Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky, best known for his 2007 Academy Award-winner
The Counterfeiters and his two-part
Anatomy horror series, returns to English-language filmmaking for the first time in more
than a decade with this taut, snowbound thriller. Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde star
as a brother and sister attempting to make their getaway after a heist only to have
their car flip over on the icy roads, leaving them to try to complete the journey
on foot. They split up, and she finds a mark she can con into leading them to shelter
near the border, but he and his parents (played by Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson)
are having their own issues, leading to a Thanksgiving dinner showdown that should
make any arguments at our own holiday meals seem tame in comparison. Not everything
here works, but Ruzowitzky shows a real gift for using the snowy backdrop to the best
advantage of the story. Bana, finally freed from the bland good-guy leads he’s been
taking too many of in recent years, gives his best performance in recent memory as
a crook who is charismatic, cruel, and deeply religious.
If you’re looking for a little traditional (or nontraditional) holiday cheer (or angst)
at the movies as the end of the year approaches, the AFI offers up its usual array
of holiday classics and slightly left-field picks. That gives you opportunities for
big-screen viewings of the usual suspects like
A Christmas Carol (Muppet and non-Muppet versions),
It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and
Miracle on 34th Street, but also films that take place around the holidays that we don’t necessarily immediately
associate with the season. Those include films one of Billy Wilder’s most enduring
The Apartment, and the debut of Whit Stillman’s anxious wit in 1990’s
Metropolitan. That last movie, along with
Miracle on 34th Street, will be featured this weekend, alongside
Remember the Night, Preston Sturges’s last film as just a writer before he started directing that same
year. Barbara Stanwyck stars as a shoplifter who gets nicked during the holiday season,
is given leave to visit her family for the holiday, and ends up falling for the assistant
district attorney, played by Fred MacMurray, who offers to drive her to her family’s
Skateboarder Danny Way has been a fixture in the sport from a very young age, winning
his first competitive event in the mid-’80s at the age of 11. Jacob Rosenberg’s documentary
about Way is part profile, part document of a single stunt as an example of the daredevil
spirit that has driven him for his entire career. The stunt is simple in concept,
gargantuan in scope: Way wants to jump over the Great Wall of China, and builds a
massive ramp with the blessing of the Chinese government. Rosenberg follows the usual
format for this kind of documentary, interspersing scenes of the preparation for the
big event with archival footage of Way’s earlier career and talking head interviews
with the big names of the sport to talk about his history.
L’Alliance Française presents two programs of video art and experimental shorts on
Friday and Saturday evening at Malmaison in Georgetown. Each program is made up of
films by artists from Quebec, with Friday’s selections centering on the theme of borders
(interpreted a number of different ways by various artists), and Saturday’s program
on landscapes, especially as expressions of mood and emotion. The each short will
be followed by a brief discussion/Q&A with Philippe Gajan, director of the “Lab” selection
of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal, which I’m moderating.
Watch Li Alin and Cécile Martin’s
Expose, one of the shorts screening on Friday night’s program.
Friday and Saturday at 6:30 PM at Malmaison.
Toho is probably the best known Japanese movie studio in the West, the company responsible
for releasing everything from
Godzilla and associated monster movies to many of the films of Akira Kurasawa. In the mid-1940s,
they financed a smaller outfit called Shintoho, which struck out on its own after
some initial financial success. It would only survive into the early ’60s, but became
notorious for low-budget exploitation films, many of which would gain cult followings.
The Freer opens up a retrospective on the studio this weekend, starting with a Sunday
triple feature of
Ghost Story of Yotsuya (a revenge tale about the wronged
wife of a samurai),
Ghost Cat of Otama Pond (vengeance again, this time with the titular ghost cat), and
Vampire Bride (a dance student is pushed off a cliff by her rivals, comes back a monster, and—you
guessed it—seeks revenge).
Blu-ray/DVD Pick of the Week:
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
This week’s big Blu-ray release is Christopher Nolan’s trilogy-ending blockbuster
The Dark Knight Rises. But that doesn’t really need
any more promotion, so I’ll point out that Alison Klayman’s
acclaimed documentary, which played at Silverdocs earlier this
is out this week. The film, which documents the recent career
of the charismatic and
engaging artist, including international openings and arrest in
his home country of
China, was one of 15 movies that just made the short
for the Best Documentary Award at this year’s Academy Awards.
Special Features: An interview with director Alison Klayman.