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American Factory

These are political statements, not reviews and ratings
Most of the reviews and ratings have nothing to do with the film: they are political statements. There is a concerted effort to downgrade the ratings based on the fact that the Obamas produced it. The user "reviews" and the number of 1-star ratings make that explicit. As the film is only available on Netflix as of today (it did show at film festivals), it's likely that many or most of the reviewers and raters have not even seen the film. All in all, it's another sad reflection of the times we live in.

Diamond Tongues

If you like films about detestable human beings, you'll love this one
Diamond Tongues is about Edith, a struggling actress who is one of the most despicable people (excluding murderers, rapists, and that ilk) that you will ever meet. She's a liar and a tease. She roots for her friends to fail, and sabotages them whenever she gets the chance. This is what you see for all but the last 7 or 8 minutes of the film, if you can last that long. I forced myself to. I watched it because of its 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes (11 reviews), so if you're a film critic rather than a regular human being, you'll probably love it. Otherwise, I hope I've saved at least one person from wasting time on Diamond Tongues; it would give meaning to the time I wasted enduring it.

Tell Me a Riddle

Maudlin and Unbelievable
Maudlin, saccharine, and unbelievable, with some excruciatingly bad acting and emoting. It begins with an estranged elderly couple, the husband nasty and acerbic, the wife frail, timid, and losing touch with reality. We then meet some of their adult children (see: bad acting and emoting), who make one want to gag and run from the room. Throughout, we get schmaltzy flashbacks to the couple's dynamic youth in old Russia. Then the wife is diagnosed with a terminal illness, nobody tells her what's wrong, and the family ships the cancer-ridden woman and her husband across the country to stay with relatives and decline far away from home (see: unbelievable). If you like maple syrup cookies, covered with powdered sugar and honey, this might be a movie for you. Otherwise, I say skip it.

China Blue

Authentic: Makes Personal What We Only Knew As a Concept
I've read about the exploitation of workers in third-world countries, but could not really relate to the reality. This film brings that home. Not only do we get to know and care about some of the workers and what they experience, but we also get to know the factory owner quite well. His attitude towards his workers is completely disconnected from the reality of their lives. And his is one of the better factories in China. I saw this film at the Mill Valley Film Festival, and the filmmaker spoke and answered questions after the film. I have to wonder about the agenda of the people in this forum who attacked the integrity of the filmmaker. He was completely open about how the film was made; the need to replace his original main subject with Jasmine; the fact that the narrator's voice was not Jasmine's (but the words are hers). The film was NOT scripted. Although the subject was grim, the workers still make you smile at times, as they somehow retain their humanity amidst their degrading conditions.

The Upside of Anger

Unbelievable, overwrought, and overbearing
The summary--unbelievable, overwrought, and overbearing-- applies to both the film and to Joan Allen's character. This is a film where the plot dictates everyone's actions, instead of vice versa. Joan Allen plays a bitch who is nasty to everyone, including her four lovely daughters. She is detestable and totally unsympathetic--except to some movie critics. Almost everything in the film happens according to movie convention, except for a surprise near the end, which I found ludicrous. (P.S. I thought Kevin Costner was good. I think he made me laugh without squirming on one occasion, though I can't remember which, at the moment.)

My Side of the Mountain

Entertaining Family Film
"My Side of the Mountain" is an entertaining family film that I enjoyed both as a teenager and as an adult.

The movie has adventure and a sense of wonder in its portrayal of a young boy intent on making his way alone in the wilderness. The lead character, Sam, does sometimes overact and can get on one's nerves, but the supporting cast--human, mammalian, and avian--keeps the film interesting and prevents Sam from become too overbearing. Kids can learn lessons on self-reliance and interdependence from the film, in addition to enjoying San's adventures and the beautiful scenery of the Laurentian Mountains.

Caterina va in città

Caterina is the only 3-dimensional character in the film
I rooted for Caterina as she discovers herself and the world around her, but it is a world full of one-dimensional people. All the secondary characters in this film--with the exception of Caterina's neighbor, Edward, who appears too briefly--show only one side of themselves. Her father rants and raves throughout, except for his period of deep depression, where he does nothing at all. Her mother is meek and clueless. Her friends are either spoiled brats or angry rebels. I found them all to be insufferable, and the movie suffered for it. Both we and Caterina deserved better.

("Mean Girls" covers some of the same ground as this film, minus the politics, and does it much better.)

Christmas in the Clouds

Amusing Diversion, but...
I found myself amused for about the first half hour of this film, and then sporadically thereafter. (Vegetarians will particularly appreciate the humor provided by the chef, played by Graham Greene.) The characters are appealing, but two-dimensional, and the hackneyed mistaken-identity plot was tiresome. It's visually beautiful, but not very deep. And why is the Native American male romantic lead played by a white, very Anglo-looking actor? (Not that it was easy to imagine Native American physical traits in the female lead.)

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