Howie Movshovitz


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.

Molly Albright / Amazone Studios

Every review of the new Les Misérables will probably start the same way – this movie is not the megahit Les Mis or anything like it. It’s not even an adaptation of the original 1862 novel by Victor Hugo. The movie is directed and co-written by Ladj Ly, born in Mali, and this Les Misérables is unique.

Little Women
Columbia TriStar Marketing Group

Director and writer Greta Gerwig’s new adaptation of Little Women comes from a line that begins in 1932, and it seems that the movies are getting better with youth. Louisa May Alcott’s novel tells a story of four sisters growing up that is so specific and clear in character, emotion and event that it can thrive in any time period. It doesn’t date because aspiration, the conflicts between love and social obligation, and women’s need for independence still matter.


A Hidden Life is much too beautiful. It takes place in a remote Austrian village high up in the Alps. Terrence Malick films it with dramatic, sweeping shots of the landscape – the high peaks often in the background, lush fields close-up. Yet the subject is not beautiful in any conventional way. The story centers on a farmer in Nazi Austria who acts in conscience, and it doesn’t go well.


Movies about marriages – which are usually about divorces – are hardly new. In the 1930s and ‘40s Hollywood produced a slew of comedies about couples divorcing and then getting back together, and they were not trivial. They took on questions of truth, honesty and changing circumstances. Adam’s Rib from 1949 has Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as two married lawyers fighting over marriage equality. Later came the vicious Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Kramer vs. Kramer, and a bunch of the now-disgraced Woody Allen’s movies about marriage.


My skin curdles when politicians cite movies as their guides to governing the nation. Movies are dreams not position papers. Ronald Reagan looked to fanciful war films; Newt Gingrich wanted to imitate Boys Town and other romanticized versions of America in the 1930s. In Errol Morris’s American Dharma, Steve Bannon, the political operative and key advisor for a time to Donald Trump, waxes devotional over the 1949 Twelve O’clock High, a dreamy, idealized story about problems of command in an Air Force squadron stationed in England during World War II.


Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite is about as funny as anything that’s come down the pike in five or ten years, until it’s not funny anymore. The violent last half-hour is somewhat cartoonish, but it also whips your mind around as it changes gears with astonishing power.

Denver Film Festival

The 42nd Denver Film Festival runs October 30 through November 10th. The lineup includes 134 feature films and 130 shorts. Here are some especially good movies to catch in this year’s festival.

Well Go USA Entertainment

The characters in Takashi Miike's First Love spend a lot of time explaining what they're doing. That’s usually terrible filmmaking technique, but if they didn't tell the audience what’s going on, the movie might be impossible to follow.