MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 24, 2021: EL PLANETA

Part Grey Gardens, part Kajillionaire, and part Paper Moon, writer/director Amalia Ulman’s feature directorial debut, El Planeta, is also wholly its own beast. The film is a naturalistic, observational dramedy about a mother and daughter in Gijon, Spain, who find themselves facing impending eviction and doing whatever they need to in order to get by. Filmed in expressive black and white, El Planeta is a thoughtful, slice-of-life character study.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 17, 2021: I’M YOUR MAN

If Westworld had been a romcom instead of a gory sci-fi parable, it might have ended up looking something like Maria Schrader‘s winsome I’m Your Man, which follows a skeptical academic who agrees to test a “perfect partner” android in exchange for research funding support. Determined to poke the concept full of holes, she reluctantly finds herself drawn to her manufactured soulmate — and does a fair bit of self-analysis along the way.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 10, 2021: LANGUAGE LESSONS

After the last year and a half, it would be understandable if someone read the quick summary of Natalie Morales’ Language Lessons — two very different people bond through a series of online chats and messages — and thought “A Zoom movie? No way!” But this intimate, heartfelt dramedy is so much more than that. It’s a carefully observed character study about friendship, privilege, and the power of a genuine connection, whether it’s virtual or IRL.

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SPOTLIGHT September 2021: Jane Campion, feminist filmmaker, Dame Companion and Lumiere Honoree

Jane Campion has furthered the cause of women in film by holding steady to her own extraordinary aesthetic, unique career choices and creation of dazzling visual poetry. Throughout her career, her feminist approach to filmmaking has been expressed in her distinctive vision and directorial style, and in her consistent creation of strong, complex and fully fleshed out female characters who rank among the finest, most compelling in film history.

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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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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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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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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 23, 2021: PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY

Valerie Taylor started diving with sharks back when, as archival footage reveals, it was considered droll to refer to her as a “mermaid” who was there to support and presumably fawn over the male divers. But based on what we learn of her in Sally Aitken’s entertaining documentary Playing with Sharks, it seems likely that if Taylor ever heard that description, she probably rolled her eyes and left the guys eating her bubbles.

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