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Martha K. Baker

Most Holocaust stories are about survival, for they are told by those who lived. Nevertheless, the Holocaust, according to László Nemes, was not about survival: it was about the extermination of Jews, plain and simple. And that's the story Nemes filmed and co-wrote in the stunning "Son of Saul."

Friday, 18 December 2015 00:00

'Youth' plays old age like a fiddle

Unlike other recent films about old people like "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Youth" is not played for laughs at elders as they try to live a little more before death. "Youth" offers more substance as it looks back and forth at two men's careers, one in films, the other in music.

Friday, 25 December 2015 00:00

'Mustang' frees young women from society

Lale. Nur. Ece. Sonay. Selma. Five sisters. Five nubile sisters. All five are filled with life and giggles as they play in water with boys. Some of the girls wear the boys' school ties around their heads as they sit atop their shoulders, squealing and kicking in the water.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015 00:00

'The Big Short': brilliance in a bubble of bucks

Never mind if you flunked macro-economics at college or never took a business or math class at all. Director Adam McKay explains it all to you in the brilliant, scintillating, maddening film "The Big Short," based on Michael Lewis' book of the same name (Lewis also wrote Moneyball).

Friday, 04 December 2015 00:00

'Chi-Raq' manages the outrageous

The title comes from the streets. Chi-Raq conflates the name of the Illinois city with the Middle Eastern country. It is meant ironically, for the word calls to mind the number of dead in that city, a number which exceeds the number of dead from a war in that far-away country.

Members of the theater community refer to "Macbeth" as "the Scottish play" as a way to dilute the curse that accompanies it. The current film version of Shakespeare's great drama says more about the curse than the production, which required three people to play with Shakespeare's draft.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015 00:00

'Legend' twirls twin turns by Hardy boy

There are some films to see for the plot; others for cinematography. "Legend" is a film to see for the performances by Tom Hardy as twin thugs, Ronnie and Reggie Kray. The film offers little else. Even its title is inflated, for this is just a gangsters' story.

Due to successive miscarriages, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley had little choice but to write about life regenerated when the Shelley gang got together to write Gothic stories. That's the theory of critic Ellen Moers. She and Shelley would twirl in their graves to see how men have twisted the Frankenstein story, again.

On paper, storyteller Alan Bennett's "The Lady in the Van" tries hard to convey what a stinky nuisance it was for him to accommodate a pushy old woman in his London driveway. For 15 years. The film, however, manages even better than the essay to tell this rather incredible story.

Friday, 20 November 2015 00:00

'Trumbo' investigates writers' betrayal

"Trumbo." "Truth." "Spotlight." Films about writers, in varied personae, continue to fill movie screens in the last quarter of the year. Of those three, "Spotlight" is the best, followed by "Truth" and then by "Trumbo." All three tell stories on screen that their books or newspapers or scripts began in earnest.

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