Posts in 2015
MOVIE REVIEW: Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

Some causes and plights are universal to the heroism within the human condition no matter the era or culture.  Comporting itself with admirable respect for the ennobling experience of its chosen history, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero portrays such heroism for film audiences.  This animated feature film presents common themes and intrepid messages within a folklore not often given a Western stage.  Named the “Best Inspiring Film” on Animation Day at last year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero earns a great deal of that praise.

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MOVIE CLASSROOM: Updated archive on YouTube channel

In returning to my "Movie Classroom" series of interactive whiteboard video reviews with new vigor, new skills, and new tools, I wanted to bring back and upload my old video attempts to my Every Movie Has a Lesson YouTube channel.  In a massive file drop, I recently uploaded 29 of my past Movie Classroom videos from 2014, including winners like Whiplash and Birdman.  Head over and reminisce on some fine films and commentary by yours truly.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Blackcoat's Daughter

Being “in the dark” is a savory place to be for a film like this.  Keenly and decisively, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” carries a nearly strict reliance on suggestion and atmosphere over exploitation.  For that, Perkins and company get it and do not need a “throwback” label to prove it.  They know that our mental guessing is always more frightening than showing every little thing.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Worlds Apart

Directed by Christoforos “Christopher” Papakaliatis, “Worlds Apart” presents three narratives and three different flavors of passion.  Each surrounds a Greek native in a burgeoning romantic relationship with an immigrant from another land.  Thematically, all that transpires in the film riffs on recurring imagery and commonality with the mythical story of Eros, the Greek god of love.  Layering a topical worldview tinged with allegory every step of the way, “Worlds Apart” is a mature and beguiling romantic drama.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: The Lark's View

Ireland is a proud country where a pagan history has been blended with Christianity for two millennia.  Mythology has merged with scripture and history has absorbed legend.  “The Lark’s View” is a documentary reflecting the current and lost traditions on the century anniversary of the significant Easter Rising conflict of 1916.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Dressmaker

The quirk of the dark comedy genre comes from embracing absurdity and running with it.  Small wrinkles of character traits and situational story elements get twisted for wry laughs and wicked surprises.  One of Australia’s top films of 2015, “The Dressmaker” mixes high style in a setting of rubbish and romance with a cursed sense of revenge.  Not all of the fits and starts of many, many dalliances of the film end up working, but the presence of Oscar winner Kate Winslet demands attention.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Reparation

Building domestic suspense in poignant fashion and shifting between three eras, “Reparation” examines potent human flaws and plants them in small-town America with real-life consequences.  This film doesn’t need a grandiose battlefield saga of hidden heroism to be the catalyst.  This isn’t “American Sniper” and glossy hero worship.  “Reparation” welcomes more intimate and jagged complications with authentic down-home realism and charm.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Equals

Young writer-director Drake Doremus has carved out a reputable niche in the romantic drama department.  Many of the Sundance darling's films feature a prominent theme of longing love.  That motif is on full display and meshed with mindful science fiction in his new film "Equals."  Starring Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart and backed by Ridley Scott, the film is making a limited theatrical run alongside a full release on VOD marketplaces.  Mindful doesn’t exactly equal poignancy on the scale of desired response.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Wait (L'attesa)

The award-winning Juliette Binoche is one of those actresses who can captivate an audience in complete silence.  Binoche has long been a reflective master of inflection and nuance.  She doesn’t have to say a word to convey the waterfall of thoughts an end emotions going on within her characters.   She is a true artist for performance and the latest proof of that is her staggering dramatic role in “The Wait,” the directorial debut of Italian filmmaker Piero Messina. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Sunset Song

Beloved in its homeland of Scotland, Lewis Grassic Gibbon's 1932 novel "Sunset Song" is revered for its detailed and poignant tale of peasant life and the place of women during the transitional times of the early 20th century.  The novel has been a long-gestating passion project for highly regarded British filmmaker Terence Davies.  Brought to life with moments of 65mm grandeur, his sumptuously crafted and carefully refined film adaptation is another jewel in the filmmaker's crown, though one not without its source material's difficulties.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Lobster

With intentionally languid brushstrokes, "The Lobster," from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos in his English language debut, creates a challenging moral setting that twists the realities and consequences of two human conundrums and fears: What happens when you are single and what happens when you die.  His muse at the center is Colin Farrell in arguably the most understated performance of his career.  With more talent and a high concept at play, "The Lobster" is missing the charm to tie it all together.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: June Bride: Redemption of a Yakuza

"June Bride: Redemption of a Yakuza" presents an international alternative to the Scared Straight programs that have become a fascination here in the United States.  No, not this one (though enjoy a quick laugh), but prison initiatives like those chronicled in A&E's popular "Beyond Scared Straight: Success Stories.  Rather than bombard subjects and audiences with fear, one man in Japan finds faith to be the greater answer.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Louder than Bombs

"Louder than Bombs" is the English language debut of Norwegian director Joachim Trier and his writing partner Eskil Vogt, best known for their 2006 Academy Award-nominated foreign language film "Reprise."  Their newest work was a competitor for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, Norway's first since 1979.  Possessing a compelling rotation of inner monologues, the heavily dramatic film observes a fractured family of men dealing with the overhanging aftermath of losing their iconic matriarch.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Invitation

Adorned with the weights of divorce, loss, and tested friendship, “The Invitation” wears those issues like a cloak to hide its real menacing intent and implications underneath.  Karyn Kusama’s film holds a marvelous poker face that siphons your piqued curiosity and unraveling attention.  “The Invitation” might be labeled as a horror film, but it far better fits the prodigious “mindfuck film” subgenre.  Enjoy the steady increased heart rate and spinning cerebrum this film has to offer.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Marguerite

Do we all remember the infamy of William Hung from 2004?  You should.  Take William Hung, turn back the clock 80 years, and, here's the kicker, give him a judging audience that won't tell him he's bad.  If you can do that, you can step into the foreign film "Marguerite" from French director Xavier Giannoli playing now at the Landmark Theater locations in Lincoln Park and Highland Park.  Divided into five chapters, "Marguerite" is an immersive character study into a would-be singer's obsession with talent.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Confirmation

If we were to play Word Association and you were given the name Clive Owen, what would you say?  The lucky astute of us who have followed Clive since 1998's "Croupier" have seen him play brash and gruff villains, antiheroes, and leading men.  As of the new film "The Confirmation," you have very likely never seen him play a domestic father.  Now, north of 50 years old, here's Clive Owen in a role that doesn't require, nor utilize, any of the sexy traits that made him a James Bond candidate before Daniel Craig.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Program

Creating entertaining biopics about a universally disgraced figure are a hard sell under that key word of "entertaining."  If they attempt to create sympathy, a duel of alienation and bias can arise.  A good, thought-provoking movie has to fearlessly dig deeper.  As Van der Rohe is attributed to saying, "the devil is in the details."  Exposing the sordid and untold details of what led to the subject's defamation is where your film gets interesting.  The rise and fall of champion cyclist Lance Armstrong is fertile ground and a fresh wound that has yet to be solved.  "The Program," directed "Philomena" and "The Queen" Oscar nominee Stephen Frears, pedals uphill in attempting to shine a light on the dark details.

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EDITORIAL: Final 2016 Awards Tracker and Oscar Reactions

Last night, I correctly predicted 16 of the 24 winners, tied with last year for my lowest total.  To conclude the awards season with a final update of the Awards Tracker data, here are the finishing tallies, Oscar winners, and my reactions to the winners and losers.

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2015, 2016, Awards Prediction, Awards Tracker, Column, Editorial, Oscar Predictions, Oscars, SPECIALDonald Shanahan2015, 2016, 2016 Awards Tracker, 2016 Oscars, 2016 Oscar Predictions, 88th Academy Awards, 88th Oscars, Oscar snubs, Oscar nominations, Oscar hopefuls, Oscars, Oscar winners, Oscar bait, Oscar contenders, Oscar surprises, Oscar Predictions, 2015 films, Awards Predictions, Award Prediction, Awards Talk, Academy Award nominations, Academy Award nominees, Academy Award, Academy Award winner, Academy Awards, Academy Award nominee, Editorial, Column, Website feature, Donald Shanahan, Don Shanahan, Every Movie Has a Lesson, movie commentary, film commentary, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Original Screenplay, Best Musical Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Edit, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup and Hair-Styling, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short Subject, Best Animated Short Film, Best Animated Short, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Animated Feature, Best Live Action Short, Best Live Action Short Film, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Directing, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actor, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Actress, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Motion Picture, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Picture, The race for Best Picture, Best Movies of 2015Comment