The penultimate part has arrived as we close in on the 100. I simply have to thank every one of you that contributed here through the ten parts – reading your words over and over was a pleasure and enlightening every time. And a thank you too to those that read all of this. Keep reading. Go back through the list and grab those movies you have not seen, and make it right. Trust me, you’re missing out.
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 (2014) – Ellen Goosenberg Kent — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
The menial stigma attached to the experiences of working in a call center is put into some kind of mere perspective when you really have no choice but to absorb the daily activity the trained telephonists have to participate in when speaking to suicidal war veterans. In Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, Ellen Goosenberg Kent has made an immediately moving, nerve-jangling documentary short (which won the Oscar) that brings home the reality of those so traumatized by their involvement in war they are looking to end their own life. It almost equated to one veteran an hour being lost in this way, and the call center was receiving 22,000 calls a month. These responders, speaking to the aggrieved over the telephone, have to use everything they have to talk them down, remind of their role as a father, someone’s son, or their important place in the world – whatever it takes. An emotional, integral account of professionally, compassionately handling the kind of psychological pain many of us will never imagine. A good day’s work in this field is built through saving a life, that precious thing we should not let go.
Winter’s Bone (2010) – Debra Granik — Marshall Flores @IPreferPi314
The genesis of Jennifer Lawrence’s stratospheric rise as an Oscar-winning, A-List actress over the past five years: her breakthrough performance as 17-year old Ree Dolly in Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone. Despite a meager two million dollar budget, an unusual premise (crime thriller set in the Ozarks), and an ensemble cast prominently featuring locals with zero acting experience, Bone overcame its unheralded roots and garnered widespread critical acclaim: it went on to win the Dramatic Best Picture prize at Sundance and ultimately received four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress. Lawrence’s Ree is an ordinary woman-girl thrust into the extraordinary circumstance of being the de facto head of her household, in an impoverished environment seeping with crime and drugs. In the hands of lesser talent, Winter’s Bone may easily just have been Deliverance redux, or a preachy liberal jeremiad on poverty. Instead, Bone defies genre conventions with a feminist twist: men may be in nominal charge of the local crime ring that dominates Ree’s town, but the women (Ree’s aunts) are the enforcers, the capos who perform the dirty work and who circumvent the male leadership as needed. And the ever-charismatic Lawrence empowers Ree with a preternatural authority, with a steely resolve that soldiers her through the treacherous odyssey of finding her missing dad. It is a performance that I strongly believe is still Lawrence’s best (and hasn’t come close to matching since). Combined with Granik’s incredible work with crafting a milieu that is unblinkingly (depressingly) authentic yet evoking a noirish beauty, and the end product is a spellbinding, unpredictable thriller that captures the audience’s attention from start to finish.
Una Noche (2012) – Lucy Mulloy — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
The first effects of Una Noche is the sweltering heat of Havana, you can almost feel it on your flesh. There’s a captivating glow and progressive energy brimming throughout the film, largely thanks to the director Lucy Mulloy’s expert vision, in her debut feature. It revolves around Lila (Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre) and brother Elio (Javier Núñez Florián), narrated by an a possibly older Lila telling us they have not been separated since they were born – their tactile, warm comfort in each other’s company is there for us to see. When the brooding, restless Raul (Dariel Arrechaga) enters their lives the film’s actual and metaphorical journey kicks up a notch. With this, Una Noche brings plenty of sexual tension and expression, even among these seemingly uptight teenagers. One scene has Lila follow her father to where he frolics with another woman, and she runs off distressed – perhaps due to her father’s betrayal, or witnessing the sheer passion of sex. Molloy changes the pace in the second half on all fronts, as the three teenagers build their raft to head off into the waters out of Cuba. The dynamics between them is handled in a truly compelling manner as they have little choice in the confinement to explore their aggression, their fears, their sexuality. The final moments tip you overboard a little and leave you somewhat breathless, Molloy is responsible for the impact, and she decides when you come up for air.
Monsoon Wedding (2001) – Mira Nair — Asif Khan @KHAN2705
Mira Nair, the Indian director based in United States is probably the more followed female filmmaker internationally. She started off as a documentary filmmaker, focusing on controversial subjects before moving to narrative filmmaking. Her films have been nominated for Oscar, Globes, BAFTAs and have won several others. Her 2001 film, Monsoon Wedding made her the first female recipient of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Written by Sabrina Dhawan, the film centers on a big, expensive and colorful traditional Punjabi Hindu wedding in Delhi. Arrange marriage, organized chaos of the ceremony, families coming together and old wounds unearthing. This is a film brimming with colors as much as emotional agitation and messiness of love and romance. You can feel the smell of monsoon rain mixed with that of the flowers. The visual, textural vibrancy is further supported by the beautiful music. Some of it is original but mostly a mixture of several types of it such as Qawali, Ghazal, Punjabi music, folk songs and Hindi tracks. Nair creates a full-blown picture of India and its traditions using a wedding ceremony. It is a film not afraid to go into darker corners as a sub-plot involves the cousin of the bride accusing a close relative of molestation when she was young. Boosted by big cast with standout turns by Naseeruddin Shah, Lillete Dubey and Shefali Shah. Love is glorious and destructive, weddings are heavenly and tiresome at the same time. In Monsoon Wedding, the audience loses themselves in the rhythm of life. Other notable films by Nair include her multiple award-winning debut Salaam Bombay!, Mississippi Masala and The Namesake.
The Last Mistress (2007) – Catherine Breillat — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
French director Catherine Breillat is no stranger to filmmaking of an erotically-charged nature, and The Last Mistress is no different. Seducing us in nineteenth century Paris this time around, a story full to the brim with passion and obsession. Ryno de Marigny (Fu’ad Aït Aattou) is intending to wed the rather timid, innocent Hermangarde (Roxanne Mesquida), but simply cannot let go of the long lover affair with the tempestuous La Vellini (Asia Argento). Dangerous Liaisons this is not, but with Breillat expertly inflicting the film with sexual electricity and undying temptation, it could well be in the same league. An explicit, lavish experience, The Last Mistress is sumptuous, almost larger than life, in it’s appearance, from the cinematography, down to the vibrant and elegant costume and set design. In particular Argento, who perhaps gives the most luminous performance and a luscious screen presence, is dressed in gorgeous, extravagant garments of expanding colors and designs – blatantly showing her character’s Spanish heritage. She is also has numerous scenes of unadulterated nudity in accurately awkward sex scenes, which goes a long way to add not only to the film’s sexual tone, but also the ultimately bold, grand scale with which Breiilat has executed this story so full of desire.
First published August 2015.