Harlan Jacobson

First Reformed
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While writer-director Paul Schrader gets serious from the first minute of First Reformed, Schrader lets the full first act unfurl before he ups the ante in his new film, First Reformed by showing us at the 35-minute mark a suicide vest packed with TNT. That’s a long slow fuse, and the mark of a filmmaker who either has faith in his audience or has stopped caring whether anyone out there is watching. Well, I am.

Schrader has written 24 films and directed 20. It’s been mostly glorious, and always aspirational. His is a terrific filmography.

Solo
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WBGO film critic Harlan Jacobson has just returned from the 71st Cannes Film. It’s the highest platform for film art on Planet Earth.  One of the films he saw there had some familiarity to it to say the least.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the 10th installment in George Lucas’ saga begun in 1977.

Even the title is generic: Solo: A Star Wars Story. That’s like “Memorial Day Sale at General Motors: A Sedan!”

Tribeca
Harlan Jacobson for WBGO

This is as good a time as any to take a little time out from the crazy-making news cycle and check in at the movies. The Tribeca Film Festival opens this week, and it’s the festival that counts now in NYC, with close to 100 films in the feature film lineup of which 46 are directed by women.

There are 10 films in this Year’s Tribeca International Competition, and I’m looking forward to seeing Amateurs a Swedish comedy about competing films about a small town—the one by the town investment board and the other one by a couple of teenagers, who tell a different story.

When you think of France, sure you think of cheese and berets, baguettes and love--or at least adultery--and what else? Wine. You think of the Bordeaux you can’t afford, snapped up by those pesky Russian oligarchs and Chinese financiers. Or the Rhones that are earthy, or the Rosés that, while not fine wines are runaway must-have now on the American Left and Right Coasts to augment their Mediterranean diets.

Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen is almost the perfect Sundance film.

First, it is written, produced and directed by a woman—one of some 45 features at Sundance directed by women this year of the 120 spread out over nine main sections, including US and international feature and documentary competitions. Second, it’s characters and milieu are quintessentially young, mostly broke and minority born. Thirdly, it’s proudly no-budget.

Harlan Jacobson
David Tallacksen for WBGO

It’s been a good December at the movies.

Major titles that are out there to see include James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, which finds fun and meaning in the worst movie of all time, The Room, made in 2003 by a couple of strange actors; Guillermo del Toro’s, The Shape of Water, a sugar water addition to his fantasy canon, with Sally Hawkins courting a best actress nomination as cleaning crew in a top-secret military research facility who is in the tank for an alien merman.

The Square
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There’s plenty to see in this run up to the Oscar qualifying season. Both good and bad.  Here's how to zig and zag through it all.

You’ve lived a good life. Made a few bucks. Are on a few boards, because you gave some of those bucks to the opera, maybe a cancer fund, the art museum. You look good in a tux. Woman you came with fills out a dress, and it costs some money for hair like that. Not to mention the ear rings.

TIFF
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The 42nd Toronto International Film Festival concludes this weekend.

Toronto has been the home of big titles for the past two decades, ramping up from a local festival at its inception to becoming the dominant film festival in North America—the other key festival in North America being Sundance -- and one of the three or four key debut festivals in the world. Think American Beauty some 18 years ago and Moonlight last year. That achievement reflects how the business model has changed over the last two or three decades, with the word festival something of a misnomer.

It was the worst summer in 25 years in terms of ticket sales. August tickets sales are down 35% from a year ago. The Memorial Day to Labor Day period, which accounts for about two fifths of Hollywood’s annual domestic revenue is on track to fall 16%--worse than the 10% insiders predicted in May. 

Dunkirk
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WBGO film critic Harlan Jacobson gives high marks to Christopher Nolan's latest movie Dunkirk.

The Circle Premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival

Apr 30, 2017
Emma Watson
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The Tribeca film Festival ends this weekend, after a pretty full 10 days of some 104 films, plus TV and immersive media experiences and celebrity chats. 

The highest profile premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival is The Circle, directed by James Ponsoldt from Dave Eggers screenplay of his own novel. Which conjures up a techno information gigantum that looks a lot like a cross between Google and Apple corporate cultures, with Tom Hanks as the Steve Jobs-like Eamon Bailey at the head of it all, backed up by Patton Oswalt his enforcer, Tom Stenton.

The Lost CIty of Z
Harlan Jacobson for WBGO

Film Critic Harlan Jacobson has three ways to embark on adventure at the movies.  Harlan reviews The Lost City of Z, Tommy's Honour and Graduation.

Academy Awards
oscarwinners2017.com

A recent Hollywood Reporter poll, however, shows that 66% of Trump voters turn off the show when it goes political, but 43% of Clinton voters want speechifyers to slam Trump. And 60% of the country can’t name one best picture nominee. Well I can, and that’s Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight, and it’s the film of the year. Superbly made, with pitch perfect performances, in a script that began as a play and continually plays with our notions of black life and character.

Harlan Jacobson
Susan Jacobson for WBGO

What a work of man Sundance is, namely Robert Redford. It’s his legacy, after all, far more than the Way We Were or All the President’s Men or that near-silent film he starred in, ALL IS LOST, as a sailor adrift at sea. The 33rd Sundance Film Festival wraps up this weekend.

If you stop thinking of film as art—the 7th art, in fact—which the majority of Americans don’t anyway—and think of it for a second as a product, Sundance didn’t invent the independent film. But it did find a way to make it a business.

Hidden Figures
complex.com

Silence, by Martin Scorsese, is a good old fashioned art film about selflessness in a Facebook planet. The Jesuit mission to convert Japan to Christianity has failed in 1633, as Buddhist Japan searches out and executes Jesuit priests and their followers. The last priest, Father Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson has sent word back to Portugal that he has apostasized—renounced God and become a Buddhist.

Harlan Jacobson's Best Movies of 2016

Dec 30, 2016

2016 has been quite a year. However it treated you, now pick the 10 best parts of it. That’s what we’ve asked our film critic, Harlan Jacobson, to do in film:

It’s hard enough to figure out if the year itself was good until years later. That said, 2016 was diverse in terms of race, gender, and sexual orientation. The lost white guys didn’t didn’t cut quite the same figure as last year.

The films I liked best—not necessarily in order-- are: