[REVIEW] ‘Effigy: Poison and the City’

Anyone who has read this blog for long knows I have a soft spot in my heart for period piece dramas. I even recently enjoyed the glittery and not-at-all true to life series Bridgerton on Netflix. Today I want to share my quick thoughts on something entirely different in the world of period films. This time it is Effigy: Poison and the City and it is a grisly tale by way of Germany about one of Europe’s first female serial killers.

Director Udo Flohr does a lot on a small budget and crafts for us the story of real-life murderer Gesche Gottfried (or the Angel of Bremen) played by Suzan Anbeh. They do a very good job of making Gottfried a morally ambiguous character. At times she seems to be a Kevorkian type character who is helping people who want to die. Then she seems to be out for revenge. At other times she’s an outright crazy person. We don’t really know what version of Gottfried we are going to get next. All we know is that we need to keep the poison or ‘mouse butter’ away from her.

The story is told from the perspective of a female law clerk Cato Bohmer (Elisa Thiemann) who is assigned to help a senator (Christoph Gottschalch) investigate the ever illusive Gottfried. She deals with her own discrimination as a female in mostly a male world of politics and law. There is a side of her that seems repulsed but also fascinated (maybe even attracted) to Gottfried. Again, the movie leaves the relationship ambiguous in a way most domestic films wouldn’t. We are allowed to wonder what the characters are thinking and yet their choices and motivations are clear. I wish more American dramas had a similar trust in their audience.

There are times the budget is obvious in Effigy and it feels more like a TV movie than a feature film but if you are interested in a Dateline from the 1820s with some good performances it’s a small film worth checking out.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

 

My Best Movies of 2020

Hey everyone! Happy New Year! 2020 was a tough year for all of us and that was certainly true for the world of cinema- especially theater owners and employees. Fortunately out of all the mess that the year brought we somehow managed to still have an interesting and eclectic group of movies released mostly via streaming services. It still means to be seen how the film landscape has changed for good but for now I want to share with you the movies I most enjoyed in this tough year. These aren’t necessarily the most expertly crafted films of the year, just my favorite (if you wouldn’t mind taking a look at my video version that would help me out as well. Thanks!).

Before I start I will add that this is always a tough process for me and even this year I had about 35 films I could have included. If I didn’t include a film you love on this list I probably still enjoyed it. You have to split hairs at a certain point for these lists. Also the order is admittedly somewhat arbitrary, so don’t put too much stock in that.

Here we go!

15. Shaun the Sheep Farmageddon

Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon Review - HeyUGuys

Few films were as sweet and delightful as the this latest entry from Aardman Animation. After a bit of a miss for me in Early Man, they redeemed themselves with a lovely little film about Shaun and company coming into contact with an adorable blue alien. Even just them ordering pizza at the beginning made me laugh. The animation is flawless as usual and the entire segment in the grocery store will have you and your family laughing. It may not be as challenging as both of Pixar’s films but in 2020 the pure laughs Shaun and company gave me impacted me just a hair more.

14. On the Rocks

On the Rocks Review: Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray Reunite | IndieWire

It seems like I enjoyed this father/daughter team up movie more than most. I am usually mixed on Sophia Coppola but I found On the Rocks to be completely charming. If it were up to me I’d give Bill Murray the Oscar for his performance. He is a scoundrel but a charming one and his chemistry with Rashida Jones was lovely. I laughed. I smiled. It was great!

13. What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael

WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL - DOC NYC

Ever since the fallout over my Shazam review I’ve had a hard time having the same confidence in my opinions as I once had. I know that might seem lame but it was scary and sometimes it seems easier to just keep my mouth shut than face those kinds of attacks. Well, watching this documentary on the great Pauline Kael really encouraged me to snap out of it and try to be confident in my voice again. The documentary itself doesn’t break any molds or anything but I just loved getting to know her and remembering how she was not afraid to tick a lot of people off with her reviews! She is one of my biggest inspirations as a critic, and I hope I can emulate her in any way.

12. The Truth

Venice Film Festival To Open With Hirokazu Kore-eda's 'The Truth' – Deadline

The Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda is never mentioned amongst the great filmmakers, and I don’t understand why. Consistently he has made one thoughtful film after another. The Truth is his first film not in Japanese (in French) and it features a standout cast led by Catherine Deneuve. She plays an aging actress who has written a memoir that her daughter (Juliette Binoche) calls greatly into question. The movie is probably too ‘slice of life’ for some people, but I loved spending time with this family. Deneuve should be considered for Oscars and Binoche and Ethan Hawke are great as well. Simple effective family film about memories and how subjective they can be.

11. Save Yourselves

This was my favorite narrative I saw at Sundance. Save Yourselves is a very funny movie about a couple that goes off the grid for the weekend to reconnect. Unfortunately that weekend there is also an alien invasion. I loved Sunita Mani and John Reynolds as our lead couple. They are very funny and have terrific chemistry. The ending isn’t perfect but I still really enjoyed it. One of my favorite comedies of the year.

10. Words on Bathroom Walls

This is the most personal entry I have on my list. I really enjoyed this teen film when I saw it but when I wrote my review I mentioned that I’d like to hear from someone with schizophrenia to see what they think about it. A young man named Zach reached out to me and he came on my podcast and we had an incredible discussion. Then the director Thor Freudenthal listened to the interview and came on the show and I spoke with him. It was an empowering experience and in my own little way I hope it took down some of the BS stigma that still surrounds conditions like schizophrenia. It has to stop. Plus, when Walter Goggins writes a letter in this movie I cried my eyes out.

9. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

I am sure I am the only critic in the country to have Timmy Failure on their best of the year list. All I can say is I loved this little family film so much. I loved little Timmy and his segway zooming around Portland cracking cases. I loved his polar bear friend and when he had to say goodbye I cried. The conversation between Timmy and Craig Robinson about adaptability has stayed with me all year. I love Wallace Shawn as his teacher. It’s sweet, funny and heartfelt. A real hidden gem if you ask me.

8. Spontaneous

When I first saw Spontaneous I didn’t quite know what to make of it. It’s such a weird and unique movie but it really stayed with me. I kept thinking about it and wanting to watch it again and again. I love Charlie Plummer and Katherine Langford in this (2 of my favorite young actors. Charlie is also in Words on Bathroom Walls). The whole concept of a world where you might explode at any moment is crazy and certainly keeps us the viewers on our toes. It’s sad and scary but it also has a sense of humor and a lot of romance. It’s got it all and how fun to see something fresh and new especially in the teen genre (although it is rated R). It is one of the most unpredictable, innovative and exciting movies I saw all year.

7. The Personal History of David Copperfield

Another movie that shook things up and surprised me is The Personal History of David Copperfield. Everything from the casting to the production design was different in this new take on the Dickens novel. I am not a literary purist so I don’t mind they clearly left out sections and ideas prominent in the novel. I love Dev Patel in the lead and the supporting cast with Peter Capaldi and Tilda Swinton to name a few are outstanding. It’s a period piece those who don’t like period pieces might enjoy. Charming

6. Bad Education

Bad Education is probably the best script I saw all year. It manages to walk the line of making the characters despicable while still likable. You hate what they are doing and yet you can see why they charmed their way through it for so many years. Hugh Jackman is great. Allison Janney is fantastic (better than her rather one note role in I Tonya if you ask me). Geraldine Viswanathan is also tremendous as the teen who starts asking questions.

5. Dick Johnson is Dead

Dick Johnson is Dead' Review: Kirsten Johnson's Rich Paternal Tribute - Variety

Dick Johnson is Dead was the best movie I saw at Sundance this year. It is a documentary where director Kirsten Johnson explores the reality of her father’s impending death by staging mock deaths for him to experience. It’s weird and wacky and so sweet. I loved Dick Johnson. He reminds me of my Grandfather who I miss every day. I lost both my Grandmas last year so the themes of death and loss really hit home. I loved Kirsten at Sundance. She was awesome, but I loved her film even more. Anyone who’s ever lost anyone should be able to relate to this charming film.

4. Love and Monsters

Love and Monsters' Review: An Unusually Upbeat, Enjoyable Apocalypse - Variety

Love and Monsters was a big surprise in the year. I didn’t know about it and then my friend Sean Chandler raved about so I had to check it out. Fortunately I completely agreed with him and found this film to be the most engaging blockbuster of the year. It has everything you could want in a film. It’s exciting with creative world-building and visuals. It has a terrific star making performance by Dylan O’Brien. Michael Rooker is fantastic in a supporting role. The creatures are unusual and fresh. I laughed. I cried. It has romance. It’s just a great time everyone will enjoy. There’s even a cute doggie in it!

3. Emma

Emma. (2020) - IMDb

Emma is exactly what I want in an adaptation. It stays close enough to the book to be satisfying for a fan like myself but it gives its own style and flair to make it its own creation. Director Autumn deWilde did a great job in her debut film. I loved all the production design and costumes. The music was wonderful. Anya Taylor-Joy was young and more innocent than most Emmas and Mia Goth is my favorite Harriet ever. And I absolutely loved Johnny Flynn as Mr Knightley. I’ve seen it at least 5 times including 3 times in the theater and I love it!

2. Hamilton

Can I still watch 'Hamilton' on Disney Plus? For how long? - nj.com

I went back and forth on whether to include Hamilton in this list. It just feels so different than the rest of the films (I literally filmed my Best of video 3 times trying to decide what to include). Eventually I went ahead and included it because it is so wonderful and was such a breath of fresh air in July 2020. Especially after the devastating news of Broadway closing down to get to see Hamilton with the rest of the world on Disney Plus meant so much to me and all the other musical theater fans. I have seen Hamilton previously on the stage when the touring company came through Salt Lake and that’s an incredible experience but this was something different. In the filmed version you get close up to the actors in a way you can’t at the show (the show has more spectacle so I still recommend it) and it feels intimate and close. I love the mixture of Broadway and hip-hop into the music and lyrics. I love the take on history and the way it makes you think about this great nation of ours. I love the eclectic casting and the way the production moves and flows from scene to scene. It’s a masterwork brought to the screen!

1 Wolfwalkers

The top spot was no argument. It had to go to Tomm Moore’s new film Wolfwalkers. His stunning new animated film continues his three movie hit streak with gorgeous animation and a heartfelt story of two girls who have a special tie to the forest. The story definitely has ties of Princess Mononoke but without the blood and violence. I loved the 2 girls and Robyn’s complicated relationship with her protective father. I loved the animation and the music. It will make you smile and tear up at the same time. It has it all. Get Apple Plus and watch it!

 

So there you have it. The best movies I saw in 2020. What about you? What are some of your favorite films? I would love to hear in the comments sections. Thanks for supporting me in 2020 and reading my silly thoughts on films. Now on to 2021!

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[Review] ‘News of the World’ or an Unlikely Friendship in the Old West

There are 6 new films premiering in theaters or on various streaming services on this Christmas Day and I have reviewed all of them on this blog except for the new western News of the World. So I thought I would share my quick thoughts on the film starring Tom Hanks that comes to theaters and PVOD on January 15th.

For my reviews of the other 5 releases:

Soul

Sylvie’s Love

One Night in Miami

Promising Young Woman

Wonder Woman 84

As I said, News of the World stars Tom Hanks and is directed by Paul Greengrass who he worked with previously on 2013’s Captain Phillips. Greengrass is famous for his spurning of a steady cam for an intimate close look at the characters (sometimes too close). For the most part I enjoyed that approach to News of the World. It perhaps helps that Hanks is a very likable presence that we enjoy being close with, even in the rough and tumble environment of the old west, which makes it all work.

The film is based on a novel by Paulette Jiles and tells the story of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd who makes a living going around Texas and reading the news to the illiterate men of the frontier. And he doesn’t just read it but offers a performance, which hopefully makes the news come alive to his audience. It’s almost a mixture of a comedy show and a vaudeville routine without the music. More entertainment than serious news.

One day Jefferson meets a young girl (Helena Zengel) who has been living with the native Kiowa people and doesn’t speak any English. The two form an unlikely duo as they traverse the desert frontier and try to get to her aunt and uncle in Texas.

I enjoyed watching them and their journey from one town and challenge to another. They have a good chemistry, the film is beautiful, and the music by James Newton Howard gives a sweeping feel this kind of story needs. One of the best sequences in the film is a long shootout between Jefferson and a bunch of thugs trying to get the girl.

Like most westerns the pacing is a little on the slow side in News of the World and I can see that being a barrier for some. The production values and immersion into the world is very well done and like I said I enjoyed the bond between Hanks and Zengel but it’s definitely leisurely paced.

I also was sometimes unclear on the character motivations of the thugs after the little girl. Was she valuable in some way? What did they want with her? I didn’t really understand the animosity against Jefferson’s character.

That said, it doesn’t really matter because News of the World is a simple journey story of 2 people traveling together and becoming friends. It’s a formula that almost always works and it does here. I enjoyed spending time with these people and experiencing this story. It won’t be for everyone, but I’m glad I saw this piece of classic storytelling in the old west.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[SPOILER FREE REVIEW] Wonder Woman 84: Is Disappointing the same as bad?

Those of you who have followed my writing know how impactful the original Wonder Woman film was for me in my movie watching career. I didn’t just love it as the best of the DCEU. I loved it as one of my favorite films ever and emotionally bonded with it in a special way. Of course, I am aware of its flaws, but that doesn’t matter when a film has you engrossed in the character and her transformation as she comes to know the frailty and humanity (or lack there of) in man amidst the horrors of war. Even the 3rd act that most people hate I didn’t mind because Diana’s transformation was so moving and honest. Watching Wonder Woman was a spiritual experience for me, and I will always love it for that.

Now after 3 years of waiting with a whole year of delays we have the sequel Wonder Woman 84 and it is…

Disappointing!

Now that doesn’t mean I hated it because I didn’t and even as I write I still don’t know whether to give it a smile  or frown worthy (fresh or rotten). It has a lot of positives but it is not nearly as emotionally resonant as the original film, and the story has a lot of problems. I tried to moderate my expectations because I don’t know if it is possible for a movie to impact me again as much as the first film, but I still wish it was stronger. Darn!

Anyway, let’s talk about the strengths. First up is Diana/Wonder Woman as a character. She has been the best part of all 4 DCEU films she’s in and that continues here. I love her mixture of strength and softness. She forgoes the tired cliches that a woman has to be tough and kick-butt in order to be strong. She is kick-butt but also sweet and charming and finds joy in many things.

She is a WOMAN in all the strength and beauty that implies not a woman pretending to be a man, and I greatly appreciate that dynamic. I also love Gal Gadot and think she being an ex-soldier and a model brings that mixture of femininity and strength to the character.

I loved watching Gadot in Wonder Woman 84 and think she makes me invested in a lot of scenes that would not work otherwise. I also think she and Chris Pine have incredible chemistry. In fact, it’s almost too great because story-wise they probably should have went a different direction, but I understand the desire to put them together again because it is so good.

(Also if you start to think about how this connects to the DCEU and Diana having been in hiding when BvS starts it doesn’t make much sense. I guess DC doesn’t care about continuity any more? I don’t care but for the record it doesn’t make sense).

There are also nice moments in Wonder Woman 84. Nice moments of action, romance, character development throughout. I enjoyed the opening sequence in Themiscyra. Diana and Steve have some touching and humorous interactions and the action scenes are well staged (a lot of lasso work, which I enjoyed). I also liked Max Lord’s (Pedro Pascal) relationship with his son and the humanity that gave what would have been a very one note villain.

The problem with the film lies in its unmanageable length at 151 minutes and the bland, uninteresting story. I particularly found the arc involving Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva to be weak.

They also didn’t do a good job capturing 1984. The hair isn’t big enough. The clothes aren’t flashy enough. Maxwell Lord feels like such an obvious commentary on 2020 and Donald Trump (I understand this is part of the comics character from its origin) that it made it harder to be immersed in the setting of the film. I didn’t have that problem with WW1 in the original film.

It’s not that Kristin Wiig gives a bad performance. Barbara’s just a very bland character we’ve seen in a thousand other comic book movies. I don’t understand why so many of these movies insist on having 2 villains? Rarely can the script justify that choice without some kind of character reveal like in Iron Man 3 or Big Hero 6. Wonder Woman 84 would have been so much better with just Maxwell Lord as the villain.

With so many characters the film also has what feels like 3 endings and then it keeps going. There are several times my friends and I looked at each other and said ‘there’s still ____ left?’… and then it kept going. It wraps things up with a moving message of hope and healing but so much felt wasteful and unfortunately again bland.

I know it’s hard for readers to accept critics can have mixed feelings on a film and rottentomatoes only exacerbates that problem. It forces us to pick a side. Fresh or rotten? Good or bad? Wonder Woman 84 is  in the middle but it feels bad because it is disappointing.

In my review of Justice League I said:

But all this aside I can’t deny that when I saw Superman fighting for truth and justice it made me really happy…I guess since it did make me smile I will give it a smile worthy but just barely

I think I feel the same about Wonder Woman 84. I got enough joy out of seeing Diana back on screen and the character made me smile enough to give it a smile worthy but just barely.

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Also if people can’t be respectful in the comments I will turn them off for this review. Disagreement is fine but threats and unkindness will not be tolerated

 

Current Mini Reviews

Hey everyone! I have another quick round of mini reviews for you to enjoy. Here goes!

Wild Mountain Thyme

I had enough people tell me to review Wild Mountain Thyme because ‘it’s like a Hallmark movie set in Ireland’ that I plunked down the $20 rental to watch it. After viewing it my main conclusion is none of these people have seen a Hallmark movie. Aside from romance existing in both there is little in common between them. That out of the way, I must admit I was extremely disappointed in the film.

I like all the people involved including Emily Blunt in the lead who I adored in films like Mary Poppins Returns and director/writer John Patrick Shanley who made one of my favorite romance films of all time in Moonstruck. Sadly here it feels like he piled 7 screenplays into a canon and then mixed it up to make the final version. There’s no cohesion which is a problem especially with some of the strange choices the characters make.

Needless to say I regret that $20…Sigh

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Prom

Any readers of this blog know I am a huge fan of musicals and musical theater. Of course they can be done badly but I am more of a push-over than many when it comes to the genre. When it comes to our latest musical from Netflix called The Prom I overall enjoyed it but it definitely has some problems.

Adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name Ryan Murphy has made a bubbly, energetic, mostly joyous film full of the best of intentions. It is obvious all involved had a great time and really believe what they are singing about and that’s infectious.

However, I wish the show wasn’t so focused on the celebrities that come to town and more focused on the teens. The celebrities like Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman do a good job in their roles but the movie couldn’t seem to decide whether it was mocking or worshiping them. James Corden’s storyline also didn’t quite work for me.

Still I am a musical junkie so I enjoyed the songs, dance and bubbly energy. So I’d recommend watching The Prom (it’s also way too long at 130 min)

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Mank

Mank is a difficult film to review because I am very hot and cold with it. We are going to have an episode of The Criterion Project post today where I get into it a little bit more. So please listen to that for more of my thoughts.

On the plus side, as a cinemafile who greatly admires Citizen Kane, I enjoyed getting to learn more about its creation and its writerHerman Mankiewicz. It also looks nice in black and white with great period details in the production.

Unfortunately I found Mank to be very repetitive in its scenes and Herman to be the least interesting character in almost every scene he is in. This mostly comes from him being an alcoholic who spends most the film participating in activities that alcoholics engage in like drinking and screaming and causing a fuss. This gets old real quick. I’m sure it’s accurate in many ways

That said if you are interested in movie history give it a watch. If not a pass.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Promising Young Woman’ or A Word on Boys will be Boys Culture

 

There will be some who reject the new film Promising Young Woman on its concept alone without even watching the film. I can already here the calls of ‘woke’ and ‘feminist agenda’ film coming in the comments section. I’m not going to try and convince you to see the film but merely give my reasons of why it worked for me as a piece of revenge fiction.

Last year we had Black Christmas that tried to do many of the same things Promising Young Woman does but it did not work at all. It was one of my least favorite films of 2019. The problem with that film is it presents only one valid version of being a woman. If you aren’t a kickbutt man-hater you are shamed or killed.

In this film it tells the story of one woman Cassie (played brilliantly by Carrie Mulligan) that is bitter and angry and wants revenge. She is an anti-hero in a sense but she is in no way presented as a guide by which to live by or even a stable competent individual. In fact, quite the reverse. All the men in the film are garbage but the movie is told exclusively through her point of view and she’s a damaged bitter woman who hates everyone around her- male and female.

The reason Cassie is so bitter is because a tragedy happened to her best friend in college and it was ignored and brushed aside. ‘Boys will be boys’ mentality rears its ugly head again. This is something we all should be against and Cassie decides to confront it at any cost. The nice thing is the movie doesn’t forget to have a sense of humor. Yes Cassie has let her crusade become a mania but she’s still funny and sarcastic.

I’ve heard some don’t like the ending. I disagree. I enjoyed the ending. To me it fit with the tone of the film and allowed her to get her revenge in a satisfying way.

Promising Young Woman is not a movie saying all men are evil and women are angels. It’s saying excusing away bad behavior done on college campuses because ‘boys will be boys’ or whatever is and that’s what needs to stop. A simple message is fine in a film. Simple character motivations are also fine. All I need is a terrific performance, which we have here, and a cracking script that doesn’t forget to have a sense of humor every now and then.

It’s not very rewatchable is I guess the only downside and the best thrillers usually should be.  Nevertheless I definitely recommend watching it if you get the chance.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Current Mini Reviews

Hey everyone! I have a few mini reviews to give you. These are all indie films that I had the privilege of screening. In the next few months I am going to be getting a lot of screeners for awards films so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of these mini reviews posts. So here goes!

Wander Darkly

Wander Darkly is a difficult movie to describe. It’s about a woman played by Sienna Miller who is struggling with being a new parent. She’s resentful of her partner played by Diego Luna and the 2 fight a lot. Then there is an accident and she might be dead, or is she?

The movie plays with time and perspective a lot with non-linear storytelling and a host of mini-reveals leading up to a big reveal. I really like Sienna Miller as an actress. I loved her in last year’s American Woman, which was very underrated. She’s great here and helps you to like a woman who can be shrill and argumentative (a tough quality to see in a young mother). She and Luna have good chemistry even as they are fighting and the emotion of the film works.

There are parts of Wander Darkly that feel aggressively indie like it was begging to be admitted to Sundance, which it was. Nevertheless, I recommend it. As I said on twitter it’s like Marriage Story if death was involved LOL.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Mr Marvelous

Mr Marvelous is a short I was asked to review and it was sold to me as a dark Christmas short about a disgruntled mall Santa. It’s only 13 minutes long but I was a little disappointed at the Christmas aspects of the film. I won’t give away the spoiler (although the title kind of does) but it’s more about heroes than about Christmas.

I’m not sure what this short is trying to say. It didn’t inspire me or make me think about the world in a new way. It’s not a commentary on superhero movies, families, or growing older. It might be trying to be those things but it fell flat. It’s just 13 minutes so if you’re curious you can find it online but I’d honestly skip it.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Busman’s Holiday

Busman’s Holiday is a film I bet will be more enjoyable to isolated audiences in 2020 than it might have otherwise been. It tells the story of man named Michael (Jamie McShane) who is hired as a private detective to try and find a distant cousin who has turned up missing in her travels around the world.

There’s a lot of escapism here with Michael traveling to Ireland, Australia, India and more, and that’s the main appeal in this film. McShane is likable as our rough-around-the-edges protagonist but he spends too much time in deep thought pondering the beauty of the earth. I wanted the search for the cousin to be more interesting!

Still, if you like movies such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty than you might enjoy Busman’s Holiday. It’s certainly worth a watch for the travel footage alone. Beautiful!

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

There you have it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have another post like this in the next few days. It’s a busy time to be a critic! Hope you are doing well! Don’t forget to check out Hallmarkies Podcast and please consider supporting me on patreon if you appreciate what I do.

[REVIEW] ‘L’Autre’ or An Art and Dance Film Done Right

There are a lot of of things about the new film L’Autre from french director Charlotte Dauphin that will make some audiences immediately tune it. It’s about a ballet dancer. It deals with grief and loss. It has flights of fancy and jumps around in time and it is in French. However, if you can keep an open mind you will be treated to a lovely little film that has a lot to say and it says it in a beautiful way.

L’Autre tells the story of a woman named Marie who is a young ballet dancer with an overbearing Mother and a beloved Father. When her Father dies on her 30th birthday she abandons dance and becomes a recluse from the world. Eventually, she reaches out to a photographer named Paul who took the last photo of her father and their romance and her rebirth is the main focus of the film.

Astrid Breges-Frisbey does a lovely job portraying Marie. You see her wounds and feel her longing for someone to understand her now that her Father is gone. She feels abandoned and alone. It in many ways reminds me of the longing in David Lowery’s A Ghost Story although not as abstract as that film.

Still, L’Autre uses dance and movement with beautiful cinematography to show Marie’s transformation. Even if you lose track of the subtitles the images are so stunning it should keep you entertained.

One of the keys to a film like L’Autre working is it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. At only 77 minutes you can enjoy the artistic journey through grief and love without becoming exhausted. A lot of arthouse films forget that and an enterprise which starts out exhilarating can become a slog.

Obviously L’Autre isn’t going to be for everyone but if you like dance and appreciate independent films with a European aesthetic give it a watch. I think you will find much to appreciate.

8 out of 10

[REVIEW] ‘The Forgotten Carols’

One of the hardest parts of 2020 has been the halting of most live performances and the closure of Broadway. As much as I love movies I equally love live performances whether plays, musicals, orchestras, recitals whatever. Fortunately, as we are waiting for the world to get vaccinated from COVID 19, we have been bequeathed a number of live performances in movie form to help tide us over. Early in the summer we got Hamilton on Disney Plus and now in movie theaters we can enjoy a new filming of the holiday favorite The Forgotten Carols.

Since it’s first release in 1991 The Forgotten Carols has sold over a million tickets all over the world. It is perhaps most popular among Latter-day Saint audiences but it is perfectly appropriate for any Christian to enjoy. It is written by composer Michael McLean and he plays the leading role of Uncle John in this production.

The conceit of the musical is John is an eccentric angel who makes it his mission one Christmas to cheer up a cynical nurse named Constance (not Connie as she reminds him). As she cares for him he tells her the stories of the ‘forgotten carols’ or people who testify of Christ’s birth. Some examples are the Innkeeper who regrets his actions towards Mary and Joseph and extols the audience to ‘Let Him In’. Another is the plucky angel who inspires Handel to write his Hallelujah chorus.

If you can’t tell The Forgotten Carols is an unabashedly religious experience. If you aren’t a Christian this probably isn’t the show for you. However, it is nondenominational so you do not need to be of a particular faith to enjoy it. In this version they have updated it for a 2020 audience with winks to uber, alexa and other products they didn’t have in 1991, but for the most part if you are a person who likes boisterous faith-based music and shows you’ll enjoy this show.

In fact, as someone who will watch over 100 Christmas movies and specials in 2020 it is refreshing to watch one film that’s actually about Jesus and the importance of His birth. The songs in The Forgotten Carols are theatrical and full of pageantry but my theater starved heart needed every last note! My particular favorite number is ‘I Cry the Day I Take the Tree Down’. It gets me every time!

This production was staged in Cedar City in September of this year in a socially distanced crowd and the whole thing had an urgency and poignancy that we all need right now. You can purchase tickets to a safe theater or purchase the DVD here.

For the right audience I recommend The Forgotten Carols.

8 out of 10