Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! A good batch this week, mostly low-key, quality offerings.
Stories We Tell (2012)
Starring: Michael Polley, Harry Gulkin, Susy Buchan, John Buchan, Mark Polley, Joanna Polley, Cathy Gulkin, Marie Murphy, Robert MacMillan, and many more
Director: Sarah Polley
Synopsis: told through interviews, archival photos and video footage, Sarah, the youngest daughter of a family goes on a quest for the truth about family matters that include her parents’ relationship, her own parentage, and how other family members and friends perceived the connections; where she can ask her father directly, her mother has passed on and speaks from the grave in a way through the piecing together of the collected evidence.
Impressions: I thought it was well-done and it felt resonant. There is a sense that every family has some configuration of these types of interweaving story lines, secrets, emotional turmoils, and unearthed gems of value if we care to look at them. Sarah was able to get to the nuggets of truth after much effort. I hope it gives her and the other family members some peace to know it, despite some of the pain that was also unearthed.
Awards: 25 wins and 43 nominations
The Dry (2020)
Starring: Eric Bana, Genevieve O’Reilly, Keir O’Donnell, John Polson, Julia Blake
Director: Robert Connolly
Genres: crime, drama
Synopsis: Falk (Bana,) a police investigator in the big city, left his small home town a long time ago. When the parents of one of his best high school buddies calls to say his friend committed a murder-suicide of his family and himself, Falk returns for the funeral. His presence re-ignites old hostilities in the townsfolk in regards to the mysterious death of one of his high school female friends, as the townsfolk blamed him for the girl’s death. Falk has to ask himself whether he should go back to the big city after the funeral or if he should stay to investigate his friend’s death, as evidence of foul play is jumping up all over the place. If he stays, he will have to bear the brunt of the threatening townies; if he leaves, he may be letting the real killer go free.
Impressions: I like seeing Bana be large and in charge in, “The Dry.” If he hasn’t proven he can handle a lead role before, he’s proving it now. It is a low-key movie that is well put-together.
Etc.: Australian film; filmed in Victoria and Melbourne, Australia; Based on the book ‘The Dry’ written by Jane Harper.
Awards: 5 wins and 17 nominations
Starring: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen, Lauren Bacall
Director: Rob Reiner
Genres: drama, thriller
Synopsis: As the story opens, highly successful writer of a series of books about heroine, Misery Chastain, Paul Sheldon (Caan,) just finishes a rough draft of the most recent installment, where he’s decided to kill off the heroine and try to get back to writing quality instead of pulp fiction. Paul always writes in a remote lodge in the mountains. It is winter time and he’s just left the lodge in his small sports car to go back to the big city. As he zips along through a snow storm, the car slides off of the road and crashes. A mysterious figure is seen pulling his unconscious, seriously injured body out of the wreckage and then carrying him off. The next scene shows Paul in what looks like a hospital bed; yet he is in no hospital. Instead he’s in his savior’s house. Annie (Bates) brought Paul to her home, where she, as a nurse, is nursing him back to health. We learn that Annie is one of Paul Sheldon’s — and Misery Chastain’s — biggest fans. Annie convinces Paul to let her have sneak peek of the new manuscript. When Annie reads plot turns she doesn’t like, we begin to see a different side of Annie. The rest of the film focuses on Paul’s best attempts to use his wits to keep himself alive until help comes.
Impressions: There is a Hitchcockian aspect to Misery that kept me on the edge of my seat. It is a testament to both Caan’s and Bates’ acting ability, as the movie is saturated with close-up face shots. Every nuance of expression is under the microscope and neither of these two disappoints. Farnsworth as the sheriff who has been tasked with investigating Paul’s mysterious disappearance does a wonderful job in his role as well. There are several jump scares in this and disturbing images that ramp up the creepiness factor in the movie. I find it kind of humorous that comedian Rob Reiner directed this very serious thriller.
Etc.: filmed in Nevada and California; there are 112 bits of trivia at imdb on the movie
Awards: 5 wins and 10 nominations
Stephen King (author of the book it was based on) was quite impressed with Kathy Bates’ performance in this film, so much so that he later wrote two more roles for her. The title role in his novel “Dolores Claiborne” was written with Bates in mind, and Bates later starred in the film adaption of Dolores Claiborne (1995.) King also wrote the script for the TV mini-series The Stand (1994.) His original novel featured a (male) character named Ray Flowers; upon hearing that Bates wanted to be involved in the miniseries, King re-wrote the part as a woman (Rae Flowers) just so Bates could play the part (uncredited.)
Black Crab (2022) original title, “Svart Krabba” netflix
Starring: Noomi Rapace, David Dencik, Aliette Opheim, Jakob Oftebro, Dar Salim
Director: Adam Berg
Genres: action, adventure
Synopsis: short blurb from imdb: In a post-apocalyptic world, six soldiers on a covert mission must transport a mysterious package across a frozen archipelago. There is a nasty war going on this winter, and one side puts a team of excellent ice skaters together to take the package that, “will end the war” to the giant lab of their stronghold. Each one of the team is promised something if they can successfully deliver the package. For Caroline (Rapace) she is told that her daughter was taken to the lab complex when soldiers kidnapped her and that they can be reunited and freed. Nylund (Oftebro) comes under Caroline’s suspicion from the beginning but the two need to trust each other if the mission is to succeed. The bulk of the movie is them doing stealth skating at night and trying to avoid detection by the enemy soldiers and others who would do them harm, as well as not hitting soft spots on the ice.
Impressions: I thought it was pretty good. Not your typical plot for a movie. The chemistry between Caroline and Nylund was strong throughout. The dystopia presented was very gloomy and depressing. Black Crab is literally a dark film. You won’t see much, if any, sunlight in it.
Etc.: filmed in Stockholm, Sweden; this film shows the (probable) Swedish army fighting a powerful, likely geographically close, enemy. It shares some similitude with the 2022 Ukraine-Russian war; in Swedish language with English subtitles.
Awards: too soon
The Man in the Hat (2020)
Starring: Ciaran Hinds, Sylvain Thirolle, Conor Lovett, James Lailey, Sasha Hails, Claire Tran
Directors and Writers: John-Paul Davidson, Stephen Warbeck
Genres: comedy, drama
Synopsis: blurb from imdb: The Man in the Hat journeys through France in a Fiat 500 accompanied by a framed photograph of an unknown woman. The Man (Hinds) is on a road trip and comes across various places and people. He’s a sharp observer of life and seems to seamlessly integrate himself into each scenario. He is in his sports car and keeps bumping into The Woman (Hails) who is also traveling through France but on her bike. The mystery of who the woman is in the photograph can be guessed at but is not revealed until the end.
Impressions: The Man is in every scene yet only has 2 lines of dialogue; despite lack of dialogue, you always know exactly what’s going on. I enjoyed watching this cross-country trip because the countryside and small villages along the way are simply breathtakingly beautiful. There is a light-heartedness to the movie that raised my spirits while watching it. Hinds is exceptionally good in his role. He makes you want to be riding next to him as he tools along. The ending is exquisite. Although it seems to have flown under the promotion radar, it is highly recommended. Do yourself a favor and watch it.
Etc.: filmed in 5 locations in France
Awards: 1 nomination