Bound for Glory

Bound for Glory

Directed by Hal Ashby

1976

Bound for Glory is a biopic that takes its name and main character (and little else) from Woody Guthrie’s 1943 autobiography. Bound for Glory intermittently understands Woody Guthrie’s greatness. His songs are well integrated, but there could be more of them. The film benefits by not covering his whole life, but it fulfills almost every other cliché of the genre.

Would see.

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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.

All the President’s Men

All the President’s Men

Directed by Alan J. Pakula

1976

All the President’s Men, based on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s non-fiction book of the same name, is about Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation of the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post. The film captures the look and rhythm of journalism better than its imitators. The pacing is compelling, but the ending feels rushed.

Would see.

Spotlight

Spotlight

Directed by Tom McCarthy

2015

Spotlight is a biographical drama about the Boston Globe’s investigation into child sex abuse by Catholic priests. Spotlight is very well executed, though with little stylistic ambition, and tackles its subject seriously, though without the boldness and daring of the journalists it chronicles.

Would see.

The Big Short

The Big Short

Directed by Adam McKay

2015

The Big Short, based on Michael Lewis’s 2010 book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, is a biographical comedy-drama that follows investors who short the housing market in the financial crisis of 2007-2008. The Big Short impressively navigates a tricky balance between information and entertainment, but its political message, though often incisive, at times threatens to subsume the many-threaded story.

Would see.

Fitzcarraldo

Fitzcarraldo

Directed by Werner Herzog

1982

Fitzcarraldo is a surreal drama, loosely based on a historical event, about an Irishman in Peru who attempts to move a steamship over a steep hill to finance the construction of an opera house. Herzog famously transported a 320-ton steamship over a hill in the production of the film (and received criticism for his often contentious relations with the local indigenous Peruvian population). The film is operatic and ambitious. Herzog takes strong positions on nature and art, but his understanding of self-destructive determination at times surpasses his apparent grasp of intercultural interaction and more prosaic human motivations.

Would see.

Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde

Directed by Arthur Penn

1967

Bonnie and Clyde is a biographical crime film that follows the two eponymous criminals around the American Southwest. The film is violent, striking, and fast with well-crafted visuals and quick editing. Bonnie and Clyde has an unusual and interesting portrayal of the relation between crime and sex and an unexpected attention to character, but a lack of reflection and cohesion hinder the film’s thematic message.

Would see.

I’m Not There

I’m Not There

Directed by Todd Haynes

2007

I’m Not There is a biographical musical drama in which six actors play Bob Dylan. Save a few standout scenes, the originality and creativity of the premise ultimately fails to save the film from its poor execution.

Would not see.

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.