(March 11, 2011) KCUR Arts Reporter Steve Walker shares his top movie pick of the week.
White Material - One of France's best directors, Claire Denis, and actress Isabelle Huppert, the French Meryl Streep, team up for this melodramatic yet powerful story about a stubborn woman trying to maintain her coffee plantation in a war-torn African country. The fact that she's white in a mostly black community bothers some of the residents a great deal while others find it inconsequential. What's for certain is that the country is fraying at a dangerous pace, and Huppert's character is determined - probably stupidly - to stay. The great thing about Huppert is that she's never vain nor afraid to be wholly unlikeable. Either way, she's always wonderful. (Tivoli)-Walker
Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animation and Live Action
Of the 10 films in this package (each one with separate admission), 9 of them make an impact. Among the live-action shorts, "The Confession" is only 26 minutes long but could easily withstand another hour, which would elongate and build-up its creepiness. It's about a Catholic kid in England about to embark on his first priestly confession; though he has nothing at first to confess, a half-hour later he's got 4 deaths on his conscience. All of the animated shorts are good but one is excellent. Bastien Dubois' 11-minute "Madagscar, A Journey Diary" plops the filmmaker down in a foreign land and his take on it is a gorgeous melange of different animation styles, from water-color on notebook paper to stop-motion using little toys. It's a brilliant feast for the eyes. - Walker Somewhere
Sofia Coppola's lovely new film is, like her "Lost in Translation," set in and around a hotel - here, Los Angeles' notorious Chateau Marmont. Stephen Dorff plays an action movie star who's a lost soul, idling away his free time with drugs, booze, and exotic dancers. His life takes a turn - it has to - when his 11-year-old daughter (the charming Elle Fanning) is left in his care. Coppola has a cinematic sensibility steeped in post-modern European film - for example, the first fifteen minutes have maybe two lines of dialogue. Patience pays off, though, and the movie haunts you. One telling scene has Dorff getting his face covered w/ plaster to craft a special effects mask - and the camera stays still, right in his face, commenting on masks actors wear all the time. His character has to confront the question: How do you know who you are when box office determines what you're worth? And is being a dad enough? -Walker