The Imposter (2012)

How does a foreign man suddenly end up a U.S. citizen, welcomed into the family of a long- missing child? While it’s impossible to fully understand the grief of those keeping vigil by the window, waiting for a phone call that may never come, it is curious that every expert agrees there are many loose ends. Is it merely that hindsight is 20/20 (as the old saying goes) or is there a more sinister explanation? Though the testimony of an identity thief certainly isn’t everything, it seems to corroborate the suspicion of at least one specialist…

Masterfully crafted, the details of this publicly documented incident are recounted chronologically by a rotation of several family members, some government employees, a smattering of friends/ neighbors and one relentless private investigator. During the lengthier portions of each person’s story, voiceover serves as narration for actors’ portrayals of the events being described. By the end of the film you have about as much information as everyone involved to decide for yourself what you think happened.

Nebraska (2013)

Family is complicated, as is small town interpersonal politics. The addition of fame and a potential fortune amplifies tensions that crescendo towards a battle for personal pride. When a hapless salesman realizes his boozy old father plans to travel cross- country to claim a non-existent prize based on a misunderstanding, it’s becomes clear he’s just […]

11:55 (2016)

A decorated Marine, who comes home to the barrio is confronted by a regrettable decision from his past that threatens his plans for a brighter future. With each agonizing minute that passes, an act of vengeance inches closer, unless he can diffuse a showdown before the train arrives. To bother with the nuances of similar […]

Cool Runnings (1993)

I remember seeing this sweet and funny Jamaican bobsled team’s journey to the Olympics when it first came out. Everyone in the theater clapped at the end! When I rewatched it with a member of a much younger generation, it still held the same charm that evoked a swell of emotion capable of warming an […]

Only the Brave (2017)

Second to 9/11, the Yarnell Hill fires took the lives of the most firefighters at once. And to think I repeatedly gravitated towards this film then rejected it! I wrongly– but understandably– assumed it would either be a scrappy little high-fiver or a tribute to testosterone. Was I wrong! Not that Twister isn’t inspiring… I […]

Persepolis (2007)

I’m so glad the author of the autobiographical comic– the basis of this movie– was involved in making this version of her story. An Iranian expat, who came- of- age during the Islamic Revolution/ reign of the Shah describes her historical experiences– personal, cultural and political– in black and white. The bold stylistic choice serves […]

Pieces of April (2003)

This sleeper’s off-beat characteristics– most notably its low budget– allow it to highlight the strained relationships between abrasive characters. April’s oven breaks while trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner for her estranged family, which she is hosting in her tiny city apartment. That the footage itself was shot in a rush serves to reinforce the plot’s […]

I am Elizabeth Smart (2017)

Intermittent narration by none other than the titular now-public figure herself both reminds us this is a real live person and assures us of her survival. Her story in her own words is empowering without reducing it to a sensationalized “ripped from the headlines” dramatization. After so much time in forced isolation Ms. Smart is voluntarily coming forward and speaking out. We owe it to her to listen.

Houseguest (1995)

It’s a beautiful thing to watch someone in their element, i.e. the shared enjoyment—even between strangers—of someone’s creativity channeled into a well-crafted project. The most complex humor seems effortless, which it may be in that moment, but is resultant of much practice. If a plot is strong enough to withstand a few deviations from its script, an actor with true improv ability will elevate the believability of his character by using natural true-to-life spontaneity to generate chemistry with his costars. This quick-on-their-feet cast collectively sets the essential stage that allows its lead to shine in this hilarious case of mistaken identity.