Sunday, January 1, 2017

17 Movies That I Saw in 2016 That I Can Recommend

1.  A Year in Burgundy.  2013.  A splendid documentary that follows 7 wine-making families in the Burgundy region of France who continue to make wine as it has been made there for hundreds of years.  These grapes are chardonnay and pinot noir.  Beautifully filmed, wonderful narration, interesting tid-bits about wine making ... such as emphasizing that the grapes and wine are live produce and must be treated with respect.  (One wine-maker turns on classical music in the cellars to benefit the wine--the same cellars that were built by Cistercian monks hundreds of years ago).  From pruning the vines in winter to cutting out hail-damaged grapes when harvesting in late summer.  In French and English.

2.  Ballet 422.  2014.  A documentary about a new work at the New York City Ballet by its young choreographer in residence, Justin Peck.  This is a back stage piece showing how he wrote, directed, and performed the piece as he also put everything together--lighting, costume, hair, music, and ballet rehearsal.

3.  The Big Short.  2015.  A U.S. comedy-drama about high finance and modern banking.  With Bale, Carell, Gosling, Pitt.  I enjoyed it.

4.  Bridge of Spies.  2015.  A rendering of the shooting down of the U-2 spy-plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers in 1960, and how a New York lawyer (Tom Hanks) negotiated his release.  An intelligent thriller directed by Spielberg.

5.  Brooklyn.  2015.  A British-Canadian-Irish romantic drama based on Colm Toibin's novel.  A young Irish woman who goes off to the U.S. (Brooklyn) but later returns home, needs to decide which of the two countries she will make her permanent home.  Well done.

6.  East Side Sushi.  2014.  Set and filmed in Oakland, this sweet feel-good film tells the story of a Latina who begins working in the kitchen of a sushi restaurant.  She soon aspires to become a full-fledged sushi chef but, as a result, finds herself confronting some major problems.

7.  Far From Men (Loin des Hommes).  2015.  French.  Set it 1954 Algeria at the time of their war for independence, this is based on a story by Camus.  Viggo Mortensen plays a French school teacher in the Atlas Mountains who is given the task of taking a murderer some distance to a trial.  The two men gain a rapport which complicates matters.  It won several awards.  In French and Arabic.

8.  45 Years.  2015.  British.  Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtney are about to celebrate their 45th anniversary when he receives the news that the body of his old lover has been found after 50 years in a Swiss glacier, an event which then opens up that period of his life, not all of it to his wife's liking.  Both leads won awards for their performances.  Intelligent story, well portrayed.

9. The House of Sand.  2005.  Brazil.  Set from 1910-1969, this was filmed in the extraordinary setting of the sand-filled Atlantic coastal Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in northern Brazil.  (Which I'd never heard of or seen pictures of before.)  It's a strong, survival-oriented story though I had difficulty believing anyone could exist in such an uninhabitable environment.  The story centers around two strong women, a mother and daughter--played by real life mother and daughter.  In Portuguese.

10. A Little Chaos.  2014.  British period piece.  Alan Rickman directed this film and also played Louis XIV.  It's a fantasy film of sorts about a garden designer in Versailles with the modern touch of having that be a woman, Kate Winslett.  Lots of conflict/resolution, good people/bad people, plus falling in love, so lots of clichés, but okay.

11.  Live-in Maid.  2004. Argentina.  Set in Buenos Aires during Argentina's economic crisis in the early 2000's.  Poignant story about a live-in maid and her long-term employer, a former well-to-do socialite.  Beautifully acted.  In Spanish.

12. Mustang.  2015.  Turkish-French film set in a town on the Black Sea by a Turkish director who won several awards for her work.  It's about 5 orphaned teen-aged sisters living with their grandmother who curtails their activities in order not to spoil their marriage chances.  In Turkish.

13.  Poetry.  2010.  Korean.  A grandmother signs up for a poetry writing class as different elements of turmoil then enter her life.  Thoughtful, slow-paced.  In Korean.

14.  Queen and Country.  2014.  British drama/biography.  This is John Boorman's sequel to Hope and Glory which was about his boyhood in London during the Blitz.  This isn't quite as charming, but still good acting, funny story, and nice to see a few of the Hope and Glory people here, too.  In this, he's just been recruited into the army at the time of the Korean War and together with his best buddy, engages in plenty of shenanigans as they begin life in training camp.

15.  The Second Mother.  2015.  Brazilian.  A maid's daughter comes to live with her in the house of her employers which creates confusion and class consciousness but is resolved in a loving fashion.  In Portuguese.

16.  Sweet Bean.  2015.  Japanese.  A sweet, lyrical drama about a man who runs a small pancake stall and a much older woman who helps him make the bean paste to spread on the pancakes.  Both have hardships to overcome.  Beautifully filmed.  In Japanese.

17.  Trumbo.  2015.  American biographical drama about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), jailed and blacklisted for alleged Communist propaganda in Hollywood films.  Well done. 

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