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Monthly Archives: December 2017

Faces, Places (Visages, villages)

(French with English Subtitles): This quite charming film pairs two artists – Agnes Varda, an 88-year-old veteran of photography and film, with JR, a 33-year-old photographer who travels in his van taking life-size (and larger than life) photographs. The two of them decided to tour around France in JR’s van, visiting villages and taking pictures of the people. What happens is marvelous. They take photographs, blow them up, and paste them on the sides of buildings, ship containers, and other structures. In the course of their travels, they honor the citizens with whom they engage, tease each other about their …

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Molly’s Game

Jessica Chastain plays the real-life figure Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier who, after a serious accident, left the sport for Los Angeles, where she ran an exclusive, high-stakes poker game. The film is based on Molly’s memoir of the same title. The story is interesting, and the acting is very good, particularly by Chastain and Michael Cera, who plays Player X (I don’t think both of them have ever given anything less than a stellar performance). I personally just couldn’t get interested in the topic of the film, and the story kind of rambles, particularly when it gets into her …

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I, Tonya

Margot Robbie plays Tonya Harding, the figure skater who first landed the triple axel in competition and who also landed in a lot of trouble for her role in breaking Nancy Kerrigan’s kneecap just before the Olympic games. Two things make this film stand out. The first is the very unconventional storytelling. It is a twist on the documentary, a bit like a mockumentary except the story is true, in which actors play roles of the real-life characters. It is also terribly funny. I have to give credit to the scriptwriters for finding a way to turn an incident that …

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Call Me By Your Name

Elio (Timothee Chalamet) lives with his parents in Italy. He is intellectually and musically gifted and has a great relationship with his parents who ensure he has access to the best that culture has to offer. Each summer, his father, who is a professor of antiquity, hires an intern to study with him. This summer of 1983 it is Oliver (Armie Hammer). Elio and Oliver become deeply involved in each other’s lives in ways that will change both of them. This film is by far the most beautiful coming out/coming of age story I have seen. The cinematography capturing this …

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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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The Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill from the time that he was asked to serve as Prime Minister following the loss of confidence in the current prime minister through his speech to Parliament that committed England to the war against Hitler, a span of a few weeks). I will start by saying that Oldman gives an award-winning performance of a man who appears to be at times indecisive, at others driven by purpose, and always smoking cigars and drinking scotch. I found the story often unfocused. At times, it looked like the story of Dunkirk from the politician’s point of view, …

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Knowing the risk of potential death threats and, even worse, threats of unfriending on Facebook, I will tread very carefully – no spoilers. The obvious beginning: The resistance is in perilous condition; its numbers are few compared with the massive forces of the First Order. The Resistance makes a bold strike; meanwhile, Rey heads back to find Luke Skywalker to coax him to join the resistance. That is all. The Last Jedi is a wonderful and very entertaining film, probably my favorit of the enterprise to date. The script contains a lot of humor that is funny and a departure …

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Wonder

This film is based on the book of the same name I read last year with my daughter who had this as an assignment. It is the story of a young boy Auggie who has a genetic condition that caused him to have a disfigured face. He has been homeschooled, and now that he is ready to start 5th grade, his parents think this is the best time for him to enter regularly. One thing I loved about the book is the way the story is told, from the perspective of Auggie, his sister Via, his sister’s best friend Miranda, …

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The Disaster Artist

James Franco directs and has the starring role in this movie about Tommy Wiseau, who directed and starred in The Room, considered by many to the be one of the worst films ever made. I will start off by saying I have not seen The Room (but I don’t feel like that was a liability here), although I know that it plays near me regularly as a cult favorite. I was surprised at how much I liked the movie. I don’t know a lot about Wiseau, but Franco creates a character this is funny and simultaneously bizarre and likable. At …

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Jane

This movie is a documentary of the work of Jane Goodall, an animal lover who accepted an assignment to live among the chimpanzees in Africa. The film was built around over one hundred hours of archival film footage recently discovered in National Geographic archives and is narrated by Goodall in the present day. It is a fascinating look at a someone who loves animals and who became a trailblazer in her field of research. Goodall explores her early years in Africa, her marriage to Hugo van Lawick, a world-renowned photographer of the Serengeti, and her parenting of the boy she …

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