In the Star Wars universe, all things old are new again. Episode VII played much like an Episode IV ("the original Star Wars") retread; meanwhile, the new installment feels like a return to Dagobah… only this time we're on a little island that's supposed to be the site of the original Jedi Temple, and instead of Yoda (Frank Oz), Luke himself has aged into the grizzled old master. Is there really any Zen/Taoist wisdom conveyed here? Not a great deal, but just enough of a few new ideas to keep it fun.
If this movie wins big at the Oscars, it will be the year of Liberalism… or Donald Trump backlash. Tom Hanks (as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (as the publisher, Katherine Graham) are first rate as usual, establishing their liberal credentials in bold letters. But the film is good enough to transcend is Nixon Era polemics. It enfolds like a suspenseful political thriller, much like All the President's Men did once decades ago.
In a way, it's a very strange, even improbable story that shouldn't work. A woman is tried of seeing the local police force fail to find her daughter's killer, so she rents some vacant billboard space to get a little publicity. It should have ended there, but the law of Unintended Consequences ensures that a whole series of Unfortunate Events follow as a result. The performances by Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and Frances McDormand are all terrific. Be advised, though: it's more violent than you might expect.
Remember many years ago, when skater Nancy Kerrigan was America's Sweetheart and Tony Harding (Morgot Robbie) became something of a national joke? Well, it turns out that Tonya really was one of the greatest skiers of all time and just never got a break. Who new? In any case, the film editing is astonishing here (and my vote to win that award) because you literally cannot tell that it isn't Margot Robbie doing all these impossible jumps. With Allison Janey as the mother from hell.