the same feel. The paperboy is good at terrorizing and the movie keeps you engaged. Give it a watch and if you are approached by your paperboy you might want to say yes to a subscription. Check it out at KPL.

Crazy Train

If the snowy weather’s got you down and you want to watch people who are colder than you are, or if you’re in the mood to wallow in mankind’s devastating effect on global temperatures—or if you just like a good sci-fi action movie—check out the recent South Korean (but mostly English language) release Snowpiercer. Based off the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige and co-written and directed by Bong Joon-ho, best known for the rollickingly great rampaging monster flick The Host, Snowpiercer is set in a dystopian future where mankind’s attempts to reverse global warming have expedited a new Ice Age that has killed off most life on the planet. The few humans that remain live on the Snowpiercer, a massive train that continuously circumnavigates the globe. Within the train, people are divided into social classes, with the poor living in squalor in the rearmost cars, cruelly lorded over by the wealthiest passengers from the front cars. But a revolution is brewing, as man-with-a-past Curtis (Captain America’s Chris Evans) leads the impoverished on a car-by-car battle towards the engine, with hopes of overthrowing the Snowpiercer’s creator and authoritarian leader, played by Ed Harris.

Shot with cinematic grandeur, Snowpiecer succeeds on many levels: as suspenseful fight-laden actioner; as a dystopian fable; as a commentary on our environmental malfeasance; and, as an acting showcase—Tilda Swinton’s gonzo portrayal of a ministerial henchwoman is worth the proverbial price of admission alone. So check it out—the icy backdrop and chilly social undertones may just be the belly-warming tonic you need to make it through these first few frozen weeks of the season.

Dramas with the White Stuff

Do you love snow and winter? Here are some serious dramas where winter or snow plays a significant role in the plot and setting.

Mon Oncle Antoine
Fanny and Alexander
The Ascent
A Christmas Tale
My Night at Maud’s
All That Heaven Allows
Downhill Racer
The Shining
Frozen River

About Time

Mixing Notting Hill-like romantic fantasy with time traveling tropes, About Time excoriates viewers to live life to its fullest in the most sugary of ways. The message throughout the film is crystal clear and delivered like a hammer slamming against your head and your heart--life is precious and always chockfull of peaks and valleys, therefore, even if your family has the capacity to travel backward to modify one’s choices and missteps, one should recognize and cherish the insignificant, every day moments that form one’s life. It’s a terribly obvious film with just enough melodrama and character to move the heartstrings while not embarrassing itself. What better way to spend a dreary, cold Saturday than inside with a bowl of popcorn and a movie with beautiful people romping about their romantic endeavors with time travel at their fingertips. For fans of treacly schmaltz like The Time Traveler’s Wife, Love Actually, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Vow.

Binge Watching ‘House of Cards’

Many of my friends have shared their enthusiasm for the series House of Cards. I had never seen an episode but knew from awards shows that it was highly acclaimed. This political season seemed like a good time to watch it.

As my husband and I have been saying to each other as we have been binge watching season #1…is there anyone to like in this show or is everyone a back-stabbing, double-crossing politician?? So far the answer is NO….there is no one to like BUT it is very compelling.

My friends tell me I will be appalled at how Frank Underwood becomes President without being elected. If we watch enough episodes tonight, maybe he will be President by the morning.

This is just one of many good series in our AV collection. I have several on my list for watching this winter.