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Quick Takes on: Spirited, The Wonder, The Swimmers, Sidney, Triangle of Sadness, White Noise

Spirited - Apple TV A

This is an instant holiday classic. The music is fun, the dance numbers are delightful. The cynicism is just what the doctor ordered for a sappy holiday movie. Ryan Reynolds is shockingly good as a song and dance man, but he also brilliantly walks the line of being cynical and lovable while NOT making us think we are watching Deadpool in a different pair of tights. Will Ferrell is equally delightful playing a nuanced character that is somewhat outside his usual fare. This is one of those movies that has so many layers that each time you watch it more is revealed. I loved all the surprises and cameos. Just delightful. I am loving saying, “Good Day!” to everyone.

The Wonder Netflix A-

Frances Pugh stars in this really interesting story of an Irish village with a bit of a mystery on its hands. A young girl has gone on a hunger strike for four months and is somehow still alive. The movie is odd. It starts in a very Brechtian way, showing the set and revealing that we are going to see a story. I was soooo excited about this and kept hoping that director Sebastian Lelio would deliver on this handsomely. He had different ideas. Oh well, the story survives and is well acted. Pugh is compelling and Kila Lord Cassidy as the young girl is quite lovely. The score is a little heavy-handed and reminded me of Pugh in Don’t Worry Darling – is she not allowed to be on screen without lots of breathing and chanting?? It worked better in the other film. Still, this is a movie worth catching.

The Swimmers Netflix A

Based on a true story, The Swimmers is an amazing tale of two Syrian sisters, both swimmers, who defy all the odds to flee war torn Syria at the height of civil war. I was riveted. If you can watch this movie without your heart racing, it’s time to visit the cardiologist. In a season of really dark and dreary films that have left me scratching my head as to why they were made (Banshees of Inisherin) this movie SOARS! The movie is also a sharp reminder of why and how people flee oppression in hopes of finding kindness and safety…which is not always available. Superb storytelling.

Sidney Apple TV A

Make no mistake, this is Oprah’s love letter to her personal hero, Sidney Poitier. It is a beautiful love letter to a man who deserves love letters. The film details Poitier’s life from poor island boy to international superstar and civil rights activist. Large portions of the film are narrated by Poitier himself from interviews done before the actor’s battle with dementia. There are also stunning interviews with luminaries like Barbra Streisand, Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Halle Berry, Robert Redford and Oprah herself. Despite being a lifelong fan, I learned so many things about this Hollywood legend's life that I had not been aware of previously. He was inspirational and the film brilliantly captures this.

Triangle of Sadness - On Demand – A++

OMG! What a great movie! I loved this really unconventional, mind-bending, satirical look at money, power and control. It is hilarious, thought-provoking, biting and beautifully executed. This is writer, director Ruben Ostlund’s first feature in English. I can’t wait to watch everything he has ever done. Triangle of Sadness debuted at the Cannes Film Festival where it received an 8-minute standing ovation and won the Palme d’Or… because it is BRILLIANT. This is the one not to be missed. Woody Harrelson has a small but amazing role, and the rest of the cast is superb. The direction and screenplay are sublime. It will surprise you and keep surprising you. If this isn’t up for best picture someone is going to have to hold my purse.

White Noise – Netflix – B

Noah Baumbach wrote and directed this wild ride that is a War of the Worlds/Everything Everywhere All at Once/Don’t Look Up wannabe. Don’t get me wrong, it has its moments but largely struggles to know what exactly it is. The movie is best in its end of the world phase but like our “post Covid” reality it doesn’t quite know how to return to some semblance of normalcy. Baumbach’s default is to go weird when all else fails, so it gets really weird. I mean, really weird. Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig star and are mostly delightful, although even they struggle to make the satirical dialogue work and sound like something someone would actually say. When Baumbach gets it right it’s funny, irreverent, and cutting; unfortunately, he is off the beam more than he is on it and the film struggles mightily.

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