The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Hiro Kore-eda's Shoplifters beat out Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman for the prestigious Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. You probably couldn't find two more diametrically opposed movies. Lee's film (which won the Grand Prix award instead) takes a bold approach to its subject matter, whereas Kore-eda's is a slow, contemplative work that takes time to get into. If you have the patience to stick it out, you'll find a lot of meaning inside this slice-of-life story.

It's about an impoverished family living in a cramped little home. To get by, they rely on shoplifting. One of the members, Osamu (Lily Franky), stumbles upon an abused little girl while returning home from one such stealing spree. He and his wife Noboyu (Sakura Ando) decide to take her in, conveniently overlooking the fact that this is kidnapping. Three quarters of Shoplifters follows the family as they struggle to make ends meet and indoctrinate the girl into their thieving ways. The final quarter takes everything we think we know about the clan and turns it on its ear. Not much overt happens in the story, yet by the end, we've gotten a poignant look not only at how hard the struggle of poverty is, but also the way desperation can bring flawed people together. Strong performances and an effective fly-on-the-wall approach add to the overall impact.

( out of four)

The Last Race

I'm not sure who the target audience for The Last Race is. The documentary has too little stock car racing for stock car racing enthusiasts, and too much stock car racing for non-stock car racing enthusiasts. The setting is a Long Island race track that struggles to hold on as the area around it is developed into shopping plazas and Walmart Supercenters. We meet the owners, a couple of the racers, and a few fans over the course of a season.

Director Michael Sweck tries to drop the audience into the middle of this subculture. However, he takes a "turn the camera on and film whatever's in front of it" approach that is annoyingly scattershot. There's a nearly three-minute shot of an announcer calling a race, several minutes of a guy and his son working on a car, and so on, with little context provided. The idea of quaint Americana being crowded out by giant corporations that turn every town into a virtual carbon copy of every other town is barely capitalized upon. A few moments, including a fight between drivers, generate some interest. Sweck additionally delivers some cool racing shots by putting his camera on the back of a car during an event, providing us with a back-bumper POV. Mostly, though, The Last Race feels like the work of someone who wanted to make a documentary but had no clue what story he wanted to tell.

( out of four)

Shoplifters is rated R for some sexual content and nudity. The running time is 2 hours and 1 minute. The Last Race is unrated, but contains some strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 15 minutes.

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