Staff Pick Films – Kanopy & Beamafilm

A selection of Staff Picks movies and documentaries from our website’s DVD pages; these films are all now available on the library’s two online streaming platforms, Beamafilm & Kanopy.

Herb & Dorothy – Beamafilm
You cannot dislike this. Herb is a postal worker, Dorothy is a librarian in New York City and they are art collectors – very serious contemporary art collectors. Who would think that this ordinary (and not cool) looking couple owned more than 4000 pieces of art works mostly minimal or conceptual arts? Amazingly these variable works are somehow stored in their cramped one room apartment where they live with turtles, goldfish and a cat. They have no proper ‘Art’ education, but when this couple face art works, their eyes start glowing and get very serious as if they are hunting dogs. Their collection became so significant it was gifted to the national Gallery of Art (so they are not for money). It is an obsessive passion but utterly charming. Above all, this is the story of this extraordinary couple who complement each other. (Shinji)

The white ribbon – Beamafilm
‘The White Ribbon’ is another subversive jewel in the aloof crown of Michael Haneke, disturbed creator of other choice picks Hidden, The piano teacher and the nicely bleak The seventh Continent. It’s shot beautifully in black and white, the acting is unobtrusively spot-on and the narrative offers gradual hints that build real force and tension. To complete the compellingly grim picture I must list the themes that make one squirm – the destruction of innocence, the abuse of parental power, fascism in its many forms, violence and death. ‘The White Ribbon’ creeps its way into your subconscious and despite your best mental efforts, lingers. Scene by scene, I had the strong sense that I was involved in something significant. You may want to watch this film again. (Monty)

Scott Walker: 30 century man – Beamafilm
I enjoy music docos and have recently found a new stash of them at the end of the CD aisles under ‘Music Biographies’. There are some goodies there, one of which is this excellent film about Scott Walker. The penny finally dropped for me as to why he is considered by so many to be a living legend. His journey from 60’s pop icon, as one of the Walker Brothers, to reclusive avant-garde sound sculptor is explored and held together with excerpts from Walker’s first agreed to interview in thirty years. This is a peek inside the creative mind and it is fascinating to glimpse, amongst other things, the humour that accompanies the creation of such intense songwriting – that is if you happen to agree with Walker that his creations can actually be called songs. (John)

Outsourced – Kanopy
When his call centre in Seattle gets outsourced to India – Todd is asked to go over and train his replacement. From the minute he arrives and gets high jacked from the hotel he was booked into and taken to ‘Aunty Ji’s guesthouse’, it’s clear that he is going to have fun getting to grips with the ins and outs of Indian culture. The Indian people can’t say his name correctly and so for the entire film they refer to him as “Mr Toad”. It’s a good romantic comedy. We really enjoyed this one despite the rather ambiguous ending. (Kini)

For Sama – Beamafilm
Watching multi-award-winning documentary ‘For Sama’ is not easy. It’s a report from a war zone; the city of Aleppo, Syria. The city is under siege, Russian planes come and bomb. Eight out of the nine hospitals in East Aleppo had been destroyed. From the one hospital left, a student journalist turned filmmaker, Waad Al-Kateab shows us the devastating but most intimate, insightful realities of war. She married a doctor and became a mother during the battle of Aleppo (2012-2016). The film is dedicated for her daughter ‘Sama’ and is also a love letter to the city and its people. Incredibly touching. (Shinji)

His Girl Friday – Beamafilm
His Girl Friday is a masterclass in wise-cracking, sassy, super-fast, ultra-sharp comic dialogue. Made during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the virtuosic comic performances from leads Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell combine with the fabulously taut script to make this screwball comedy funny to this day. The overlapping jokes, dialogue and comic moments come so thick and fast you really need to watch it twice to pick up on everything that’s going on. (Neil J.)

 

Cold in July – Kanopy
Based on the 1989 novel by Joe R. Lansdale, ‘Cold In July’ is set in East Texas, where homeowner Richard Dane (Michael C Hall) shoots and kills a burglar in his house one night. Assured that the man he killed was a wanted felon Richard becomes a small town hero, only to have his life begin to unravel when the dead man’s ex-con father (Sam Shepard) arrives in town and begins to terrorize & threaten his family. However, Richard soon begins to suspect that everything is not as it seems when he sees that the face on the felon’s ‘Wanted poster’ is not actually that of the man he killed…This itself would be enough plot for most movies, but it is just the first 30 minutes of ‘Cold In July’, which starts out in one direction, only to become something else, and then something else again. Influences range from Film-Noir, to Sam Peckinpah, to the 70s novels of James Crumley (The Last Good Kiss) as it all barrels down a Southern highway towards a brutal heart of darkness. Great acting from all three leads (Hall, Shepard & Don Johnson as an over-the-top Private Eye). The best ‘indie’ movie I saw last year. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoyed last year’s True Detective TV series. (Mark)

Wendy and Lucy – Beamafilm
While huge budget blockbusters attract attention, we still get to see some simple but affecting movies such as Once and The Band’s Visit. It’s good to see another example out of America with a prominent name (Michelle Williams) in this minimal indie movie. Wendy (Williams) is heading for Alaska for work and hope with her beloved dog, Lucy, but her car breaks down. A series of troubles follow as she doesn’t have much money and loses Lucy. The director and co-writer Kelly Reichardt portrays Wendy who desperately tries to find Lucy in a subtle but vigorous way. Michelle Williams appears almost every scene and she is superb. There is no music (except for Will Oldham’s theme during the closing credits) which is wise. Often unnecessary music upsets cinematography, but here with no music you can feel Wendy’s agony and desperation directly. A simple story and only 75-minutes long, but beautifully executed and deeply affecting. (Shinji)

Sabah : a love story – Beamafilm
Sabah is a muslim woman who is single and kind of dowdy. She decides to start swimming when she turns 40 and meets Stephen at the pool. She’s not sure her family will accept him so keeps it secret. Watching Sabah unfold into a beautiful confident woman in love is the best part of the film. Plus it had great dancing! (Kini)

 

The past – Beamafilm
Despite shooting in foreign soil (France) for the first time, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (About Elly, A Separation) once again delivers a first-rate work. It’s another couple, family relationship drama with full of suspense, but multi-layered narrative ingeniously makes what appears to be a straightforward ‘divorce’ story into an increasingly intricate, tense ‘secrets and lies’ drama. The story develops by revealing the past through multiple people’s eyes, while three lead actors exchange terrific performances. Every detail is fastidiously executed including clever sound effect contrasting ‘noise’ and ‘silence’. A master class. (Shinji)

Antichrist – Kanopy
The obvious question that needs to be asked about Lars Von Triers latest is this; did it even need to be made in the first place? I’ll leave that for you to decide after viewing, but if you are curious then its best you prepare yourself beforehand. Antichrist is a tale of A young child’s death, his parents grief, and a spectacularly out of proportion explosion of psychosexual torment. Beautifully filmed, the first 3/4 is replete with absolutely jaw dropping and gorgeous shots, which juxtaposed with the grimness of the plot makes for a deeply unsettling and tense experience. There is also no denying the phenomenal presence of Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, there’s a raw palpable honesty to their roles which many actors would have been unable to commit too but then of course, in the final third of the film, all hell breaks loose and the controversy arrives. I guess the less said about that the better, if you’ve the stomach for it then you’ll watch, if not, then you’ll hit the stop button. The film was a hit at many film festivals around the world and is a searing portrayal of loss and guilt, it’s a sure fire divisive piece if cinema and one bound to leave you a little dazed. (Craig)

Boy – Kanopy
“Kia Ora, my name is Boy, and welcome to my interesting world” is the lovable, endearing opening line from this movie. Boy lives with his Nan, his brother Rocky, a goat, and a tribe of cuzzies in the village of Waihau Bay on the East Coast of the North Island. Boy idolizes Michael Jackson, and worships his absent Dad Alamein. He believes his Dad is overseas doing some ‘very important stuff’, when in actual fact he is doing time! Regrettably, on his release, Boy’s fantasies about his Dad aren’t at all as he imagined… The movie ‘Boy’ is brought to us by the multi-talented Taika Waititi – who also brought to our screens Eagle versus shark and Two cars, one night (the latter nominated for an Academy Award). Doing exceptionally well at the box office, Boy overtook Once were warriors, The world’s fastest Indian and Whale rider to take the number one spot for NZ Movies. The song Poi e also made a come back into the NZ charts as well peaking at #3. Filled with heartfelt light humour, this film will delight and amuse you, especially when Boy thrills us with his Michael Jackson dance moves. It’s choice as! (Ethel)

I’ve loved you so long – Kanopy
The film begins when Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), collects her sister Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) from the airport. Juliette has just been released from fifteen years in prison. Gradually throughout the film the real Juliette emerges and we learn of the crime she committed fifteen years ago. An outstanding, very moving and thought provoking film. (Julie)

 

About Elly – Beamafilm
The winner of Berlin International Film Festival and an Oscar, ‘A Separation’ put Iranian director Asghar Farhadi on the global map, but he has been a very consistent filmmaker and this movie he made before ‘A Separation’ is equally impressive. ‘About Elly’ is a captivating ensemble-cast drama that a happy beach holiday turns into a tense human drama. A group of young families embark on a few days’ break at a Caspian beach and a mysterious Elly is invited to come along. The first half is leisurely (and interesting to see what middle class Iranians do for fun) but it all changes dramatically after the ‘incident’. In the gripping second half, secrets and lies are revealed one after another which exposes human egos, and their relationships and trusts are severely tested as well as Iranian morality. Sophisticated Farfadi meticulously writes and directs, and digs deep into human minds. A masterful work. (Shinji)

Gomorrah – Kanopy
Matteo Garrone’s Italian mob film throws the notion of the glamorous mobster’s life out the window and focuses on the stark reality of organised crime amongst the poor of Naples. The film is essentially five disconnected stories, five slices of life from amongst the crumbling ruins of dilapidated housing estates in an Italy you’ll never see depicted in the tourist brochures. There’s not a hint of romanticism attached to the film, its ruthless and cruel look into a world where violence rules and the poor struggle within a world controlled by an organised criminal syndicate at war with itself. Completely European, it is sophisticated and beautifully filmed, with a leaden atmosphere in keeping with the overall tone and a verte style highlighting disjointed glimpses into tales of amplified disharmony. I loved it, it’s bleak but the reality of the source material was never pretty and it’s a testament to the director to have the courage to show us the reality rather than the fantasy of mob life. Winner of numerous awards, and well worth a watch if you enjoy complicated authentic dramas. (Craig)

An Education – Beamafilm
Very good adaptation and great casting. (Lucy)

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