I don't know about what to watch this weekend, but I can tell you what not to watch: "The Conspirator," a deadly and deadly serious history lesson about the perils of messing with due process and our Constitutional rights. As well-intentioned and even necessary as this film about the railroading of Mary Surratt might be, it's stiff, hectoring, and astonishingly poorly shot, an animatronic lecture where a compelling drama should have been. This is what Robert Redford has come to as a director? I'm depressed. A top-flight cast that includes Robin Wright, James McAvoy, and Evan Rachel Wood can do nothing with dialogue that has been written in italics, but I was remiss in my review for not calling out the ever-inventive Stephen Root, who turns up in a small part as a degenerate reprobate of a prosecution witness and briefly provides "The Conspirator" with the pulse it direly needs.
Nor does Wesley think this year's Academy Award winner for best foreign language film, "In a Better World," is any good. I'd rank it slightly higher than he does but have to admit it's the weakest of Susanne Bier's highminded melodramas to date, despite some good, scary work by the kid actors.
"Scream 4"? They need to give us a why, and they haven't. "Rio," on the other hand, is surprisingly worldly and inventive family CGI fare, and if you're looking for envelope-pushing animation, please patronize "Nine Nation Animation" at the Coolidge. All the shorts in the program are inspired, but David O'Reilly's "Please Say Something" is something way beyond -- the fusion of "Blue Valentine" and "Krazy Kat" you never knew you wanted.
Then there's "Le Quattro Volte" (in photo above), which is only one of the most sneakily profound experiences I've had at the movies in months. A wordless tale of the cycle of life as seen through several denizens of a tiny Italian village -- a goatherd, a goat, a tree -- Michelangelo Frammartino's film has a resilient tension and cosmic humor that makes it a sheer pleasure to watch, even if it's beautifully slow enough to drive Michael Bay fans screaming from the theater. What this movie is, really, is Buddhist Bresson.
The Boston International Film Festival starts today at the AMC Boston Common and runs until the 24th, and while it isn't a curated festival like Sundance, SXSW, or the upcoming (and far superior) Independent Film Festival of Boston , it's still a good place to catch up with films you won't find anywhere else and hardworking filmmakers who are delighted to find an audience.
New South Asian films at the MFA Friday through Sunday. On a related note, the great Kurdish-Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi arrives at the Harvard Film Archive for a retrospective of his work. Tonight (Friday) affords a chance to see "Turtles Can Fly," a sharp comic tragedy about childhood in wartime. Saturday night gets better: Ghobadi himself, along with a print of his aching semi-fictionalized 2010 take on Tehran rock 'n' roll kids "No One Knows About Persian Cats." One of the best films of 2010 pops up in 2011, so you'd damn well better pounce.
About Movie Nation
ContributorsTy Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.
Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.
Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.
Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.
Take 2 reviews and podcast
Look for new reviews by Ty Burr and Wesley Morris at the end of each week in multiple formats.