• Just This

    Review: “An Inspector Calls” at Chicago Shakes

    This is a repost from Third Coast Review; no films this week for me to review, so I’m sharing a theater review I’m particularly proud of. Without ever brandishing so much as a pistol or pocketknife, upheaval and conflict are at the center of J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, a play that lays out in no uncertain terms the dangers of unchecked privilege, entitlement and hypocrisy. Set in 1912 England, the play was first produced in 1945 for audiences, one can safely assume, still very raw with war wounds both literal and figurative. A drawing room drama in three acts, the play centers around the upper-crust Birling family and the police…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Everybody Knows

    Everybody Knows

    What’s most striking about writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s (A Separation, The Salesman) new film, Everybody Knows, even with strong performances and its setting in lush Spanish wine country taken into account, is the language of the thing. And that’s not a euphemism, some reference to a universal cinematic language. I mean actual, spoken language. Farhadi, an Oscar-winner for both A Separation and The Salesman, is an Iranian filmmaker, and his previous works are, not surprisingly, set mainly in that country and delivered in Persian. Everybody Knows, on the other hand, transports the action to a village northeast of Madrid, for a film that’s entirely in Spanish. According to the production notes, Farhadi was inspired to…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Never Look Away

    Never Look Away

    For those of us who pay attention to this sort of thing, this year’s contenders for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film are collectively the strongest group of nominees in recent memory. From the masterpiece that is Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma to Nadine Labaki’s devastatingly impressive Capernaum, they are films of achievement in every sense of the word. After his feature-length film debut The Lives of Others won the award in 2007, writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck returns to the category with Never Look Away, a sweeping if inconsistent drama about creating art, life and a better world in the face of oppression and evil. With a bar set very high indeed, Never…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Oscar Nominated Short Documentaries

    Black Sheep

    If you’re looking for a pick-me-up at the movies this weekend, checking out the Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films may not be the way to go. A powerful, haunting slate of five short documentary films (ranging from about 8 minutes to a full 40 minutes), the films vying for the film industry’s top honors later this month are an intense group of stories steeped in the struggles, chaos and pain of our current global state of affairs. As is often the case with contemporary, issue-based documentary films, these five reflect back to us all too starkly the depth of our collective wariness as the world’s problems sometimes seem too significant…