Film

The Club

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This powerful and disturbing film from Chile is set in a retirement home “for priests who can no longer serve”. Although it is naturalistically shot, the setting — a down-at-heel fishing village with a house on the hill containing terrible secrets — has the all-pervading malevolence of a horror movie.

Anomalisa

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This is a beautiful and distinctive looking stop-motion animation written by Charlie Kaufman, who also wrote the films Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It captures the struggles of an alienated man battling through the big questions of life: What is it to be human? What is it to be alive?

Hail Caesar!

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The Coen Brothers’ latest movie tells the story of a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, the real life MGM studio executive and “fixer”. He covered up scandals and dealt with the press, as the movie shows. He also beat his partners and helped business contacts escape rape charges.

This side of him is missing from Hail, Caesar!, which both fictionalises and sanitises the man. Instead, Mannix (Josh Brolin) is an unresting force of organisation and quick thinking, absurdly good at his job.

Taxi Tehran

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Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director, has made many films, challenging class, gender and ethnicity inequalities in Iran. He has been threatened with imprisonment and has been banned from travelling abroad and making films.

But he has continued his work unofficially. His latest film, Taxi Tehran, won the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlin Festival. He also acts in this film, playing an unofficial communal taxi driver in Tehran. These taxi drivers are one example of a large informal workforce.

Mavis!

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Mavis! is an enjoyable, feel-good documentary that depicts the successful and ongoing career of soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples. The documentary follows Staples as she tours and reminisces about her remarkable career. It includes archival footage of her family group The Staple Singers performing in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Although the film’s main focus is on the musical career of Mavis rather than the political activism of the Civil Rights era in which she and her family were centrally involved, it does touch on the friendship between Mavis’s father and Martin Luther King.

Welcome to Leith

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Welcome to Leith is a feature-length documentary which chronicles the struggle of the residents of Leith, North Dakota, to rid the town of a white supremacist.

Leith is a tiny, quiet town of just 24 people. Everything changes in May 2012 when Craig Cobb, described as one of the top five white supremacists in the US, moves into town.

He begins to acquire plots of land as part of his surreptitious plan to turn Leith into a whites-only community to preserve the Aryan race.

Trumbo

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If you trace the so-called principles of the Labour MPs who voted to bomb Iraq — and who will no doubt soon vote to renew Trident — their slug-trail invariably leads to Washington. Right-wing Labour MPs are brand ambassadors for US imperialism. They simply take it for granted that in any situation America will be the good guys. The Labour right really does believe that America is the “land of the free”.

This month a new movie and newly published book help to remind us just what total piffle this view of America is.

The Danish Girl

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The visibility of trans people has taken great leaps in the past couple of years. The release of The Danish Girl is well timed to continue that trend.

Lili Elbe was born Einar Wegener in 1882. Einar became an award winning painter of rather restrained landscapes. She died aged 49, legally a woman, with a passport in the name Lili Elbe, after undergoing five experimental operations for gender confirmation.

Spotlight

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It’s not that we aren’t aware of scandals and cover-ups around paedophilia and the Catholic church. And in Britain the Jimmy Savile scandal demonstrated that it isn’t only the Catholic church which is involved in the institutionalised covering-up of child abuse.

The film Spotlight isn’t simply telling the story of yet more poor, working class children being abused by Catholic priests in Boston over a period of 30 or 40 years, although that itself would justify the telling of it.

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