Tracy Letts

Powerhouse actors make tonally odd picture worth watching

Married couple Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts) are both having affairs, unbeknownst to the other. 

The Lovers is an odd movie. That’s not to say that it’s not worth seeing; it’s just that tonally, strange is the best word to describe it. A virtual pas de deux between heavy hitters Tracy Letts and Debra Winger, the picture focuses on their characters Michael and Mary, a long-married husband and wife, each of whom is having an affair and plotting to leave the other. In the midst of this mendacity, however, a spark rekindles between the couple, jeopardizing their extracurricular relationships.
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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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Spinning Platters continues its coverage of the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, which continues through this Thursday, May 5th. You still have plenty of time to get in a few screenings! More information and tickets are available here.

Here we spotlight three more Fest feature films, and one documentary.

Indignation
(USA, 2015, 110 min, Centerpiece Film)

College students Marcus (Logan Lerman) and Olivia (Sarah Gadon) get to know each other on their first date.

Writer/producer James Schamus (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain) here proves himself equally adept at directing, choosing for his first full-length feature foray an adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2008 novel Indignation. Set in 1951 at a fictional Ohio liberal arts college, Schamus’s screenplay remains true to the Rothian themes of coming of age, family conflict, sex, love, religion, and death. Schamus and a stellar cast, including Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as the protagonist Marcus, a working-class Newark atheist Jew trying to fit in at the conservative, religious campus, and Tracy Letts as the no nonsense, intellectually formidable, but bemused Dean of Men, handle Roth’s heady material with remarkable skill and sensitivity. Sarah Gadon as Marcus’s troubled love interest, and the great Broadway actress Linda Emond as Marcus’s mom, who shares a breathtaking, Oscar-worthy scene with Lerman, round out the absolutely terrific cast. A tour de force scene between Lerman and Letts, in which the two argue about Bertrand Russell, among other issues, is also one of the most compelling, uninterrupted takes you’ll see on screen this year. A powerful meditation on repression and finding yourself through love and family, Schamus’s directorial debut is not to be missed.

Screenings:

  • No more SFIFF screenings, but will open nationwide on July 29th.

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