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Wild Rose

"Three chords and the truth" reads the tattoo on the right forearm of Rose-Lynn Harlan.  That fundamental recipe was coined by another Harlan, American songwriter Harlan Howard providing his abiding definition of country music in the 1950's.  This is the sort of thing Rose Harlan would know, country music historian and aspirant that she is.

Unlike many a music enthusiast from the United Kingdom, Rose has a deeper knowledge of and feeling for American roots music than most Americans.  One of the strengths of Wild Rose is that we are dealing in a fairly genuine country music here (not "Country & Western;" Rose bristles whenever anyone attaches that common old term to her singing), as opposed to the sort of bathetic sludge that tends to clog "country" radio these days in America.  Wild Rose is like a deeply felt old country song, a bit careworn and certainly predictable.  But thanks to Jessie Buckley, playing Rose with a bone-deep consistency, the f…
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Us

We have seen the red-jumpsuit-wearing, scissors wielding, disturbingly feral enemy and they are...us?  So it does appear in the second film from the enormously successful Jordan Peele.    Mr. Peele has given us another horror film of sorts, one  in which the doppelgangers, the ones in the jumpsuits, are none to happy.   And who can blame them, really?  
For starters, this apparently large population of doppelgangers has been waiting.  A long time.  A pre-title sequence goes to some pains to let us know, both explicitly and with tokens of Reagan Administration America, that it's 1986.  Like Josh Baskin in Big, little Adelaide Thomas (Madison Curry), wanders toward a mysterious, set apart attraction at a boardwalk carnival and much chaos ensues several decades on.
Adelaide enters a kind of funhouse called "Find Yourself."  There's something of a Native American theme to this attraction, and we hear a Native American voice speaking as the little girl wanders into the b…

The Favourite

What-ho! Yorgos Lanthimos down some dark, rich, reimagined corridor of English history?  The Greek filmmaker has generally confined himself to the relative present.  Much as he has charted out unique little worlds in his films beyond the obvious grasp of time or place, each has occurred in an astringently modern setting.  You know - cars, electricity and whatnot.  
And yet Mr. Lanthimos has followed his most punishing work, The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) with a kind of dark comedy set, however fancifully, during the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714).  But this being Yorgos Lanthimos, his latest film is nothing so simple as black comedy or period piece.  Through a fairly quick ascension of features - this is somehow only his seventh - Lanthimos has brought us characters that don't move side by side or passionately embrace so much as collide like bumper cars, even as they might be moving in for some needed bit of affection.


In films like Alps,Dogtooth and The Lobster, characters…

Can You Ever Forgive Me

Things are not going well for Lee Israel as we meet her in Can You Ever Forgive Me?   The solitary New Yorker is fired from a copy editing job due to her two most distinguishing characteristics:  a caustic personality and a glass of scotch on the rocks affixed to her hand with only slightly less permanence than her fingers.  A strait-laced co-worker reminds her that food and drink aren't allowed in the office and the busybody is invited to fuck off.  When a man asks her to repeat what she said, Lee does so with zest.  The man, she realizes too late, is her boss, who summarily dismisses her.  Ms. Israel finishes her drink, tosses the ice into a trash can and returns the glass to her purse, off to joust with an adversarial world on other fields of battle.  
Loss of the no-doubt poorly paying job only exacerbates the already tenuous standing in the world of  writer Lee Israel.  Once there were magazine assignments (a profile of Katherine Hepburn, memorialized with a letter from the …

Leave No Trace

It's significant that  one of the most moving bits of communication between daughter and father in Debra Granik's Leave No Trace is not an exchange of words.  It an occasional clicking sound, an affirmation between the child and parent.  It's a tolling of animal sympathy and understanding.  A simple, eloquent expression of love beyond speech.  

Delivering her third memorable feature film, Debra Granik wrote the script with her long-time creative partner Anne Rosellini.  Their collaboration in the case Leave No Trace is a masterwork of understatement, if not blatant minimalism.  Both father Will (Ben Foster) and Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), whom we first meet living secretly amid the lush vegetation of forested public lands somewhere outside of Portland, Oregon, tend toward the laconic in speech.  Granik and Rossellini, like their characters, speak mainly when they have something important to say.
From this source, this minimal script like telling ripples on deep bodies of wat…

A Quiet Place

A quiet place indeed, any movie theater (I'm extrapolating from my own experience at a small screening room at Chicago's New 400 Cinema, usually a lively neighborhood house) in which one might take in John Krasinski's A Quiet Place during its highly successful first run.

One of the points on which A Quiet Place impressively succeeds is immersing its audience into the experience and plight of the Abbot family, stepping very softly through some sort of post-monster-invasion American landscape in which drawing attention to oneself with any sort of noise can quickly prove fatal.  So too does the audience almost breathlessly proceed through the film, especially the nearly silent early stages.  While it is both unusual and extremely refreshing to be among an American film audience in which such a hush - nary a smart phone; virtually no resounding ruminant chomp of popcorn -  prevails, A Quiet Place ultimately resorts to all manner of loud plot mechanism, clunking logic.


The nea…