Eight new awards season film reviews from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers


Click on the titles for the full reviews


Today, the Internet, 24 hour cable news and smartphones have eroded attention spans, but the need for honest, truthful reporting remains as important as ever.

That’s why The Post, Steven Spielberg’s story of how The Washington Post risked everything in 1971 to publish The Pentagon Papers is important for modern audiences to understand the role of a free press. Spielberg knows how to grab your attention with great storytelling in a straightforward portrayal of this moment in history. The Pentagon Papers showed that the government was sending young men and women to serve and die in a war that they knew could not be won.

Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks team up to tell a story with implications for today’s headlines. Written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer (Spotlight) with a good sense how reporters talk in the rough and tumble newsroom atmosphere, the pace never stalls.


This is a dark comedy told from the point of view of each of the characters involved in Olympic Figure Skater Tonya Harding’s life. And are they characters! Flawed in so many ways. But what makes this film interesting is that Director Craig Gillespie actually turns the camera, breaking the fourth wall and has the characters talk directly into the camera and to you, scripted by writer Steven Rogers (StepMom, Hope Floats). They describe Tonya, relationships and situations from their own perspective which is usually a different story.  It was inspired by an interview he saw with Tonya and her husband Jeff where they didn’t agree on anything.


Three is the magic number for this film. Three Billboards presents three incredible performances in another dark comedy crafted by Irish Director Martin McDonagh(In Bruges). McDonagh says he saw similar billboards in the US some 20 years ago and wanted to write a film with strong female lead.

Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell star in this extraordinary film about a mother frustrated that the police chief of Ebbing Missouri has not been able to find who killed her daughter. The script is so well written the actors say it was like a gift. The gift is wrapped in the masterful execution of the material McDonagh worked 8 years to create.And, he’s even added some action. Just when it gets super serious, something strange or funny happens to keep you wondering.


This is one tense, powerful, film that is one of the big surprises of the season. There’s been as much drama behind the scenes making this film as there is in the film itself. This is Michelle Williams’ movie all the way. She shows the frustration being married to a Getty without power or money, having her son kidnapped with no way to get the money to pay the ransom to get him back, and, even worse, dealing with her belligerent father-in-law who has all the money in the world and is, indeed, the richest man in the world. This may be her best role yet.


Greta Gerwig is already known for her writing and acting. But now she has another credit with her impressive directorial debut, “Lady Bird.” It was  originally called “Mothers and Daughters” and that’s basically what it’s about, set in 2002-2003. Christine McPherson is a high school senior who has given herself the name “Lady Bird” to create a more interesting identity for herself. Saoirse Ronan is older but hits high school rebel vs. adult attitude spot-on. She runs the gamut of emotions of a girl with raging hormones and without any hint of her real Irish accent. She swears in American accent all too well.


Aaron Sorkin isn’t generally known for making women the lead characters in his TV projects and movies. But he gladly went for this one. He not only wrote the screenplay but, hard to believe, his first time directing. Sorkin was intrigued by Molly Bloom’s book detailing the events leading up to her arrest when the government confiscated millions and more in property. This film goes further.


Forgiveness and transformation may be in short supply these days and that’s what it was like in 1892. This film shows how someone’s attitude toward a lifelong enemy can change. It’s a very slow and deliberate journey, but hang with it for the performances by Christian Bale as Captain Joe Blocker, Rosamund Pike as Rosalie Quaid, and Wes Studi as Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk. Just know, there isn’t a light moment in this film.

Director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace, Black Mass) was glad this wasn’t his first film. He has a lot of respect for Western directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks and knew it would be hard to live up to them even though his Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges was a big success. But Cooper knew that making Westerns is expensive, often with tough conditions, especially when it involves moving cast and crew on horseback through the elements. It rained a lot during his shoot, and they encountered a few rattlesnakes and bears just to make it even more interesting.


This film is remarkable for its simplicity. Director Luca Guadagnino allows a summer romance to play out as a beautiful, tender revelation of the senses, between two young men. Based on the 2007 novel by André Aciman, the  the emerging attraction between 17 year old Elio Perlman, (Timothée Chalamet – Lady Bird) and 24 year old Oliver (Armie Hammer).

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