The Palm Springs International Film Festival is held in early January and we saw some films that are definitely worth seeking out in the upcoming year:
  • Papadopoulos and Sons –  A lovely and funny British film about a Greek-immigrant family.  It will likely be released on DVD or Netflix/Amazon later this year.
  • Satellite Boy   A thoughtful examination of Aboriginal life in modern Australia as well as a timeless story about a grandfather and his grandson.    If you liked Walkabout, you’ll like this one not just because of David Gulpilil’s role in this movie.   It is unlikely to be distributed through theaters in the States, but worth catching if you can.
  • Mental –   A comedy produced by Jerry Zucker and directed by P.J. Hogan that examines what is normal and what is crazy.  It enjoyed a quick theatrical release.   Keep an eye out for it on a streaming video site.
  • Blancanieves –  Think about a marriage of “The Artist” with Disney’s “Snow White” and then think darkly.    The progeny of these thoughts is this Spanish silent film.   It enjoyed a quick theatrical release. Keep an eye out for it on a streaming video site.
  • Renoir  –   A beautifully shot French film about the artists (yes, artists) who influenced the painting and cinema worlds.
In addition, here are some films that really have stood out in 2013.    We recommend each wholeheartedly:
20 Feet From Stardom –  If you love pop music you will love this documentary about back-up singers.   Be introduced to amazing singers like Merry Clayton, Darlene Love,  Judith Hill and other women whose name you probably have not heard but whose voice has assuredly dazzled you.
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead –  Is a free documentary that chronicles an obese and chronically ill Australian man’s return to health.   Joe Cross forsakes his cabinet full of pharmaceuticals for a juicer and a commitment to improved diet and exercise.   He turns his life around and others who cross his path.   Essential viewing for anyone who has children or chronic illness.
What About Dick –  If you combine some of the best comic actors in the business  (Tracey Ullman, Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly,  Tim Curry, Jane Leeves), a madcap and profane scripts by Eric Idle and a sizeable does of Monty Python juju, the result is an 80-minute assault on your humor that will leave your stomach hurting but your wallet happy.   This self-financed, ingenious movie is available for download and streaming for a modest $6, or about a penny per laugh.    One of the best movie values of the year — if not decade.
The Wolf of Wall Street –  A cinematic tour de force with DeCaprio giving what will likely be an Oscar-nominated turn as a win-at-all-costs Wall Street carnivore and Scorcese putting on a clinic about how to tell a great story with a movie camera.   He’s a master and his formidable skills are on full display as almost every scene is a Louvre-worthy painting.    If you are a cinemaphile, you’ve got to see WoW.
Saving Mr. Banks – More great acting, this time from Emma Thompson who, when joined by Tom Hanks, delivers a masterclass in acting.   The movie is surprisingly good  — an appropriate mix of humor and drama — and wasn’t as obnoxious as I had expected given the Disney imprimataur.    Bring tissues, as they want to wring some tears from you, but the movie is so well acted and insightful about how childhood pain is processed by different people that it is worth at least a hankie or two.   Expect Thompson to get an Oscar nomination, to boot.
Unfinished Song –  Terence Stamp does a beautiful job in this unabashed tearjerker about a widower who learns to express himself through song.    It has humor, pathos, great acting and was a delightful reminder of the power of music.
Star Trek:  Into Darkness –  If you are a trekkie, you’ll love this film.  But watch “Simple Seed” episode from the original Star Trek’s first season and “Wrath of Khan” movie before you see this film.   It’ll enhance the experience and the fun.