Film Reviews by Joanne Laurier
By Joanne Laurier, 30 March 2018
Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo, endures as one of the most troubling American films of the postwar period.
By Joanne Laurier, 17 March 2018
Woody Allen’s newest film, Wonder Wheel, set in the 1950s, involves four characters whose unhappy lives become entwined in Coney Island—New York’s iconic amusement park.
By Joanne Laurier, 17 January 2018
The new film recounts the internal struggle at the Washington Post over whether or not to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
By Joanne Laurier, 5 January 2018
Probably the most important thing about Ridley Scott’s new film, an account of the 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, is the decision to erase Spacey’s performance. The Shape of Water is a charming “fairy tale,” with anti-authoritarian overtones.
Short films considered for Academy Award nominations: Emmett Till, a Jack London story and an isolated child
By Joanne Laurier, 3 January 2018
Ten films have been voted onto the Academy Award short list in the “Best Short Film (Live Action)” category.
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 30 December 2017
It is impossible to discuss the best films of the year without considering some big social and cultural issues.
By Joanne Laurier, 23 December 2017
Payne’s latest work is a science-fiction satire that proposes to solve the earth’s ecological and other problems by “downsizing,” or physically shrinking, human beings.
… and a word on James Franco’s The Disaster Artist
By Joanne Laurier, 15 December 2017
Dee Rees’s Mudbound centers on two families, one black and one white, in rural Mississippi, immediately following World War II.The Disaster Artist is a decidedly slight effort.
By Joanne Laurier, 8 December 2017
Directed by Bharat Nalluri, the film is a biographical fantasy that brings a reinvention of A Christmas Carol (1843), with Dickens as a central character, to the screen.
“And what if you track down these men and kill them? ... Even Nazis can’t kill that fast”
By Joanne Laurier, 22 November 2017
Michael Curtiz’s 1942 beloved melodrama, Casablanca, celebrating its 75th anniversary, was recently shown in select cinemas nationwide in the US.
By Joanne Laurier, 9 November 2017
Jason Hall’s directorial debut, Thank You for Your Service, is a drama about three soldiers returning from the Iraq War and their difficulties adjusting to civilian life.
Lifetime movie on the water disaster will air October 28
By Joanne Laurier, 27 October 2017
The film, directed by Bruce Beresford, was inspired by the ongoing Flint water crisis and bases itself more immediately on a February 2016 Time magazine report, “The Poisoning of an American City.”
Toronto International Film Festival: Part 6
A Season in France, Catch the Wind, Arrhythmia, Sweet Country: The refugee crisis, social disintegration in Russia…
By Joanne Laurier, 11 October 2017
The never-ending wars in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa have driven millions to seek what they perceive to be more stable conditions in Western Europe.
By Joanne Laurier, 7 August 2017
Set in the early 1990s, Amnesia is an exploration of German historical memory and the impact of the legacy of Nazism on sections of the middle class after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
By Joanne Laurier, 28 July 2017
Bigelow’s film is a fictionalized account of an incident that occurred during the July 1967 rebellion in Detroit, the cold-blooded murder of three young black men by police at the Algiers Motel.
By Joanne Laurier, 12 July 2017
Directed by Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids) and featuring Salma Hayek and John Lithgow, the new film promotes a New Age-type opposition to a Trump-like figure.
By Joanne Laurier, 24 May 2017
The first season of the new Netflix 10-part series, Dear White People, an expansion of Justin Simien’s 2014 movie, concerns a group of black students at a fictional, predominantly white, Ivy League college.
San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 4
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 6 May 2017
A highlight of the recent San Francisco film festival was the screening of Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov’s masterpiece, The Man with a Movie Camera (1929), at the historic Castro Theatre.
By Joanne Laurier, 5 May 2017
Sonia Kennebeck’s disturbing documentary, National Bird, can be viewed until May 16 on PBS’s “Independent Lens” web site.
San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 2
By Joanne Laurier, 29 April 2017
The film focuses on a young Palestinian boy from Gaza, whose arms and legs have been amputated and who remains in limbo in an Israeli hospital.
By Joanne Laurier, 5 April 2017
The Zookeeper’s Wife recounts the true story of the rescue of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi invasion of Poland that began in 1939.
Lyrical and left-wing film
By Joanne Laurier, 29 March 2017
A viewing of Nicholas Ray’s iconic 1948 film They Live by Night is a refreshing antidote to the current trivia, social indifference and identity politics.
By Joanne Laurier and David Walsh, 17 March 2017
British filmmaker Margy Kinmonth is out of her depth in her documentary about Russian avant-garde art.
By Joanne Laurier, 23 February 2017
Set in ancient China, Zhang Yimou’s new work is a visually arresting, large-scale action film undermined by its general cartoonishness.
By Joanne Laurier, 16 February 2017
Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film, Julieta, is a family melodrama that seeks to explore themes of guilt, alienation and absence, but with very limited results.
By Joanne Laurier, 1 February 2017
Set in the 1980s, Gold is a fictionalized account of a notorious mining fraud. 20th Century Women is a trite “coming of age” piece located in 1979 California.
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 31 December 2016
Although technologies have sped up and made possible many things, they cannot by themselves overcome the gap between reality and its artistic assimilation and representation.
By Joanne Laurier, 10 December 2016
Kenneth Lonergan’s film is a humane examination of the suffering of an ordinary man, whose terrible personal tragedy has emotionally crippled him.
By Joanne Laurier, 17 November 2016
Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge is about the first and only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor in World War II. Arrival is a feeble science fiction parable from Denis Villeneuve.
By Joanne Laurier, 5 November 2016
Jeff Nichols’ film is a fictional recreation of the landmark case in Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s, which ultimately led to the striking down of state laws banning interracial marriage in the US.
By Joanne Laurier, 22 October 2016
A fictional account of American academic and author Deborah Lipstadt’s legal battle with British Holocaust denier David Irving in 2000 in London.
By Joanne Laurier, 15 October 2016
In The Dressmaker, the art of beautifying the human body is the weapon of choice to vanquish intolerance and ignorance. The Girl on the Train is a murder mystery centered around a New York City suburb.
By Joanne Laurier, 28 September 2016
Eastwood directs a fictional version of the January 2009 incident in which pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed a commuter jet in the Hudson River, saving the lives of 155 passengers and crew.
By Joanne Laurier and David Walsh, 20 September 2016
Veteran American filmmaker Oliver Stone has made a movie about National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.
By Joanne Laurier, 2 September 2016
The new movie, Indignation, is a relatively faithful adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2008 novel, which examines war, religion and repression in post-war America.
By Joanne Laurier, 12 August 2016
The film, set in the 1930s, takes its title from legendary clubs in Manhattan that welcomed black and white artists and performers. Unfortunately, the film is the opposite of everything those clubs stood for.
By Joanne Laurier, 30 July 2016
Writer-director Matt Ross’s film is a semi-anarchistic tale about a family’s “off-the-grid” existence in the Pacific Northwest.
Alf Sjöberg’s Miss Julie (1951) and G. W. Pabst’s The Threepenny Opera (1931): Films worth noting … and seeing
By Joanne Laurier, 23 June 2016
Swedish filmmaker Alf Sjöberg’s Miss Julie is based on the play by August Strindberg. Austrian filmmaker G.W. Pabst’s film The Threepenny Opera is an intricate movie version of the legendary Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill work.
By Joanne Laurier, 8 June 2016
In England in 1790, Lady Susan Vernon, widowed and penniless, schemes to reverse her fortunes.
San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 4
By Joanne Laurier, 20 May 2016
Some not very good new films—and better old ones.
By Joanne Laurier, 18 May 2016
Money Monster is the latest film to depict the consequences of the 2008 financial crash and the criminal manipulations of the financial elite.
San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 2
By Joanne Laurier, 13 May 2016
In a number of the films screened at the festival, their creators were evidently overwhelmed by the disintegrating social structures in some of the most impoverished parts of the world.
By Joanne Laurier, 6 May 2016
Two ostensible comedies, Elvis & Nixon and A Hologram for the King, drain their stories of their most important social and historical content.
By Joanne Laurier, 15 April 2016
Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special is a disturbing science fiction thriller that conveys deep anxiety about the state of the world.
By Joanne Laurier, 31 March 2016
Eye in the Sky is a political-military thriller in which British and American officials weigh the consequences of a drone strike in Nairobi, Kenya.
By Joanne Laurier, 25 March 2016
Two Auschwitz concentration camp survivors plot to kill the SS guard who murdered their families in Atom Egoyan’s latest film, Remember, a psychological drama.
By Joanne Laurier, 5 March 2016
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a semi-comic treatment of the tragic Afghan conflict; A War from Denmark is ostensibly a more serious effort. Desierto takes up the war against Mexican immigrants.
By Joanne Laurier, 9 February 2016
Hail Caesar!, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, is a comedy about Hollywood set in the early 1950s.
By Joanne Laurier, 29 January 2016
The documentary brings together opponents of the CIA drone program and includes interviews with two former US Air Force drone pilots.
Charlie Kaufman’s often charming, moving Anomalisa (and Michael Moore’s feeble Where to Invade Next)
By Joanne Laurier, 23 January 2016
Anomalisa is an adult animated film created with stop-motion puppetry centering around an angst-ridden, self-help author. Where to Invade Next is a non-comment on Washington’s never-ending wars.
By Joanne Laurier, 16 January 2016
The Revenant is a sensationalized account of the life of American fur trapper Hugh Glass, who famously survived a mauling by a bear. Youth is a banal meditation on aging.
By Joanne Laurier, 8 January 2016
The two films address significant subjects that could potentially shed light on society and its moral and psychological condition.
By Joanne Laurier, 31 December 2015
Adam McKay’s new film The Big Short is a hard-hitting comedy-drama about the 2008 financial meltdown.
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 31 December 2015
The most interesting films we saw in 2015, both those that played in a movie theater in the US and those not yet distributed.
By Joanne Laurier, 10 December 2015
Brooklyn focuses on a young Irish girl who emigrates to America in the early 1950s and struggles with homesickness and adjusting to an alien environment.
By Joanne Laurier, 3 December 2015
Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is a taut, quasi-political thriller that chronicles the Boston Globe’s 2002 exposure of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston area.
By Joanne Laurier, 14 November 2015
Denny Tedesco’s lively documentary is a heartfelt tribute to a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles, nicknamed the Wrecking Crew, who were behind some of the biggest hits of the 1960s.
By Joanne Laurier, 9 November 2015
Based on a documentary, the new David Gordon Green movie, Our Brand is Crisis, is a comedy-drama about the activities of American political operatives in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election.
By Joanne Laurier, 24 September 2015
Iranian-American writer-director Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, 2005; Chop Shop, 2007; Goodbye Solo, 2008) has created a compelling work that puts flesh and blood on the foreclosure epidemic.
By Joanne Laurier, 3 September 2015
Set in the immediate aftermath of World War II, a Jewish concentration camp survivor, Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss), is grossly disfigured and traumatized.
By Joanne Laurier, 12 August 2015
Asif Kapadia’s documentary is a straightforward and compelling account of the performer’s life starting at the age of fourteen.
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 28 July 2015
Turner Classic Movies, the US cable and satellite television network, presented Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) at selected theaters on July 19 and 20.
By Joanne Laurier, 10 July 2015
The Face of an Angel is a fictional treatment of the Amanda Knox murder trial. Danny Collins is the story of a rock star who changes his life after receiving a letter that John Lennon wrote him decades earlier.
By Joanne Laurier, 3 July 2015
The Wolfpack is a documentary about seven children who were locked away for many years in an apartment in a public housing project in Manhattan.
By Joanne Laurier, 19 June 2015
Two new, not-so-comic comedies: one preoccupied with the life of Hollywood celebrities and the other, with the intelligence apparatus. What fun.
By Joanne Laurier, 11 February 2015
Wild tells the true story of one woman’s 1,100-mile hike of self-discovery. Black or White recounts a custody battle between the white maternal grandfather and black paternal grandmother of a seven-year-old girl.
By Joanne Laurier, 29 January 2015
In a small Belgian factory, a woman fights to keep her job by trying to convince her workmates not to take a pay bonus.
By Joanne Laurier, 3 January 2015
Tim Burton’s new film Big Eyes tells the story of Margaret Keane, the American artist who created the “big-eye art” that became a mass marketing sensation in the 1960s.
By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 30 December 2014
Some interesting films opened in North America in 2014, a greater number than in many recent years. At the same time, sections of the film industry associated themselves more than ever with the American state.
By Joanne Laurier, 23 December 2014
Bennett Miller’s film is based on events that culminated in the shocking 1996 murder of an Olympic wrestling champion by the multimillionaire scion, John Eleuthère du Pont, of the American chemical dynasty.
By Joanne Laurier, 15 December 2014
As 2014 draws to a close, the WSWS will comment on a number of films that were released in North America and, in some cases, globally in the course of the past 12 months.
By Joanne Laurier, 4 December 2014
A young drummer at an elite music conservatory becomes the protégé of an abusive instructor who believes artistic genius is formed by sheer force of will.
By Joanne Laurier, 21 November 2014
Stewart, host of The Daily Show, has written and directed a film treating the Iranian government’s incarceration and torture of a London-based, Iranian-born journalist in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 presidential election.
By Joanne Laurier, 30 October 2014
Birdman deals with the washed-up star of a super-hero franchise. The Skeleton Twins portrays two siblings trying to overcome a painful psychological legacy. St. Vincent features a misanthropic Vietnam veteran who forms a life-changing attachment.
By Joanne Laurier, 17 October 2014
Michael Cuesta’s film tells the story of the journalist whose 1996 investigative series, “Dark Alliance,” uncovered ties between the Central Intelligence Agency and massive drug peddling by the right-wing Nicaraguan Contras.
Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 5
Director Ramin Bahrani: “The villain is the system”
By Joanne Laurier, 10 October 2014
99 Homes deals with the foreclosure and eviction crisis, Shelter with the homeless. Also screened was a documentary about a Mexican citizen 30 years on death row, The Years of Fierro.
By Joanne Laurier, 1 August 2014
The film deals with post-9/11 intrigues and conflicts between European and American spy agencies triggered by the illegal arrival in Germany of a suspicious young Chechen
By Joanne Laurier, 10 July 2014
The 40-minute documentary on the postwar American painter Robert De Niro, Sr. is a delicate and moving homage, in which his son, the actor Robert De Niro, figures prominently.
By Joanne Laurier, 23 June 2014
Entre Nos dramatizes the plight of a Colombian immigrant and her two children in New York City. Red Father, a documentary, recounts the life and career of Bernard Ades, a lawyer and longtime member of the Communist Party.
Million Dollar Arm and Words and Pictures: Two Australian directors in Hollywood, for better or worse
By Joanne Laurier, 13 June 2014
A sanitized version of how professional baseball made its entry into India, and a clichéd version of how writing and painting complement one another.
By Joanne Laurier, 30 May 2014
Amma Asante’s film recounts the remarkable 18th century story of Dido Belle, a mixed-race girl who ends up in the care of William Murray, England’s lord chief justice. James Gray’s The Immigrant is set in New York in 1921.
By Joanne Laurier, 15 April 2014
This is the latest film installment featuring Marvel Comics’ character Captain America, one of the most prominent and patriotic superheroes introduced in American comic books in the World War II era.
By Joanne Laurier, 3 April 2014
Actor-director Jason Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a petulant, miserable 40-year-old who breaks into the spelling bee circuit by taking advantage of a loophole in the rules.
By Joanne Laurier, 25 March 2014
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a stylish, fantastical film, sometimes comic and sometimes tragic in its re-imagining of the period between the two world wars and the emergence of fascistic forces in Europe.
By Joanne Laurier, 8 March 2014
The intriguing documentary centers on the attempt by Texas inventor Tim Jenison to explore the possibility that painter Johannes Vermeer used optical devices to help achieve his intricate interweaving of light, color and proportion.
By Joanne Laurier, 21 February 2014
The second season of House of Cards, the series produced by Netflix, reveals more of the exploits of Frank Underwood, Democratic Party vice president and chief conspirator.
By Joanne Laurier, 11 February 2014
George Clooney’s new film is the story of a squad of art experts serving in the US and Allied military who, toward the end of World War II, attempt to rescue art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis.
By Joanne Laurier, 31 January 2014
The Invisible Woman, directed by Ralph Fiennes, sets out to treat the relationship between 45-year-old novelist Charles Dickens, then at the height of his fame in the late 1850s, and his 18-year-old mistress Ellen Ternan.
By Joanne Laurier, 6 January 2014
David O. Russell’s new movie is loosely based on the “Abscam” sting operation conducted by the FBI in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which led to the conviction of one US senator, six members of the House of Representatives and the mayor of Camden, New Jersey.
By Joanne Laurier, 16 December 2013
Brian Percival’s movie deals in part with the horrors of the Kristallnacht period and is an effective reminder of the impact of Nazi atrocities on everyday life.
By Joanne Laurier, 6 December 2013
The comedy-drama, shot in striking black-and-white, centers on Woody Grant of Billings, Montana, who is determined to get to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim one million dollars in a sweepstakes prize.
By Joanne Laurier, 23 August 2013
Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a fiction film based on the life of Eugene Allen, an African American who worked in the White House for 34 years, from the administration of President Harry Truman to that of Ronald Reagan.
By Joanne Laurier, 16 August 2013
Woody Allen has directed more than 40 films in the past 44 years, not to much purpose in recent years. The Way Way Back is a likable, but overly familiar take on growing up.
By Joanne Laurier, 24 July 2013
What is the significance of director Ron Maxwell, who made the generally laudable Gettysburg two decades ago, coming out with a favorable treatment of Lincoln’s Northern opponents in the year of the battle’s sesquicentennial?
By Joanne Laurier, 11 July 2013
The documentary film, directed by Richard Rowley, follows reporter Jeremy Scahill into the covert, murderous world of American Special Forces as the latter prosecute the US government’s so-called war on terror.
By Joanne Laurier, 14 June 2013
Frances Ha and Stories We Tell are articulate and well-made films. What’s missing from them, however, is as interesting as what’s there.
By Joanne Laurier, 1 June 2013
The much anticipated new season of Arrested Development was released last week. Steven Soderbergh’s biography of Liberace also aired on HBO. Christopher Guest’s Family Tree is a new and promising series.
San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part four
By Joanne Laurier, 27 May 2013
Moussa Touré’s The Pirogue is a fictional account of West Africans seeking to escape grinding poverty in a desperate voyage. Also, Joanne Laurier comments on documentaries about the Beatles’ secretary and the Chinese art scene.
San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part one
By Joanne Laurier, 16 May 2013
The 56th San Francisco International Film Festival recently concluded. The event this year screened 158 films from 51 countries, including 67 fiction features, 28 documentary features and 63 short films.
By Joanne Laurier, 12 April 2013
No by Chilean director Pablo Larraín is the last in a trilogy of films about life under the Pinochet dictatorship. The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair, centers on an all-Aboriginal female singing group in the late 1960s.