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 Save the Last DanceSave the Last Dance

Save the Last Dance is a surprisingly well-thought out film.  Although it is primarily concerned with dance, it also deals with some big issues.  Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick  Thomas are great as two dancers with completely different backgrounds who come together to merge classical and hiphop dance styles.  Lots of fun, great music, and some serious issues.


Viola and Shakespeare in bedShakespeare in Love

Written by Tom Stoppard (author of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead) and Marc Norman, this 1998 film is both a comedy and a romance–and it is very successful at both.  Great performances by Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, and Judi Densch fuel this terrific comedy and unpredictable romance!


Silence Lambs 01The Silence of the Lambs

When a serial killer dumps the bodies of several young women into various rivers between Ohio and Pennsylvania, with parts of their bodies skinned, newspapers anoint the unknown assailant as “Buffalo Bill.”  The head of Behavioral Sciences at the FBI recruits a beautiful young agent-trainee, who is earmarked for his division, to help him out by interviewing one of the most notorious serial killers of all: Hannibal Lecter, a cannibal.


Cooper and Lawrence Silver Linings PlaybookSilver Linings Playbook

This delightful comedy/drama was written and directed by David O. Russell, adapted from the book The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.  Centered around two quirky people, both at a crossroads in their lives, the film presents bi-polar disorder as a condition that can be overcome.  Jennifer Lawrence gives an Academy Award performance opposite Bradley Cooper, with Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver, and Chris Tucker.


Speak-Movie-kristen-stewart-7224892-960-540Speak

Here’s a 2004 film that really went under the radar.  It was screened at Sundance and aired on Showtime and Lifetime, but I’d never heard of it.  Based on the novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, it tells the story of a high school freshman, Melinda Sordino, who is brutally raped at a party by a senior boy.  Starring Kristin Stewart in a wonderful performance.


Shailine Woodley int The Spectacular NowThe Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now aims much higher than any run-of-the-mill teen romance and its success in achieving a film that goes beyond the limits of genre is to be highly commended, yet there are problems in the movie and it would make the film an excellent study for any film theory class.


amy adams emily blunt sunshine cleaningSunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning is a delightful comedy and drama, with a great cast, a strong script by Megan Holley and crisp, clean direction by Christine Jeffs.  Although it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, the two performances at the center of it by Amy Adams and Emily Blunt really propelled the two actresses to the acclaim they so richly deserve.

Save The Last Dance

Save the Last Dance is a surprisingly well-thought out film. Although it is primarily concerned with dance, it also deals with some big issues.

save-the-last-danceWhen high school student Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles), an aspiring ballet dancer, auditions for Julliard, she pushes her mother into ducking out of her busy job to come watch and support her. In her hurry, her mother drives right into a serious freeway accident and is killed. Grief-stricken, Sara gives up ballet, feeling that her mother’s death is all her fault, and moves in with her dad, a jazz trumpeter, in Chicago.

Although her new high school isn’t composed completely of African-American students, it seems to be around 95% black. On her first day, she clashes with Derek Reynolds (Sean Patrick Thomas), a very bright boy, in her English class, then she is befriended by Chenille Reynolds (Kerry Washington), Derek’s sister. Chenille is a single mother as well as a high school student, and she and Derek live with their grandmother.

Chenille sets of an evening with Sara at Stepps, a local hip-hop club, where Derek and his friend Malakai hang. However, Malakai is into dealing and drugs and puts himself into pretty dangerous situations. While Derek teaches Sara how to dance hip-hop, many of the other black kids at the school begin to resent Sara’s taking one of the most eligible black boys at the school and even Chenille is not supportive in that respect. When Derek talks Sara into doing another audition for Julliard, she begins working seriously toward that goal.

The film is immensely entertaining, not only in its exploration of the racial themes, but in its use of music and dance, employing great classical music and lots of wonderful hip-hop songs. We get to see a Joffrey Ballet performance, professional hip-hop dancing, and a mixed program where the two forms are joined together in one dance. All of the hip-hop songs are very well-chosen, including Ice Cube’s “You Can Do It,” one of my favorite hip-hop songs.

Stiles and Thomas are both wonderful in their roles and all of the supporting case is excellent, especially Washington. The direction by Thomas Carter is spot-on and the editing and cinematography are first rate. I highly recommend this movie!