Author: Jerry Weissman

Frantz

Inexplicably, the excellent “Frantz” has had an all too short shelf-life on the art house circuit since its March launch. Yet this compelling tale (inspired by Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 “Broken Lullaby”) about the ravages of war, guilt, redemption, forgiveness, devotion …Read More

Spoiler Alert: “Norman” and “Their Finest”

Two emotional film dramas opened last week, but neither of them has the usual happy ending that such stories are wont to do. Rather than reveal their conclusions, however, I will say that, given the respective journeys of their main …Read More

Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester

One of Stephen Sondheim’s best songs in “Gypsy” is “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” Max Raabe, the founder of Berlin’s Palast Orchester got a gimmick in 1985: he formed a band to perform 1920s and 1930s songs in true period-style …Read More

An Inspector Calls

J.B. Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls” had its premiere in 1946 and has been revived repeatedly ever since, with good reason. This play, too, is a philosophical polemic — actually about two: personal conscience and exploitation of women — but the …Read More

Nice Fish

Ever since I was privileged to see Mark Rylance in “Twelfth Night” at the Globe Theatre in London many years ago, I have become a Rylance groupie and sought out his appearances. Given his prolific output, this has proved challenging, …Read More

Manchester by the Sea

No spoiler alert is needed for this film because the preview trailer gives away the central event: the sudden death of a man that leaves his brother responsible for the orphaned teenage son. Yet there is another event that drives …Read More

La La Land

There’s a magic moment early in “LaLaLand” — after boy-meets-girl-and-they-rub-each-other-the-wrong-way— when Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone break into an avoid/attract dance on a hilltop overlooking the Los Angeles night skyline. It’s meant to evoke a moment in “Top Hat” when …Read More

The Encounter

Simon McBurney explores the time-space continuum in “The Encounter.” This multidimensional story is based on a book written by an Englishman about an American explorer who visits an indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest. McBurney — or McBurney’s voice — …Read More

NY Theater Diary in a NY Minute

The Present: Cate Blanchett brings Chekhov from the 19th to the 20th Century in two acts, the first a dazzling vodka tonic, the second a dizzying hangover. The Babylon Line: A brilliant discourse on creative writing, character development, plot evolution …Read More

Elle

French sangfroid defined is the best way to describe Paul Verhoeven’s new film, “Elle,” starring Isabelle Huppert. The production and script have Ms. Huppert run quite a grueling gauntlet including rape, adultery, voyeurism, masturbation, trolling, a car crash, a childhood …Read More

Aquarius

Sônia Braga, the sexy star of the 1985 film “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” is now 66, yet is still quite sexy in her virtuoso performance in the new Brazilian film, “Aquarius.” Much has been made about a very steamy …Read More

The Light Between Oceans

This superb film about love, loneliness, devotion and heartbreak is based on a novel by M.L. Stedman. True to its literary origin, the story contains many dramatic plot turns that might ordinarily slip into melodrama, but that same literary foundation provides …Read More

Born to Be Blue and Miles Ahead

  If you’re a Chet Baker or Miles Davis fan—and I am a rabid fan of each— their biopics, “Born to Be Blue” and “Miles Ahead,” are nectar to a bee; but even if you’re not, the performances by Ethan …Read More

Eye in the Sky

In every global-suspense-espionage-terror-type film, every time a scene changes, a digital dateline comes clicking across the screen in computer-generated text — and yet it’s still hard to follow the storyline. Not so in “Eye in the Sky,” where such datelines …Read More

45 Years

By my very rough count, half the time that Charlotte Rampling is on the screen in “45 Years” she is stone silent, and yet it is one of the most eloquent performances you’ll ever see. This is a story, as …Read More

Hail, Caesar! and Lady in the Van

From the advance previews, both of these films appeared to be slam dunks: the first had movie buff stuff, a retro-Hollywood theme, George Clooney playing against type, Scarlett Johansson in a bathing suit, and the Coen Brothers’ trademark tongue-in-cheek humor. …Read More

Satchmo at the Waldorf

  After enchanting New York and several other cities, this superb drama by Terry Teachout and dazzling portrayal of the title character by John Douglas Thompson finally came to San Francisco. We had the added bonus of bracketing the performance …Read More

Concussion

Dr. Bennet Omalu is a most impressive man. In fact, “Concussion,” the film about him, begins with a lengthy recitation of his many degrees and accomplishments. The list is recited by his cinematic alter ego, Will Smith, just before he …Read More

Disgraced

Relying on The Host’s VDP opinion, we braved the usual WAZE-red rush hour traffic to cross the Bay Bridge and attend Berkeley Rep’s production of “Disgraced.” It was well worth the trip. We’ve all seen plays with theme and no …Read More

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

As I sat among the huddled box office record-breaking masses watching the Forces of Good and Evil do battle in “Star Wars,” I could not stop thinking about Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and all the other actual shoot-em-up …Read More

Carol

Because of my utter admiration for Cate Blanchett’s superb acting skills, we went to see “Carol” without the usual survey of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. A brief glance at the 94% rating validated my admiration. But after two sodden …Read More

Clouds of Sils Maria

One of the basic rules of writing -— particularly screenwriting —- is Show, Don’t Tell. Clearly, no one ever told that to Olivier Assayas, the writer and director of “Clouds of Sils Maria,” whose main characters spend the first hour …Read More

DeliMan and Merchants of Doubt

The road to ruin is paved with good intentions. Filmmakers Erik Greenberg Anjou and Robert Kenner had worthy intentions when they set out to do their documentaries, and while the end results of their efforts are not ruinous, the road …Read More

Leviathan

When “Ida” won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Film, I thought it was well-deserved for the moving Holocaust story it told with minimal dialogue and stark black-and-white photography shot in the square aspect ratio of that period. But I …Read More

Fifty Shades of Grey: Stage and Screen

  During a visit to New York last summer, we were in search of an evening of theatre but found the pickings their usual dog-days slim. We finally settled on “50 Shades! The Musical — The Original Parody,” a spoof …Read More

Mr. Turner

I agree with the points that The Host made in his review of this excellent biopic of British painter J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851)—including its excessive length. Timothy Spall’s performance in the title role was indeed superb and Dick Pope’s …Read More

The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game

  These two films, sure to be candidates for many Academy Award nominations and deservedly so, have much in common: both are biographies that take place in interesting period British settings, both have strong principal characters engaged in complex personal …Read More

Birdman

Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki deserves as much credit for the success of “Birdman” as does writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu and actors Michael Keaton and Edward Norton. Mr. Lubezki’s cinematography gives this black comedy of a fading actor trying to …Read More

This is Our Youth, and On the Town

This Is Our Youth Returning from London with our ears still ringing from the shrieking actors in the Old Vic production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible, “(see my earlier VDP post) we stopped in New York and saw the very …Read More

Letter from London 2: Fera at Claridge’s and Tony Bennett

Fera at Claridge’s I have long harbored a distaste for restaurants that try so hard to be new and hip, they create dishes that are more of a masquerade than a meal. My sentiments are shared in a Wall Street Journal …Read More

Letter from London

  The Crucible Despite my lifelong admiration for Arthur Miller and his classic works, I had never seen a theater production of “The Crucible” or even the 1996 film version. To my great delight, I found it was playing at …Read More

Boyhood

The overwhelmingly positive critical reaction (99% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) to Boyhood is —- for the most part —- very well deserved. More about the least part in a moment, but first let’s give credit where credit is unquestionably due. …Read More

Locke

A gimmick, by any definition, has a negative connotation. In the classic Broadway musical, “Gypsy,” Stephen Sondheim takes the definition into satire with his lyrics to “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” But writer-director Steven Knight has come up with a …Read More

Finding Vivian Maier

John Maloof is an excellent treasure hunter. Ever since his childhood, he has browsed countless auctions and flea markets in search of undiscovered valuables. He struck gold in 2007 when he found a cache of photographs shot by the late …Read More

City Lights

    The San Francisco Symphony, as part of its Film Night series, presented Charlie Chaplin’s superb “City Lights” and accompanied it with a magnificent live performance of Mr. Chaplin’s lush original score. Acres of copy have been written lauding …Read More