391 posts categorized "Drama"

January 19, 2021


One_night_in_miamiBarnburner. It speaks volumes that the two best films of 2020 were based on plays (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “One Night In Miami”). Both films directly address the Black experience in America, albeit at different cataclysmic moments in the country’s history.

Kemp Powers’s deep-dive 2013 play of the same title (“One Night In Miami” provides director Regina King with plenty of thematic substance to bring Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) to radiant life. King’s flawless direction is as the precise as the on-point performances of her talented actors.   


I’m guessing that Regina King spent an extensive rehearsal period with her actors, considering how exquisitely each man fulfills the speech patterns and mannerisms of towering historic figures whose social influence continues to inspire people the world over. I can’t say enough good things about the sublime work that Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. perform in “One Night In Miami.” Truly great acting all around. Kudos to this amazing ensemble.


The set-up is a fictionalized meeting in 1964 between Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke at Miami’s Hampton House hotel, the only segregated hotel of the Civil Rights era still standing today. The contentious conversations that follow give insight to each pivotal Black leader’s psyche and ways of navigating an openly racist country that treats each man with suspicion. The film’s elegiac tableau hits all the right grace notes, supplied by Sam Cooke. You’ll feel the feeling right down to your toes.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 2.19.20 PM

Rated R. 114 mins.

Five Stars


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January 06, 2021


Nomadland_ver2Real real. In the face of Hollywood’s drought of humane Cinema comes an understated exposé of staggering editorial substance. Beijing born triple-threat screenwriter, director, and editor Chloé Zhao exerts majestic restraint with grounded resolve with this, her third feature film. Nomadland is 21st century neo-realism you can sink your teeth into. I promise you, after seeing “Nomadland” you’ll want to check out Zhao’s other movies, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” (2015), and “The Rider” (2017).


Francis McDormand gives a virtuosic performance in her portrayal of Fern, a sixty-something widow suffering from emotional PTSD from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis inflicted by greedy bankers working in tandem with the real estate industry.


Based on Jessica Bruder’s 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, the story centers on Fern’s nomadic lifestyle. Fern has lost everything save for her cherished van that enables her to travel around the country doing seasonal work that ranges from toiling in an Amazon fulfillment center worker to picking beets in the field. She lost her job and her town of Empire, Nevada when the gypsum plant there closed in 2011. Her husband’s recent death has put Fern on American roads that look nothing like Jack Kerouac’s blissful adventures.  


Chloe Zhao Wins Best Director and Best Drama Golden Globes

“Nomadland” recognizes a class of the population that have been shoved out of society. As Fern says, she’s not “homeless,” she’s “houseless.” A lot of good people are hurting in an America ravaged by fraudulent corporations working in concert with greedy politicians to systematically pillage the earth and its people. Where does it end? We’ll see. We’ll see.

Rated. R. 108 mins. 

Five Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

October 23, 2017


WonderstruckAs I watched Todd Haynes’s latest film I kept asking myself, who is this movie for? It is not a children’s movie even though the story is split between the journeys of two preteens 50 years apart. The nostalgic tale doesn’t seem to tilted toward adult audiences unlikely to recognized themselves in the bi-polar storyline. Everything about this film is a disappointment. It is, by far, Todd Haynes’s weakest effort to date.

The movie is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by author and illustrator Brian Selznick, who also authored the film’s screenplay.

Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is a 12-year-old deaf runaway on the mean streets of New York City circa 1927. Still Rose’s expression never wavers from that of a satisfied Cheshire cat. She seems emotionally and intellectually vapid. Rose wants to meet her silver screen idol Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore), who she watches in a silent film entitled “Daughter of the Storm.” Haynes sets Rose’s half of the film as a black-and-white silent movie in contrast to that of Ben (Oakes Fegley), a boy in search of his missing father. As it turns out, even Ben’s mother Elaine (Michelle Williams) is gone from his life. All Ben has to show for his familial history is a bookmark from “Kincaid Books,” a New York City bookstore. On the back of the bookmark is written, “Elaine, I’ll wait for you. Love, Danny.”


So, what seems to be a not-so romantic mystery dissolves into a puddle of unearned sentimentality. The film’s overwrought production design is fussy to distraction. There isn’t enough narrative substance to withstand the overwrought time periods on display. It’s easy to blame the bland source material for this film’s complete and utter failure, but a burning question remains about why the filmmaker behind such instant classic works as “Far From Heaven” and “I’m Not There” would go down such an obvious rabbit hole.


Rated PG. 117 mins. (C-) (One star — out of five / no halves)     

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