Inspired Cinema in 2018: Innovative, Universal and showcasing flawed human beings as Heroes!

72 film tickets which doesn’t include films screened for festivals, shorts watched on my computer or any of the 15 films watched on Netflix, rented from Redbox or DVDS!

This was a wonderful year for movies. No matter how you consumed them: via Netflix, at your local cineplex or at a starry Festival premiere, there was a broad array of offerings. A few of the sequels were as good, if not BETTER than the original films (Paddington 2, Incredibles 2, Bumblebee), our comic book films celebrated diversity and empowerment (Wonder Woman, Black Panther) and it was a banner year for documentaries (RBG, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Free Solo).

My favorite movies this year were two beautiful black and white films that transported me to another time and place with amazing cinematography and rich storytelling. Cold War, Pawel Pawlikowski‘s tragic love story tracked lovers thru a decade of Polish folk music to jazz in Paris. It was in the small moments when a stillness seemed to freeze frame the characters so we could study their emotions. The lush cinematography and the amazing, luminous performances of Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot really drew me in. The film had a documentary feel and was almost as moving as my favorite films from 2013, Ida, by the same director.

 Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s personal film about life in an upper middle-class Mexican family home is also shot in black and white (by Cuaron). Told thru the eyes of the caring family helper (both maid and nanny), Roma reveals how the personal and the political impact and influence everyone’s lives. The casualness of how a normal day can be shattered by violence, transformed by a brush with death or unite a family to battle a brush fire; while the family tries to maintain security and stability. We may not suffer as much trauma but it’s a universal struggle to protect those we love that everyone can understand.

There were some astounding films this year. I was so moved by A Beautiful Boy (Steve Carell and Timothy Chalamet), and Ben is Back also explored the drug crisis with searing performances (Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts). Welcome to Marwen and Annilahation were visually stunning as was the sweet Paddington 2. Into the Spiderverse was a zany Pop Culture Spiderman that we didn’t know we needed.

There were some great explorations of race and gender this year in film. My favorite was Blindspotting. I had to see Black Panther and Wonder Woman twice! And cheered for RBG AND On the Basis of Sex. One of my favorite moments at the movies this year was Edna Mode in The Incredibles 2 transforming into Aunt Edna and hustling the exhausted Dad (Bob, trying to be a Super Dad) back home. I felt that this year, the movies gave us some heroes that were flawed and all the more likable for it. Our society is changing. How we perceive ourselves and others is changing. Our films should too.

There may well have been other films I would’ve ranked in my Top 10 if I’d made one, but I know I missed seeing some great films this year: Madeline’s Madeline, Happy as Lazzaro, Private Life, The Rider, Support the Girls, Let The Sunshine In, Capernaum, Never Look Away, Burning, and Shoplifters.  A few I’ll be able to see on Netflix or Hulu, and a few that may still screen at an arthouse cinema somewhere.

Follow me on Instagram for snapshots of films as I see them.

See you at the movies my friends!

“Ida”–mesmerizing in black and white

Day Two of the Boulder International Film Festival found me sitting in a pew at the back of the United Methodist Church watching a beautiful Polish film about a Catholic novitiate who discovers she’s Jewish. I wonder if the primarily older, Jewish crowd picked up on the irony of all this cross-culture mixing?
Ida, directed and co-written by Pawel Pawlikowski, is set in 1960’s Poland and each shot is masterful crafted. Opening with a montage of black and white images of a young girl feeding chickens, the shot is tightly framed on just her legs and plain skirt with chickens milling about. There is great depth to the composition and in one sttic camera shot, the cinematographers, Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal, place the audience in this quiet convent and immediately establish it’s simple routine.
The simplicity and quiet of this monastatic life is later contrasted with the busier pace of life in the town when Ida takes her train ride to meet her aunt. We see her view from the moving train as people bustle along the street and when the focus returns to Agata Trzebuchowska’s eyes, it’s clear that this is a big change and maybe, not a welcome one. The actress has wide eyes that seem to have no pupils and with the stillness of her face and the tentative smiles, she expresses a great depth of feeling.

She’s off to visit her Aunt, played by another Agata; Agata Kulesza, in a full-throttle performance of a woman drowning her sorrows in booze and one-night stands. Together, the two women, one young, fresh and sheltered…the other tarnished by a brutal life, go in search for the truth behind their family’s tragic past. The film is sad, moving, timeless but also life-affirming.
The soundtrack is beautiful and the cinematography and performances are mesmerizing. Ida is a film worth seeking out!

5 shots of Polish vodka

Passes the Bechdel Test

A wonderful review — Ida won Best Film at the London Film Festival!