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Monthly Archives: August 2020

The Wild Pear Tree

(Turkey, English Subtitles): Sinan has just graduated college and returns home to a small and more rural town, hoping to publish his first book that he refers to as an “auto-fiction meta novel” (which in itself reflects the film’s ability to get you to constantly try to unpack the narrative). His father is a schoolteacher who has gambled away the family home. He is close to retiring, and at the beginning of the film, he is trying to dig a well on a family plot that everyone says will never run. The film is partly a father-son relationship journey, but …

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River of Grass

This is Kelly Reichardt’s directorial debut. The more recent films that I have seen are incredible, so I wanted to go back and try to look at her earlier filmography. River of Grass tells the story of Cozy, a bored housewife trapped inside of her own head and who fantasizes about a more exciting kind of life. One night she leaves her kids and walks toward somewhere; when she reaches the road, she is nearly run over by Lee Roy. A bit later, they meet up in a bar, and Cozy’s world seems to perk up; she sees a man …

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What Happened Miss Simone?

Nina Simone wanted to be the first classical pianist to play Carnegie Hall, but events in her life were such that she started playing in jazz clubs and developed a long career as a singer and songwriter. The film reviews her life, through interviews with her daughter, ex-husband, and her lead guitarist, among others, as well as through her diary writings and recorded interviews. I think what is most fascinating and makes the film completely worth it is the concert footage. You get to hear a lot of the songs that made her famous as she sang them in various …

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Crip Camp

Beginning in the early 1950s, Camp Jened, in upstate New York, was a place where teenagers with disabilities could go and experience, many for the first time, a place where they could be teenagers and live freely with people like them with disabilities. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the camp was run by hippies, so there were a lot of freedoms provided that the kids did not get elsewhere. Many of these summer campers ended up migrating to the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, an innovative center focused on providing services to the disabled. It was here …

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The True History of the Kelly Gang

This very interesting Western out of Australia is an interpretation of the life of Ned Kelly, a real person of Irish descent who lived in Australia in the late 19th century. He was notorious for fighting against the English police and their injustice against the Irish immigrants. I have not seen other versions of this story nor read the book on which it was based. However, the film itself is unusual in its approach. In the film, Ned’s father wore frocks (women’s dresses) while engaging in raids on the English in order to catch them off guard. Ned, his brother, …

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Boy’s State

This documentary follows one class of Texas Boy’s State participants in 2018. Boy’s State is a program sponsored by the American legion that has been bringing high school junior boys together since 1935 (there is a Girl’s State equivalent that has been running since 1937). At the very beginning, we see that Bill Clinton, Rush Limbaugh, Cory Booker, and Dick Cheney were all previous participants. The boys are randomly assigned to two parties, and for a week create a government and participate in elections, with the most coveted office being that of Governor. There are also talent shows, and they …

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John Lewis: Good Trouble

This documentary is about the life of John Lewis, congressman and civil rights icon. The film uses interviews (many of them with Lewis as a much older but still committed fighter for civil rights) and archival film and photo sources to tell his story. It is a pretty “standard” documentary; there is nothing extraordinary about the filming or the approach. However, it is an inspiring story about a man who marched with Martin Luther King Jr and found himself arrested and sometimes beaten in his fight for civil rights. He became famous for saying that people should get into “good …

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She Dies Tomorrow

Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) calls up her friend Jane and needs to see her; when Susan finally does come over, Amy tells her that she is going to die tomorrow. Susan just chalks it up to drinking relapse, but when she gets home, she hears voices and also believes she is going to die tomorrow. The thought that the person will die tomorrow spreads like a virus – a psychological virus. At one hour and 24 minutes, the screenplay is pretty tight and is paced quickly. One the one hand, this is a sort-of horror film permeated with spookiness and …

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Bad Education

This film is based on the true story of Dr. Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) and Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) who were convicted of embezzling millions of dollars from a school district in Long Island that Dr. Tassone had helped build into one with a high reputation for getting seniors admitted to prestigious colleges. There is not a very deep examination of the years of scheming that led to this happening; the film starts off when Gluckin is caught embezzling money to finance home remodeling and is really about the downfall of both. The film is smartly made. Janney and Jackman …

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Emma

In this newest adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma (Anna Taylor Joy) lives in a ridiculously rich world in which she does not want for anything. She has shunned the institution of marriage, yet Emma feels the need to serve as a matchmaker (or match breaker) for those around her, especially her friend Harriet (Mia Goth). She is young and inexperienced but perceives herself to be more worldly than she really is, and in her stubbornness is blind to her own feelings, in this case for George (Johnny Flynn). I was rather surprised that I enjoyed the film as much …

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