Aspen Academy Screenings series: the hyped and the hopeful |

Aspen Academy Screenings series: the hyped and the hopeful

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Oscilloscope PicturesMichelle Williams stars in Wendy and Lucy, showing Tuesday as part of Aspen Films Academy Screenings program.

ASPEN Among this weeks offerings in Aspen Films Academy Screenings series at Harris Hall Everlasting Moments Friday at 5:15 p.m.Its rough all around for the working-class of early 20th-century Sweden, with poverty, social upheaval and the threat of war swirling in the frigid air. Making matters worse for Maria is her oafish husband Siggi, whose promises to stop drinking are as quickly uttered as broken. Maria finds her strength and worth in a camera, won years ago in a lottery and only recently pulled out of a closet. Director Jan Troells film, up for a Golden Globe for best foreign film, gets most of its affecting bittersweetness from the performance of Maria Heiskanen, as Maria. But the films sepia-toned look is also a noteworthy achievement: You would expect no less from a film that champions the visual image as a savior, a means for savoring lifes sweet episodes. Ive Loved You So Long Sunday at 5:30 p.m.The mystery behind Juliette Fontaine unfolds slowly in French filmmaker Philippe Claudels quietly simmering drama. Juliette has just gotten out of jail. Juliette had been a doctor. Juliette was jailed for murder. Of a loved one. But the unraveling mystery is only a byproduct in Ive Loved You So Long, which has been nominated for a Golden Globe for best foreign film. Mostly, we find Juliette played with an intense heaviness and internal energy by Kristin Scott Thomas, who is up for a Golden Globe of her own negotiating the landscape of forgiveness. Released from prison, she has moved into her sisters house, where she encounters outright hostility from her brother-in-law, easy acceptance from her nieces, and a tense mixture of warmth and puzzlement from her sister, as they revisit past mistakes and attempt to move into the future. Waltz with Bashir Sunday at 8:15 p.m.The Israeli film Waltz with Bashir is undeniably ambitious, complex and powerful. Ari Folmans drama employs a captivating animation technique, overlapping time sequences, and a combination of internal and external dialogue to explore the emotional residue of a former soldiers participation in the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Lebanon. But the emphasis on the dream world, the fluidity of memory, and especially psychology, gives the film the feel of more whimsical works like The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the current Synecdoche, N.Y. impressive and challenging, but also overwhelming, muddled and less than satisfying. Wendy and Lucy Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.Director Kelly Reichardt made a virtue of simplicity in 2006s Old Joy, a film with no plot, no action, no character development that still managed to earn some awards and overall positive reviews. With Wendy and Lucy, Reichardt proves that she can add a story and acting to her minimalist template, and make an even better film. Make that one of the best, and most unique films of the year. The plot is bare-bones: A young woman, Wendy Michelle Williams, in an unforgettable performance is on route to Alaska and gets stuck in an Oregon town with virtually nothing. No money, no contacts. And then she loses the one thing that meant anything to her her mutt, Lucy. The emotional tone is equally stripped-down, as Reichardt explores different levels of heartbreak. The final scene is the essence of sadness, but between Reichardts direction and Williams acting, the amount of empathy that has been built up for Wendy is remarkable. Gomorrah Tuesday at 8 p.m.Italian director Matteo Garrone aimed to make a different sort of Mafia film, and he achieved it with Gomorrah. Throw away the chess-match tactics of The Godfather, the epic clawing from the bottom to the top in Scarface, the morality tale of Goodfellas. Here we are presented with the utter societal chaos that the Camorra syndicate has wreaked upon the communities of Naples and Casserta in contemporary Italy. Based on Roberto Savianos controversial book, Gomorrah doesnt so much tell a story as offer an exaggerated take on life in the Mafia-run towns. The characters are young and old, sharp and ignorant, ambitious and reluctant and they all have guns, a hunger for money, and no way out of the life thrust upon them. Last Chance Harvey Thursday at 5:30 p.m.This film of two lonely, struggling people landing in a late-in-life romance is largely predictable and occasionally melodramatic. You wouldnt want to tell this story with anything other than top-tier actors, at the top of their game, exhibiting ideal chemistry. Fortunately, British director Joel Hopkins landed Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, who make this old-fashioned romance not only watchable, but likable. Hoffmans Harvey Shine is a bumbling New Yor jingle writer, in London for his estranged daughters wedding. In Thompsons Kate Walker, who seems to have accepted loneliness as her fate, Harvey sees one last shot at picking himself up. Che, Part 1: The Argentine Thursday at 8 p.m; Che, Part 2: Guerrilla Friday, Jan. 2, at 5:15 p.m.Steven Soderberghs two-part epic of the Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara fails to tell a coherent history, fails to entertain, fails to inspire, and, perhaps in its biggest failing, fails to penetrate the skin of a presumably intriguing character. But if you want to understand the level of discomfort and boredom faced by revolutionary fighters in Cuba and Bolivia which are indistinguishable here here is four and a half hours of it. Give it credit for avoiding entirely the standard biopic format and also for confirming why that format exists, and is so often resorted to. Also showing this week in the Academy Screenings series: Milk, Revolutionary Road, Defiance, The Class, Gran Torino, Frost/Nixon, Doubt and The Reader. For a full schedule, go to

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