My Second 10 Favorites
A devastatingly powerful story of the hardships of living life at the edges when you are poor or a refugee in Lebanon, from the point of view of a 12-year-old boy living with his ‘family’. The desperation and brutal choices that everyone is forced into making are starkly shown without compromise. This is no glossy tale, but a raw gut-punch style with lots of handheld from a low angle – the eye level of children – which puts you right into their world. Achingly sorrowful with glimmers of kindness and just a tad bit of hope.
Absolutely delicious acting for the three lead roles – Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah, Emma Stone as Abigail, and especially Olivia Colman as Queen Anne (Best Supporting Oscar). In what could easily have been just a typical comedy of manners, writers Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara have crafted much more, with dark undertones, treachery, betrayal and tragedy, and director Yorgos Lanthimos has delivered with style and a strong guiding hand.
Happy as Lazzaro
Director Alice Rohrwacher creates a compelling story whose script won the writing prize at Cannes, and this film is stylistically consistent with her previous film The Wonders, starring her sister Alba, who also stars here, and Monica Bellucci. This film left me reflective about the fate of a good man in the world today, and how grace or god might be present among us, but we miss due to indifference and selfishness. Read the Full Post
Isle of Dogs
A deeply engaging and beautifully crafted film, rich in imagination and gorgeous in its visuals, ripe with references to Japanese culture and cinema, and with an undertone that connects to the political issues of our time. Many have noted the film’s cultural homage vs cultural appropriation issues, most glaringly in having the heroine Tracy be a white American teenager. That’s a mistake which mars the film, as does Anderson’s use of English in what amounts to a marginalization of Japanese language and identity. It’s difficult to fully appreciate all the great things the film has going for it in light of these issues, but I liked many other things about the film. Read the Full Post
Leave No Trace
Delicately directed by Debra Granik who invests in silence as communication, and a deeply moving father-daughter story examining the pain and brokenness which PTSD can inflict. Excellent performances by Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie.
Minding the Gap
This documentary focusing on three men in their early twenties, one of them the director, who were consumed with skateboarding as a lifestyle and refuge from the difficult family relationships they were raised under. Although at first it seems as if the film is about skateboarding, it is really more about growing up and out of the violence and abuse each has suffered, and the choices each man will make, choices which affect who they are and who they love. Very compelling and raw, with profound empathy in its openness and honesty.
A Quiet Place
We have all been in situations where we should be quiet, maybe even need to be quiet. What if being quiet every moment, every second, was the only way to keep you and your family alive? What would you do to protect them? Living out that simple premiss is a very difficult reality in this ambitious and beautifully realized horror/science fiction film. Read Full Post
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Perhaps one of the most fully realized comic book films of all time, with the freshness, humor and fun of the comics experience. It’s also a great take on a science-fiction multi-verse with a well crafted structure, brilliant use of colors, framing and editing. It could easily be the best animated film of the year, but also one of the year’s best films period.
The most blistering indictment of the GOP since Nixon’s presidency, with the long line of players who have led us to these dysfunctional times, all centering on Dick Cheney as the pivotal figure. An excellent cast with even the smaller parts shinning… Read the Full Post
Wildlife is a film which takes a courageously honest look at a couple and the complexity of their love and choices, and the profound effect they have on each other and especially their teenage son. It is starkly real, refusing to whitewash or simplify, or sensationalize for the sake of drama. An excellent directorial debut by Paul Dano who seems as profound a teller of a complex story as he is an actor of complex characters. Read the Full Post