“Cold War”: Culture Maven on Film

Posted: February 8th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 1 Comment »

How enchanting that a resonant tale can be told in 89 minutes, in black & white on a screen with old school squarish aspect ratio.

But it is so with the import from Poland, “Cold War.”

It is a movie which crisply and uniquely tales the tale of love and the politics and culture of the time and place.

We never quite learn the whys and wherefores of Zula.

Or of her lover Wiktor.

Or, even the how did they come to fall in love.

But that mystery is all part of the fascination with this unique cinematic adventure.

For more on the film, listen up:

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“Who Will Write Our History”: Film Review/ Podcast

Posted: January 31st, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

The pen is mightier than the sword. 

No, not Shakespeare, Edward Bulwer-Lytton actually from a play he wrote about Cardinal Richelieu, or so I’m advised, but it remains a cliché of consequence nonetheless.

Meaning, of course, there is this truth: That there are circumstances where combat in its classic sense isn’t as effective chronicling a situation which the world needs to know about.

Such as, it would seem, was the situation the Jewish people imprisoned and tortured in the Warsaw Ghetto. Though there was a resistance of sorts in the classic sense, the Nazis, as was their wont, murdered with impunity for fun and sport and their belief in the “Final Solution.”

Realizing that the situation was dire, that most inhabitants of the enclave would not survive, that there wasn’t any manner to match the German captors with firepower, a group formed to gather diaries of first hand accounts of the terror, photos, written accounts, journals, anything that could provide future generations and historians a realistic look at the horrors taking place.

All done clandestinely, for obvious reasons.

The group was called Oyneg Shabbes, “the joys of Sabbath.”

It was an endeavor as audacious as it was courageous.

Roberta Grossman’s documentary, “Who Will Write Our History?,” using the words of those who were there, newsreel footage and some reenactment, tells the fascinating and important tale. We learn how the group met its goals, how their work was retrieved from the rubble after the war.

The well-crafted and intriguing movie is among many at this year’s Jewish Film Festival, which starts February 7..

“Who Will Write Our History” will be shown at Bellarmine’s Wyatt Hall at 7:30 on Saturday, February 9.

For further information on this film and the others being shown, google up Louisville Jewish Film Festival.

And, listen to the podcast below:

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“Bird Box”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: January 11th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Because I felt compelled to keep up with what’s happening in our that was soooo five minutes ago internet meme world, I viewed Netflix’s latest “horror” film craze, “Bird Box.”

It’s about this peril that all of a sudden inexplicably enshrouds the globe and any human that looks at whatever it is immediately commits suicide.

So the lucky few who survive the immediate onslaught take to living indoors with the blinds pulled and the windows shuttered. The thingamajig can’t get inside, or so it would seem.

And when those folks who do survive go outside they wear a blindfold so they won’t look at, you know, it. Whatever it is.

Which makes things like driving, or playing pitch and catch with your kid problematic at the very least.

So, the question becomes whether Ms. Bullock will survive? And what about the kid she is carrying when the film begins?

Sooooooooo, there’s the overview without spoilers.

For somewhat more detail, please listen:

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A Quick Look Back at Cinema 2018

Posted: January 4th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

There were a number of performances by women this year, some that grabbed my attention more than anything else at the movie house.

A couple by very young actors in the films, “Eighth Grade,” and “Leave No Trace.”

And one most of you not only have probably not seen, but might not even have heard of. “Support the Girls.”

Plus the first time indigenous actor who was featured in Alfonso Cuarón’s epic, “Roma.”

I also reveal my favorite comedy and favorite documentary.

I’d exposit more about all here. But, ya know, I’m tired. It’s been a long day.

So, if you’re curious, you’ll need to click below.

So, listen up:

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Film Review Podcast: “Springsteen on Broadway”

Posted: December 21st, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 1 Comment »

There are many who pay attention to my reviews who prefer them written, and would rather not listen to my podcasts. I try to accommodate them.

Well, kids, this time around, those folks are SOL.

There was something about the video recording of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiographical Broadway show — the way he masterfully tells a story perhaps — that said to me: c d, your review needs to be you talking.

So it is.

For reasons you can hear when you listen, I was taken by this performance far more than I thought I would be in advance. I am far from a Springsteen cultist.

Please listen:

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Film Review & Podcast: “Roma”

Posted: December 16th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Having fashioned a few blockbusters — “Gravity,” one of the Harry Potter franchise & more — director Alfonso Cuarón earned the cred to pick and choose his projects.

He eschewed going big again.

As auteur Federico Fellini once did, hearkening back to distinct memories of his youth with “Amarcord,” Cuarón has fashioned an indelible masterpiece of a remembrance with “Roma,” titled for the middle class neighborhood of Mexico City in which the director was reared. This is significantly more intimate than the nostalgia of the Italian fantasist.

Cuarón has said that most every set piece is as he remembers the early 70s moments as a sub teen.

Yet what the director/ writer/ editor/ director of photography has done is not to center the film on himself but on the beloved domestic of his household, here named Cleo and poignantly portrayed by first time indigenous actor Yalitza Aparicio.

She serves a family of three boys, a girl, a maternal grandma, a mother, a dog, and a mostly absent father — the same as Cuarón’s — with much of the film taking place in a home, which is an exact recreation of that of the creator’s youth.

Shot in high definition black & white — a brilliant choice most always — the movie is both epic and very personal.

There is an emotionally wrenching scene depicting childbirth, and an equally unsettling one when Cleo goes to the countryside to find the father of her child. There is scene much resembling Renoir’s “Rules of the Game,” when the family visits a holiday party at a lux spot away from the city. There is a scene near the end, when the family is vacationing at the beach, which depicts allegorically but true to life, Cleo’s existence in microcosm.

But the one that most represents the director’s memories and focus is a simple one. The family is sitting around together, watching television. Cleo comes in to serve them snacks, and comfortably joins in, sitting beside the couch. At which time, assumably Cuarón as a kid, casually puts his arm around her.

Mexico, having been governed by a less than beneficent regime for decades, there is a political presence to the film. Military in the streets. A force of young and disenchanted training in the hinterlands. A student rebellion, quelled mercilessly. But it is presented — brilliantly so — only as context for the interactions of the family and those who serve them.

The scene when grandmother takes Cleo to buy a baby carriage will haunt you.

So you might wonder from this cursory representation how a two hour film about a Mexican servant might be the best film of the year, as many noteworthy critics have suggested?

To which I would reply: Simply watch the film now available on Netflix.

In its detail and vision and execution, it is filmmaking of the highest order. There is subtle craft in every shot and edit.

“Roma” is one arresting film.

Should you want to hear my voice say much the same as I’ve expressed here — OK there’s a bit more — listen up:

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Film Review Podcast: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”

Posted: November 21st, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I am a fan boy of Joel and Ethan Coen.

Which means I am predisposed to appreciate their always unique cinematic output, the genius of the verbosity they put in their characters mouths, the visual acuity of their frames and the underlying absurdity of life that is usually present in their work.

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” if a bit darker than I would have preferred, is still a keeper. And among the best of the Coens’ recent work.

It is set in the old west, and presented as a series of vignettes, framed as a book of tales from that time.

There are shootouts and wagon trains and bank robbers and singing cowpokes and prospectors and a group of erudite eccentrics on their last stagecoach ride.

There is loads of humor here. As well as the contemplation of death.

There is the yin. There is the yang.

It is always interesting, ever unique, as the Coens tend to be.

For a deeper contemplation of the film, listen up:

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Film Review Podcast: “Homecoming”

Posted: November 16th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Paranoia strikes deep/ Into your life it will creep/It starts when you’re always afraid/ You step out of line, the man come and take you away

Homecoming is the name of the 10 part, 5 hour Amazon Prime series, and also the name of the Department of Defense contracted facility it depicts, set up to ease soldiers with PTSD back to civilian life after a deployment on the war front.

Bobby Cannavale works for Geist, the corporation running the facility, and he hires recent social work school grad Julia Roberts to administer to the men housed there.

All is not as it seems. Duh!

This creepy but seriously engaging exercise unfolds expertly and with a brisk pace, but one that is never rushed.

The tale is told in a couple of time sequences, mingled together. 2018, when the events in question occur. And four years later when there is a DOD investigation, instigated by a complaint from the mother of one of Roberts’ patients, Stephan Jones.

The screen is slick, the soundtrack eery. Both add to the suspense.

What’s really going on? I’ll never tell, but I was enamored with this series, I powerwatched it over two days.

I love that the episodes are short, but effective. I love that, about episode 7, just when you think the creators are going to fall into clichés, they don’t. I love that the ending isn’t what you think the set up will bring.

For more, listen up:

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Film Review Podcast: “The Other Side of the Wind”

Posted: November 9th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

At age 26, in 1941, Orson Welles fashioned what is considered by most accounts, the best film ever made.

Citizen Kane.

I do not disagree.

Through the decades, he made several more that intrigue and beguile.

Like “Touch of Evil,” to name but the one that is my favorite. It opens with the most famous tracking shot in film history.

By the end of his lifetime he had become the enemy of many in the biz, an eccentric crank and a shill for Paul Masson wine.

He was notoriously difficult to work with.

He shot a hundred hours of footage, yet still never finished his final vanity project, “The Other Side of the Wind.”

Now, underwritten by Netflix, and available for viewing there, others have finished the flick decades after Welle’s death.

It’s a mixed bag, I’d say.

For more details, listen below.

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Film Review Podcast: “A Star is Born”

Posted: October 12th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

What is this the third or fourth ideation of the classic Hollywoodland fable? At least.

Will Ms. Lady Gaga be up to the role previously portrayed by icons named Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand?

Can writer/ director/ star Bradley Cooper be a manly man like Kris Kristofferson and, gulp, James Mason before him? As for the latter, no problem.

Can the story be updated in a way that is current, holds true to the original and even improves upon it?

The answers: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And in the comparison with James Mason, a thousand times Yes.

America has justifiably fallen in love with this mainstream blockbuster, which is big and bold and brash, yet surprisingly intimate at those moments when it is necessary.

Very little that doesn’t fit here. The leads soar. Sam Elliott and Andrew Dice Clay are marvelous in support.

For more, listen up:

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“The Norsemen”: TV Review Podcast

Posted: October 5th, 2018 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, TV | No Comments »

I’m not going to say a whole lot about the Netflix comedy series “The Norsemen,” now in its second season.

Because it is most difficult to describe. Since it’s a comedy set in Norway in the year 790 and features all Norwegian actors, speaking English thankfully.

It is intelligent. It is droll. It cleverly weaves current day social motifs into its ancient setting.

Most important: It’s funny. Very very funny.

For more, listen below:

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“Love, Gilda”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: September 30th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

In retrospect, given her comedic talent, fame and influence, it’s hard to comprehend that Gilda Radner’s career arc, such as we know it, really lasted but her five years starring on “Saturday Night Live.”

Her post SNL career was essentially of little consequence, though her marriage to Gene Wilder brought her the love and sense of self worth she always craved. Less than a decade after she left the show, she was felled from ovarian cancer.

There is nothing creatively unique about Lisa Dapolito’s documentary, “Love Gilda.” Footage of Radner’s performances. Reverent interviews confirming her influence on later generations. Back story depicting her human foibles behind the public perception.

Yet, so charismatic was Radner, so contagious that smile of hers, so damn funny her characters, most memories of her are justifiably oversized.

In “Love, Gilda,” we relearn why we continue to love her so much. And understand the heritage her untimely death fostered for those fighting cancer.

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— c d kaplan