BETSY WEST, JULIE COHEN | 2018 | USA | English | 97 MIN
At 85, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (aka The Notorious RBG) is more beloved than ever. As Betsy West and Julie Cohen demonstrate in this probing documentary, there’s even more to Ginsburg’s trailblazing legacy than most of her admirers realize. The filmmakers explore how this petite, soft-spoken girl from Brooklyn managed to break her way into the male-dominated world of law, forging a new path for American women along the way through her fierce intellect and tireless work ethic. RBG also offers a touching look at Ginsburg’s decades-long partnership with her late husband Marty; their idiosyncratic but endlessly supportive relationship provides the film’s emotional backbone. Yet, far from being a simple jog down memory lane, RBG shows Ginsburg as sharp and tenacious as ever, ready to inspire an entirely new generation.
BO BURNHAM | 2018 | USA | English | 93 MIN
Comedian Bo Burnham makes an impressive directorial debut with the heartfelt, painfully authentic story of Kayla (outstanding newcomer Elsie Fisher), a shy 13-year-old grappling with all the familiar struggles of adolescence: insufficient popularity, annoying parents, acne. But technology has also blessed (or cursed) millennial youngsters like Kayla with Instagram, Snapchat, and a host of other ways to chase the validation of their peers. Kayla makes inspirational YouTube videos encouraging her few followers to channel their confidence, but flounders in real life while her single dad (Josh Hamilton) can do little but watch sympathetically. Thanks to Burnham’s sensitive direction and Fisher’s achingly true performance, the tribulations and eventual triumphs of Eighth Grade’s heroine feel both eye-openingly contemporary and completely universal.
SEBASTIÁN LELIO | 2018 | UK | English | 114 MIN
Director Sebastián Lelio follows up his Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman with this deeply-felt drama of repressed passions and spiritual devotion. Years after leaving her London Orthodox Jewish community for a secular life in New York, Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns home following the death of her rabbi father. There, she reconnects with her childhood friend Esti (Rachel McAdams), who is now married to well-respected holy man Dovid (Alessandro Nivola). The two women find themselves cautiously rekindling a dormant romance, but must weigh their desires against the rigid values of the Orthodox community. Aided by sensitive performances from Weisz and McAdams, Lelio has once again delivered a powerful look at complex women struggling for freedom and fulfillment within an intolerant society.
DON ARGOTT | 2018 | USA | English | 101 MIN
Musician Dan Reynolds is known around the world as the voice of mega-selling rock band Imagine Dragons; he’s also a practicing Mormon. In the revealing documentary Believer, Reynolds tackles one of the biggest issues facing the church: the disproportionately high rate of suicide among Mormon teens. A longtime ally of the LGBTQ community, Reynolds decided to put his celebrity into action by staging an outdoor concert called LoveLoud in Utah, aiming to send a message of love and acceptance to young Mormons struggling to reconcile their sexuality and their faith. Believer follows Reynolds as he races against the clock to get the ambitious event off the ground despite numerous logistical hurdles and public skepticism. Fueled by Reynolds’s infectious enthusiasm, this rousing concert doc carries a timely and inspiring message.
“The model of a modern musician” (Los Angeles Times) and winner of the 2016 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award, Curtis alumna Karina Canellakis leads the emerging virtuosos of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. Metropolitan Opera star Amanda Majeski, also a Curtis alumna, joins them in Strauss’s Four Last Songs, a perfect match for her “glowing” soprano (Opera News).
Renowned African-American composer and Curtis alumnus George Walker wrote his pensive Lyric for Strings in memory of his grandmother. Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra offers an otherworldly counterpoint to Scriabin’s rarely heard Poem of Ecstasy, which provides the exhilarating close.