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Drama

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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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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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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Hillbilly Elegy

Based on a best-selling memoir, this film by Ron Howard is about J.D. Vance, who grew up with a mother (played by Amy Adams) who had a number of mental and substance use problems, was raised by his Mamaw (played by Glenn Close), and managed to go to college and get accepted into law school. This is one of the few movies I have watched that was torture. The topic is very interesting to me; I enjoy these stories of kids who beat the odds and rise out of their circumstances. I have not read the book upon which this …

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Dear Comrades!

(Russia, English Subtitles): The film, based on a true story, takes place in 1962, when workers in a factory, complaining about high prices of food, food shortages, and low wages, went on strike. To break the strike, the government fires on the protesters, killing several, and went to extreme measures to cover up the murders. The film is shot in black and white, which gives it an interesting air of history and the times when most broadcasts were in black and white. It is a commentary on the extent that governments go to hide the truth, but the best part …

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Night of the Kings

(Ivory Coast; French with English Subtitles): A young man, a small-time thief is sent to MACA, a prison in the Ivory Coast that is essentially run by the inmates. The leader of the inmates is close to death, and as part of the legend, he must surrender his rule, and his life, during the red moon. He chooses an inmate (who he calls “the Roman” to tell a story, and as the film progresses, we get a sense of how important that story is to the Roman in order to stay alive. This film is very beautifully shot and also …

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The Father

Anne (Olivia Coleman) is caring for her father Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) who has advanced dementia. As Anthony is rapidly losing his way, Anne is trying desperately to hang on and cope as his mind deteriorates. I have seen a lot of films about dementia (and have like most all of them), but this is the first time I have seen a film portray what it is like in the head of someone who has dementia rather than what the people outside him see. The effect and emotional impact are incredible. Both Coleman and Hopkins give exceptional and award-worthy performances, but …

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