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The Student

A serious, sharply mounted drama that gets more engrossing as it moves along.

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Free Fire

A "Reservoir Dogs" knockoff 25 years after "Reservoir Dogs."

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Jim Crow casting?

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Marianne Pearl as Marianne Pearl.

My paen to a new, browner America in the age of 300 million (below) was in part a satirical (though sincere) reaction to the non-story about whether a "real mixed-race actress" should play Mariane Pearl, the wife of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, instead of Angelina Jolie, who is reported to wear make-up that darkens her skin-tone. This is how far we've come from Jim Crow laws: race is everything and if you're an octoroon, you'd better have the credentials to prove it if you want a job as an actor!

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Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl

In the current HBO documentary, "The Journalist and the Jihadi, Mariane Pearl herself describes her background: "I was born in Paris, my mother's Cuban, my father's Dutch, I'm a Buddhist -- all this exotic stuff." Angelina Jolie, however, has a French name and a French godmother (Jacqueline Bissett) but was born in America to the grandson of a Czech immigrant (actor Jon Voight) and a mother who is part American Indian (Haudenosaunee). So, do we really have to have a contest about who's more "mixed race"?

Daniel Pearl, meanwhile, was a Jew from Encino, a classically trained violinist who switched to country fiddle and then to journalism. Who the hell are they gonna get to play that?

ADDENDUM: Mariane Pearl role originally to have been played by Jennifer Aniston; Pearl's response to Jolie.

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