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10/10
Dollar Tree Tycoon: Chronicle of a Failure Foretold
5 January 2019
This film caught me by utter surprise with its sophisticated critique of 21st-century trade relations, its razor-sharp commentary on capitalist globalization, its caustic and bleak humor, and its excellent pacing. The films takes us on a journey alongside an utterly clueless middle-aged protagonist from his moment of inspiration in a Texas dollar store )where he's dressed like a goofy millenial "bro," Affliction t-shirt and all), to his misadventures selling bootleg segways, to his ultimate destination in the "Inner Mongolian Blank Region" -- the under-construction megacity of Ordos, a sort of inverted version of the land our "cowboy" sought to escape. The film brilliantly explores the absurdities of the symbiotic relationship between a past-its-prime US and a rising "New China" without for a single moment retreating into lame explication, preachiness, or other sanctimonies. Every character is memorable, from "the Specialist" to the foul-mouthed scooter salesman, and the documentary style makes the film feel as real as anything without stretching credulity -- even when it makes a "Sorry To Bother You"-style turn into the realm of the absurd. This is one of the best U.S. indies I've seen in years, and deserves cult status!

P.S. I felt obligated to leave a good review of this film considering the poor user ratings (5.5 at the time that this was written) and dearth of buzz it seems to have received from mainstream audiences.
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5/10
Somewhat Vapid Treatment of WWII Imperial Japanese
11 May 2017
A somewhat interesting film about the legendary World War II commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy. However, there was a lingering aftertaste of imperialist nostalgia and aspirations in the film. Big budget drama with lots of court intrigues & a bit of decent CGI of aerial battles between Zeros and Mustangs, Pearl Harbor, etc. Not poorly-made but presents a sanitized, sentimental depiction of Japanese naval brass -- their 'patriotism' and professionalism are depicted as far distinct from the ideological fanatics in I.J. Army. The film tries hard to seem anti-war with captains & officers reminiscing about eggplant rice-pot and sweet dumplings, dreaming of civilian life when they picked on smaller nations & weren't fighting the epic battles vs. the US. However, criticism of the war is somewhat restricted to the detached domestic pro-war mood, the "Bushido dishonor" of the Pearl Harbor ambush and the indiscreet alliance with Germany, no mention can be found of violence vs. civilian victims of Japanese imperialism in Asia. This is a huge sin of omission when honest students of history acknowledge an estimated 10+ million civilian lives claimed by IJA/IJN war crimes, including genocide, in pursuit of expansionist attempts to conquer the region. Lesson learned is that the Japanese fought gloriously for their nation even when this demanded loyalty to the militarist cause. This seems insidious as modern Japan under Nippon Kaigi nationalist leadership shifts toward revanchism and historical revisionism while the executive considers making the maintenance of an air force, navy, and standing army "constitutional" through the junking of Constitution Article 9.
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