The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette

DVD Review: The Cream of the Crop

By Diane McCurdy 

Some of these films are already on DVD. Others will be out shortly. Now that all pictures that would be deemed un certain regard, to borrow a phrase from the French, have graced our local screens, a reckoning is required. I refuse to do a scroll of ten best. Been there. Done that. Instead I’ll ruminate on the Academy nominations and focus in on  three personal favorites.

Moonlight I just don't know what the buzz is about except for an incredible performance by Noamie Harris as the gay black boy's drug-addled mother.

Arrival is a really intelligent science-fiction piece focusing on the linguistic aspect, the difficulty of communicating with extra-terrestrials.

Manchester by the Sea is well done, bleak, depressing but I'm not sure that Casey Affleck's hang-dog portrayal is worthy of an Oscar. 

La La Land is a delightful, feel good romp with some great jazz, but best picture? Maybe most popular picture.

Fences is powerful and poignant with dynamite performances but it never really escapes from the confines of the stage play from which is was adapted.

Hacksaw Ridge features a conscientious objector who becomes a war hero. It presents an irony that makes one weep.

Hell and High Water is a modern Western with the banks as the bad guys. Jeff Bridges as a crusty old coot is always good. 

Lion is about a little boy in India who falls asleep on a train and wakes up hundred of miles away from his home . Enjoyment of his story is enhanced if one has seen the actual person interviewed on TV.

Hidden Figures has it all: history, patriotism, feminism sterling performances. 

One of my three favorite movies was Nocturnal Animals. It lays out a story within a story, an artifice that Shakespeare loved. Amy Adams having discarded her author husband, Jake Gyllenhaal, years before receives a manuscript he has dedicated to her. The audience follows not only Amy but the violent characters within the draft. Directed by designer Tom Ford, the production is highly stylized, symbols and foreshadowing abound. It is stunning, unique and intriguing. 

Silence has been a passion project for director, Martin Scorsese, for more than twenty years. In 17th century Japan two Portuguese Jesuit priests search for their mentor, Liam Neeson. Harsh and brutal but always beautifully photographed Scorsese has always been obsessed with ethical and moral ambiguity. At two and one half hours it may be a struggle but worth it.

Captain Fantastic revolves around an uber-hippie family group who have escaped to live in the wilds of the northwestern forests. When the mother dies, her funeral necessitates a foray into the decadence of society with comical and tragic results. Viggo Mortensen gives a standout performance as the captain.