It is a gigantic, shameful oversight that actor Celyn Jones is not a Golden Globe nominee or got Oscar buzz for his performance in 2014's SET FIRE TO THE STARS. What a knock-out he is as poet Dylan Thomas. He's completely compelling.
Another foreign import shot in black and white is a vampire story. OK, you may be tired of vampires but this one is highly original. It's a feminist vampire story, a definite thriller, with wit and political overtones. A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT introduces us to a female vampire who likes skateboarding and music by the Bee Gees. Yes, she's cute to look at but do not forget that she is a ruthless vampire. The story takes place in Bad City, a rundown Iranian town on the ragged end of nowhere. She goes out at night to feed on men who disrespect women. She's in a place where women are treated like second class citizens. She wears the attire men want women to wear in that city.
To experience another fierce female force, you need to see a documentary that streamed on Netflix this year. WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? is one of the best features I saw this year. Revealing, relevant, surprising and memorable. We learn what made Nina Simone the great Nina Simone. What forces of family, society and politics shaped her into the brilliant, outspoken singer/musician and activist that she was. Nina was black power. She was friends with Dr. Martin Luther King, Langston Hughes, and James Baldwin. My mother used to say that Nina Simone was the only artist who held concerts and she didn't hope the audience liked her, the audience members nervously entered hoping she would like them. Nina was that formidable a presence. Her daughter is interviewed and describes her mother as "brilliant," yet someone who could be "a monster." That's what I like about this documentary. We get the real story and we do learn what happened to this larger than life American artist. Here's a trailer.
Here's another film we reviewed on Arise On Screen. We hoped it would bring Imelda Staunton a second Oscar nomination. I still feel she should've been a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for PRIDE. This movie is based on a true story that happened in the U.K. during the days of gay liberation and the beginning AIDS crisis. It was a total surprise because I didn't hear about this story here in America when it happened. Pride is the uplifting story about opposites that join forces for a common cause of equality.
Staunton was a Best Actress Oscar nomine for 2004's Vera Drake. Millions of kids know her as mean Professor Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies. This year, she racked up some absolutely sensational reviews for her performance as Rose in a London revival of the classic Broadway musical, Gypsy. It was such a hot ticket that some Americans flew to London just to see her. In 2014's Pride, gays and straight coal miners on strike during the Margaret Thatcher days join forces. They gays and lesbians unite to help the striking coal miners. Initially, some miners don't want help merely because it comes from gay people. That changes. The striking, financially struggling miners in Wales need help.