Laura Dern

Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2016

Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2016. Here is Carrie’s list, presented, unlike last year’s alphabetized list, in descending rank order. And you can check out Chad’s list here to see which one of us you agree with more!

10.) Nocturnal Animals

Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal, middle) arrives at a possible crime scene with lawman Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon, r.).

Sometimes the story-within-the-story convention can be confusing or feel gimmicky, but in this visually stunning picture from fashion designer turned filmmaker Tom Ford, the technique works to terrific effect. Amy Adams, as a woman haunted by a decision she made years ago, reads a manuscript sent to her by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), and that story comes alive on screen in the form of family man Tony (Gyllenhaal again) and his confrontation with some dangerous, deranged miscreants. Ford’s keen aesthetic vision and sharp performances by Adams, Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon as a tenacious lawman combine to make this brutally poetic but utterly captivating film one of the year’s most definitively unusual. (You can also read my full-length review here.)

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2016-Sundance

Marking its closing with its annual awards ceremony, the 2016 Sundance Film Festival ended this past Saturday evening; you can see all the winners here.

For the second year in a row, I braved the Park City cold, snow, and the ubiquitous Los Angeles UGG-wearing throngs to bring you spotlights of a fraction of the films that played the Fest. With nearly 200 offerings, the Fest featured way more than this reviewer could see. While I sadly missed the big winner and much lauded The Birth of a Nation (you’ll have to stay tuned to Spinning Platters later in the year for a full review upon its wide release), I nevertheless managed to knock out a respectable 18 films in five days. Many of these may receive distribution deals (if they haven’t already), so you can study up now with these capsule reviews, which use our trademark Sundance Viewing Priority Level (VPL) Guide:

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Film critics Carrie and Chad on who will – and who should – win the 87th Academy Awards

The 87th Academy Awards air this Sunday, February 22nd on ABC at 5:00pm PST (red carpet coverage begins at 4:00, if you want to dish on fashion highs and lows). There are some tight races this year – Best Picture and Best Actor are especially hard to call. Here are Carrie and Chad’s predictions – and hopes – for the major categories:
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Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2014

Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2014. Here is Carrie’s list, presented in alphabetical order. And you can see Chad’s list here.

1.) Boyhood

Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane are outstanding as a mother and son who grow and change together.

Filmed intermittently over 12 years, Richard Linklater’s film chronicling a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from ages six to 18 in real time is both a technical marvel and a cinematic masterpiece. There has been nothing like it before on screen, and there will no doubt be nothing like it again. Utterly unique in scope and vision, the film lets us watch a life develop in front of our very eyes, with all of its attendant hopes, dreams, achievements, and disappointments. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play Mason’s parents, changing and growing right alongside him and his older sister (Lorelei Linklater). An absolutely dazzling achievement that will leave you breathless and awed, Linklater’s picture is sure to be the one to beat for Best Picture come Oscar time. (You can also read Gordon’s full-length review here).

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We’ve got three final spotlights from the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival, which closed Sunday night after ten days of showcasing dozens of fresh and exciting titles. Festival highlights, photos, and videos are available at: http://mvff.com. We’ll see you at the Fest next year!

Wild
(USA 2014, 120 min)

Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) at the start of her long and often arduous journey.

Director Jean-Mark Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) and writer Nick Hornby have turned Cheryl Strayed’s exceedingly popular memoir Wild into one of the best pictures of the year. Reese Witherspoon gives perhaps the fiercest performance of her career as Strayed, who, in the mid-1990s, hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) solo as a way to cope with several losses in her life. A powerful meditation on grief, healing, strength, and redemption, Vallée’s picture benefits enormously from the emotionally raw performances of is two lead actresses. Laura Dern, as Strayed’s mother Bobbi, seen in flashbacks, is devastating as a young mother whose capacity for hope and love is beyond measure. Shot on location at various points along the PCT, Yves Bélanger’s cinematography is breathtaking, and fittingly accentuates the emotional complexity of Strayed’s story.

Release Date:
– Opens nationwide on December 5th

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 Frank

by Carrie Kahn

Frank 2

Michael Fassbender portrays the mysterious rocker Frank.

Loosely inspired by alt rocker Chris Sievey’s stage creation Frank Sidebottom, Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s new film is co-written by Peter Straughan and Jon Ronson, whose memoir details his experiences with Sidebottom. But no knowledge of the film’s backstory is necessary to be utterly delighted by this quirky and very funny film, which chronicles Jon’s (Domhnall Gleeson) induction into, and relationship with, an avant-garde band led by the mysterious Frank (Michael Fassbender). The catch is that Frank wears a large papier-mâché mask not only when on stage, but during all parts of his life (even while showering). What is amazing is that although the mask has just one expression – a crudely drawn, unsmiling, wide-eyed stare, its features seem to change simply by virtue of Fassbender’s tone of voice and body language; his performance is truly remarkable. Why Frank chooses to cover himself this way is one of the film’s central questions; themes of identity, artistic integrity, and creativity are explored with nuanced humor and depth. Does creativity have to stem from inner darkness, the film asks, or can normalcy and happiness drive the creative process just as forcefully? If artistic creations become widely popular, is their worth somehow lessened? With hauntingly beautiful cinematography (many scenes were filmed around Austin) and a weird and wonderful soundtrack, Frank delves into these issues with style, charm, and black humor. Plusses: Unique, intelligent story; brilliant performances by Fassbender and relative newcomer Gleeson. Minuses: Maggie Gyllenhall is slightly grating as fellow band-mate Clara; her range here seems to hover only between fiercely angry and completely insane. Final Analysis: A smart, compelling picture about the inner lives of artists that, frankly (yes, pun intended) may well be one of the best films of the year.

Frank opens today at the Landmark Embarcadero theater in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck theater in Berkeley.

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Film Review: “Everything Must Go”

May 13, 2011

starring: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Laura Dern, Michael Peña, Stephen Root, Glenn Howerton, Christopher Jordan Wallace written by: Dan Rush (screenplay), Raymond Carver (short story) directed by: Dan Rush MPAA: Rated R for language and some sexual content.

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