Halloween Kills-2021

Halloween Kills-2021

Director-David Gordon Green

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Anthony Michael Hall

Scott’s Review #1,190

Reviewed October 31, 2021

Grade: B+

The second in a planned revival trilogy of the iconic Halloween franchise that began in 1978, Halloween Kills (2021) is a frightfully effective “middle sibling”. Bridging the gap between Halloween (2018) and the highly anticipated Halloween Ends (2022) the film has enough gory kills and bloodletting to satisfy any horror fan.

The plot is furthered and the groundwork is laid for the next installment.

The nods to history and having several actors reprise their characters from the original film is an enormous treat for fans and a true pleasure to see. The writing in regards to history is great and weaves these characters in with newer characters. Jamie Lee Curtis, of course, stars as the terrorized Laurie Strode.

Picking up where Halloween-2018 left off on Halloween night (naturally), a wounded Laurie (Curtis) is whisked away to Haddonfield Hospital to recover while confident that she has finally killed her nemesis, Michael Meyers, by burning him to death. She is joined by her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) since the trio left the masked maniac caged and burning in Laurie’s basement. Or so they thought.

Spoiler alert- Michael is far from dead.

Continuing his ritual bloodbath held on Halloween night, Michael roams the quiet streets of Haddonfield while the fed-up townspeople rise against their unstoppable monster and form a vigilante mob led by Tommy Doyle (Hall). They continue to chant “Evil dies tonight” in anticipation of Michael’s demise.

Kyle Richards (Lindsey Wallace), Nancy Stephens (Nurse Marion Chambers), and Charles Cyphers (Sheriff Brackett) return to the action with prominent supporting roles. Their additions are a major win for me and presumably any fan of the franchise. It’s on par with welcoming old friends back into one’s life with open arms after decades apart.

The fact that they provide historical background is icing on the cake. Brackett’s daughter, Annie, one of the first of Michael’s victims is celebrated and shown via flashbacks. Marion’s close friendship with Michael’s doctor, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is also mentioned. He is seen via computer-animated imagery when the events go back to 1978.

The decision by the director/writer David Gordon Green, along with co-writers Scott Teems and Danny McBride to frequently go back in time to the events of 1978 is uncompromised and relevant to remind old fans of the history of the story and teaching novice fans how the dots connect. It’s a brilliant decision.

The diversity offered in Halloween Kills is a breath of fresh air and progressive. An interracial couple, a same-sex couple, and a black couple are added with respect, dignity, and without stereotype. They are everyone’s neighbors and a true representation.

As residents of the cursed Meyers house, Big John and Little John are written as tough and intelligent, avoiding any comic relief that too often shadow gay characters.

A few death scenes are extended to show the victim’s pain and suffering instead of the usual quick and easy slice ’em and dice ’em style. This will make the squeamish a bit nervous but that’s half the fun of horror films, right?  The typical throat-slashings and eye gougings are included but many of the small characters are likable, witty, and smart, and not written as complete morons.

In contrast to the original Halloween, the residents of Haddonfield now seem more blue-collar and red necks than upper-middle-class.  I chuckled when Laurie yelled “sheep” to the venomous residents who were chasing a man assumed to be Meyers (he wasn’t). I surmised that maybe the filmmakers were sticking it to the dolts that blindly follow political leaders in a cultish way and devoid of thought.

Before anyone thinks that Halloween Kills (2021) is a work of art, it isn’t. There exists enough silly dialogue to make anyone snicker but that’s what slasher films are all about. They are meant to be fun and this Halloween installment doesn’t disappoint.

The film is sheer entertainment done well and makes me anticipate the next and “final” Halloween chapter. But, as long as the films remain hits at the box office the killings will go on and on and on and on.

Gandhi-1982

Gandhi-1982

Director-Richard Attenborough

Starring Ben Kingsley

Scott’s Review #1,189

Reviewed October 30, 2021

Grade: A

Ben Kingsley delivers an astonishing performance as Mahatma Gandhi,  the steady-handed lawyer who stood up against British rule in India and became an international symbol of nonviolence and peaceful understanding until his tragic assassination in 1948.

Entitled simply Gandhi (1982) the film is directed by Richard Attenborough who has created masculine offerings such as The Great Escape (1963) and The Sand Pebbles (1966) before. Calmly, the director creates a grandiose epic but one that is thought-provoking and introspective in its humility.

I was incredibly affected by this picture.

As beautiful as the cinematography and other such trimmings are the message is what stands out to me most. One man’s spirit and thirst for fairness and human equality are beyond inspiring decades after the film was made. Thanks to Kingsley, the biography infuses an infectious channeling of what being a human being is all about and how human decency is the desired goal.

The film belongs to Kingsley. Despite hosting a cast of literally thousands he is the only name worth mentioning. He is that superior.

Attenborough, who teams with screenwriter John Briley presents major events in the life of Mohandas Gandhi (Kingsley). The film starts suddenly in January 1948, when an elderly Gandhi is on his way to an evening prayer service and shot point-blank in the chest in front of a large number of dumbfounded greeters and admirers. His state funeral is shown, the procession attended by millions of people from all walks of life, with a radio reporter speaking beautifully about Gandhi’s world-changing life and projects.

The film then returns to decades earlier when Gandhi, a young man, has a violent and racist experience. He vows to dedicate himself to the concept of nonviolent resistance. Initially dismissed, Gandhi is eventually internationally renowned, and his gatherings of passive protest move India towards independence.

Gandhi has been criticized for its extraordinary length with a running time of three hours and ten minutes. A suggestion is to watch the film in multiple sittings though the best-recommended approach would be to see it on the big screen. Unfortunately, I didn’t but fantasize about the massive sequences and how gorgeous they would appear at the cinema.

The story, acting, production, and pretty much everything else about Gandhi is a ravishing spectacle.

It’s worth its weight to sit back and watch Kingsley completely immerse himself in the role. The actor deservedly won the Best Actor Academy Award and despite his oodles of other film roles are best remembered for this one. I’m half surprised that it didn’t typecast him since he is so identifiable in the role.

I’d like to mention two aspects that some might not notice as much as others but that is simply astounding. The cinematography of the deserts, towns, and cities of India is plush with detail and accuracy. If one cannot go on a trip to India the next best thing is to watch this film instead. You’ll get a good dose of realism.

South Africa is also featured.

The costumes brilliantly showcase Indian flair and culture so well that I felt that I had been to the interesting country at the time that the film portrayed the events and felt nestled amid the luxurious colors and good taste.

Post-1982, the film genre of the epic exists rarely if ever anymore. Long gone are the days of brilliance like Gone With the Wind (1939) or Lawrence of Arabia (1962) which are truly a delight to simply lay one’s eyes on. Gandhi deserves to be appreciated as much as those other films despite being released in less than an artistic decade in cinema.

Gandhi (1982) is a wonderfully tragic film and leaves the viewer feeling sad but also inspired to carry the torch picked up by one brave man. A history lesson it’s also as much a lesson in humanity and the courageous fight that one man fought. Military power is not the way to achieve changing the world.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture (won), Best Director-Richard Attenborough (won), Best Actor-Ben Kingsley (won), Best Screenplay-Written Directly for the Screen (won), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography (won), Best Costume Design (won), Best Film Editing (won), Best Makeup, Best Original Score, Best Sound

French Exit-2020

French Exit-2020

Director-Azazel Jacobs

Starring-Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges

Scott’s Review #1,188

Reviewed October 29, 2021

Grade: C+

French Exit (2020) is a mediocre effort that disappointed me. I expected to be dazzled by the eccentric French culture and sequences that I had anticipated. While there are some location shots in historic Paris, there are not enough to outpace the lackluster writing and unlikable characters the film offers.

Plot-wise, the intriguing premise teeters into the far-fetched, so much so that the result becomes banal and silly.

The film is a miss and should be skipped in favor of other films like Midnight in Paris (2011) and Last Tango in Paris (1972) which both offer better French flair and superior storytelling.

A widowed New York socialite named Frances (Pfeiffer) and her meandering son Malcolm (Hedges) move to Paris after she spends the last of her husband’s inheritance. Sixty years old and now penniless, she borrows a friend’s apartment where she plans to live out the rest of her days anonymously. Her husband, Franklin, has been dead for twelve years and all that’s left of him is a cat named Small Frank, who may or may not embody his spirit.

Based on the previews I anticipated an adventure involving cobblestone Parisian streets, delicious bakeries, and cultural french music. A glimpse of the famous Louve or Eifel Tower would have been a cherry on top. While there are a few sequences of Frances and Malcolm walking along Parisian streets and an apartment that provides good french flavor there is not enough to be considered an achievement.

The main character is played by Michelle Pfeiffer. As a fan of some of her more recent projects like Mother! (2017) a brilliant film directed by Darren Aronofsky, the character didn’t catch fire for me. She’s pretty snobbish throughout and never really gets her comeuppance or learns any lesson.  As the protagonist, I was baffled as to why I was expected to root for a woman who is a bitch.

Hedges, a fantastic actor, plays his part according to script but the morose, one-dimensional Malcolm, is uninteresting, and a so-so romantic plot involving his girlfriend Susan (Imogen Poots) even less so.

On the plus side, Valerie Mahaffey steals the show with her quirky, comedic performance as Reynard. A fan of Frances’s she befriends the woman who initially has no interest in her and coldly dismisses her. An eccentric, her odd demeanor and style are infectious, and she won me over immediately especially placed side by side with the other less flavorful characters.

She was deservedly rewarded with recognition and received a Spirit Award nomination. Hopefully, this leads to more juice roles from Mahaffey.

Azazel Jacobs, who has had modest success on the independent film circuit offers moderate impressive direction but loses me with the addition of not one but two tired seance sequences. A cat inhabiting a dead body and coming to life with the deceased person’s voice is drab and better suited for low-brow light comedy.

To make matters worse, the inclusion of a plump medium Madeleine (Danielle Macdonald) is about as cliched as you can get.

There is not enough substance to give French Exit (2020) higher than average marks. Pfeiffer, taking center stage and doing the best she can, deserves better roles as she charges into her senior years. She’s got gusto so let’s give her better material.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Supporting Female-Valerie Mahaffey

Lamb-2021

Lamb-2021

Director-Valdimar Johannsson

Starring-Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snaer Guonason

Scott’s Review #1,187

Reviewed October 17, 2021

Grade: A-

Director, Valdimar Jóhannsson’s feature-length film directorial debut is a mixed recipe of eeriness and gorgeous cinematography sprinkled with horror and dread. The film is shot entirely in remote Iceland making the texture of the film ominous and haunting.

The creation, Lamb (2021), is highly effective in mood and dread as throughout most of the film the feeling that something awful will happen at any moment is unrelenting. During numerous sequences, I expected something to leap out from behind a door or suddenly peer through a window but the film contains no gimmicks.

It doesn’t need them. The low-key musical score is terrific.

After an extremely slow build, the shit finally hits the fan making the payoff well worth the wait.

On their remote farm, María (Rapace) and Ingvar (Guonason) share a peaceful and idyllic life raising sheep. They are deeply in love but miss having a child. After one of their sheep gives birth to a human/sheep hybrid, they are filled with love and decide to raise it as their own naming her Ada. The arrival of Ingvar’s troubled brother Pétur (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) upends their calm family dynamic.

Providing an additional hurdle is the arrival of their “daughters” sheep mother who remains outside their house crying for her newborn. She is determined not to let María and Ingvar steal her baby. Does María go too far in a fit of rage?

Jóhannsson, who also co-wrote the screenplay, fills the film with mystery. The first scene is of a herd of horses terrified by some approaching force that arrives at María and Ingvar’s barn. Later, featured animals like the sheep, a cat, and a dog seem spooked and alert. What is this force and what’s in store for the characters?

On the surface, a sheep/human hybrid runs the risk of feeling ridiculous especially as Ada ages and is clad in bright sweaters and jackets. She cannot speak but can comprehend and is capable of feeling and emotion. She is quite human-like and filled with love. I, as audiences will, took to her and therefore rooted for her happiness.

I adore the characters of María and Ingvar. Preparing meals together, sipping wine, and playing cards, they take turns with the farmwork and make a wonderful romantic ideal. It’s never known if they once had a child who died or whether Ada is the first sheep/human hybrid they’ve ever seen. They don’t seem completely surprised at the birth.

When they visit a grave marked with the name Ada, we wonder who the deceased is?

I shuttered upon the arrival of Pétur. A heap of trouble he mooches off of our happy couple and despises Ada, almost shooting her with a shotgun. Thankfully, he has enough sense not to hurt her but the ever-present shotgun inevitably comes into play later on.

Rapace, Guonason, and Haroldsson provide exceptional acting which goes miles to ground a story that could easily be deemed as silly or superfluous.

Cinematographer, Eli Arenson, deserves major props for filming gorgeous Iceland location shots. Having visited this lush geographical paradise I immediately appreciated what I was being offered and was taken back to the sprawling farmlands and statuesque mountains.

Those who are squeamish about seeing an animal give birth may want to close their eyes during one scene which undoubtedly is a real birth of a lamb. I found it beautiful.

The final fifteen minutes of Lamb is violent and daring. Mixed with an obvious nightmare is a sweetness and sincerity that dripped from the screen. The folktale presentation creates a fairytale comparison and the fate of one character is shrouded in uncertainty.

For those wondering who or what Ada’s father is, daddy does finally make an appearance.

Lots of questions abound after the credits roll so might there be a sequel offered by Jóhannsson? Let’s hope so.

Lamb (2021) perfectly infuses the common reality of farm work and an attractive couple’s daily life with a horrific folklore story. I might have preferred a slightly faster pace but by no means did I ever feel robbed of a proper payoff.

Final Destination-2000

Final Destination-2000

Director-James Wong

Starring-Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith

Scott’s Review #1,186

Reviewed October 16, 2021

Grade: B

Following the commercial success of Wes Craven’s Scream in the mid-1990s, the horror genre was now a hot ticket item once again. New Line Cinema capitalized on this financial goldmine by creating the popular Final Destination franchise in 2000. Five films were created in total.

The Final Destination films all have the same premise. A small group of people escapes impending death after one individual sees a sudden premonition and warns the others about the mass-casualty accident that is about to happen. Their luck is unfortunately short-lived.

After avoiding their foretold deaths, the survivors are systematically killed off one by one in bizarre accidents caused by an unseen force creating complicated chains of cause and effect. In other words, there is no way they can cheat death and the bastard will have his way with them.

The upside is that the deaths are highly creative and oodles of fun for the blood-thirsty horror viewer to feast upon. Instead of a knife-wielding maniac, the protagonist is an evil force which at the time was a neat little add-on that made the film unique.

The victims are mainly teenagers or twenty-something characters which are the target audience for these and most other horror films.

In Final Destination (2000), high school student Alex Browning  (Sawa), is about to embark on a fabulous trip to Paris for his senior class trip. He is joined by a group of his schoolmates. Just before takeoff as the group is settling in for their eight-hour journey from New York to Charles de Gaulle Airport Alex experiences a premonition and sees the plane explode moments after leaving the ground.

Alex becomes unruly and insists that everyone get off the plane and seven people including Alex, are forced to disembark. All watch as the plane explodes in an enormous fireball, killing everyone on board. He and the other survivors have briefly cheated death, but will not be able to avoid their fate for very long. One by one, these lucky survivors fall victim to the grim reaper.

I have seen each one of the Final Destination films and enjoyed them all. Atypically, the first film is not the best. I may argue that part 2 is the best but that is irrelevant to this review.

The premise is extremely clever and instantly absorbing. Instead of the dated “final girl” one assumes that Alex will be the last survivor and that may or may not be true as a twisted game of figuring out which order the seven survivors will be killed is based on their seating arrangements on the flight nearly drives Alex mad.

It’s the perfect engagement for the viewer.

As a clue, director James Wong who co-wrote the screenplay creates stock characters like the dumb jock, Carter Horton, with the muscle car, played exceptionally well by Kerr Smith, and the douchey Billy Hitchcock (Seann Williams Scott). There is a teacher and FBI agents thrown in for good measure so it becomes obvious who is going to be killed off.

The fun is watching how they are killed. Delicious deaths like being run over by a bus, embedded by flying knives, and a good old-fashioned decapitation by flying shrapnel are to be enjoyed.

The final sequence, ironically set in Paris, is exceptional as three survivors are left and they feel safe. They are not safe at all as one of them suddenly realizes resulting in a clever final kill followed by sudden end credits.

This is narrowly usurped by the brilliant plane crash premonition scenes as Alex teeters between reality and premonition. The plane explosion is highly effective and is shown from inside the fuselage. The visual effects which used a miniature Boeing 747 are wonderful to watch with heart-racing detail and excitement.

At times during Final Destination, the action lags and Ali Larter who plays Clear Rivers is not the greatest actress. Her silly battle with electric sparks while sitting in a car is not the film’s finest sequence.

Final Destination (2000) is a fun popcorn film with some admirable unexpected turns. It stays true to the horror formula while offering some unique additions that feel fresh. It’s a roller coaster ride meant to be enjoyed and not overanalyzed. The innovation suitably balances the fun.

For Your Eyes Only-1981

For Your Eyes Only-1981

Director-John Glen

Starring-Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet

Scott’s Review #1,185

Reviewed October 10, 2021

Grade: B+

Following the outrageousness of 1979’s Moonraker, a film I nonetheless find enjoyable, the decision was made to bring James Bond back to earth in the next chapter. For Your Eyes Only (1981) has matured well over the years and is an above-average entry among my all-time James Bond list.

The main Bond girl and the villain are not as top-notch as other Bond films but the action, suspense, and nods to Bond history are fantastic as is the grittier look and feel. And, the locales of Italy and Greece are breathtaking.

The title song, a sleek and syrupy love ballad performed by Sheena Easton, is a favorite of mine and is instantly recognizable in association with the film. It charted at number one on the charts and sold a gazillion copies.

The plot is typical of a James Bond film. After a British ship is sunk in foreign waters, the world’s superpowers begin a feverish race to find its cargo: a nuclear submarine control system. And 007 (Roger Moore) is thrust into the middle of the action as he aligns with Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), Milos Columbo (Topol), and others to thwart the fiendish plans of the villainous Kristatos (Julian Glover).

The story is rather secondary to the enjoyment of the film and I quickly stopped trying to follow every plot point or detail. It’s not that important to know who every bad guy is or their motivations. There is a plot to take over the world and there you have it.

I adored the opening sequence when Bond visits the gravestone of his deceased wife Teresa. This tender moment immediately made me reflect on the goodness of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and the humanistic tone that the film brought. Bond then engages in a thrilling helicopter chase with arch-rival Blofeld which parlays into the opening credits with the title song as a backdrop.

Admittedly, this first sequence has nothing to do with the rest of the film but fabulous is the London shots of Big Ben and other historical treats. And it’s just desserts to see Blofeld dumped into a massive chimney and presumably to his death.

Bond historians will love this.

The film is recommended to be watched in the winter months since the snowy and icy scenes fare better in the appropriate calendar months. It could be a warmup act to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or From Russia With Love (1963) also cold-feeling Bond films.

I didn’t perceive much chemistry between Moore and Bouquet but neither did their lack of chemistry ruin the film for me. The thirty-year age difference didn’t help matters but at least James Bond had the decency not to bed the horny underaged figure skater, Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson). Her character is played for laughs and her schoolgirl crush on Bond is cute.

Kristatos isn’t the most memorable villain either. His true colors aren’t revealed until late in the game and his motivations are a stretch. I didn’t buy him as a former war hero and ally turned smuggler. Nonetheless, Glover plays him straightforward and a compelling sequence occurs when he attempts to kill Bond and Melina with his massive boat and hungry sharks.

Topol, well-known for his role as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (1971) is great to see as one of Bond’s allies. The actor’s distinctive voice is tough to miss though I half-expected him to break into “If I Were a Rich Man” at any moment.

The final sequence atop the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, and Eastern orthodox monastery in Greece is terrific and quite justifiably the highlight. Bond dangles for his life as a henchman slowly breaks each of Bond’s rock climbing stakes is a nail-biting and suspenseful scene even though you know that Bond will find his escape.

Flying under the radar, For Your Eyes Only (1981) is delightful for the locales and action sequences alone. Dragging slightly midway and not featuring a memorable Bond girl or villain, it offers a darker story and contains less cheeky moments. This is refreshing following a silly trip to the moon. The villains are more dangerous than cartoonish and the extreme locales and throwback to history make this an appreciated effort.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Song-“For Your Eyes Only”

Half Nelson-2006

Half Nelson-2006

Director-Ryan Fleck

Starring-Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps

Scott’s Review #1,184

Reviewed October 8, 2021

Grade: B+

Half Nelson (2006) is an independent drama that showcases Ryan Gosling’s acting talent and forays into meatier, more mature roles. He was only twenty-five years old when he made the film but was growing into a mature actor which is part of the fun of watching it.

Its New York City locale presents a gritty and seedy essence appropriate for the subject matter. Speaking of, the seriousness and potential creep factor may turn some viewers off, but true cinema fans and admirers of good stories will appreciate the film.

The taboo dynamic of a thirteen-year-old student and her drug-addicted teacher is not for everyone and many will not even dare to go there. But, the payoff is worth the initial squirming.

Especially forewarned are those seeking a romantic or action film from Gosling as they will surely be disappointed. This is a more cerebral and artful effort.

The film garnered Gosling his first Academy Award nomination. A very deserved one.

Dan Dunne (Gosling) is a young history teacher at a Brooklyn, New York school. Though he is highly regarded and well-liked by his students and colleagues, he secretly spends his evenings hopping bars and getting high. He lives a double life.

One night a shy female student named Drey (Shareeka Epps) catches him in a drug-induced haze after a basketball game and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. As Dan struggles with his addiction, he tries to act as a mentor to the girl, whose brother is serving time for dealing drugs.

It’s easy to dismiss a film like Half Nelson because of the uneasy premise. But below that resides a sweet and kind story about two human beings bonding over their lives in crisis. Too much negativity exists these days among teachers so it is reassuring to see a film where the student and teacher bond amid the most unlikely circumstances.

Gosling and Epps are both spectacular. They give their all as an unlikely pair, he an idealistic and she a girl trapped in ghetto life. The connection between the characters is palpable especially given the role reversal that occurs. They slowly become forever bonded and the reaction is fresh, layered with genuine emotion. And who’s the teacher and who’s the student?

As terrific as they are together, they each have their own story. I loved learning more about Dan’s wrecked love life but I still wanted to know why he escaped to drugs in the first place.

Drey has enormous challenges of her own and is pressured to go down the same rabbit hole as many in similar circumstances have done. She is savvy enough to know if she does it will lead to an unhappy life but will she go there anyway?

Even if a viewer never sets foot into an undesirable area, they will nonetheless be able to put themselves there for the duration of the film.

I love the ending of the film.

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, a filmmaking duo mostly known for independent features churn out terrific and subdued work. Half Nelson feels authentic with grainy and shakey filmmaking that makes the viewer feel as if he or she is an observer in the lives of Dan and Drey and part of their world.

A serene but not a simple film, Half Nelson (2006) teaches many valuable lessons. Perseverance, unlikely friendships, mixed with two separate character studies, the film has a lot going on but never overcomplicated itself. I longed for more about Dan’s descent into drug use but the rest of the experience is fantastic.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor-Ryan Gosling

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature, Best Director-Ryan Fleck, Best Male Lead-Ryan Gosling (won), Best Female Lead-Shareeka Epps, Best First Screenplay

Ragtime-1981

Ragtime-1981

Director-Milos Forman

Starring-Howard E. Rollins, Brad Dourif, Mary Steenburgen

Scott’s Review #1,183

Reviewed October 1, 2021

Grade: A-

Milos Forman, most famous for directing 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and 1984’s Amadeus, creates a relevant period piece drama with a moving racial storyline. Set in the turn of the twentieth-century New York, Ragtime (1981) mixes an important message with gorgeous costumes and a peppering of romantic intrigue.

The film was honored with an astounding eight Academy Award nominations but came away empty-handed.

The cast is enormous and I love that aspect of the film. At two hours and thirty-five minutes, the experience nearly felt too short since there was plenty of stories left to tell, mainly with the sub-plots. Some resolutions are not clearly explained but of course, the central story ends tragically.

A fun fact is that initially Robert Altman was signed on to direct the film but was replaced by Forman. My mind conjures up endless juicy moments that Altman likely would have added. As good as Forman is Altman certainly would have been even better.

There are also a few real-life people sprinkled in with fictitious characters which may cause some confusion, especially with the high volume cast. Newsreels of Theodore Roosevelt, Houdini, and architect Stanford White are featured.

A flurry of juicy tales based on E.L. Doctorow’s eponymous novel dissects life in pre-World War I New York City. The haves and have-nots see their lives intersect in many different ways.

A lavish party in Atlantic City is a fabulous highlight of Ragtime.

One day, a rich white family living in New Rochelle, New York, finds a black baby in their yard and takes on the mother (Debbie Allen) as a maid. A black pianist, Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Howard E. Rollins Jr.), returns for his woman and child after finding success in a Harlem jazz band.

A group of small-minded firefighters, irritated to see a successful black man own a Model-T Ford, deface it, and Walker demands retribution. This sets the main chain of events in the film as a war rages between Walker and his friends and the white firefighters.

There are more stories presented in a lesser form that I would have loved more from like the interesting friendship between the black Walker and the white younger brother played by Brad Dourif.

In a strange scene, millionaire industrialist Harry Kendall Thaw (Robert Joy) makes a scene when White unveils a nude statue atop Madison Square Garden, modeled after former chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit (Elizabeth McGovern), Thaw’s wife. Convinced White has corrupted Evelyn, Thaw publicly shoots him dead.

From an acting perspective, the film belongs to Howard E. Rollins. I immediately treasured the character he plays and rooted for him to win. Intelligent yet put upon he goes through several incarnations of the character and twice as many emotions. He was by far the richest character of all as far as substance.

Other characters intrigued but to dissect them would be impossible since there were so many of them. McGovern, Mandy Patinkin, and Mary Steenburgen play my favorite characters.

The only slight drawback I perceive is that the film has a glossy look to it and gritty scenes are not powerful enough. As intense a moment as the finale is, for example, I wanted something dirtier. When Walker’s fate is sealed I wanted to be more frightened instead of feeling like I was being fed high drama.

Ragtime (1981) successfully and nearly flawlessly combines artistic style with an enormous social message. It looks polished and representative of the early 1900s and it challenges audiences to take a look at how different cultures co-existed in another time.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor in a Supporting Role-Howard E. Rollins Jr., Best Actress in a Supporting Role-Elizabeth McGovern, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium, Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Music-Original Score, Best Music-Original Song-“One More Hour”