Flick Picks 4/29/2016: The Revenant, The Lady in the Van, Son of Saul

Of course, we love film here at Flick Picks.  But the Academy Awards - not so much.  Sure, it's interesting to see what everyone's wearing and all that.  But when it comes to the supposed recognition of the year's best in film...it might be better left to group of senile hamsters.  Actually, that may not be far from reality.  And yet, and yet...the Academy got things tolerably right this year.  Hard to quarrel with the Best Picture Oscar going to Tom McCarthy's Spotlight.  

Recent DVD releases  are highlighted by a couple of other winners at this year's Academy Awards, The Revenant and Son of Saul.   


Feature Films



And we complain if we have to scrape some ice off the windshield. Leonardo DiCaprio faces just a bit more wintry adversity in Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's The Revenant.  At least loosely based on the travails of frontiersman Hugh Glass in 1823, the Revenant is an odyssey of survival and revenge.  DiCaprio plays a trapper mauled by a grizzly and left for dead who struggles to regain his strength and track down the man on whom he hopes to  mete revenge.  DiCaprio collected his first Best Actor Oscar for his bravura performance and director Innaritu won for the second straight year in the Best Director category.  Perhaps the real star of the film is cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, another deserving winner of one of those gold statuettes.  We have The Revenant in regular and Blu-ray DVD.



What would you do if a homeless woman parked her van in your driveway and didn't leave for 15 years?  If you're English playwright, Alan Bennett (to whom this actually happened), you'd write a play about it.  The inimitable Maggie Smith stars as the thorn in the playwright's side in this film adaptation, which is poignant and funny by turns.    

Whit Stillman is one of those directors who seems to be a genre unto himself.  Stillman's second film, Barcelona has received the Criterion Collection treatment and we now have the deluxe DVD version of this comedy of manners, based somewhat on the director's experience in the city in the early 1980's.  



Foreign Film


A rightful winner of Best Foreign Language feature at this year's Academy Awards, Son of Saul is yet another of those stories you haven't quite seen before, much as tales about World War II and the Holocaust are perpetually told.  Geza Rohrig stars as Saul, a Sonderkommando, a member of a work unit at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.  What's particularly unusual about the debut feature of Hungarian director Lazlo Nemes, which won the Grand Prix award at this year's Cannes Film Festival, is the intense point of view, as the camera rarely strays from Saul, whether looking over his shoulder or fixed on the face of the stunned man.  Much as a feature film can do so, we are given a sense of the impossible work and choices of the Sonderkommandos.  Son of Saul is a striking piece of work.    





Nerd alert!  Season two of this critically-acclaimed HBO series has arrived.  Will our young software engineers find success in Silicon Valley?  If so, will they get better haircuts?  Watch and find out.    


Fans of Agatha Christie and whodunnits in general will recognize the title of this miniseries first broadcast on the BBC last December.  There might be several deviations from Christie's source novel, but the production received excellent marks from critics.  The strong cast is headed by Lindsay Duncan, Charles Dance, Sam Neill and Anna Maxwell Martin.  







Documentarian Robert Drew, whom some consider the father of cinema verite, was given unprecedented access to John F. Kennedy, from his presidential campaign through his years in the White House.  The "Kennedy Films" include short films from the 1960 Wisconsin Primary to the poetic "Faces of November," shot in the days after Kennedy's assassination.  We have The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates in a new Criterion Collection edition.    


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