Movie MVP of the Month: American Sign Language in “Rampage” and “A Quiet Place”

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 8:22 am

Two April movies feature ASL (American Sign Language), the beautiful, complex language based on hands, gestures, and facial expressions that is used by Deaf and non-speaking people in America and English-speaking Canada. “A Quiet Place” is about a family trying to survive in a world overrun with vicious blind animals who attack by using their hyper-acute hearing. So they communicate via ASL, which they all know because they have a Deaf daughter, played by Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds of “Wonderstruck.”

In this week’s “Rampage,” the primatologist played by Dwayne Johnson uses ASL to communicate with an ape called George, along the lines of the famous experiments with Koko the gorilla and Washoe the chimp.

And the 2017 Oscar-winner for Best Picture and Best Director was “The Shape of Water,” which also featured ASL, as Sally Hawkins played a mute woman who communicated with a highly evolved amphibian.

Other movies featuring character using ASL to communicate include: “Children of a Lesser God,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “Johnny Bedelia,” “The Miracle Worker,” and “Baby Driver.”

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Movies for Women’s History Month

Posted on March 8, 2018 at 7:56 pm

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists has assembled an outstanding list of films by and about women to watch for Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day, or just anytime you want to see a good movie.

There are some well-loved classics, of course, like “Alien” and “Norma Rae.” There are some surprising choices like Douglas Sirk’s “Imitation of Life,” too often dismissed as a soapy “women’s picture” in the most dismissive sense of the term. I was delighted to see last year’s “Step” and “Their Finest” on the list, along with underappreciated gems like “Made in Dagenham” and documentaries like “Without Lying Down,” the story of pioneering screenwriter Frances Marion from the silent era to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Enjoy!

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Movies to Ring in the New Year — Happy 2018!

Posted on December 29, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Copyright MGM 1938

Some movies to help celebrate the new year:

Garry Marshall’s “New Year’s Eve” shows us a variety of happy, poignant, and romantic encounters on the night of December 31.

“When Harry Met Sally” has a memorable New Year’s Eve dance.

Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn “step into a waltz as the old year dies” while the fancy society engagement party for him and her sister goes on downstairs.

Best Picture Oscar winner “The Apartment” has Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine playing what might be sweetest card game in movie history. “Shut up and deal.”

“200 Cigarettes” follows several stories that take place in New York City on New Year’s Eve 1981.

A New Year’s Eve celebration goes very wrong when a tsunami hits the cruise ship on “The Poseidon Adventure.”

Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Leigh Curtis take a train ride on New Year’s Eve in “Trading Places.”

Other movies with New Year’s Eve scenes: “About Time,” “The Holiday,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” and “Rent.”

Happy new year! Here’s hoping for health and happiness — and lots of good movies — for all.

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Nell Minow’s Best (And Worst) Movies of 2017

Posted on December 20, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Here’s the best and worst of what I saw at the movies this year:

The best, in alphabetical order:

Copyright 2017 Sony Pictures

Baby Driver — This high-octane fairy tale was brilliantly conceived and edited, with everything we heard on that magnificently-curated soundtrack what the title character was listening to.

The Big Sick — Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Y. Gordon turned their real-life love story into the year’s most endearing romantic comedy.

Call Me By Your Name — The lush Northern Italian setting matches the rapture and longing of first love in this tender film from director Luca Guadagnino.

Darkest Hour — Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Ben Mendelsohn are magnificent in this story of Winston Churchill, from the day he became Prime Minister to the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Faces Places — Filmmaker Agnes Varda and artist JR take a road trip in this marvelous documentary about the power of art and friendship.

The Florida Project — Director Sean Baker has made the best movie to show us the adult world from a child’s point of view since “To Kill a Mockingbird.” For Moonee (the extraordinary Brooklynn Prince), the dingy motels and grubby fast food stands are no less magical and no less real than the neighboring delights of Disney World.

Get Out — Writer/director Jordan Peele made a genre horror film into the most potent statement on screen this year about race, cannily playing the conventions of the genre and the discomfort and hostility about race off of each other.

Copyright A24 2017

Lady Bird — Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this irresistible story of a girl’s last year of high school, a deceptively episodic tale that captures with breathtaking precision that liminal moment when teenagers manage to mash-up grandiosity that stretches to infinity and soul-crushing insecurity.

The Post — This is a moving story of a shy socialite finding her voice (Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham in one of her all-time best performances) as her small, local paper, The Washington Post, discovers its voice, too, the compelling, inspiring story of journalists who will risk everything to make sure Americans learn the truth about their government.

The Shape of Water — A rhapsodic fairy tale love story with elements of a Cold War spy saga and a black and white musical number, filled with gorgeous images and a dazzling performance by Sally Hawkins as a mute cleaning lady in a secret government lab.

Special mention: Wonder, Wonderstruck, Blade Runner 2049, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, The Disaster Artist, Novitiate, Band Aid, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Step, Abacus, 11/8/16, Coco, The Wedding Plan, Mudbound, Patti Cake$, The Trip to Spain, Dave Made a Maze, Columbus, Thor: Ragnarok, Landline, Dunkirk, Maudie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast

And the worst:

Bad Moms Christmas

Book of Henry

The Circle

The Dark Tower

Fist Fight

Ghost in the Shell

The Great Wall

How to Be a Latin Lover


Killing of a Sacred Deer


The Mummy

Phantom Thread


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Critics Lists

BBC’s Top 25 Funniest Movies

Posted on September 2, 2017 at 8:00 am

The BBC surveyed critics to come up with the top 25 funniest movies of all time. Of course there’s a lot of overlap with the AFI list. And some of the movies are just what you might guess: “Some Like it Hot,” “Airplane,” “Blazing Saddles.” If by any chance you’ve overlooked any of these, please try to find them. If you’ve seen them, watch them again!

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