List

Sharon's Picks

By Sharon Weinberg

Here are some under-the-radar recent favorites you can check out from the library.

  • And Then We Danced

    2020

    Merab is a young man whose goal is to dance with the National Georgian Ensemble. He is thrown off balance when a new dancer named Irakli joins the troupe and a romantic relationship develops between them. It was Sweden's official selection for Best International Film for the Academy Awards. The filmmaker Levan Akin is Swedish, of Georgian descent. Akin was inspired to make the movie after seeing a news story about a small group of LGBTQ activists facing a violent attack for organizing the first pride parade in Tbilisi. The dancing is exciting and culminates in a strong statement about inclusion and freedom. In Georgian, with English subtitles.

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  • Bacurau

    2020

    Maybe the strangest movie of the year, this political/social satire from Portugal won the Jury Prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The story centers on a diverse group of people defending their small town against mercenary foreigners. The filmmakers cleverly blend western and sci-fi genres and make good use of their talented ensemble cast, with international star Sonia Braga totally on board for the ride. Be warned, there is a slow burn to graphic violence. However, the intentional narrative resonates for this moment. In Portuguese, with English subtitles.

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  • The Booksellers

    2020

    This documentary covers a lot of territory, delving into the history, present, and future of the rare book business in New York. The dealers, collectors, and auctioneers, share engaging stories. They talk about why they got started in the trade, what they love about collecting, how things continue to evolve and change, and speculate on the future, especially with the increase of digital materials. I loved that the filmmaker included a wide representation of book-culture folks and the diversity concerning what kinds of printed materials are being collected and archived.

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  • Driveways

    2019

    I call this a small film with layers. A lonesome boy and his single mom travel to where her estranged sister lived before she died and face the daunting task of cleaning out her home. They get to know the neighborhood and the war veteran octogenarian next door. I really like that the filmmaker looks at transitions and intergenerational friendship, with a well-observed script and excellent performances from Brian Dennehy, Hong Chau, and young Lucas Jaye.

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  • Emma

    2020

    Indie filmmaker Autumn de Wilde directed this new adaptation of Jane Austen's classic about a self-appointed matchmaker, and I think it is thoroughly enjoyable. The screenplay stays fairly close to the book. That said, there are a few fresh takes here. For example, small tonal shifts and some fleshing out of actions that emphasize character traits and direct the viewer's focus. The creative costumes, fun production design, and crisp color all pop. The actors are splendid. Anya Taylor-Joy, showing her range, is a convincing Emma. But really, let's start the Oscar campaign now for Miranda Hart, who plays Miss Bates.

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  • John Lewis: Good Trouble

    2020

    A new doc about the beloved Civil Rights leader, politician, and humanitarian. He served 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representative until his recent death. Director Dawn Porter shows plenty of wonderful interviews with Lewis, his family, friends, and those who worked with him. There is also archival footage put to effective use, and Lewis speaking about historic times as well as the current political climate. His courage and inspiration jump from the screen.

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  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire

    2020

    On an isolated island in Brittany in the late 18th century, the story focuses on a forbidden love affair between two women. Héloïse previously lived in a convent, until her older sister committed suicide to break an arranged marriage. Eager to negotiate another deal, her mother, the Countess, plans to introduce Héloïse to society. Marianne is an artist commissioned to paint a portrait of Héloïse, which will be used to secure a marriage contract. Another woman living in the home, a maid named Sophie, provides an additional interesting perspective. Pay attention to the three discussing a story about Orpheus and Eurydice. It is expertly done. Overlooked by the Oscars, I think this is one of the best movies of 2019 that many have not seen.

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  • Premature

    2020

    Ayanna meets Isiah the summer before she is supposed to go away to college, and their relationship grows into an intense first-love experience. Ayanna thinks deeply about her identity and future, asking herself hard questions about what kind of person she wants to be and who her role models are. Filmed in Harlem, filmmaker Rashaad Ernesto Green wrote the screenplay with Zora Howard, who also stars in the film as Ayanna. Green and Howard make a great creative team. They were born and bred in Harlem and wanted to show the Harlem they loved. Certainly the neighborhood is like another character. Authenticity and passion are present.

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  • Ride Your Wave

    2020

    Via gorgeous animation, director Masaaki Yuasa (Lu Over the Wall) brings to life Hinako, a surfing-loving college student, and Minato, a skilled fireman. The two seem inseparable until Minato drowns to save another. But magic is at work and Hinako begins to appear to Minato in the water. This anime managed to break my heart and make me smile. It is easily on my top-10 anime list.

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  • Saint Frances

    2020

    Filmed in Evanston and other Chicagoland neighborhoods, this won the Audience Award last year at SXSW as well as the Chicago Critics Film Festival. Lead actor Kelly O’Sullivan wrote the script; her partner Alex Thompson directed; most of the cast and crew, if not all, are local. The story follows Bridget, a 34-year-old woman whose messy life is taking its toll. She lands a summer nanny job to watch 6-year-old Franny. The weeks unfold as she deals with an unwanted pregnancy and dating issues, collides with the precocious Franny, and navigates friction between Franny’s moms. Ramona Edith Williams, who plays Franny, often an unintentional guidance counselor, is a scene-stealer. The movie covers some heavy and sensitive subjects with empathy, truthfulness, and humor.

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