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Martha K. Baker

The title does not drip off the tongue, but those four adjectives do describe the founders and editors and artists and cartoonists of the descendent of the Harvard Lampoon. That ancient college publication became the grandpappy of a franchise of endeavors, sophomoric at best, known as the National Lampoon.

The masculine pronoun in the title of this moving and excellent documentary is significant, for this film tells the story not only of Malala Yousafzia but also of her father Ziauddin. Director Davis Guggenheim, a St. Louisan, based the film on the young woman's autobiography, I Am Malala.

Dante could have used Johann Johannsson to produce the musical accompaniment for The Inferno, for that percussive sound escorts "Sicario" through the rungs of hell. The film may be good, but it's hard to tell through the gunshots. "Hell" is the drug war at the border between the states, Mexico's and ours.

Friday, 25 September 2015 00:00

'Meet the Patels' introduces extended family

Such imagination! such humor! such pathos! Oh, and angst. Lots of angst. And love. These factors march through Geeta and Ravi Patel's film about Ravi's extended bachelorhood. The brother and sister film-making team (Ravi is also an actor) combined live action with animation to create a dandy little doc.

Friday, 25 September 2015 00:00

'Stonewall' Hollywoodizes history

"Stonewall" is not the first look at the uprising in June 1969 that led to gay pride, nor is it the best look. It is just a look, albeit a fuzzy one, along with another feature named "Stonewall" (1995), and the documentaries "Stonewall Uprising" (2010), "Before Stonewall" (1984), and "After Stonewall" (1999). 

Gendered language includes a serious subset of inequality. For example, "bachelor" is an honorific whereas "spinster" is a pejorative. By the same token, "womanizer" has both plus and minus connotations, but there isn't even a female version of same -- unless you count "slut," which is thoroughly negative.

Friday, 18 September 2015 00:00

'Pawn Sacrifice' plays a good game

With St. Louis' serving as the dome on the chess capital of the world, a film about the greatest chess game in history fits in the local culture. "Pawn Sacrifice" concentrates on the grandmaster match between American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer and Soviet Boris Spassky in 1972.

"Grandma" honors the unities laid out by Greek drama: it takes place within 24 hours in a single city. That's the classic part. The modern part is that it's the story of a young woman who needs $600, now!: she has an appointment at 5:30 to terminate a pregnancy.

Friday, 25 September 2015 00:00

'Ashby' has its moments: few, far between

When was the last time we saw a film about a boy and an old man? Oh, right: last year's "St. Vincent." "Ashby" is no "St. Vincent" with its well-mixed ingredients of humor and pathos. "Ashby" is not well-mixed. It's a salad that no one's tossed, but still some of the ingredients are tasty.

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 00:00

'A Walk in the Woods' is no walk in the park

Truth be told, the funny in Bill Bryson's memoir, A Walk in the Woods, was over mid-way. Uproarious laughter in the first half, but then it limped along for the rest of the tale of two unfit men walking the Appalachian Trail. More truth: the movie flattens long before the middle.

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