Movie Reviews

The 13th Annual Sacramento Jewish Film Festival

This weekend marks the 13th Annual Jewish Film Festival (JFF).  I asked JFF Co-Director Sid Garcia-Heberger three quick questions about the Festival and its contents:

Could you describe this year’s program for the 13th Annual Jewish Film Festival?  
This year’s program is a strong grouping of mostly feature films.  Even our documentary feels more like a comedy than a documentary. This being our 13th (Bar Mitzvah) year, we wanted to draw on generational themes and, for the first time, we found a film that we think will appeal to the tween-teen crowd, their parents and grandparents too!  I’m really pleased with the blend of humor, romance and just a little bit of seriousness we’ve accomplished with this particular line up of films.

Is the Festival gentile-friendly?  After all, it’s your Festival or another screening of “Avatar”: What’s a goy to do?
This festival is absolutely gentile friendly! Just as you don’t have to be French to go to the French Film Festival, you don’t need to be Jewish to enjoy Jewish films. Our selection criterion is that every film must stand on its own as a film.  We don’t select films just because of their “Jewishness.”  Besides, after taking in two billion dollars, James Cameron isn’t going to appreciate your support as much as we will!

The JFF is one of many film festivals in Sacramento and the Crest is a rarity among art house theaters, combining restored elegance with digital technology: Is Sacramento a city for film lovers?

Yes, Sacramento does love film in all shapes and sizes from premiere and indie screenings on the big screen at the Crest to outdoor screenings of family classics in the local parks. I’m really encouraged to have a film included as a priority in the new For Art’s Sake Initiative [Mayor Johnson’s art initiative]. I hope that recognizing film as an art form is a trend in our community.

The JFF is at the Crest Theatre, 1013 K Street, Saturday, February 6th and Sunday, February 7th. Full details can be found at


7 p.m. -CAMERA OBSCURA: A lonely woman finds her inner beauty when she encounters a nomadic photographer. 2008 (1 Hr. 26 Min.) In Spanish and Yiddish with English Subtitles.

9:15 p.m. -A MATTER OF SIZE: Four big guys learn to laugh and love in this Israeli comedy. 2009 (1 Hr. 30 Min.) In Hebrew and English with English subtitles.


Noon -YOO-HOO MRS. GOLDBERG: A loving tribute to Gertrude Berg creator of America’s first sitcom THE GOLDBERGS. 2009 (1 Hr. 35 Min.) In English.

2:15 p.m. -MAX MINSKY AND ME: A coming of age story for all ages! Nelly Sue Edelmeister wants to learn how to play basketball so she can go to Luxembourg and meet the prince. Her mother wants her to prepare for her bat mitzvah. What’s a girl to do? 2007 (1 Hr. 34 Min.) In German with English Subtitles.

Romantic Moviebriefs

Dear John: Directed by Lasse Hallström
The latest film from Lasse Hallström (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “The Cider House Rules,” “Chocolat”) is an adaptation of another Nicholas Sparks (“A Walk to Remember,” “The Notebook”) novel. It’s predictably good in both direction and storyline, with a plot about a young special forces soldier (Channing Tatum) who meets a young student (Amanda Seyfried) while on leave, only to fall in love in time to say goodbye. Set against a backdrop of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “Dear John” feels more genuine than most neat Hollywood love stories. Tatum is solid in a role that gives him more to work with than most of his previous work. He’s supported well by both Seyfried and Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor”) as his father. The love affair via correspondence is reminiscent at times of last year’s delightful “Bright Star” (see below). (Opens February 5th)

When in Rome: Directed by Mark Steven Johnson
Beth (Kristen Bell) is a museum curator who travels to Rome for her younger sister’s sudden wedding. While there, she drunkenly picks five coins out of a fountain of love, thus triggering a screenwriters dream myth that requires the coins’ original owners to stalk her creepily throughout Act 2. “When in Rome” often seems like an exercise in stunt casting with little substance for the actors (including Danny DeVito and Anjelica Huston) to work with. The strong suit was Josh Duhamel as the primary love interest; the film mainly made me wish I had watched him in something better.

Bright Star (on DVD): Directed by Jane Campion
Last week’s DVD releases included one of my favorite under-appreciated films of 2009: “Bright Star.” The following is reprinted from September 23rd, 2009:
Campion (“The Piano”) brings us a beautiful period drama and love story that’s an extraordinary reminder of the depths of passion that once arose from brief kisses and shared correspondence. In an era of online matchmaking, formulaic romantic comedies, and cinematic first dates that can out-sex a Victorian marriage, this story of romance between the ill-fated poet John Keats and young neighbor Fanny Brawne has more depth of feeling and onscreen chemistry than anything I’ve seen recently, with none of the skin. Keats was destined to be under-appreciated until after his passing – “Bright Star” is deserving of a better fate.   

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