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Reel Time June 2019

UglyDolls

A factory produces different kinds of felt dolls, and all of them must pass through quality control inspection. When a doll is deemed imperfect, it is sent to a hidden and remote inlet along the shoreline called Uglyville. There, Ox (voice of Blake Shelton) is the paternal figure watching over the community of misfit dolls, who enjoy life. They do not see their imperfections or compare themselves to anyone else.

Moxy (voice of Kelly Clarkson) is a happy doll who loves to sing songs. But she knows that every human child is supposed to have a doll to love, and she wants to find her child. Moxy wants to see what is on the other side of the mountain where ugly dolls come from. She and her friends make their way through a pipeline and discover a town called Perfection. Lou (voice of Nick Jonas) is the mayor of the town. He tells all the brand-new dolls that he will help them get ready to pass the final test to become a doll that a child will want to have.

Lou assigns Mandy (voice of Janelle Monáe) to find a place for Moxy and her friends to stay in the cookie-cutter doll village. It turns out to be a shed, but the dolls make the best of it. Mandy accidentally drops her eyeglasses that were hidden in her pocket. She knows that if Lou discovers she is not perfect, she will be rejected and sent to Uglyville or be recycled. The next day, when all the dolls must begin the process of quality control, truths are revealed and life lessons are learned.

UglyDolls is named for a popular line of plush toys that hit the US market around 2001. The idea for an animated film, according to director Kelly Asbury, has been around for about as long. Themes of being true to oneself, self-confidence, positive body image, and kindness abound in the face of bullying and peer pressure. While this is obviously a movie directed at children, adults can appreciate the opportunity to reflect on the power of positive self-esteem and looking for the good in everyone. Clarkson is a perfect voice for Moxy.

Not yet rated, PG • Brief moments of animated peril.


Reel 2 (1) 

Knock Down the House

This documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year and is now available on Netflix. It documents the primary campaigns of four female Democratic candidates who decide to run for the seats in Congress: Amy Vilela of Nevada, Cori Bush of Missouri, Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Each of these candidates was chosen through the efforts of two organizations made up of people who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential campaign.

What stands out about these four female candidates is twofold: They have never run or won a race for elected office; and they represent gender and ethnic diversity. Taking on the House and the Senate, which are made up of mostly white males, would not be easy. In fact, only Ocasio-Cortez, or “AOC” as she is widely known, won her primary election.his documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year and is now available on Netflix.

Each woman has a story that motivated her to run. Vilela lost her 22-year-old daughter, who went to the hospital with signs of a blood clot but was refused care because she could not find her insurance information. Bush’s district includes Ferguson, Missouri, where riots broke out in 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown. Swearengin tells of how she comes from one of the poorest states in the nation and that no one in America should have to beg for clean water. Ocasio-Cortez, a waitress and bartender with a college education, stands up for working people and against corporate interests in the political process.

While this is a documentary about these four candidates, it glosses over the grassroots organizations that empowered these women to take back a political system that they believe has been hijacked by lobbyists and corporate interests. I would have liked to learn more about these mostly young people and seasoned community organizers. AOC is the film’s darling, but the three other strong women profiled are deeply inspiring and committed in their own right.

Not yet rated • Mature themes.


Reel 3 (1)

Photograph

Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) lives in Mumbai with several other young men working to support themselves and send money back home. Rafi is particularly focused on earning enough to pay off debts and buy back the family home in his village. One day he takes a photo of Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), a young woman who is visiting the tourist attraction where he has stationed himself to take pictures and develop them on the spot for money. Miloni is attending classes to become an accountant, but her parents want her to marry a young man who is going to America to study.

It seems that everyone in Rafi’s Mumbai neighborhood knows that his grandmother, who wants him to get married, has stopped taking her medication until he does. Desperate, he sends her the photo of Miloni, whom he doesn’t even know, and tells his grandma that she is his fiancée. When Grandma decides to come for a visit, things become complicated.afi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) lives in Mumbai with several other young men working to support themselves and send money back home.

This sweet coming-of-age story is by writer-director Ritesh Batra, who made 2013’s The Lunchbox. I love both of these films because they offer insights into humanity, family, culture, and the values that guide us through life. Photograph is in Hindi and English with English subtitles.

Not yet rated, PG-13 • Mature themes that may require parental guidance.


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