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Tag Archives: 4.5 Stars

American Factory

This documentary is set in Ohio and begins with the closing of a GM plant near Dayton in 2008. Fast forward to 2015, when a Chinese billionaire buys the building and opens Fuyao, which makes windshields for cars. The film is a fascinating analysis of what happens when two cultures collide in the workplace – two cultures with different ideas of worker’s rights and expectations regarding productivity.  Everything starts out well enough. There are high hopes for those who lost their jobs at GM. However, it doesn’t take long for problems to appear: the low pay – less than half …

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Blinded by the Light

Javed is 16 and yearns to be a writer. He writes poetry and keeps a journal to the dismay of his father, who emigrated to the UK from Pakistan to have a better life for his family. The film takes place in Thatcher’s England of the 1980s when economic woes rocked the country and jobs were hard to find. One day, Javed discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen, and his world completely flips. The topics the film covers, such as generational culture clash, racism, and economic blight, aren’t particularly new. What makes this film singularly stand out are two things. …

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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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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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If Beale Street Could Talk

The story is based on the book by James Baldwin of the same name, and concerns two young people, Tish (played by KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), an aspiring artist. Both grew up together and are in love. Just as they were ready to start their lives together, Fonny is arrested and sent to jail for the rape of a woman on the other side of town. This is a wonderful film and enhances Barry Jenkin’s (director of last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight) reputation as a beautiful storyteller and someone who extracts great performances from his actors. …

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Logan

Hugh Jackman plays Logan in the year 2029. Most of the mutants are gone now, and Logan, Professor X, and Caliban are hiding in the desert. All of them are getting sick and losing their abilities to heal themselves. One day, a woman approaches Logan with a request to protect a young girl by taking her to North Dakota. Reluctantly, Logan agrees only at the insistence of Professor X. I did not watch the two other Wolverine films, so I am sure I have lost parts of the backstory; however, it turns out that the film stands on its own. …

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The Other Side of the Wind

This film is a restoration of the final film by Orson Welles, “The Other Side of the Wind”, a Hollywood satire. Jake Hannaford (played brilliantly by John Huston) is a fading director who is attempting a comeback in this final film, one that would be considered an arthouse film today. The movie has three different stories going on: The film itself in which you are the viewer, the making of the film, and the critique of the film (and a critique of the critique of the film). Each of these is interwoven into a satire-laced commentary on Hollywood and how …

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Happy as Lazzaro

(Italy, English Subtitles): Lazzaro works alongside a couple of dozen other people as sharecroppers on a tobacco farm owned by an oppressive Marchesa de La Luna, who everyone calls “the Queen of Cigarettes”. Lazzaro is a young man who appears gullible and naïve while helping others with whatever they need or want. Lazzaro strikes up a friendship with Tancredi, the son of the Marchesa, and they orchestrate Tancredi’s abduction. I won’t say much more about the story since any more description would risk giving away the main plot twist. I loved the film. It is beautifully filmed, well-acted, and the …

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Capernaum (Chaos)

(Lebanon, English Subtitles): The film opens as Zain, who is “about 12 or 13”, is being examined by a doctor. Next, we are taken to the courtroom, where Zain and his attorney are suing his parents for “giving him life”. The rest of the movie tells the story of how Zain ended up in the courtroom. The director takes us on a journey through the lives of these people who live on the fringes of society in Lebanon, people (adults and children) who struggle to meet their basic needs and struggle for survival. The film is gritty and at times …

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