LANGUAGE LESSONS – Review by Jennifer Merin

Language Lessons is a pandemic-inspired zoom-tech two-character, two- location, two-screen dramedy that’s thoroughly refreshing, emotionally engaging and, ultimately, utterly charming. Directed by Natalie Morales (who also stars and co-wrote the project with co-star Mark Duplass), the film follows the burgeoning understanding and growing friendship between Carino, a for-hire internet Spanish language teacher and her client, Adam, an affluent and bored white guy who has his regular daily routine and some social and emotional issues.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 3, 2021: WHO YOU THINK I AM

The power of love, the need for validation, and the nature of identity are compellingly tangled in Who You Think I Am, director Safy Nebbou’s adaptation of French writer Camille Laurens’ novel. Juliette Binoche stars as Claire Millaud, an accomplished academic who’s drifting and lonely in the wake of a midlife divorce. Her impulsive decision one night to pose as a much younger woman online leads to both joy and heartbreak.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 27, 2021: LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD

In a social media world full of misinformation and over-filtered influencers, it’s always refreshing to encounter a creator who’s genuine, whose passion is about what they do, rather than just getting people to smash the subscribe button. That description perfectly fits accomplished domino-toppler Lily Hevesh, the subject of Jeremy Workman’s charming documentary Lily Topples the World. Ambitious but understated, focused but unassuming, Lily has earned success through an all-too-rare combination of talent and authenticity.

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SHADOW OF AFGHANISTAN (2006, 2012) – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

Shadow of Afghanistan is a primer about the history of Afghanistan. Providing extensive coverage and analysis of developments in the nation from 1959 to 2012, the documentary is a comprehensive overview of incidents and events that are extraordinarily entangled and complex. It’s a heartbreaking look at a devastated nation. There seems to be no end to the strife and anguish experienced by the people of Afghanistan during recent history.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 20, 2021: REMINISCENCE

Writer/director Lisa Joy’s twisty Reminiscence has all the hallmarks of a classic film noir. A flawed hero. A femme fatale with a dark past. A manipulative crime boss. Double-crosses and misdirection. Climate change. Wait, climate change? Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum might never have had to deal with soaring temperatures and rising sea levels, but that all-too-realistic threat underlines everything in Joy’s sci-fi-tinged mystery, offering a new angle on a familiar trope.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 16, 2021: CODA

In telling the story of teenage Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), the only hearing person in her deaf family, writer/director Sian Heder breathes fresh life into a familiar narrative about a young adult caught between following her dreams and a sense of duty to her home and loved ones. The result is CODA, a warm, funny family dramedy with excellent character development and strong performances. It’s easy to see why it was a hit at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

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LIMELIGHT – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

Filmmaker Billy Corben’s glitzy documentary, Limelight, follows the rise and demise of New York club lord, Peter Gatien, who ruled the city’s nightlife during the 1980s, until his trend-setting establishments, including the eponymous Limelight, were shut down by officials who accused Gatien and his crew of employees of using the popular premises to distribute illegal drugs.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 6, 2021: BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE

Wildfires aren’t a new phenomenon in California, but it’s only in the last few years that the idea of “fire season” has become an inescapable fact of life. Lucy Walker’s viscerally powerful documentary Bring Your Own Brigade expertly explores the complex factors that have led to that devastating reality (hint: It’s more than climate change), not just in the Golden State but around the world, and offers the hopeful possibility that it’s not too late to turn things around.

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BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE – Review by Jennifer Merin

Bring Your Own Brigade is filmmaker Lucy Walker’s courageous and compelling documentary about an extremely hot topic: the ongoing inferno of wildfires in Southern California and elsewhere on the West Coast and, by extension, across the nation. Walker’s eye witness camera captures close up images of the uncontrolled fires cutting through affluent communities in wide paths of devastating destruction. She follows local residents who are fleeing their homes on car-congested bands of blacktop cutting through raging flames and she records up close and personal accounts of survivors whose property was miraculously spared and others who lost all of their worldly goods to the to the rampaging blaze.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 30, 2021: AILEY

Jamila Wignot’s captivating documentary Ailey is a welcome burst of celebration. This thoughtful chronicle of the life and work of groundbreaking, enormously talented dancer/choreographer Alvin Ailey centers Black pride, creativity, self-identity, empowerment, and achievement. And, of course, it captures the unforgettable performances that made Ailey and his company famous around the world.

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