Arthur Fleck is Joker. That’s the name of Todd Phillips’s 2019 film and Joaquin Phoenix’s well-deserved Best Actor Oscar-winning character. Arthur must be a Joker, a self-made stand-up comedian. He must laugh, even though his heart is breaking. And, being a comedian is the best way to keep laughing. Isn’t that right …? No, he’s not successful at it. But, laughing is a must - for complicated reasons that unfold as this disturbing film escalates to a confusing and shattering end. Confusion about what’s real and not, what’s funny and isn’t - is where Arthur lives. Joker says it clearly:...

We see the trauma. And, we witness the friendship and love. I’m talking about Sam Mendes’s more-than-war film, 1917. I’m also talking about a different kind of war that all of us are fighting now. A war with an invisible virus. COVID-19. And, just as in 1917, it’s love for each other; our fellow warriors in cities and across the globe; friends and family - yes, it’s love and determination to fight and not give up that will get us through. So, let’s take Blake and especially Schofield’s 1917 journey to heart. See what we can learn from it. And,...

When you’re a scared little boy in the middle of a war and your father’s missing, Adolf Hitler can become your best friend. That is, in your mind at least. And, why not? He’s the man with the most power in all of Germany. What better friend to help you stand up to your fears? Or is he? Taika Waititi’s radiantly hopeful Jojo Rabbit shows us what makes a little boy fall for propaganda - and just why he needs Hitler as his imaginary friend. Yet, it’s complicated, isn’t it? Because when he begins to question his own convictions, that...

Does Frank Sheeran really have no conscience? How can a man kill with no compunction -  and not feel anything? In Martin Scorsese’s engagingly (and not too long), fictionalized film, The Irishman, we watch Frank as he moves up the ladder of The International Brotherhood of Teamsters. With just a little help from his friends. The mob, especially Russell Bufalino, figures greatly in his success. And, also, in making Frank the hitman he is. Fear is a part of it. And, his belief that this is what he has to do to keep his family safe. But, when he must...

Quentin Tarantino, in his brilliantly conceived and “executed” Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, has turned the tides on one of the most horrific events in Hollywood history. The Manson family murders of Sharon Tate, her unborn baby, and her friends, on a night that robbed them of their futures. Yet, what interests me most is the way the story of Rick Dalton and his stunt double/mirror image, Cliff Booth, functions to undo a different kind of fear: the terror of being a has-been. That fear is almost as deadly as actual murder. It can implant a demeaning voice in...

Hunger can lead to desperate acts. And, it does -  in Bong Joon-Ho’s startling new film, Parasite. Plus, we find. if you’re hungry and helpless (emotionally, that is), you can even become a parasite. The kind of hunger we witness in many of Parasite’s characters leads to various forms of exploitation - of the class above or below. But, it’s not simply exploitation that makes for a parasite. There are many complicated things that cause the need to feed off someone else. Mostly, we discover, it’s what lives in the basement. Locked up there (potentially in all of us if...

It’s a very sad Marriage Story. Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) haven’t stopped loving each other. But, Nicole doesn’t know how to do their marriage anymore. The only answer seems to be divorce. Yet, is it? Noah Baumbach’s film, in all its unearthing of the many deeper questions not yet answered, shows us the complexities of what a couple brings to a marriage. Along with the tangles their individual emotional worlds and early family histories create (and weave around them) when not fully understood. Or, worked out. What would it take to save this marriage? Especially since, as...

The world is filled with too much hate. More and more each day, it seems. And, the compellingly forceful film, The Hate U Give offers us a very important set of remedies: Speak Out. Don't Be Quiet. Don't Be Afraid To Speak Truth To Power. On top of the increasingly transparent dangers that hate creates, it also does terrible harm to self-esteem. Hate breeds self-hate. And, self-hate can make you Quiet. That’s one of the things George Tillman, Jr.’s The Hate U Give makes very clear. Amandla Stenberg’s moving performance as Starr Carter makes even clearer just how scary hate and...

Has it really been 4 years since John Crowley and Nick Hornby’s film, Brooklyn, hit the big screen? And, why is it still a movie that speaks to us and that we keep going back to? Is it because it’s the versatile and talented Saorise Ronan’s first major film? Or because we all know, somewhere deep inside us, our own journey away from our original homes? What is the appeal? I think it’s because Brooklyn tells us so much about what can go wrong between a mother and a daughter, about a young girl’s early pain, pain that persists. And,...

Salvador Mallo, Almodovar’s tortured filmmaker in his new film Pain and Glory, was once a happy boy. And, his beautiful mother, Jacinta, carefree and loving; until they moved to a cave. Slowly, young Salvador (although not consciously aware) begins to carry a heavy burden: his mother’s bitter unhappiness. Jacinta’s growing discontent with her life, with the underground dwelling she’s forced to live in, and with the man, Salvador is becoming - seeps into his body, into his very being; taking its residence in a multitude of unlivable physical symptoms. Now, he can no longer create. This is the state we find...