AJFF What to Watch in October

09/29/2020

Classics of varying genres, films formerly featured at AJFF's annual festival, and a timely new Aaron Sorkin legal drama are featured in this month's picks. Film titles are linked with information on where to watch or purchase.

Video on Demand

A Call to Spy
This historical drama, based on true stories, follows the the Special Operations Executive (SOE)—tasked by Winston Churchill in WWII to recruit and train women as spies with the mission of conducting sabotage and to build a resistance. Together three women, SOE's "spymistress" Vera Atkins (Stana Katic), Virginia Hall (Sarah Megan Thomas), an ambitious American with a wooden leg, and Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte), an Indian Muslim pacifist, help to undermine the Nazi regime in France, leaving an unmistakable legacy in their wake.

Funny Girl 
This triumphant, Oscar-winning big-screen debut of Barbra Streisand, is the musical, rags-to-riches tale of a young ugly duckling with a relentless drive to be a Broadway star. In a watershed role that launched her to superstardom, Streisand is funny and heartbreaking as the comedian and singer Fanny Brice, plucked from obscurity in New York’s Lower East Side to headline the Ziegfeld Follies. Fame, riches and adoration follow, as does a bittersweet marriage to charming gambler Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif), whose shady business deals threaten a scandal. Director William Wyler’s colorful adaptation of the smash Broadway show was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, with Streisand’s famous “Hello, gorgeous” opening line ranked among the greatest movie quotes. Featured as a classic in the 2018 AJFF.

The Painted Bird
Recently featured at the 2020 AJFF, this narrative follows a nameless boy who wanders the countryside in the frenzied final days of Nazi occupation. Met with unthinkable depravity by ignorant peasants and brutal soldiers, only the smallest acts of grace offer any hope of catharsis. Anchored by newcomer Petr Kotlár's astonishing performance, cameos include Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgard, Udo Kier and Barry Pepper. Not for the faint-hearted, this uncompromising depiction of evil is based on Jerzy Kosiński’s controversial novel.

Spaceballs 
Made over 30 years ago, the Mel Brooks co-written, produced and directed Star Wars spoof is considered a cult classic and remains one of Brooks's most popular films. George Lucas was such a fan of the idea that he allowed Brooks full permission to lampoon anything he wanted with one condition, that no merchandise associated with the film ever be made.

The Trial of the Chicago 7
Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the film follows the real-life Chicago Seven group of anti-Vietnam War protesters charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Featuring an all-star cast including Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, and Alex Sharp. Originally slated for theatrical release by Paramount Pictures, the distribution rights to the film were sold to Netflix due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film has garnered positive reviews from critics largely for the ensemble cast and timely modern parallels from the 1960s.

Blu-Ray & DVD

Crescendo
A renowned conductor assembles an orchestra of Israeli and Palestinian youth, only to be drawn into a tempest of distrust and discord. For personal reasons, maestro Eduard Sporck agrees to arrange a symbolic concert for a Middle East peace summit in Italy. But corralling the young artists—sworn enemies from the Arab-Israeli divide—is easier said than done. As auditions begin in Tel Aviv, conflict between factions flares up almost instantly. It takes all the conductor’s skills to get his musicians in harmony, building to a tense, emotional finale. An impressive cast of Israeli and Palestinian non-actors, led by veteran Peter Simonischek, lends authenticity to this powerful drama, loosely inspired by Daniel Barenboim’s West–Eastern Divan Orchestra. Recently featured at the 2020 AJFF.

Requiem for a Dream
This chilling psychological drama is based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr., with whom Darren Aronofsky wrote the screenplay. Directed as well by Aronofsky, the film features an all-star cast including Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans. The film folllows four characters affected by drug addiction and how it alters their physical and emotional state. For her role as Sara Goldfarb, a Jewish widow who spirals after becoming addicted to amphetamines, Burstyn was nominated for several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actress.