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  • Widows

    Widows

    ★★★

    "A certain ideological incoherence is probably unavoidably imbricated in any major production, and I was amused to see in the end credits that Widows (a film, in part, unabashedly about systemic racism) credits as a consultant Bernard Kerik, the disgraced former NYPD police commissioner sentenced to four years in federal prison for tax fraud. Kerik was also a regular on Fox News at one point, which means ideologically he’s the opposite of everything this movie is for; this is a Fox film, so it’s also an example of synergy in action."

    More trivia/weighted ambivalence here.

  • Ash Is Purest White

    Ash Is Purest White

    ★★★½

    "For otherwise underinformed viewers like myself, one of the functions of watching Jia Zhangke’s movies in real time as they came out was pedagogical: because I don’t read the news enough, I’m not sure I would have known about the construction of the Three Gorges Dam otherwise, let alone developed a visceral understanding of its impact. It was Jia’s extended project, in narrative and nonfiction films made during its construction, to continually integrate footage documenting the destruction of houses where…

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  • Frances Ha

    Frances Ha

    ★★★★

    This is the kind of movie that causes strongly polarized reactions based on each viewer's capacity to tolerate/recognize/empathize with those on-screen. Some people just can't handle watching 20-/30-something white people undergo minor crises within a basically privileged framework, which is understandable. (That said, I'm not sure why someone with that mindset would ever go watch ANY NOAH BAUMBACH MOVIE and ask afterwards — as some guy did — " if it had any sort of larger social context… besides only…

  • Magic Mike XXL

    Magic Mike XXL

    ★★★★

    Magic Mike XXL is a putatively "modest"/"small" film — $14.8 million budget, 28-day shooting schedule, a shambling road movie meant to showcase extended musical numbers and largely excising the first film's recessionary panic. (Business is discussed, specifically the hustle of running a small business, but it's not the dominant throughline motivating everything as in the first, a line of inquiry Soderbergh pursued in Erin Brockovich, Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience, in ways that increasingly played like a meta-text about his…