gorillas in the mist

With a towering intensity, Sigourney Weaver inhabits her role Dian Fossey, the primatologist who paid dearly for protecting the mountain gorillas of central Africa. She lost her lover, her sanity and eventually her life. Beautifully shot and occasionally frustrating, the movie soars in its portrayal of the tender relationship between the fierce Fossey and her beloved gorillas. [us, 1988]

when the cat’s away

When the solitary Chole loses her adored cat, she is forced to get to know her Parisian neighbourhood. During her search (the beginning of her personal awakening), she meets a self-centered drummer; a dim-witted man who devotes himself to the search; a network of eccentric, gossipy old ladies full of life despite rapidly changing storefronts and threats of eviction; and finally the prospect of love. Slight, charming and unusually ordinary. [france, 1997]

citizen ruth

Laura Dern is all jangled nerves, boozy chatter and bad girl intoxication as Ruth, a pregnant glue-sniffer who gets caught in the cross-fire between the pro-life and pro-choice movements. Jabs are taken at all sides as Ruth finally works the game her way. A provocative and hilarious satire that offers no easy answers. [us, 1996]

career girls

Eons away from the perky babes of Friends come two very real English misfits, warts and all. As the two working girls reminisce on their time together as students, each reveals her hurts, disappointments, vanquished dreams and plans for a sunnier future. Leigh exposes the insecurities, self-consciousness, and meanness of early adulthood so jarringly, it’s amazing to think any of us survived, let alone are able to laugh at the absurdity of it all. [uk, 1997]

the piano

Jane Campion proves she’s one of the decade’s premiere directors in her literate and richly layered movie about cultural conflict, repression, art, and, the role of women in the 19th century. Holly Hunter plays a mute Scotswoman, piano player, and mail-order bride who finds herself repelled by her stolid husband but intensely attracted to the Maori wilderness in which she finds herself. Her expressive face more than makes up for her lack of words, and Anna Paquin, as her on-the brink of adolescence daughter is a real find. [nz, 1993]

clockwatchers

Amid greenish-hued cubicles and syncopated musak four office temps try to break out of the office-caste system and become “full-time.” However, in this acme-inspired company being a temp means you’re unreliable, untrustworthy, and mostly dispensable. Indie queen Parker Posey teeters on the edge of insanity as the “veteran temp.” If you’re working at a McJob, this film might just be the impetus to get out while you can. [us, 1997]

welcome to the dollhouse

Director Todd Solondz sure understands what it’s like to be an awkward, annoying, and oblivious 11-year old girl. This film is so real it’s painful. As Dawn “Weiner-Dog” Weiner, Heather Matarazzo grumpily stumbles around puberty, while her tutu-wearing younger sister charms everyone. Guaranteed to bring back all scenes of humiliation from your childhood. [us, 1995]

muriel’s wedding

A blaringly ugly politician wannabe narcissist who has mantraized life for his children, “You’re lazy, stupid, USELESS,” introduces us to Muriel Heslop. Plain, plump and cowed to near nothingness, Muriel lives in a safe world of fantasy and ABBA music, believing that marriage alone will restore her lost dignity. We follow Muriel as she pursues the magical event, a fascinating adventure of living on fabrications and wedding gown shopping. Despair and hilarity are woven masterfully together for all of this movie’s compelling characters, and the truth wins out for most. We all part sadder but wiser. [australia, 1997] ~ reviewed by nancy brown

amy

In this powerful yet quirky celebration of mother/child love, a single mother and her mute, grief-stricken mute daughter, Amy, hide out from child welfare. When eight-year-old Amy starts to hear music and responds by singing, it’s the stuff movie magic is made of. [australia, 1997]

amelie

The director of Delicatessen brings us this delightful fairytale story of Amelie, a shy waitress who plots random acts of kindness. Amelie decides on her mission after witnessing the joy she brings to an older man by anonymously returning a box of his childhood treasures. Other acts include sending a garden gnome on a world tour, matchmaking, videomaking, and bestowing justice on behalf of a slow-moving grocer’s assistant. Finally, karma catches up with her, and Amйlie must decide whether she’s brave enough to realize joy in her own life, not just through creating joy for others. Magic realism and the engaging pixie-like quality of lead actor Audrey Tatou make this perfect holiday fare. [france, 2001]