My View: Spelling the Dream (2020) An Indian-American has won the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the past 12 years. This documentary explores this trend, which is one of the longest in sports history, highlighting four students as they compete to win the tournament. You are going to fall in love with these kids, and how can you not. They are funny, sometimes a little quirky, and unbelievably smart. All the kids profiled have incredibly supportive families, where not just the parents help the kids study. Still, the whole family becomes involved with the preparation and work to get ready for this incredible feat. What I came away from this film is not only how wonderful these families are but how much the kids participating enjoy the challenge and some, the spotlight. Spelling the Dream is a feel-good film that is helped by interviews with comedian Hari Kondabolu and CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Enjoy getting to know the kids and get ready to be on the edge of your seat, rooting for them when they start spelling words that you have never heard of. My Rating: Full Price Spelling the Dream Website The film is currently available on Netflix.
Indiefest: Tommaso (2019) An American, Tommaso (Willem Dafoe), living in Rome with his young European wife, Nikki (Cristina Chiriac), and their daughter, is preparing for his next film. Tommaso is haunted by his past mistakes, so much so that he begins to question his life and his sanity. I am a huge Willem Dafoe fan, and even in films that I don’t like (The Lighthouse), I always find his performances fascinating. Dafoe doesn’t disappoint as he is on screen the whole time, but I just wish I liked the film more. This is a film where a character is dealing with being sober for the past six years and has a young wife and daughter. Add to the pressure of planning/writing a movie and teaching, Dafoe’s character is being stretched thin, and he begins to experience things that are not part of reality. Tommaso is a film that you never know what you see is happening, or is it just a figment of his imagination, like drinking coffee in his regular hangout, but this time, the barista is naked. I never entirely connected with the movie or with Tommaso, who, for most of the film, isn’t a likable person, someone who can only see his point of view. It’s one of those films that after you see it, you feel exhausted both mentally and physically. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Tommaso Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Shirley (2020) R Shirley (Elisabeth Moss) is a world-famous horror writer who is as well known for her writing as for her gloom and doom nature. Her writing of a new project is disturbed by the arrival of newlyweds Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young). This is a visit that the young couple will never forget. Moss is brilliant as the moody and troubled Shirley, a talented writer whose world revolves around her writing and her husband, played by the bombastic Michael Stuhlbarg, who, at first glance, loves her, but their relationship is far more complicated than we could first imagine. Moss dominates the screen in every scene she is in, though I was also impressed by how Odessa Young, as the headstrong but very young newlywed, holds her own on the screen with Moss. The film is complex, and we slowly, along with Rose, learn that Shirley isn’t the monster that she seems to be at first. The film has a bit of a mystery in it, as a young woman from campus has gone missing, and Shirley starts to write a novel based on what could be behind her disappearance. We never solve the mystery of the missing woman, nor do we ever fully understand the enigma of Shirley, but it’s a captivating and compelling ride nonetheless. My Rating: Full Price Shirley Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: And We Go Green (2019) Documentary on the International Formula E circuit, the world’s fastest-growing Motorsport. The film follows the professional drivers on the circuit as they race for victory across ten major cities. I really enjoyed this film about a sport I knew very little about. The race cars look like formula one cars but are powered by electric motors. The film does a great job of showing us that the handling of the vehicles is very different from any other race car, without a combustible engine to listen to and a braking system that, just like your hybrid cars, uses those brakes to replenish the batteries. The film follows a group of drivers, giving us up close and personal insights to the drivers and their pasts. The racing is fast and furious, with great in-car shots and audio that gives you insight on just how challenging the races are. As I said, I didn't know much about this sport before, but I’m a fan now. My Rating: Full Price And We Go Green Website The film is currently available on Hulu.
Forgotten Film: Stop Making Sense (1984) One of the greatest rock concert documentaries ever! If you can’t have fun watching this film with The Talking Heads rock group giving one of the great performances of all time, then I don’t have any hope for you. The music is magical, David Byrne is mesmerizing as the lead vocalist, and the band is as tight as they come. This is one of those concert films that is so good, you don’t miss not seeing the performance live. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Stop Making Sense Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Shirley: Historical Magick Consultant
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Babyteeth (2019) A seriously ill teenager named Milla (Eliza Scanlen) falls for a parents worst nightmare, a small-time drug dealer, Moses (Toby Wallace). Milla’s new love gives her the freedom to find things to be joyous about and to take chances on life. I look forward to this film that cleaned up awards on the international film festival circuit. Babyteeth Website
Until Next Time!
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