Author: Chris Celletti

With ‘The Post’, Steven Spielberg Affirms A Key To Democracy

Overview: The story of The Washington Post’s effort to publish the Pentagon Papers, a trove of classified documents that the U.S. government wanted kept under wraps. DreamWorks; 2017; Rated PG-13; 115 minutes. Democracy Dies in Darkness: There’s no question that The Post is a film that celebrates and champions the importance of a free press to a democracy. It has a clear point of view, which is emboldened by the current political climate hovering over the world inhabiting the theaters it arrives in. But it’s a Steven Spielberg movie through and through. This stage of Spielberg’s career—say, since 2005’s...

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What Abacus: Small Enough to Jail Says About Power

What does it mean for something to be “too big to fail?” That phrase vaulted into popular consciousness after the 2008 financial crisis and how the big banks at fault were bailed out by the federal government. But the term is actually a bit misleading. Big corporations fail all the time. They fail to provide the services they purport to offer to us, they fail at earning our trust, they fail at being transparent. We know better now, that perhaps the more apt phrase to describe behemoth corporations may be “too big for consequences.” There’s no such thing as...

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Darkest Hour is a Case for Conviction

Overview: Winston Churchill takes over as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at a crucial point in World War II. Focus Features; 2017; Rated R; 125 minutes. Help Wanted: In Darkest Hour, we first meet Winston Churchill in the dark. He’s lying in a robe in bed, and strikes a match temporarily illuminating the entire room before it fades back to black. Soon, he’s dictating words to a young female typist, who mistakenly types his memo single spaced. Churchill likes—no, demands—that things be double spaced. The young typist leaves the room in embarrassment and tears. It’s 1940 and World...

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Roman J. Israel, Esq Presents a Character in Search of a Story

Overview: An LA-based criminal defense lawyer fights the system after his small firm disbands. 2017; Rated R; Columbia Pictures; 129 minutes. What Do You Stand For?: What do you do when an opportunity presents itself? Do you go for it, or shy away? It depends on the type of person you are. Roman J. Israel, Esq. is the type of person who gets an opportunity and sees it as a chance to fulfill his calling. What’s Roman J. Israel, Esq.’s calling? To find the answer to that, you’d have to track down and ask Dan Gilroy, the writer and...

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Call Me By Your Name is a Tender Romance Told Tenderly

Overview: A teen and a graduate student reckon with their surprising shared attraction during the former’s six week stay at the latter’s home in Northern Italy. 2017; Rated R; Sony Pictures Classics; 132 minutes. A Stranger’s Touch: It’s easy to become immune to the intimacy of touch. We’ve grown so used to making physical contact with those we’re close with that it doesn’t make much of an impact when it happens. And when we shake hands with someone, we’re expecting it, though maybe we’re taken a bit by the strength of the grip or the coarseness of the hand....

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Mudbound: Two Families, Bound and Separate

Overview: Two families with sons returning from war navigate hard times on a 1940s Mississippi farm. Elevated Films; 2017; Rated R; 134 minutes. More Alike Than Different: Mudbound follows two families who have a lot in common. Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) wants to find prosperity through owning farmland, so he moves his family from Memphis down to the Mississippi Delta. He brings his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan), their children and his father Pappy (Jonathan Banks) along, while his younger brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) is off flying bombers over Europe in World War II. Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) also dreams...

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Vietnam Vets Hit The Road in Last Flag Flying

Overview: Three men reunite 40 years on from their service in Vietnam to bury a fallen son killed in the Iraq War. Amazon Studios; 2017; Rated R; 124 minutes. One Last Detail: The films of Richard Linklater have often focused on two themes: relationships and the passage of time. His latest effort, Last Flag Flying, is also interested in these things. It’s 2003, and Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell) doesn’t have much—his wife, whom he describes as “slow,” passed away of breast cancer earlier in the year, and he lives a modest life in New Hampshire. He tracks down his...

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In The Florida Project, Magic Is Wherever You Find It

Overview: A struggling mother tries to provide for her young daughter as they navigate life from a cheap motel in Orlando, Florida. A24; Rated R; 111 minutes. A Whole New World: When Walt Disney was scouring the country for the location of his new theme park in the early 1960s, he settled on a section of Orlando, Florida which was, at the time, a blank slate. He needed space, and lots of it, because what he had in mind couldn’t exist in the regular world. He had to create an entire new one from scratch. Disney World thus became...

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Lady Bird Is A Stellar Debut

Overview: Entering her senior year, a free-spirited young Sacramento girl wades through icky home and personal relationships while hoping to get into an East Coast college. A24; 2017; Rated R; 93 Minutes. Call Me By My Name: Christine grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Sorry, that’s Lady Bird who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. That’s what Christine wants to be called, so that’s what people call her, even her parents. She wants to cross those tracks, not just to the other, nicer side of Sacramento but faraway, to a place “with culture.”...

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Dream, Baby, Dream: Music and Memories in American Honey

The other day, I was driving up New York’s West Side Highway to a friend’s birthday party, my wife in the passenger seat next to me. We weren’t paying much attention to the songs on the radio until a particular song came on: “Nookie” by Limp Bizkit. Our reaction was the same as yours likely is upon reading this. We laughed. What a bad band! What a bad song! Why is Limp Bizkit in Sirius Radio’s rotation? Do we pay for Sirius? Is this a good use of our hard-earned dollars? Then a funny thing happened: I realized I...

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Amazon Prime Hidden Gems: Alps

Alps (2011) Director: Yorgos Lanthimos Genre: Drama Kino Lorber Yorgos Lanthimos makes you work. His films depict worlds that appear to be just like ours, ones where things work just a bit differently. Since Lanthimos doesn’t have any interest in exposition, it’s always on us to figure out not only the culture and rules that govern these worlds, but how and why his characters are interacting with the world and each other the way they are. In this sense, Alps is heavy lifting. The movie follows a small group of, um…let’s call them specialty grief counselors. Their business is...

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Soldiers Struggle on the Homefront in Thank You For Your Service

Overview: A group of U.S. soldiers return from a tour in Iraq and struggle to adapt back into civilian life. DreamWorks Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 109 minutes. We are so grateful: In a recent episode of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, a veteran of the war in the Middle East introduces himself to a group of people. The first few all shake his hand and say, “Thank you for your service.” Larry David—ever the curmudgeon—offers up a mere “Nice to meet you.” After an awkward pause, everyone starts to scold David for not saying what he should have. David responds...

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FilmStruck Hidden Gem: Fallen Angels

Fallen Angels (1995) Director: Wong Kar-Wai Genre: Drama Overview: A killer navigates conflicted feelings towards his assistant while a mute loner tries to make it in the world after getting out of prison. Synopsis: Watching the mid 1990s films of Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai is a bit like a reading a collection of poetry. The final output isn’t necessarily meant to be understood or figured out. There can be a theme or feeling that runs through the finished piece, but there’s always a different reading out there, a new angle to look at. There might be an odd...

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In Columbus, A Relationship Blooms Amidst Architectural Wonders

Overview: A young woman who cares for her mother befriends a man who visits the town of Columbus, Indiana when his father falls ill; Depth of Field; 2017; 100 minutes. Dream Baby Dream: Early in Columbus, the debut film from writer/director Kogonada, we hear a girl rehearsing to herself as she stands at the foot of a beautiful building. The hushed voice recites the facts and figures you’d hear from a tour guide. Indeed, Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) would make a great guide to the modernist architecture sprinkled around the town in Indiana that the film is named for....

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Coming to Terms with America in De Palma’s Blow Out

Perhaps the most famous frame in Brian De Palma’s 1981 film Blow Out is of a woman, portrayed by Nancy Allen, desperately reaching out for help. She’s being attacked, but we don’t see her assailant; instead are the stark stars and stripes of Old Glory, looming large and enveloping the background behind her. Like many brilliant shots, a print of it could hang in a museum and elicit thousands of interpretations. That the shot comes at the culmination of a story about a citizen who gets wrapped up in trying to expose the truth about a political assassination renders...

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