Flick Picks 2/26/2016: Spotlight, Fargo Season Two

On the verge of the Academy Awards, this week's new releases on DVD are highlighted by one of the contenders for Best Picture.  And a very worthy contender Spotlight is.  With new series, it's a matter of the darkly comic and the just plain dark.  Never fear, Sarah Silverman is here!  And you probably know how funny she is.  Well, actually,...Ms. Silverman plays it very straight as a troubled wife and mother in I Smile Back, a performance that has won the comedienne considerable acclaim.  Quality we have this week.  Laughs, not so much.  If you need a little escapist fun, there's always the red carpet at the Oscars....         


Feature Films



Arguably the best American film of 2015, Spotlight takes its name from the special investigative unit of the Boston Globe that in 2002 broke the story of widespread and long-occurring abuse of children by Roman Catholic clergy.  With material that would lend itself to operatic treatment (see Martin Scorcese), writer/director Todd McCarthy instead handles this big story like a precise, rending piece of chamber music.  The players in this case are an impressive ensemble, filling out the major roles (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery, Rachel McAdams) as well as the minor.  For all its journalistic procedure and general restraint, Spotlight's story is no less powerful.

With Spotlight, Tom McCarthy is finally receiving major recognition and some measure of mainstream success.  Aside from his work as an actor (Law and OrderThe WireGood Night And Good Luck), he's been making excellent character-driven films for more than a decade.  Check out earlier examples of writer/director's work, generally lighter in tone than the outstanding Spotlight.






Also new:  Comedienne Sarah Silverman has won raves for her decidedly dramatic turn in I SMILE BACK, playing a wife and mother struggling with mental illness and addiction.





Based on the 1996 film of the same name by the Coen Brothers (who serve as executive producers), Fargo is back.  But true to the anthology, decade-jumping format of the series, we have an entirely new cast and time setting.  Season two is set in 1979 with another excellent ensemble, including Patrick Wilson (pictured), Kirsten Dunst, Kieran Culkin and Ted Danson.  What hasn't changed is the almost universal acclaim for this black comedy. 


 This 2014 British miniseries is based on the actual life and crimes of Englishman Malcolm Webster.   




This delightfully creepy Fox series features yet another impressive cast, headed by Matt Dillon as a Secret Service agent investigating the disappearance of two of his fellow agents in the mysterious small town of Wayward Pines, Idaho.  Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo and Terence Howard also star.  



Foreign Films


Lastly, a vintage addition to our foreign film collection.  This little-known Italian classic has been reissued by Criterion, with all the great extra features typical of the series.  From the Criterion Collection summary:  


Following the gorgeous, seemingly liberated Adriana (Divorce Italian Style’s Stefania Sandrelli) as she chases her dreams in the Rome of La dolce vita, I Knew Her Well is at once a delightful immersion in the popular music and style of Italy in the sixties and a biting critique of its sexual politics and the culture of celebrity. Over a series of intimate episodes, just about every one featuring a different man, a new hairstyle, and an outfit to match, the unsung Italian master Antonio Pietrangeli, working from a script he cowrote with Ettore Scola, composes a deft, seriocomic character study that never strays from its complicated central figure. I Knew Her Well is a thrilling rediscovery, by turns funny, tragic, and altogether jaw-dropping.

Also new:  DIFRET




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