Your Name

Your Name

Directed by Makoto Shinkai

2016

Your Name is a Japanese-language animated film about a boy and a girl who swap bodies. The stakes of the movie are too uneven, and the plot becomes increasingly disconnected from the theme as the film drags on. Your Name is often entertaining but ultimately frustrating and easily forgotten.

Would see.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

2013

Inside Llewyn Davis is a black comedy-drama about a struggling folk singer. Inside Llewyn Davis is a masterpiece. The cynicism occasionally grates, but the distress feels sincere. The music, the plot, and the writing are all nearly flawless; the film is deeply moving.

Must see.

The White Balloon

The White Balloon

Directed by Jafar Panahi

1995

The White Balloon is a Farsi-language film about a young girl’s efforts to buy a goldfish. The White Balloon is short and charming. The plot is wispy and its meaning either slight or obscure.

Would see.

Germany Year Zero

Germany Year Zero

Directed by Roberto Rossellini

1948

Germany Year Zero is an Italian-language drama about a child in post-war Berlin. Germany Year Zero is a tiresome and trite exercise in manipulative sympathy. The film’s refusal to take seriously the stakes of politics and its ambivalence in condemning the Nazis are problematic.

Would not see.

The Intouchables

The Intouchables

Directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano

2011

Based loosely on real events, The Intouchables is a French-language film about the friendship between a wealthy white quadriplegic and his poor black live-in caregiver. The Intouchables is a textbook example of a film that preaches against racism but is itself deeply racist. The film’s flailing attempts at comedy fail to leaven the tin-eared melodrama.

Would not see.

Dodes’ka-den

Dodes’ka-den

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

1970

Based on Shūgorō Yamamoto’s book, Kisetsu no nai machi (“The Town Without Seasons”), Dodes’ka-den follows a variety of characters who live in a shantytown. Dodes’ka-den is quite possibly one of Akira Kurosawa’s worst films. Kurosawa is a talented director and many of his films are masterpieces. Most are at least worth watching; Dodes’ka-den is not. The film alternates between the strange and the tragic, but it is neither entertaining nor affecting.

Would not see.

Get Out

Get Out

Directed by Jordan Peele

2017

Get Out is a satirical comedy horror film. It is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. Get Out is thoughtfully crafted; the film balances horror, comedy, and politics adroitly. The political statements are organic to the story, they rarely feel shoehorned in. Some moments land awkwardly, but most don’t.

Would see.

Rhapsody in August

Rhapsody in August

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

1991

Rhapsody in August is a Japanese language drama about an elderly Japanese woman, caring for her four grandchildren for the summer, who learns of a long-lost brother who lives in Hawaii. Rhapsody in August is Kurosawa’s second-to-last film, and it is far from his best. The politics are questionable and the story is meandering, but the images are striking and the tone is thoughtful.

Would see.

I Am Not Your Negro

I Am Not Your Negro

Directed by Raoul Peck

2016

I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. The film is visually engaging, but occasionally cluttered. I Am Not Your Negro is a detailed, thoughtful, and forceful exploration of American racism.

Would see.