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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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PAIN AND GLORY: THE LATEST FROM ALMODÓVAR

So many of Pedro Almodóvar’s best films have been autobiographical that I hesitate to criticize this one for oversharing, but that’s how I felt at first.  The filmmaker even chronicles his medical issues in some detail. I would never criticize a great artist for being personal in his work, but at times Pain and Glory made me feel downright uncomfortable. Yet it has remained with me since I saw it several weeks ago. It’s rare to find a film with that kind of staying power. Antonio Banderas is perfectly cast as Almodóvar’s alter ego Salvador, a filmmaker who has lost the will to create. He suffers so much pain that he doesn’t think he can direct another movie and doesn’t want to write anything he can’t direct.…

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EDDIE MURPHY SCORES IN ‘DOLEMITE IS MY NAME’

Eddie Murphy is back and on top of his game, playing underground comedian and proto-rap artist Rudy Ray Moore in Dolemite Is My Name. It’s a role he was born to play and, to use the vernacular, he kills it. Rudy Ray Moore became a sensation in the black community thanks to a  series of “party records” which were sold under the counter at record stores across the country—a nice twist of fate, since he worked in a record store to earn a buck while waiting for his big break to come. (I remember catching a glimpse of party records in the record section of a New Jersey department store. That’s how Redd Foxx became popular, not to mention such “dirty” female comics as Rusty Warren and…

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