Author: 2 Film Critics

2 Film Critics

William Graebner is Emeritus Professor of History, State University of New York, Fredonia, where he taught courses on film and American culture. He is the author or co-author of 11 books and more than 50 scholarly articles, including essays on “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” and zombie films as they relate to the Holocaust. Dianne Bennett, the first woman to head a large U.S. law firm, is a retired U.S. tax lawyer. Dianne and Bill were early and passionate attendees at the Toronto Film Festival, and today enjoy the film scenes of Los Angeles, Rome, London, and Buffalo, New York. They began reviewing films for the Rome-based website “TheAmerican/inItalia” in 2016, have maintained a blog on Rome for a decade, and published two alternative guidebooks to the Eternal City. They still can’t resist going to the movies, not to mention the ensuing discussions, sometimes heated, over a bottle of Arneis at the nearest wine bar. ​And that's just the beginning of our reviewing process. For one or two hours we discuss the film, as one of us takes notes. The notetaker transcribes the notes and prints two copies. Dianne or Bill (usually depending on who had the most compelling understanding of the film, or who was most taken with it) writes the first draft of the review--supposedly taking into account the views of the other--which is followed by 3, 4, or even 7 more drafts. At some point, sometimes days later, when we're both comfortable with the result (or accepting of it, anyway), it's done. https://www.2filmcritics.com

Don’t Order the Everything Bagel If you’re not yet ready for the Metaverse or don’t know what it means, the harassed Simi Valley laundromat owner who’s the star of indie production company A24’s breakthrough hit, “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” will help you get there. And she’ll throw some existentialism into the mix. Michele Yeoh is marvelous as Evelyn, the job-focused, multi-tasking, “I’m-more-competent-than-you-are” superhero of this mind-bending sci-fi story. Within minutes of the film’s opening, she’s fitted with earphones, whisked into a janitor’s closet, and introduced to other universes—in fact, many other universes, since the number is infinite. She’s also…

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Four Parents Walk into a Room Two middle-aged couples—Linda and Richard, Gail and Jay—come together around a white table in a sterile multi-purpose room of an Episcopal church, crucifix on the wall, to talk about a very difficult problem involving both their teenage sons. “Table, chairs, Jesus watching us,” says one participant. “It’s great.” It will be some time before we learn what the problem is—a tragedy six years ago that they share. Details about it emerge only later, and gradually. On their separate sides of the round table in the sterile multi-purpose room, Jay and Gail, left (Jason Isaacs…

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A Good Fit As the latest entry in the field of mystery/thrillers, “The Outfit” defies most of that genre’s characteristics: there’s no sleuth to solve the mystery (no Colombo, no Sherlock Holmes); there’s a murder, but no doubt about who did it (no wondering if was Colonel Mustard in the Library with a candlestick); the characters talk, rather than shoot themselves out of jam after jam; and the action—such as it is—is contained (in three rooms in a bespoke “tailor” shop, in one of which is a dead body in a trunk, echoing Hitchcock’s “The Rope” [1948]). Mark Rylance is…

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Coming of (Old) Age Maverick—Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell—is just the guy you want in the cockpit of your Boeing 737 MAX on its daily Delta run from JFK to Miami: knowledgeable, highly talented, confident, decades of experience, once a “Top Gun” (the Navy’s school for perfecting the skills of the “best of the best” of its pilots). But that’s not what Maverick is doing. Rather than “retire” to the comforts of a commercial airline, at 57 (Tom Cruise, who plays Maverick, is now 59) he’s still a crack test pilot and proves he’s still the Navy’s (and maybe the world’s)…

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Nancy Drew Takes on the Mafia Chiara, a 15-year-old in a Southern Italian family of girls, is about to celebrate her older sister’s entrance into adulthood, at Giulia’s lavish 18th birthday party. There is almost an hour of shaky, close-up, on-the-verge of nauseating, hand-held camera tracking of intimate family play and birthday festivities. Then, in the middle of the night, Chiara sees her father’s car set afire. And he disappears. Persistent in asking her family questions about these events, Chiara is treated as too young to know. But the teenager is a no-nonsense, highly motivated, fiercely independent young woman. That…

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A Cautionary Tale Anne Duchesne is a no-nonsense, highly motivated, fiercely independent young woman, studying literature in 1963 France with the goal of becoming a professor. When her instructor, concerned about her poor classroom performance in recent weeks, asks if she has been ill, she replies, “Yes, with the disease that strikes only women…and turns them into housewives.” It’s a line that one might expect to find in Betty Friedan’s best-seller, “The Feminine Mystique,” published that same year. Like Friedan, Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is a feminist in a pre-feminist world, the closing years of the “long 1950s,” when many women…

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Real Men Bite Off Noses It’s the era of toxic masculinity—reveling in it (MAGA world) or critiquing it (“The Power of the Dog”). And of wallowing in myth and mythical creatures—Harry Potter, Marvel superheroes, “The Green Knight.” Robert Eggers, a challenging director (“The Witch,” “The Lighthouse”) tries his hand at all these in his (and noted Icelandic author Sjón’s) retelling of the Danish myth on which William Shakespeare based “Hamlet.” Set in 900s Iceland, there’s a king murdered by his brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang) who takes the throne and wife; a queen whose sexual desires are explicit and who willingly…

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It’s Not About the Girls The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, were in the balcony at the Oscars, hoping to celebrate, and be celebrated, if Will Smith won the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. But “King Richard” isn’t about the 2 women. Of Richard’s 5 daughters, only 3—Venus, Serena, and the oldest, Tunde—are significant characters in this drama, and of these, only Venus has a major role. The spectacular tennis-players-to-be, whose development is essential to the story, are nearly ciphers, objects rather than subjects, barely real people. They never argue, whether with their parents, their coaches, or…

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Hardly Heroic On leave from debtors’ prison in Iran, Rahim Soltani is negotiating his release by trying to find the funds to pay off the debt that put him there. In the process, he says he found gold coins in a handbag near a bus stop and decided to return the coins to the owner (whom he goes to great lengths—unsuccessfully—to find), rather than use them to pay his debt. TV cameras, charities, prison officials, family members, a taxi driver—all get involved in the drama that will play out in the media and declare Rahim a hero. Rahim (interpreted with…

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Singing in the Rain We hate to rain on “CODA’s” parade; after all the film won the 2022 Oscar for Best Picture. So we’ll try to keep it to a sprinkle, or maybe a shower. By any measure, “CODA” is an emotional experience, the consummate tear-jerker. If you’re not bawling as the credits begin to roll, you might think about a few sessions with a therapist. Forget “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Groundhog Day”; get the family together over the holidays for the annual showing of “CODA.” And that’s the problem. Tears of joy are a Hollywood specialty, and…

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