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My Life as a Zucchini

I missed this film in 2017, which was nominated for a best animated film Oscar that year. Ikar, who likes to be called Zucchini, lives at home with his alcoholic mother. After an unfortunate accident, Zucchini ends up in an orphanage with other kids like him who were abandoned or orphaned by their parents or removed from their homes. This is such an adorable movie. The stop-motion animation is fantastic; those big heads on the kids’ bodies are so full of emotional expression. It is amazing how such a range of emotions can be captured in an animated format. There …

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Zombieland: Double Tap

Well, I seem to have a bit more time in the evenings these days to catch up on some movies! I loved the first Zombieland, so I thought I would check out the sequel. All of the leads – Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee), Abigail Breslin (Little Rock), Emma Stone (Wichita), and Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus) – are back, now battling new variants of zombies that get harder and harder to kill. When Little Rock runs off with a new age stoner (Berkeley), the three of them hit the road for what turns out to be a sometimes-hilarious road trip. Two of the …

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América

(Spanish, Subtitled): This documentary, set in Colima, Mexico, tells the story of three brothers (Diego, Bruno, and Rodriguez), two of whom have returned to take care of their grandmother,  América who, in her 90’s, is frail and appears to be suffering from older-age dementia. After she suffered a fall and the neighbors called the police, her son (their father) was sent to jail for neglect. It is a really endearing story, these young men who give up their lives away from Colima to return to help her. Her care causes tensions among them – they fight over her care, money, …

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Hard Eight

It was time to ensure that I had seen all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, so I went back to his first feature film, Hard Eight. Philip Baker Hall plays Sydney, a well-off gambler who chances upon John (John C. Reilly), a bum who is sitting outside a restaurant trying to figure out how to get money for his mother’s funeral. Sydney takes him under his wing and to Vegas where John learns the trade. The film doesn’t have the same sophisticated narrative structure that his later films would have, but what it does have is some really fascinating and …

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Dark Waters

The latest Todd Haynes (Carol, Far From Heaven, Safe, I’m Not There) is based on a true story about a lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) who discovers that Dupont has been poisoning the drinking water of a community in West Virginia. The film is well-acted, particularly by Ruffalo who does an excellent job of playing a guy whose passion exhausts him, his family, and his law practice. I have always really liked Todd Haynes films; he is a meticulous director who has a penchant for detail and can tell a really great story. It is a story that is infuriating but also …

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  • The Shape of Water

    Set in the early 1960’s during the height of the Cold War, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), who is mute, and her friend Eliza (Octavia Spencer) work for a high-security government laboratory as cleaners. Strickland (Michael Shannon, doing his characteristically fantastic job of playing a creepy guy) has recently arrived to safeguard a high security “asset,” an amphibious, human-like creature. Eliza, who is lonely and lives with her gay friend Giles (Richard Jenkins), finds ways to communicate and strike a friendship with the asset through music and sign language. This is visually beautiful and is a beautiful love story as well – …

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