All the Beauty and the Bloodshed documents P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), the movement that held Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma, and its Sackler-family owners responsible for the opioid drug crisis that has killed more than 400,000 people. Led by famous photographer Nan Goldin, the activists bankrupted the company, extracted $6 billion in cash, and convinced many institutions that had received Sackler donations to remove the family's name from their museums and art galleries. But the Sacklers weren't criminally prosecuted. This visually graphic film garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Although it traces the movement's evolution, it dwells more on Goldin's tragic family history, avant-garde photography, and sordid past. It should have been two documentaries.
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Babylon simultaneously celebrates and denigrates Hollywood but ultimately is a tribute to the motion-picture industry. Be warned that at times it's sexually graphic and violent, and the dialogue is always coarse. It's also more than three hours long, though never boring. It opens during the 1920s silent-film era when Hollywood was awash in money, sex, drugs, and scandals. Little-known Diego Calva stars as a young Mexican immigrant yearning for even the lowliest job on a movie set. During a huge depraved party at a producer's mansion, he falls in love with a young woman who's eager to become an actress. Margot Robbie nails this role and should have been nominated for an Oscar. Brad Pitt adeptly plays a silent-film star who has trouble adapting to talkies. This production is extravagant in depicting Hollywood extravagance and decadence, sometimes exaggerated. Babylon achieves the rarity of being both revolting and uplifting.
Tár wastes Cate Blanchett's Oscar-nominated performance on a disjointed story about a top-rank orchestra conductor whose career is jeopardized. To establish her expertise, much of the dialogue contains esoteric references to classical music in three languages (English, German, and French) that only viewers deeply immersed in this culture will understand. Much less of this showy talk would have sufficed. A few brief scenes hint of future trouble, but not until halfway does this film begin to reveal itself and even then, it takes irrelevant detours. The emergent theme is a gender-reversed "Me Too" scandal involving allegations of sexual impropriety that is negatively compared with overzealous denazification after World War II. But the theme is nearly lost in abrupt scenes and choppy editing. Too bad, because Blanchett's performance is spectacular. Oddly, this jumbled production has been nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actress (Blanchett), Original Screenplay, Cinematography, and (?!) Film Editing. It won nothing.
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"Partially Buried Woodshed" was an unorthodox earth artwork created in 1970 by Robert Smithson at Kent State University in Ohio. After an arson attack and decades of deterioration, only traces remain, and new campus buildings and parking lots occupy the site. I took numerous photographs of the artwork while it still existed in 197576. Now you can see a few of them, never before published.
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