Howie Movshovitz | KUNC

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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Da 5 Bloods is like a lot of Spike Lee’s films. It can be brilliant and original, and also tedious and commonplace. It’s sometimes thrilling and perceptive, and also dreary and routine. Overall, though, it’s a critically important demonstration of what the war in Vietnam did to the disproportionate number of black soldiers at the time – and by way of fearsome, debilitating PTSD, how that misery continues in the present.


For a good 45 minutes, Joan of Arc looks like it was put together by Monty Python. It’s so stiff and awkward, you figure it’s got to be intentional parody of the many other films about the 15th century St. Joan.

Janus Films/The Criterion Collection

I should start by revealing that I've known Bob Young since the 1970s. We're friends, although not close friends. But I think he may be the finest living filmmaker in America. He's now 95 and still writing. As a director, I believe he's made at least five full-out masterpieces, and hardly anyone knows of him.

Icarus Films

In 1973, the then-young Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán filmed a terrible series of events – the coup d’etat that toppled Salvador Allende, the elected president of Chile, and installed 16 years of terror under the dictator Augusto Pinochet. Guzmán escaped the country with his cans of film, got to Paris and assembled a remarkable documentary called The Battle of Chile.

Stan Osborne/CC BY 3.0

When I present movies in public, I am amazed that audiences continually respond to Hitchcock’s films as if they were made yesterday, and not decades ago.  Hitchcock made movies from the 1920s into the ‘80s, but what he’s getting at are the fundamental anxieties of human lives. We feel guilty about something we do; we distrust someone we love. Hitchcock’s characters are often extreme and exotic –spies or murderers – but at their core they’re tortured by the same things that bedevil all of us.


The movie theaters are closed, but some film distributors, working with theaters, have come up with a temporary fix. There are now new movies available online, and viewers can access them through theater websites, which means that a share of the streaming price goes to the theaters. I hope it doesn’t become a habit, because seeing a movie in a dark theater with a bunch of strangers is still the best. But this new system will have to do for a while.

Olle Jonsson/CC BY-SA 2.0

We are all being smart -- laying low, avoiding crowds, especially indoors, washing our hands. All of that. So, over the next few weeks, I’ll make some suggestions for good films to watch from the safety and comfort of home. I’m not going to suggest stuff that most everyone knows. You don’t need me or the radio to tell you about the Jurassic Park films, Batman, The Incredibles or anything like that. These are films you may not know, but that I think may surprise and delight.

Music Box Films

And Then We Danced is something of a mess, but at times it’s a gorgeous mess. It opens with archival shots of traditional dancing in the country of Georgia, and for the rest of the film you can’t get the sight of the muscular, intricate dancing and the music out of your head.


Early in Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a 30-ish woman arrives in an open boat on the beach of a lonely island somewhere along the coast of France. The year is 1770. It’s a rough trip; a wooden box falls overboard, and since none of the men rowing care about it, Marianne (Noemie Merlant) jumps into the heaving swells – in her dress – to rescue it. Then, in her wet dress, she hauls herself up a steep hillside and hikes to a castle, which feels isolated and difficult.


There are reasons for events like the Jewish film festival – and other festivals that celebrate and explore identities and cultures. One side of the equation is that mainstream films ignore things that make human beings distinct and interesting. But people want – and need – to see themselves and their ways of life taken seriously on screen. Another side of the equation is that it’s fascinating to see how other people live and think – and also to realize that human beings are the same in a lot of ways.