Harakiri

Harakiri

Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

1962

Harakiri is a Japanese language drama about a desperate ronin in the 17th century. The film’s elegant compositions and careful pacing mask its restless, thrashing core. With its breathlessly choreographed sword fights and close attention to emotion, Harakiri meets the expectations of its genre, while transcending its presumed limitations.

Must see.

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The Flowers of Saint Francis

The Flowers of Saint Francis

Directed by Roberto Rossellini

1950

The Flowers of Saint Francis is an Italian language film about Saint Francis and the early Franciscans. Episodic, slight, and repetitious, The Flowers of Saint Francis occasionally matches expectations, but mostly succumbs to didacticism and trite sentiment.

Would not see.

Raging Bull

Raging Bull

Directed by Martin Scorsese

1980

Raging Bull is a biographical drama about the life of the boxer, Jake LaMotta. Mostly filmed in black and white, Raging Bull, is deeply indebted to early cinema. Carefully composed and sharply edited, the dialogue, music, sound effects, and action are tightly woven into a kinetic tale of stunning visuals and striking violence.

Would see.

The King and the Mockingbird

The King and the Mockingbird

Directed by Paul Grimault

1980

The King and the Mockingbird is a French language animated film, loosely based on “The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep,” that follows a king, a chimneysweep, and a shepherdess, who walk out of their paintings and take life, and a bird who tries to save the chimneysweep and shepherdess from the malicious king. The film has been cited by Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki as an influence, and it often shows. The animation is somewhat simplistic, but The King and the Mockingbird is a whimsical, funny, and delightful, if slight, film before its weightily philosophical, and wholly unexpected, ending.

Would see.

Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich

Directed by Spike Jonze

1999

Being John Malkovich is a comedy about a puppeteer who finds a portal that allows him to be the actor, John Malkovich. The film is surreal, unique, engaging, jarring, off-putting, and very funny. Full of unexpected turns, dense symbolism, and dark insights, Being John Malkovich defies category and expectation.

Would see.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Directed by Gore Verbinski

2007

(Guest reviewer)

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is the third fantasy film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series; it wraps up the conflict begun in Dead Man’s Chest. At World’s End could become tiresome to anyone not fully enamored of the franchise because it builds inward on prior jokes to such an extent that many lines would be otherwise unintelligible.

Would see.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Directed by Gore Verbinski

2006

(Guest reviewer)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a fantasy film that returns to characters from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, uniting parties formerly at odds against new villains, while simultaneously maintaining an interplay of individual motives. The film builds on The Curse of the Black Pearl‘s success by using a similarly fast paced script and becoming, if possible, even more self-referential. It is a sequel that gives fans of Curse of the Black Pearl more of what they love, but it also adds depth to the franchise by introducing development to one-sided characters.

Would see.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Directed by Gore Verbinksi

2003

(Guest reviewer)

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a fantasy film that unravels the conflict between parties of pirates, navy officers, and civilians, against the backdrop of a pirate crew that tries to return treasure it pillaged to revoke a curse. Improbably well written and executed, subtle plot points and self-reference cause the film to improve with each viewing.

Would see.

The Art of the Steal

The Art of the Steal

Directed by Don Argott

2009

The Art of the Steal is a documentary about, and against, the controversial relocation of the Barnes Foundation, a valuable collection of post-Impressionist art. The film is informative, engaging, and opinionated, although it’s sharp criticisms turn into dull repetition and agitprop as the film wears on.

Would see.