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Movie Corner: Coda

Movie Corner: Coda

Vendome Pictures (2021) ★★★★★ By HOWARD MCQUITTER II Official film poster, Apple TV+           What can I say about this motion picture that is "art- house", perhaps, yet rings to me to be one of the best films since the 2021 Oscars? CODA (the 2021 story) is the precise literary work by both the director and screenwriter: Sian Heder. She tells a story of one family of deaf members except for the daughter, Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), in a small fishing town (set in Massachusetts) where the family makes their living by catching and selling fish from a boat.          A superb performance by Emilia Jones and fine performances by the supporting cast: Marlee Matlin (won best actress for Children of a Lesser God , a theme centering on deaf people) as Ruby’s mother; Troy Kotsur (Frank Rossi) as Ruby’s father; and Daniel Durant (Leo Rossi) as her brother. Although Ruby is the only non- deaf person, she is the interpreter for Frank and Leo on the fishing boat. As one can see, making a living by fishing is often drudgery, intertwined with buyers trying to undercut on sales. There is a strong sense the fishermen are dissatisfied with their pay.          But Ruby attends high school where she gets teased and harassed by other kids. (CODA stands for "child of deaf adults".) She decides to join the school choir where she’s getting notice from her no-nonsense music teacher, Bernardo Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez). The teacher pairs her up with a shy boy, Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) for a duet. The two are awkward at first, but after several tries at the music, a love interest develops. Ruby tries to tell her family her real interest is singing; in turn her mother seems to be most in opposition to her daughter's new career.       CODA is not sappy, however. It's [...]

Movie Corner Bonus: Candyman

Movie Corner Bonus: Candyman

Horror/Thriller Universal Pictures (2021) ★★★★ (4 out of 5) By HOWARD MCQUITTER II Universal Pictures If one says “candyman” five times consecutively in an audible voice one can expect a ghost from the past, a large Black man with a hook on his right hand who will kill anyone daring to repeat his name five times in a row. Director Nia DaCosta takes a slightly different take from the original Candyman, directed by Briton Bernard Rose (Frankenstein , Paperhouse ), whose horror film is referred to by some to be the Halloween of the 1990s. Behind DaCosta's version is a steady and reliable hand of one the screenwriters - Jordan Peele.          A 2020-21 look at the former Cabrini-Green neighborhood (still there in the 1990s but crumbling in desperate need of repair) which is "nicely" hidden by white developers and whites who have fled to the suburbs and exurbs. Candyman still hangs around, usually appearing to do people in that dare to call his name five times in a loud voice. Now, would there ever be a Candymanif in his past he had not been lynched in the 1890s for daring to paint a portrait of a wealthy white woman when the white neighbors find out?       Cabrini-Green and Robert Taylor Homes, in particular, razed  for "better" housing didn't wipe away African American poverty it just moved it around nearby. But I fast-forward to the present where in the lush art world, a Black artist, Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abul- Mateen), is coming up in the art scene with a girlfriend, Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris) he lives with in a plush loft. Ms. Cartwright is a well-to-do art gallery director. Not unlike Black NFL players who have to deal with white owners and mostly white general management, Black artists, curators and others in the art world face white critics and owners. And DaCosta doesn't shy away from the hard political [...]

Movie Corner: “Old”

Movie Corner: “Old”

Old: courtesy Universal Pictures (2021 Universal Pictures) ★★☆☆☆ By HOWARD McQUITTER M. Night Shyamalan  is up to another one of his  "prize" thrillers that simply doesn't add up to a hill of beans. I often say I'll go for the ride with a movie if it lacks in major areas, but with OldI just wanted to not even get on the ride. Back in 2002, with his film The Sixth Sense(his first actual film is Wide Awake in 1998),the public was in awe of  starring actors Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg, and Glenn Fitzgerald. Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, indeed a sensation, drew viewers from word of mouth as well as by advertisement.       Old is the movie that should have never left the drawing board. At first, about a dozen tourists are told about an isolated "paradise" island which is supposed to be the ideal vacation spot. Strange things begin to happen when the tourists arrive. A woman's body washes ashore and just minutes later a man named Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) runs over to the tourists pleading he had nothing to do with the woman's death. Do we believe him or not? It's likely he's innocent. But guess what? The Capas' daughter Maddox,11, begins to age rapidly without explanation.     Guy Cappa (Gael Garcìa Bernal) and Prisca Cappa (Vicky Krieps from Phantom Thread ) are about to divorce, but before they do, they go on a vacation with plans to tell the kids about the break-up after the trip.Their other child, Trent, is six years old. Like a virus in the air the tourists begin to age rapidly with no safe way off the island. With a clumsy onset, what follows tumbles downhill and stays there.     One of the only things that may come across in Old is the society we live in has an obsession with getting old. Getting old, of course, has its challenges and its blessings. [...]

Summer of Soul

Summer of Soul

Movie Corner (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Documentary/Music  (2021 Searchlight Pictures) ★★★★★ By HOWARD MCQUITTER II               Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969 is the festival all but forgotten, deliberately thrown (literally) down in a basement. Many people in Harlem at the time believed the festival is the main reason racial disturbances that year didn't occur like the previous year after the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4,1968. All in all, over 300,000 Harlem residents, 99% African American, crowded into Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) - all outdoors - to see and hear a great tribute to African American music: gospel, jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, and soul. The few cops at the festival are barely visible. Nearly all the security is provided by the Black Panthers for an energetic, peaceful, and historical music festival.       Thanks to Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, the director, who found the two-inch tapes in a basement simply going to waste for 50 years, we have Summer of Soul. What a grand prize to see Black people from little kids to seniors watching the singers and the instrumentalists perform on stage. The Harlem Cultural Festivalhad a strong touch, reminiscent of the Harlem Renaissanceof the 1920s. Unfortunately, this great tribute to Black music is probably the last big memorable event for Black Harlem before gentrification set foot in Harlem with very high rent condominiums. Searchlight Pictures          A long list of stellar musicians appear on the stage like Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Hugh Masekela, David Ruffin, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Mavis Staples and the  Staple Singers, the 5th Dimension, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Mongo [...]

Movie Corner: A Quiet Place II

Paramount Pictures ★★★★★   By HOWARD McQUITTER II  A Quiet Place ll  is the real deal judging from the stellar original A Quiet Place (2018) which puts us on edge often and with oompah such not to be easily forgotten. Not long ago, my faith in the horror genre stood near nadir, well, at least since the days of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th (1980), both palatable horror films. But my confidence slowly returns with horror pictures such as the Spanish film The Orphanage (2007), It Follows (2015) and Get Out (2017), all intelligent films.         The second installment of Quiet Place starts off on Day 1, with Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) living, cars going to and fro, electricity is on, American flags rippling in the wind, and boys playing baseball, townspeople drawn out on a sunny summer day. Strange occurrences in the skies interrupt the scene. Creatures attack the town as people run for safety. Fast forward to Day 474 where the original left off to find the Abbotts - Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and Marcus (Noah Jupe) with a newborn baby - leave their farm to wander into the hinterland without creating any sound because that's what alerts the creatures to their whereabouts. But Regan, being deaf (the actress is deaf in real-life), uses sign language which Evelyn and Marcus are adept at, and the creatures can't hear.         The Abbotts find an abandoned mill where they see a family friend named Emmett (Cillian Murphy, 28 Days Later , Inception , The Dark Knight ) who is not exactly keen on seeing the Abbotts. Emmett sees they have a newborn baby and changes his mind about them staying with him. Emmett realizes they have to try to find other survivors, especially with the help of Regan who insists they can't turn back with all the [...]

Nobody

Nobody

MOVIE CORNER By HOWARD MCQUITTER II Universal Pictures Nobody Action/Crime/Thriller Universal Pictures   ★★★☆ By Howard McQuitter II Needless to say, Nobody is that movie where in real time safety is an issue never guaranteed, much less respected in an era of dystopia, reining in all subjects whether they like it or not. Crime is such, whether serious or petty, that doesn't stop at the sleepy-eyed white suburbs. Hutch (Bob Odenkirk from TV series Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul) is a quiet hard-working gentleman with his wife Becca Mansell (Connie Niesen) and children. Perhaps his worst frustration is missing the garbage man every Tuesday. However one night, while Hutch and his family sleeps, two robbers stage a home invasion. He holds one robber off with a golf club and forces the other to step back before they steal some cash and his daughter's kitty-cat bracelet. Well, the theft of the kitty-cat bracelet sets him off. Not long after Hutch's house invasion, he comes to the rescue of a lone adolescent girl on a city bus from thugs harassing her. Hutch makes the thugs pay in the physical way. What's unknown to him at the time is one of the baddies he's punished is the younger brother of Yulian Kuznetsov (Alesksei Serebryakov), a cold-hearted Russian mobster who loves to party. Yulian visits the hospital to find out who did the damage on the bus. But before Yulian sends his heavily-armed men to Hutch's house , Hutch hustles his family away to a convenient shelter in the basement. Then all hell breaks loose as gunfire and severe violence ensue. When Yulian's goons go after Hutch's eldely father in a nursing home , the ex-FBI agent (Christopher Lloyd) turns the tide on them.         Nobody  is worth seeing if only for Bob Odenkirk who carries the movie. The testosterone is high until the bland end. Cast: Bob Odenkirk (Hutch Mansell), Conne [...]

Godzilla vs. Kong

Godzilla vs. Kong

MOVIE CORNER By HOWARD MCQUITTER II Godzilla vs. Kong (2021 Warner Bros.)  ★★1/2☆☆☆ Photo: Warner Bros. The last time the two mammoths monsters Godzilla and King Kong - one a reptile, the other a mammal - fought one another was in the 1962 film by Japanese director Ishiro Honda. Back then men dressed as Godzilla and King Kong battled it out, costing thousands of lives. In that film the battle between Godzilla and King Kong climaxes on Mount Fuji.        Director Adam Wingard's Godzilla vs. Kong, as to be expected, uses plenty of C.G.I. (computer-generated imagery) making the beasts larger than ever. Oh, how Godzilla and Kong have grown in size since their beginnings! Today both beasts are as big as - if not bigger - than the skyscrapers they easily knock over. And the way it looks in Wingard's hyper C.G.I. version, it's Godzilla who is the villain. I think.          What also can be said (and in more recent movies on Godzilla or Kong) is that the Japanese get a big breather from both beasts who in the past have made it a point to level or near level their cities and leave thousands of deaths. This time Godzilla appears in Pensacola, Florida upstaging the city and everything in it. Kong on the other hand is taken from his haven on Skull Island before he's attacked at sea by Godzilla. They battle at sea in the midst of warships and aircraft carriers while F-16s swoop down from the sky firing missiles at the great beasts.        I think it's safe to conclude Godzilla vs. Kong delivers what it promises: ultimate fighting at its best between Godzilla and Kong. But the only lifts (and there's barely a handful) is the battle between the iconic monsters who leave billions of dollars in property damage and numerous lives lost. The human characters are essentially insipid and without much depth. Although I'm a big fan of many [...]

Movie Corner: Unhoused

Movie Corner: Unhoused

By HOWARD MCQUITTER II Howard McQuitter II Adjust your eyes when you see director Chloe Zhao’s superb road film Nomadland because it has a feel of a documentary and a feel of an arthouse film, yet it’s a true narrative. The principal star is Fern, played by Frances McDormand, who has recently lost her husband; and the local gypsum and sheetrock factory in Empire, Nevada where she worked, closed shop. The town just disappears, even the zip code doesn’t show up on the map. Fern decides she will not stay in Empire so she packs up some small possessions and puts them in her beat-up van and takes off on the road. But before she hits the road the townspeople offer her help, even places to stay. She smiles and quietly refuses the offers. What we learn early is Fern is fiercely independent and refuses any help from churches, social services, and charity. Now she’s a nomad traveling from one nomad community to another meeting various people with circumstances similar to hers, becoming kicked out or pushed out by corporate America. Surely this nomad feeling is quite evident today with COVID-19, massive unemployment and racial tensions swirling around us like a gale. Everybody she meets is friendly, leaving her with good feelings without getting too attached with anyone. Nonetheless, there are many heartwarming stories others share with her. On the way she picks up odd jobs, including some work at Amazon. She stops to visit her sister in California, someone who understands her probably better than anyone else. During her road trip she meets David (David Strathairn) who takes a liking to her and invites her to visit him at his son’s house. He offers her the guest house to stay in as long she wants, but she only stays for a few days. Early in the film she tells her neighbors she’s not “homeless” but “houseless”. What a outstanding road movie with Frances McDormand, an Oscar nomination for Best [...]

Minneapolis Film Society

Minneapolis Film Society

https://mspfilm.org/ Founded in 1962, MSP Film Society is Minnesota’s foremost film exhibition organization, and a 501(c)(3) non-profit. We bring the best of international and independent cinema to Minnesota audiences through the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, numerous niche film festivals and series, and daily programming 365- days a year.  We promote the art of film as a medium that fosters cross-cultural understanding, education, entertainment, and exploration. We offer audiences unique opportunities to experience the wealth of international cinema, to engage with and learn from visiting international filmmakers, and to come together and share these experiences as a community.  Our programming serves a growing membership base and diversifying audiences of 85,000+ annually.  The Film Society is best known for the annual centerpiece, the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF). Presented every April, MSPIFF is the largest international arts event in the region, exhibiting more than 250+ films from some 70 countries 

Remembering Cinephile Al Milgrom, 1922-2020

Remembering Cinephile Al Milgrom, 1922-2020

MOVIE CORNER By HOWARD MCQUITTER II Al Milgrom was a milestone for film in Minnesota, namely so-called art house films and foreign films. He established the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival in 1981 held every April. The Festival draws an amazing 50,000 or more, cur- rently centered at St. Anthony Main Theatre. Nobody fostered films the way he did leaving no doubt he was a true cinephile. Back in 1962, Mr. Milgrom founded the Minneapolis-St. Paul Film Society at the University of Minnesota where he started a curriculum for teaching film cinema. It was not long before he created the Rivertown Film Festival in Stillwater that in time would become the acclaimed Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. I considered him a mentor and an inspiration as a film critic. He loved conversation and many times I would see him mingling among the crowds at the MSP Film Festival and around St. Anthony Main. He didn’t let his age get in the way of moving around dialoguing with patrons, students, thespians, and directors. Milgrom was instrumental in bringing famous directors such as Werner Herzog (Cobra Verde, 1988), Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless, 1959), and Miles Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975) to town. When funding was short he managed to find a way to support local festivals. “It’s a very difficult job to try to wrap up 98 years of life,” Graeme Stout said about Milgrom. Stout is currently Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Studies in Cinema and Media Culture Department at the University of Minnesota. Milgrom made films of his own, usually documentaries, such as The Dinkytown Uprising (2015), Singin’ in the Grain (2015), and a full-length film in the Soviet Union (now Russia) in 1959.

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