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MAKING MONTGOMERY CLIFT

This intriguing documentary was made by Robert Clift (the youngest of Montgomery’s nephews) in collaboration with Hillary Demmon. Its stated purpose is to set the record straight about the gifted actor who, with Marlon Brando, ushered in a new, naturalistic approach to acting on screen. According to Robert’s father Brooks Clift and others who knew him he was not (as so many stories would have you believe) a tortured soul. He was confident in his profession and made no effort to hide his homosexuality. What’s more, he worked productively even after his catastrophic car accident in 1956. During a 1960s TV interview with columnist Hy Gardner he points out that he made as many films after the accident as he did before, including his two…

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‘JOJO RABBIT’ HITS THE MARK

Lest anyone misunderstand, Jojo Rabbit is being advertised as an “anti-hate satire.” The message is driven home in the very first scene, where we meet a Nazi youth who is being indoctrinated by Adolf Hitler himself. Filmmaker Taika Waititi plays Der Fuehrer as a farcical figure, except for moments when he gets carried away by his own bombast. That’s the marvel of Jojo Rabbit, which ricochets from outlandish comedy to drama and back again in the blink of an eye. Waititi makes Hitler and his lieutenants look ridiculous but never mocks the impact of their ugly regime. That’s where 11-year-old Roman Griffin Davis comes in. He is exceptional as the impressionable boy who comes to idolize Hitler. Along the way, his worldview is reshaped by his loving mother…

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REMEMBERING ROBERT FORSTER

I’ve never met anyone quite like Robert Forster. He was uncommonly kind and generous to me and my family; I suspect there are scores of people who would tell you the same thing. He had every right to be bitter, given the years he spent unemployed in Hollywood after such a promising start. Instead of licking his wounds he gave speeches—without pay—about the power of positive thinking. He was living proof of that conviction.   When Quentin Tarantino offered him a leading role in Jackie Brown, refusing to consider anyone else for the part of Max Cherry, he resuscitated Robert’s career and put him where he always belonged, in the spotlight. He never had to worry about work from that day on and enjoyed twenty years of…

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GEMINI MAN: TWO WILL SMITHS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

I was wary approaching Gemini Man, which I saw at 120 frames per second (about four times normal film speed) in 3-D. I got a headache the last time I watched a high-frame-rate feature but I came away from this film a believer. Director Ang Lee is trailblazing new territory, as he did in Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk, but this time he has a highly enjoyable, action-packed story and a perfect star in Will Smith. The entertainment value is high and cutting-edge technology organically suits the content. Smith plays a government black-ops sniper who is considered the best in the world, but he’s reached a pivotal moment. After 72 hits he is beginning to question himself and knows that means it’s time to move on. As it…

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PARASITE: THE BEST FILM I’VE SEEN THIS YEAR

I love watching movies without knowing much about them; that’s why I avoid trailers and try not to read articles in the run-up to a film’s release. Seeing Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite with a clean slate made it an overwhelming experience: that’s how original and unusual it is. What begins as a clever social satire about the haves and have-nots in our world morphs into an ingenious (and violent) thriller with endless story twists. To reveal any of those plot points would be shameful. I just watched the trailer and was happy to see that Neon, the U.S. distributor, managed to capture the spirit of the movie without giving anything away—no minor feat. At the outset of the story we meet the Kim family, who are barely…

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CHAPLIN DISCOVERIES—AFTER 90 YEARS

You’d think by now we’d have seen all there is to see of Charlie Chaplin on film—but you’d be wrong. The new Criterion Collection release of The Circus (1928) has a cornucopia of previously-unknown material that makes it a “must” even if you already own a DVD of the feature itself.     First and foremost, there are two substantial sequences that were cut from the film. One of them (edited by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill in the 1980s) involves Charlie and leading lady Merna Kennedy out for a stroll with his rival, a tightrope walker played by Charlie’s friend and later p.r. manager, Harry Crocker. Some funny bits of business on the sidewalk are followed by an encounter with a boxer in a local café.…

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‘JOKER’ IS RELENTLESSLY GRIM

I hated this movie and that’s no joke. (In the spirit of full disclosure, my wife thought it was a great piece of social commentary.) Officially a prequel to the Batman series, this parable takes place in the not-too-distant past, during a protracted garbage strike in Gotham City. Garbage is not only literal but figurative, a symbol of how our protagonist views the world: a miserable place full of unhappy people. He may be the unhappiest of all. Recently released from a mental hospital where he should have remained, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) has no business walking the streets. He is given to uncontrollable bursts of laughter but there’s nothing funny about his demeanor. He is delusional and dangerous, barely clinging to his job as a party…

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