The Juniper Tree (1990)

The Juniper Tree
Director: Nietzchka Keene
Writer: Nietzchka Keene
Based on: the Brothers Grimm fairy tale
Cast: Björk, Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir, Valdimar Örn Flygenring, Guðrún Gísladóttir, Geirlaug Sunna Þormar
Seen on: 19.11.2021

Plot:
Margit (Björk) and her older sister Katla (Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir) had to leave their home after their mother (Guðrún Gísladóttir) was killed for being a witch. Desperate to find a new home, Katla bewitches Jóhann (Valdimar Örn Flygenring), a widowed farmer. Jóhann already has a son, Jónas (Geirlaug Sunna Þormar), who is unwilling to accept Katla, and Katla has little love for him either. As Margit becomes friends with Jónas, she finds herself conflicted in their fight.

The Juniper Tree is probably the most famout Icelandic movie, a gorgeously restored black-and-white fairy tale adaptation that shies away from the clear-cut morality of the original fairy tale.

The film poster showing a black-and-white image of a kneeling Margit (Björk) looking desperately up.
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Eternals (2021)

Eternals
Director: Chloé Zhao
Writer: Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, Kaz Firpo
Based on: Jack Kirby‘s comic
Cast: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Ma Dong-seok, Harish Patel, Bill Skarsgård, Harry Styles, Patton Oswalt
Part of: Marvel movies
Seen on: 18.11.2021

Plot:
Three thousand years ago, a group of humanoid aliens were sent to Earth to protect it and its humans from the deviants – monsters that love to eat them. Led by Ajak (Salma Hayek), they are a fierce group of warriors, all with their special talents. 500 years ago, they got rid of the last deviant and dispersed, waiting to be called back to their home planet. Sersi (Gemma Chan) ended up in London where she is dating the human Dane (Kit Harington) after a break-up with her fellow Eternal Ikaris (Richard Madden). Sprite (Lia McHugh), another of the Eternals, lives with her. Things appear pretty settled – until they are unexpectedly attacked by a deviant that already drew Ikaris’ attention. It appears that the Eternals have to come back together as their mission isn’t over yet.

Eternals gets many things right, even if it doesn’t fit easily with the rest of the MCU. Be that as it may, I enjoyed a lot about it, but not without some reservations.

THe film poster, showing the ten Eternals standing on a river shore in their armor.
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Ceniza negra [Land of Ashes] (2019)

Ceniza negra
Director: Sofía Quirós
Writer: Sofía Quirós
Cast: Smashleen Gutiérrez, Humberto Samuels, Hortensia Smith, Keha Brown, Yulius Melvin Brown Rudolf, Adeysha Garrido Morales, Krisly Hernández Harris, Danna Murillo Carpio
Seen on: 13.11.2021

Plot:
Selva (Smashleen Gutiérrez) lives with her tata, her grandfather (Humberto Samuels) and his girlfriend Elena (Hortensia Smith). The relationship between 13-year-old Selva and Elena is tense, and her tata isn’t all that fit anymore. When she can, Selva escapes into the forest for games that feel almost ritualisitc with her friend Winter (Keha Brown). When Elena disappears, Selva has to shoulder even more.

Ceniza Negra is an interesting film. It’s highly symbolic and therefore also a little vague – sometimes maybe a little too much so. But altogether it is a very nice character study.

The film poster showing Selva (Smashleen Gutiérrez) in profile, almost just a silhouette, in front of a blue background. Above her head are light spots that look painted.
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Supernova (2020)

Supernova
Director: Harry Macqueen
Writer: Harry Macqueen
Cast: Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Pippa Haywood, Peter MacQueen
Seen on: 8.11.2021

Plot:
Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci) are setting off on a road trip together, towards a concert Sam will be giving, the first in a long time. On the way there, they are determined to visit important places and people of their life together. Since Tusker was diagnosed with dementia and is lapsing more and more, their trip is something like a farewell tour, too.

Supernova is a beautiful and sad film with great performances and a devastating soundtrack (thank you, Keaton Henson). It should not be missed.

The film poster showing Sam (Colin Firth) with his arm around Tusker (Stanley Tucci) as they stand on the shore of a lake.
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The Starling (2021)

The Starling
Director: Theodore Melfi
Writer: Matt Harris
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Kevin Kline, Timothy Olyphant, Daveed Diggs, Skyler Gisondo, Laura Harrier
Seen on: 5.11.2021

Plot:
Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) used to be very happy, but they aren’t anymore. Jack is in a psychiatric hospital, and Lilly is barely holding it together at work and at home. When a starling takes up residence in her garden and starts attacking her to defend its nest, Lilly can’t handle this at all. But her rage at the bird also sets things in motion again for her, and maybe even for Jack.

The Starling is sweet, touching and even funny, despite the very heavy topic it takes on. But it does so with a constant sense of hope, even at the worst time, and it’s just really beautiful to watch.

The film poster showing Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) lying on a lounge chair outside in the garden, a starling sitting on her shoulder.
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Horse Girl (2020)

Horse Girl
Director: Jeff Baena
Writer: Jeff Baena, Alison Brie
Cast: Alison Brie, Molly Shannon, Debby Ryan, John Reynolds, John Ortiz, Lauren Weedman, Hazel Armenante, Jake Picking, Toby Huss, Robin Tunney, Matthew Gray Gubler
Seen on: 3.11.2021

Content Note: cripping up

Plot:
Sarah (Alison Brie) lives a very quiet life. She works at an arts and craft store with Joan (Molly Shannon) and very much likes crafts herself. She lives with a roommate, Nikki (Debby Ryan), who keeps inviting her to go out a little more, but she rather stays home to watch a supernatural TV show about Agatha (Robin Tunney) and Darren (Matthew Gray Gubler). In her time off, she likes to visit a horse that used to be hers. But Sarah finds herself having strange dreams and zoning out more and more. There is something going on that she just can’t grasp.

Horse Girl is a very well-made film that is serious beneath its soft appearance and its sense of humor. With a fantastic performance by Brie, we get a character study that packs a punch after a soft beginning.

The film poster showing an ultra close-up of Sarah (Alison Brie) .
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Re-Watch: The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

The Matrix Revolutions
Director: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Writer: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Sequel to: The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Harry Lennix, Harold Perrineau, Jada Pinkett Smith, Gina Torres, Mary Alice, Nathaniel Lees, Helmut Bakaitis, Lambert Wilson, Monica Bellucci, Collin Chou, Essie Davis, Nona Gaye, Cornel West, Bruce Spence
Seen on: 1.11.2021

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Zion is still under threat, and their time is running out. Meanwhile Neo (Keanu Reeves) is unconscious, and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) suspect that he is still in the Matrix, although his body isn’t plugged in. They start a desperate search for him. Meanwhile Neo learns more about The Matrix and his connection to it – knowledge that will hopefully lead to an end of the war between humans and machines. But whether he can achieve his goal before Zion is destroyed completely is still questionable.

Where The Matrix Reloaded was a step-down from The Matrix, The Matrix Revolutions is a plunge down for several stories. It’s a boring film that gives us an unsatisfying ending of the trilogy. I really hope that the new film will make up for it a little.

The film poster showiing Neo (Keanu Reeves) in the rain, but the raindrops are actually strings of Matrix.
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Re-Watch: The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

The Matrix Reloaded
Director: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Writer: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Sequel to: The Matrix
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Harry Lennix, Harold Perrineau, Jada Pinkett Smith, Gina Torres, Gloria Foster, Nathaniel Lees, Helmut Bakaitis, Lambert Wilson, Monica Bellucci, Randall Duk Kim, Steve Bastoni, Don Battee, Collin Chou, Essie Davis, Terrell Dixon, Nona Gaye, Roy Jones Jr., Shane C. Rodrigo, Cornel West, Leigh Whannell
Seen on: 1.11.2021

Plot:
Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) have joined and built up a strong resistance against the machines, both inside the Matrix and outside of it. When they learn about plans of a large-scale attack on Zion, the one human city left on earth, they only have a short time-frame to prevent it. Meanwhile, Neo is plagued by dreams of Trinity dying that feel an awful lot like visions. Seeking the Oracle (Gloria Foster) for help again, he learns of what is needed. But getting it isn’t easy, especially since Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) also picked up a few skills.

With the upcoming sequel to the original trilogy, I didn’t want to leave it at just watching the first film although I knew that the second film couldn’t keep up with the first. Unfortunately, even with some distance from the hype that the first film generated, The Matrix Reloaded is a disappointment.

The film poster shwoing Neo (Keanu Reeves) and behind him Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in a brick-built tunnel opening.
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Re-Watch: The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix
Director: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Writer: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster, Joe Pantoliano, Marcus Chong, Julian Arahanga, Matt Doran, Belinda McClory, Anthony Ray Parker
Seen on: 1.11.2021

Plot:
Thomas Anderson, better known under his hacker name Neo (Keanu Reeves), receives a mysterious message that tells him to follow the white rabbit, just before there is a knock on the door and a customer with a white rabbit tattoo leads him away. This fateful encounter brings him to Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), probably the best known hackers in the world, always on the run from the law. They offer him a choice: Neo can follow them and learn the truth about the world, or he can forget about everything and stay trapped. What Neo doesn’t know is that Morpheus is convinced that Neo can save them all. In fact, Neo isn’t even aware that they need saving at first. But he soon learns better.

To say that The Matrix is a formative movie for filmmaking is probably putting it mildly. Seeing it again now, more than twenty years later, the footprint it left is very obvious – and understandable. It is still an awesome film.

The film poster showing Neo (Keanu Reeves), and behind him Cypher (Joe Pantoliano), Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). All dressed n black, wearing sunglasses and holding weapons.
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Petite maman [Little Mom] (2021)

Petite maman
Director: Céline Sciamma
Writer: Céline Sciamma
Cast: Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne, Margot Abascal
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2021

Plot:
Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) just lost her grandmother and now she and her parents (Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne) have traveled to her grandmother’s home, her mother’s childhood home, to empty it and ready it for the sale. Meanwhile Nelly explores the garden and the woods behind the house where she meets Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) who is building a tree house there. The two girls quickly become friends, but Nelly senses that there is something unusual about the situation.

Petite maman was simply wonderful. The perfect way to end the Viennale for me as it is a beautiful meditation about loss and saying good-bye while keeping the people you love in your heart.

The film poster showing Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) and Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) looking at each other. Below them is a painted landscape, so that their heads and the landscape form a heart.
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