CINEMA: Must-See Films for December

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star in Damien Chazelle's La La Land, in theatres December 16th. Image Amplified www.imageamplified.com
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, in theatres December 16th.

December, a Good Month for Movies

Paper has published a list of unmissable films for December. It’s actually a good, well-rounded list. New offering from Jim Jarmusch (starring Adam Driver, no less)? A movie about Neruda? A couple of horror films? Sign us up.

Adam Driver stars in Paterson, which finds its way to theatres December 28th. Image Amplified www.imageamplified.com
Adam Driver stars in Paterson, which finds its way to theatres December 28th.

We’ve already seen and loved Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta. We’ve also seen I, Daniel Blake and found it to be one of those movies you’re sort of required to like, to prove you have a conscience (It was a bit heavy handed, maybe?). La La Land is getting good word of mouth, but we’d definitely see it anyway.

Films for December

  1. Paterson: Paterson is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey—they share the name. Every day, Paterson adheres to a simple routine: he drives his daily route, he writes poetry into a notebook; he stops in a bar and drinks exactly one beer; he goes home to his wife, Laura. By contrast, Laura’s world is ever changing. New dreams come to her almost daily. The film quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.
    Director
    Jim Jarmusch
    Writers
    Jim Jarmusch
    Actors
    Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henley, Cliff Smith, Chasten Harmon, William Jackson Harper, Masatoshi Nagasi
  2. Julieta: Julieta lives in Madrid with her daughter Antía. They both suffer in silence over the loss of Xoan, Antía’s father and Julieta’s husband. But at times grief doesn’t bring people closer, it drives them apart.
    Director
    Pedro Almodovar
    Actors
    Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Darío Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner, Rossy de Palma
  3. The Eyes of My Mother: In their secluded farmhouse, a mother, formerly a surgeon in Portugal, teaches her daughter, Francisca, to understand anatomy and be unfazed by death. One afternoon, a mysterious visitor shatters the idyll of Francisca’s family life, deeply traumatizing the young girl, but also awakening unique curiosities. Though she clings to her increasingly reticent father, Francisca’s loneliness and scarred nature converge years later when her longing to connect with the world around her takes on a dark form. Shot in crisp black and white, the haunting visual compositions evoke its protagonist’s isolation and illuminate her deeply unbalanced worldview. Genre-inflected, but so strikingly unique as to defy categorization, writer/director Nicolas Pesce’s feature debut allows only an elliptical presence in Francisca’s world, guiding our imaginations to follow her into peculiar, secret places.
    Director
    Nicolas Pesce
    Writers
    Nicolas Pesce
    Actors
    Kika Magalhães, Will Brill, Flora Diaz, Paul Nazak, Clara Wong, Diana Agostini, Olivia Bond
  4. I, Daniel Blake: A middle aged carpenter who requires state welfare after injuring himself, is joined by a single mother in a similar scenario.
    Director
    Ken Loach
    Writers
    Paul Laverty
    Actors
    Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Sharon Percy
  5. Neruda: Beloved poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) is also the most famous communist in post-WWII Chile. When the political tides shift, he is forced underground, with a perseverant police inspector (Gael García Bernal) hot on his trail. Meanwhile, in Europe, the legend of the poet hounded by the policeman grows, and artists led by Pablo Picasso clamor for Neruda’s freedom.
    Gael García Bernal stars in Neruda, which plays in cinemas starting December 16th. Image Amplified www.imageamplified.com
    Gael García Bernal stars in Neruda, which plays in cinemas starting December 16th.

    Neruda, however, sees the struggle with his police inspector nemesis as an opportunity to reinvent himself. He cunningly plays with the inspector, leaving clues designed to make their game of cat-and-mouse ever more perilous. In this story of a persecuted poet and his obsessive adversary, Neruda recognizes his own heroic possibilities: a chance to become a symbol for liberty, as well as a literary legend.

    Director
    Pablo Larraín
    Writers
    Guillermo Calderón
    Actors
    Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Mercedes Morán
  6. A Monster Calls: A visually spectacular drama from acclaimed director Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”), based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel. 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) attempts to deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that explore courage, loss, and faith.
    Director
    Juan Antonio Bayona
    Writers
    Patrick Ness, based on his novel A Monster Calls
    Actors
    Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver
  7. Miss Sloane: In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. Known equally for her cunning and her track record of success, she has always done whatever is required to win.
    Jessica Chastain stars in Miss Sloane, in theatres on December 9th. Image Amplified www.imageamplified.com
    Jessica Chastain stars in Miss Sloane, in theatres on December 9th.

    But when she takes on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds that winning may come at too high a price.

    Director
    John Madden
    Writers
    Jonny Perera
    Actors
    Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stulbarg, Alison Pill, Jake Lacy, Sam Waterston, John Lithgow
  8. La La Land: Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern-day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.
    Director
    Damien Chazelle
    Writers
    Damien Chazelle
    Actors
    Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, Finn Wittrock, Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno, Jessica Rothe, Tom Everett Scott, Josh Pence
  9. The Autopsy of Jane Doe: Cox and Hirsch play father and son coroners who receive a mysterious homicide victim with no apparent cause of death. As they attempt to identify the beautiful young “Jane Doe,” they discover increasingly bizarre clues that hold the key to her terrifying secrets.
    Director
    Andre Ovredal
    Writers
    Ian B. Goldberg, Richard Naing
    Actors
    Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond

From Paper:

9 FILMS TO SEE IN DECEMBER

Paterson

Jim Jarmusch’s new film is about a New Jersey transit bus driver and poet named Paterson (Adam Driver), and what a wonderful, strangely beautiful, and odd movie it is. Paterson lives with his girlfriend (Golshifteh Farahani) and encourages her in her mercurial artistic endeavors- painting, cupcakes, even country western singing. Nightly he walks his English bulldog to the local pub and discuses Paterson local heroes like Dave of the soul duo Sam & Dave. Lou Costello and his favorite poet William Carlos Williams. All along he enters his poems in his secret little journal. The movie leisurely documents his day- flashes of passenger’s conversations, an encounter with a little girl who also writes poems, and seeing twins (which mysteriously keep weaving in and out of his days). But like a great poem the deceptively simple premise builds to a surprisingly emotional and profoundly moving finish.

Julieta

The latest wonder from Pedro Almodovar is based on several short stories by the luminous writer Alice Munro. All revolve around Julieta (Emma Suarez & Adriana Ugarte) from a young woman whose choice as to who to talk to on a train alters her life irrevocably. Or dealing with visiting her family with her ailing mother and her father and his new girlfriend. Or coping with tragedy and having her younger daughter help her pick up the pieces only to eventually mysteriously disappear from her life. The chronology of this woman’s life unfolds with great tenderness in a more linear fashion for Almodovar but also with great artfulness and emotional power. Even the score by Alberto Iglesias imbues the film with a hushed, quietly lyrical, backdrop to this heart-rending tale. The two women who play Julieta are absolutely extraordinary. And the wonderful Rossy de Palma reappears as a Mrs. Danvers-like housekeeper.

The Eyes Of My Mother

An unnervingly creepy 77-minute black & white gothic horror film by writer/director Nicolas Pesce. Young Francisca (Olivia Bond) grows up on a remote farm with her sullen father and mother who teaches her the skill of surgery by practicing on cow heads. This comes in handy in later life for Francisca (now played by Kika Magalhaes) when the loss of her parents sends her spinning homicidally out of control. Similar in mood to Frederick Friedel’s bizarre 1974 film Axe, the sense of isolation, loneliness, and “otherness” makes seem normal any act of extreme violence. A grotesque, grisly, treat.

I, Daniel Blake

I’ll admit, I’d kind of given up on director Ken Loach, but this film’s simplicity, humanness and power just slayed me. Daniel (Dave Johns- amazing) is a decent, hard-working, 59 yr. old carpenter and widower who is sidelined by a heart attack and told by his doctors he is unable to work for a while. When his benefits are revoked he is thrust into a frustrating series of bureaucratic nightmares, just trying to get a hearing to overturn the decision. Like a Catch-22 he is forced to go out and seek jobs that he is unable to take because of his condition, for fear or being shut out by the system. He befriends a young single mother- Katie (Hayley Squires) and her two young children, who is also going through the same run around, and comes to take a fatherly interest in her. Ken Loach’s extraordinarily powerful film rightly won the Palme D’or at Cannes and really illustrates the infuriating humiliation ordinary people have to be subjected to just in order to get by. Loach is a humanist at heart and gives his characters the dignity they deserve. A scene where Daniel accompanies Katie to a food bank is just devastating.

Neruda

Strangely lyrical, strikingly unconventional, bio-pic by director Pablo Larrain on Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. Set in the late 40s when the acclaimed Chilean poet was a Senator in the government and whose Communist views caused him to go into hiding when a warrant for his arrest was issued. Neruda (Luis Gnecco) and his artist wife Delia (Mercedes Moran) are moved around from place to place by other devoted party members. All the while he is being chased by a detective (Gael Garcia Bernal) (always two steps behind) who has love/hate feelings for the poet and dreams of being less a supporting player in the story but an inclusion in Neruda’s ongoing epic poem. It’s truly a peculiar film but quite affecting too.

A Monster Calls

A boy named Conor (Lewis MacDougall), reeling over his mother’s (Felicity Jones) impending death, processes his grief by creating a fearsome tree-like monster (voice care of Liam Neeson). Sensitively directed by J. A. Bayona from a novel by Patrick Ness, Conor’s frustration and rage, from the bullies at school, his powerless to help his sick mother and the terror of having to move in with his rigid, cold, Grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) all help manifest this giant being to lash out at the world. There is a nice balance of fantasy and drama and when it all comes together it’s hard not to be deeply moved at the end.

Miss Sloane

Jessica Chastain plays the fearsome Washington lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane, who leaves her high-powered film to work against the gun lobby at a boutique firm helmed by Rudolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong). Beautiful but cold and calculating, Miss Sloane’s only intimacy is with a male escort and strict rules are heavily enforced. As the firm fights to pass this bill we see her ruthlessness, especially with co-workers becoming collateral damage just so she can achieve her agenda. It’s winning at any cost. And being able to anticipate the player’s next move. Director John Madden keeps this drama propelling furiously forward with plenty of twists. Most are not too hard to see coming, but enjoyable to watch as the pieces fall deviously into place. And Chastain gives this “real piece of work” a surprising emotional core.

La La Land

Director Damien Chazelle’s (Whiplash) new film opens with an exhilarating scene set in a massive traffic jam on the L.A. Freeway. Frustrated drivers suddenly leap from their cars and break into a massive musical number that sets the swooning, lushly romantic, tone to Chazelle’s loving homage to Jacques Demy (The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg). The heart of this film is the romantic affair between Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist who dreams of opening up a club, and Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress selling coffee on the Warner Brothers lot. They fatefully meet, fall in love, and then things happen. But like other oddball “musicals” like Francis Ford Coppola’s heartbreaking One From The Heart, and Woody Allen’s wonderful Everyone Says I Love You, the interjection of old Hollywood numbers into modern stories can often be a delirious delight. When the lovely Emma Stone and broodingly handsome Ryan Gosling dance off into the sunset, it’s hard not to ache for them in this audacious, magical, dream of a movie.

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe

A spectacularly scary film by the Norwegian director Andre Ovredal (who made the fabulously insane Trollhunter). A mysterious nude body of a beautiful woman (Olwen Catherine Kelly) is discovered in the basement of a house glutted with multiple homicides and is brought to Tilden’s Morgue & Crematorium where owner Tony (Brian Cox) and his apprentice son Austin (Emile Hirsch) set out to discover who she is and how she died. “Every body has a secret” the father says as he begins to dissect the corpse only to find a series of even more puzzling and frightening anomalies. There is a real palpable sense of dread created by the grisly autopsy scenes, the claustrophobic setting, the thunderous rain storm outside, and the slow realization that some secrets should never be revealed.

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Image Amplified: The Flash and Glam of All Things Pop Culture. From the Runway to the Red Carpet, High Fashion to Music, Movie Stars to Supermodels.