Wind River (Taylor Sheridan – 2017) A-

Cold and dreary Wyoming, lots of snow and a dead teenager open up this one from Taylor Sheridan. Sheridan seems to have a knack for framing human stories that deal with social issues in the guise of thrilling well-made plots. In the excellent Hell or High Water it was the economic problems and market crashes that hit some more than others. In this one it’s about native Americans and especially women who seem to go missing and unreported.  Jeremy Renner and Elisabeth Olson play a game and wildlife agent and an FBI agent respectively who end up teaming up to figure out what happened on that Arapaho Indian reservation called Wind River. The film is a tight and brutal thriller with excellent performances and well composed scenes in the cold cold Wyoming mountains. It is not a conventional who-done-it mystery, but a story of loss, pain, violence and a hell of a harsh life.


Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas – 2014) A

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart deliver really excellent performances in this beautiful film. They play Maria Enders, a very popular actress, and her assistant Valentine respectively. They are heading to a Swiss town so that Maria can accept an award by her old mentor, a well-respected theater director called Wilhelm. Unfortunately the old guy commits suicide before they arrive because he was terminally ill. Maria is obviously heart-broken when she is approached by another director who wants to remake a play she starred in 20 years ago when she was 18 that was written by Wilhelm. The play, called The Maloja Snake, revolves around the relationship between two women, the older Helena and the much younger Sigrid. Now, though, she needs to play the flip side of the role, the older woman in that play.

Most of the film takes place in the beautiful Swiss hometown of Wilhelm as Maria rehearses her lines with Valentine, discusses Hollywood, acting, aging, having second thoughts about playing the older person in the play against the wild and young Jo-Ann (Chloe Grace Moretz)…Valentine might be the assistant but she also seems more than that. She is Maria’s confidant, her sounding board and is surprisingly honest and terse a lot of the time. We begin to realize that the play themes are maybe a little too close to home when we compare them to the real-life relationship between Maria and Valentine.

The film is deliberate with really interesting conversations and a lot of subtext. Assayas’ really makes use of the amazing location and we got awesome scenes between the two actresses in and around Sils-Maria. The film has an epilogue in London but really the climax is the last scene with them two as they hike to see the famous “snake” of clouds that give the play its name. Assayas and Binoche seem to work great together and I am looking forward to checking out their earlier collaboration.

Toast (S. J. Clarkson – 2010) C-

Not having read the source material I have no idea if this film is just a part of the book or the whole thing. In any case, I wish I liked this a bit more. I certainly love cooking, food and movies about the topic and I really like Nigel Slater’s books and his writing. This movie focuses only on Slater’s childhood and late teenage years. Some of that is interesting but there is just too much filler and repetition that left me wondering…what happened to all there interesting stuff? Were there any?

Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman – 1961) B+

Three men and one woman who at first glimpse seem content as they spend a few days together on a remote Swedish island. A father and son and daughter plus her husband. What we slowly learn is that she (Karin played by Harriet Andersson) is not well. We learn this through conversations and episodic scenes between the characters. The family has dinner together, put on an impromptu play, the siblings talk, the father and his son in law go on a boat trip… The situation with Karin starts to devolve slowly as her delusions take over impacting everyone around her. Karin seems to think God is visiting her and the way Bergman treats her is not just sympathetically but with a question that is the subtext for the whole film. Maybe she does?

Slacker (Richard Linklater – 1990) A

I finally got around to seeing Linklater’s breakthrough flick and liked it much more than I expected. The main characters here are the camera and the city of Austin as Linklater follows seemingly random strangers as they walk and talk around Austin. We are the fly on the wall as we listen in, walk with them a bit, they meet someone else and then we follow those and on and on. It’s very difficult to describe why it is good, probably the ease by which these people seem to exist and spew their dialogue or maybe it’s the ultimate voyeurism that this unique format provides. It’s an approach I love in this style of movie making that Linklater honed and perfected in future films like the “Before” trilogy.