Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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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Unknownpo

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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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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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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“Lady Bird” A Bittersweet Mother-Daughter Tale

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Saoirise Ronan and Beanie Feldstein

“Lady Bird” is a mother-daughter story in the tough-love tradition of “Juno” and the bittersweet coming-of age story “Gregory’s Girl” by Scottish director (and romcom pioneer) Bill Forsyth.

The thing about kids is that when they learn to walk they begin walking away. Saoirise Ronan plays the title character, a senior at a Catholic high school taking her first defiantly wobbly steps toward becoming who she will be.

Spoiler alert: in real life she became Greta Gerwig, the actress-writer-director whose film is semi-autobiographical and has the sharply drawn details to prove it.

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Manufacturing Catholic Guilt In “Novitiate”

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It’s Roman Catholic week at the Oriental Theatre this week!

Say five Hail Marys.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed “Lady Bird,” about a 17-year old girl at a Catholic high school.

But today’s topic is “Novitiate” an intimate and terrifying look at a cloistered community of nuns in 1964 and the young girls who want to become them. Its writer-director Maggie Betts, described as a “one time New York socialite and daughter of a Manhattan developer,” was named breakthrough director at the Sundance Film Festival, for this her first fictional narrative.

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“Moonlight” Is A Desperately Needed Act Of Grace

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“Moonlight” is a desperately needed act of healing grace.

It’s a fluidly styled triptych portrait of flawed people facing character defining moments.

We are all more than we front – Hillary calls it public and private lives – and our behavior and actions hide as much as they reveal.

None more so than the troubled black youth who grows up in three chapters, from bullied grade school aged son of a crack addict and sexually confused adolescent with one friend into a drug dealer whose hyper masculine facade hides his secret pain.

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Gibney Doc dissects the cult of Apple and Jobs

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I’m in the cult. I’ve got an iPhone, iPad, iPod, AppleTV and iPod Shuffle.

I’m  writing this on a MacBook and I streamed “Steve Jobs: The Man In the Machine” using it. It precedes one film, starring Michael Fassender as Jobs, later this one, and follows another, starring Ashton Kutcher.

Jobs “made everything,” says an impassioned kid into the camera on his computer following Jobs death in 2011 ten years after he introduced the iPod, four years after the first iPhone and one year after the iPad.

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