Howie Movshovitz

Film Critic

Howie Movshovitz came to Colorado in 1966 as a VISTA Volunteer and never wanted to leave. After three years in VISTA, he went to graduate school at CU-Boulder and got a PhD in English, focusing on the literature of the Middle Ages. 

In the middle of that process, though (and he still loves that literature) he got sidetracked into movies, made three shorts, started writing film criticism and wound up teaching film at the University of Colorado Denver. He continues to teach in UCD’s College of Arts & Media.

He has been reviewing films on public radio since 1976 (first review: Robert Altman’s Buffalo Bill and the Indians). Along the way he spent nine years as the film critic of The Denver Post, and has been contributing features on film subjects to NPR since 1987.

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courtesy of Wide House

This is the 12th year for Denver's Indigenous Film Festival, and once again it has found unexpected films, work challenging the idea of what kind of people are supposedly "normal" in movies. In these films the Navajo are "normal," indigenous people growing quinoa in Peru are "normal." Nobody else around here has the nerve or the insight to show most of these films.

Here are two worth seeing.

Courtesy of Cohen Media Group

François Ozon's The New Girlfriend is about as French as movies get.

Only in French movies do characters act out like they do here and only French movies can make what these people do seem important. Since the 1990s, in films like Under the Sand and Young & Beautiful, writer/director François Ozon has put characters in situations that make you re-configure what you think you know and understand about human beings. He does the same thing with The New Girlfriend.

courtesy Broad Green Pictures

If you want to talk about the waste of natural resources, A Walk in the Woods is a good place to start. Four capable actors – Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson and Mary Steenburgen – are hung out to dry in a movie so clueless and so ignorant of its world that it's still making fun of fat women and acting as if discovering oneself on a long hike is a new idea for a movie.

Pamela Gentile / courtesy of the Telluride Film Festival

Even after 42 years, people who come to The Telluride Film Festival over and over can’t separate the films and the event from the place. Filmmakers introduce their work by raving about the beauty of this setting; festival-goers on the street marvel over the box canyon before they wax ecstatic about a film they’ve just seen.

You can’t avoid it, since it is part of the exquisite dreaminess of the Telluride Film Festival.

courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Noah Baumbach's latest, Mistress America, has been hailed as a 21st century screwball comedy. Well, not quite.

courtesty of Sony Pictures Classics

It's hard to make a film about sex, because the sight of sex on a movie screen turns human brains to mush. Once naked bodies and stuff like that appear on screen, you've got a sex film more than you've got a film about sex.

Marielle Heller's The Diary of a Teenage Girl shows a lot of sex, and most of it takes place between a girl character who's only 15, and a boy character who's 35. That situation also sets people off.

courtesy of GKIDS

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet – that's the full title of this animated book adaptation – wavers somewhere between transcendent wisdom and preachy self-help baloney. It can be either; it can be both simultaneously. At its best, the animation in the film is genuinely beautiful and imaginative.

Bob Niedrach / couresty Denver Museum Of Nature And Science

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science used to be called The Denver Museum of Natural History, and for 33 years, from 1936 to 1969, the director was a man named Alfred M. Bailey. He was an ornithologist, and like a lot of active museum scientists of his time, Bailey did tons of field work, which means he traveled all over the globe, often in a magnificent sailboat, looking at the natural world, and not just birds.

Bailey was unusual because he had a film camera and knew how to use it. And now, the public will again be able to see one of his films as it is unearthed from the museum's archives.

Alamy/Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Maybe Marlon Brando is the best actor in the history of the movies.

Think the raw creative and destructive energy of A Streetcar named Desire and On the Waterfront, and the implied potential energy of The Godfather. What's certain is that the figure of Marlon Brando is still enigmatic. He avoided publicity and left a legacy full of ambiguities. In 1966, the great Albert and David Maysles filmed Brando being interviewed by a string of journalists. They got no straight answers. But he's charming – and he's beautiful.

In Listen to Me, Marlon, director Stevan Riley seems to know from the start that he's not going to nail down some definitive biography of this elusive man.

Sabrina Lantos / courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

In Woody Allen's Stardust Memories, a couple of space creatures ask Allen's character Sandy Bates why he isn't funny anymore. You see, Allen stopped giving dazzling belly laughs a long time ago. He offers chuckles in his last dozen films or so, but his latest, Irrational Man, doesn't even do much of that.

It's a moral and intellectual drama that casts a clear and sometimes amused eye on human self-delusion and hypocrisy. Yet, when I think back on Allen's career, these are the best qualities in his movies, and that moral voice is what's been missing since the '90s.