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    Ebert Fellow, Carlos Aguilar, recently penned a wonderful article for Variety in which he discussed how President Obama's DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program and his immigrant experience shaped his perspective as a film critic. When the Trump Administration rescinded DACA, thus removing temporary protections offered to roughly a million undocumented youth, Aguilar decided to publicly reveal that he was one of the program's recipients who would be directly impacted by its termination. In his latest essay, Aguilar details his lingering fear of "losing DACA and being forced back into shadows," while being "repeatedly reminded" of his condition as an undocumented person via the things in which  he cannot partake.

    "Part of a professional film critic’s job entails attending international festivals, something that’s virtually out of the question for me without real risks," wrote Aguilar. "In the grand scheme of injustices, not being able to travel abroad is minuscule, but for the field I’m now a part of, it’s truly limiting. I’ve yet to attend such renowned festivals as Toronto or Cannes, and there’s no certainty that I’d be able to in the new future. Fortunately, thanks to multiple initiatives like those established by Rotten Tomatoes and Chaz Ebert [thank you Carlos for the mention, you were a hardworking delightful addition to the program] that aim to include diverse critics at major events through financial assistance, I’ve experienced the Sundance Film Festival and a variety of regional festivals across the country that have served as platforms to network, land assignments and grow within this segment of the film world."

    Aguilar's impassioned endorsement of DACA, which the Supreme Court rescued last month from Trump's efforts to end it, are echoed in "To Carry On: An Anthem of the American Immigrant Experience," a new song launched today to accompany America's July 4th festivities. Produced by New York-based iconic actor and teacher Mark Ethan Toporek, the song is performed by 12 young immigrants--some of them DACA recipients--as well as first-generation Americans. The video is dedicated to the more than 27,000 "Dreamers" who have been frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The nine singers and three musicians live in California, Texas, Georgia, and New York, and hail from countries including Mexico, China, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Haiti. 

    Mark Toporek, the son of Holocaust survivors, contacted organizations that connect and protect DACA recipients, seeking young immigrant singers. Mr. Toporek selected a dozen artists. Working from a musical arrangement by Mario Gullo, the performers recorded their parts in their homes, and Adam Grannick edited them into the video. He was assisted by two primary groups:

    1. Nosotros is the oldest Latinx arts advocacy organization in the U.S., founded in 1970 by Hollywood legend Ricardo Montalbán. It gives rising talent the platform and tools necessary to succeed in the entertainment industry while enhancing the image of the Latinx community in media. 

    2. Define American humanizes the conversation on immigration, and fights anti-immigrant hate and racism through storytelling. Using entertainment media consulting, original content, news media advocacy, activism, and the arts, Define American works to transcend politics, and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America.

    According to Toporek, "Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, I began to assemble a multicultural group debut of To Carry On for a July 4th celebration. But in light of the pandemic, I switched to the idea of an online video, partly to heighten awareness of the plight of 'Dreamers' in our current immigration limbo. I see To Carry On as both a prayer and a protest song--a synthesis of Born In The USA and We Are The World: a person who aspires to become an American is already on the road to being 'Reborn in the USA'. This song's healing vision unites immigration with patriotism, a sustaining message to be heard above the daily news cycle. The aim of the video is to change the narrative disseminated by the current administration--not from the defensive to the offensive, but to the inclusive. It is a song for all Americans."

    As I listened to and watched the performances of the artists, I could envision Mark composing a musical of the various experiences of the immigrants, similar to a "Hamilton" play. But I imagine that since Lin-Manuel Miranda's brilliant masterpiece, many have had similar visions. And I know it is much more difficult than it seems. But I also know Mark personally, so I have no doubt he would be up to the task. 

    For more details on the song, visit the song's official site. You can read Aguilar's full Variety essay here.




    Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/carlos-aguilar-joins-chorus-of-immigrants-praising-daca
    By: Chaz Ebert
    Posted: July 4, 2020, 2:06 pm

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    Original: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/FilmsFamily/~3/UMHilqEVj5U/
    By: info@filmsfamily.com (Films Family)
    Posted: July 3, 2020, 10:45 am

    Best Heartwarming and Romantic Love Quotes for Boyfriend
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        • Entertainer

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          “David Foster: Off the Record” is a tribute to the multi-Grammy winning songwriter and producer, as curated by the man himself, David Foster. Most people are celebrated by a documentary like this after they've stepped away from the spotlight; at the very least, these types of projects aren't usually made with the subject in the room. But from the get-go, Foster informs the documentary crew, and us, that "I'm going to be over your shoulder the whole f**king way." For a collaborator who is revealed to be a control freak in the studio, this is meant to be a joking character detail. But it’s more of a warning sign, that the upcoming tales of songwriting magic are about catering to Foster first and foremost, and that Foster might as well have been behind the camera anytime someone talks about how great he is. 

          This is a project about upholding and documenting legacy, of compiling Foster's greatest hits in one film, to show off the wonder of Foster's perfect pitch and musical intuition. In that way, director Barry Avrich is successful—it’s educational if you didn’t already associate the Canadian-born songwriter with producing Whitney Houston’s cover of “I Will Always Love You,” or credit him with helping to launch the careers of Michael Buble, Josh Groban, or Celine Dion. The film has some in-studio footage that might amuse fans of any of those particular names, though they zip by quickly as the documentary covers a lot of ground. In a testament to his talents, Foster's time writing for Earth, Wind & Fire (Foster wrote the chorus hook to "After the Love Has Gone") is simply summed up as "a three-album tear" before moving on. 

          It's a fact that Foster's chart-toppers have made more of an impact than most people in pop music, in a way that would be hard to calculate. To the point that when he says that Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart” (which he produced) is one of the greatest records of all time, you have to pause and seriously consider it. But in the first half of the movie especially, it's a lot of Foster talking about his own victories, like recording the 1981 Dreamgirls album with Jennifer Holliday, or the time he hit someone with his car, and it ended up saving the victim from an aneurysm. For all the incredible stories, there's something nearly disingenuous about the context—even if President Obama also had as many Grammy wins as Foster does, you would get weary of hearing simply flattering stories from the guy himself. 

          Foster has had an extraordinary career, and yet this documentary is far from that level. Its generic style doesn’t suggest awe or reverence, even if this cast has more star power than a lot of other ones about underrated musical forces (this week also saw the release of "Suzi Q.") The crew has to give Foster good lighting, which is really no different than what Michael Buble or Barbra Streisand were clearly set to do with their interviews of only unwavering praise. Every collaborator always brings their own stories of being pushed in the studio to the truth—eventually, Foster's insistence on multiple takes during strenuous sessions led to a hit. Yet while the doc might prove that his approach worked, it’s progressively tedious to revisit these hits through such a thick air of self-affirmation. 

          The only people who truly challenge Foster, who make his self-proclaimed status as an egomaniac and control freak a complex trait, are Chicago. Foster saved the band by giving them new ballads to play, a change that turned horn players into synthesizer musicians, and made Foster a co-writer on their songs. His redirection for Chicago lead to new hits, but also songs that weren’t true to their original sound. You can sense a tension when a few members of Chicago talk about it, and it provides a messiness that’s far more honest than stories behind the Grammy trophies on Foster's grand piano. There are far too many chosen moments that sound like miracles from a movie (a metaphor that Foster uses twice, to describe hearing Celine Dion and then Josh Groban for the first time), and not enough that play like they've been pulled from the messiness of making art with others. 

          Midway through the movie, Avrich takes long detours to topics about Foster's personal life, related to his complicated history with his multiple wives and his supportive daughters, or mentioning how these family dynamics were then put on-camera with trashy reality shows “The Princes of Malibu” and later “The Real Housewives of Los Angeles.” As some syrupy, minor-key piano plays in the background, these passages are a banal, abrupt departure from the previous music history. Foster is also so closed-off, while the documentary nonetheless collects compliments about him as a father and husband, that these moments have little depth and purpose. 

          It all becomes obvious toward the movie's end, in which Foster says that he doesn’t want to go to therapy, for fear of what will be uncovered. Stating that very trepidation is exactly when someone should leap into the wonders of therapy, but it's an obvious statement coming from Foster, who then says he prefers to let his emotions out on the piano. Foster's revelation here also says the quiet part of this documentary loud—instead of a therapist, he has a documentary crew who lets him recount the past, without the threat of challenging him. Foster has a golden gut when it comes to hits in music, but I think it'll be better for him when he realizes why this narrow documentary about his life is a big miss. 

          Now streaming on Netflix.




          Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/david-foster-off-the-record-movie-review-2020
          By: Nick Allen
          Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:11 pm

          • Entertainer
            Entertainer published a blog post Money Machine

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            Director Ramsey Denison clearly cares a great deal about his home city of Las Vegas. His film “Money Machine” seeks to expose inept leadership that at least exacerbated the pain following the worst mass shooting in the history of the country, arguably rushed to cover up what happened with a Sin City sheen, and maybe even hid evidence that the public wasn’t told the entire story. However, intentions only go so far, and Denison’s documentary about the October 1st shooting at Mandalay Bay in 2017 is frustratingly unfocused and surprisingly thin on facts or even conclusions. After the horror that Stephen Paddock inflicted on people attending a concert outside of the casino, officials like the Governor of Nevada and Chief of Police worked to make people feel safe enough to return to the city. Doesn’t this happen after every major tragedy? People were encouraged to go to NYC shortly after 9/11. People can’t stop themselves from going outside in Summer 2020. The idea that life goes on too quickly after a national tragedy is an intriguing one, but that's not this movie. “Money Machine” is laser-focused on this specific case, and the notion that the Nevada Powers That Be wanted people to feel safe in the city that drives their economy strikes me as a particularly thin concept for a documentary.

            Denison opens “Money Machine” with harrowing footage of the Route 91 concert that turned into a nightmare. With cell phone video shot as the mass shooting was underway, “Money Machine” doesn’t shy away from showing and detailing the brutality of what happened on a night when Stephen Paddock fired so many bullets from his hotel room window that killed over 50 people and injured hundreds more. Concert goers who barely escaped with their lives are interviewed (in bizarre extreme close-up) and share terrifying stories, including one who speaks about falling into a victim who had just been shot and having her finger enter his head “like a pumpkin.”

            Despite the strange choice of angle in the interviews, “Money Machine” could have worked if it had focused on the people there that day, but Denison loses focus almost immediately. Even as he’s essentially recreating the shooting through footage, he’s starting to toss some conspiracy theories into the mix, including a famous one spawned by a cab driver who happened to be recording that day and seems to pick up multiple shooters. At first, the shots sound very distant, but the next round seems to come from much closer. To his credit, Denison does eventually get around to debunking most of the conspiracy theories about a second shooter, even having a forensics audio expert examine the footage for evidence of shots being fired at the same time by two or more people, but he allows them to hang in the air for most of the movie.

            From the beginning of "Money Machine," Denison is all over the place in terms of subject focus. He jumps from survivors to a commentary on the structure of Vegas to a suggestion that Paddock acted out because of the way he had been treated. Once a high roller, Paddock had suffered serious losses recently, and his brother suggests that the casinos that once treated him like a King had tossed him aside. The implication is that Paddock killed dozens of people to get back at Vegas, knowing the horror of that night would impact the bottom line of the casinos that had betrayed him.

            “Money Machine” points out how much that didn’t happen but it does so with an angry, one-sided slam piece that accuses the Governor of turning the event into a political opportunity and the Sheriff into just wishing it would go away. Over a shot of Joe Lombardo crying and the Governor placing a caring hand on his shoulder, Denison adopts a “how dare they” tone and “Money Machine” loses any remaining focus it had. Yes, the casinos and power structure could have acted more empathetically and been more transparent about mistakes that were made that night. But none of this is weighty enough for a documentary. It feels like Denison went digging for evidence of evil and unchecked corruption, but he didn’t come up with enough, and so the lack of depth forced him into a scattershot approach, hoping something would stick. It’s like listening to someone at a bar who’s had a few too many and can’t maintain a train of thought to reach a conclusion. And that bar is definitely in Vegas. 

            Now available on digital platforms.




            Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/money-machine-movie-review-2020
            By: Brian Tallerico
            Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:11 pm

            • Entertainer
              Entertainer published a blog post Desperados

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              Remember the accidental email sequence in Nancy Meyers’ wonderful “The Intern”? To refresh your memory: Anne Hathaway’s overworked executive erroneously sends a cruel email to her mother and authorizes a group of her employees to break into her mom’s house and delete the message before it’s read. Now imagine that basic idea stretched to its seams to become the premise of an entire film—the whole 105 minutes of something that wishes it had clever and entertaining insights into contemporary courtships and friendships. That is more or less the gist of director LP’s agonizing, blandly shot “Desperados,” which is among the most abysmal romantic comedies that came out of this century.

              The disastrous email in question is sent by neurotic Los Angeles dweller Wesley (Nasim Pedrad, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Saturday Night Live”), an out-of-work, motor-mouth guidance counselor in desperate rush to land a job and launch into a relationship with an ideal guy. Living in the trendy Echo Park neighborhood with seemingly unlimited resources (as evidenced by her well-appointed apartment) like her two best friends Kaylie (Sarah Burns) and Brooke (Anna Camp), the thirty-something Wesley goes from blind date to dead-end blind date, collects information about freezing her eggs, mourns over her dead birds and takes pride in being different. She defines herself as “an acquired taste,” except in reality, she just can’t be bothered to think situations through and say the right thing at the right time. 

              Take, for instance, her unsuccessful job interview at the start of the film which introduces us to Wesley with a generous side of weapons-grade cringe. In an effort to sell her credentials to a well-meaning nun about why she would be the right fit to guide their young Catholic School students, Wesley brags about her lack of experience in the field and talks about masturbation in great detail because … well, she is such a Samantha and that’s just one of her adorable quirks, to sabotage a job interview with small talk on self-pleasure. Thanks to her reliably off-putting lack of filter, Wesley also messes up a date soon enough with Lamorne Morris’ charming Sean; a bit of a mansplainer, yet still, pretty much the only character in the film that resembles a real human being. Understandably yet curtly, he cuts their rendezvous short.

              Enter Jared (Robbie Amell), Wesley’s next romantic interest and enthusiastic bedfellow around whom our hopeless un-dateable decides to become an entirely different person (e.g. act like a grown-up who doesn’t always say the first thing that comes to her mind). But after not hearing from Jared for days on the heels of a great date and even better sex, Wesley, along with Kaylie and Brooke, decides to take matters into her own hands. She sends a humiliating, certifiably crazy email to Jared, only to find out moments later that he had been in an accident and stuck in a hospital in Mexico, somehow without access to his electronic devices. Already dreaming of a future of being happily married to Jared, what else could Wesley do if not travel to Cabo, break into his resort suite, and delete the email?

              While comparable films of this decade such as “Bridesmaids” (a contemporary comedy classic) and the big-hearted “Girls Trip” successfully brought to life the complex individuals of their central female squads with all their chaotic ups and downs, “Desperados” shows no interest to the women’s inner worlds and relatable struggles, even though it clearly aims to capture the spirit of the above-mentioned films. We don’t get to understand, for example, why Kaylie and Brooke turn against Wesley during a trip they volunteer for by themselves, and accuse their friend of being selfish later when the self-serving reasons of the journey have always been clear. And because class and financial privilege is a glaring blind spot in Ellen Rapoport’s screenplay—a theme consistently and aptly present in both “Bridesmaids” and “Girls Trip”—the film expects us to shrug it off when the trio checks in to a swanky resort where they run into Sean and go with the flow of things when a new romance between him and Wesley flourishes.

              And maybe going with the flow would have been possible had “Desperados” reserved a pair of successful laughs under its belt. But this is a film that seems to think a cat looking like Hitler, a dolphin’s penis brushing a woman’s face (yes, you read that correctly), underage sexual infatuation and a concerned mother yelling, “Stay away whorebag or I will pop you like a balloon” is sophisticated humor. Yes, this critic always craves stories centered on females in meaty roles being unapologetically messy and problematic like Wesley—a fun luxury often afforded to men exclusively. But maybe there is a way to not make it look and feel this much like an insult to women.

              Now streaming on Netflix.




              Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/desperados-movie-review-2020
              By: Tomris Laffly
              Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:11 pm

              • Entertainer
                Entertainer published a blog post The Truth

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                “I never tell the naked truth,” says legendary French actress Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve) to her daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche). “It’s not interesting.” 

                Fabienne is justifying the numerous fabrications and omissions in her new memoir, but she could also be talking about her approach to acting—or to life itself. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “The Truth” toys with the significance, definition, and symbolism of its title. If the naked truth is indeed dull, does dressing it up make it any less valid? Twice in this film, characters express sentiment to someone they care for using words written by someone else, and the recipients buy it despite one of them knowing the origin of the words. Perhaps getting through life requires a suspension of disbelief as large as the one needed to buy the plot of the science fiction film-within-a-film in which Fabienne is co-starring.

                That film, “Memories of My Mother” tells the story of a mother who has only two years to live, so she decides to live in outer space because “nobody grows old out there.” She makes occasional visits to see her daughter, who keeps getting older while her mother stays the same age. Eventually, the daughter is a 73 years old embodied by Fabienne. The lead actress is Manon Lenoir (Manon Clavel), an up-and-coming actress who looks like the late actress Sarah Mondavan, whose spirit haunts “The Truth” through a slew of Fabienne’s memories, all of which she has left out of her memoir. “It’s not going to be a good film,” Fabienne says of Manon’s movie. But “Memories” is going to be a useful plot device for Kore-eda.

                Plot device is not exactly accurate; unlike Kore-eda’s acclaimed last feature “Shoplifters,” “The Truth” doesn’t have very much of a plot. What little there is serves as a clothesline for its two excellent leads to hang their performances out to dry. This very entertaining movie is all about its women, mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, actresses and mentors and best friends whose relationship has gone downhill for reasons about to be unearthed. Because it’s about women, “The Truth” could derisively be described as a soap opera, but as someone who grew up watching my “stories,” I see nothing wrong with that genre. In fact, this kind of movie is my jam—divas commanding the screen while, to quote Celeste Holm in “All About Eve,” “the men will do as they’re told.”

                Representing those obedient (and less interesting) men is Ethan Hawke, who plays Lumir’s actor husband, Hank. Unlike Fabienne, he’s not very good (“he’s a better lover than actor,” Lumir tells her mother) and he’s pretty much tasked with what would be the girlfriend role in this picture. Hell, he even works on an internet soap opera, one watched by Jacques (Christian Crahay) and Papy Pierre (Roger Van Hool), the other men in Fabienne’s house. (They recap the plot with giddy delight, like a bunch of aunties sitting down for tea.) Hawke smartly plays Hank as the guy caught in the middle between mother and daughter, eager to cede the spotlight to their battles. But he’s very good at listening and silently reacting—he doesn’t understand French yet plays an entire scene with Fabienne where he seems to be getting what she’s talking about—and he has a great moment of drunkenness where it’s revealed that he hasn’t been truthful about why he originally gave up booze. In vino veritas, as the saying goes.

                Meanwhile, Lumir continues to take issue with her mother’s memoir, going so far as to apply Post-It notes to the pages where the truth doesn’t appear. With this book, Fabienne has encroached on Lumir’s territory; unable to follow in her mother’s footsteps, Lumir has become a successful writer. Her only acting appearance was a grade school performance as the Cowardly Lion in a play about that lying-ass man, The Wizard of Oz. Though the two women have a strained relationship, it’s never acrimonious nor does it ever devolve into a screaming match, even when Lumir throws her mother’s indiscretions regarding Sarah at her. Both Binoche and Deneuve are masters of stillness and stoicism and they play their expertise off each other with chess-like strategy.

                Lumir’s relationship with her own daughter, Charlotte (a very good Clémentine Grenier) is far less strained, as are Fabienne’s grandmotherly moments with her. Charlotte inquires if her grandmother is a witch like the one she played in a film adaptation of Lumir’s favorite childhood book. Fabienne mentions that the turtle in the yard is really Lumir’s father and her ex-husband, Pierre. Sure enough, when a disheveled Pierre appears unexpectedly at Fabienne’s doorstep, the turtle disappears from the yard. The movie is noncommittal about this particular “truth.”

                But back to “Memories of My Mother.” Kore-eda wants us to focus on acting, both as a craft and as a means to an end. Are actors better at delivering the truth, even if it’s merely a by-product of their performance, or especially if they’re using their own experiences to influence their roles? In a quietly brutal scene, a real moment of reconciliation between Lumir and Fabienne is twisted to leave us unsure if what we were seeing is truly honest or if Fabienne were looking for inspiration for her role as Manon’s daughter. Several times in “The Truth,” we see a fake poster of Fabienne in a film called “The Belle of Paris,” which is clearly meant to evoke Deneuve’s “Belle du Jour,” a movie where a woman plays a role as a means of exploring her own fantasies in a quest for sexual truth. We’re goaded into focusing on Fabienne the person and Fabienne the actress to see if there’s any distinction.

                Deneuve's performance coyly avoids a definitive answer. Another repeated motif is a close-up of Fabienne in the back of a car en route to the studio. Fabienne is always thinking at the beginning of these shots, and before she speaks, Deneuve allows a sense of mischief to play across her face without moving it at all. You can only wonder what she’s thinking about, but my God, whatever it is, it must be delicious. Kore-eda loves the faces of his lead actresses (it’s hard not to), even putting them in a “Persona”-like formation during the aforementioned reconciliation scene. Binoche is very good here, but this is definitely Deneuve’s show.

                “But is it the truth or isn’t it?” asks Charlotte after employing a bit of performance art scripted by her mother for Fabienne’s benefit. We’re not really sure, but this scene has a mirror image earlier when Fabienne asks her lover, Jacques “am I washed up as an actress” then stops him by saying “no, don’t answer, you might say the truth.” Judging by her immediate reaction, I’ll bet that Jacques was about to lay a bit of that naked truth on her, the kind she never traffics in. Maybe the naked truth is uninteresting because it’s too real.

                Now available in select theaters, digital and cable VOD. 




                Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-truth-movie-review-2020
                By: Odie Henderson
                Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:11 pm

                • Entertainer

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                  Carl Reiner famously said, "If you're not in the obit, eat breakfast," a statement that was so resonant, it became the title of Danny Gold's 2017 documentary about nonagenarians. They included Reiner's longtime friends Mel Brooks and Norman Lear, both of whom have continued to entertain and enlighten the world well into their nineties. In light of Reiner's recent passing at age 98, I've decided that I'd like to start celebrating some of these icons while they're still here to read our appreciations over breakfast. There are so many other living legends I'd like to honor: Cicely Tyson, Betty White, Sidney Poitier, Norman Jewison and Harry Belafonte, to name a few. I wrote a private letter to Norman, but I wanted to do more because he is such a bright light in the world. 
                  The following table of contents is a tribute to Norman Lear, the 98-year-old creator of "All in the Family," whom I had the great honor of inviting to Ebertfest in 2017 and awarding the very first Ebert Humanitarian award given to an individual. I have admired him for his career-long efforts at bringing diversity and enlightenment into the entertainment sphere. He continues to honor us with his compassion and moral compass on equality and the human condition, not as a response to outside forces, but as a response to his inner decency and sense of right and wrong. He has done so much in his career that it was difficult to distill the tributes down to a few, but this is a start.—Chaz Ebert

                  1.  

                  imageFilmmaker Ben Lear joins his father Norman Lear at Ebertfest. Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for Ebertfest.

                  "Ebertfest 2017: 'Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You' and 'They Call Us Monsters'": This dispatch features reviews of two selections from Ebertfest 2017, where we welcomed Norman Lear, subject of Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's documentary "Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You" (reviewed by Matt Zoller Seitz) and Norman's son, Ben Lear, who directed the documentary "They Call Us Monsters" (reviewed by Matt Fagerholm).

                  Their camera moves in close on Lear as he talks about his successes and controversies in American television, his collaborations with writers and actors, and his battles with network executives and censors over the political content of his shows, which resembled political debates as often as they did farcical family spats. The moviemakers shoot some of Lear’s friends and collaborators, including ‘All in the Family’ co-star and future feature director Rob Reiner and ‘Good Times’ star John Amos, with just as much affection. All the images of deeply lined faces would be powerful on their own, but when they’re juxtaposed with shots of their younger selves—often being projected on a large screen while the older versions watch—the effect is magical: cinema as time machine. At various points they are all watching what amounts to the movie of their lives. The longest one is about Lear, who trips back through his own past with the filmmakers’ guidance, riffing on memories, telling stories and tearing up at the sight of old friends who died a long time ago. The most touching sequences feature ‘All in the Family’ star Carroll O’Connor, who played the bigoted working-class Irish-American Archie Bunker. Lear acknowledges that Archie is a version of his own father, and weeps while viewing the memorable episode where Archie describes his dad, a bigot who beat his values into his son, as a great man and a loving parent.

                  2. 

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                  "Living with Our Common Humanity: A Few Words with Norman Lear": In conversation with Susan Wloszczyna.

                  “[Wloszczyna:] ‘You say you can see comedy in everything in the documentary. Can you see it now given recent events such as the mass killings and what is going on with the presidential campaign? Many people I know got depressed after the Orlando nightclub shooting.’ [Lear: ] ‘I did, too. Isn’t it interesting that the fellow commenting on that who has the loudest words at the moment is the biggest fool of the century?  And is running for the presidency now. Don’t think for a second I don’t appreciate how serious it is. I can’t look at a small child and not think, ‘My God.’ Just take climate change. It’s not hard to imagine there have been 500 or 5,000 other civilizations like ours that disappeared.’ [Wloszczyna: ] ‘But how do we laugh? How do we keep our sense of humor?’ [Lear:] ‘I find the foolishness of the human condition continually amusing no matter what’s going on. Think of the fucking joke of jokes. He is a terrible joke but he is a joke. As I say this, it’s unimaginable that this fool, this asshole—I have to go to that language because there are no other words. Imagine he steps off the plane in Scotland and says the things he has been saying. The sad thing is, he represents all the Paul Ryan people and they allow it. George Will left the party today. I have so much respect for him.’”

                  3.

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                  "Cold Turkey": Back in 1971, Roger awarded four stars to Lear's scathing satire of the tobacco industry starring Dick Van Dyke and Bob Newhart.

                  What we need are mean comedies, filled with mean and petty people who hate and envy each other, and exhibit the basest of human motives. Comedies like that canonized W. C. Fields, and it was Groucho Marx's fundamental hatefulness that made his stuff so much more than slapstick. Lately, though, the movie comedy has fallen on hard times in America. Until the last couple of weeks. Now there are two new comedies that I can recommend to cynics and malcontents with little fear they'll be disappointed: ‘A New Leaf,’ reviewed last week, and Norman Lear's ‘Cold Turkey.’ Both of them assume as a matter of course that the human being is powered with unworthy motives, especially greed. ‘A New Leaf’ gets a little sentimental at the end, but not too much, and ‘Cold Turkey’ ends with the scoundrels being shot by their own cigarette lighter. The movie, as everybody knows by now, concerns an attempt by a small town in Iowa to qualify for a $25 million award by signing all its citizens to a 30-day no smoking pledge. That somehow doesn't sound like the world's greatest idea for a comedy, but Lear makes it work by a brilliant masterstroke: He gets the comedy, not out of people trying to stop smoking, but out of the people themselves. So instead of lots of scenes of characters sneaking puffs, you have them preening their vanity as national television crews descend upon the town. For, of course, Eagle Rock, Iowa, has become famous overnight.

                  4. 

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                  "'One Day at a Time' Moves to Pop": This past March, Allison Shoemaker reviewed the fourth season of Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce’s acclaimed remake of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom (Lear serves as executive producer of the new show).

                  That’s the most wonderful thing about the Alvarez family. Watching them is a warm and wonderful experience, the epitome of comfort food TV, and yet the world they inhabit is recognizably our own. (Now operating on a network schedule, the show closed up production this month along with the rest of Hollywood; when it returns, it’s difficult to imagine Lydia won’t have some things to say about the Coronavirus from behind those curtains.) Neither they nor their writers ignore the darkness; it is always there in some form or other. The only thing about them that’s idealized is the sense at the end of each episode that everything will be okay, but it’s not because it’s overly sunny or blindly optimistic. It’s because what matters is what they have each other, and another day to look forward to—another breakfast Lydia makes while dancing, another group therapy session with a room full of smart and quick-witted women for Penelope, another e-sports tournament for Elena or sneaker run for Alex, and some more beautiful, affectionate pathos from Schneider and Dr. B. They muddle through, as the theme song once said, one day at a time—and, you can still hear the song on YouTube, so even that loss is survivable.

                  5. 

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                  "Norman Lear: Even This I Get to Experience": At Norman's official site, you can order a copy of his beloved 2014 excerpted below. 

                  In my ninety-plus years I’ve lived a multitude of lives. In the course of all these lives, I had a front- row seat at the birth of television; wrote, produced, created or developed more than a hundred shows; had nine on the air at the same time; founded the 300,000-member liberal advocacy group People for the American Way; was labeled the ‘No. 1 enemy of the American family’ by Jerry Falwell; made it onto Richard Nixon’s ‘Enemies List’; was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton; purchased an original copy of the Declaration of Independence and toured it for ten years in all fifty states; blew a fortune in a series of bad investments in failing businesses; and reached a point where I was informed we might even have to sell our home. Having heard that we’d fallen into such dire straits, my son-in-law phoned me and asked how I was feeling. My answer was, ‘Terrible, of course,’ but then I added, ‘but I must be crazy, because despite all that’s happened, I keep hearing this inner voice saying, ‘Even this I get to experience.’

                  6.

                  imageNorman Lear on the Declaration of Independence road trip. Courtesy of The Norman Lear Center.

                  "The Norman Lear Center": The nonpartisan research and public policy center (named in 2000) that studies the social, political, economic and cultural impact of entertainment on the world. 

                  As we approach the Fourth of July, I am reminded of the Declaration of Independence road trip launched by Mr. Lear in 2001 to exhibit the document across the United States on a three-and-a-half year cross country tour. His aim was to inspire Americans, especially young people, to see citizenship an an opportunity to participate in civic life, exercise their rights, and above all, to vote. In 1981, Lear joined Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and a group of business, civic, religious, and civil rights leaders who were disturbed by the divisive rhetoric of newly politicized televangelists. Together, they founded the advocacy affiliate People For the American Way.

                  Image of the Day

                  imagePhoto by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for Ebertfest.

                  This snapshot captures the joy of my onstage conversation with Norman Lear, Rachel Grady, Brent Miller, and Simon Kilmurry  on day 3 of Ebertfest 2017 on April 22nd, 2017 in Champaign, Illinois.

                  Tweet of the Day

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                  On September 27th, 2017, Norman Lear took a knee in solidarity with those "fighting for equality and justice," continuing the movement that was started by San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick to protest police misconduct and racial injustice.

                  Video of the Day

                  And here is the video of the full conversation following our Ebertfest screening of "Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You." It is chockfull of priceless insights that further illuminate the genius of this trailblazing icon.




                  Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/living-legends-a-salute-to-norman-lear
                  By: Chaz Ebert
                  Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:12 pm

                  • Entertainer
                    Entertainer published a blog post The Outpost

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                    Director Rod Lurie’s first film in almost a decade is also one of his best, and the first movie since our national nightmare began in 2020 that I really regretted not being able to see in a theater. While I would always prefer a theatrical exhibition, the truth is that films like “The King of Staten Island” and “Trolls: World Tour” haven’t lost a lot by transitioning from the multiplex to VOD. However, “The Outpost” is designed to be a visceral, you-are-there experience, a film like “Black Hawk Down” or “Saving Private Ryan” that drops viewers in the middle of an absolute nightmare. While dozens of movies have sought to recreate the unimaginable horror of literally fighting your life, “The Outpost” connects more than most, thanks in large part to Lurie’s technical skill and a young cast that elevates what could have been overly familiar material. In particular, Scott Eastwood and Caleb Landry Jones do the best work of their respective careers.

                    “Our mission from now is what it’s always been.” “Yeah, to survive.”

                    Just looking at the geographic layout of the outpost at Kamdesh in Afghanistan in 2006, one realizes how that mission to survive was a daily concern. Lurie and his cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore give viewers a tracking shot at the start of “The Outpost,” revealing how this real outpost was basically in the worst possible spot, at the center of a deep valley. The enemy Taliban forces always had a dominant perspective on it, and were able to hide out on the many ridges that overlooked it. They could shoot directly down into the outpost, which had been placed there near the Pakistani border to help with community relations, which quickly broke down after attacks and mistrust formed with the local elders.

                    Lurie and screenwriters Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (“The Fighter”) adopt an episodic approach for the first half of the film, as the troops at Kamdesh outpost suffer tragedies that require new leaders to take command. This half consists mostly of routine conversations interrupted by gunfire. The dialogue often overlaps, and many of the faces blend together, but that’s part of the point. These men were similar in age and often in background, and they all alternated the extreme boredom of a distant outpost with the constant terror associated with imminent attack. A few faces do stand out, including Lieutenant Benjamin D. Keating (Orlando Bloom), Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha (Scott Eastwood), Specialist Ty Michael Carter (Caleb Landy Jones), and Captain Robert Yllescas (Milo Gibson).

                    Every performance in “The Outpost” is better than average, particularly for movies like this, and that’s one of Lurie’s greatest accomplishments. He threads that needle in which he somehow captures the “average guy” nature of this group of soldiers while giving his performers just enough of what they need to stand out. Eastwood is particularly solid, giving a performance that is so reminiscent of his father’s youth that one can almost close their eyes and hear Clint. (Try it when he says, “No. Not today.” It almost sounds like young Clint dubbed the line.) And Jones continues to impress, particularly in the back half of the film.

                    That half consists almost entirely of the two-day attack from October 2009, one of the most brutal modern assaults of the neverending war that has been in that region since 9/11, all of it boiled down into about an hour of filmmaking. After learning that the outpost was finally being closed, the Taliban fighters decided to deliver a message and sent hundreds of soldiers to attack the men there. Lurie adopts a Ridley Scott style in which bullets and shouted orders dominate the filmmaking, but he never gets lost in the action, as so many modern directors tend to do (looking at you, Peter Berg). He manages to convey the insanity without resorting to cheap filmmaking tricks or manipulative storytelling.

                    “The Outpost” isn’t the first film to document how human errors led to the loss of life—the Battle of Kamdesh resulted in multiple disciplinary actions against people who failed to support the base in the first place—and it certainly won’t be the last. Sadly, acts of heroism often emerge from acts of failure on a structural level. What elevates Lurie’s film is the balance, never allowing his film to turn into blind jingoism, or a castigation of a broken system that sacrifices young men. He keeps his eye where it belongs, on the real people caught in the middle of it all, stuck in the valley of war. 

                    Now playing in theaters and on VOD. 




                    Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-outpost-movie-review-2020
                    By: Brian Tallerico
                    Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:12 pm

                    • Entertainer
                      Entertainer published a blog post Family Romance, LLC

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                      After its premiere at Cannes in 2019, the press around Werner Herzog’s “Family Romance LLC” centered on the unique, experimental nature of the film, but it’s really very much in keeping with themes that the master filmmaker has explored for decades. A director who has often analyzed the presence of artifice in society and has blurred the lines between documentary and fiction filmmaking has delivered a film that leans into both of those aspects of his career. A hybrid experience that features a protagonist doing what he does in reality but with an improvised, fictional spin, “Family Romance LLC” may be a unique piece of filmmaking when compared to the landscape in 2020, but Herzog has thrived by pushing the envelope in terms of what a film should be for a long time now. The theatrical release of “Family Romance LLC” was canceled after the pandemic, and it’s premiering on Mubi this weekend. Fans of Herzog—and that really should be all of you—should seek it out.

                      A man in a perfect suit waits in Yoyogi Park for someone as Herzog’s camera captures a girl who has walked past him multiple times, scoping him out and waiting to approach. Immediately, Herzog is thinking more like a documentarian. It’s clear most people in the park are not extras, but just people going about their lives. The camera regularly wanders away to the cherry blossoms or people playing in the park. But it keeps returning to the man, who is named Yuichi Ishii and the 12-year-old girl he is supposed to meet named Mahiro. Yuichi tells Mahiro that he is her missing father, someone she hasn’t seen in years and barely remembers. It is an awkward, touching reunion. None of it is real.

                      It turns out that Ishii owns a company called Family Romance LLC, from which people can “hire” family members. Are you in a situation where the father of the bride is too alcoholic to attend his daughter’s wedding? Call Family Romance. The business is real, and Yuichi Ishii is its actual owner. At the request of Mahiro’s mother, he’s pretending to be her father to offer emotional support and report back on how she’s doing to mom.

                      Herzog is clearly fascinated by the entire concept of surrogate family members, and his direction here uses it in an unexpected, loose way. Reportedly, much of the dialogue was improvised, and the filmmaking feels similarly organic and on-the-fly. Scenes go on too long, awkward moments are allowed to hang in the air, conversations are filmed from one angle with no coverage—"Family Romance LLC" often looks and feels like it’s capturing reality more than filmed storytelling, and the metatextual approach enhances the entire experience. Ishii is a man who pretends to be other people, who is pretending to be himself in Herzog’s film. It’s a fascinating Möbius strip of reality and fiction.

                      Even as Yuichi starts to express existential concern about his chosen profession—“Every day, I feel uneasy”—Herzog refuses to succumb to traditional narrative melodrama. He not only knows that audiences will be aware of the many odd conceits of his film but uses those to his advantage. When a phone rings during a meeting with an oracle, it clearly wasn’t intended, but Herzog didn’t retake the scene. He lets life intrude, breaking the illusion of filmmaking in the same way that the people who hire Ishii’s company often know it’s not “real,” but they go along with it anyway. It becomes a film about the everyday artifice that so many people use to get through life. Ishii even questions if maybe someone hired his parents. It’s about the lies we tell ourselves from both sides of a relationship and how they can become truth. Ishii starts to care about Mahiro, realizing the façade impacts him as much as his clients.

                      Herzog also captures the beauty of Tokyo in wide shots over the city and as his camera roams Yoyogi Park. In those sequences, he’s often drawn to people playing pretend, including a group of wannabe samurai—modern kids playing with pretend swords, even feigning death and seppuku. Herzog has often filmed documentaries in a manner that felt like fiction and made fictional films that hinge on the true stories of the cast or production. What defines a documentary has been a hot topic at festivals for the last few years with the hybrid work of people like Robert Greene and the Ross brothers. It’s nice to see one of history’s best filmmakers still experimenting with that question.

                      Premieres on Mubi today, 7/3.




                      Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/family-romance-llc-movie-review-2020
                      By: Brian Tallerico
                      Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:11 pm

                      • Entertainer
                        Entertainer published a blog post Relic

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                        "Where's everyone? Where is everyone?" When the old confused woman (Robyn Nevin) asks the question, again and again, she truly needs an answer. Although her daughter and granddaughter are with her, her experience is that of total isolation, of wondering where "everyone" has gone. This heart-rending moment in "Relic," the directorial debut of Australian filmmaker Natalie Erika James, is really the heart and soul of this creepy haunted-house film. The house is haunted, yes, but it's really the characters who are haunted, haunted by the past, by regrets and shame, by things left undone or unsaid, by unmanaged grief and loss. These experiences are so overpowering the whole world becomes a haunted house. "Relic," with a script co-written by James and Christian White, is filled with subtle detail, character depth, and a creeping mood of dread, illuminated by the three central performances given by Nevin, Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote

                        When workaholic Kay (Mortimer) gets a call from police that her elderly mother has been missing for a couple of days, she and her daughter Sam (Heathcote) take a road trip to investigate. Edna (Nevin) lives in a big home out in a wooded rural area. Kay and Sam find the house empty, with no overt signs of anything amiss (at least not at first glance). But there are unexplained details that somehow suggest Edna might have been going off the rails. The armchair in the living room has been turned to face the bay window. There's a strange lock attached to the back door. Edna is nowhere to be found. When Edna re-appears a couple of days later, she has no explanation for where she's been. She is very disoriented and irritated at all the fuss being made over her. Kay, and the doctor who examine her, chalk it up to age, and perhaps dementia. Kay agrees to stay with her mother for a couple of days, even though it is increasingly obvious that Edna is not well, and will need full-time care. 

                        The film progresses on a very slow burn, with things said and unsaid seething through the interactions between these three generations of women. "Relic" is not in a rush to overload us with information, psychology, or its backstory. Kay has been a somewhat neglectful daughter. She hasn't talked to her mother in weeks. It's not a close relationship. Kay has a lot of guilt. Sam offers to move out and stay with her grandmother to take care of her. Kay doesn't like that idea at all. 

                        Shot by Charlie Sarroff, "Relic" is a mesmerizing blend of frenetic action (particularly as it reaches its climax) and almost unbearable stillness. The house is filmed it is a collection of "relics" in a dusty long-closed museum, the camera lingering on objects: the stained-glass window in the front door, the thick curls of wax from the candles Edna makes, the spots of black mould on the wall, the rotting fruit in a bowl. Interspersed with the womens' conversations, are long static shots of the house's empty hallways, the shadowy stairs, the slightly open doors ... it's extremely unnerving. Something is just around the corner. Or right outside the door. Something is behind the walls. The shadows move. Both Kay and Sam sense that something is very wrong in this house. But Edna's fear of the house, or the little note she keeps crumpled up in her pocket ("DON'T FOLLOW IT") are chalked up to dementia. 

                        This aspect of the film is its most thought-provoking and poignant. Edna's fears are legitimate: there is something in the house that is not right at all. Yet she isn't listened to, because the elderly in general aren't listened to. They're condescended to, dismissed, or ignored. Edna's loneliness, her terrors, are all interpreted as signs of dementia. But maybe Edna is the only one who really knows what's going on. When she asks, quivering with fear, "Where's everyone?" she has the firmest grasp on her own reality than any of the women in the house. Watching a loved one succumb to the grip of Alzheimer's is a harrowing experience. It's like you lose little bits of them at a time. You want to hold on to the person they were. Alzheimer's is brutal. "Relic" is filled with the pain of that experience, and the guilt Kay feels at even thinking about looking into "homes" where Edna could be placed. 

                        Meanwhile, though, the house keeps transforming, and its transformation is an organic process, erupting like a natural phenomenon. The final 20 minutes of "Relic" are extremely nerve-wracking, with an intense sense of claustrophobia and terror. There are nods to other crazy houses in film and/or literature, like the arms bursting out of the hallway walls in Roman Polanski's "Repulsion," or the house in Darren Aronofsky's "mother!" slowly morphing into a dystopian nightmare, or Mark Danielewski's classic book House of Leaves, about a house whose interior is bigger than its exterior measurements. The house in "Relic" is a camouflage for the house behind it, the real house. This is a powerful metaphor for the human condition. "Relic" is an extremely strong debut from this very talented filmmaker. 

                        Now playing this weekend at select drive-in theaters, and expanding to digital, VOD, and more theaters next week, 7/10.




                        Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/relic-movie-review-2020
                        By: Sheila O'Malley
                        Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:12 pm

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                        “What we know is a drop. What we don’t know is an ocean.” 

                        Taken from its final season, this is a fitting way to describe “Dark,” the first German Netflix original, a show that blasts you with multiple timelines, interconnected family trees, and more questions than you can hope to answer. The conclusion to this three-season series rages against the pain, death, and destruction that a few of its characters have preached, opting for love, connection, and the pricelessness of taking away someone’s pain. From beginning to end, “Dark” caused viewers to argue and theorize through the night, and the final season enabled that connected experience even as the world fell apart around it. It’s become an excuse for all of us to hop on the line and talk about “Dark,” but also to catch up as we grow into adulthood, much like the group of teenagers in Winden.

                        “Dark” premiered on Netflix in 2017 (looking initially like a German “Stranger Things”), and centered around a nuclear power plant in a small town, a group of wily teenagers attempting to save the world, and a sense of foreboding hovering around this world created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese. “Dark” started as a mystery of a missing boy, and then transformed into a story focused on the precious nature of time, the heartbreaking realizations of love, and the knot-like connection between our friends, our family, our decisions, and every person that floats in and out of our lives. 

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                        Season three picks up right where season two left off, with Jonas (Louis Hofmann) and Martha (Lisa Vicari) beginning another journey. After Jonas’ version of her gets shot, a new, and much sleeker, Martha whisks Jonas away to an alternate world, one in which he’s never been born. In this second world, there’s still an apocalypse, yet Martha is the main character of this universe, as seen by her wearing Jonas's yellow rain jacket, a signifying thread throughout the series. Jonas must race, and decide to, stop the impending doom, and convince several groups of people that all the events in seasons one and two were feasible, giving audiences a refresher as well. 

                        Spanning three centuries and multiple past and present versions of each character, “Dark” demands attention. You can’t look down at your phone, be on your computer, be making dinner, or have any sense of detachment in order to fully enjoy the show. At one point, we see four versions of the same person in the same room. It’s a challenging journey that the showrunners are forcing you to experience, pushing you to play catchup right alongside these townspeople. 

                        The season-three set pieces are gorgeous, as the German show remains fantastic on a technical level. The camerawork goes from feeling hectic and nervy to slow, steady, and measured several times throughout each episode. It’s disorienting, just like the layered narrative it’s depicting. Hoffman’s performance continues to be top-tier, especially from a young actor. Every stare he gives has the weight of two seasons, and hundreds of lifetimes he’s now lived. The score brings a constant dread and impending doom, which in the “Dark” universe, rarely fades into the background. 

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                        Season three jumps into the brutality of the post-apocalyptic world when it has the time, but the central story focuses on Jonas and Martha, and their unbreakable love. The most violent of all three seasons, this closing eight-episode season introduces new characters, including a man who travels with the child and old man versions of himself, follows biblical themes with Adam and Eva, and says goodbye to these residents of Winden in a striking and powerful way, both in terms of visuals and meaning. Harping on the dichotomies of life, like light and shadow, good and evil, life and death, the series concludes as an ode to attachment and connection to others. 

                        The pursuit of truth and the overwhelming feelings of loss that permeate our lives, especially over the last six months, are found in heaps in the sci-fi drama, one that has only grown with each season. I found myself cheering with tears in my eyes, reflecting on the end of this insane journey, but also about my own loss of innocence and friendship in the last three years. “Dark” gave me closer friendships, enjoyable time with my older brother, and expanding ideas about the world’s infinite nature. It’s a show that’s better watched with others, since there’s nothing like being confused together, with your shared only hope to figure out what’s going on. Shared confusion as to how to get through the next day, week, or month is one of 2020’s most defining traits. 

                        As Eva says, “In reality, we’re all just fractions of an infinite whole,” and this whole is much better with “Dark” in it. Few sci-fi shows can pull off the balancing act of keeping audiences guessing, on the edge of their seats, yet not confusing them. One of the most mind-melting shows on television, and possibly the most unique Netflix original, “Dark” finishes its run with peak writing, shocking conclusions, and a bittersweet sense of finality. 

                        Whole season screened for review.




                        Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/streaming/a-drop-in-the-ocean-on-the-three-seasons-of-netflixs-mesmerizing-dark
                        By: Michael Frank
                        Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:12 pm

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