Dreams of a Life

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Dreams of a Life (2012)
In 2003, the body of 38 year old Joyce Vincent was found in her studio apartment. She had been dead for over two years. This film, part documentary-part dramatization, attempts to discover why her friends and family made little effort to contact her, and explores how this tragedy could have happened.

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(available on DVD and Netflix streaming)

Classic Novels – Miniseries Adaptations

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Bleak House (2005)
A visually stunning, wonderfully unorthodox version of one of Dickens’ most acclaimed novels. The miniseries was originally shown on British television in 15 parts to match the serialized form of the original publication of Dickens’ novel. Features many familiar actors including Gillian Anderson (X-Files), Carey Mulligan (An Education, Great Gatsby), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Anna Maxwell-Martin (Philomena), and Burn Gorman (Torchwood, Pacific Rim).

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Middlemarch (1994)
George Eliot’s novel is considered one of the greatest novels of all time, with a rich narrative complexity that is impossible to adapt to film. However, this miniseries manages to successfully portray the story of Dorothea Brooke, Dr. Tertius Lydgate, and the other residents of Middlemarch who attempt to find love and a vocational purpose.

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Our Mutual Friend (1998)
One of Charles Dickens’ critically acclaimed lesser known novels is adapted into a compelling miniseries. A millionaire’s son pretends to be someone else to test to see if the woman who he has to marry to gain his inheritance really loves him. The cast is comprised of familiar actors including David Morrissey (The Walking Dead), Timothy Spall (Harry Potter films) and Peter Vaughan (Game of Thrones).

The Insider – 15th Anniversary

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The Insider (1999) An almost unrecognizable Russell Crowe plays famed whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, who agrees to expose the unethical practices of the tobacco industry to 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino). When CBS declines to air the complete story for fear of a lawsuit, Wigand and Bergman fight to save their reputations and to air the entire story.

Even after 15 years, this film still packs a powerful punch, exposing the ramifications of the fear of legal retribution when journalists attempt to expose illegal and harmful actions committed by powerful corporations.

Russell Crowe’s Oscar nominated performance remains one of his best performances of his entire career. Also featuring excellent performances by Al Pacino as Bergman, Christopher Plummer as Mike Wallace, and Diana Venora as Liane Wigand. Directed by Michael Mann. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards.

Food and Wine Documentaries

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) An exploration of the career and personal life of the man considered to be the greatest sushi chef in the world. Jiro became world renowned with only a 10 seat restaurant located in a subway station in Tokyo, inspiring loyal customers to make reservations months in advance and pay high prices. You’ll be wishing you can sample his sushi while watching this delightful documentary.

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John Cleese’s Wine for the Confused (2004) The Monty Python alum guides you on a journey of wine appreciation for the novice. Offers some of the best pieces of advice you’ll ever need to enjoy wine such as: just because a wine expert gave the wine a 99% score  “won’t make it taste any better to you” and “do not let anyone else tell you what wine you should like.”

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Kings of Pastry (2011) This delightful documentary about competitors for the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman in France) proves to be a suspenseful and exhilarating exploration of the fine art of pastry making presented as a three day battle between 15 of the best pastry chefs.

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Somm (2013) An entertaining exploration of hopeful sommeliers preparing for the Court of Master Sommeliers exam. Wine lovers will find plenty in this film to satisfy their palates. Even if you have no interest in wine, this film is a compelling, amusing, and suspenseful examination of other people’s obsession with it.  

Food and Wine Movies

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Julie and Julia (2009)  In two separate storylines, Meryl Streep plays Julia Child at the beginning of her career as she learns the skills to become a superior chef, and Amy Adams plays a young blogger named Julie who devotes a year to attempting to make one or more recipes a day from Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking and then writing about her success or failure. A charming and amusing film about finding joy in both cooking and writing about food.

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Bottle Shock (2008) The somewhat fictionalized true story of several Napa Valley Wineries in the 1970’s who competed in a wine competition in France. The results gave worldwide recognition to several wineries, including Stag’s Leap and Chateau Montelena.  The cast includes Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, and Bill Pullman. Based in part on wine connoisseur and commentator Steven Spurrier’s book about the event The Judgment of Paris.

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Big Night (1996)  In this highly acclaimed Indie film, two brothers, who own an unsuccessful restaurant, decide to make one daring attempt to make their mark in the restaurant world by throwing a party for bandleader Louis Prima. A fussy chef, erratic staff, customers, and rivals may ruin their chances of a successful “big night.” The cast includes Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, Minnie Driver, and Isabella Rosellini.

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Sideways (2004) This critically acclaimed comedy-drama features Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church as a pair of 40-something buddies who take a road trip through the Santa Barbara wine country. They find themselves drawn to a pair of local women (Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh) with the same passion for wine, who inspire them to rethink the direction of their lives. (Oscar winner for best adapted screenplay)

Chasing Ice (2013)

Nature photographer James Balog spent three years documenting the effects of global warming on glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, Glacier National Park, and Mt Everest. By strategically placing cameras that took one picture every hour  for three years, Balog reveals through some stunning images the dramatic effects  of climate change.

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(available on DVD and Netflix streaming)

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (2012)

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Crewdson’s elaborately staged cinematic photographs depicting scenes from American life are stunning examples of photography as art and social commentary. Each photo is an evocative psychological moment in time captured with a richness of depth and a haunting perspective of the sadness and beauty of human life.

(available on DVD and Netflix streaming)

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters Trailer from Benjamin Shapiro on Vimeo.

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