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We always assume that Lizzie Borden was guilty of the axe murders of her father and stepmother.

Movie Review:

“Lizzie,” Directed by Craig Macneill. 105 minutes

Chloe Sevigny produced this film and carries almost every scene as the central character. She does a fine job of acting, but Kristen Stewart deserves tremendous credit not only for a fine acting job but also because she keeps stretching her capabilities by taking on more and more diverse roles. In this one, the vivacious star of all those “Twilight” movies plays a mousy little immigrant housekeeper.

The real Lizzie Borden was never convicted of all that whacking, but the literary Lizzie, it seems, will forever be guilty until proven innocent.  Recently, she’s also become a feminist trailblazer. She wouldn’t have acted out so murderously, we are given to understand in the movie, if she hadn’t been repressed in the 1890’s. I think this movie makes that point very well through the drama itself, through the tension we in the audience feel on Lizzie’s behalf, and decidedly not because of sermonizing.

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After the movie, you might want to decide about Lizzie’s culpability and motivations on your own. Wikipedia has a good treatment. You might also want to check out the 1975 made-for-TV version starring another very good and versatile actress named Elizabeth Montgomery. It’s free on YouTube. It’s also very good.

We liked the movie. It had a lot of tension and, all the way through, seemed very honest. Also, there were three union logos in the last frame.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM at 9 AM every Saturday Central Time. They podcast them on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

Movie Review: “The Dressmaker,” Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse, 2 hours

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Since I saw her in “The Reader,” maybe even before that, I have been going around saying that Kate Winslet is our best living movie star. Some people might say it’s Judy Davis, but we wouldn’t have to argue about “The Dressmaker” since both talented actresses, playing mother and daughter, are in almost every scene.

The movie is more enjoyable if we think of it as a fable rather than a true-to-life drama. A wronged woman returns to her backward and tiny hometown to clear up any misunderstandings and settle all scores.

Texas Women Need Fairness or Maybe Revenge!

We’ve seen the idea several times before. What makes it doubly pertinent to me now is that I live in Texas, where new records for maternal deaths are being set and where battered children can’t even get a visit from state authorities. Like the rest of the nation, we also suffer from the wage disparity that Economic Policy Institute is covering so thoroughly today. Did I mention, too, that the state politicians are in court to tighten restrictions on women’s reproductive rights? Oh yeah, the Governor of Texas is planning even more state-sponsored misogyny in the next legislature!

Then there’s the woman-basher planning to become President of the United States. If it isn’t time for women to get some fairness, maybe it actually is time for them to savor some revenge! At least, we can enjoy a movie about it, can’t we? It’s surely time for that!

The Story and the Problem

In the faraway outback Down Under, an overdressed fashion designer returns to her hick town where she has been considered to be a murderess since the age of 10. Her mother, the town crackpot, is just as happy to accuse her as the rest of the eccentrics there. That’s the beginning and it’s very promising. The ending is fine, too. Kind of spectacular.

It’s the middle of the movie where the problems lie. It was the same with the recent civil rights film about Nat Turner’s rebellion, “Birth of a Nation.” Great beginning, fine ending, saggy middle. I like to think the problem is with the movie money-men, not with the artists involved. They just can’t make a film without attaching a romantic love story in it somewhere, even if it has nothing to do with anything else. In both movies, the sex and groping slathered on to the middle of the story is a distraction.

I liked “The Dressmaker.” The real critics in Dallas gave it a “D.” But Kate Winslet never made a “D” in her movie career. Go see it. When you get to the middle part and the virile characters start making goo-go0 eyes at each other, that’s a good time to go get your popcorn.

–Gene Lantz

Click here if you want to know what I really think!

“The Handmaiden,” Director: Park Chan-wook, 2 hours 47 minutes.

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In Korea in the 1930s, Japanese occupiers clash with Korean occupied, bourgeoisie clash with lower classes, morals clash with dissipation, men clash with women, men clash with men, and women clash with women in this wonderful Eastern version of “The Sting.” While the viewer may be amazed at the character development or the amazing settings or the wonderfully stylized presentations, it’s the story itself that transfixes us. Like most good stories, it takes its own leisurely time in the telling. It involves the long con and several short cons. Its point of view completely changes more than once.

We’re talking about a complicated movie here, but one unraveled for us by outstanding storytelling.

If erotic sex scenes worry you, don’t take your kids to see this one. Some will call it a dirty movie, but it’s less pornography than about pornography. A dissolute, cruel and dirty old rich man sits at the center of the story. He dedicates himself to rich pretensions, dirty books and corruption. Everybody else is straining to overcome him and each other. The characters we sympathize with most are the two young women who are presented at the beginning of the story as an unscrupulous con artist pretending to be a handmaiden and a her rich and naive mistress. Moviegoers will be pulling for them, or at least one or the other of them, to find love and victory over cruelty, shame, men in general, and the old sleazeball. But will love ever find a way?