HOPE – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

It takes some cinematic guts for a filmmaker to base a movie on their own harrowing encounter with a terminal cancer diagnosis that eventually led to a nine-year hiatus from their craft. With Hope, Norwegian writer/director Maria Sodahl doesn’t just make a comeback, but she also delivers a no-holds-barred accounting of a relationship of an unmarried couple with six children of various ages between them whose romantic inclinations have grown stale as the pair focus on their own creative pursuits.

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THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Some tattoos have such design and craftsmanship, they’re works of art. But what happens when a tattoo transforms someone into living artwork, effectively dehumanizing them? The Man Who Sold His Skin, an Oscar-nominee for Best International Feature Film, puts this dilemma on display through Sam, a Syrian refugee who consents to a full-back tattoo of a visa, then finds that this literal stamp of freedom confines him in other ways.

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WEEK IN WOMEN: Fennell and Zhao make AMPAS history – Brandy McDonnell reports

Nomadland‘s Chloe Zhao and Promising Young Woman‘s Emerald Fennell are now part of Academy Awards history. For the first time, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated two women in the directing category, with Zhao and Fennell picking up nods in the coveted category.

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NIGHT OF THE KINGS – Review by Carol Cling

Never underestimate the power of a spellbinding story. It just might save your life. Ask Scheherazade, whose enchanting Arabian Nights tales lasted a thousand and one nights. Or ask Roman, whose life — like Scheherazade’s — depends on keeping the king captivated by the stories he spins. That’s the premise of Night of the Kings, an unusual but effective mix of visual fantasy and stark prison drama from writer-director Philippe LaCote.

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HOPE – Review by Loren King

It takes remarkable insight and confidence to create a devastating portrait of a marriage inside a film about a woman facing her own mortality. That’s what writer/director Maria Sødahl does with searing Hope, Norway’s entry for this year’s Best International Feature Film Oscar. The film is so specific in its truthfulness that it isn’t a surprise to learn that it’s based on Sødahl’s own experience of a terminal cancer diagnosis that led to a nine-year hiatus from filmmaking. Of course, personal experience doesn’t always translate into art but in this case, it does.

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Kalia Love Jones on Filmmaking and THE POWER OF HOPE – April Neale interviews

With her first film, The Power of Hope, 14-year-old filmmaker Kalia Love Jones becomes the youngest director to qualify for Academy Award consideration via her animated short’s selection by the Pan African Film and Arts Festival and several other Oscar-qualifying festivals. Love Jones attributes her inspiration specifically to Michele Obama, and she want to inspire others with the hopeful message in her film.

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RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT (Sundance2021) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Early on in the documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It, viewers see Rita and a friend preparing for her 87th birthday party. She’s setting up the decorations and plastic cutlery and talking to the documentarian. Within minutes, anyone who appreciates straight-shooting broads, never mind uber-talented IGOT-winning Latinas, will be completely in love.

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RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT (Sundance 2021) -Review by Pam Grady

Rita Morena: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is a fabulous exploration of a personality both down-to-earth and larger-than-life. As a film, it never wears out its welcome but leaves us wishing we had more time to spend with this wonderful woman and wonder what she will be up to next. On Rita Moreno, 90 might just be the new 60.

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MY LITTLE SISTER -Review by Valerie Kalfrin

My Little Sister, Switzerland’s entry for the foreign language Oscar category, ostensibly lets audiences peek inside the complex relationship between fraternal twins as one struggles with cancer. While that’s a poignant part of this tender drama, the film’s underlying story is more about how much the titular sister gives to everyone but herself.

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MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM – Review by Martha K Baker

Ma Rainey, the Mother of the Blues, stands in the spotlight serenading the Black Bottom, a Twenties’ dance. But August Wilson put her there, and this film version of his play pays homage to him as much as it does to her. A third honor in this fine film goes to Chadwick Boseman in his last remarkable role.

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