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MALTIN MOVIE CLUB #2: LUCKY

Lucky (2017) is a remarkable film, a living testament to the talent and formidable screen presence of the late Harry Dean Stanton. It was written as a vehicle for the nonagenarian actor by his longtime assistant, Logan Sparks, and while it’s fictional it incorporates many facets of the actor’s life and personality. The film opens with a shot of a tortoise crawling through the desert and disappearing behind a rock—an arresting image, especially in a widescreen frame. On the soundtrack we hear a harmonica rendition of “Red River Valley,” and then learn that it’s being played by the main character, Lucky. What a fitting and poetic way of opening this character portrait. Lucky is an old man who lives by himself and follows a daily routine:…

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BLOW THE MAN DOWN: LIKABLY QUIRKY FARE

Blow the Man Down marks the feature-film debut for two female friends who’ve been on the New York filmmaking scene for a decade. After an exceptionally long gestation period, Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy’s quirky tale won the Best Screenplay award at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. It was subsequently acquired by Amazon and begins streaming today. That’s a happy turn of events all around. Put simply, it’s about murder in a Maine fishing village where everybody knows everybody’s business and there are skeletons rattling in their collective closet. Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor play sisters who have just buried their mother, one of the pillars of the community. The siblings have different outlooks on life—and the prospect of running the family business, a fish…

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MALTIN MOVIE CLUB #1: THE CONFIRMATION

Searching for good movies to stream at home? Look no further. We will be spotlighting films that flew under the radar and didn’t earn the praise or the turnout they deserved. Let’s begin with a 2016 movie that sneaked up on me when it came out. It seems pleasant enough at the start but gets deeper and richer as it goes along. Only when it’s over do you fully realize how satisfying it has been. That’s the best way I can describe The Confirmation, which marks the directing debut of Bob Nelson, the Oscar-nominated writer of Nebraska. This is another small-town saga that takes an empathetic, clear-eyed look at working-class people. Clive Owen stars as a luckless finish-carpenter who’s trying to kick a drinking habit and clear…

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DISNEY BOOKS GALORE

  MARC DAVIS IN HIS OWN WORDS: IMAGINEERING THE DISNEY THEME PARKS by Pete Docter and Christopher Merritt (Disney Editions) Walt Disney was stingy with compliments, but he called longtime animator Marc Davis his “renaissance man” and meant it. As the production of animated films wound down in the 1950s, Disneyland and the upcoming New York World’s Fair consumed much of Walt’s time and nearly all of his energy. His Midas touch intact, Disney reassigned many of his artists to his WED operation, later renamed Imagineering. Davis brought his artistic talent and whimsical imagination to the task of world-building and left his mark on such enduring attractions as the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, The Enchanted Tiki…

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PIXAR SCORES WITH HEARTFELT ‘ONWARD’

With an uninspired title like Onward the newest offering from Pixar doesn’t do itself justice. Derived from director and co-writer Dan Scanlon’s experience growing up without knowing his father, this heartfelt film scores a direct hit on our emotions. Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) is a nice kid with no self-confidence. He can’t even muster the nerve to invite some classmates to his birthday party…unlike his gangly big brother Barley (Chris Pratt), who still believes in the magic and sorcery that used to rule their world. Barley convinces his sibling that by summoning a certain spell they can bring their father back—for just one day. This will require Ian to find the courage he’s never shown before, not to mention faith in the power of magic. Like…

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A SINGULAR VOICE: KELLY REICHARDT’S ‘FIRST COW’

Kelly Reichardt’s slowly paced films aren’t everyone’s cup of milk, but I thoroughly enjoyed her latest effort, First Cow. I’ve been a fan since her 2006 feature Old Joy, which like this one deals with friendship in a serene setting. Since then she’s made such striking films as Wendy and Lucy, Night Moves, Meek’s Cutoff, and Certain Women. They are quiet, observational, and at times elliptical; they all bear her unique stamp. The story of First Cow isn’t so much told as revealed, bit by bit. Following a modern-day prologue, a shot of a boat on the Columbia River takes us back one hundred years to a settlement in Oregon. The pace of life and the tranquility of the locale are as unfamiliar to us as an outpost on the moon. A cook (John…

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SORRY WE MISSED YOU: ANOTHER SMALL GEM FROM KEN LOACH

Ken Loach’s follow-up to the heartrending I, Daniel Blake covers similar ground, dramatizing the way “the system” of commerce and government in the 21st century devalues and undermines working-class people. Sorry We Missed You was filmed in Newcastle, England but could be transposed to any community in the so-called civilized world. Kris Hitchen plays an ordinary guy who’s done all kinds of work but hasn’t dealt with the modern gig economy until now. As he applies for a position with a package delivery firm he will not be a traditional employee. In fact, he is taking on enormous financial responsibility (by leasing a van) and a punishing schedule. His wife (Debbie Honeywood) endures a similar situation as a caregiver who has no control over her hours or the quality of…

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