Five Good Ones

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Are you facing the post-Oscar slump in movie releases? Youíve seen all the good ones Ė and they were good, no question, but there they are, still in the theaters. During the wait for new releases, try streaming some of these to the comfort of your couch.
Museum Hours follows the story of a Viennese museum guard who has fallen in love with his museum and its art. When he becomes tour guide for a visitor from Montreal, he gives her not a touristís look at Vienna, but an artistís view of its details. This movie follows two serious, curious people as they soak up a magical blend of paintings and city.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist invites us to open our minds to new understanding of the Middle Eastern puzzle that is bedeviling the world. Neither left nor right will find room here for preconceived perceptions. Two successful men - an American journalist who has lived in Pakistan for years and a Pakistani business consultant explore the cultural chaos that engulfs them. Rejecting the question of who is right, they focus on what is right. How can we root out modern terrorism in the Middle East and America without destroying each other? The movie is profound and affecting.
The Gatekeepers hands us a chilling grasp of the intensity of the hatred on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The movie traces the role of Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence agency in charge of the 1,000,000 Palestinians under Israeli rule in the West Bank. It draws a remarkable portrait of what happens when a nation decides that violence is the only currency that works. There is no obvious solution.
Liv and Ingmar documents the 42 year relationship between two of the great creative talents of our era. Actual film footage shows us the joy and pain of their shared lives and eventual divorce. In an intriguing juxtaposition of reality and fiction, Ullman and Bergman lived what they were creating on screen. Ullmanís honest narration shows us the depth of their connection both before and after they split.
The Impossible tackles the job of conveying the terror of the 2004 tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people along a coastline of 3000 miles. In an acting and special effects challenge littered with pitfalls, the filmmakers win at every turn. An extraordinary cast scares us witless with wise, gentle performances, knowing that in filming an actual catastrophe, even a whiff of melodrama would ruin the movie. The ordeal of a single family becomes the focus of our fear as the director sends a wall of water of unfathomable power straight at the audience. With the strength of a true story, this one embeds itself in our collective imagination where it tugs in a primal way.
            And so you have it: a gentle story of serious people, two probing looks at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the love story of two creative people, and the true story of a catastrophe.


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