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Monthly Archives: April 2021

Onward

In this animated film from Pixar, Ian and Barley, two brothers who lost their father to an illness, are given the opportunity to have their father back for one day through the use of an old magic wand. When the spell becomes botched, the brothers set off on an adventure to find the magic stone that will result in being able to see their dad. I liked the movie mostly for its message about parenting and being about to recognize the amazing things we do without even realizing how amazing they are. I would not consider this a film that …

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News of the World

Tom Hanks stars as Captain Kidd, a Civil War veteran whose job post-war is to travel from town to town, telling stories and reading the news from papers from different parts of the country. On his travels, he encounters Johanna, a young Kiowa Indian girl who was kidnapped from her parents 6 years previously and was essentially raised as a Kiowa girl. Her Kiowa parents had perished, and the Black man who was taking her back to her relatives in the South was ambushed and hung from a tree. Captain Kidd agrees to take her to her family, and the …

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The Man Who Sold His Skin

(Syria, English subtitles): This film, which was Syria’s entry to the Oscars and made the shortlist, centers on Sam Ali, a refugee who agrees to have his back tattooed as a form of art in exchange for money, freedom, and a visa to Europe, where his girlfriend is betrothed to a member of the embassy. While uneven in its execution, the film works best as a commentary (and perhaps even satire) on the question of art and its commodification (as well as the commodification of Sam). Sam exchanges his back for his freedom, but he comes to realize that he …

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Judas and the Black Messiah

This historical drama set in Chicago is stories of Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya), who was chairman of the Black Panther Party in Illinois, and Bill O’Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield), the Panther and FBI informant who betrayed Hampton. It is interesting watching this film on the heels of several other films this year, including The United States vs Billie Holiday, MLK/FBI, One Night in Miami, and the Small Axe feature film series by Steve McQueen; the FBI’s fear of Black Americans, J Edgar Hoover’s role in creating a national narrative about them, the underlying and systemic racism, and …

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Black is King

This feature-length film, a visual album by Beyonce, uses her music and the medium to retell the story of the Lion King from the perspective of the Black experience. The film is impressive and showcases Beyonce’s incredible talent and vision. Filming took place in Africa, Europe, and the US and features a lot of unknown actors. The visual imagery stunning, some of the images with their juxtaposition of color and sound are breathtaking. The costuming is equally gorgeous and reflects the many aspects of the African and African American experiences. The film is a celebration of Black pride, Black beauty, …

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Soul

In this latest animation effort from Pixar studios, Joe Gardner is a music teacher at a public school in New York City who is a piano player constantly dreaming about jazz music. One day, he gets his break when he gets an opportunity to play with Dorothea Williams, a renowned musician. On the way to his debut, he suffers an accident and, through a series of events, finds himself assigned as a mentor to a particularly precocious spirit who can’t seem to find his way to becoming a body on Earth. The film is quite stunning. The animation is superior; …

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Quo Vadis, Aida?

(Bosnia and Herzegovina, English Subtitles): This historical film is based on the massacre of thousands of men and boys in an ethnic cleansing operation in Bosnia in the mid-1990s. The event is told through the experience of Aida, a translator for the United Nations peacekeeping forces assigned to monitor a temporary cease-fire between the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims. Aria knows more about what is going on and what is about to happen, but she finds herself torn between the needs of her people and the activities of the UN overseers as well as the need to save her …

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The Mole Agent

(Chile, English Subtitles). The subject of this documentary is Sergio, a widower of 83 years, who applies for a job to go undercover in a nursing home. The private investigator has been hired by the daughter of one of the residents who believe the nursing staff is stealing from her. Sergio takes the job as a way to help deal with the loss of his wife. The film provides an insider look at life in the nursing home. It is rather sad, for the most part, how Sergio engages several of the residents and learns of the loneliness that many …

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Collective

(Romania, English subtitles): This fascinating documentary follows a sharp investigative journalism team that began by investigating a fire at a nightclub in Romania that killed about two dozen young people but went on to claim nearly 40 additional lives. This movie reminded me of the wonderful film Spotlight several years ago based on the team who cracked the story about one of the cardinals accused of sexually abusing boys. While that was a reenactment of the story, Collective is a documentary that follows the team as piece together several seemingly unrelated events – the nightclub fire, the resignation of the …

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Gozilla vs. Kong

Hollow Earth conspiracy theory, high-tech sound and color, corny dialog, and complete destruction come together in this film, a remake of a 1960’s version, that brings together the stories of Godzilla from the 2019 film and Kong: Skull Island from the 2017 film. In the beginning, Kong is being watched by a scientist and her young daughter to whom Kong has taken a liking. In another part of the world, Godzilla suddenly appears on the rampage and then disappears; the girl whom Godzilla saved is puzzled by what is going on. Events conspire to bring the two super-beasts together. For …

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