Eye Candy, Ear Worm filled “Ready Player One”

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Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” was made for the holiday season.

It’s about an Easter egg by a director known for gilding the lily.

Its classic Spielberg overkill. But it also in his sci-fi wheelhouse.

The teenage hero played Ty Sheridan lives in a post apocalyptic housing project called The Stacks whose residents escape into The Oasis a video game universe inspired by 1980s pop culture.

The introverted nerd who created it is played by Mark Rylance who people forget is a former Milwaukee resident.

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“Death of Stalin” A Comically Arsenic Satire

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In the closing credits of “The Death of Stalin,” his successor Malenkov, played by Jeffrey Tambor fades from the screen, another casualty in the battle for power after Stalin’s death.

Stalin henchman Beria was a brutal schemer and Malenkov his useful idiot. Beria, played by blustering and blistering British stage veteran Simon Russell Peale, ends up executed in “Murder on the Orient Express” fashion and a cunning Kruschev, played by a perpetually exasperated Steve Buscemi, emerged to become leader of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964.

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Why “Black Panther” Matters

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All the best superhero movies have two things in common, they are:

1) Stand alone films and 2) Establish or begin the sustaining myths.

Which means the most fulfilling are usually the first ones in a franchise like “Iron Man,” “Captain America: The First Avenger” and  “Wonder Woman.” It’s where the escapism is pure, the pleasure is in discovery and there is a bracing sense of new things being explored.

“Black Panther” is all those things and a social phenomenon as well.

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Why These Are The Most Woke Oscar Nominations, Ever

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Dee Rees, director of Mudbound, is the first African American woman to receive an Oscar screenplay nomination in 45 years.

Dee Rees, director of Mudbound, is the first African American woman to receive an Oscar screenplay nomination in 45 years.

If inclusivity and diversity are the standard, a case can be made that these are the most woke Oscar nominations ever.

Oscar voters choices were more representative in terms of race and gender than ever before, especially in light of the 2016 Oscar white-out, proving that last year’s best picture win for the gay African-American story “Moonlight,” was not a fluke.

This year’s highlights include:

*Dee Rees is the first black woman in 45 years nominated for her “Mudbound” screenplay and only the second ever;

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Desire Designed To Happen In “Phantom Thread”

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“Phantom Thread” is about him. But it’s also about her.

During the scene in Paul Thomas Anderson’s film where fastidious high fashion dressmaker Daniel Day-Lewis and his muse played by German actress Vicky Kreips first meet, I thought: He’s dressing her with his eyes. .

He dresses 1950s royalty and debutantes and becomes obsessed with designing for her form. Dismissive and covetous, he has a need for her, just not her presence.

And this gives her emotional leverage.

Somewhere between her slurping tea and crunching toast – their sounds amusingly heightened –  and his mercurial outbursts at his loss of privacy, they find a weird middle ground and become collaborators out of mutual self interest.

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Jack Black Is “The Polka King”

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You don’t have to be Polish to enjoy “The Polka King,” on Netflix, but it helps.

The horn driven duple time sounds of Jan Lewan, the Pennsylvania Grammy nominee known by the film’s title sobriquet and enthusiastically played by Jack Black, are the heartbeat of polka music and familiar to anyone who grew up with  Fritz the Plumber, or something like it, on the radio in the background.

The multiple rousing musical scenes include a dancing chicken and bear as part of a ten piece orchestra fronted by a handkerchief waving Black bursting out of sequined leisure suits, with Jason Schwartzman on clarinet.

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“The Post” Is Prologue

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Like the joke about the sunburned zebra “The Post” – opening Friday – revisits the days when newspapers were read all over.

It’s been called newspaper porn for its scenes of rolling presses, the rat-a-tat-tat of typewriters, pressmen in paper hats, men throwing the latest edition from moving trucks to curbside vendors.

One observer gushed about a scene where a copy chief editing a groundbreaking story on deadline scratches out the very first sentence.

That’s authenticity. The premise is less so.The Washington Post was a supporting player in reporting the Pentagon Papers, chronicling US involvement in Vietnam.

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“I, Tonya” Is Knee Cappingly Good

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“I, Tonya” is a daffy biopic, told not in a lightly frosted way, but as a dark comedy of errors.

As the personal pronoun of the title implies, this is Tonya Harding’s story told from the perspective of an unreliable witness to her own life.

Believe her at your peril but its hard not to err on her side of a story younger people don’t know but their elders remember.

“I, Tonya” will amuse both. Harding was a champion Olympic ice skater implicated in the 1994 knee capping of competitor Nancy Kerrigan an event that remains in the public imagination years later.

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Watch: “Phantom Thread” A Feast For Sore Eyes

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During the scene in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” where fastidious high fashion dressmaker Daniel Day-Lewis and  his muse played by Germann actress Vicky Kreips first meet, I thought:

“He’s dressing her with his eyes.”

Opens Jan. 19 at the Oriental Theatre.

This would have gone on my top ten, if I had seen it.


Leadership And Courage Are History in “Darkest Hour”

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Although the Winston Churchill portrayed by Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour” is ten years younger than the Churchill played by John Lithgow in “The Crown” both give one cause to lament the current state of leadership and political courage.

“Hour” is set at a time when Churchill earned his stripes, as a wartime prime minister battling political enemies favoring compromise with the German’s while protecting Great Britain from actual enemies.

The story takes place over the handful of days when British troops are trapped between the ocean and the German army. “Dunkirk” told this story in macrocosm, “Hour” tells it in microcosm, from the home front, as a citizen armada is debated and created and show’s Churchill failure to  recruit an isolationist US to Britain’s cause.

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