Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 2/19/16

The Witch   (R) 

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Julian Richings

Directed By: Robert Eggers

After a family is cast out of a Puritan village because of the father’s extreme piety, a series of misfortunes involving failed crops, animal malformations and a missing newborn coincide with the daughter’s blossoming womanhood. No need to see if she floats or has a third breast—she must be a witch. Audiences accustomed to  the pedestrian frights of The Blair Witch Project will be surprised how spine-tingling and unsettling this historic conflict between generations can be.

3 and 1/2 pieces of paranoia set decades before Arthur Miller’s The Crucible toast 

Son of  Saul (R)

Starring: Geza Rohrig, Levente Molnar, Urs Rechen

Directed By: Laszlo Nemes

Often silent—other times a Babel of international desperation, this is a harrowing look at the survival of one particular Nazi death camp inmate who postpones his inevitable demise by cleaning up the “delousing shower rooms” after the poison gas has done its work. He attempts invisibility in his Augean stables task until he witnesses the death of one boy who survived the gas only to be suffocated by the attending doctor. Ordered to remove the body for autopsy and burning, instead the man searches out a rabbi who can perform a traditional Jewish burial ceremony for the boy.

3 pieces of realistic inhumanity toast 

Race (PG-13)

Starring: Stephen James, Jason Sudakis, Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houton, William Hurt

Directed By: Stephan Hopkins

Hampered by the need to illustrate America’s institutionalized apartheid and Nazi Germany’s systemic eradication of non-Aryans, this film unwisely (and needlessly) shows several made up sequences. These include Owen’s fictional  pre-Olympics visit to Naziland, his disputes with the NAACP, the backroom arm-twisting between Avery Brundage and Joseph Goebbels, and the moral quandary faced by Hitler’s favorite filmmaker, Leni Reifenstahl. It is purely coincidental that I just re-watched Reifenstahl’s film Olympia in preparation for my “Watch Documentaries Like a Film Critic” presentation this Sunday afternoon at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. The Nazi regime originally wanted to exclude Black athletes from the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but the German National Olympic Committee convinced Hitler that competition against “non-Aryans” would “inevitably be to Germany’s advantage.” To Hitler’s dismay, athletic achievement trumped Nazi propaganda, and even if the Fuher didn’t applaud when Jesse Owen’s nimbly jumped 8.o6 meters (and flashed a captivating smile) to win the Gold Medal against Germany’s Lux Long, he did congratulate Owens with an autographed photo. In contrast, when Owens returned home, President Roosevelt only invited the White members of the USA team to the White House.

2and 1/2 pieces of unnecessarily fictionalized Jesse Owens biopic toast

Risen (PG-13)

Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Cliff Curtis

Directed By: Kevin Reynolds

Turns out that the theft of Christ’s body (mysteriously missing from inside a sealed tomb) was investigated as a crime by Roman military policemen who speak with British accents. Thwarted because CSI technology won’t be invented for a couple thousand years, the lead investigator has to rely on eyewitness accounts given by Mary Magdalene and other people familiar with the lilting tones of the King James Bible. Following the hallowed ground trod by earlier movie epics like The Robe and Ben Hur, the Roman cop becomes born again when he happens upon the beatific man who he watched die on the cross, is still living and breathing and walking the Earth again.

2 and 1/2 pieces of made up Bible stories toast