‘Ex Libris’ offers a vision of community gone from public discourse

A connoisseur of Miami-Dade public libraries, I sit at the Coral Gables branch on most late Saturday mornings when I don’t have a movie screening, ears afire from the quiet, marveling at the number of stacked volumes that once saw more thumbings. This phenomenon is more striking at FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus’ Hubert Library, whoseContinue reading “‘Ex Libris’ offers a vision of community gone from public discourse”

‘Mudbound’ trapped by structural conventions

Mudbound might have been a solid NBC Sunday movie back when such things existed, or, better, a cable show several episodes long. At just over two hours Mudbound has the problems common to such productions: a “Meanwhile, back at…” chronology, performances without arcs that come off wooden, a predictable rhythm. But it has virtues too,Continue reading “‘Mudbound’ trapped by structural conventions”

‘A Fantastic Woman’ stresses suffering over fantasy

If A Fantastic Woman honored its title, we’d see Marina as a person, not a figure of suffering. Played by trans actress Daniela Vega, Marina is on her terms vulgar and determined, but director Sebastián Lelio prefers her as a martyr to a cause. This Chilean film represents the kind of film that the AcademyContinue reading “‘A Fantastic Woman’ stresses suffering over fantasy”

‘In the Fade’ struggles to earn tragic inevitability

One truth emerges from In the Fade: Germans still tolerate smoking. Katja Sekerci, played by Diane Kruger, is rarely seen without a smoldering fag — in her home, in bars, in an automobile (many Berlin bars still get around national bans, according to reports). When a bomb kills her husband and young son, Katja stumblesContinue reading “‘In the Fade’ struggles to earn tragic inevitability”

In ‘Phantom Thread,’ clothes make the man

Finally — a film in which a seduced woman is required to put on more clothes instead of taking them off. If Reynolds Woodcock is the seducer, then an interest in sex is secondary. A tailor who approaches his profession with the rigor of a poet and the devotion of an ascetic, the absurdly namedContinue reading “In ‘Phantom Thread,’ clothes make the man”

Backwoods Barbies: ‘I, Tonya’

I have a foreboding that the next three years smart aleck producers, with the same glee as newspaper editors sending reporters into southern Indiana or West Virginia coal country, will approve movies about Trump’s America, or, as grim a development, critics will tag movies as Examinations of Trump’s America when actors use corn pone accents.Continue reading “Backwoods Barbies: ‘I, Tonya’”

‘The Post’ shows how Beltway oligarchy works – and wins

The difference between insisting on clarity and explaining the obvious is impossible to discern for a master of hyperkinetic narrative cinema, and Steven Spielberg does the obvious in The Post. His account of how The Washington Post’s publisher Katherine Graham agonized over putting the newspaper run by her late husband in legal jeopardy for runningContinue reading “‘The Post’ shows how Beltway oligarchy works – and wins”

‘The Shape of Water’ kept afloat by too many familiar elements

Adept at treating fables as if they were real and daily life as if it were a fable, Guillermo del Toro goes all the way into romantic lunacy with The Shape of Water. The director of The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth shows how a mute named Eliza (Sally Hawkins) and an aquatic creature who mayContinue reading “‘The Shape of Water’ kept afloat by too many familiar elements”

What happened to Poe and Finn? Burning questions about ‘The Last Jedi’

My crew and I left the theater late yesterday afternoon disappointed with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but Star Wars universe fans court disappoint like Democrats do despair. No movie can measure up to the perfect Wookiepedia in their minds. At least a half hour too long, The Last Jedi is dependent on the goodContinue reading “What happened to Poe and Finn? Burning questions about ‘The Last Jedi’”

In ‘Call Me By Your Name’ lust is easy, love is hard

Stereotyped as subjects forever on the prowl, gay men are often objects, inanimate objects, especially when young. Moving through spaces where their desires remain unacknowledged and hence ungratified, they develop their powers of observation. They fetishize clothing. They use wit, a powerful weapon with an equally powerful kick, for the wit isolates them too, exposesContinue reading “In ‘Call Me By Your Name’ lust is easy, love is hard”

‘Darkest Hour’ will delight wannabe tough guys

In one of the more ignominious reversals in twentieth-century political history, British voters sent Prime Minister Winston Churchill packing not long after Allied forces declared victory over Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. Watching Darkest Hour helps modern audiences understand why. The cult of Churchill remains fervent in American conservative circles; the wrongness ofContinue reading “‘Darkest Hour’ will delight wannabe tough guys”

‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is one screwed-up movie

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a movie that asks the audience to see the moral equivalence between the vengeful woman whose daughter was raped and killed and a racist, homophobic police officer guilty of appalling acts of violence shown onscreen. It also wears the trappings of a comedy, donned when Martin McDonagh thinks mattersContinue reading “‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is one screwed-up movie”