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Showing posts from 2019

Christmastime movies post

The biggest release by far is of course the latest, and supposedly final, Star Wars “Episode IX”, closing out the third trilogy 42 years after the first began. Generations have grown up with it.   But below are six other titles worth a look, including a Canadian one opening early in the new year. Richard Jewell (U.S. 2019) Like the energizer bunny of filmmakers, Clint Eastwood at 89 just keeps going.   In his usual straight ahead no-frills fashion he directs this true-story procedural of the unfortunate case of the title character Richard Jewell (a perfectly cast Paul Walter Hauser) who was falsely accused of the July 1996 Atlanta Olympics park bombing that resulted in two deaths and scores of injuries.   The pudgy hapless Jewell lived with his doting mom Bobi (Kathy Bates) and was easily typecast as a loser with unfulfilled ambitions of a career in law enforcement.   He’d been fired for being an over-zealous campus security guard before getting a security position at the Olympic

Mid-December Movies

Synonyms (France/Israel/Germany 2019 ) This very strange film from Israeli writer-director Nadav Lapid, supposedly semi-autobiographical (and dedicated to his mother as editor), was awarded the best film “golden bear” at the Berlin film festival but will probably only appeal to a hardcore arthouse crowd.   The central character is a young Israeli man Yoav (Tom Mercier) who flees to a wintry Paris as if to erase his previous identity. With belongings stolen and left naked in an empty freezing apartment, he is rescued and befriended by a young couple Emile (Quentin Dolmaire) and Caroline (Louise Chevilotte).   Yoav refuses to speak Hebrew and carries a French dictionary, obsessively talking to himself in synonyms (hence the title).   He survives on an ultra-cheap subsistence diet.   (Yet somehow Yoav stays in physical shape. There’s a fair amount of male nudity and a pornographic “modeling” scene with a photographer.)   A security job at the I

Early December Movies

The Two Popes (UK/Italy/Argentina/US 2019) Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles ( City of God ), working from a sharp-witted script by Anthony McCarten, is also blessed by two veteran actors in peak form—Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XV1 and Jonathan Pryce (speaking Spanish like a native) as his successor Pope Francis—the first from the Third World where most Catholics live.   The resignation of Benedict in 2013 was an unexpected historic turn which paved the way for the selection of the Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who had earlier been passed over and had wanted to retire. It also marked a momentous shift from the rather rigid doctrinaire and academic approach of Benedict, the former German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (a solitary figure, “watchdog of the faith”), to a more pastoral and progressive reforming one exuding care for humanity.   As Francis has said: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a c

2019 Late November Update

Ford v Ferrari (US/France 2019 ) Director James Mangold’s dramatization of this true story never idles over its 152 minutes and revs up to full throttle in the climactic racecar showdowns on the legendary Le Mans 24-hours speedway.   In the 1960s the famous Italian brand Ferrari dominated that elite scene when Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) was convinced by marketing whiz Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) that the Ford name could do with some European pizzazz.   While Ferrari scoffed at the challenge, Ford brought in ace automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) who would produce the competitive GT40.   The other key to eventual success was Shelby’s insistence on bringing in as lead driver the hotheaded Ken Miles (Christian Bale) who was as stubborn as he was devoted to his wife and young son.   The Texan Shelby and Brit Miles sometimes clashed but together they defied the odds and the hostile skepticism of the Ford company’s conservative

The Irishman and Marriage Story

Mid-November brings a brief theatrical release for two of the year’s most anticipated movies, both Netflix productions.   The Irishman begins streaming on November 27 and Marriage Story on December 6. The Irishman (US 2019) America’s greatest film critic Roger Ebert celebrated Martin Scorsese as America’s greatest living director, and before seeing this on the big screen in advance of its theatrical release I reread his reviews and reflections on Scorsese’s classic gangster films in the 2008 book Scorsese by Ebert —from Mean Streets (1973), GoodFellas (1990), Casino (1995), to The Departed (2006), for which he won an overdue best director Oscar.   No one handles such material better than Scorsese who grew up in New York’s “Little Italy” where the intersection of mob subculture and Catholic ritual was part of daily life.   This expansive elegiac latest work should earn more Oscar nominations.             The real-life central character of the title is Frank Sheeran (Robert De N

JoJo Rabbit and Motherless Brooklyn

JoJo Rabbit (New Zealand/Czech Republic ) Billed as an “anti-hate satire”, this is the kind of audacious moviemaking that dares anyone to be indifferent.   It has certainly succeeded in provoking highly polarized reactions among critics (ratings on range from 91% to zero).   Quirky Kiwi director Taika Waititi is of mixed Maori and Jewish heritage and has spent time in Germany. He was undoubtedly aware of the risks in doing a parody of Nazi rule but doubles down by himself playing a mock version of Adolph Hitler who appears as the imaginary friend of a swastika-loving 10-year old boy “JoJo” (Roman Griffin Davis).   JoJo’s lack of killer instinct gets him tagged as a scared “rabbit” in a Hitler youth camp run by a cartoon-like Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell).     While “Adolph” is there to encourage the boy’s Nazi zeal, JoJo discovers a very different reality at home. Indeed his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johannsen) is hiding a

Halloween Movie Update

Parasite (South Korea 2019 ) South Korean writer-director Bong Joon Ho received the coveted Palme d’Or for this savage caricature of class divides and duplicity in a status-conscious society.   The consummate con artists are the Kim family foursome of slovenly scroungers living in a messy sub-basement apartment and eking out a marginal living by folding pizza boxes.   The con begins when a friend of the son Ki-Woo goes to study abroad and recommends Ki-Woo to be a replacement English tutor for Da-hye, the high-school daughter of the Parks, an affluent family of four living in a palatial landscaped residence.   Her kid brother Da-Song is a hyperactive handful obsessed with pretending to be an Indian.   Ki-Woo had his sister Ki-jung forge his academic credentials. He then recommends her to give “art therapy” to the precocious boy. Ki-Woo is called “Kevin” and Ki-Jung “Jessica” as she in turn schemes to have the Park’s chauffeur fired and her dad