Roma (2018, Directed by Alfonso Cuarón) Spanish 7

Starring Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Marco Graf

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(7-Very Good Film)

Intimate. Accomplished. Elegant.

I’m not sure I’ve seen Mexico like this, the way it’s shown in Oscar winning director, Alfonso Cuarón’s, newest film. Roma portrays the life of a young maid, Cleo, who works for a well-to-do family in the upper class, Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City during the early ’70s. We see conflict at three separate levels: Cleo gets pregnant by a true bastard, who discards her and joins a paramilitary group, her employers’ marriage is strained, and eventually the husband leaves, and then, finally, the city itself endures a torrent of political violence. As dramatic as this all sounds, Roma is often a very quiet, languid piece, with stunning camerawork and a beautiful aesthetic. There’s also a strong sense of love and family present even at its saddest moments.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-



The Virgin Spring (1960, Directed by Ingmar Bergman) Swedish 6

Starring Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom, Birgitta Pettersson, Tor Isedal

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(6-Good Film)

Bleak. Thoughtful. Ponderous.

Sweet, virginal Karin leaves home to deliver candles to the local church in medieval Sweden. Along the way, two wayward men and a young boy stop, rape, and murder her. The three assailants seek shelter, and find it, in the home of Christian Per Töre (von Sydow), who, unbeknownst to them, is their victim’s father. This is a brutal tale, with several memorable scenes, but I’m still apathetic to Bergman’s style. I’m drawn to this morbid, haunting story, and some of his ideas, but I find it cloaked in rambling dialogue interspersed with dull quiet.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Yi Yi (2000, Directed by Edward Yang) Mandarin 6

Starring Wu Nien-jen, Elaine Jin, Issey Ogata, Kelly Lee, Jonathan Chang, Lawrence Ko

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(6-Good Film)

Intimate. Absorbing. Unique.

Yi Yi is a sprawling familial epic broken down into a long series of snapshots. The members of the Jian family are depicted: father NJ reunites with an old flame, mother Min-Min retreats after her own mother falls into a coma, teenage daughter Ting-Ting has a crush on her best friend’s boyfriend, and adolescent son, Yang-Yang, deals with bullying at school, while trying to understand the world through pictures. It’s not what I would call fascinating, and yet, eventually, it does absorb, and linger. Edward Yang’s style is difficult, forcing me to be patient, to work to understand the story and its characters. Ultimately, Yi Yi is worth it, and I expect, understanding more, to get more out of it upon second viewing, somewhere down the road.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Late Autumn (1960, Directed by Yasujirō Ozu) Japanese 5

Starring Setsuko Hara, Yoko Tsukasa, Mariko Okada, Keiji Sada, Shin Saburi, Miyuki Kuwano

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(5-Okay Film)

Bright. Vibrant. Dull.

One of lauded Japanese director Ozu’s color films, Late Autumn chronicles three male friends still carrying a torch for their college crush, Akiko (Hara), now widowed. Unable to pursue a relationship with her, they turn their attention to helping her beautiful daughter find a husband. It’s a lovely story with gorgeous imagery full of warm, loving characters. To this point, however, of what I’ve seen, I haven’t responded to any of Ozu’s films. I haven’t swayed for a second in either direction away from cold neutral. His style keeps me at a distance, and eventually makes for dull proceedings. I’ll continue watching some of his essentials, and maybe something will click.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-



Through a Glass Darkly (1961, Directed by Ingmar Bergman) Swedish 5

Starring Harriet Andersson, Max Von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Lars Passgård

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(5-Okay Film)

Leaden. Dreary. Garrulous.

One long, revealing day on a remote island unfolds for Karin (Andersson), suffering from schizophrenia, her father, David (Björnstrand), sexually frustrated brother, Minus (Passgård), and embattled husband, Martin (Von Sydow). Dense with themes of God’s existence, incest, family turmoil, and mental illness, this chamber play grows bloated with symbolism and opaque dialogue. It’s a style many value, as Bergman is renowned, but I can’t stand it. The acting is strong, the visuals are striking, but I have no heart for Through a Glass Darkly, and it doesn’t appeal to me thematically.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


All About My Mother (1999, Directed by Pedro Almodóvar) Spanish 7

Starring Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Antonia San Juan, Penélope Cruz, Fernando Fernández Gómez

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(7-Very Good Film)

Humanist. Melodramatic. Sensitive.

Manuela (Roth), nurse and single mother, takes her son to a production of A Streetcar Named Desire for his 17th birthday. After the show, her son, seeking an autograph from star actress, Huma Rojo (Paredes),  gets hit by a car, killing him. She decides to search for the boy’s father whom he never met, and along the way meets and becomes a surrogate mother to Agrado (San Juan), a witty transgender prostitute, Sister Rosa (Cruz), a kind nun with HIV and a surprise pregnancy, and finally Huma, theater diva and personal wreck. What stands out, even among Almodóvar’s bawdy humor, is an unflinching compassion for all of his characters. It’s a loving dedication to women and mothers, and Manuela becomes a hero figure just by being there for the supporting characters and doing the little things for them. Also on display is the director’s colorful, expressive style and flair for melodrama. This film kicked off what I believe is his best period, making his best film just three years later in Talk to Her. All About My Mother is a very good film conspicuously indebted to several classics, but with a style that signifies its own director and makes it unique.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017, Hiromasa Yonebayashi) Japanese/English 5

Voices of Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, Ruby Barnhill, Lynda Baron, Ewen Bremner, Morwenna Banks

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(6-Okay Film)

Beautiful. Disappointing. Passable.

A perennially bored young girl with flowing red hair, Mary (Barnhill), stumbles upon a rare and valuable flower known as a “fly-by-night,” which gives magical ability to the one who finds it, though for a limited amount of time. Next thing she knows, Mary’s being whisked away to a school for the magically gifted, where she discovers a dangerous plot led by the school’s headmistress, Madame Mumblechook (Winslet) and a professor, Doctor Dee (Broadbent). The story is unfulfilling, relying to heavily on the astonishing animation. As brilliant as that aspect of the film is, it serves what could possibly have been a short story stretched out to feature length.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-