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THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB Trailer 1, 2 & 3 (2018)

The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)




Young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist find themselves caught in a web of spies, cybercriminals and corrupt government officials.

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Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist find themselves caught in a web of spies, cyber-criminals and corrupt government officials - both in Sweden and in the United States - whom are only know as The Spider Society. The Girl in the Spider's Web is the new thriller by Fede Alvarez, starring Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason and Sylvia Hoeks. The script was written by Jay Basu.

DUMBO Trailer (2019)

Dumbo (2019)



Plot unknown.

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Holt was once a circus star, but he went off to war and when he returned it had terribly altered him. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) hires him to take care of Dumbo, a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him the laughing stock of the struggling circus troupe. But when Holt's children discover that Dumbo can fly, silver-tongued entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), and aerial artist Colette Marchant (Eva Green) swoop in to make the little elephant a star.


THE NUN Trailer (2018)

The Nun (2018)



A priest named Father Burke is sent to Romania to investigate the mysterious death of a nun.

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The Nun is the new horror movie by Corin Hardy, starring Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga and Bonnie Aarons. The script was written by Gary Dauberman.

INCREDIBLES 2 (2018) - FILM REVIEW

Incredibles 2 (2018)



For years, Pixar focused on original films, ignoring the sequel trend so prevalent in children’s entertainment. Sure, there were two sequels to “Toy Story,” but that was the exception. Now, the company regularly alternates original projects like “Inside Out” with sequels to “Cars,” “Monsters Inc.,” and “Finding Nemo.” But even as critics bemoaned the sequelitis that inflicted the company, there was always a caveat. “No more sequels...well, maybe The Incredibles.” Brad Bird’s 2004 animated classic felt like the most sequel-ready film in the entire Pixar canon. It was an origin story, the first chapter of a universe waiting to be explored. For some reason, it took 14 years to get back to the world of “The Incredibles,” but the good news is that this world doesn’t feel remotely stale. In fact, Bird and his collaborators have wisely updated it for the late-'10s while also staying true to what we loved about the first movie. They’ve done what a great animated sequel should do—continue to develop the themes of the original while also staking new territory. This is a smart, beautiful, fun family film. In other words, exactly what we want from Pixar.

Bird wastes no time getting into the meat of this story, cleverly picking up where the last film ended. Sure, it’s been 14 years in the real world, but animation allows time to be suspended. And so we see an attack by the Underminer, burrowing through the city, robbing its banks from below, and we watch the Parr family try to stop it. They do, but there’s so much damage done to the metropolis that no one is really eager to thank them. In a clever twist that is sure to inspire some thinkpieces about how it reflects on our current culture, officials would rather just let the criminals get away with it. The banks have insurance and there wouldn’t be so much destruction. And it’s that destruction that has led to superhero activity being criminalized. Read into that themes of failures of justice, anti-intellectualism, etc. as you see fit.

One person who refuses to believe that superheroes should be criminalized is Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), who comes to the Incredibles with a plan. Working with his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), he’s going to make superheroes great again. And he’s going to do so by being transparent. They’ll put a body cam on a superhero and allow the world to fall in love with heroic deeds all over again. Realizing that her brand of lifesaving is a little more cost-effective than her husband’s, the Deavors pick Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to be the face that will make people love heroes. Once again, the concept that we only appreciate that which we can see in today’s society feels remarkably current. “Pics or it didn’t happen,” if you will.

As Elastigirl gets a new outfit and a cool new ride, Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is stuck at home, learning how being a parent takes a different kind of heroism. Dash (Huck Milner) is still his rambunctious self—and the most underwritten character in the film—but Violet (Sarah Vowell) is going through some teen girl drama, especially after the boy she likes literally doesn’t remember her any more. Most urgently, Jack-Jack has started to display powers, and if you think your baby is tough to manage because you don’t know when he’s going to throw a tantrum, imagine if you didn’t know when he was going to burst into flames.


As he has in all of his work, Bird is playing with societal definitions. The Iron Giant doesn’t have to be a weapon; a rat can be a chef; Mr. Incredible can be the stay-at-home parent and Elastigirl can save the day. And the theme of surpassing even the expectations and limitations we set for ourselves weaves through the plot of “Incredibles 2” as we’re introduced to new heroes (with names like Voyd, Screech, and Reflux) and a villain named Screenslaver, who hypnotizes people through today’s greatest addiction—our attachment to our screens. Yes, “Incredibles 2” is a movie that encourages us to detach from technology and experience the world. However, it’s with a twist.

Pixar films are famously beautiful when it comes to character design and art direction, but “Incredibles 2” is one of the most significant achievements in this regard. The word that I kept thinking of was fluid. I have three kids, so trust me when I say that this is not a common word when it comes to family entertainment, much of which shoehorns in messages between clunky comedy scenes with no concern for flow and pacing. “Incredibles 2” just moves beautifully, sliding from one scene to another with such grace and momentum. And the action sequences are among the best you’ll see all year. There’s a sequence with Elastigirl and a runaway train that’s gorgeously conceived and executed, and the climax is better than most Marvel action sequences. It’s a movie that’s constantly in motion, surprising you with the way it so seamlessly flows from action to comedy to family and back again, buoyed by a jazzy, fantastic score by Michael Giacchino. It’s a testament to Bird’s filmmaking ability how effortless “Incredibles 2” often feels. Nothing feels too eager-to-please, even the Jack-Jack material, which is surprisingly funny and fresh.

It helps to have a fantastic voice cast to be the fuel for this finely-tuned animated machine. Nelson gets the gruff tone of Mr. Incredible, a man who loves his family but also misses the days when he was the coolest superhero in the world, and the supporting cast is uniformly stellar. But the movie is really stolen by Hunter, who can convey more with a single line reading than other actresses can with an entire monologue.

Parents should be warned that “Incredibles 2” is long—almost two hours—just like the first one, and there is an unavoidable sense that some of the wonder of the concept has been diluted since the first film. Having said that, “Incredibles 2” understands something that most family sequels, even the Pixar ones, fail to comprehend—we don’t just want to repeat something we loved before. We want to love it all over again. You will with “Incredibles 2.”  



Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is left to care for Jack-Jack while Helen (Elastigirl) is out saving the world.

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13 June 2018 (Philippines)  »

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#REVIEWSATURDAY - HEREDITARY (2018) - FILM REVIEW - BEST HORROR MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Hereditary (2018)







Creepy beyond belief, "Hereditary" is one of those movies you shouldn't describe in detail, because if you do, it will not only ruin surprises but make the listener wonder if you saw the film or dreamed it. The movie sustains a throb of dread throughout its first 90 minutes, and its final 30 are off-the-rails in the best way. Writer/director Ari Aster structures the tale so that it’s hard to be sure if the uncanny events you're seeing are real or figments of the imaginations of the Graham family, a clan cursed both by Biblical bad luck and a genetic disposition towards various types of mental illness.



Toni Collette stars as Annie Graham, an artist and mother who's coping with the death of her mother while trying to finish an exhibition of dioramas that appear to depict her own family's life and Annie's internal state. Alex Wolff is Annie's oldest child, Peter, a sad-eyed pothead drifting through life. Milly Shapiro plays Charlie, Peter's younger sister, a disturbed 13-year-old with the dead stare of a statue. Gabriel Byrne plays Annie's stoic, kindhearted husband Steve, who just wants the family to be happy and struggles to make peace. All are reeling from the death of the family matriarch, who we learn was anything but cuddly. The family is uncomfortable with frank displays of emotion, and with anything that might reveal their interiors to one another. Annie tells her husband that she's going off to the movies when she's really attending a grief management circle that meets in a church basement. Peter anesthetizes himself with marijuana. Charlie draws obsessively in a small notebook, and ...


Well, maybe I shouldn't tell you about the things I was just about to tell you about. Maybe it's better if you just experience the story on your own. The deeper that "Hereditary" pulled me in, the more grateful I was that I didn't know much about it before setting foot in the theater—including what relationship, if any, the plot has to the movie's one word title.

Film literate in the extreme, "Hereditary" seems inspired by a wide array of classic sources both inside and outside of the horror genre. "Rosemary's Baby," "The Exorcist," "The Amityville Horror" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” loom large, as do Asian horror touchstones like "The Grudge" and "The Eye."


But the film owes just as much to the intense family psychodramas of Mike Leigh and John Cassavetes, which place strong-willed but deeply damaged people in close proximity and look on as they suffer barely-concealed torment from sitting on their rage, then finally lash out in displays of emotional violence that are as intense, in their own way, as the bloodletting and surrealism. Unspeakable things happen to the family throughout. Every time they experience new trauma, it cracks their controlling facades a bit more, exposes emotional fissures in the family as a whole, and makes you wonder if perhaps the social institutions surrounding us and the intricate practices of language, science, and literature aren't just elaborate means of holding back fear of death and random misfortune.


The regular eruptions of weirdness, surrealism and nightmare spectacle live in the spaces where family arguments and breakdowns might occur in a realistic movie. The parents and children speak to each other in the language of considerate individuals, but very soon you learn how to spot the passive-aggressive digs, the excuses and deflections, the knife-twists disguised as statements of concern. When something bloody, bizarre or merely unsettling happens, it seems to be in response to whatever the characters are refusing to really address.


There are images of mangled, burned and mutilated flesh, uncanny behavior by reflections and beams of light, and sound effects that seem to be happening inside your head. There's shocking physical violence in this film, but ultimately not as much as you might falsely remember when you talk about it later. And yet if somebody were to ask me how violent "Hereditary" is, I'd say it's one of the most violent films I've ever seen, because the emotional damage inflicted on the Grahams by life and by one another is so profound, and because the entire thing is perched right on the edge of catastrophe, and the smaller shocks are so effective that you don't want to see what will happen when the movie finally tips over into the abyss (and yet, at the same time, you do; that's horror).


Aster and the cast make you care about these disturbed people and fear what they might do to one another, themselves and strangers. When something awful invariably does happen, you feel sadness as well as shock, because now it's going to be even harder for the Grahams to climb out of the pit of sadness that the grandmother's death cast them into, and finally address past traumas that they've been ignoring or covering up.


Aster keeps intimating that something horrible could occur at any moment (notice how every sharp object used for any reason gets its own, ominous close-up), but when something horrible does happen, it's usually far worse than whatever you envisioned, not just because of the incidents themselves, but because "Hereditary" is a rare horror movie that pays proper real-world attention to how individuals deal with trauma. We see the Grahams lying in bed, depressed to the point of paralysis. We see them nipping and snapping at each other, hiding inside themselves, hurting themselves and others. There are scenes in this film that brought me to the edge of tears because of how brutally people speak to each other, saying profoundly hurtful things that are as petty and self-serving as they are true, inflicting damage that can never be undone, all because they're in such pain that they need to see someone else hurting even worse.

It's not often that a horror movie so dedicated to the low art of the jump scare seems genuinely interested in the wider issues that it raises, but "Hereditary" is that kind of movie. At times, Aster's film seems to be attacking rationality itself, scraping and scratching and tearing at the thought structures and language we've developed over the millennia in order to live in the world, with the ultimate goal of plunging us backwards in time so that we reconnect with the superstitious cave-mind that looked up at the sky when it started to rain and wondered what the tribe had done to anger the gods.


The movie's final act raises questions about the verifiable reality of anything you've just seen, but it seems appropriate considering all the attention that the script paid to the idea of the inexplicable. Aster, his cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski, the camera and lighting crew, and the entire sound department deserve special recognition for coming up with creepy moments so specifically imagined that you truly can say you've never experienced  them before. It's been a while since I looked over my shoulder during a movie, to make sure something sinister wasn't lurking beyond my sightline, but this film made me do it. 
 
 

When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter's family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.

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20 June 2018 (Philippines)  »

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El legado del diablo  »

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#REVIEWSATURDAY - 211 (2018) - FILM REVIEW

211 (2018)



This movie begins in war-torn Afghanistan, where a dweeby post-yuppie (you can tell by the wire-rimmed glasses) paces in a trailer while his female assistant sits before a computer. Stuff is getting real, you can tell by the sound of her furious typing and the “funds transferring” window on the computer screen. That’s a heck of an operating system the machine has, letting you continue to input as funds are transferring. Anyway, she soon says, “Eees done, Meester Donovan. The moaney is secure.” And they pack up the laptop and hit the SUV, but wait, they’re ambushed, by, it turns out, Meester Donovan’s own security force, black op mercenary dudes of varying facial hair length. They are unhappy that Meester Donovan has tried to run out on them without paying them, and they impel their ex-boss to give him the name of one of the many banks where he’s scattered his hundreds of millions of ill-gotten war-profiteering dollars. And so he does, not before being told by one of the fellas “We’re not here to play games.”



And then they kill him. These guys don’t mess around. They even shot the woman with Meester Donovan in the back. As a foxy Interpol agent puts it, “These men do not panic. They adapt. And execute.”

Meanwhile, back in the states, high-school student Kenny (Michael Rainey, Jr.) in the midst of rather inexplicably making a cell phone video of himself entering the boy’s bathroom, is waylaid by three punks, one of whom tries to put his head in a urinal. Kenny is meek and Kenny is mild, but he gets off a fortunate punch just as an adult is walking in, and is sent to the principal’s office.

As punishment, Kenny has to do a “ride along” with some cops in his relatively crime-free Massachusetts neighborhood. One of those cops is Nicolas Cage, playing Mike Chandler, a Bitter Man In Widowhood Who Has Forgotten Why He Even Joined The Force. Mike’s partner is his son-in-law, Steve, who the morning of the ride along learns that his wife, Mike’s daughter, is pregnant with their first child.

By now you’ve probably guessed the location of the bank that the beardo mercenaries are gonna try to knock over, at which they will claim their prize of—this is great—ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Seriously, with all the explosives and weaponry these bozos have with them, the seed money for the heist had to have been half that. These super professional dudes roll into town screaming and cussing and doing the high-volume thing that most movie bank robbers know not to do, which is overtly call attention to themselves. Seriously, haven’t any of these idiots seen “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”?

It is fated that Disillusioned Cop, Disillusioned Cop’s Son-In-Law, and Innocent Ride Along Kid must confront this evil, and so they do. This movie has been variously self-described as “in the vein of ‘Black Hawk Down’ and ‘End of Watch,’” and “based on the true story of one of the longest and bloodiest events in police history.” I guess the “Black Hawk Down” comparison derives from the many gaping wounds the characters and the extras suffer. I don’t know where the rest comes from; because all told this effort is a cavalcade of crap. Loud crap.

The movie is mercifully brisk though; you don’t even get to work up a good head of steam against the villains, which may leave you feeling empty by the movie’s end. 



Bank heist movie in the vein of "End of Watch" meets "Black Hawk Down".

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30 May 2018 (Philippines)  »

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211 - Rapina in corso  »

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#REVIEWSATURDAY - HEARTS BEAT LOUD (2018) - FILM REVIEW

Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

PG-13 | | Drama, Music | 8 June 2018 (USA) 


The modest scope of "Hearts Beat Loud," a new film directed by Brett Haley, which he co-wrote with Marc Basch, is its strongest point. It's refreshing to watch a film that doesn't feel obligated to go for the brass ring (of emotion, or social commentary, or even plot). Low-key scenes play out in a casual way, with simply drawn characters eloquently filled in by the talented cast. There's a relief as an audience member when you don't get the sense that actors or director are pushing for catharsis, for a message, to keep you interested. But "Hearts Beat Loud" could use more urgency in the telling, more sense of what is at stake for the characters. 



Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) is a widower who owns a record shop in Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood far removed from the bustle of Manhattan. If you go to Red Hook, you can feel the ghost of its industrial shipping-port past, the warehouses, the waterfront, its isolation, but the winds of gentrification are blowing. Gentrification is not the topic of "Hearts Beat Loud," but it is the worrisome undercurrent for the main characters. Frank has owned Red Hook Records for 17 years, and his landlord Leslie (Toni Collette) has held off on raising the rent because she loves the store and she likes Frank. But it's time to sell, so Frank puts up signs in the window saying "Everything Must Go" (which might have been a more evocative title for the film). Frank's daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) is taking pre-med classes during the summer before heading out for college on the West Coast. It's the end of an era, in more ways than one. Frank and his late wife had a band together, and he and Sam unwind with impromptu jam sessions, writing songs at the end of a long day. It's one of the ways they bond. But all of the impending changes make Frank determined to create a band with his daughter, even if she's not particularly into it. He's let go of so much, he doesn't want to let go of her.

"Hearts Beat Loud" simmers on a low boil, and this is sometimes in its favor. Frank hangs out with the stoner owner (Ted Danson) of a local Red Hook dive, and sometimes does karaoke with Leslie. Sam meets a girl (Sasha Lane, from "American Honey") who works in an art gallery, and the two begin a sweet romance, poignant because their time is limited. When Frank uploads one of the songs he and Sam recorded to Spotify, it's a modest "hit." Frank suggests maybe Sam should delay college so they can start playing gigs. "Hearts Beat Loud" doesn't go the predictable route, where father and daughter take the indie rock scene by storm. The film is up to something quieter, more realistic.

Clemons is wonderful here, but Offerman is the revelation. Normally he plays big broad characters, and he does it very well. In "Hearts Beat Loud," he is internal, with loss and grief etched into his face. There are times, talking with his daughter, where you can feel the intensity of his emotions, his love for her, his fear of being alone, all things he cannot express. Frank never married again. His daughter is everything to him. He comes alive when talking about music. There's a beautiful moment where he reads some song lyrics Sam wrote, and realizes she must be in love with someone. "Do you have a girlfriend?" he asks her, excited, curious. (It's refreshing to have the "issue" of someone's sexual orientation not be an "issue" at all.) Frank's latching onto the father-daughter band idea comes from a place of pain and fear, and Offerman makes that very clear, without drowning the character in self-pity or self-importance.

There's a lot of music in "Hearts Beat Loud," with a couple of original songs composed by Keegan DeWitt ("Cold Weather," "Listen Up Philip," "Queen of Earth," "Kate Plays Christine," "The Incredible Jessica James"). The songs—performed by Offerman and Clemons—are a huge part of the texture of the film. Their performances play out in full, so you're given a chance to get swept away in Clemons' strong expressive voice, in the dynamic between the two actors, the love and appreciation they have for one another, the fun they have together.

Some aspects of "Hearts Beat Loud" feel sketched-in, almost like a first draft. Sam is shown going to only one pre-med class, where the teacher, in a lecture about the heart, mentions how falling in love makes the heart beat faster, and then says, "Okay! Let's talk about ventricles!" Despite the rigors of pre-med programs, Sam has unlimited free time to play music with her dad and hang out with her girlfriend. There's a meandering pointless feeling to some of the scenes with Ted Danson. It's like he's there as a character just to give Frank someone to talk to. Leslie is not as developed a character as she could be, although Collette brings nice shadings to her work, as always. And Frank's suggestion that Sam put off college so they can start a band isn't explored as the truly delusional idea that it is. He's literally holding her back! The film is so easy-going towards Frank that all kinds of intriguing and possibly intense emotional avenues remain unexplored. The heart of the film could have beat just a little bit louder. 



A father and daughter form an unlikely songwriting duo in the summer before she leaves for college.

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8 June 2018 (USA)  »

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Los corazones laten fuerte  »

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#REVIEWSATURDAY - WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR (2018) - FILM REVIEW

Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)




“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” presents the history of Fred McFeely Rogers, Presbyterian minister, children’s advocate and the most beloved Republican since Abe Lincoln. Like Honest Abe, Mr. Rogers was known for wearing a specific article of clothing and his ability to sweet talk a Congressman or two. From 1968 to 2001, Mr. Rogers kept millions of little ones out of their parents’ hair by offering a half hour program designed to counter the cartoon violence and frenetic pacing of practically every other kids’ show on the air. On PBS, he sang, offered advice and worked a cat puppet whose feline vocal tic drove my mother absolutely insane. 15 years after his death, the heroic endeavors of Fred Rogers are finally being celebrated on the big screen.

One of the many “stand up and cheer” moments in Morgan Neville’s enchanting documentary, at least for me, is when cellist Yo-Yo Ma describes his first meeting with the man who will forever be known as the proprietor of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” “He scared the hell out of me,” says Ma. I felt vindicated, because when I was a kid, Mr. Rogers terrified me too. He made me nervous, a condition exacerbated by my cousin telling me that he was actually a serial killer. According to her, Mr. Rogers lured people on his show and then decapitated them with the Museum-Go-Round.


Whatever Mr. Rogers was up to, watching his show made me uneasy; he was just too mild-mannered, too quiet and too calm. That felt odd, because the environment of my upbringing was anything but calm and quiet. My sister thought he was magical, though, proving that old adage about girls figuring out things long before boys do. Eventually, I came around to her way of thinking, and it only took 24 years before I realized just what it was that made Mr. Rogers so beloved and so effective.

More on that later. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” puts to rest many of the most common rumors about Mr. Rogers. It does so in the same blunt yet understated way that its subject dealt out information to kids. The “torso full of tattoos” rumor is addressed by showing Mr. Rogers swimming his daily mile in the local pool. To my chagrin, there’s no mention of on-set violence featuring buildings from the Land of Make Believe, but the film makes up for that by revealing the inspiration for the puppet who lived inside the Museum-Go-Round. It’s a hilarious moment that shows that respectable Mr. Rogers could also be mischievous—and petty!

Rather than rely on celebrities or viewers espousing what Mr. Rogers meant to them, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” makes judicious use of a few people closest to the man or his neighborhood. These include his wife, Joanne and their children plus castmembers David “Mr. McFeely” Newell, François “Officer Clemmons” Clemmons and Joe “Handyman” Negri. Negri in particular makes the neighborhood set sound like a riotous party, but everyone leans into the idea that, under Mr. Rogers' sweet exterior was a true radical. And maybe even a clairvoyant: In a clip from the Neighborhood’s first week on the air, the Land of Make Believe’s “benevolent monarch” puppet King Friday XIII issues a proclamation to build a wall to keep “undesirables” out!

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” makes this “he’s a radical” idea credible. After all, a troublemaking idea existed in the titular song that Mr. Rogers sang to the kiddies at the beginning of each show. Here was a White man inviting everyone to live in his ‘hood, regardless of color. “I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,” he sings, a sentiment that wasn’t shared by most Americans in the still-segregated era when "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood" premiered. (Eddie Murphy’s brilliant parody, “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood,” excerpted here in a brief clip, seizes upon this “Fear of a Black Neighbor” notion and runs with it.) But Mr. Rogers’ true genius was showing by example, and Neville highlights two memorable instances of this.

The first is Mr. Rogers’ early appearance before Congress on behalf of funding for LBJ’s newest creation, the Public Broadcasting System. Facing an adversarial Senator Pastore, who had already made up his mind to pan PBS, Mr. Rogers makes his argument by simply reciting the words to a song he had written for his show. Pastore folds immediately. “You’ve just earned your $20 million,” he says. You wouldn’t buy this in a Jimmy Stewart movie—and God help us if this had to play out in today’s Washington D.C.—yet you can find this fascinating footage on YouTube.

The second instance of Mr. Rogers leading by example occurs with the character of Officer Clemmons. As an African-American, Clemmons was at first hesitant to play a cop on the show, but he realizes the importance of kids of color seeing a friendly, familiar-looking face as law enforcement. Even more importantly, he participates in a bit where Mr. Rogers basically gives the finger to the notion of segregated swimming pools by inviting Clemmons to join him in a very small wading pool. Neville intercuts this scene from the show with footage of White lifeguards pouring bleach into a pool where Black kids were swimming.

Clemmons also figures in an incident where Mr. Rogers wasn’t so enlightened. Someone from the show discovered that the then-closeted at work Clemmons had been to a gay bar. “I had a good time!” says Clemmons, who was then told that any future bar visits would result in his termination from the show. I can only imagine which Land of Make Believe puppet got tasked with informing Clemmons that Mister Roger’s Neighborhood did not have a Castro District. (I hope it was Henrietta Pussycat saying “meow meow gay bar meow meow nuh-uh meow meow fired!”) But at least Clemmons informs us that Mr. Rogers “eventually came around” to acceptance.

“Love is at the root of everything,” Mr. Rogers tells us in an early clip, “or lack of it.” Like his fellow puppeteer and PBS colleague Jim Henson, Fred Rogers used puppets to deliver much of his message. His first puppet, Daniel Striped Tiger, serves as an animated avatar between segments because, as Mrs. Rogers points out, Daniel was an evocation of her husband’s childhood feelings of insecurity and his need to be loved. It’s hinted that Mr. Rogers was bullied as a heavyset kid—he was called “fat Freddie” and picked on, which may have led to his insistence in adulthood that a child’s feelings were as important as any adult’s. Folks are quick to point out, however, that while Daniel represents innocence, Mr. Rogers also does the voice of King Friday XIII, who clearly represents that adult need to always get one’s way.

Looking at “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” with adult eyes is rather fascinating. You notice that there’s a clear distinction between imagination and reality—we’re never lead to believe that the puppet segments are anything but pretend, for example. Mr. Rogers never talks down to his viewers, nor does he really sugarcoat uncomfortable things like anger or death. He’s very matter of fact, and his manner was deliberate, constant and repetitive. Which leads me to my moment of Mr. Rogers clarity.

Many years ago, I’d come home from my Wall Street job in a state of great agitation and upset. I was stressed out, worn out and miserable beyond measure. I absent-mindedly turned on the television and went into the kitchen to make dinner. For some reason, my TV was on PBS and I could hear Mr. Rogers talking from the other room. Despite paying only half an ear’s worth of attention, I suddenly realized what it was that earned the undying love of kids like my sister: Mr. Rogers made you feel like someone gave a damn about you. He said you were special. He did NOT, as the jackasses at Fox News and the Wall Street Journal claimed in hideous failure-blaming articles, promise you success or glory. He just told you that, no matter what you looked like, how able you were or how much money you had, that you had value.

I stood in my kitchen listening to this message, which I of course should have already known as an adult,  and I started to cry. I tell you this because I had the same reaction at the end of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I sat in the critics’ screening room holding my notepad up to my face so that nobody would know I was sobbing. Now, if someone like me, whose childhood memories of Mr. Rogers involve rumored mass murder sprees, could have this reaction, you can only imagine what this film will do to you if you’ve always loved this man. Bring Kleenex. Lots of it.




An exploration of the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children's television host, Fred Rogers.

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8 June 2018 (USA)  »

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