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March 18, 2014

Film Review: ‘Cesar Chavez’ Starring Michael Pena

By Curtis John

cesar-chavez-movie-1

Biopics can be a troublesome sort. Too often they are boring retreads of a dynamic person’s life full of cliché standards that reflect the final expectations of a child’s fill-in-the-colors book.  The best ones though color outside the lines and use believable drama to invoke a sense of real history mixed with characters whose personalities bring a connection that helps both the viewer relive the life of the subject before us on screen.  Think Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote or Denzel Washington in Malcolm X.

While Cesar Chavez has its share of clichéd moments, it is the performances of Michael Peña, deftly showing us the spirited determination of labor leader Cesar Chavez, and John Malkovich as the industrious main villain of the film, that make Cesar Chavez one of the better films of the new year thus far.  And oh, one more thing: the fact that it was finally made.

A problem with this film is that too many people may sadly be asking – Who is Cesar Chavez?  Some are aware that he’s a man who in the 1960’s spearheaded the use of non-violent protest as he battled greed and bigotry in his struggle for the living wage rights of Chicano and Asian migrant farm workers, making him stand out as an international civil rights leader.  Yet contemporarily his national legacy is taken for granted, reduced to three paragraphs in a fourth grade textbook.

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February 3, 2014

Limité Guide to 2014′s Most Anticipated Movies

Matthew McConaughey in Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR

With a new year comes new movies, and there’s nothing we love more at Limité than to look ahead at some of what the film gods have to offer. Each member of Limité’s Film Team presents below her or his 10 most anticipated films of 2014.

Note: As many of these films are still in production, release dates may change.

Continue reading “Limité Guide to 2014′s Most Anticipated Movies” »

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January 20, 2014

Women We Love: Amy Poehler

By Curtis John

amy-poehlerphoto by Peter Yang

During the past few years America has seen a true resurgence of funny ladies. These comedians and comic actors, channeling the legacies of Carol Burnett and Gracie Allen, are bold and unapologetic in their performances.  In the upper tier of these is Amy Poehler, the star and producer of the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, which recently wrapped up its fifth season.  The Newton, Massachusetts raised Poehler got the lead in Parks after seven plus years as a cast member of Saturday Night Live, where she quickly established herself as a go-to player with her impressions of Ann Coulter, Michael Jackson and most famously Hilary Clinton.  She would eventually co-anchor the “Weekend Update,” a coveted spot, until her departure from the show in 2008.

As prominent as it is to be a star featured player on SNL, being the lead on Parks and Rec is what has made Amy Poehler a household name.  The workplace comedy centers on Poehler as Leslie Knope, an overachieving Deputy Director of the Parks Department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana.  Knope’s city government loving, refined-sugar slugging, staunch feminist has an idealism that’s infectious amongst her co-workers and friends in the Parks Department, who despite their indifference to doing any real work will always (eventually) help Leslie accomplish her goals – including ascending to the ranks of the City Council in Season Four.  Poehler plays the highly original character of Leslie with a genuineness that has only made it possible to distinguish the character from the woman when she is ribald, as Poehler was in her co-hosting of this year’s 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards with her old friend and other upper tier funny lady Tina Fey.  She is next set to appear in You Are Here, the feature film directorial debut of Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner.

posted by: Curtis John
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Film Review: Gloria

by Curtis John

Gracing the screen with a mix of vulnerability, charm, and her own brand of sexy, Paulina García, the titular star of director Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria, makes would could have been an over-sentimental tale about a woman approaching her 60s and searching for love into one of the must-see films—and performances—of the year.

At first impression, with her Coke-bottle Sally Jessy Raphael-type glasses and shy demeanor, Gloria appears to be a rather dowdy woman. Yet, she is actually a mostly confident 58-year-old divorcée determined not to be old and infirmed. She attends Santiago, Chile dance clubs for older-aged singles, though she doesn’t connect with any of the men on a romantic level. But Gloria soon meets Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), a kind man seven years her senior, and they quickly strike up a sexual and romantic relationship, even though it is clear that he is hiding some pretty dark feelings from her. Yet, even after Rodolfo begins acting immaturely, Gloria is persistent to hold on to what she feels is her only genuine prospect since her divorce. Intelligent but desperate for true love, she gives him the latitude one would expect from someone one-third of her age until his actions spill into such indefensible behavior that force Gloria to confront her own personal issues—ones that she has kept buried for decades.

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posted by: Curtis John
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October 9, 2013

New York Film Festival Preview: 12 Years a Slave

by Curtis John

Screening: Sunday, October 13, 5pm (Walter Reade Theater)

Series: Film Comment Magazine Presents

 

Steve McQueen (Shame, 2011) returns to the New York Film Festival with his powerful adaptation of the memoir of Solomon Northup, a freeborn black man from Saratoga, NY who in 1841 was lured and abducted into slavery in the Deep South. We follow Solomon’s journey as he first intends to revolt and earn his freedom, to eventually have his spirit and body be broken to the point where he just tries to survive. Played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster, 2007), his Solomon tries to maintain some form of dignity while being traded between slave trader Burch (Paul Giamatti), then sold to kindly farmer William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch, Star Trek into Darkness, 2013). But due to his outspokenness toward Ford’s carpenter (Paul Dano), Solomon is soon sold to sadistic cotton grower Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), whose horrific acts embody the grimmest barbarity of slavery.

Continue reading “New York Film Festival Preview: 12 Years a Slave” »

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September 25, 2013

New York Film Festival Preview: THE DOG

by Curtis John

Screenings:

Tuesday, October 1, 8:15pm (Francesa Beale Theater)

Tuesday, October 8, 6:30pm (Howard Gilman Theater)

(only standby tickets available for both screenings)

Series:  Motion Portraits

 

Many don’t realize that the award-winning 1975 Al Pacino-starring Dog Day Afternoon, in which a man tries to rob a bank in Brooklyn to pay for his transgender lover’s sex change operation, is actually a true story. For the first time, the man behind that story, John “The Dog” Wojtowicz, reveals his unique life in the candid documentary The Dog, which shuffles between the 1960s, ’70s, and 2000s, using archival footage and original interviews to tell Dog’s own candid story.

The uncensored and self-described romantic, Dog, whose libido and love for both men and women is only outmatched by his arrogance, would come off like a jerk if he were not so funny and likeable. His wild personality makes you play close attention, especially when the filmmakers expertly balance Dog’s vivid exploits, like his involvement in New York’s gay liberation movement of the early 1970s and his solid relationship with his spunky mother Terry, from whom he definitely got his character. This duality that filmmakers Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren present to us, over 10 years in the making, is what makes this personal portrait so provocative. It is summed up perfectly by Berg as a “fucked-up Forrest Gump-like ride through John’s life story.”

Limité Rating: 4/5

Director: Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren

Cast: John Wojtowicz, Terry Wojtowicz, Carmen Bilfulco, George Heath

Genre: Documentary

Country: USA

TRT: 101 min.

 

The 51st New York Film Festival runs from September 27 – October 13, 2013. 

Follow Limité Film Contributor Curtis John on Twitter (@MediaManWatch) and check out his blog, brotherfromadiffrentworld.tumblr.com.

posted by: Curtis John
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September 13, 2013

2013 Fall Film Guide

With the start of September comes the much-anticipated fall film season—the time of year when studios and independent distributors alike present their best hopes for Oscar gold and some big box office dollars. This season, keep your eye on some key dramas like Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, and The Wolf of Wall Street, among others. And following his turn in this spring’s Star Trek into Darkness, British import Benedict Cumberbatch continues to make waves this side of the Atlantic in four features (12 Years a Slave, The Fifth Estate, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, August: Osage County).

Tell us in the comments which films you’re most looking forward to seeing.

Note: All non-authored pieces’ loglines are courtesy of IMDb.com.

  Continue reading “2013 Fall Film Guide” »

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August 24, 2013

Women We Love: Kerry Washington

by Curtis John

Kerry is so very … well, everything!

The Bronx-born movie star of such hit films as Django Unchained, Ray, and Save the Last Dance, and one of television’s top leading ladies in her ABC show Scandal, Washington has one of those careers that actors covet.

About half of that has to do with the vulnerability she’s able to emote on screen—her infamous lip quiver and wet, almond eyes when she’s thinking too hard about a decision she already knows the answer to—which is enough to warm any man’s heart and encourage her leading men to step up their game. But when you couple that with the other half—her boldness and confidence—then you have female characters that on an emotional level are complex and the reverse from the hollow “types” too many actresses are often portrayed as and black actresses are constantly burdened with. Think the sexy and brash but emotionally scarred Nikki Tru from Chris Rock’s I Think I Love My Wife (2007) or Patricia, the headstrong ex-Black Panther Party widow with a deep secret in Tanya Hamilton’s Night Catches Us (2010), and it’s easy to see why Washington is so very desired by filmmakers. And, oh yeah, she’s pretty easy on the eyes, as well.

Continue reading “Women We Love: Kerry Washington” »

posted by: Curtis John
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July 22, 2013

2013 Top 10 Indie Summer Flicks

Man of Steel. Star Trek into Darkness. World War Z. These are the movies we won’t be talking about in this summer movie feature. For the fourth year, Limité is taking a look beyond the standard blockbuster studio fare to bring you some of the most-anticipated independent films with a summer release date. Proving that a $100 million budget is not a necessity—and is often a hindrance—to deliver a powerful story, these 10 films masterfully transform a small budget into a big punch.

 

1. FRUITVALE STATION

by Daniel Quitério

January 1, 2009. Oakland, CA. Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black male, was caught in a physical altercation on a train a mere two hours after celebrating the passing of the new year with his friends. Held at the Fruitvale BART station by the police, an agitated Oscar was restrained by the officers, held with his face against the ground. One officer then pulled out his gun and shot the unarmed Oscar in the back, ultimately ending his life. (The officer claims he was reaching for his stun gun.) Fruitvale Station tells the true story of Oscar’s last day alive. A conflicted young father, he was just trying to get by, and although he didn’t always make the soundest choices, he was loved dearly by his family and friends—none of whom believed he deserved his ultimate fate.

Ryan Coogler, a black man about the same age as Oscar, was in the Bay Area that night working security. He heard about the tragedy and the story remained with him. Thanks to a glowing recommendation from one of his USC film professors, Coogler was given a meeting with producer Forest Whitaker, and thus was the start of realizing Oscar’s story on the big screen. Now just 27, Coogler has demonstrated a knack for filmmaking in his debut feature usually displayed by veteran directors. His sentimental portrayal of a conflicted youth, with whom Coogler admits he identifies, has rocked the world of independent cinema, earning him the two biggest prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award), as well as the Best First Film award at Cannes.

Continue reading “2013 Top 10 Indie Summer Flicks” »

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June 10, 2013

Flying Blind – Brooklyn Film Festival Review

by Curtis John

flying-blind-review-1

A successful aerospace engineer designing drones for the British military begins an affair with her younger college student, a French-Algerian man full of secrets, who unlocks a passion she has never known in Flying Blind.  Frankie (Helen McCrory, Skyfall - 2012), a tightly structured woman in her mid-forties becomes her exact opposite when Kahil (Najib Oudghiri, Rendition, 2007) enters her life with his cool, appealingly poetic way of seeing life. But when Frankie’s superiors find out about the relationship and she learns more about Kahil’s supposed past, her life becomes one of constant suspicion and mistrust.  Ultimately, betrayal comes at her from all ends resulting in a personal and career-destroying outcome.

Here in the United States there is limited focus on how countries like Great Britain deal with the post-9/11 world, but as recent terrorism in that country makes clear the contention between English security forces and Britain’s Muslim population is unmistakably existent and entirely complex.  That complexity carries through to the people as stereotypes of all Muslims as terrorists, as the movie reflects, have become commonplace. Award-winning Polish director Katarzyna Klimkiewicz expertly explores Frankie and Kahil’s poignant journey as well as the regrettable decisions made by their friends and loved ones.  Continue reading “Flying Blind – Brooklyn Film Festival Review” »

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