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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Tipping Point: Our picks and pans


    American Fiction

    In a world of superhero flicks and sequels, it’s rare to find a film that is, by turns, funny, touching and thought-provoking. “American Fiction” is all those things and more, in a movie that explores racial identity. There’s a reason it’s up for a Best Picture Oscar, as well as being nominated in other categories. Jeffrey Wright plays a Black author whose erudite tomes don’t interest readers or, increasingly, publishers. Out of frustration, he pens a book under a pseudonym that panders to White stereotypes of Black people and culture. (A young gang banger, a deadbeat dad, etc.) It becomes a hit. Wright is perfect as the author, as is Sterling K. Brown as his brother, a plastic surgeon who has just left his marriage and come out as gay. The whole cast is spot-on, from Tracee Ellis Ross as Wright’s sister to Erika Alexander as his new love interest to Leslie Uggams as his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother. One nitpick: There are two meta moments in the movie, and there should have been more to make the ending seem less jarring.

    – Kristina Dorsey


    Mr. Texas

    Lawrence Wright

    Wright, in addition to a hyper successful career as a playwright, novelist and longtime investigative reporter at The New Yorker, is maybe best known as the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Looming Tower,” arguably the finest of many deep-dives into 9/11. He’s also a native Texan, longtime resident of Austin and, like many of us with a connection to the Lone Star State, very conflicted about what’s happened to that place. “Mr. Texas” is a wonderful novel about a Sonny Lamb, a West Texas rancher whose life, after front-lines duty in Iraq, has been notable in its underachievement. When a moneyed lobbyist discovers Sonny and thinks he’d be the perfect dupe as a state rep — then gets him elected — the setting is ripe for satire. And “Mr. Texas” IS funny. At the same time, though, Wright imbues Sonny with a noble spirit, a wonderful wife, more brains than he’s been credited with, and there’s a strong element of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in the story. But there’s the reality of the contemporary and oft-despicable Texas political scene, plus a depressing but accurate behind-the-scenes look of How Government Works — or, really, doesn’t work — across the American spectrum.

    — Rick Koster


    Killers of the Flower Moon

    Well, we were all correct: This Martin Scorsese film didn’t need to be 3-1/2 hours. And yet, it’s still a powerful movie. It’s a searing look at the destructiveness of greed and man’s often dispassionate inhumanity to his fellow man – in this case, White man’s inhumanity to Native peoples. Holding it together is the luminous Lily Gladstone, soulful and quietly expressive as Mollie, as Osage woman whose family in 1920s Oklahoma owns headrights to some oil fields there. One by one, her relatives, as well as other affluent Osage members, die mysteriously. Robert De Niro is imposing as King Hale, a wealthy rancher who wants even more wealth; he’s the one orchestrating the Osage murders. As Hale’s weak and far-from-quick-witted nephew — and Mollie’s husband — Leonardo DiCaprio seems to be straining to ACT in this role. With his fake bad teeth, his jutting jaw, and his guttural speech, he seems like a watered-down version of Billy Bob Thornton in “Sling Blade.” His love story with Mollie is hard to understand (what does she see in him?), but DiCaprio and Gladstone still manage to create a believable and passionate bond.

    – Kristina Dorsey

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