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Historical

Its a Sin (Limited Series)

I don’t always weigh in on limited series, but I was particularly captivated by this one (5 episodes). Three young and very different men – Ritchie, Colin, and Roscoe – all are 18 and move to London to explore their lives as gay men. It’s a Sin spans the decade between 1981 and 1991, the time when AIDS, a then-unknown disease that was affecting primarily gay men, was casting a shadow over the lives of many, gay and straight alike. It is a bit like the Boys in the Band but from the perspective of the UK. Those of us …

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The Last Duel

This is not a movie that I would have necessarily placed on my priority list; I didn’t even know until I started watching it that it is based on a true story of the last sanctioned duel in France. The setting is the 100-Years War. The film centers on three people: Jean De Carrouges (Matt Damon), a knight known for his bravery and ferocity in battle; Jacques LeGris (Adam Driver), who in the beginning was a close friend of De Carrouges but becomes his most bitter enemy; and Margerite de Carrouges, wife of de Carrouges who accuses LeGris of raping …

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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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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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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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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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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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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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The Dig

Carey Mulligan plays Mrs. Pretty, a widow of significant means, who hires Basil Brown, played by Ralph Fiennes, to conduct an archeological dig on her property. There are several mounds on the property, one of which she feels particularly drawn toward. Mr. Brown’s discovery of an ancient sailing vessel creates a lot of commotion in the local and archeological community. The film is a visually beautiful period piece. Mulligan and Fiennes give characteristically strong performances. I have always really loved the naturalness of Mulligan’s performances, and this one is no exception. I found the story interesting, although the screenplay could …

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