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  • A Countess from Hong Kong

    A Countess from Hong Kong

    ★★★★½

    "Why has Charlie Chaplin’s final film, the graceful 1967 ship romance A Countess From Hong Kong, been so reviled?

    "For years, the obvious flaws and backstage drama of Countess, showing Sunday, Oct. 8, at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, have upstaged its sublimity. The negative opinions of Chaplin scholars like Eric L. Flom are typical: In his words, this “featherweight comedy” is supposedly “about nothing” and “has little significance in discussion of Chaplin and his films.” Their evidence…

  • Only Yesterday

    Only Yesterday

    ★★★★★

    Grows richer and more profoundly resonates with each new viewing.

    Unsentimental, sparse, and deeply personal, the “new” Studio Ghibli film Only Yesterday is a treat for all souls. This anime from writer-director Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Tale of the Princess Kaguya) was released in Japan in 1991, but aside from a brief theatrical run that same year, it has not been available in North America for over two decades, until this year. Darting back and forth between a…

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  • Personal Problems

    Personal Problems

    ★★★★★

    2015 was the year of Losing Ground. 2018 is the year of Personal Problems. Who knows how many emotional Black juggernauts of crazed, ambitious, committed, raw termite art we've been deprived of for decades? A family is sketched out, a city is gleaned, the threat of death and annihilation hovers around the tired, overworked, underseen people on eerie videotape, and pain is depicted without an inch of grudge, finger-pointing, or stumbling hesitance. "Why Chicago? We can hear blues. They got…

  • The Lavender Hill Mob

    The Lavender Hill Mob

    ★★★★

    It will never cease to amaze me how many different characters Alec Guinness can pull from out of his hat. He reminds me of a more down-to-earth Peter Sellers; the zany impulse is there, but it never becomes cold-blooded or egomaniacal.

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  • The Hateful Eight

    The Hateful Eight

    No, Tarantino. This is the last straw. You've gone too far, and you've proven your detractors right: you are only in it for the bloody money. (Emphasis on blood.) I've been willing to defend QT's oeuvre for a long time now, but if I want to maintain a responsible and self-respecting conscience, I have no choice but to renounce him. Despite his desire to be cinema's VC Barnum by way of a crimsony Jackson Pollock, QT has maintained an infrequent…

  • Killer of Sheep

    Killer of Sheep

    ★★★★★

    I grew up in a South Central L.A. ghetto neighborhood--the corner of 59th Street and Slauson Avenue, to be specific. Every new day was as trivial as the last, and yet as a kid I was never aware of the constant danger surrounding me. I didn't even have an inkling of my family's own poverty, though I had my sneaky suspicions that because we crammed 3 to a room (in a cold apartment that only had two bedrooms and one…