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Historical

1917

During WWI, two young men, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) have been given an assignment: The Germans have been planning a huge deception, and the two need to reach the front line with orders from the General to not advance, as they are heading into a trap. The film is the journey undertaken by the two to get the message there. Blake’s brother is in that regiment, which gives Blake a larger sense of urgency. Technically, the film is brilliant. The camera work is done to look like a single take, which gives it …

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Chernobyl

This 5-part HBO miniseries is a historical fiction based on the actual events leading up to and after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia. It is quite a stunning piece of work. With the exception of a few minor scientific details, the film appears to be an accurate depiction of what happened. There is so much to be said about the artistry: The great writing and acting in which situation after situation arises in which complex moral and ethical decisions come into play; the pace of the film that creates a lot of suspense as the lead scientists unravel what …

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1945

(Hungarian, with English subtitles): World War II has ended on the continent. As residents of a tiny village in Hungary prepare for a wedding, two Orthodox Jewish men, father and son, enter town on the train with two boxes noted to contain perfumes. They begin their journey toward town. Their arrival forces the villagers to confront their history with the war. This is a really well-crafted film. It is shot in black and white, giving you the feeling of the era. The cinematography is interesting –there are wide panorama shots alternated with close-ups of the villagers that help tell their …

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On Chesil Beach

Based on a novel by Ian McEwen of the same name, the story centers on two newlyweds from different backgrounds, Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Geoffrey (Samuel West) on their wedding night. Through a series of flashbacks, we see the development of their relationship through engagement, the interactions with each other’s families who love both of them, and then marriage and how this impacts their fateful wedding night. Ronan is always wonderful, and here she gives a typically understated and powerful performance. I also liked West’s performance. I liked the way this was presented in the book much better; the book …

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BlacKkKlansman

This new Spike Lee film is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington), the first Black man hired into the Colorado Springs Police Department. After being stuck in the records vault, he is reassigned to the intelligence unit and happens on an ad for the Ku Kux Klan. Ron recruits Flip (played by Adam Driver), a more experienced detective, and they go undercover together to infiltrate the KKK. Lee has put together a really powerful film, probably one of his best in a very long time, that uses a “crazy, outrageous, incredibly true” story …

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2018 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Live Action)

I have learned to enjoy the short films; it is a challenge to tell a story that could consume a full-length movie in an abbreviated period. This year’s nominations come from 4 different countries: United States; Australia; Germany; and the United Kingdom. “Dekalb Elementary” relates the story, inspired by an actual 911 caller, of an armed shooter who enters an elementary school. “The Silent Child” is the story of a young deaf girl neglected by her family who establishes a friendship with the social worker who engages her. “My Nephew Emmett” relates the true story of a man who watched …

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Tom of Finland

This biopic recaps the life of Touko Laaksonen, who would go on to be known by many around the world as “Tom of Finland”. It traces the earliest influences on his art, including his early days as a military officer and life as a closeted gay man in a culture in which such behavior was illegal. I enjoyed the film, mostly because I was not aware of this man’s story; Tom of Finland had a pretty significant impact on the gay civil rights movement in the US and around the world and energized the leather community. Thumbs up from me …

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All the Money in the World

This new film by Ridley Scott tells the true story of J Paul Getty III, grandson of the oil giant, who is kidnapped and held for ransom; it is a showcase for Christopher Plummer, who masterfully channels the older Getty in all of his power and greed. I found the film to be engaging, quick-paced, and suspenseful. Christopher Plummer is the right person for this role, and I cannot imagine Kevin Spacey playing Getty any better. Michelle Williams is wonderful playing Getty’s former daughter-in-law who proves to be quite matched to the patriarch’s scheming, and Mark Wahlberg plays a convincing …

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The Post

Once in a while, I see a movie of which my opinion bucks the prevailing one; this is one of those films. Meryl Streep plays Katharine Graham, who became head of the Washington Post (and first female head of a major newspaper) after the suicide of her husband. Tom Hanks plays Ben Bradlee, one of the Post’s leading editors. The New York Times, main Post competitor, has already broken the story of the Vietnam War cover-up, and this film is the story of how the Post continued to expand on the story that ultimately brought the NYT and the Post …

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The Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill from the time that he was asked to serve as Prime Minister following the loss of confidence in the current prime minister through his speech to Parliament that committed England to the war against Hitler, a span of a few weeks). I will start by saying that Oldman gives an award-winning performance of a man who appears to be at times indecisive, at others driven by purpose, and always smoking cigars and drinking scotch. I found the story often unfocused. At times, it looked like the story of Dunkirk from the politician’s point of view, …

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