About Schmidt (2002)

Directed by

Starring Jack Nicholson

Beautifully filmed, powerfully acted, Nicholson portrays a retiring
insurance salesman, a selfish skinflint, unable to express emotion except in
his letters to the 6 year-old African boy he sponsors through a child
outreach program. When his wife dies suddenly, he is cut adrift and is
forced to confront his controlling ways and limited emotional resources.

Babe (1995)

Directed by
Chris Noonan

This is one of my all-time favorites. It definitely calls to the child in
me, but Babe is so winning that I could not help myself. The story of a
runt who makes good might also be emblematic for me. Who knows! But when
you watch this again, notice the wonderful filmmmaking, the animals’ eye
view of the world and how oddly Farmer Hoggett and his wife look to them.
Get lost in a world of hope, comraderie and innocence.

Blue Sky (1994)

Directed by
Tony Richardson (I)

Starring Jessica Lange

Maybe the politics, my childhood memory of my mother’s anti-nuclear activism
colored my perception of this movie, but I loved it. Jessica Lange plays a
sexy, mentally fragile woman, whose husband is responsible for monitoring
atomic tests in the 1950s. He is a straitlaced Army engineer, an outspoken
opponent of atmospheric testing, who challenges his superiors. The ending
of the film is disappointing, but hey . . .

El Norte (1983)

Directed by
Gregory Nava

A compelling film about a Mayan Indian sister and brother, who escape a
massacre and flee north into Southern California. They make their way with
great difficulty and amazing bravery and optimism, to survive treachery,
humiliation and nightmarish moments. A powerful portrait of immigration,
the bizzare nature of life in North America, people’s struggle to make
better lives. For me, an unforgettable film.

Eve's Bayou (1997)

Directed by
Kasi Lemmons

Starring Kasi Lemmons

A big Louisiana family exposes its complexities in this sultry, atmospheric
The daughter, Eve, sees her father flirting with one of his female patients.
She is haunted by his infidelity and the mystery of sexuality. To quote a
review I read, this is "a fluid, feminine, African American, Southern gothic
narrative that covers a tremendous amount of emotional territory with the
lightest and most graceful of steps." A rich portrait of sisters, young
girls’ ties to their father’s, "the power of dark and light intentions in
the material world." Visually elegant with a great soundtrack.

Il Postino

Directed by
Michael Radford

An Italian postman delivers mail to Pablo Neruda, the famous Chilean poet,
exiled to a small island for political reasons. The fan mail Neruda
receives requires an additional postman, so the unemployed son of a poor
fisherman is hired. Though poorly educated, the postman learns to love
poetry and eventually he befriends Neruda. When the postman falls in love,
he asks for Neruda's help and guidance. Rich and deeply touching.

Mac (1992)

Directed by
John Turturro

Three brothers in the construction business struggle to set up their own
company. Mac, the eldest brother, turns out to be overbearing and
obsessive. A complex portrait of family dynamics, beautifully acted, well
filmed. I felt I knew these people.

Memento (2000)

Directed by
Christopher Nolan

Written by
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan

A fascinating film, events rolling backwards, a film that makes you question
what you have just seen. More violent than films I usually like, this one
is compelling because it explores memory and how we know things. Leonard’s
efforts to compensate for the loss of his short-term memory are odd and
obsessive. The annotated Polaroids stack up as the tattoos on his body
accumulate. This is a film to see more than once, dark and intriguing.

Mrs. Brown (1997)

Directed by
John Madden

Starring Judy Dench and Billy Connolly

A romance between a queen and her servant, a costume drama with lots of
charm. No doubt history’s been twisted, and Benjamin Disraeli is presented
rather distastefully, but I found Brown’s tenderness with the stubborn queen
as he tries to bring her out of her depression after the king’s death, quite

Secret of Roan Inish, The (1994)

Written and directed by
John Sayles

Romantic, deliciously envisioned, the Irish myth of the selkie, a seal who
can turn into a human, comes to life in this film. When 10 year old Fiona
is sent to live with her grandparents in a small fishing village in Donegal,
Ireland, she learns that an ancestor of hers married such a mythical
creature. Years earlier, her baby brother had been tragically washed out to
sea in a cradle, and some think that he is being raised by the seals.
Spotting a naked boy on the island, Fiona becomes determined to discover
whether this is true. A heart-rending, beautiful film. You’ll never forget
those Irish faces or that beautiful floating cradle!

Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)

Directed by
Steven Soderbergh

Writteb by
Steven Soderbergh

James Spader

A deep exploration of sexuality, fidelity and obsession. Mostly, these
characters simply talk about their experiences and desires, but it is
intensely erotic, and in an odd way, very dramatic. James Spader shines in
this career-making performance as a documentary filmmaker who gets off
filming women talking about sex. Soderbergh reveals the subtleties of his
characters, their honesty and pretensions. This is a slow, painstaking
exploration, and finally, for me, powerful filmmaking.

She's Gotta Have It (1986)

Directed by
Spike Lee

Written by
Spike Lee

Nola Darling, a young black woman in Brooklyn, is dating three very
different men. While they struggle with jealousy and want her to make a
commitment, she resists until finally she must (why?) make a choice. Her
suitors are comically inadequate and I found Nola’s having to go to a shrink
to solve her "problem" bizarre and not to logical, I reminded myself to
lighten up and just enjoy this funny low-budget film. I loved the way Lee
portrayed Nola’s boyfriends begging for her attention.

Three Seasons (1999)

Directed by
Tony Bui

Starring Harvey Keitel

An American veteran seeks the child he fathered in Vietnam. This story is
filmed so beautifully, so sensuously, you feel the monsoons, are jostled on
the crowded streets, and calmed by the songs of women gathering lotus
blossoms on a silvery pond.

Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)

Directed by
Louis Malle

Starring Wallace Shawn and Madhur Jaffrey (the cookbook author)

One of those slow, talky Wallace Shawn movies--but it carried me away. A
company of NY actors rehearse Chekov’s "Uncle Vanya" on a crumbling stage.
Meanwhile the actors explore their responses to each other and what it means
to work together. Dialog is sharp, real, and reactions are genuine. An
engaging, thought-provoking film.

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