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Monthly Archives: December 2021

The Velvet Underground

This documentary by Todd Haynes explores the rise of the Velvet Underground, primarily through the band’s connection to Andy Warhol’s factory. The merge of music and the visual aesthetic that Warhol brought made the Velvet Underground famous. What works in this film, and makes it a great one, is that it doesn’t just examine the band with the standard interviews. There are interviews, but Haynes juxtaposes hundreds of images and video and concert segments together to create a 360-degree view into the 1960’s artistic and cultural experience from the New York perspective. I have always loved this period, and I …

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Titane

(France) As a young girl, Alexia was in a car accident that resulted in a titanium plate screwed onto her skull. Cut to adulthood: Alexia is heading to her shift at an auto show, a place where women dance erotically around cars for men who give them tips for their performances. A man follows her and wants her autograph, then a kiss, then tries to force himself on her. She stabs him through the ear with her metal hairpin, killing him. Next, she has sex with a car and becomes impregnated. And the absurdities continue – it turns out she …

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The Power of the Dog

Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons) Burbank own and manage a successful cattle ranching business in Montana in the early 20th century. Phil is rugged, doesn’t say much and, when he does, it is usually nasty and degrading to someone. George never says much and seems to be much more sensitive and aware of what is happening around him. George marries Rose (Kirsten Dunst), a widow who owns a bar and restaurant in a nearby town and has a son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The marriage will have consequences for all of them. Phil, George, and Peter each represent different …

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Passing

Irene (Tessa Thompson) is a Black woman living in Harlem with her doctor husband and two sons. At the beginning of the film, we see her carefully negotiating white spaces; with the right lighting, and the right title of her hat, she can pass for White. She does this with delicacy, and we worry that at any moment she will be found out. She soon meets an old childhood friend Clare (Ruth Negga) who is married to a White man and has been passing as white her entire life. The meeting sets in motion a series of transformations in their …

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Don’t Look Up

Adam McKay’s latest film is a story of science and politics. Dr. Mindy (Leonard DiCaprio) is a scientist, and his doctoral student Kate Diabiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers, nearly by accident, that there is a comet heading toward Earth and threatens to send the planet into extinction. Dr. Mindy and Kate are invited to speak with the President (Meryl Streep) and her son and Chief of Staff (Johah Hill). The question is, will science win the day? This is an Adam McVay film, so we know the answer, but he has a lot of fun getting us there.  It is amazing …

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West Side Story

Steven Spielberg provides a cinematically spectacular remake of the original. The story is the familiar one – Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (newcomer Rachel Zegler) meet at a school dance and fall in love, a taboo where racial boundaries are clearly defined and never crossed. I remember seeing the original, but thankfully that was so long ago that I didn’t have to compare this to the previous one; I could just enjoy what the show had to offer. It really is quite dazzling – the sets pop with color, and the camera catches the entire sweep of a scene with …

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Spencer

The film starts out by stating it is a “fable from a true tragedy”. The director creates a film focused on three-day period around the Christmas holiday with the Royal family. This was after any hope of a marriage between Charles and Diana had ended, and she seemed to be permanently estranged from the royal family. Pablo Larraín imagines what those three days were like for Diana. This is an interesting film, one that I really like, that depends so much on the ability of Stewart to channel Larraín’s imagination of Diana. And she does a remarkable job. I was …

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Becoming the Ricardos

This biopic focuses on one week in the life of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as they are filming an upcoming episode of I Love Lucy. Overall, I enjoyed the movie but, for me, it was uneven. It was interesting to see some of the backstories behind the friendships between Lucy, Desi, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley. I also did not know that Ball was the subject of a controversy around her potentially being affiliated with the communist party. I also found that the flashbacks and flash-forwards help provide a richer history of her life and how the show came …

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Nightmare Alley

Guillermo del Toro’s latest stars Bradley Cooper as Stanton, a drifter who finds his way into the circus and learns the craft of mindreading. Once he perfects his craft, he runs away with Molly (Rooney Mara), and the two of them start a traveling mind-reading business. Stanton meets Doctor Ritter (Cate Blanchett), and the two of them set in motion a scheme that will alter the course of Stanton’s life. I am a fan of del Toro’s filmmaking style; he has a perfect command of direction, and the cinematography of his movies is always stunning. This film is no exception. …

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House of Gucci

This is the story, inspired by true events, of the murder of Maurizio Gucci, heir to the Gucci business. Patrizia (Lady Gaga) marries Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). Patrizia meets Gucci at a bar and seems to recognize an opportunity when she saw one. The film is about their marriage, Patrizia’s orchestrations to consolidate power of the empire in her husband, and their ultimate estrangement. On the plus side, the costuming is great – there are a lot of fabulous dresses donned by Lady Gaga during the movie – giving the film a sense of fashion extravagance. Lady Gaga seems to …

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