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‘THE WHITE TIGER’ IS A KNOCKOUT

The White Tiger represents a perfect marriage between a gifted filmmaker and an incendiary novel. As it happens, director Ramin Bahrani is a close friend of novelist Aravind Adiga and has worked for years to bring this prize-winning book to the screen. Bahrani has wisely adopted the author’s first-person approach to his sprawling narrative. This enables him to embrace all the irony, sarcasm, and contradiction embedded in the telling of a saga. Balram (played to perfection by Adarsh Gourav) is a dirt-poor villager who journeys to the city to live out his dream of success as an entrepreneur. Yet he is inexorably tied to a fate determined for him by generations of impoverished ancestors: to spend his life as a willing, self-sacrificing servant. This well-trodden path…

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NOW STREAMING: LET HIM GO

It’s rare to find a Hollywood movie featuring mature stars that’s worthy of their participation and has a decent story to tell. Let Him Go is based on a novel by Larry Watson, interpreted here by writer-director Thomas Bezucha (who won me over with his 2005 feature The Family Stone). Costner has settled comfortably into a Gary Cooper niche, playing an ex-sheriff and rancher who accompanies his wife, Diane Lane, on a journey that leads to sadness and sacrifice far beyond their expectations. Lane, who is always good, has never been better. Her character is well-drawn, with shadings and colorings the actress rarely gets to play. She seems like a straight shooter but keeps a well of emotion in reserve, lest it burst open and drown her in…

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MLK/FBI: A CHANGING PERSPECTIVE

I was in my teens when the Civil Rights movement reached its apex in the 1960s. I wasn’t politically engaged back then, but I retain an indelible image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a man of innate dignity whose approach to protest was emphatically non-violent. He stood in sharp contrast to a new breed of black leaders like Malcolm X and Huey Newton. I also remember my impression of J. Edgar Hoover, which is more difficult to impart to younger people who have (understandably) come to demonize him. My generation was raised to believe that he and his Federal Bureau of Investigation were the ultimate Good Guys—dedicated, clean-cut, hard-working men who protected us from enemies on all sides. That’s just one of the…

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SHOW BUSINESS DOCUMENTARIES OF 2019/2020 YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

MY DARLING VIVIAN All most people know about Johnny Cash’s first wife is what they saw in the 2005 biopic Walk the Line, where she was played by Ginnifer Goodwin. Essentially, Vivian Liberto stood in the way of the singer marrying the love of his life, June Carter. This compelling, deeply moving documentary gives a voice to the woman who first fell in love with Cash and raised their four daughters before being reduced to a footnote in his life story. The saga is told through a treasure trove of home movies and the first-hand recollections of all four daughters: Rosanne (the oldest, and the only one to pursue a show business career), Kathy, Cindy and Tara. The film’s director, Matt Riddlehoover, is married to the grandson of Johnny…

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‘ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI’: A TIME TRIP WORTH TAKING

The two most intriguing words in storytelling are “what if…” In the case of One Night in Miami, a gathering did take place in 1964 that brought together Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, football star Jim Brown, and pop singer Sam Cooke. No one knows for certain what these famous friends discussed in the privacy of a hotel room at a crucial juncture in their lives. That’s where playwright Kemp Powers’s screenplay takes off. It’s 1964 and Cassius Clay has just defeated Sonny Liston for the World Heavyweight Championship. He’s on top of the world, but instead of attending a big, public blow-out he drives to a motel in a black section of Miami for a quiet celebration with three good friends. He has promised Malcolm X that he will…

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‘SOUL’ TACKLES THE BIG QUESTIONS

I really wanted to love Soul…but I didn’t. Being a jazz fan gave me reason to anticipate something great from what I knew of this project. As it turns out, jazz is only one component of Soul, the other being a metaphysical exploration of life itself, both before and after we’re born. Are we imbued with certain traits or tendencies before we take on human form? How do we measure success in life? These are some of the Big Questions facing Joe Morgan (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a high-school band teacher who is offered a one-time chance to sit in with a well-known jazz star. Instead, he is suddenly whisked away to an other-worldly realm, where he is paired with a soul called 22 (Tina Fey) who hasn’t…

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THE MIDNIGHT SKY: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

George Clooney stars in this space parable that starts out well, then goes adrift. Set in the stereotypically bleak near-future, the story focuses on a defeated scientist who chooses to stay behind in the Antarctic, knowing his days are numbered, while his colleagues get the hell out of there. But when he discovers that he has company—a silent 7-year-old girl—his priorities shift completely. He has to make contact with the spacecraft Aether so they can rescue her; that means leaving home base to find a substation with a more powerful radio beam. At this point the movie splits in two, the more interesting part being Clooney and the girl’s perilous journey through ice, snow and wind to a safe harbor. This leads to the film’s…

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