Category: 4 Stars


Echo In The Canyon

August 4th, 2020 — 12:13am

Echo In The Canyon (nf)
****

Being relative newcomers to Los Angeles and not having grown up here, we had no idea how the lovely mountain and valley area northwest of downtown Los Angeles is actually the birth place of the “California Sound.” The musicians who were drawn to this area in the early 1960s included well known groups such as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas & the Papas as well as many other groups. They transformed folk music into the all familiar electric guitar sound that still resonates today. The film was directed by Andrew Slater and features Jakob Dylan, a very talented musician himself who also happens to be the son of Bob Dylan. He interviewed several of the featured musicians who were now in their senior years including Stephen Stills, Michelle Phillips, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and even Ringo Starr. Jakob Dylan is also shown performing a good deal of the time. Many of these interviews appeared to be made just for this film and there were also many archival clips. Many parts of this film were made in the famous Los Angeles recording studios.

What was it about Laurel Canyon that attracted these musicians and allowed it to be the birthplace of this beloved sound? In part, it was the presence of recording companies including the iconic MGM building that resembles a stack of records. Also, most likely, the proximity to the movie studios and the lifestyle of the rich and famous. While not highlighted in the film, this also was the time of psychedelic drugs such as LSD that were often associated with rock and roll. Whatever the attraction, it was a magical time that gave birth to the unforgettable music and the musicians that created it. This movie, whether it is a trip down memory lane or an introductory education about the music of the 60s, is a worthwhile cinematic and music experience. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Musical

I Am Not Your Negro

July 25th, 2020 — 7:00am

****
I Am Not Your Negro

The well-known author James Baldwin was planning a book, in which he would discuss the lives and the assassinations of three prominent black Americans: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He only completed 30 pages of the manuscript before he died in 1987. Raoul Peck was able to take his manuscript and extended it into a full documentary film narrated by Samuel Jackson. It not only showed the reflections, thinking, and writing of Baldwin, but was able to piece together with videos and still pictures not only the 60s when these three men were in the prime of their lives and were assassinated within five years of each other, but was also able to trace and reflect the history of black people in the United States. He particularly examined the interaction and the subjugation of blacks throughout the history of this country. Although Baldwin died in 1987 and this film was released in 2016, it resonated loud and clear with today’s contemporary society in the United States, particularly with the recent death of George Floyd at the knee of a white policeman and other similar tragic events. This movie is painful and timely. Baldwin wanted people to understand the terrible subjugation of black Americans, but also the systemic oppression of them even in today’s American society (2016).

1 comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Politics

A Fortunate Man

May 22nd, 2020 — 4:35am

A Fortunate Man ****

This is a very engrossing and complicated story about a man who was anything but fortunate. The main character, Sidenius (Jens Albinus), is brought up in a religious Christian family, in which his father was the church pastor. The son does not get the blessing of the father as they have a bitter departure, as Sidenius goes off to seek his own life and fortune, which to him would mean selling his dream of giving the world his idea of a new form of energy and power through windmills and canals which could remake turn of the century Denmark. He encounters a wealthy Jewish family and is drawn to the oldest beautiful daughter (Katrine Greis-Rosenthal) who would also connect him with great wealth and the potential to make his engineering dream come true. However, the story becomes more complicated as we come to appreciate Sidenius’ rebellion from his father as he unwittingly also identifies with him. The movie allows the viewer to understand how for most of this man’s life, his self-centered personality made him insensitive to the feelings of the women in his life and even to his own children except for a final moment of insight. The story is adopted from a novel by the Danish author, Henrik Pontoppidan.

Aside from showing us the insight into the psychodynamics of a man, as we see the impact of his childhood on his subsequent life, the film also highlights several other interesting issues:

It shows the impact on a person raised in one culture (in this case a poor religious Christian culture) who suddenly finds himself surrounded by a wealthy family (in this case a Jewish culture).

It also spotlights a well-known dilemma when a creative genius with a new idea is confronted with the established society that is not quite ready to embrace his revolutionary concepts.

There is also a familiar subplot of a woman who believes she is in a committed relationship and finds herself pregnant and realizes that her partner, who does not know she is pregnant, is actually ready to move on and break up the relationship.

Finally, there is also the well known story of an estranged grown child finding out that a parent has died and now is drawn back to be a loyal child when it is really too late.

So, you can see this very well done film directed by Bille August will hold your attention and stir your emotions. It is certainly worth seeing (2020).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

Crip Camp

March 28th, 2020 — 11:00pm

****

Crip Camp-nf

This film was recommended to us by someone who knew that we spent the summer after our wedding working in a camp for orthopedically handicapped adults and children. It is produced by  the production company formed by former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama in association with Netflix. The opening scene of this documentary film, although taking place several years later showed Camp Jened very much resembling our own unforgettable summer experience. The focus was mostly on teenagers, many in wheelchairs, some with severe speech impediments and others limping around, but all with the energy and joy as they clearly felt liberated and were having the time of their lives. Many spoke of how for the first time they did not feel different. Others spoke of the joy of swimming and playing baseball even if it was from a wheelchair. There was the first teenage sexual attraction and overall a most meaningful summer.

However, this documentary film was much more than the story of a wonderful great summer camp experience. The producers and editors put together the story of the historic civil rights movement of people with disabilities. It also became obvious that some of the participants in this and leaders of this movement had met each other during their glorious summer camp experiences. Now many of them were young adults and were emerging as the leader of this most important movement.

A group of them had landed in San Francisco where they began to demonstrate against Joseph Califano who was the Secretary of Health Education and Welfare and was not carrying out Federal Law section 504 and therefore not supporting equal opportunities for the handicapped. Curb cuts, so wheelchairs and their occupants could travel freely, elevators in all structures as well as other architectural accommodations to allow people with disabilities to lead a more normal life were their demands and expectations. The Black Panthers who originated in nearby Oakland, California, supported and joined them in their protests. This movement then reached a crescendo when the growing group of protesters arrived in Washington, D.C. and held sit-down demonstrations in front of Secretary Califano’s office outside the building and inside. This went on for a couple of weeks before finally Califano recognized the rights of the handicapped.

To think that much of this movement started in the early relationships of many young people who met at the remarkable summer camp a decade earlier. The filmmaker obviously dug up early footage from Camp Jened and focused on several people who became leaders in this most important movement. The viewers of the film were able to follow them as they emerged into adulthood and made the remarkable contributions to the civil rights of the disabled in this country. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, History, Politics

Burden

February 19th, 2020 — 1:40am

****

Burden

This story, set in the 1990s, is based on real events and real people. It takes us into the Deep South where a group of Ku Klux Klansmen are converting an old movie theater into a KKK Museum. As we meet our main character, Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund), he is one of the Klansmen. We see his life is about to change as he meets a poor, lovely white young woman (Andrea Riseborough) with a small son who has a different background and values than he does as she and her son are friends with black families and her kid is best friends with a black child. They fall in love and she says that he will have to choose between her and the Klan as she could not tolerate the brutality of the KKK. This unlikely threesome shortly finds that they have no place to live and they are befriended by a black congregation led by Rev. Kennedy (Forest Whitaker).

The film clearly captures the hate and brutality towards black people by the white people who identify with the prejudices and hate symbolized and characterized by the KKK. It also reminds us of the potential for change when human beings fall in love and feel very close to each other, allowing them to open up and become more empathic. Self worth can rise and insecure anger can be reduced. There is also a wonderful depiction of a black church group whose faith sustains them through a very difficult time and how important was their beliefs and the leadership of them by their spiritual leader, were in their lives.

It is easy to see how one might view this story as just a fairytale but the characters and story ring true. This belief was further reinforced when during the closing credits we were able to view the real people about whom this story was based. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

Corpus Christi

January 30th, 2020 — 4:33am

****

Corpus Christi-sp

This is Poland’s entry in the Oscar race for best foreign film and it could be a winner. A young man escapes from his violent detention in prison where he has to work in a sawmill and gets into gritty fights. While he already knew that his desire to go to seminary and become a priest could not be possible because of his prison record, he finds a way to act out his fantasy. After he escapes from his detention, he finds refuge in a church in a small town. He convinces the vicar there that he is actually a recent graduate priest who is passing through and then accepts the role to temporarily be the Church’s spiritual leader when the older man has to leave for a period of time. Not surprisingly, interesting things happen and issues of spirituality, morality and fairness are all put on the table for the viewer to contemplate along with the characters in the film. The core of the story is based on a true incident of priest impersonation, but much of the story comes from the imagination and creativity of the screenwriter, Mateusz Pacewicz, director, Jan Komasa, cinematographer, Piotr Sobociński, Jr. as well as the great acting performance by Bartosz Bielenia, along with an excellent supporting cast.(2020)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Jojo Rabbit

January 30th, 2020 — 3:34am

****

Jojo Rabbit-rm

On one hand, this is an outlandish, fanciful story about Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) a 10-year old German boy who has an imaginary friend who happens to be Adolf Hitler (played by the director, Taika Waititi). It is also a story about a young girl (Thomasin McKenzie) who is being hidden in the attic by Jojo’s mother (Scarlett Johanson) because she is Jewish and is being sought out in order to be murdered by the Nazis. Sam Rockwell has a somewhat slapstick role as the German captain who is training our little hero.

On one hand, this film is a comedy, but it is hard to laugh when we are being reminded of Anne Frank and the horrendous story of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.

The film is extremely creative and very well done. It will hold your interest and make you chuckle just as it will allow you to reflect on this time in history. It is clearly worth seeing this satire, which emphasizes the cruelty, stupidity and unmitigated arrogance of the Nazi cause. It is another reminder of how important it is that no one is allowed to forget this horrific time in the history of the world. (2020)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Incitement

January 29th, 2020 — 7:47am

 

****

Incitement- sp

This award-winning Israeli film is based on the real-life events which led to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It is a well-done docudrama, which seemlessly interfaces actual video and movie clips with the excellently-constructed, very well-acted movie. It was put together by Yaron Zilberman who directed the film and co-wrote the screen play as well as leading the team of producers who researched all details of this movie for over a year prior to production. The preparation that they did included interviewing the actual assassin Yigal Amir (played by Yehuda Nahari Halevi) who is serving a life sentence in prison. Special recognition also should be given to the cast who played Amir’s family (Amitay Ousilio, Anat Ravnizky, Yoav Levi) and other important people in his life (Sivan Mast, Daniella Kertesz).

The seminal event which this film focused is upon was a pivotal moment in Israeli history. Rabin was assassinated in 1995, at which time, Yassir Arafat, was negotiating with him and planning the previously evasive possibility of agreed-upon boundaries and peace in the Middle East.

This film highlights the controversies within Israel among various groups. The viewer gets to understand the point of view of the young law student would-be assassin as he evolves his thinking into his deadly plan. How he rationalizes and justified his plan and finds support from the Bible and various religious leaders is quite fascinating and makes this movie well worth seeing. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Foreign

The Report

January 9th, 2020 — 8:17pm

****

The Report – nf

In this docudrama based on the true story of Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), a staffer for United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) is given the assignment to examine secret files and make a report on the purported enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) that the CIA was performing on suspected terrorists after 9/11. You need to remember that this was a time of great anxiety and concern in this country after the U.S. homeland was attacked by Al Queda. The CIA felt very responsible to determine if future attacks were being planned and exactly who was involved. They were able to bring into custody suspected terrorists and would determine to extract from them as much intelligence as possible to save the homeland. At one point two seemingly credible psychologists offered to help the CIA to develop these enhanced interrogation techniques which featured the torture of the people they were interrogating with waterboarding among other methods. They had the confidence that this would extract essential intelligence data. The United States government is one of critical checks and balances and while the CIA reports to the President, the U.S. Congress has the duty to examine ethical and moral behavior of all agencies of our government. This critical and pivotal moment in modern United States history all played out in the actions and reactions of this one younger staffer Daniel Jones, who had the task of examining the most highly classified information and reports. He ultimately found himself in direct conflict with the various leaders of the CIA which included John Brennan (Ted Levine), George Tenant (Dominic Fumusa)and Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm) who was chief of staff for the President’s office.

This historical drama was written and directed by Scott Z. Burns. The movie holds the attention of the viewer as we watch this unlikely hero struggle against the powerful forces as well as his own inner conflicts as to how he should act and should he reveal the top secret information that was being hidden from the American public and from the U.S. Congress.

This movie is quite relevant today as, the headlines tell of U.S. President Trump complaining about people who are questioning the United States Intelligence Office which provided information regarding his decision to have a major Iranian military leader killed. (2020)

 

 

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Politics

Dark Waters

January 7th, 2020 — 7:14pm

****

Dark Waters-rm

This is an important documentary film that we would hope that as many people as possible could see it and be informed of its contents. It is produced by Mark Ruffalo, who stars in the film as the lawyer who takes on the DuPont Chemical Company to expose the large scale damage to people and the environment done by their product related to Teflon. The movie is directed by Todd Haynes and has an all star supporting cast of actors including Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Bill Pullman, Anne Hathaway, and Marie Winningham. It is based on the New York Times magazine article “The lawyer who became DuPont’s worst nightmare” by Nathaniel Rich and was adopted for screen by Mario Correa and Matthew Carnahan. It is a painful movie that will more likely have you squirming in your seat rather than sitting on the edge of it as you realize the drawn-out painful process that had to be gone through over many years in order to gain recognition of the dangerous harmful effects on people by the chemical produced by DuPont. The process of recognizing this dangerous situation has been very slow but the staggering amount of compensation this mega corporation is beginning to pay out to the unwitting victims finally is achieving some small amount of justice. This movie deserves kudos for taking on the story and deserves to be seen by many moviegoers.( 2020 )

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama

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