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Year: 2024

The Sympathizer–Displaced Sympathies

Based upon the 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Viet Thanh Nguyen,  The Sympathizer opens in April 1975, during the fall of Saigon.  This American War– or Vietnam War, depending upon perspective,– unflinchingly depicts the ignominious and callous withdrawal of American troops and their Vietnamese aids on helicopters and ships crammed with desperate people fleeing the country, often in the middle of the night. Straddling both countries on different sides of the Pacific,  The Sympathizer flashes back and forth rapidly, in sharp cinematic cuts, from 1975 until...

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Gentleman in Moscow –Rules of Civility

Based upon the bestseller by Amor Towles, Gentleman in Moscow  tells the story of an aristocrat whose status makes him an enemy of the state, namely, Bolshevik Russia in 1918.  Count Alexander Rostov (Ewan McGregor) is sentenced to a lifetime as a resident in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, narrowly escaping execution during Stalin’s reign of terror.   Confined to the walls of the Metropol, the Count– a single, highly entitled but lonely man,– is relegated to a threadbare attic room, without his sumptuous possessions or his much-cherished status as a member of the elite ruling...

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I Came By (2023)Don’t Look

A dark psychological thriller, I Came By portrays two young working-class graffiti artists who wish to taunt the most privileged and wealthiest by tagging I Came By inside their mansions while they sleep.  Toby (George McKay) and Jay (Percelle Ascott) view themselves as activists, not losers, fighting for social justice and a more equitable pay structure.  The highly respected authority of the affluent, they hope, will be questioned and unraveled by their bold trespassing into the purportedly secure, safe, and protected abodes of the elite. One night,  while breaking into...

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Shōgun (2024)–Game of Thrones meets Last Kingdom

In this ten-episode Hulu mini-series, Shōgun, based upon James Clavell’s titular 1975 novel, we are introduced to the feudal society of Japan in the year 1600.   When conflicts between ruling aristocratic clans have made the emperor impotent in maintaining control, chaos and coups threaten the very existence of peace and harmony among wealthy and powerful overlords.  “Shōgun” means “commander-in-chief”, but more accurately, signifies the true power behind the throne.   Becoming shogun is the end-game for a number of powerful warlords (daimyō –comparable to the noble class...

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Tokyo Vice (season 2)–American in Translation

Based on an American reporter’s experience as a twenty-something neophyte journalist in Tokyo, Jake Adelstein, (Ansel Elgort from “Baby Driver”)  is a cocky American. Living in Tokyo during college, Jake becomes fluent in Japanese, both spoken and written, in order to become a reporter for a major Japanese newspaper.  He is the first non-Japanese to have such a position. In season 2 (see June 17, 2022 review of season 1) Jake continues his investigation of the Yakuza who control the police and the government.  Again we see the unlikely partnership between the politically impractical...

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Ripley (2024)–The One Who Got Away?

Based upon Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 classic, The Talented Mr. Ripley, this neo-noir remake reinterprets good and evil, survival and triumph, guilt and psychopathology. Tom Ripley is a young intelligent grifter residing in squalor in the 1960s, sharing a filthy bathroom with sewage backing up into the drain.  Feeling destined for the best that money can buy, Ripley is determined to set out to live that life, leaving his small-time operation as a con-man in Brooklyn.  We know little of his backstory except he was an orphan having been abandoned after the death of an astringent,...

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