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  • 1917

    1917

    ★★★★

    The technical marvels involved in Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins’ simulated one-take through World War I don’t create realism but the opposite: the film feels artificial and dreamlike. The messenger Schofield (George MacKay) is forever moving through the war or past it, rather than being directly within it. He is an observer, a witness. In this war dream, he dies and comes back to life, survives rivers and fires, meets a woman and a baby in a basement and…

  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

    Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

    ★★★½

    The dead speak? Of course they do. They’ve been speaking for 42 years, since the very start of this franchise. They haven’t shut up, dying yet somehow living, appearing as ghosts or flashbacks or their younger selves in prequels, even resurrected in the backstory when death turned out to be, well, a narrative dead end (“from a certain point of view”). Being dead has never been much of an obstacle in Star Wars. But resurrecting a dead character has never…

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  • Solo: A Star Wars Story

    Solo: A Star Wars Story

    ★★★★

    You were a Luke Skywalker person or you were a Han Solo person. It was like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones must have been. Luke was Apollonian, it was in the name, celestial, blond, monkish, probably celibate; Han was Dionysian, disreputable, a smart-ass, a ladies’ man, in the swamps with a hairy monster. Han was also the human being, a would-be Bogartian presence among the demigods, aliens and robots, too old to be play-acting with the kids and never…

  • Joker

    Joker

    ★★★★

    Watching Taxi Driver again, a couple of nights after watching Joker, I noticed something I don’t think I’d paid attention to before, something that hadn’t ever been important: a few lines from one of the other drivers in the all-night diner about midgets being funny. Did Todd Phillips pick that up and make it a Joker plot point? His Joker is almost an essay about Taxi Driver, its effect and afterlife, its reputation and its seductions, its status as a…