Film & TV

Why ‘My Octopus Teacher’ Is the Best Film of 2020

Christopher Karr

The story is so straightforward, and yet the complexities multiply. The documentary details a relationship so unexpected and curious and unfathomable. It sounds ridiculous, but this masterpiece shows how one man (Craig Foster) manages to establish a genuine friendship — a kind of love affair, really — with an octopus in the waters of a kelp forest at the tip of Southern Africa. At first, Foster is just as astonished as the viewer. After all, he didn’t venture into the water seeking a new friend. Who would?

La Magnani: Italy’s Legendary Actress Gets Her Due

Sandra Bertrand

Magnani’s men had much to say about working with her. The writer/directors: “You had to accept her ideas or refuse them—she was incredibly inventive.” (Luchino Visconti). “She had the fear of a little girl, overcompensating with anger.” (Federico Fellini). “She was beyond convention as no one I’ve ever known” (Tennessee Williams). It was Williams who dubbed her “The Tigress of the Tiber” according to John Lahr’s 2014 biography of the playwright.  

Why Italian Cinema Is Starting to Glamorize the Mafia

Dana Renga

It’s long been common practice in Hollywood to cast conventionally attractive actors as sympathetic criminal antiheroes. Humphrey Bogart in King of the Underworld,  Al Pacino in The Godfather trilogy and Denzel Washington in American Gangster are just a few examples. However, this practice is a relatively new phenomenon in Italy. In Italian films from the 1960s and 1970s, Italian gangsters were depicted as shady and charmless.

‘Mulan’: A Successful, Live-Action Version of the Disney Classic

Forrest Hartman

Although Mulan is thematically interested in big ideas, including character and equality, it is also a fine fantasy film filled with beautifully crafted martial arts sequences. The director’s  previous directorial efforts – including the wonderful 2002 drama Whale Rider – demonstrate her ability to build empathy for characters, but they don’t hint at the level of skill with which she tackles action. Some of the battle sequences in Mulan are reminiscent of pure martial arts movies.

'Most Wanted' Reinforces the Significance of a Free Press

Forrest Hartman

Hartnett paints Malarek as a hard-charger who will stop at nothing to get his story, and viewers watch that story unfold as each new detail emerges. The nonlinear structure is complicated, but easy enough to follow thanks to writer-director Daniel Roby’s straightforward style. Roby presents the action simply, letting his actors drive the emotion and his camera go where it needs in order to keep us tuned in.

How I Started Comedy Central - The Hit Channel That Almost Didn’t Launch

Art Bell

We realized that by pooling our programming resources,  the new 24-hour channel had twice as much programming as we’d had before the merger. We brought Mystery Science Theater 3000 and HA! brought all the old episodes of Saturday Night Live, episodes they’d gotten from NBC a few months earlier. We started developing our own shows, including Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect. We did live special coverage of political events, including the Democratic and Republican conventions, hosted by comedians.

Fiction Parallels Reality in Hulu’s Latest ‘Into the Dark’ Episode

Ulises Duenas

The editing and story are reminiscent of the movie Jacob’s Ladder in that the main character and viewer are lost in reality and unsure of what’s really going on. It becomes clear early on that some or all of what we see regarding the “president” is a fabricated reality created to protect his mind from some awful truth. As he talks to the other patients to unravel the mystery, he’s subjected to abuse from the doctors and orderlies

‘No Small Matter’ Deftly Explores the Science and History of Childhood Education

Christopher Karr

In terms of exploring a relatively underreported concern, the documentary is well worth watching. It’s probably even essential viewing for any prospective or new parent who wants to be informed about the struggles ahead. As a new father, I was alarmed enough by the exploration to think twice before sharing the content of the film with the mother of my newborn. Nevertheless, it’s healthier to encounter harsh realities than to ignore their existence. Therefore, I appreciate the diligence and attention to detail the filmmakers bring to the table. 

Tom Hanks Offers Gripping Return to World War II With ‘Greyhound’

Forrest Hartman

The movie is simple but well-crafted, with most of the time spent establishing the unpredictable and frightening nature of high-seas combat. Hanks plays Ernest Krause, a first-time destroyer captain charged with protecting a merchant ship convoy during a dangerous Atlantic crossing. Set during the Battle of the Atlantic, the movie pits Krause against a group stealthy U-boats determined to destroy as much of the convoy as possible.

Music Movie ‘Mighty Oak’ Collapses Under Its Own Weight

Forrest Hartman

Ragen, Parrish, PenaVega and the rest of the cast are charming enough, but some elements of the story are underdeveloped, while others batter the audience like a sledgehammer. One doesn’t watch Mighty Oak so much as he/she is manipulated by it. Some filmmakers – Steven Spielberg chief among them – can get away with this type of manipulation. But Spielberg is nuanced. With Mighty Oak, one can feel McNamara and Allen tugging at the heartstrings, and it’s more uncomfortable than effective.

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