Movies & TV,  Reviews

Movies, movies, movies!

I love my books, but I also love movies. This past week my love of movies took shape in a Traverse City Film Festival marathon. Seven movies in four days – whew! Each film was fantastic in its own way and brought a ton of thoughts to swirl around my noggin. First of all, learn more about the film festival here!

If you are a resident of Michigan or are willing to travel a bit, I highly recommend attending the Traverse City Film Festival next year. It has been going for 8 strong years and keeps attracting a larger crowd each summer. There are always thought provoking films, side-cracking films, and free movies on the Grand Traverse Bay. Film school and panels are always interesting, and the actors, directors, and writers who come to the film festival add a special dimension to the movie-viewing experience.

The seven films I attend this year are:

Found on
Found on

“Korkoro” (Freedom/Liberté)
“Korkoro” deals with the state of Roma gypsies during the WWII Vichy Republic. Scenes of concentration camps and violent hatred are toned down by the humor that comes from two cultures interacting and the beauty of music and dance. “Korkoro” is a beautiful film about life during war and the individuals who do what they can to help an ostracized family.
This French film was very timely. Two years ago the French government addressed the issue of gypsies settling on farm land. This NYTimes article, “France and the Gypsies, Then and Now,” addresses the Sarkozy regime’s expulsion of Romas in 2010 and compares the treatment to the Vichy’s government imprisonment of gypsies. “Korkoro” is a well done film, which recounts history, while illuminating contemporary cultural issues.

“Monsieur Lazhar”
“Monsieur Lazhar” is by far my favorite film of the week. Monsieur Lazhar is an Algerian man living in Quebec who takes a teaching post after tragedy befalls the school. This Quebecois film combines humor, reflection, and melancholy to address the question, how does one move on after loss? From the witticisms of school children to the geniality of Monsieur Lazhar, this film will leave you appreciating human resilience and questioning why we’re so emotionally repressive.

Whoa! This modern rendition of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” highlights Ralph Fiennes’ genius. It is a hard to feat to set Shakesepare in a contemporary situation and not come across as completely ridiculous, but Ralph Finnes pulls it off with majesty. From the actors’ delivery of Shakespearean English to the transformation of a Roman military society to a modern war machine, “Coriolanus” captures the old in the new.

“Ashes of America”
This documentary by first time film maker Michael McSweeney explores the Occupy Movements through surrealistic cinematography. It’s difficult to write about this film without entering a political opinions discussion and that is not what this blog is about. I do recommend seeing it when the film goes public, but for those who do not enjoy abstract approaches to current events this movie is not for you.

“Bernie” is a film that caught attention when it was in theatres and it was rightly deserved. This comical film about a beloved member of a small East Texas town and the murder of the town’s pariah, combines Hollywood actors and interviews of actual towns people. Jack Black really embodies the role of Bernie and Shirley MacLaine does a wonderful job being the entitled, obnoxious, pariah. The cast and the members of the town work well together to create a hilarious recounting of a town’s experience with murder.

It is not a common occurrence for me to leave a theatre in the middle of a movie, but I had to leave during this one. Before you jump to thinking that I would poorly rate this film, I want to share that an actor was in attendance and warned the audience that the movie can be disturbing and they should try to stick through it. I had such a visceral reaction to the movie, it was necessary to step-out for a couple of minutes. “Compliance” does such a great job of depicting the events of a crime in a fast food restaurant that I felt violated just like the main character.
Please, please do not be put off by my description of “Compliance.” It is a very serious movie, which addresses issues of sexual assault, citizen’s rights, and

“Whole Lotta Sole”
“Whole Lotta Sole” is a comedy that explores life in post-Troubles Belfast. Between a heist gone wrong, mobsters, and a police force not accustomed to peace time, this film keeps an audience entertained. Beyond the movie’s humor, “Whole Lotta Sole” hints at the tensions remaining in Northern Ireland. This movie was particularly interesting for me to see, since I had the opportunity to travel through Northern Ireland this summer. I suggest everyone go see this film. It’s a safe bet for a date night too — romance, action, and comedy.


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