nick offerman

A perfectly crafted, poignant charmer.

Zucchini looks to the sky.

My Life as a Zucchini is one of the most wonderful films of the year, which has resulted in its much deserved Oscar nomination this year for Best Animated Film. Zucchini is a stop motion animated feature from France and Switzerland about a nine year-old boy, Courgette (which is French for zucchini), who loses his mother and father and is taken to a foster home where a handful of other orphans reside. The brisk 70 minute film follows Courgette as he befriends the kindhearted policeman who takes him to the foster home, and then learns to love and trust the other foster children in similarly unfortunate situations. The animation is colorful and simple, yet each shot is overflowing with heart. My Life as a Zucchini is not meant for very young audiences — the subject matter may be beyond a young child’s understanding and there are some bits of nudity and substance abuse. And yet, I recommend audiences of nearly all ages see My Life as a Zucchini because it beautifully tackles how all people, including children and adults, can rise above their surface-level differences to love each other, even in the face of tragedies that affect their lives in unexpected ways.

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With this final spotlights post, we bring our coverage of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival to a close (you can read the previous posts here and here). We conclude by taking a look at six more feature films, once again using our world famous Sundance Viewing Priority Level (VPL) Guide to discern those films to seek out and those to avoid. Enjoy, and we’ll hope to see you in Park City next year!

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… in which our intrepid California-bred Senior Film Reviewer defies an epic winter storm and a fierce chest cold to bring you highlights from this year’s famous Park City fest.

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival ended last Saturday evening after ten days of showcasing over 200 films from around the globe; you can see all the winners here.

For the third year in a row, Spinning Platters was on the (snow-covered) ground trying to take in as many movies as our limited time and budget would allow. And so we bring you the first of our posts spotlighting the 17 films we managed to squeeze in to just over five days.

Many of these may receive distribution deals (if they haven’t already), so you can know what to watch for in the coming year with these handy capsule reviews, which use our patented Sundance Viewing Priority Level (VPL) Guide:

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Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2015

Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2015. Here is Carrie’s list, presented in alphabetical order. (And you can find Chad’s here.)

1.) Brooklyn

Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) shares a tender moment with boyfriend Tony (Emory Cohen).

The immigrant experience in America is exquisitely captured in director John Crowley’s finely crafted film about love, loss, and longing in 1950s Brooklyn. Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín, Nick Hornby’s screenplay presents us with the intrepid young Irish woman Eilis, who leaves her family in the Irish countryside for adventure and opportunity in New York. Saoirse Ronan suberbly conveys Eilis’s gradual shift from shy newcomer to confident cosmopolitan. Called back home for a family emergency, Eilis must choose between familiar comforts and new possibilities, and Ronan depicts Eilis’s struggle with heartrending openness and aching honesty. Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson, as competing suitors on opposite sides of the Atlantic, also deliver strong, sharply drawn performances.

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Go take a hike: Redford, Nolte lead us on pleasant enough Walk

Bill (Robert Redford, left) and Stephen (Nick Nolte) wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into.

A Walk in the Woods, based on Bill Bryson’s popular 1998 memoir of attempting to hike the Appalachian Trail, is inevitably going to be compared to Wild, last year’s film of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, on the opposite side of the country. Aside from similar plots, though, the two films have little in common; Wild is the better picture by far, but A Walk in the Woods holds its own as a sort of lightweight, droll counterpart. What Wild did for solo women hikers on the PCT, A Walk in the Woods might do for the grandfather set on the AT.

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We’re midway through the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF), and we’ve got more spotlights for you! There’s still a week of films and events left to go, so it’s not too late to get in on the fun; the Festival closes May 7th. Tickets and more information can be found here, and keep checking Spinning Platters for more coverage. In the meantime, here are four more Festival titles to check out:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
(USA, 2015, 104 min, Added Programs)

Greg (Thomas Mann) and Rachel (Olivia Cooke) prepare to face the chaos of their high school cafeteria.

Mostly known for his TV work (Glee, American Horror Story), director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was the darling of Sundance this January, deservedly winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for this outstanding, off-beat picture based on the popular novel of the same name. Funny, sweet, and sad without being maudlin, Gomez’s film has all the classic quirky charm of a Sundance hit, combined with the refreshing honesty of the best recent coming of age films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Way Way Back. When awkward Greg (Thomas Mann) is forced by his Mom (Connie Britton) to befriend Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a classmate with leukemia, he and his best friend Earl (RJ Cyler) embark on a project to make a film for her (their movies are short, altered, and hilarious versions of classics; A Clockwork Orange become A Sockwork Orange, for example, filmed with sock puppets). With terrific supporting turns by Nick Offerman as Greg’s dad and Molly Shannon as Rachel’s mom, the entire cast is first-rate. Gomez has made 2015’s first absolute-must-see film. Don’t miss it.


  • Will open widely on June 12th; check your local theater listings.

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Film Review: The Kings of Summer

June 5, 2013

Two teens bang sticks against a giant rusted steel pipe running through the forest;  atop the pipe, a third teen dances spastically to the rhythm.  The three kids continue like this for a while, devoid of distractions or concerns.  They’re completely carefree, and we immediately yearn to free ourselves with them.  So begins The Kings of Summer, a […]

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