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.

Ways to Connect

KINO LORBER

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami opens with a big wow of performance. She’s got a voice with authority, and her pronunciation sounds biblical-dramatic in a song called Jones the Rhythm. Against a black background there’s just Jones’s face and head in a gold skull mask, and only after a minute or so does the film pull back to show Jones in full body, in a black leotard. She undulates with a golden hula hoop, and a dark blue cape unfurls behind her. It’s a hell of an entrance to the movie about her.

Magnolia Pictures

For a few moments at its beginning, over shots of monuments in Washington D.C., RBG replays comments of people who despise Associate Justice of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg – she’s the RBG of the title. “She’s a disgrace to the court,” they say, “a vile human being” – personal statements of malice, not disagreements with her judicial practice. Then the film shows RBG herself, a tiny woman of 84, neat and trim and thoroughly respectable in appearance. And in your heart or your gut, you know that this woman is not what these hateful voices describe. You also know that the movie is entirely in love with her.

Korchula Productions

Alfred Hitchcock used to say that only dull people cared about plausibility in movies. And if you look at Vertigo, for instance, there’s barely a whiff of plausibility in its story. The Little Pink House, on the other hand, is entirely plausible – its major events are true. But somehow, it’s not at all believable. Characters walk through the film like robots, doing all the correct things, but rarely do they come off with the richness to make them matter.

Icarus Films

Everybody and her uncle is making a documentary right now. Maybe it just seems that way because I teach at a film school, but even outside this precinct, I run into people constantly who say they’re making a documentary – about their aunt, or an injustice, or a factory that’s polluting the neighborhood. The subjects may be intimate or worldwide, and the would-be documentarists start right off telling about whom they intend to interview. And they all, of course, have a camera.

EPK.TV

If you don’t ask too much of Beirut, it’s a good enough thriller to keep your brain modestly engaged for a short time. Just don’t go getting inquisitive on it. Maybe the film’s strong suit is that it’s totally familiar, a thriller that might get your juices going by reminding you of the many other movies that did get you stirred up.

Gaumont

Christian Duguay’s A Bag of Marbles treads a thin line. The movie tells a story of the Holocaust – based on an actual life – and while the film is certainly not a comedy, it has at times a comic tone, and any lightheartedness about the Holocaust attracts suspicion. The 1942 To Be or Not to Be, by Ernst Lubitsch is a comedy about the Nazi invasion of Poland, which plays funnier now than it did then. In 1997, Roberto Begnini’s Life Is Beautiful won five Oscars, but also took in plenty of criticism because many people thought Begnini was distorting and making light of those ghastly events.

Film Movement

At the start of Oh, Lucy, Setsuko, played by Shinobu Terajima, stands in a crowd waiting for a train. It’s cold and flu season, so like most of the others, Setsuko wears a mask. Her eyes, though, look sad. Later, without the mask, she still looks sad and a good bit uncertain. Something terrible happens on the train platform, but you get the feeling that what ails Setsuko came much earlier.

Good Deed Entertainment

If Journey’s End didn’t have on-screen titles setting the scene, you’d still know it was in a trench in World War I. The iconic World War I images are all there – muddy narrow pathways, the supports that keep the walls from caving in, the underground rooms, the jumbled and torn barbed wire outside the trench. The accents would tell you the soldiers are British, but you wouldn’t know much else. And that’s how it is for the soldiers. It’s an inexplicable world they’ve been dumped into.

IFC Films

Right off the bat, Scottish director Armando Ianucci’s The Death of Stalin scrambles the brain. The film opens at a concert in Moscow, and all the Russians on screen speak in either American or British accents. In most English language movies, characters who don’t speak English speak in the accents of their place. It’s silly, but we’re used to the evil Romans or Nazis sounding like upper class Britishers. The surprise here is a good one here, though, because the film is about dislocation and disorientation.

EPK.TV

As names of movie monsters go, The Shimmer doesn’t have quite the pizzazz of handles like King Kong, Godzilla or The Mummy, and it doesn’t even match up to the blandly named The Thing or Them, which at least imply a note of fear.

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