Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! Only 4 are being reviewed this week. As the weather gets nicer, I’m outside more. I also have been busy writing for a lot more features lately. It may be fewer films from now and for awhile, but that could change.
Central Station (1998) (Central do Brasil – original title)
Starring: Fernanda Montenegro, Marília Pêra, Vinícius de Oliveira, Soia Lira, Othon Bastos, Otávio Augusto, Stela Freitas, Matheus Nachtergaele, Caio Junqueira, and many more.
Director: Walter Salles
Synopsis: Montenegro plays a retired school teacher who now sits in the train station and writes letters home for those who can’t write and earns a few coins for each letter. What the various people who are dictating their letters don’t realize is that most of the time she takes the letters home and shoves them into a drawer. One woman and her young son dictate a letter; the boy acts hyper and is irritating as he waits. This letter later gets shoved in the drawer. The woman and her son come back a few days later to dictate another letter as she has changed her mind and wants to send her son to his dad in a distant village. As the woman and her son leave the station, the woman is hit and killed (sorry I am giving a spoiler here but it’s right at the beginning of the movie) leaving the boy alone in the big city. He starts sleeping in the station but a young kid like that is at risk for all sorts of danger. The woman is jaded and doesn’t want anything to do with the kid, but the forces of fate pull her in to take him to try to find his father on the long road trip to a small village.
Impressions: Montenegro gives a stellar performance here as the older, self-centered, jaded city dweller who doesn’t like to get involved. The kid is aggravating, distrustful (with good reason!), honest to a fault, and resistant to her help, but he realizes he can’t get to his dad without her. The two make a good road trip buddy team. It’s nice to see someone “plain” in a plum role like this. It also calls attention to someone’s beauty as being something that shines out from within a person rather than a shellac exterior.
Etc.: filmed in 12 locations in Brazil, Portuguese language, English subtitles
Awards: 43 wins and 26 nominations
Vinicius de Oliveira, a shoeshine boy, beat out more than 1,500 other young actors for the role of Josué.
George Fest: A Night to Celebrate the Music of George Harrison (2016)
Starring: Ian Astbury, Jonathan Bates, Brian Bell, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Cold War Kids, Wayne Coyne, Britt Daniel, Karen Elson, Perry Farrell, The Flaming Lips, Brandon Flowers, Ben Harper, Dhani Harrison, Norah Jones, Conan O’Brien, Nick Valensi, Butch Walker, Ann Wilson, Brian Wilson, “Weird” Al Yankovic.
Director: Rich Bond
Synopsis: 2 hours and 20 minutes of first class contemporary musical artists covering Geo’s beloved tunes. Dhani sings a couple of the songs and does his dad proud as the organizer and producer of the first class tribute to his father’s music. There are snippets of comments by the artist performing about what Geo’s music means to them.
Impressions: Just the right musicians were chosen for each song. I wish it could have been twice as long, but I’m happy with 2 hours plus.
Etc.: Recorded and filmed on September 28th, 2014 at the The Fonda Theater in Los Angeles.
Awards: none known
October Gale (2014)
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Scott Speedman, Tim Roth, and a couple of others.
Director: Ruba Nadda
Genres: drama, romance
Synopsis: Helen (played by Clarkson) is a Toronto physician who unexpectedly became a widow. She decides to go solo up to the family cabin to try and clear her head. The cabin is in a location reachable only by boat. She’s immersed in loving memories of her and her now-deceased husband when a storm kicks up. (It’s spring, but the title is explained in the film.) She goes down to the floating dock to check on the boat. When she returns, she finds a trail of blood going towards the house. She follows it into the living room, where she finds William (played by Speedman) who has been shot. Who is this man? Who shot him? And why and how did he get to her cabin in the storm. The rest of the movie answers those questions. In the process, Helen and William learn a lot about each other.
Impressions: The “cabin” is magnificent. I want one! The whole area around it – which unfortunately you only see a limited amount of – is untamed and unmolested. The aerial shots when she’s out on the boat in the choppy freezing cold water looks very dangerous. It was difficult not to fixate on William’s often shirtless body – he was shot in the shoulder and lots of tending the wound by Helen, the doctor. I was disappointed at how little Roth was in the film. Although the preview made it look suspenseful, it was less-than-compelling in its output. The actual focus here is the grieving widow and the sensitive man sharing their stories with each other.
Etc.: filmed Parry Sound, Lake Joseph, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada; imdb trivia: Over the back of the chesterfield in the cottage you can see a “Hudson’s Bay Blanket”. A white blanket with multicolored stripes, this blanket has been a staple in Canadian households, particularly cottages, over the years.
Awards: 2 nominations
Captain Fantastic (2016) (available on netflix)
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Frank Langella, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Trin Miller, Kathryn Hahn, Steven Zahn, Elijah Stevenson, Teddy Van Ee, Erin Moriarty, Missi Pyle, Ann Dowd, and many more.
Director: Matt Ross
Genres: comedy, drama
Synopsis: Imagine The Partridge Family as survivalists, where the family lives in the wilderness in the Pacific Northwest and lives off the land. The mom has gone back to civilization to fight against some serious mental illness and the dad (played by Mortensen in an Oscar-worthy role – he was nominated) holds down the fort, playing the best loving drill instructor a gaggle of kids could have. When tragedy strikes back in civilization, the family piles into their bus (now you see why I mentioned The Partridge Family) to do what needs to be done. Dad bangs heads with the civilized folks who look at him as a nutcase who is keeping his family away from anything “normal.”
Impressions: The title and the lead actor is what led me to the film. The story is what kept me mesmerized. For years I said I would have liked to have a dad like Mr. Rogers – which would be pretty dang awesome, admit it – but now I would have liked to have a dad like Ben, the dad in this movie. MacKay as the oldest son is downright brilliant. Langella as the formidable grandfather is perfect. The rest of the kids, who range from 6-18 are a joy to watch. Please see it if you get a chance.
Etc.: imdb trivia: The alternative lifestyle of the family seems very realistic in the film – this is actually a detail Viggo Mortenson especially paid attention to and questioned Matt Ross to make sure all the living components were accurate. Luckily for Matt Ross, he actually drew on his own childhood growing up with an alternative off-grid lifestyle in the Pacific Northwest, not at all dissimilar from that in the film.
Awards: 15 wins and 50 nominations
more imdb trivia:
Director Matt Ross had the actors who portrayed the six kids sign a contract promising that they wouldn’t eat sugar or junk food for the duration of the filming.