Fargo Frances McDormandFargo

Alfred Hitchcock would have liked this 1996 Joel Coen and Ethan Coen quirky thriller that contains so much comedy it transcends genres.  It borrows a number of techniques from the master of thriller movies, including a clever McGuffin, a villain with empathy, horrific incidents that are hilarious, and a tremendous environmental atmosphere.


There are just a handful of good boxing movies, but The Fighter must be ranked among them.  This 2010 film written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson is based on the true story of two brothers who each attained some degree of success in the world of boxing.  There is some stretching of the truth in order to make a good movie—and that is just what director David O. Russell gives us.

First TimeThe First Time

The very sweet teen romance written and directed by Jon Kasdan is disarmingly honest, with characters that feel so real there isn’t the hint of artifice.  Centered around two teens who meet by accident, become friends, and each decide to give up their virginity to the other, this film will leave you with a warm, gooey feeling that makes it a worthwhile viewing experience.

Fly Away PictureFly Away

Written and directed by Emmy Award winner Janet Grillo, this 2011 low-budget independent film, shot in a mere 14 days is full of emotional punch and great characters brought to life by a bright and talented cast.

French ConnectionThe French Connection

If you are looking for the meaning of life, this movie is not for you.  Indeed, if you are looking for any meaning at all, this is not your movie.  Rather, it is a completely kinetic film.  Directed by William Friedkin, it echoes the French cinema of the 1950’s, which itself echoes the American gangster films of the 1930’s.  It is all movement and action, with practically no dialogue, moving in a steady arc of energy toward a violent ending.

french kissFrench Kiss

Sometimes the charm of two charismatic actors with great chemistry, combined with a smart, talented director, can make even the most banal of screenplays work to perfection.  Such is the case with Lawrence Kasdan’s 1995 romantic comedy, French Kiss.

Friends with KidsFriends with Kids

This 2011 movie, written, produced and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt, is about a group of shallow, sex-obsessed Manhattan Yuppies who start having children. It stars Adam Scott, Westfeldt, Chris O’Dowd, Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm and Maya Rudolph.

frozen-river-pic-melissa-leoFrozen River

There are a lot of great movies that somehow never make it into the public eye and Frozen River is one of those films.  It deserves to be seen–and probably deserved a lot more national attention than what it actually got.

Frozen River

frozen-river-pic-melissa-leoThere are a lot of great movies that somehow never make it into the public eye and Frozen River is one of those films. It deserves to be seen–and probably deserved a lot more national attention than what it actually got.

The film is set in the fictional town Massena, New York, the Akwesasne St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, and–believe it or not–the St. Lawrence River that marks the Canadian border. Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) is raising two sons, age 5 and 15, with a husband who is addicted to gambling. When the film opens, he has just run off to Atlantic City with their savings, intended as the balloon payment on a new double wide trailer home. The opening shot shows Ray as she sits in her car smoking and crying, the glove box where the money was kept sitting empty. The camera pans up her body to her face, the extreme close-up showing vividly how life has torn this woman apart.

She works in a discount store part time and the family is now in a desperate situation, with practically no money to survive. Dinner consists of popcorn and Tang and the film unrolls with the threat of having their TV repossessed.

When a Mohawk girl, Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham) steals the car Ray’s husband had left at the bus station, she chases the girl down. Lila tells her that she knows someone on the rez who will buy the car for $2,000, so they set off across the frozen river to the Canadian side of the Mohawk reservation. But instead of selling the car, they are passed $1200 and asked to pop the trunk. When they do, two illegal aliens jump in.

This new source of income intrigues Ray and she returns to Lila to do another transfer. And so, the two become embroiled in a life of illegal gains that make both of their lives better. And over time, an unlikely friendship develops between them.

Written and directed by Courtney Hunt, this wonderful film stars Melissa Leo a haunting, true-to-life performance that won her multiple awards. Although she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, she did not win. Courtney Hunt was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and also did not win. Throughout the world, the film was nominated for an won a great many awards. Besides great acting and directing, the cinematography in the film is truly outstanding, presenting us with a realistic winter life on the very edge of survival.

At 93 minutes, it is nearly the perfect length. I highly recommend this movie for all to see.