I don’t know if you folks know this or not but the college hosts an annual film series.  Here’s their site but don’t click there until after you finished my reviews, thank you.

Their theme this year is “Religion: Opium or Oracle?”  That seems like an awfully weighty subject and I plan on leaving that to the folks involved with the Auteur Film Series to discuss and debate.

That being said, this month, I’ve got two movies for you where faith plays an important role.

Z For Zachariah (2015) [PG-13]

Z For Zachariah posterSteve Jobs once said:

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Despite its small cast and simple story, Z For Zachariah manages to pack a great deal of drama and complex emotion into 98 minutes.

At it’s core, Z is about a woman named Ann, played by Margot Robbie, who has survived a disaster that decimated Earth.  The valley she lives in is the only place that has managed to sustain life and Ann seems to be the only person left in it.  That is until one day when Ann stumbles across John, a scientist played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has found his way to the valley.

After John becomes ill from bathing in radioactive water from outside the valley, Ann helps him to her house and nurses him back to health.  Ann feels it is divine providence that has kept the valley safe and brought them together while John tries to determine what meteorological and topographical factors affected it.

They slowly realize that as the last two human beings on Earth, it is up to them to rebuild and repopulate despite their differences.  That’s when they come across Caleb, played by Chris Pine, who has also managed to find his way to the valley.

What at first sounds like a typical love triangle story is far more subtle and nuanced.  The performances in Z for Zachariah are all very good. Director Craig Zobel and screenwriter Nissar Modi manage to pack a story about three tiny people in a big, empty world with a surprising amount of quiet tension and emotion but don’t expect an explosive ending.  This one is a quiet, slow burn that leaves you pondering well after it’s over.

If you are a fan of the book, I’m afraid the plot isn’t the same, but I think you’ll find this to be an interesting take on the story.  If you haven’t read the book, give this one a little time and thought.  I think you’ll come away impressed.

7.5 paws out of 10

Deli Man (2014) [PG-13]

Deli Man posterYou may or may not know this about me but I am a huge fan of the sandwich.  It is such a wonderful, compact and surprisingly varied type of food.  Even typing this is making me hungry.

Our second movie this month, Deli Man follows the story of Ziggy Gruber, who is the co-owner of a delicatessen in Houston (that I am now planning a road trip to). He is also the grandson of the original owner of the first kosher deli to open on Broadway in New York City in the 1920s.  The film uses Gruber and his story to discuss American Jewish deli culture and its effect on family and community.

The history of delicatessens in New York and the United States as a whole is not dissimilar to that of Chinese or Italian cuisines that acted as a comforting slice of the homeland for immigrants.  One could argue that these culinary forces played a giant role in helping to Americanize disparate cultures.  This is the story that Ziggy Gruber relays throughout the film.  To many people, the deli is where home and family meet and culture and tradition are born.

Deli Man is about the powerful mixture of food, family and faith that has meant so much to so many and yet is slowly dying out.  In the film, Gruber says “When I cook, I cook with all of my love and my passion into the food … when I smell that smell, I feel my grandfather right beside me.”  It is that intimate, familial and culinary tie that binds customers to their favorite delis and is celebrated in this entertaining documentary.

7 paws out of 10

As always, if you have a movie you think I should check out or you want to talk further about one of these reviews, drop me a line at collincougar@collin.edu or leave me a message on Facebook.