Recently, after I made a passing reference to Nina Simone in my writing, I learned that I am old. Most Millennials and younger folks, I was told, have no clue who this person is.
Perhaps that has changed in the past week. The trailer for the forthcoming Nina biopic —starring Zoe Saldana with dark makeup and a prosthetic nose — is now making the internet rounds, drawing strong reactions on Twitter and elsewhere.
It was that flap that made me realize it was time to correct my own ignorance about Simone. Fact is, almost all I knew about her came from references in movies. For me, Simone was the chain-smoking diva Julie Delpy imitates at the end of Before Sunset, or the source of the song that Gugu Mbatha-Raw performs unforgettably in Beyond the Lights.
This week in movies you missed: This year, two arty lesbian romances garnered boatloads of critical acclaim. One of those movies you'll see at the Oscars — that's Carol. This is the other.
What You Missed
Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is an entomologist who studies butterflies and moths all day in an immense, ravishingly elegant villa. Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna) is her maid — or so it appears at first. Then Cynthia "punishes" Evelyn for not hand-washing a pair of her undies properly, and it's clear something else is going on here.
As we watch, the women's relationship becomes more and more complicated. Cynthia is the dominant in their carefully scripted erotic play, but she doesn't always seem happy with that role. Evelyn is meek and submissive — or is she?
Cate Blanchett looks like she has a Christmas present for Rooney Mara in Carol.
'Tis the time of year when movie critics receive piles of screeners — films that may or may not have played at your local theater (in Vermont, generally not), but that studios and distributors want to push for year-end awards.
This year, the studios are doing something new, presumably to discourage piracy: requiring a signature for those packages. Let's just say I've become well acquainted with my UPS guy.
So I thought I'd write up five films you can't (yet) see in local theaters — movies to look forward to at the multiplex or art house, or to seek out on DVD or your favorite streaming service.
Jake Gyllenhaal stalks the other Jake Gyllenhaal's love interest.
This week in movies you missed: Last weekend, I shuddered my way through the tense thriller Sicario (review here). Two years ago, I was a fan of Prisoners, by the same director from Québec — Denis Villeneuve.
Between those two movies, Villeneuve made a very Canadian art film called Enemy, shot in Toronto and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. I watched it for free via Amazon Prime (where it's also available for rental), wondering how different it would be from The Double, another art film on a similar theme that hit the U.S. around the same time. (It was the subject of a previous Movies You Missed.) For extra confusion, Enemy is loosely based on José Saramago's novel The Double, the other movie on Dostoyevsky's classic of the same name.
And, of course, Enemy poses the question: Are two Jakes better than one?
Duplass as Josef playing "Peach Fuzz." There's a song that goes with this dance, I'm afraid.
This week in movies you missed: It's the dog days, so let's watch a found-footage horror movie!
This ultra-cheap Blumhouse production has something of a pedigree; it won the Audience Award at last spring's SXSW. Director-cowriter-star Patrick Brice also snagged a Grand Jury Prize nomination at Sundance 2015 for his drama The Overnight — another movie we missed in local theaters.
Finally, Creep stars Mark Duplass, whom my colleague Ethan de Seife recently described as "an irritating actor (and worse director) whom I simply cannot abide." While my own feelings on Duplass are considerably more moderate, I found myself wondering if Creep had been designed specifically for those of Ethan's persuasion. Because Duplass plays the "creep" in question here.
At the Center for Advanced Health and Living, Ehle and Urbaniak seek a solution to their spokesmodel problem.
This week in movies you missed: Visit a dark near-future where a single mom is so desperate to provide for her daughter that she agrees to the ultimate devil's bargain.
This indie film from Jennifer Phang (Half-Life) is an arty variation on the plot of John Frankenheimer's Seconds — which already received a more pedestrian homage this summer in the form of the Ryan Reynolds flop Self/less. Is this one any better?
Mbatha-Raw and Parker play a pop star and a cop in love.
This week in movies you missed: I could describe Beyond the Lights as the second film that made 2014 the Year of Slightly Increased Visibility of Black Female Directors (along with Ava DuVernay's Selma). Or I could just describe it as a surprisingly powerful little film that makes perfect summer viewing for anyone with even the slightest tolerance for romance scored to an r&b beat.
Either way, this show-biz drama from writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood deserves to be less obscure than it is — at least in Vermont, where it didn't play theatrically.
Schoenaerts as Jacky, not exactly your average cattle farmer.
NOTE: From now on, Movies You Missed will appear every first Friday of the month here on Live Culture.
This month in movies you missed: When I saw Far From the Madding Crowd (currently playing at the Roxy and Savoy), I may have stared a little too hard at Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays Gabriel Oak. He was built like an oak, and those smoldering eyes … ahem. Anyway, I came away convinced that the Belgian actor could be a big American star if people ever managed to spell his name correctly.
And I checked out his streamable filmography, because thinking an actor or actress is hot is a totally legit reason to see a movie, right? That filmography is classy: Schoenaerts starred in the 2012 Palme d'or nominee Rust and Bone (aka "that movie where Marion Cotillard has no legs") and the 2011 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee Bullhead. The latter is on Netflix, so I gave it a spin.
Taken out of context, yes, this looks a bit like an outtake from Airplane!
This week in movies you missed: If you've been following coverage of the Germanwings tragedy, you've read a lot about cockpit voice recorders in the past week. By coincidence, Netflix Instant recently added this movie — a filmed theater piece that is, in essence, a series of re-enacted air disasters from the pilots' point of view.
Motivated by morbid curiosity, or perhaps by healthy curiosity about how people operate in crisis situations, or perhaps just by my lack of plans to fly any time soon, I gave Charlie Victor Romeo a watch.
What You Missed
The New York arts nonprofit Collective:Unconscious premiered Charlie Victor Romeo on stage in 1999. It's a bare-bones work in six parts, each depicting a real air disaster using only dialogue taken from transcripts of cockpit voice recorder data (hence the title: CVR) and minimally edited for clarity.
Murray, Alexander and Browning play a musical threesome.
This week in movies you missed: Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch creates a candy-colored, gorgeous-sounding musical drama that is high on angst and whimsy and low on plot.
What You Missed
Eve (Emily Browning) is a twentysomething compulsive songwriter undergoing treatment for anorexia at a mental hospital near Glasgow. On an illicit outing to a club in the city, she meets guitarist James (Olly Alexander), who's frustrated by the tendency of pop drummers to drown out his delicate vocals.