Here is what I watched this week.
Incendies (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2010)
After their mother’s death, Jeanne and Simon are given two letters – one for their father who they believed to be dead and one of a brother they didn’t know existed. They go their mother’s ancestral homeland, an unnamed Middle Eastern country, to learn the secrets of their mother’s past. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2010 Oscars, Incendies is a fascinating and entertaining film that is mysterious, shocking, and ultimately moving.
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (dir. John Ford, 1949)
Few things are more entertaining than a John Ford western starring John Wayne.
J. Edgar (dir. Clint Eastwood, 2011)
J. Edgar is the kind of biopic where you are waiting for the title character to die; it’s boring. J. Edgar Hoover is an endlessly fascinating man and Eastwood’s film didn’t capture that. Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, and an underused Naomi Watts do the best with the material they are given but J. Edgar is a disappointment.
The Mortal Storm (dir. Frank Borzage, 1940)
James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, and Robert Young play childhood friends who find their ideals clashing as the support for Nazism grows in their small Bavarian town. The Mortal Storm is an anti-Nazi Hollywood film released before the American entry into World War II and its release led to MGM films being banned in Nazi Germany. This alone makes it a film worth watching.
Take Me Home Tonight (dir. Michael Dowse, 2011)
This movie is a fun throwback to the best John Hughes’ movies. Set in 1988, recent graduate Matt (Topher Grace) is working at the mall and drifting through life. When his high school crush Tori (Teresa Palmer) walks into the store, he pretends to work at Goldman Sachs. She invites him out to a party and one crazy night follows. Anna Faris and Dan Fogler are hilarious in supporting roles as Matt’s sister and best friend. Take Me Home Tonight wasn’t readily praised when it was released but I think as more people see it, this movie will get its fair due.
The Yellow Handkerchief (dir. Udayan Prasad, 2008)
William Hurt, Kristen Stewart, and the kid who spends a week with Marilyn go on a road trip through the South to find Maria Bello. It sounds like the set up for a bad joke. Except its not. The Yellow Handkerchief is a satisfying independent drama with William Hurt delivering a fantastic performance as a recently released convict.
Limitless (dir. Neil Burger, 2011)
Did I watch this honor of Sexiest Man Alive Bradley Cooper? I’ll never tell.
The Children’s Hour (dir. William Wyler, 1961)
I have been meaning to watch this adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play for years. Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn star as Martha and Karen, teachers at a private girls school. After a student tells a malicious lie that Matha and Karen are lesbians, their reputations are destroyed and the women become outcasts. MacLaine, who plays the more tragic of the two women, is absolutely incredible in this movie. As is Fay Bainter, in her final screen appliance, as the student’s grandmother who actively condemns the women. (Bainter was nominated for an Academy Award.) Directed by William Wyler, The Children’s Hour is an exceptionally well-made drama and the portrayal of homosexuality, especially the community’s reaction to it, holds up today.