- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) – I went in pretty blind and was not prepared for this expertly written, emotionally gripping story of a woman’s fight for justice. Writer/director Martin McDonagh fully develops the three lead characters, seemingly everyday people, into near-mythic proportions. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
- The Disaster Artist (2017) – Good-hearted tale of friendship and the struggles of Hollywood, as experienced by Tommy Wiseau and the making of his infamous The Room. James Franco is fully committed to his portrayal of Wiseau, and consistently energizes the film even when it (occasionally) loses steam. RECOMMENDED.
- Coco (2017) – I simply can’t get enough of this movie. One of its many strengths is that every time I watch it, a different theme or moment affects me that I hadn’t noticed in previous viewings. The painful tragedy between Hector and Mama Imelda won this round. Read my original review here, and this one is absolutely REQUIRED.
- Jabberwocky (1977) – I sometimes struggle with the works of the Monty Python crew, but this oddball fantasy-comedy felt well-grounded and had plenty of dry humor to stay entertaining. It seemed longer than its 100-odd minutes runtime, but I still enjoyed it. RECOMMENDED.
- I, Tonya (2017) – I know nothing of sports, and even less about ice skating, but this razor-sharp comedy-drama about one of the most infamous rivalries in American athletics is a pure shot of adrenaline, injected by Margot Robie’s killer lead performance. If The Disaster Artist is a commentary on the creative process, I, Tonya is a close-up on the dedication and sacrifices athletes make to get to the top. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
- It (2017) – Easily my favorite horror film of 2017, and possibly my favorite since The Witch almost two years back, this scary movie about a demon shape-shifting clown is grounded by excellent performances by its young cast and a top-notch script. REQUIRED.
- Dunkirk (2017) – Dunkirk had moments of inspired direction of wartime events, but offered little in terms of character development or even creating an emotional arc. The tone of the movie felt the same the entire time, which may have been Nolan’s intent, but didn’t take me on much of a journey. NOT RECOMMENDED.
What did you watch last week?
Last week, I saw:
- Mildred Pierce (1945) – Another essential female-driven film noir, led by a career-driven Joan Crawford determined to win the love of her terrible daughter through financial success. In addition to the sheer quality of this movie, it’s also fun to watch as a time capsule of 1940s Los Angeles. REQUIRED.
- Marty (1955) – Equal parts charming and frustratingly slow, this 1955 Best Picture winner never seems to reach its full potential. While there’s almost not enough story to fill its lean runtime, at its best, this comedy-drama about two middle-aged adults who struggle to find love is genuinely emotional and authentic. RECOMMENDED.
- Annie Hall (1977) – I used to love this movie as a kid, but now I find Woody Allen’s angsty frustration less comical and more obnoxious. Diane Keaton is a delight to balance out the Allen side of the spectrum, and I appreciate its all-over-the-place structure, but this film didn’t work for me like it did 15 years ago. NOT RECOMMENDED.
- Closely Watched Trains (1966) – A young man is determined to lose his virginity to a pretty colleague, all under the curtain of WWII-era Czechoslovakia. This offbeat film has an interesting feel, but ultimately didn’t click with me. I found the characters pretty distant and didn’t find the story elements particularly compelling. NOT RECOMMENDED.
- Hail, Caesar! (2016) – A movie lover’s dream, this comedy-mystery from the Coen Brothers is a dazzling journey into the 1950s studio system with a delightful menagerie of “types.” The best discovery is the unknown (to me) actor Alden Ehrenreich, who seemed to me a mix of brooding James Dean with sympathetic Montgomery Clift, but Wikipedia says is a Kirby Grant type. But whether or not you can pin down specific people and places, Hail, Caesar! will be instantly familiar and more importantly, entertaining. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
- Easy A (2010) – Clever teen comedy about a virgin who builds herself a fake bad reputation. Emma Stone really holds her own in the film that (I believe) is her first starring role. RECOMMENDED.
What did you see last week?
This past week was exceptionally Criterion-heavy – between prepping for the Criterion Blogathon and my bi-annual “Criterion binge” (that is, a binge of Criterion movies to know whether or not they must be purchased during the Barnes & Noble half-off sale). As such, this was an especially rich week for film viewing:
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) – Arguably one of the first real horror films (as far as I’ve read — I can claim no real authority on this era of film), Cabinet brings genuinely spooky visuals and inspired set design to a wholly memorable cinematic experience. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
- Forget Me Not (1936) – Wonderfully sweet love story – I wrote a longer post you can read here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
- Weekend (2011) – One of the great dramas of the 21st century, and one of my favorite movies, period. Check out my writings on this extraordinary film here. REQUIRED.
- Day For Night (1973) – Terrifically rich film about film, and possibly my favorite Truffaut thus far. REQUIRED.
- A Special Day (1977) – This poignant and heartbreaking film brings together a defeated housewife and party subversive on the day Hitler visits Mussolini, circa 1938. Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren at the top of their game. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
- Rushmore (1998) – Sweet comedy-drama about a talented, ambitious, yet unfocused adolescent struggling to navigate the world around him. RECOMMENDED.
What did you see last week?