“A Hero” is a top contender for Best International Feature Film at the Oscars for good reason

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BEST CHOICE OF THE WEEK

A hero

**** Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi looks set to become a household name among moviegoers around the world following the release of this latest project. He’s already won two Oscars, recently won the Best Director award at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in November 2021, and A hero is now one of the main Oscar nominees in the Best International Feature Film category. It simply starts with the main character, Rahim, played with quiet grace by famous Iranian theater and film actor Amir Jadidi, breaking out of prison and entering the Iranian cityscape. Over the course of two days, we learn that Rahim was jailed because he couldn’t pay off a debt, and upon his release he tries to start from scratch and even performs a good deed. Of course, as the saying goes, such righteous actions never go unpunished. Farhadi never insults his audience with obvious exposure. The viewer must find out who Rahim is, the motivations of the different characters and who the villains and heroes of the stories are. The entire atmosphere and emotional motivation of the film is delivered with naturalistic fidelity by the actors, and the ambient noise from the street replaces an artificial score to emphasize that tone. The story unfolds exactly as it is introduced by the main character. With quiet grace. PG-13. RAY GILL JR. Amazon Prime, Salon.

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Macbeth’s tragedy

**** Both dignified and deranged, Denzel Washington’s Macbeth is just one of the countless pleasures to be found in Macbeth’s tragedy, director Joel Coen’s beautifully austere adaptation of Shakespeare’s chilling saga of power and madness. The hustle and bustle is the same – once again, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Frances McDormand) plot to assassinate the rightful King of Scotland – but with the help of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie) and the production designer Stefan Dechant (Call of the wild), Coen brings a fresh burst of sinister beauty to the Bard’s text, using black-and-white undertones and eerily sterile backdrops to deliver a masterclass in menacing minimalism. The performances are even better, with Washington playing Macbeth as a scary, affable bloke – “if there’s power to be had, why shouldn’t I have it?” He seems to be wondering – and McDormand burning the screen with terror of steel. She understands that Lady Macbeth’s defining characteristic is her impatience with her husband’s pesky conscience, which makes her all the more obsessive when she discovers a conscience of her own. She, Washington and Coen understand the game from start to finish, which is why Macbeth’s tragedy is more than a movie. He’s a real Macbeth. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Cinema 21, Hollywood, Living room, Studio One.

Matrix resurrections

*** When the fourth installment of The matrix As the franchise begins, we join White Rabbit ink hacker Bugs (Jessica Henwick) as she scrutinizes the still stunning opening footage from the 1999 blockbuster from entirely new angles just before inadvertently reviving Laurence’s Morpheus. Fishburne in a sensitive FBI / malware fake drone (Yahya Abudul-Mateen II). In the first feature film made without her brother and longtime collaborator, Lana Wachowski has a surprisingly funny twist and really shines during trademark bursts of ballet shoot-’em-ups seemingly taken from a weightless fashion week. close to the future. Now that the franchise has granted our heroes unlimited lives (and the world has turned out to be too eager to repurpose anti-authoritarian slogans for crypto-fascist purposes), it’s hard not to notice the film’s shattering effect. moves away from ultra-chic super-violence without any semblance of consequence. In the strangest way, however, Neo and Trinity’s de facto immortality makes their fall romance all the more meaningful. As silly as the tale is, which demands that reborn Keanu Reeves as a celebrity game designer spend every morning wistfully gazing at Carrie-Anne Moss’ latte order as the region’s super-mom. bay, her unconditional desire echoes her eroticized devotion that defined the original. This should press the buttons on all the aging cynics who are hoping their first love could prove to be a savior again. There is a spoon. Take the little blue pill. R. JAY HORTON. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Downtown, Eastport Plaza, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Lounge, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Studio One, Tigard.

Red rocket

*** Red Rocket opens in July 2016, as adult film actor Mikey Saber (Simon Rex), battered by a recent mishap, returns to his hometown on the Texas Refinery Coast. A compulsive con artist, Mikey snatches a fingernail of trust from his ex-wife, Lexi (Bree Elrod), and drug addict mother, Lil (Brenda Deiss), who scramble to get back on their feet in a quick opening act and comic before the movie reveals what it’s really about. Cinematographer Drew Daniels’ 16mm photograph evokes the sweat of an East Texas summer, and director Sean Baker (The Florida project, Mandarin) excels at casting local non-professionals, though Mikey has irrevocably turned into a SoCal boy. Baker treats even the most imperfect of his characters with nuance and empathy. Less nuanced and more questionable are the glamorous sex scenes between Mikey, 40 and over, and the high school student he is preparing, Strawberry (Suzanna Son, an adult at the time of filming). Nods to Trump’s impending ascendancy are a smokescreen – relentlessly exploiting Mikey is not a demagogue in the making and could instead be an avatar of Baker’s own instincts. How does Mikey “discover” Strawberry in a donut store and does Baker recruit Son at a Gus Van Sant screening? How different is a director from a “suitcase pimp” after all? Mikey and Baker may not have the answers, but their struggle makes the viewing compelling. R. NATHAN WILLIAMS. Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 21, Clackamas Town Center, Dine-In Progress Ridge, Fox Tower, Hollywood, Living Room, Movies on TV.

Swan song

*** When a performer plays identical characters in a movie, it is often a distorted actor showcase: from Doppleganger (1964) until Dead ringtones (1988). But rarely, if ever, has it been done with the nuance and composure of Mahershala Ali in Swan song. In this Apple TV + sci-fi drama, the two-time Oscar winner stars as Cameron Turner, a terminally ill husband and father who wonder whether to clone himself (including conscience) for the benefit of his family. In the icy, minimal calm of Benjamin Cleary’s directorial debut, Ali’s performance sets the tone for every conflicting breath, calculating the exact variation between the two Cameron’s. The original seeks to control a process beyond his control (a nod to Glenn Close as a preeminent cloning scientist if we are to trust him), while the genetically ill version wishes to draw on memories of the wife of Cameron (Naomie Harris) and his son (Dax Rey) who they now both share. From a distance, Cleary struggles to determine if we’re watching an almost hokey tech thriller or an almost tearful piece of memory (an uncomfortable mix of Alex Garland Ex Machina and Never let Me Go), and it is sometimes difficult to know from one shot to another with whom to identify with. But the peculiarities of the genre do not matter. It’s a Mahershala Ali movie, twice as much. R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Apple TV +.

The tender bar

*** Ever since Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) categorically declared that his little nephew was desperate for sports and instead directed him to a closet full of books, JR Moehringer (Daniel Ranieri) took on the way of the writer. And when The tender bar about JR living a life worthy of his namesake memoirs from 2005, the film is irresistibly charming. Abandoned by his radio DJ father, JR and his mother (Lily Rabe) move into the extended family’s Long Island home, cramped with outsized personalities like Grandpa (Christopher Lloyd) and Uncle Charlie. Directed by George Clooney, who has been on a directorial chill streak dating back to 2005, The tender bar fits aptly with the avuncular spirit that Affleck, nearly 50, inherits from prominent men like Clooney – quick with a line, a wink, and (in this case) a free ride to the family bar. While Tye Sheridan (as a college-aged JR, flirting well enough at Yale) is by no means to blame for the flaws in the film, his home stretch recklessly focuses on JR’s intention to write. The tender bar and, even more bizarrely, on the industrial viability of memories. This self-reflection tour is almost sucking, assuming we care more about JR’s book than JR’s family. Fortunately, soul aspiration is not fatal; this one is wholeheartedly. R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Amazon Prime.

Licorice Pizza

** Imagine a teenager talking to a parent about a woman he has a crush on. “She’s in her twenties,” he sighs. “I think I’m in love.” “It will never happen,” the parent replied sternly. “Oh, I don’t know,” the boy said. “She showed me her breasts.” This conversation never takes place in Licorice Pizza, but it could have. Set in 1973, the film travels and travels the San Fernando Valley, where Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, 15, son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) sells waterbeds, opens a pinball machine, and falls for 25 years. former Alana Kane (Alana Haim of the Haim group). While Gary and Alana never officially come out, director Paul Thomas Anderson (There will be blood, Phantom wire) repeatedly presents them as a cute potential couple, unable or unwilling to admit that they’ve made a movie about an adult preying on a child. There may be some debate among moviegoers as to whether Anderson understands the sinister nature of their relationship, but nothing in the film suggests that he does. Despite a gloriously odd subplot involving Sean Penn, a motorcycle, and a wall of fire, Licorice Pizza is not the cinema. It’s gaslighting on an epic scale. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Bridgeport, Cascade, Cedar Hills, Cinemagic, Clackamas Town Center, Eastport Plaza, Fox Tower, Hollywood, St. Johns Twin Cinemas, Studio One, Vancouver Mall.


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