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  • The French Connection

    The French Connection

    ★★★★½

    What is it about films from the 1970s? Is it the degraded film stock? Nary a CGI-enhanced cel to be found? The fun spotting nods to the European auteurs from decades past? All of the above, I’d guess. But most significantly, it’s also the era’s unexpurgated warts-and-all characterizations and storytelling. Case in point: The French Connection.

    Hackman’s Popeye Doyle is no saint and barely any kind of hero. He’s a brute, albeit an intermittently charming and funny one. Early in…

  • Dersu Uzala

    Dersu Uzala

    ★★★

    An odd curio amongst the classics we all know and love from the formidable Kurosawa canon. The film is alternately beautiful and ham-fisted in its conceits. But B-grade Kurosawa is still worth a watch, and like many of his films, Dersu Uzala is probably best appreciated in a theater on a big screen. (If we ever get to do such a thing again...)

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  • Shoplifters

    Shoplifters

    ★★★★★

    Maybe the best film of the year. (So far, anyway.)

    Director Hirokazu Koreeda’s real accomplishment here is his alchemic mix of the sentimental and the steely. Shoplifters never shies away from depicting the precariousness of living on the fringes of society. This is a Tokyo we rarely see in film and shoplifting is only one of many questionable survival tactics used by the characters here.

    But the film is also a wonderfully shaded portrait of a family that both affirms…

  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco

    The Last Black Man in San Francisco

    ★★★★★

    How many New Yorkers who saw Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing when it was first released in 1989 suddenly felt alien in their own city? I’d guess a lot of them. (Hell, I was stunned and disoriented after seeing it in Pittsburgh.) The Last Black Man in San Francisco is not as fiery and confrontational as Lee’s masterpiece, but it’s no less effective in re-framing a city I have lived in for 25+ years.

    The obvious signposts of gentrification…