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At an turning point in the film Joker, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), is assaulted on the subway.  Due to a disability that causes him to laugh randomly, some fellow riders described as “Wall Street types” decide to rough him up. Because Arthur still wore the clown outfit he used as part of his work, one of the assailants tried to sing “Send in the Clowns” as a prelude to the onslaught. That scene propels the action to the next level. Arthur Fleck, The Joker, in the corrupt and failing city of Gotham and with no intention of doing so, becomes the name and face of  what is best described as an anarchist movement [Note: The Joker, in his madness, may incline toward nihilism or absurdism

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    NOW THAT MERYL STREEP and Nicole Kidman are both starring in the second season of the TV series Big Little Lies, it’s probably safe to say that the bell is  ringing furiously to signal the end of an important socio-cultural era: the great period of feature films that began almost a century ago.  While there are still feature films and movie theaters, it seems as if most of the films are superhero fantasy or animated films. The energy, the talent, and the money is pouring out of “movies” into these TV-based series. We might have a net maintenance of creativity–perhaps even more. Maintenance of quality? Not as easy to say; the productions are very good and getting better as the market heats up. But

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  Like past comedy talents such as Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, Steve Carell continues along the path toward rebranding himself as a “serious” actor. In the brand-new film Welcome to Marwen, he gets a role and a movie that should garner some Oscar attention. The film has all the ingredients of a Best Picture nomination: it has a socially prominent issue, an innovative format, and strong and diverse female roles. Based on a true story, “Marwen” very artfully follows themes and threads woven between two worlds: the real, small-town world of a disabled man and the handful of people (mostly women) invested in his well being, and the quasi-real, delusional, fortress realm he creates and catalogues through the lens of his disease-and-drug-fueled imagination. Leslie

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There can be no question that the quality of summer films has deteriorated. It is understandable when you consider the money and talent (the talent goes where the money and the work is) has migrated in a big way toward the mini-series model. The switch-over names are getting bigger (e.g. Julia Roberts, Sean Penn, Emma Stone) every season and the theater productions are increasingly less appealing.  I did manage to see a few films and so will do a quick review for each. The best movies of the year will probably be released over the next several weeks. Hunter Killer–This  Hunt for Red October ripoff has a very few moments’ worth of good action, but the idea that team of special forces could penetrate a

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With his newest film Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson creates what has become for him a routine effect; he delivers a refreshingly unique and unpredictable story experience in film. And this time he adds a couple more items: he makes a pun out of the title while probably promoting stop-motion animation to a new level of legitimacy. That he chose a near-future Japan as his setting can only make me curious. Did anime’ influence him? Old Godzilla films? In a day and age of horror and zombie films, and movies that rely so heavily on CGI, it was a great relief to experience lower tech and  more organic storytelling— which is not to suggest that the film was simple. Perhaps it was a canine version of

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I had to go into the movie with some expectations because Steven Spielberg does not make bad movies, and the cast had Tom Hanks and Merrill Streep for starters. It’s always hard to know whether the times make the movie or the movie makes the times; culture and Art seem to take turns leading the way. In any case, I was just young enough to not understand what the Pentagon papers were in the early 70s. I distinctly remember that phrase as having been constantly in the news while I was in high school. What I didn’t know was that the events covered so well in this film blazed a trail that made it more possible for the press to act in the role of

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When I hear the Star Wars theme and see the text scrolling up and away from me into the stars, it arouses the wonder in me. And because for over three decades I have been rewarded for accepting the reality projected in these stories, I suspend whatever disbelief I encounter. This episode (VIII) has its share of potential distractions in the form of questionable plot points, but if you can silence those interruptions of reason, the film and the story take you –as all worthy stories do–full circle: from your own human experience to an imagined one and back again. The point, of course, is to see what changed in the process. I hope that enough of the other hundreds of millions of viewers changed as

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Much as with the Star Trek TV series, the first BladeRunner was not immediately appreciated. Sometimes, society does not immediately recognize itself in the mirror that Art holds up to it. The fact that as time went on, both efforts became epic and sacred for TV and film implies that they had tried to share a vital human experience that we didn’t recognize yet. But after another decade and the emergence of the Digital Age, it grew clear that within a generation we would be presented with choices and changes to our existence that would redefine what it meant to be human. Then, when these prescient films held up the mirror a second time, we recognized ourselves. The first thing to say about the sequel

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Six Movies to See La La Land I am pretty sure it’s La La Land for Best Picture. This film left me thinking I just saw the Oscar Winner. It was bold and unpredictable: music, drama, the quest for fame—it’s all there. Passenger It was good Sci-Fi, like a futuristic Robinson Crusoe tale on an island surrounded by a sea of space. Oh, and Friday is a woman. My friend’s wife called it a “chick flick” and a “love story.” Lion It reminded me of Slumdog Millionaire award winner. It made a lot of people cry. Okay, I couldn’t help it, I got weepy. Fences Acting showcase for Viola and Denzelle. Potent stuff. It will win some Oscars. 20th Century Women Sleeper indie film that

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Jessica Chastain probably gets herself nominated for an Oscar as she plays a very determined and capable woman—reminiscent of her character in Zero Dark Thirty. The film is about a force of a woman—though it’s not necessarily about women, and part of the plot is about gun control in politics—but it’s not really about gun control. It’s about the lobbying industry and the ruthlessness with which big money chases votes, paying mercenaries (lobbyists) to fight their wars for them: if a new or changed law means billions, you quickly pay millions to try to make it go your way. Power is ruthless, so the driving conflict of the film is “winning” or  achievement in pitched battle against conscience and morality. The machines of industry and

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