Describing classical music composer and conductor Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) as an overachiever is an understatement. Having already achieved EGOT, she is also the lead conductor for the Berlin Philharmonic, a guest lecturer at Juilliard and the head of a foundation that provides opportunities for female conductors. She’s also working on an autobiography and has begun practice for a live recording of Mahler’s Fifth symphony. When the latter is complete, Lydia will have recorded all nine of Mahler’s symphonies with the same orchestra, equaling an achievement by her mentor Leonard Bernstein.
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Whenever I see shots of a beautiful part of the world, I think to myself, “How amazing would it be to live there! It wouldn’t matter what I was doing, so long as I had this incredible landscape to look at and appreciate every day.” The Irish countryside, as depicted in Banshees, would definitely be one of those places where a person could see themselves living without a care in the world. Pádraic (Colin Farrell), the anti-hero of the story, certainly fits that description. He’s a happy-go-lucky sort who spends each day enjoying what life has given him and wanting nothing more. He cares for the animals on his farm, which he loves very much. He shares a quaint cottage with his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon), who also loves him. Every day at 2:00 PM he gathers his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) for a drink and a smoke at the pub. Until one day Colm refuses to open his door to Pádraic or even acknowledge him. When the two later cross paths, Colm states that he doesn’t like Pádraic anymore and doesn’t want to be friends with him.
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The women in Women Talking live in an isolated colony of Mennonites. (The story is based on events that took place in Bolivia in 2010.) They’ve accepted a subservient role in their male-centered society without question. They are illiterate and their education consists solely of the tenets of their religion. Their responsibilities consist of tending to the household, bearing and raising children. Anything else is the exclusive domain of the men. For a long time, the women in the colony have accepted their lot in life with an unwavering faith. They have also placed their complete trust in the men as the leaders of their colony and their religion. Women Talking examines what happens after the women learn that their trust has been horrifically abused.
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Prey for the Devil answers the question we’ve all been asking. Why do hunky, smoldering priests get to have all the exorcism fun? While the movie does include a couple of those types, the story focuses on the sultry, platinum blond Sister Ann (Jacqueline Byers). After years of men lording over the Rite of Exorcism, finally there is progress!
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A young West Point cadet named Poe (Harry Melling) works with proto-detective Landor (Christian Bale) to solve a grisly murder. One of the best-looking Poe movies ever made. Bale is solid as the intense Landor, but the revelation is Melling’s Poe. Recommended. Continue reading The Pale Blue Eye (Netflix, 2022)
Otto (Tom Hanks) is a Grump. That much is clear from the movie’s opening scene. First he argues with a sales associate who wants to help him cut the rope he wishes to purchase. Then he argues with the checkout clerk who says he must pay for two yards of rope when he only needs five feet. It’s not that Otto can’t afford to pay the extra thirty-odd cents, he doesn’t want to pay for what he doesn’t need. When the clerk explains that the computer register can only ring him up for a per yard purchase, he asks, “What computer can’t do math?” Otto’s argument ultimately amounts to nothing, but he’s the sort of person who’s always ready to argue something on principle. Even though what he’s arguing about–five feet of rope, is what he intends to use to kill himself.
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Sympathy for the Fat Man
Charlie (Brendan Fraser) is a pathetic figure. How pathetic is he? Initially, only his voice is heard on a web conference with his students, who see him as a black square. (He claims that his webcam is broken.) Immediately afterwards, Charlie is revealed to be a morbidly obese man, sitting alone in a drab apartment, masturbating to a pornographic video on his laptop. The activity is too strenuous for him, and he starts coughing violently. He grabs a printed essay from an end table and tries to read it, but cannot because he is having trouble breathing. (As you may have guessed, The Whale is a love it or hate it experience.)
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Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is no average teenage girl. With her pallid complexion, black attire, matching pigtails and a personality overflowing with misanthropy, she’s every parent’s nightmare, except for Morticia and Gomez. They love their little viper, storm cloud, etc. and would do anything for her, including keeping her out of trouble when she exacts revenge on her brother Pugsley’s high school tormentors. When Morticia confronts her with the possibility of having attempted murder on her record, Wednesday replies, “Terrible. Everyone would know I failed to get the job done.” If you love droll humor, Wednesday (character and series) has plenty more where that’s coming.
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The movie opens with several touches of visual cleverness. Connie (Emma Corrin) and Clifford (Matthew Duckett) standing against a fake landscape that is revealed to be the painted backdrop of their wedding portrait. (A metaphor for the awkward pretense their marriage will become?) The couple then attend an awkward wedding reception where Connie’s role of heir-producer is toasted. They then manage to consummate their wedding vows in spite of Clifford’s apprehension about going off to war. (Said consummation was not shown, but I assumed it was dignified and restrained.) The following morning on his trip to the front, Clifford is framed by the window of his train car, where his expression mirrors the horrors reflected in the window.
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To paraphrase the late Charles Bukowski, nobody suffers like the working poor. Emily (Aubrey Plaza), the eponymous character of Emily the Criminal, is a perfect example of that truism. She works for a food delivery service, making just enough to afford her car and room in someone else’s apartment. Emily is a heads-down, hard-working type, and needs a better-paying job to do more than exist. Unfortunately, an old felony conviction for aggravated assault keeps her shackled in place. That incident ended her college career and left her on the hook for $70k in student loans. Basically, Emily is trapped. She can’t get an office job because of the felony on her record, and without a better paying job she can’t pay off her debt.
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