(The Other) Hank’s Picks 8/18/15

Hank_Hoffman_Picks_Image_sketch_WebTwo Days, One Night (dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 2014)

Solidarity.

Before it was the name of an independent trade union in Communist Poland, it was the ethic that undergirds all unionism. Put in the words most often associated with the Industrial Workers of the World (colloquially known as the Wobblies), a radical American union most active in the early 1900s (although still around today): An injury to one is an injury to all.

A lack of solidarity at a small solar panels manufacturing firm in Belgium is the act that sets in motion TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, a superb drama by Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard plays Sandra, a wife and mother who has been on sick leave from work while she battles depression. As she prepares to return she finds out that 14 out of 16 of her fellow workers, when presented with a choice to receive their promised 1,000-euro bonus or lay her off, have voted her out of a job.

But Juliette—a friendly co-worker who was one of the two who voted to save Sandra’s job—has found out that the foreman interfered in the vote by telling some workers their own jobs might be at risk if they didn’t vote for the bonus. She prevails upon Dumont, the owner of the firm, to allow a re-vote on Monday.

It is up to Juliette but more particularly Manu, Sandra’s husband, to encourage Sandra to visit each one of her co-workers over the weekend and lobby them to allow her to keep her job.

Cotillard is a glamorous star but she thoroughly inhabits the role of Sandra, projecting an intense vulnerability. The film is most certainly a commentary on the struggles of workers in the contemporary economy but in no ways a polemic. In Two Days, One Night, the Dardenne brothers have crafted a riveting drama in which even the bit characters—Sandra’s fellow Solwal workers—feel fully realized.

New Releases 8/18/15

Top Hits
Riot_ClubThe Riot Club (drama, Max Irons. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 54. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “‘The Riot Club,’ a poisonous satire of Britain’s upper class, adapted from Laura Wade’s play ‘Posh,’ may puncture any lingering fantasies that good breeding is synonymous with noblesse oblige. The small group of rich young men on whom it focuses belong to an Oxford University dining club that has a fabled history of drunken mischief making. As they exercise their privilege at the club’s annual bacchanal, an alternate title for the movie comes to mind: ‘Boozing and Vomiting.'” Read more…)

5 to 7 (romance, Anton Yelchin. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 52. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Set in the indeterminate, immediate past, before smart devices became our greatest objects of desire, ‘5 to 7’ takes place in a New York that looks, sounds and feels like a borrowed memory. Some of that memory may have originated with the writer and director Victor Levin, but the characters, their actions and exchanges are so familiar that they can’t help but feel secondhand. Woody Allen’s New York romances [‘Manhattan,’ included) are the most obvious touchstone here, as is sometimes the case with films that take on love in the city. Mr. Levin, a television veteran making his feature directing debut, doesn’t so much quote directly from Mr. Allen; rather, like Nora Ephron in ‘You’ve Got Mail,’ he turns the city into a glittering backdrop as drained of authenticity as a studio backlot.” Read more…)

Walt Disney Short Films Collection (12 Disney short films)

New Blu-Ray Discs
Walt Disney Short Films Collection

New Foreign
Two_Days_One_NightTwo Days, One Night (Belgium, drama, Marion Cotillard. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The world of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne — a zone of factories, housing projects and modest suburban developments in and around the industrial Belgian cities of Seraing and Liège — is no place for a movie star. The Dardenne Brothers, twice winners of the top prize at Cannes, practice an austere and democratic style of realism. Their working-class heroes and heroines make their way in stark circumstances, their ethical dilemmas and material challenges presented without glamour, sentimentality or soundtrack music. That the newest member of this select, unhappy company is played by Marion cotillard, an Oscar winner and glossy-magazine icon, makes very little difference, apart from the fact that Ms. Cotillard’s performance is as fine a piece of screen acting as you will ever see.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Mikado (1939, Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, Kenny Baker. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1939 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Having weathered swinging and heating, ‘The Mikado’ has had no trouble at all in passing its screen test. The film edition of it shown last night at the Rivoli is fairly straight Gilbert & Sullivan served up in a generous and generously colorful Technicolor production, with Kenny Baker, radio star, as a quite acceptable Nanki-Poo, and Martyn Green and Sydney Granville [of the D’Oyly Carte Greens and Granvilles] overacting Ko-Ko and the Pooh-Bah in the best Savoyard tradition. How it will go down with John Q. Public this corner knoweth not, there being no statistics on the proportion of G. & S. addicts in the movie-going group. Our guess is that he will accept it good-naturedly, largely out of politeness to the British sense of whimsy.” Read more…)

New TV
The Blacklist: Season 2 (thriller series, James Spader. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%.)
The Royals: Season 1 (drama/comedy series, William Moseley. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 48.)

New Documentaries
Lambert_and_StampLambert & Stamp (music, social history, show business, The Who. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 75. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Lambert & Stamp, a loving, freewheeling new documentary by James D. Cooper, tells this origin story [of the rock band The Who and its managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp] with panache and nostalgia. While it hardly slights the achievements of the musicians — notably Pete Townshend, the band’s guitarist and principal songwriter, who appears on camera as an angry young man in concert footage and as a wise elder statesman in present-day interviews — the film dwells on the improbable partnership behind their success. It is, above all, a portrait of two friends seizing the creative and business opportunities available to their generation.” Read more…)

I Am Chris Farley (bio, comedy, Chris Farley. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 58. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Adhering to an overused backstage template, this documentary conveys a sense of Chris Farley’s quick wit and comic ethos, as well as the gusto with which he approached his routines [at times plunging forward for laughs and not even using his arms to break his falls]. Everyone interviewed — including Mike Myers, Christina Applegate, Adam Sandler and Dan Aykroyd, who is perhaps most wistful among those who compare Mr. Farley to John Belushi — speaks of him affectionately.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Walt Disney Short Films Collection (12 Disney short films)