Movie #1:  Middle of Nowhere (2012)
Director:  Ava Duvernay

Middle of NowhereTwo years before Selma, Ava Duvernay won a Directing Award at the Sundance Festival for Middle of Nowhere. There have been lots of prison movies, but here’s a movie about the family left behind: a young wife, Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi), is determined to be faithful and supportive while her husband serves his eight year sentence (five with good behavior, Ruby believes doggedly). Ruby drops out of medical school to be more available for her imprisoned husband, Derek (Omari Hardwicke), and seems to almost be serving her own sentence.

She rides back and forth to work, back and forth to the prison, patiently endures the scorching criticism of her mother (Lorraine Touissant) – in short, she really is in the middle of nowhere, living in suspended animation because of a crime she didn’t commit.

Duvernay has made a grave, beautiful, sloooow movie.

The pace is such a bold move that it makes me think Duvernay must have already had a lot of confidence in herself as a director. Corinealdi is wonderful as Ruby: physically delicate but steely in her resolve to do the right thing. And David Oyelowo – who would go on to star in Selma – provides solid support as a bus driver who begins to break through Ruby’s emotional stupor.


Bonus Pick:  Sunshine Cleaning (2009)
Director:  Christine Jeffs

Sunshine_cleaning-203x300Sisters Rose (Amy Adams) and Norah (Emily Blunt) aren’t exactly setting the world on fire, but they find their niche when they open a crime scene cleaning company. Sunshine Cleaning is a warm, quirky, occasionally gross little indie comedy – completely sold by the two leads’ vibrant, funny performances.