Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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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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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All The Movie In The World

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In this season’s twist on “A Christmas Carol.” Tiny Tim is kidnapped and Scrooge refuses to pay his ransom. Call “All the Money In the World,” “It’s a Terrible Life,” with the feel bad character of the season.

Knowing that “The Last Jedi” is Carrie Fischer’s swan song subtly affects your perception of it in the same way knowing Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey after – do I call it “Money” or “World” on second reference? – was already completed.

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Much Ado About Generic “Justice League”

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I’m  old enough to remember when the DC superhero amalgam “Justice League,”  was called Justice League of America, or JLA.

But perhaps to widen the appeal of the franchise to an international audience, it ditched the word “America.”

I wish I could say this latest entry in the DC Extended Universe makes the JLA great again, but it’s another visually dense, narratively generic slog from director Zack Snyder.

Like other DC-EU movies Snyder has directed (“Man of Steel,” “Batman V. Superman”) the self-serious “Justice League” is a storm before the calm affair. You don’t need a weatherman to know it will be dominated by bleak themes, murky visuals and bombastic action, despite hopes otherwise.

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