New from the desk of The Movie Snob.
The Salesman (B-). This is the new (Oscar©-nominated) movie by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. I liked his 2011 film A Separation, and I really liked his 2013 film The Past, so I was looking forward to The Salesman quite a bit. Suffice to say, it is my least favorite of his films, but it’s still an interesting look at life in contemporary Iran. Emad and Rana are a happily married couple who unexpectedly find themselves having to move in a hurry when their apartment building threatens to collapse. A friend offers them a place, but it comes with some baggage—the previous tenant was a woman of doubtful virtue, and she has refused to come back and collect most of her stuff. Short of options, Emad and Rana take the place. Then someone—one of the previous tenant’s clients?—enters the apartment and attacks Rana. Everyone agrees that going to the police would be pointless and would only expose Rana to a lot of painful scrutiny. So Emad does his own sleuthing to try to find the culprit. I just didn’t find the story as compelling as Farhadi’s previous films. I may have missed some of Farhadi’s message because I am not familiar with the Arthur Miller play Death of a Salesman, which gives the movie its title and plays a significant role in the story. Anyway, it’s worth seeing, but I encourage you to see The Past instead if your taste for subtitled Iranian films is limited.
A book review from The Movie Snob.
Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales, by Russell Kirk (2004). I know of Russell Kirk mainly as an eccentric founding father of modern American conservatism and as the author of the 1953 classic The Conservative Mind. But he apparently has a reputation as an author of ghost stories and gothic tales, so I gave this anthology a try. The stories are strange—very religious in sensibility, and not really scary. I didn’t care for the first few, but I thought they got better as they went along. It isn’t Steven King or H.P. Lovecraft, but if you like weird fiction you might conceivably find this volume interesting.
From the desk of The Movie Snob.
Lion (B). Based on a true story! In 1987, a little boy in a crowded Calcutta orphanage has the amazing good fortunate to be adopted by a warm, loving Australian couple. Twenty years later, Saroo seems to be doing great–he’s studying for a career, and he has a bunch of good friends and a sweet girlfriend. But there’s a worm in the apple: Saroo is not an orphan, and he knows it. He had a mother, brother, and sister in a remote Indian village, but through a chance misfortune he got locked in a train car that took him to Calcutta—1600km away. He didn’t speak the language spoken there, and he didn’t know his own mother’s name or, apparently, the correct name of their village. So he ended up in the orphanage. But now, all these years later, there’s a little something called Google Earth™ that might hold the key to finding his long-lost family. This is a pretty good movie, but I’m not sure it deserves all the Oscar© hoopla it has gotten. I can buy the best supporting actress nomination for Nicole Kidman (Paddington) as the long-suffering adoptive mom. But I don’t see best picture, or even the best supporting actor nod for Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) as the grown-up Saroo. Rooney Mara (Side Effects) has virtually nothing to do as the girlfriend. The kid who plays young Saroo is pretty amazing, though.