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Julie’s Top Ten of 2016

26 Jan

Honorable mentions:
20th Century Women, The Edge of Seventeen, Everybody Wants Some!!, Fences, Hell or High Water, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Indignation, Moana, Our Little Sister, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Weiner

Really honorable mention:

Silence
I anguished for hours about what to cut to get this into my top 10, but ultimately the deciding factor – a tiebreaker only – was that it didn’t connect to me and my life as much as the others. But it’s still a ravishingly beautiful and deeply complex work. Many critics have decried it by saying that it firmly takes the side of the white Christian protagonists, but frankly I wonder if they saw the same film as I did. Scorsese presents a nuanced depiction of a clash of religions, with all its layers and contradictions. Sure, it’s awful that the Japanese persecute Christians, but they want to protect their country and traditions against the very real threat of Western colonialism. Sure, Christianity might seem like an appealing and accessible alternative to the Japanese, but perhaps they’re only drawn to it because it promises escape into a better afterlife. Sure, the priests want to stay faithful to God and their beliefs, but suffering endlessly for it and causing others to suffer too might be more indicative of pride than faith. A strong cast led by Andrew Garfield and filled with great Japanese actors illuminates these dilemmas and doesn’t provide any easy answers.

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9. Bette Davis

15 Sep

Bette Davis

Bette Davis
ALL ABOUT EVE, JEZEBEL, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, NOW VOYAGER, THE LITTLE FOXES

The average person’s impression of Bette Davis might be rooted in a superficial combination of classic lines and iconography – lines like “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night,” from All About Eve; her grotesque makeup in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?; and her shared cigarette with Paul Henreid in Now, Voyager. But digging into the actual performances, a viewer is richly rewarded on multiple levels. Unlike many of her peers, she took on roles ranging from slightly abrasive to monstrous – but the characters were never unsympathetic, and certainly not one-dimensional. Although she often played selfish, stubborn characters softened by love, she was too much of a forceful feminist presence to fall into a condescending “tamed woman” storyline. She wasn’t afraid to look silly (holding her own in screwball comedies like The Bride Came C.O.D.) or unglamorous (despite the studio’s protestations, she insisted on being aged up for her role in The Corn Is Green). The story goes that she wasn’t met by a studio executive when her train first arrived in Hollywood – one came, but left because he didn’t see anyone who “looked like an actress.” It’s a testament to her trailblazing career that she is now often thought to be the embodiment of the word.