La La Land

La La Land

Directed by Damien Chazelle

2016

La La Land is a romantic musical about a jazz musician and an aspiring actress who fall in love in Los Angeles. La La Land is a stirring defense of unjustified objects of condescension: musicals, nostalgia, and Jazz. The film is unreservedly romantic and unabashedly confident in the fragile, weak, transcendent power of art. La La Land, with ebullient bravura, basks in deep feeling and looks back with wistful longing.

Must see.

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Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom

Directed by Wes Anderson

2012

Moonrise Kingdom is a coming-of-age film that follows a boy and girl who run away in 1965 New England. Moonrise Kingdom is an endlessly charming film. It ineffably captures the effervescent beauty of childhood. Wes Anderson’s style is mildly divisive, but it ought not be. Nothing in Moonrise Kingdom is frivolous affectation; the style invariably contributes to the substance. The film is meticulously crafted, but it is suffused with expansive feelings and casual insight.

Must see.

Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler

Directed by Dan Gilroy

2014

Nightcrawler is a thriller that follows a thief who begins shooting live footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles and selling the content to a local news channel as a stringer. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a successfully unnerving performance as the sociopathic main character. The film’s tone, though, fluctuates wildly. The social comment is derivative and generally aimed at easy targets. Nightcrawler has a lot to say, but little of it is meaningful.

Would not see.

Moonlight

Moonlight

Directed by Barry Jenkins

2016

Based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight is a drama that follows the life of a poor, young, black man. Moonlight impressively avoids cliché and miserabilism in a genre that can veer wildly between the two. The acting is understated, but piercingly effective. The story avoids easy answers and easy sentiments.

Would see.

The Social Network

The Social Network

Directed by David Fincher

2010

Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s 2009 book, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal, The Social Network is a drama about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook. The dialogue, written by Aaron Sorkin, is fast-paced and invariably clever. The acting and cinematography are convincing and unobjectionable. The story itself, is well-crafted, but sometimes feels too clever by half.

Would see.

Her

Her

Directed by Spike Jonze

2013

Her is a romantic science-fiction drama about a man who falls in love with an intelligent computer operating system. Her is a first-rate film. The movie’s visions of the future, technology, and life are refreshingly free from cliché, deeply engaged, and moving. It is the rare science-fiction film that fully succeeds in using its premise to illuminate what it is to be human.

Must see.

The September Issue

The September Issue

Directed by R.J. Cutler

2009

The September Issue is a documentary that follows Anna Wintour and her staff during the production of the September 2007 issue of Vogue. The September Issue avoids not only difficult questions about the fashion industry, Vogue, and Anna Wintour, it fails to meaningfully engage with any meaningful questions about life or art at all. The September Issue is adequately made and often amusing, but is ultimately void of any true meaning.

Would not see.