Pamela Koffler

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Still Alice Review


Extraordinary

For a film about early onset Alzheimer's, this is a remarkably wry, honest and even hopeful drama, anchored by another staggeringly sensitive performance by Julianne Moore. Writing-directing team Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland are known for their observant depictions of human interaction (see Quinceañera), and they fill the screen with sharp dialogue and earthy emotions that make this much more than another movie about a disease. Instead, it's about how people can transcend what life throws at them, even if it knocks them down.

Moore stars as Alice, a New York linguistics professor who has just turned 50 when she starts noticing that she's forgetting words and getting lost. Her doctor gives her the tough diagnosis, and she uses her dry wit and sharp intellect to face the future with her steady husband John (Alec Baldwin) and their three grown children: married and pregnant Anna (Kate Bosworth), aspiring actress Lydia (Kristen Stewart) and free-spirit Tom (Hunter Parrish). The hardest thing to learn is that the disease is familial, and that she has passed it to at least one of her children. So while she can, Alice makes a contingency plan for the future as she watches her family members each react in a different way.

No, this isn't a light and breezy movie. But the filmmakers balance the moments of gut-wrenching emotion with smart humour ("Sorry, I forgot - I have Alzheimer's!") and bracing honesty ("I wish I had cancer!"). Moore is uncannily raw in the role, subtly revealing Alice's transformation in ways we barely notice until we're reminded what she used to be like. Even more powerful is her own awareness of what's happening. Opposite her, Baldwin has terrific camaraderie and an unexpected warmth, while both Bosworth and Stewart get a chance to dig much deeper as actors than they usually do. And what makes the film special is the way Alice's interaction with each character is uniquely individualistic.

Continue reading: Still Alice Review

The Notorious Bettie Page Review


OK

Whether she knew it or not, Bettie Page was breaking a lot of taboos when she started posing in bondage films and photos (maybe she knew but just decided to not care?). Current trends in modeling, including Dita Von Teese and Suicide Girls, often cite Page as an inspiration for their work. In Von Teese there is a certain comparison, but Suicide Girls, whether they like it or not, are not celebrating taboo. If anything, they are destroying taboo and making everything normal, even the strange and macabre. The trick with Page was that she didn't really see it as a bad thing; she never had it in her mind to exploit the idea of "the bad girl." Whether this was on director Mary Harron's mind when she opted to take on the life story of Bettie Page is up for debate.

Raised in Tennessee to a strict, religious family and a father with a fondness for bathing suit areas, Bettie Page (Gretchen Mol) is set to become a teacher at college when she marries an army man and promptly leaves him when he hits her. After being sexually assaulted by a group of men, she makes her way to New York City to become an actress. The moment of fate comes when an off-duty police officer and amateur photog decides to take her picture. Soon enough, she's being sought out by famous photographers like Bunny Yeager (Sarah Paulson) and specialty photography siblings Irving and Paula Klaw (Chris Bauer and Lili Taylor, respectively). Her friends, mostly male, are astonished by her nonchalant attitude towards nudity and bondage. She just sees it as "silly pictures," but the Senate, led by Senator Estes Kefauver (David Strathairn, absolutely wasted), thinks it's warping the youth of America. Mostly, Bettie just wants to make a nice, God-fearing life for herself with a man who doesn't judge her.

Continue reading: The Notorious Bettie Page Review

Chelsea Walls Review


Good
New York living is all about location. And where you live is often a sign of your lifestyle. If you live in Brooklyn, it is assumed you are more artistically inclined then, say, someone living in Queens (though this borough is making a comeback with its cheap rent). But the most notorious creative residence in all of New York has been the Chelsea Hotel, as far back as anyone can remember. Boasting such notable alumni as Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Bob Dylan, there is still a laidback, comfortably scrappy atmosphere about the place when you walk by.

Ethan Hawke (Training Day) courageously attempts to capture the essence of what makes this landmark so addictive in his directorial debut, Chelsea Walls. A collage of character plotlines that only barely intersect, Chelsea is a unique and respectable experiment in its focus on an inanimate object as its central character. Backed by a score that appropriately feels as if it were written while observing the production, Hawke creates an environment easily accessible to both New Yorkers and the non-initiated.

Continue reading: Chelsea Walls Review

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Pamela Koffler Movies

Still Alice Movie Review

Still Alice Movie Review

For a film about early onset Alzheimer's, this is a remarkably wry, honest and even...

The Notorious Bettie Page Movie Review

The Notorious Bettie Page Movie Review

Whether she knew it or not, Bettie Page was breaking a lot of taboos when...

Chelsea Walls Movie Review

Chelsea Walls Movie Review

New York living is all about location. And where you live is often a...

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