My Last 10 Favorites
A really interesting fantasy of modern-day trolls in Sweden unfolds slowly but powerfully, driven by the amazing performance of Eva Melander as Tina. She’s a customs agent who has the ability to smell people’s feelings, deciphering who is carrying contraband or reeks of shame, etc. She’s unaware of her true nature, believing she was born with a chromosomal defect which has made her look and be the way she is. Director Ali Abbasi often lingers on Tina in closeup, letting Ms. Melander play a range of emotions through her prosthetic makeup. The film’s quirky concept is never played for laughs, and feels like a commentary on what it’s like to be different and resigned to being less-than.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Based on the memoir of failed biographer Lee Israel’s life of forging collectable letters from well know authors, this really good film has a tremendous performance by Melissa McCarthy as Israel and a delicious one by Richard E. Grant as her friend and partner in crime Jack Hock. Director Marielle Heller is able to tell a compelling story and keep us engaged and sympathetic towards Israel, who is really not a nice person, and one who is barely able to keep her life together after failure as a writer and a human being.
The Death of Stalin
Funny and politically poignant with an outstanding ensemble cast featuring Steve Buscemi, this film would pair nicely with Vice.
I was most impressed by the performances of Rachel Wise, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola, and by the direction of Sebastián Lelio. This is his first film after A Fantastic Woman, the 2018 Oscar winner for Foreign Language Feature. He continues to show great strengths and sensitivity to the characters in his stories.
Well worth a viewing for many reasons, not the least of which is director Damien Chazelle’s creative hand. The film left me less emotionally connected to Neil Armstrong than I’d hoped to be, which I suspect is because Neil is enigmatic in real life. Very good performances by Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy as the Armstrongs, and amazing technical achievements in reproducing what it might be like to hurtle into space in what today seems like primitive equipment.
The Other Side of the Wind
Orson Welles’ unfinished final film is constructed from gathered footage, notes and the thoughts gleaned from those who worked with him, most notably Peter Bogdanovich who has a roll in the film and was a close friend of Welles before a fallout. The film’s cinematic construction and editing style are a forerunner to future sensibilities. Once again Welles is ahead of his time. It would have been great to see the film as Welles himself would have completed it, but given this is the closest we can come, it’s pretty impressive.
Sorry to Bother You
So much attempted and so much realized that I found its failings easy to overlook. Bold and deep like Get Out but far more edgy. It’s fun to see Oakland so well represented, and a great cast is led by Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson.
A Star Is Born
Bradley Cooper stars with Lady Gaga in this retake on the film and brings his directorial debut to the screen acquitting himself well. The first act is the best with great chemistry between Mr. Cooper and Ms. Gaga during their budding relationship scenes. The music is great and it’s a nice modern spin of the issues about honest talent being transformed into something more marketable – an especially poignant point given a pop star plays that role.
An unsettling story about two teenage girls, each suffering from some level of mental illness, or is it just being a teenager at its most extreme. Beautifully shot in a neo-noir style and well constructed to maximize the mystery about these two characters, the power comes from the performances of the leads, Olivia Cooke as Amanda, who does not feel anything, and Anya Taylor-Joy playing Lily, Amanda’s estranged childhood friend who is reconnecting after precipitating events in each of their lives. Each actress is spot-on in their portrayals, and Cooke excels at crafting a believable character who is high functioning and ‘normal’ in spite of hardly showing any reactive emotion. Also, Anton Yelchin, in what was his final performance release, brings heart and humanity as Tim, a minor league drug dealer with delusions of grandeur.
Erik Friedlander’s non-traditional score utilizing drumbeats, electronic sounds and ‘background’ noises is very effective and perfect for the subject matter. The psychology of the film is intriguing, but its execution is striking and makes me expectant to see what’s next from director Cory Finley.
Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis star in a detailed look into the day-to-day life of a young mother directed by Jason Reitman. There are many laughs but the film is filled with the weight of the challenges of parenting. The Diablo Cody script takes us where we don’t expect, which should be no surprise from this writer.