Transit – 8

2019-03-11T05:44:14+00:00March 11th, 2019|Reviews|

A teaser of a mystery thriller, in which each plot point you anticipate turns in another direction. Franz Rogowski, for starters, didn't seem like the leading man, until he was. And all the pieces you expected to fall into place at the end, fell apart. German storm troopers invading Paris made you think this was [...]

Birds of Passage – 8

2019-03-11T05:28:53+00:00March 11th, 2019|Reviews|

The story of how an indigenous Colombian culture goes to pot, literally and figuratively. Cristina Gallego does a remarkable job of locating us inside the world of the Wayuu people (think Dances With Wolves) then setting in motion a tragic scenario in which everything and everyone is destroyed (think Hamlet or Lear). This was also the country and [...]

Never Look Away – 9*

2019-03-11T05:13:58+00:00March 11th, 2019|Reviews|

This may be the best film about an artist I've ever seen, plus it's a searing look at Nazi-era Germany and a charming love story. It also features six captivating (and attractive) actors who fill the screen and absorb our attention, none more than Tom Schilling, who radiates intelligence with his every look. Sebastian Koch, [...]

Cold War – 6.5

2019-02-21T04:36:34+00:00February 21st, 2019|Reviews|

Filmed in bleak-and-white, Cold War tells the oft-told tale of a man driven by lust who gives us his career, his country, and ultimately his life enslaved by his infatuation. She does little to merit his devotion and much to mock it, leaving me to impatiently and vainly implore him to get over it. The setting [...]

Top Ten 2018

2019-02-21T00:40:39+00:00February 21st, 2019|Essays, Reviews|

Just in time for Oscar voting, I list my favorite films of 2018. As I grow older, I find I rate films less on artistic merit or innovation or cultural relevance and more on the questions, Did I enjoy myself and Would I recommend the film to all my friends? Thus, my choices may seem [...]

Capernaum – 8

2019-02-18T05:54:01+00:00February 18th, 2019|Reviews|

A tremendously powerful film about a 12-year-old street urchin in Lebanon who alternately games the system and is thwarted by it. The depiction of Arab street life might be hard to take for the unfamiliar viewer, but resonated with my North African Peace Corps memories. The plight of the refugee woman and son, not to [...]

If Beale Street Could Talk – 6

2019-01-07T22:50:57+00:00January 7th, 2019|Reviews|

Beale Street is a long, slow street we're asked to walk, without a happy end in sight. There is one scene that crackles, when the future in-laws come over to hear the news, but if that record plays at 78, the rest is 33-1/3. The two lead actors are bland in their goodness, and the [...]

Vice – 7.8

2019-01-03T05:02:19+00:00January 3rd, 2019|Reviews|

Watching this, I was two-thirds ashamed to be an American, with our recent history running from Richard Nixon through the phony justifications of the Iraq invasion, but one-third proud to live in a culture that could produce such a clever, popular takedown of a living public figure. Some caricatures misfired - especially Steve Carrell's Donald [...]

Shoplifters – 8

2019-01-02T01:36:50+00:00January 2nd, 2019|Reviews|

A meditation on family, Shoplifters also hits home as a reflection on what counts as progress in Japanese society since Yasujiro Ozu's very similar films in the 1950s. Most obvious is the style of filmmaker Kore-eda, shooting from tatami-level. Then there is the plot of everyday family matters, one vignette of daily life after another [...]

Vox Pop – 3.5

2018-12-23T06:14:03+00:00December 23rd, 2018|Reviews|

The opening ten minutes was a bracingly, convincingly staged school shooting and aftermath that gave me hope for an original, relevant film. The pre-Natalie Portman Celeste character then sings her original song in response to the terror, it goes You-Tube viral and the film collapses into cliche and the movie version of life. Her song [...]