DIFF 2017: Day 7

Mine is a war thriller that takes a different spin on the genre by focusing on a singular soldier instead of elaborate battle sequences. Armie Hammer plays a Marine sniper who, along with his spotter and good friend Tommy, is on a mission to assassinate a terrorist in the middle of the North African desert, but it ultimately fails and the two soldiers are forced to walk many hours to join the rest of the American troops. Hammer’s character Mike ends up stepping on a land mine and must survive by himself without removing his foot or risk death for over two days until backup can arrive to rescue him. Through a series of hallucinations, Mike recollects his troubled past, especially with his abusive father and dying mother, and his relationship with his girlfriend back home. It feels very much like a traditional survival movie, such as 127 Hours with James Franco who is also stuck in the desert, and tries to give a message of hope and reflection during times of desperation.

Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table is a fascinating documentary about the grande dame of New Orleans cuisine, Ella Brennan, and chronicles her personal life along with her very successful career as the premier restauranteur in a city famous for its culinary arts. She first became involved in the restaurant business when her older brother Owen took over a failing French Quarter restaurant that would later become the famed Brennan’s, but she really became well-known after some of the family split off from the members that owned Brennan’s and helped revitalize a decaying restaurant and former mansion in the Garden District named Commander’s Palace. Ella is a particularly intriguing personality in a city full of personality because she was the first truly successful female restauranteur in the nation before the rise of celebrity chefs and internationally acclaimed restaurants. She has always had a commanding presence in now the most famous culinary institution in New Orleans and the South and is greatly respected for kickstarting the careers of celebrity chefs Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse. The movie also discusses her life outside the restaurant, particularly the struggle she had with raising two children after divorcing her alcoholic husband and the public fissure within the larger Brennan family.

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