Fall 2014 movie lineup

All shows start on Friday at 8:00PM, at Battelle Auditorium on PNNL campus, unless specified otherwise.

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September 12th - 48 Hr Film Project Shorts (2013-2014)
September 26th - Child's Pose (2013)
October 10th - The Angel's Share (2012)
October 24th - Cement Suitcase (2013)
November 7th - Ida (2013)
November 21st - Blancanieves (2012)
December 5th - How to Die in Oregon (2011)
December 19th - Europa Report (2013)
January 2nd, 2015 - Winter's Bone (2010)
January 16th, 2015 - Caché (2005)

† - Audience suggestion


September 12th

Imagine teams of filmmakers given a character, a prop, a line of dialogue, and a genre and challenged to produce a finished short film in just 48 hours! Battelle Film Club is pleased to present the best of the winners from 100's of cities around the globe which have participated in the project.

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September 26th

Original title: Poziţia copilului

In a country where the contemporary "high-class" people seem to live their lives guided by the saying "You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours," an overly dominating mother, Cornelia (Luminiţa Anghel) uses a tragic incident in her adult son Barbu's (Bogdan Dumitrache) life, as a new opportunity to once again control him. A dysfunctional love (similar to an inverted Electra's complex, as the mother is the one who subconsciously desires the son) impairs a grown man from becoming an actual adult, and taking responsibility for his own actions. Though he constantly and aggressively verbalizes his need to be left alone when faced with the consequences of killing a 14-year old boy in a car accident, Barbu silently hides and allows his mother "take care of business."

Winner of the Golden Bear Prize at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival, Child's Pose presents the clear picture about the traumatizing effects of a suffocating parents' love for their children. Moreover, director Călin Peter Netzer not only deals with interpersonal family relationships, but also brings forward, through background action, the not-so-clean aspects of the Romanian society, even after breaking free from communism almost a quarter of a century ago: influence peddling, and corruption.

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Sheila O'Malley, RogerEbert.com 3.5/4 stars

Mothers are blamed for a lot, in cinema and in life. Their love is essential to a child's development, but too much of that same love is damaging. Wanting a close relationship with your adult child is healthy, but how close is too close? One of the greatest strengths of Child's Pose, Romania's 2014 Oscar-entry and winner of the Golden Bear this year in Berlin, is that these questions are presented, but no real answers are provided. The answers we get are murky, ambiguous, disturbing. The truth is there, somewhere, but lost in an abyss of recriminations, resentment, and things too dark to discuss. It's an extremely strong and upsetting film, yet another example of the fascinating things going on in Romania's new wave, with a breathtaking lead performance by Luminiţa Gheorghiu as Cornelia, the competent career-woman in Bucharest, determined to clear her adult son's name.

Cornelia is a nosy mother. She is estranged from her son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache), and blames that estrangement on Barbu's girlfriend, whom she can barely reference without a sneer. Cornelia is a wealthy successful architect and gave her son all the privileges available to him in the chaotic post-Ceauşescu era. And yet he drifts, he lacks focus, he wants nothing to do with his mother. When he hits and kills a peasant child while speeding and is arrested for drunk driving, Cornelia, wrapped in furs, swoops in to the rescue. Child's Pose, like so many other current Romanian films, is really about class. Cornelia is part of the Bucharest elite, and her friends are surgeons and famous opera singers. The family of the dead child are traditional peasants, described by one of the arresting officers as "very simple people". When Cornelia and the dead child's parents finally meet, in a scene almost absurd - Cornelia chooses that moment to babble about her son's achievements and what a wonderful athlete he was as a teenager - the culture clash is so enormous that it is as though nobody speaks the same language.

Cornelia is convinced that her son is innocent, although all evidence points to the contrary. She sets out to clear his name, to make sure he is not railroaded by the cops (who all treat her with a mixture of impatience and condescension, an interloper in their more practical world). She is desperate to mend the relationship, and yet Barbu is totally closed to her overtures. Gheorghiu as Cornelia is elegant and hard, pained and calculating, competent and shifty. She chain-smokes, and does so in a glamorous way, holding the cigarette up and close to her face. Her eyes shift around the room, taking things in, thinking, re-evaluating, hedging her bets. She is not likable; she knows it and it doesn't matter to her. At the raucous birthday party thrown for her early in the film, she dances around with her husband in an empty ante-room, laughing and twirling like a little girl, and there's something tragic about her joie de vivre. There is damage here, somewhere, catastrophic and complete.

Similar to Bong Joon-ho's Mother, Cornelia is a mother who will stop at nothing to protect her son. Much of what Cornelia does is underhanded, at times indefensible. And Barbu is no prize. Cornelia describes him to others as "warm and generous", but that seems to be her fantasy of him. In the film, he remains mostly a sullen mystery, and only through a show-stopper of a scene between Cornelia and Barbu's girlfriend Carmen (Ilinca Goia), when Carmen opens up in graphic detail about their sex life (all as Cornelia sits silent and eager for the details), do we learn anything about him. We understand very early on that Cornelia is an unreliable narrator of her own life. In her version of events, she is a scorned martyr, she has done nothing wrong, all she has done is love him, perhaps too much, but is that a crime? In one provocative scene, Cornelia rubs healing ointment into Barbu's back before he goes to sleep. The expression of relish and satisfaction on her face as she kneels astride her son is more eloquent than any dialogue could ever attempt.

Written by Răzvan Rădulescu (who also wrote The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu), Child's Pose was directed by Călin Peter Netzer, and the film announces him as a major talent. The hand-held cinematography, gritty and raw, gives the film an immediate and urgent documentary feel, and each moment has a great sense of both the absurd and the poignant. Even minor characters are well-drawn and captured in small details that tell you who they are. In one early scene, Cornelia invites her maid to have a cup of coffee. Cornelia always has ulterior motives: her maid also cleans Barbu's apartment, so Cornelia begins to grill the maid on the state of affairs at her son's place. Cornelia, smoking a cigarette and elegantly chilly with her blonde coiffure and beaded top, sits comfortably high in the culture's hierarchy and oozes oblivious privilege, all as the maid, wearing a third- or fourth-hand University of Southern California sweatshirt, squirms in embarrassment at being questioned about what books are on Barbu's nightstand. And even that question contains an ulterior motive: Cornelia gave Barbu two books, one by Herta Muller and one by Orhan Pamuk, and she wants to know if he has read them. "They both won the Nobel, you know," Cornelia informs the maid, who can't even feign interest at such incomprehensible words.

What makes Cornelia complex is that she operates from love. Her love is titanic, monumental, unstoppable. The film does not judge her. It merely presents her. It shows us where love can take us, what love becomes when it is thwarted, how twisted it can grow when it is not nurtured. And Gheorghiu, familiar to audiences already from her performances in Beyond the Hills, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, 12:08 East of Bucharest and The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu, is fearless. Her performance as Cornelia is iconic in scope.

Read the original review at http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/childs-pose-2014.

(2013) Director: Călin Peter Netzer. Writers: Răzvan Rădulescu, Călin Peter Netzer. Genres: Drama. Country: Romania. Language: Romanian with English subtitles. Runtime: 112 min. Unrated.

Awards: Winner of the 2013 Golden Berlin Bear, Telia Film Award at the 2013 Stockholm Film Festival, and numerous Gopos Awards Romania 2014.

More details, reviews, and comments can be found at:
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The Guardian

October 10th

An untapped talent for discerning the quality of scotch whiskey offers a desperate Glasgow low-life a much-needed shot at redemption in this gentle comic fable from director Ken Loach and longtime screenwriter partner Paul Laverty. Caught up in a family feud that's about to blow-up in his face, Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is offered a large sun of cash to leave Glasgow by his pregnant girlfriend's father. He's facing 300 hours of community service when he slips into the maternity ward and looks into the eyes of their newborn son. In that moment, Robbie vows to do everything in his power to give his son a better life. In the wake of Robbie's sentencing, he's placed under the watch of the surly yet kindhearted Harry (John Henshaw), who introduces him to the joys of fine whiskey. A trip to a local distillery with Harry soon follows, and it's there that Robbie's sensitive nose picks up all the subtle nuances of the complex whiskey swirling in his glass. Meanwhile, upon learning that the two-percent of the spirits that disappear into the air every year are known as "The Angel's Share," Robbie and fellow dead-enders Rhino, Albert and Mo hatch a plan to steal one of the world's rarest whiskeys. Now, for the first time in his life, Robbie has a choice - will he resort back to his old criminal ways, or follow his perceptive olfactory nerves to a future he could have never seen coming?

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John P. Hanlon, BREITBART - Big Hollywood

The Angels' Share is a movie about drinking that never touches on alcoholism. Instead, the story focuses on a group of spirits-loving criminals who were given second chances when they received community service sentences instead of prison time. Unpredictable but fun-loving, these individuals search for a brighter future in this compelling, satisfactory comedy.

Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is the group's ringleader. We meet him after he high on coke beat up an innocent teenager after a traffic incident. When a judge offers him leniency, the troubled Robbie is ordered to perform 300 hours of community service. But although he is still tempted to commit violence, Robbie wants to change. His girlfriend is pregnant with his first child so he wants to cast aside his angry past and start acting like an adult.

Unfortunately for him, his girlfriend's family wants to prevent that. They threaten, stalk and intimidate him to keep him away from both his child and the woman he loves. They even viciously beat him up in one scene while Robbie does nothing to protect himself, not wanting to turn back to his violent past.

The heart of the story is Robbie, and Brannigan does an admirable job in the role. He is naïve and innocent-looking but underneath that facade, he has the capacity to commit acts of ferocious violence. Robbie sheds tears while listening to his teenage victim recount the night of Robbie's attack, but a few scenes later is tempted to kill a man who threatens his new life. In one particularly poignant sequence, Robbie even admits that if someone else injured his child in the way that he himself once injured that teen, he would want that person wiped off the planet. Fatherhood has changed his views in a way that few things could.

As the story proceeds, Robbie and his community service brethren hatch a plan to steal an expensive cask of whiskey. The group of oddball criminals decide to infiltrate an illustrious auction so that Robbie can have the money to move away with his girlfriend and child.

Director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty have developed a promising and fulfilling comedy here that never shies away from the violence of the main character's past. Instead, it shows how ugly his actions can be but also building sympathy for him as he attempts to escape who he once was.

Looking back, it seems obvious that the character of Robbie must carry the story for it to truly work. Audiences must root for him, despite some of the things he does along the way and despite the man he once was. The Angels' Share is in the end a surprisingly warm and heartfelt film.

Full synopsis from http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Hollywood/2013/04/25/The-Angels-Share-Heartfelt-Story-about-Fatherhood.

(2012) Director: Ken Loach. Writer: Paul Laverty. Genres: Comedy, crime, war. Country: UK, France, Belgium, Italy. Languages: English. Runtime: 101 min. Not rated (contains profanity, violence and gore, drugs, alcohol and smoking).

Awards: Winner of best actor and best writer at the BAFTA Awards Scotland in 2012, the Jury Price at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, and the audience award for the European Film at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.

More details, reviews, and comments can be found at:
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October 24th

An anti-romantic comedy that is simple, straightforward and funny, and develops right around the area, in the wine country of Yakima Valley. Written and directed by Granger native J. Rick Castañeda, the movie follows Franklin Roew's (Dwayne Bartholomew) tribulation as he faces the realities of losing his mother's house, his job, and girlfriend. He eventually comes to terms with his life, and decides to let go of his "cement" baggage, and start anew.

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Allison Lyzenga, My Film Habit - Cement Suitcase: A Breakthrough Indie Comedy

The thing I love best about indie films is that you can get unusual combinations of themes that you would never see in mainstream cinema. For example, combining utter depression with madcap comedy. That's what this film's about. It's about a guy, Franklin, who has sunk so low that he's willing to indulge in just about any of the wacky suggestion that his brand new, quirky, (and inexplicably Australian) roommate suggests. Why is our hero in such a funk? Well, he's a smart guy, but he's in a dead-end job hawking booze to low-class tourists in Washington State's lovely, yet less-than-prestigious wine region. His co-workers hate him. He's having trouble paying the bills. And his girlfriend is sleeping with the most bleached-tipped golf pro you've ever seen. To make matters worse, this golf pro now wants to be buddies.

So why not indulge in a little juvenile fun? These shenanigans include antics such as changing all the street signs in town to passive-aggressive messages to the local residents, planting hilariously heavy luggage (per the title of the film) in front of the local train station, or diving into the open cabs of cars and convincing the driver to take you anywhere you want to go. Hilarity ensues. This is a bitter comedy. Only people who have suffered real disappointment in life will truly appreciate this movie for all it has to offer. And I guess that's why I like it so much. Heck, who hasn't had a quarter-life crisis, or two?

But, this film isn't only for pessimists. All you normal people will definitely get a kick out of it too. I really enjoyed the cinematography. It contrasts, bright cheery atmosphere with a somewhat melancholy story line. It reminded me of the fake smiles a lot of us put on to go out into the world. Franklin is a lovable character, and he definitely feels like a real guy. You'll find yourself really rooting for him to stand up for himself and for him get his life together.

(2013) Director: J. Rick Castañeda. Writers: J. Rick Castañeda. Genres: Comedy, drama. Country: USA. Language: English. Runtime: 91 min. Unrated.

Awards: Winner of the Audience Award at the Dances with Films Festival in Los Angeles and Ellensburg Film Festival in 2013

More details, reviews, and comments can be found at:
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November 7th

It is Poland, 1962. Just before her 18th birthday, Anna, a novitiate nun raised in a convent, is advised by her Mother Superior to meet her one living relative before taking her vows. Her aunt, Wanda, was a high-ranking official in the Communist party, living a life completely opposite of everything Anna has ever known. One woman is hardened and world-weary, the other innocent, youthful and naïve. Wanda is the keeper of a family secret involving Anna's past, and takes Anna on a road trip where both women come to terms with faith, the effects of war, identity and each other. Shot in austere, beautiful black and white, Ida has been hailed as a new masterpiece of Polish cinema.

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Godfrey Cheshire, RogerEbert.com 4/4 stars

Anna is an 18-year-old orphan who was raised in a convent and is preparing to take her vows when her Mother Superior insists that first she meet her one known relative. That is an aunt, Wanda, a former prosecutor with a high Communist Party rank whose dissolute life of smoking, drinking and bedding men stands in stark contrast to the ascetic existence of her sheltered niece. But Anna has more to be shocked about when Wanda tells her that her real name is Ida (pronounced Eeda), that she is Jewish and that her parents were killed during World War II.

This revelation triggers a journey in which aunt and niece drive back to the village of Anna's parents in an effort to discover how they died and where they were buried. Although this quest is central to the narrative, Ida is anything but plot-driven. It's a film of moments, observations and moods, with a lyrical unfolding that recalls such atmospheric monochrome road movies as Wim Wenders' Kings of the Road.

Few recent films can claim a visual approach as striking as Ida. Filmed in the unusual, boxy aspect ratio of 1.37:1, and most often deployed in static long shots, the film's images sometimes suggest Vermeer lighting with the color taken away, and the compositions manage to seem at once classical and off-handed, with the subjects often located in the screen's two bottom quadrants. As in Bresson, the effect is to draw the viewer's eye into the beauty of the image while simultaneously maintaining a contemplative distance from the drama.

Besides its look, Ida most recalls the manner of bygone art films in the modernist spareness and thoroughgoing obliqueness of its writing. Very little is stated directly; instead, we glean things from casual remarks and subtle suggestions. Somehow, this technique of inference makes the film's eventual revelations feel both more integral and more powerful.

Because revelations do come, despite the quest's languorous rhythms, and they touch on arguably the darkest and most troubling chapter in modern Poland's history. What happened to Anna's parents? Most films that approach this horrific arena envision jackbooted armies and vast industrial execution sites. But in Poland in the '40s, as in Cambodia in the '70s and Rwanda in the '90s, evil's authors could be one's friends and neighbors, and simple farm implements its instruments. In touching on this reality, Ida adds something to a subject that sometimes seems to have lost the ability to disturb us as it should in movies.

Besides this historical acuity, the film gives us a fascinating pair of matched archetypes in its main characters, which are realized in two exquisite performances. As the aspiring nun who's suddenly tossed into the ugliness of the world, newcomer Agata Trzebokowska proves a poised icon of luminous quietude and awakened curiosity, discovering herself as she painfully uncovers her past. And as the embittered, nihilistic "Red Wanda," a woman driven both by the horrors inflicted on her and those she's inflicted on others, veteran Polish actress Agneta Kulesza creates the astonishing impression that some of history's most wrenching conflicts are being played out in a single human soul. Like much about Ida, these actresses' work not only pays homage to masterpieces of the past but revivifies current cinema in doing so.

Read full review at http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/ida-2014.

(2013) Director: Pawel Pawlikowski. Writers: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz . Genres: Drama. Country: Poland, Denmark. Language: Polish (with English subtitles). Runtime: 80 min. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality, and smoking.

Awards: Among all the 19 wins and 2 extra nominations, the most notable are:

  • International Critics award at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
  • Best Film at London Film Festival
  • Best Actress at Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)

More details, reviews, and comments can be found at:
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November 21st

Once upon a time there was a little girl who had never known her mother. She learned the art of her father, a famous bullfighter, but was hated by her evil stepmother. One day she ran away with a troupe of dwarves, and became a legend. Set in southern Spain in 1920s, Blancanieves is Snow White reimagined as a tribute to silent films. A rich, whimsical, bittersweet delight, Blancanieves was Spain's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for 2012.

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Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com 4/4 stars

It's too soon to declare a trend, but a silent film once again seems likely to become a success in the contemporary film world: Blancanieves, a striking, visually stunning Spanish feature, written and directed by Pablo Berger.

Although the story draws on the Brothers Grimm and the legend of Snow White, it is anything but a children's movie. It is a full-bodied silent film of the sort that might have been made by the greatest directors of the 1920s, if such details as the kinky sadomasochism of this film's evil stepmother could have been slipped past the censors.

The delightful The Artist, which slipped away with last year's Academy Award for best picture, cheated a little by having tongue-in-cheek fun with its silence, and even allowing a few words to sneak in. Blancanieves exploits the silent medium for its strengths, including the fact that it can so easily deal with fantasy. This is as exciting, in many of the same ways, as the greatest traditional silent masterpieces by Dreyer, Pabst or Murnau. It's a Spanish film, but of course silent films speak an international language.

The story opens with a famous matador, Antonio Villalta (Daniel Giménez Cacho), who is filled with swaggering ego. All goes wrong for him. He is paralyzed in the ring, and his beloved wife dies in childbirth. Their daughter, Carmen, is raised by her grandmother until her death. Antonio unwisely marries the heartless Encarna (Maribel Verdu), his former nurse, who wants only his money and ignores him as he sits in a wheelchair in his room.

After Carmen is orphaned, Encarna allows the child to come and live with her and her father, only to give her a room in the barn and put her to work at hard labor. Encarna, meanwhile, dominates the household's chauffeur in classic boot-and-whip style. Eventually, Carmen manages to sneak into the mansion and bond with her father, who teaches her the art of bullfighting.

Fed up with caring for her invalid husband, Encarna hastens his demise. She also orders the chauffeur to eliminate the now-teenage Carmen.
Left for dead in a nearby river, Carmen is discovered by a troupe of dwarves, Los Enanitos Toreros. They are bullfighters who travel between cities and look like characters out of a Tod Browning film. They name her Blancanieves, Spanish for Snow White.

When one of them is wounded, she leaps into the ring and distracts the bull, using the matador skills she learned from her father. Eventually she, too, becomes a famed matador.

This film is a wonderment, urged along by a full-throated romantic score. Carmen as a child is performed lovably by the angelic Sofía Oria and as an adult, Macarena García. As with The Artist I believe audiences will discover they like silent films more than they think they do. The silents offer experiences and dimensions different from talking pictures.

Read the full review at http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/blancanieves-2012.

(2012) Director: Pablo Berger. Writer: Pablo Berger. Genres: Drama, fantasy. Country: Spain, Belgium, France. Language: Silent with English Intertitles. Runtime: 104 min. Rated PG-13 for some violent content and sexuality.

Awards: The official Spanish entry for the 2012 Foreign Language Academy Awards; winner of 10 Goya Awards including best actress, best cinematography, and best film; winner of the Special Prize of the Jury and Best Actress at San Sebastian Film Festival; nominated for best film and best director at the European Film Awards.

More details, reviews, and comments can be found at:
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December 5th

With an idea that had gotten born the morning before flying to Sundance Festival with Clear Cut, and after four years of having interviewed subjects, director Peter Richardson had the perfect material to document the very real and human dimensions of an issue that is most often seen as more political and contentious than personal: Death With Dignity Act enacted in Oregon in 1997. The act allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.

How to Die in Oregon intimately presents the case of Cody Curtis, a buoyant and folksy woman in Portland who courageously fought a long battle with liver cancer, but eventually decided to end it in 2009 by taking a lethal dose of drugs. In addition, the documentary also observes reactions to a similar law that failed to be passed in Washington years before the Oregon one.

With a perfect evenhandedness, Richardson makes the film to be unbiased, advocating neither side of such an intense issue, but rather the role it plays in the lives of ordinary people. As one of the interviewee said "You never know it until you you're there."

Read more details.

Jeff Shannon, RogerEbert.com

I've been encouraged to write autobiographically in this forum, so bear with me, dear reader. We've barely been introduced, and this time it's personal. I'll be sharing some thoughts about HBO's extraordinary new documentary How to Die in Oregon, but first, allow me this indulgence: When my father died four months ago at the age of 79, I sat beside him in my wheelchair as his death drew near. I couldn't hold his hand and he couldn't hold mine, so I gently touched the parchment-like skin of dad's withered right arm while my older brother, standing on the other side of the bed, leaned over and quietly suggested to our father that this was "a good time to go."

Dad must have agreed, because a few seconds later, he did. He went gently and peacefully after many hours of slow, labored breathing. Only three weeks had passed since he'd been definitively diagnosed with bowel cancer. In a case of fortunate timing, we'd brought him home from the hospital about 30 hours earlier; we knew he preferred to die at home. Apart from the morphine drip we'd been trained to operate by compassionate hospice-care advisors, there were no lethal drugs or physicians involved.

By circumstance or design (I can't say which), just the three of us were together when my dad died, in the intimate condominium dad had shared with our stepmother for many years. My brother had dimmed the low lights lower just a few minutes earlier; he knew that reducing sensory input is a comfort to the dying. The local classical music station had been playing for hours at low volume. I place no particular significance on the fact that that Haydn's "Surprise" symphony was playing when dad died. It just was. Dad suffered from severe discomfort before he died, but his pain was well-managed and all of us, including my sister and stepmom, had time to properly say our goodbyes, knowing they'd been heard and acknowledged. I can honestly tell you that my father's death was profoundly beautiful, and occurred at precisely the right moment, no sooner or later than it should have.

When my mother died from lung cancer in Seattle in 1988, at the far-too-young age of 56, she'd been ravaged for months by a brutal combination of chemotherapy, helplessness and extreme frustration. Six months earlier she'd been told she had six months to live, so at least we all had the comfort of an accurate prediction. I had visited her on the day she died, convinced I'd return before that moment arrived, but early that evening she died peacefully and alone in her hospice room, where a nurse had left her just a moment before. I later learned, to my surprise, that this was by my mother's request. A small group of family and friends had gathered in a nearby room, and the nurse informed them when mom's death was confirmed. For both of my parents, I feel that death came with dignity and respect for the lives they had lived. There's just once crucial difference: My father's death was natural, and his decline was not unduly prolonged by extensive (and expensive) palliative care. My mother died naturally, too, but ever since her death I have held firmly to the conviction that she should have died sooner -- perhaps as much as two months earlier -- and I think she might've found that option appealing. In Washington State, in 1988, she didn't have that option. As I write this, I am one month shy of my 32nd anniversary as a "PWD" (person with a disability). Clinically speaking, I'm designated "C-5/6 complete quadriplegic," paralyzed from the upper chest down by a spinal cord injury that occurred on the coast of Maui in the summer of 1979. I was three weeks shy of my 18th birthday, and had graduated from high school two weeks earlier. Accompanied by a group of fellow graduates, my trip to Hawaii was a graduation gift from my parents. [.........]

Most of all, How to Die in Oregon tells the story of Cody Curtis, a regally dignified, silver-haired 54-year-old wife and mother of two young-adult children, who is riding a roller-coaster of emotions after being diagnosed with liver cancer and given six months to live. She outlives that diagnosis and benefits from palliative treatment (thus crucially demonstrating the parameters of Oregon's law), but it's a temporary reprieve from the inevitable. Cody is -- was -- a brave and beautiful woman in every sense of the word. We come to know her well, in part because her final months, weeks, and days unfold with familial emotions at peak intensity. Her bravery extends to her acceptance of Richardson's camera, but there's no reality-TV exploitation happening here. It is our privilege to be sharing most (but not all) of Cody's end-of-life experience. When her time comes, as planned by Cody and carried out with the loving participation of her surgeon and family, Richardson takes his camera discreetly outside on that chilly winter evening. Silhouettes move behind the curtained window of Cody's bedroom, and we hear the words being spoken inside. What you won't see or hear in How to Die in Oregon is anyone's actual death. Richardson knows that some privacy must never be violated. I watched How to Die in Oregon twice, both viewings intensely informed and influenced by my own experience, my own life and my own opinions about how I prefer to see it end. As a quadriplegic faced with new and serious challenges, I don't feel threatened by Richardson's film because I'm not afraid of dying. I've never felt that I was "better off dead," and because I haven't "reached my limit," I have no desire, legally or otherwise, to hasten my demise. To these eyes and ears, there's nothing in How to Die in Oregon -- or in Oregon's law -- that suggests that I should do so. Death is a bridge we all must cross. How we choose to approach that bridge, and at what pace, is what this film is ultimately about. If that frightens you or threatens your delicate sensibility, then watching this film with an open mind becomes even more important.

Read the entire blog entry at "How to Die in Oregon": It's personal .

(2011) Director: Peter Richardson. Genres: Documentary, drama, family. Country: USA. Language: English. Runtime: 107 min. Unrated.

Awards: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival; winner of the CDS Filmmaker Award and Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights at the 2011 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

More details, reviews, and comments can be found at:
Official Site
Internet Movie Database
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December 19th

A story about the first crewed mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. Shown as the video record of the expedition, an international crew faces challenges and is forced to make sacrifices and exhibit courage, self-sacrifice, and dedication to search for the first evidence of extraterrestrial life.

There are many science fiction films, but only a few make extrapolations based on sound science. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, Red Planet, Gravity, and Contact come to mind. More than any of them, though, Europa Report gives you the feeling that this is the way these events could really happen and that this is how humans would react to them.

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(2013) Director: Sebastián Cordero. Writer: Philip Gelatt. Genres: Sci-Fi, thriller. Country: USA. Language: English, Russian, Chinese. Runtime: 97 min. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and peril.

Awards: Nominated for the Bradbury Award at the 2014 Science Fiction and and Fantasy Writers of America, and for the Best Motion Picture at the 2013 Catalonian International Film Festival.

More details, reviews, and comments can be found at:
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January 2nd, 2015

With absentee parents, dirt-poor 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) struggles to raise her young siblings by herself, but when she learns their father has put the family house up for collateral to post bail for manufacturing meth, she is told he has a week to show up to trial or they will lose the house. To save her family, Ree plunges into a dangerous odyssey that will take her into the darkest depths of the Ozarks to find her father and the family secrets that he harbors.

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David Denby, New Yorker

In the extraordinary independent film 'Winter"s Bone,' the large Dolly clan lives off the grid. The movie is set in the Missouri Ozarks, in backcountry-way back, where the front yards are filled with dead cars and cracked toilets, and the children ride wooden horses and hunt squirrels. There are no telephones, much less cell phones or computers, and not a TV in sight. Their indifference to the outside world turns hostile when they"re visited by 'the law.' Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), the brilliant, determined seventeen-year-old who is the heroine of the movie, is a law unto herself. She takes care of her withdrawn mother and her kid brother and sister, and she treks across a colorless winter landscape, visiting relatives as she looks for her father, Jessup, who cooks meth for a living. Jessup was arrested and then released when he put up his house and land as bond. If he doesn"t appear in court, Ree and the rest of her immediate family will lose everything. The script-which the director, Debra Granik, and her collaborator, Anne Rosellini, adapted from the 2006 novel by Daniel Woodrell-doesn"t spell things out, but, as Ree travels around, we slowly get the point: all the Dollys, in one way or another, are involved in the meth trade. They guard secrets that they don"t wish Ree to know about or even ask about. Without making an actual appearance, meth is a character in the film, creating paranoia and corruption everywhere. 'Winter"s Bone' is something new in movies: a 'country-noir' thriller.

Yet the Ozarks are a world so little known to most of us that the physical details seem a revelation, a fulfillment of realism"s promise to show us what we have never seen or noticed before. And the plainness never goes slack, so the thick physical texture is entirely dramatic. Debra Granik, an aura of violence through suggestion, half-finished sentences, or a threatening or sorrowful look; she envelops us in mysteries that can never quite be solved, because the Dollys don"t want them solved. Truculent and reserved, eloquent only in brief outbursts garnished with a twist of perverse wit, the Dollys operate with a double-edged sense of kinship-they will protect you up to a point but, at the same time, your life belongs to them. Ree never knows what she"s going to face: a relative will be helpful one moment and intimidating the next.

Ree is the head of a household, a womanly girl with no time for her own pleasure, and Lawrence establishes the character"s authority right away, with a level stare and an unhurried voice that suggest heavy lifting from an early age. The movie would be unimaginable with anyone less charismatic playing Ree. In a series of soul-shaking confrontations, Lawrence is matched by the veteran character actress Dale Dickey, who plays the wife of the clan"s crime boss with an uncanny bitter intensity, and by John Hawkes, as Ree"s uncle, who at first seems antagonistic and wasted-no one has ever dragged on a cigarette with greater need-but becomes something else: Ree"s protector, and a moral man unafraid of death. In all, the acting and the milieu are so closely joined that when the final shot goes to black, and the spell is broken, the audience gasps. In its lived-in, completely non-ideological way, 'Winter"s Bone' is one of the great feminist works in film.

Read full review at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/07/05/thrills-and-chills?currentPage=all

(2010) Director: Debra Granik. Writers: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, Daniel Woodrell. Genres: Drama. Country: USA. Language: English. Runtime: 100 min. Rated R for some drug material, language and violent content.

Awards: Nominated for several categories at the 2011 Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, and winner of Grand Jury Prize and Waldo Salt Screenwriting prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Movie of the Year at the 2011 AFI Awards, Audience Award and Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Boston International Film Festival, two Independent Spirit Awards, among many others.

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January 16th, 2015

Daniel Auteil and Juliette Binoche star in Caché, a psychological thriller about a TV talk show host and his wife who are terrorized by surveillance videos of their private life. Delivered by an anonymous stalker, the tapes reveal secret after secret until obsession, denial and deceit take hold of the couple and hurl them to the point of no return. Caché (Hidden) is director Michael Haneke's dark vision of a relationship torn mercilessly apart by the camera's unblinking eye.

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Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com, 4/4 stars

The opening shot of Michael Haneke's Caché shows the facade of a townhouse on a side street in Paris. As the credits roll, ordinary events take place on the street. Then we discover that this footage is a video, and that it is being watched by Anne and Georges Laurent (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil). It is their house. They have absolutely no idea who took the video, or why it was sent to them.

So opens a perplexing and disturbing film of great effect, showing how comfortable lives are disrupted by the simple fact that someone is watching. Georges is the host of a TV program about books; yes, in France they have shows where intellectuals argue about books, and an audience that actually watches them. Georges and Anne live in their book-lined house with their son Pierrot Laurent (Lester Makedonsky), a teenager who is sulky and distracted in the way that teenagers can be when they have little to complain about except their discontent.

Another video arrives, showing the farmhouse where Georges and his family lived when he was a child. All the videos they receive will have the same style: A camera at some distance, simply looking. Many of the shots in the film itself are set up and filmed in the same way, so that Caché could be watching itself just as the videos watch the Laurents. No comment is made in the videos through camera position, movement, editing -- or perhaps there is the same comment all the time: Someone wants them to know that they are being watched.
Another video arrives, showing a journey down a suburban street and into a building. Georges is able to freeze a frame and make out a street name; going off alone, he follows the path of the video and find himself in front of a door in an apartment building. The person inside is someone he knows, but this person (who I will not describe) is unlikely to be the author of the alarming videos.

Georges conceals the results of his trip from his wife. Then another video arrives, showing him speaking with the occupant of the apartment. Now there is a fierce argument between Georges and Anne: she cannot trust him, she feels. He must tell her who the person is. He will not. In a way, he cannot. She feels threatened by the videos, and now threatened because her husband may be withholding information she needs to know. Juliette Binoche trembles with fury as the wife who feels betrayed by her husband; Daniel Auteuil, a master of detachment, folds into himself as a man who simply cannot talk about his deepest feelings.

Meanwhile their lives continue. Georges does the TV show. Their son goes to school. There is a dinner party, at which a story about a dog will give you something to recycle with great effect at your own next dinner party. Georges goes to visit his mother. He asks about events that happened in 1961, when he was a boy. His mother asks him if something is wrong. He denies it. She simply regards him. She knows her son, and she knows something is wrong.

I have deliberately left out a great deal of information, because the experience of Caché builds as we experience the film. There are parallels, for example, between the TV news that is often on in the background, and some of the events in Georges' past. We expect that the mystery of the videos will be solved, explained, and make sense. But perhaps not. Here is a curious thing: In some of the videos, the camera seems to be in a position where anyone could see it, but no one ever does.

When Caché played at Cannes 2005 (where it won the prize for best direction), it had an English title, Hidden. That may be a better title than Caché, which can also be an English word, but more obscure. In the film, the camera is hidden. So are events in Georges' life. Some of what he knows is hidden from his wife. The son keeps secrets from his parents, and so on. The film seems to argue that life would have gone on well enough for the Laurents had it not been for the unsettling knowledge that they had become visible, that someone knew something about them, that someone was watching.

The last shot of the film, like many others, is taken from a camera that does not move. It regards events on the outside staircase of a building. There are a lot of people moving around. Closer to us than most of them is a figure with her back turned, placed just to the right of center; given basic rules of composition, this is where our eye will fall if all else in the shot is equal. Many viewers will not notice another element in the shot. Stop reading now if you plan to see the film, and save the review...

...and now observe that two people meet and talk on the upper left-hand side of the screen. They are two characters we recognize, and who should not know each other or have any way of meeting. Why do they know each other? What does it explain, that they do? Does it explain anything? Are there not still questions without answers? Caché is a film of bottomless intrigue. "The unexamined life is not worth living," said Socrates. An examined life may bring its own form of disquiet.

When Caché played at Cannes, some critics deplored its lack of a resolution. I think it works precisely because it leaves us hanging. It proposes not to solve the mystery of the videos, but to portray the paranoia and distrust that they create. If the film merely revealed in its closing scenes who was sending the videos and why, it would belittle itself. We are left feeling as the characters feel, uneasy, violated, spied upon, surrounded by faceless observers. The non-explanation supplied by the enigmatic last scene opens a new area of speculation which also lacks any solution or closure. And the secrets of Georges' past reach out their guilty tendrils to the next generation.

Read the original review at http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/cache-2006

(2005) Director: Michael Haneke. Writer: Michael Haneke. Genres: Drama, mystery, thriller. Country: France, Austria, Germany, Italy, USA. Language: French. Runtime: 117 min. Rated R for brief strong violence.

Awards: Nominated for Palme d'Or and winner of Best Director, FIPRESCI Prize, and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival; Winner of the Best Foreign Independent Movie Award at the 2006 British INdependent Film Awards.

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