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Monthly Archives: October 2018

Free Solo

This documentary film tells the story of Alex Honnold’s success as the first person to scale El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without ropes. This is an amazing, multilayered film that gives us much more than just the big climb. We get to really know Alex, who is rather quirky, what drives him to climb, and the ways his love of the sport impacts his relationships. We get to see how cameramen who are also experienced climbers prepare to film a dangerous event of such magnitude and the psychological aspects as well; they all know that they could be filming …

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The Year for African American Directors and Actors!

This looks like the breakout year for film for Black and African American themed films, actors, and directors. Early in 2018, “Black Panther”, broke so much new ground with its almost total Black casting and its strong African influences. It is the first comics film to be grounded in African and African-American culture and experience. Its director, Ryan Cooglier, also directed the great Fruitvale Station several years back. Next to arrive was “Sorry to Bother You”, a debut by Boots Riley that is great social satire on race and race relations. Where it is its most hilarious and inspirational is …

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The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give: Starr Carter is a high school student who lives in Gardner Heights, the area of the city where primarily Black and African-American families live but who attends a mostly White high school, Williamson Prep, in a more affluent neighborhood in the city. Starr feels that she has to straddle two different worlds, changing the way she looks and speaks to fit into each. The complexity of that negotiation comes to a head when she witnesses her long-time childhood friend shot by a police officer during a “routine” traffic stop. This is an excellent film, perhaps stronger than …

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First Man

This is a biopic about Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) and the story of he became a member of the first mission to successfully land and walk on the moon. This was a very interesting choice for the director to film focus this journey on Armstrong, who is presented as a very moody, brilliant, and introverted pilot who had a natural instinct for calmly getting out of bad situations; that perspective is why the film works as well as it does and why it stands out among other astronaut films. The film isn’t perfect, but there are a number …

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Monsters and Men

This film tells the stories of three different men after the shooting of an unarmed black man in a bodega in New York City. Manny, who is friends with Darius, a popular street hustler, witnesses his shooting and records it on his camera. He wrestles with what to do with the film and the impact that it will have on his mother, girlfriend, and daughter. Dennis is a Black police officer who finds himself caught, especially in conversations with his wife, between acknowledging what happened and his need to defend what the police do. Finally, Zyric is a 17-year old …

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Ocean’s 8

Debbie Ocean (played by Sandra Bullock), sister of Danny Ocean from the other Ocean’s films, has just been released from prison. During her 5 years, she has been plotting how to pull off the heist-of-all-heists: a necklace worth 150M dollars. I found the movie to be enjoyable but uneven. It was predictable and lacked any suspense or deviousness to make the heist more tenuous and interesting. I did like that the film was a gender twist on the other Ocean’s films. Some of the characters were more interesting than others. My favorites are Anne Hathaway, who is hilarious as model …

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A Star is Born (2018)

A Star is Born: This third remake of the original film from 1937 stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in the lead roles. Most people know the story: Jackson Maine, an alcoholic music who has fallen from his peak, discovers Ally who works in a restaurant and does occasional singing gigs at night. Ally’s success rises as Jackson’s falls. When I watched the trailers, I wasn’t sure if Cooper and Gaga would pull it off, yet that trailer still got me eagerly awaiting its release. The remake is a really smart, well-made and well-acted film that was every bit engaging …

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