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The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Jimmie Fails wrote and plays himself in this autobiographical account of growing up in San Francisco. Jimmie and his friend Mont (Jonathan Majors) are inseparable, and Jimmie stays with Mont and his blind father (played by Danny Glover). Mont works in a fish market but spends a lot of time observing people and dialog in hopes of writing a screenplay. Jimmie is obsessed with the house that his grandfather built 70 years ago in the Fillmore district. When the current owners are gone, Jimmie and Mont go over to the house and do improvement work, such as weeding the gardens …

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When They See Us (Netflix Mini-Series)

In 1989, 5 young African American and Latino boys, ages 14-16, were accused of beating and raping a white jogger in Central Park New York. After serving between 6 and 13 years in prison, they were exonerated after a fellow prisoner serving time with one of the five confessed to the crime.  In this Netflix mini-series, Ana DuVernay provides a perfect complement to the Sarah Burns documentary Central Park Five from 2012; DuVernay presents the story completely from the viewpoint of the 5 teenagers. She takes us up close and personal into what it was like for these boys to …

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Rocketman

Taron Egerton plays Elton John in this very interesting and unusually told biopic of John’s life. While the film starts out in a rather conventional narrative away – we first see Elton John checking himself into a rehab facility wherein he starts recounting various parts of his life – it becomes quickly clear that this will be a different kind of life story. The film is really a musical; at several points, it feels like you are watching a stage play. There is one number in which Edgerton first appears as the teenage Elton John that is particularly well done). …

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The Mustang

The Mustang tells a story of Roman, an incredibly angry man who has served a very long time in prison, and what happens to him when he participates in a prison program to break wild mustangs. In the beginning, we are told that there are about 100,000 mustangs roaming in the wild, and the Bureau of Land Management periodically rounds them up and sends them to prisons. Ultimately, they are auctioned off.  The story is one that has been told in a number of different ways, but this one works really well. The acting by Matthias Schoenaerts (Roman) and Bruce …

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Us

This is Jordan Peele’s second movie following his big horror hit from last year, Get Out. In this story, a young girl strays from her father and finds herself in a room of mirrors at an amusement park on the California coast. She turns around and finds herself staring at herself. Fast forward to the present day, she is married with two children, and she is talked into going to the beach by her husband who doesn’t know her history at that beach. One night, after a day at the beach, the family discovers 4 intruders on their property – …

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Burning

(Korean): Burning tells the story of three people. Lee, an unemployed writer, and recent college graduate, accidentally meets up with Shin, a young woman who is working at a department store. Shin claims she knows Lee, but Lee seems rather disinterested, yet he agrees to have dinner with her. They have sex, and she soon goes away on a trip to Africa; she asks Lee to watch her cat. Shin comes back with Ben, a guy who seems to come from a lot of money and who she met while stranded in an airport. The film is about the odd …

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Never Look Away

(German) This film is described as being loosely based on the life of abstract artist Gerhard Richter. It tells the story of Kurt Barnert’s life over about 30 years, beginning when he was a little boy just as the Nazis were coming to power and his beloved Aunt Ellie was taken away, through the beginnings of adult life in communist East Germany as a painter of propaganda murals, his falling in love with and marriage to Ellie, and his later years once his art career began to take off. I loved the film. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the score …

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What Will People Say?

(Norwegian) Nisha is a Pakistani teenager growing up with her family in Norway. At home, she conforms very closely to what is expected of her by her family and culture; away from home, she is the typical, westernized teenager. One night, her father discovers that she has her boyfriend in her room, and the price for this is that she is shipped off to Pakistan to live with her distant relatives. This is a really fine film with wonderful acting, especially by the actress who plays Nisha (this appears to be her first acting role) and the actor who plays …

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Thunder Road

This movie popped out of nowhere on a 2018 best movies list in one of my FB film groups. I had never heard of it and to my knowledge got very little if any press, although it has picked up a number of awards on the independent film circuit. Jim Cummings plays Jim, a man whose life seems to be falling apart around him while he valiantly tries to keep all of the pieces propped up. In the opening scene – which is one of the best I have seen – Jim is giving a eulogy for his mother who …

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They Shall Not Grow Old

Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings Trilogy fame creates a technically marvelous documentary by using 100-year-old footage from World War I and telling a story about what it was like for the soldiers who enlisted and went to the front lines. He does this in a very innovative way by colorizing the film (the scene where he switches to color is breathtaking), slowing it down to real-time, and overlaying stories told by WWI vets in the 1960s and 1970s. His team also incorporates many of the posters of the era and overlays moving footage, which creates a very unusual …

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