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Tag Archives: 4.5 Stars

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Autumn (played by first-timer Sidney Flanigan) is a teenage girl who becomes pregnant. Abortions are not allowed in Pennsylvania without parent consent, so she and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder, also a first-timer) make the trip to New York City for the procedure.  This is a very different kind of road trip that explores the nature of friendship of these two cousins and the incredible determination these two young women possess. The storytelling is slow and methodical, and through it, the director captures so many details that make every moment of Autumn’s journey completely believable. The film is about abortion, …

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Becoming

This Netflix documentary is based on the life of Michelle Obama as told in her autobiography of the same title. When I read the book, I thought it was good but way too long; I kept telling myself that she needed a better editor. But I am glad that I saw the film. It was much more concise yet told the story of how she not only became First Lady of the United States but, through that experience, has found her own voice and power independent of her husband. The film is a montage of guest appearances through which she …

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Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen

This Netflix documentary, told exclusively from the perspective of trans male and female actors, writers, and activists, documents the history of how trans characters have been shown on the main screen and television and how those depictions have controlled the narrative of how the mainstream (and trans people themselves) views transgender. What is particularly powerful is how the intersectionality of trans and race has been portrayed on screen, starting with the first full-length feature film, and probably one of the most racist, Birth of a Nation, and taking us through current trans-positive depictions such as those contained in shows like …

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The Invisible Man

Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) is in a controlling marriage. She escapes and soon after gets a notification that her husband has committed suicide. Strange things happen, and Cecilia believes that her husband is following her. I really liked this movie. It is a great way to update the original (and also wonderful, though different) Invisible Man into something that is contemporary. Elizabeth Moss is excellent; I really gained an appreciation for her acting skills while watching this film. The screenplay is slick and the score unsettling; this, and incredible acting, make for a film that is suspenseful and scary. I loved …

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Capital in the 21st Century

This fascinating documentary explores the rise of capitalism and tracks the origins of the significant wealth inequality that characterizes the US and many other countries. Using a combination narration from economic experts and popular culture samples such as movie clips and song tracks, the film starts off just before the Industrial Revolution examining changing economic and social trends and how capital has adjusted to the changes. There are some really interesting stories along the way, including how the need to change clothes each year to remain in fashion evolved and how the Christmas craze developed. But overall, the film takes …

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The Assistant

The Assistant: Julia Garner is Jane, an assistant for a producing company. Recently graduate from college, she has been on her job for about two months and hopes that this job will get her started on her career. The film happens during the course of one workday, from when she checks arrives at work before sunrise and leaves after dark. This is a really powerful film about the workplace harassment, a much more realistic one that last year’s Bombshell. The toxicity of the workplace unfolds slowly; it is small things that you notice and then brush aside. But as the …

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Away

Latvia: This is probably one of the most unusual animated films I have seen. It reminded me a lot of the wonderful Red Turtle that came out a few years ago in that there is no dialog at all. The film, told in 5 chapters, starts out with a boy, probably a teenager, who is dangling from a parachute in a tree. When he regains consciousness, he is confronted by a large, menacing figure who pursues him throughout the film. The boy discovers a map that will take him to the other side of the island where civilization is, and …

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I will use this opportunity to review the first two films as well, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In Sorcerer’s stone, we are introduced to Harry Potter, Hermione, and Ron during their first year at Hogwarts school. Potter gains his reputation as an expert at quidditch, and the three of them solve their first mysteries as Harry Potter begins to gain a sense of who he is. In Sorcerer’s Stone, the three continue into t their second year; there is not much of a difference in the look and feel of …

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Beanpole

(Russia). Iya returned home early from the war (World War 2) to Leningrad, having suffered some kind of concussion that results in her lapsing into occasional catatonic states. She is working for a hospital treating war casualties and trying to care for her son. Her best friend Masha returns later, and the film takes up the story of both women, as different as night and day, trying to survive in post-war Leningrad. There is one scene early on that is heartbreaking, and Iya’s reaction to it defines their worlds.  The film is as psychologically intense as it is tragic. Iya’s …

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Corpus Christi

(Poland): Daniel is a young man who, while in juvie, has a sort of spiritual transformation. He wants to become a priest, but his crime makes that not possible. Once released, he is sent to a small town to transition back as a factory worker. He stops in the church and speaks to a young woman who asks him what he is, and he replies, “a priest”, and pulls a clerical collar from his bag. By accident, he becomes the town’s priest. The film is carried by the brilliant acting of its lead (Bartosz Bielenia) who literally embodies a Christ …

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