As you can read in my detailed review of three options that you might have at your local movie houses—one for sure, as it’s playing actively all over the world, but the other two may be considerably harder to find—there are some varied choices to be found in current offerings that should provide something useful for most every taste. The first one to note here is Wild Tales, from Argentina, a regular-length feature containing six unrelated short stories but all with similar themes of despair and revenge that showcase some of the worst aspects of human behavior, although done in a such a wickedly comic manner that you can’t help but laugh at what fools we often make of ourselves yet the lengths we’ll go to in order to right various wrongs to our situations or sensibilities. Each story carries enough surprises that I won’t reveal any plot details here (they’re all in the review if you’re ready to read it) except to note that airplanes, cars, kitchens, and cakes all have prominent presences as these tales unfold. Wild Tales was deservedly one of the five finalists for the recently-awarded Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
In a different vein entirely, we revisit a Disney classic as this storied studio continues on their project of remaking some of their well-known animated features into reworked live-action versions, but unlike the heroic transformations of the female protagonists that we’ve previously witnessed with the retold Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent (from Sleeping Beauty), this version of Cinderella is very much like the original fairy tale and Disney movie in which a well-grounded but stepfamily-abused young woman’s increasingly miserable life needs the intervention of a fairy godmother and the goal of a wedding to a prince to finally make things right (and if any of that constitutes plot spoilers then your childhood fairy-tale-exposure must have been as repressed as Cinderella’s adolescence). The visualizations here are marvelous, especially the elegant costumes that were tremendously enthralling to my wife, but this story’s still not likely to win awards for feminist reworking of traditional patriarchal assumptions, no matter how dreamy its outcome may be for children of any gender (and, the animals don’t talk).
Tangible awards weren’t all that plentiful for Orson Welles either (Citizen Kane, considered by many—me included—to be the best film ever made, won only one Oscar for 1941 releases, for Original Screenplay, shared by Welles and Herman Mankiewicz), although the admiration of his peers and the constant praise of posterity may have softened that blow a bit for this audacious, multi-talented man whose wealth of ideas often remained unfunded, undone by studio-enforced editing, or unseen except by film scholars and occasional audiences. Given that this is a straightforward biography, there shouldn’t be any spoilers here to interfere (unless you’re still not sure if Martians invaded New Jersey on October 30, 1938), but you’ll get a marvelous dose of genius-at-work film clips, interviews, and archival imagery which collectively provide solid evidence of why Welles’s life and work deserve to be noted as “astounding.”
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