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  • The House That Jack Built

    The House That Jack Built

    ★★★½

    "It was strange to see The House That Jack Built presented so gaudily, with taped intros from Von Trier (who began his remarks with ‘Hello you bold people of America’ and closed with ‘Never another Trump’) and Dillon, in the same theatre where, 13 years ago, I’d seen the director conduct a Q&A via video conference. Back then, he was still a Respected International Arthouse Director, whose Manderlay (2005) would receive, de facto, serious consideration if not actual approval. All…

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

    The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

    ★★★½

    All six segments are about Death; it's the climax of the first five, with four of six specifically involving gun violence, either implicitly or shown on-screen. While the Coens are unlikely to lay their political cards on the table, many of these deaths wouldn’t be possible without guns, esp. a particularly devastating suicide; NB copious research about e.g. how ready access has increased the US firearms suicide rate to eight times that of other high-income OECD countries, which is a…

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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…