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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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One Night in Miami

Regina King directed this film that provides a fictionalized account of a celebration meeting between four Black men – the singer Sam Cooke, who was at the height of his career; Cassius Clay (aka Muhammed Ali), who that night had become the world heavyweight boxing champion at 22; Malcolm X, who was in the middle of his rift with the Nation of Islam and its leader Elijah Muhammed; and James Brown, the best running back of his time (and now widely viewed as one of the greatest of all time). The film uses the meeting of these four men as …

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Nomadland

Fern (Frances McDormand) finds herself out of work when the sole industry in Empire, Nevada, closes down. She outfits a van and hits the road, traveling around the Western United States. She takes on various jobs, including seasonal (Christmas) work in Amazon warehouses, restaurants, and as a park caretaker; she is too young to retire and is not ready to stop working. She meets other nomads along the way, most of whom are not trained actors and actual people who are on the road for a variety of reasons. I loved the movie. McDormand is amazing; she disappears into her …

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Minari

(Much of the film is Korean with English subtitles): Jacob, Monica, are Korean – American immigrants and move from California to Arkansas with their two young children. They arrive at the property that has several acres with no irrigation, and an old trailer. Jacob is looking to find success in creating a niche farming Korean vegetables and not have to make money in the chicken houses “looking at chicken butts”. There is something very special about this film that is based on the experiences of the director as a child. While the film is from an immigrant point of view, …

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Supernova

Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci) have been partners for 20 years. Tusker was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers, and they decide to take a trip in a camper van to visit old haunts and family and friends. There is not much that is novel about the story, and the main point of the trip feels predictable and a bit cliché. But what really drives this movie is the outstanding performances from Firth and Tucci. There is a naturalness to the chemistry that makes their relationship, and the pain that the disease is causing them, feel real and authentic. I …

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Promising Young Woman

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) is a young woman just approaching her 30th birthday. She still lives at home with two lackluster parents. By day, she works in a coffee shop, and at night, she is prowling the bars. Early in the film, you kind of get the sense she is going nowhere, but it doesn’t take long to recognize her cunning and cleverness. I won’t say much about the story, because you really need to watch it and let the various twists and surprises happen to really appreciate Cassie and the well-crafted and entertaining story. The movie feels like the ultimate …

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Druk (Another Round)

(Denmark, English subtitles). Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is a high school teacher who has hit a bit of a mid-life crisis. His classes are boring, his family life is boring, with a wife who works nights and is becoming more estranged, and two teenage sons who are off doing their own thing. He and three other teachers decide to test a theory that blood alcohol content should always be at least .05 with no drinking after 8 pm or on the weekends. Their goal is to see if it improves their professional and social lives. The test starts off well enough, …

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Mank

This biopic stars Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz, who co-wrote with Orson Welles the screenplay for Citizen Kane. The film starts after a serious car accident sends Mank to Victorville, CA in seclusion to recover and to write the screenplay for Citizen Kane in 60 days. The film then moves back and forth between the present day and the era during which he became more well-known in Hollywood and the days of his friendship with William Randolph Hearst and his much younger mistress Marion (played brilliantly by Amanda Seyfried). I liked the film a lot. It is shot in black …

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

This film is an adaptation of a play of the same name by August Wilson (who also wrote the play Fences that was adapted to the screen in 2016). The subject is Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), a woman considered by many to be the “Mother of the Blues”, and her band over the course of a studio recording session. The plot centers on her trumpeter, Levee (Chadwick Boseman), who is headstrong and wants to play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” his way. I typically find film adaptations of stage plays to be rather hollow; each platform has its strengths that don’t …

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Small Axe

Steve McQueen III, who is probably best known for his film, 12 Years a Slave, brings a new concept, a collection of 5 feature films that stand on their own but are being packaged as a Limited Series on Amazon Prime. The subject is the experience of West Indian immigrants in London between 1960 and the early 1980s. While each film stands on its own, I find it much easier to think about all of them together. This is an excellent collection of stories that are immersed in their particular eras. The first, Mangrove, is based on the true story …

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