A Serious Man
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
A Serious Man is a comedy-drama about a Jewish man in Minnesota. A Serious Man is the Coen brothers at their funniest and most profound. The film succeeds both as comedy and moral drama. It is a rare achievement.
Dazed and Confused
Directed by Richard Linklater
Dazed and Confused is a comedy about teenagers in Texas in 1976. Dazed and Confused, skillfully shot and directed, is specific in its evocation of time and place and is committed to its ambivalent nostalgia. The unmoored aimlessness of the characters, though, seems to have seeped, at times, into the production.
The Royal Tenenbaums
Directed by Wes Anderson
The Royal Tenenbaums is a comedy-drama about the fictional Tenenbaum family. The Royal Tenenbaums is deftly funny and deeply moving. Wes Anderson directs the film with all of his usual precision and detail – and with a sincerity and ambition not all of his other films match.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Directed by Werner Herzog
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a black comedy that shares a title, a producer (Edward R. Pressman), a corrupt police officer as the central character, and nothing else with Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film Bad Lieutenant. The film, though not the greatest movie ever, is a nearly sublime subversion of action movies and police procedurals. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is as weird as its ungainly title suggests (and as fantastic as a movie directed by Werner Herzog and starring Nicolas Cage promises to be). Herzog’s direction and Cage’s acting are fearless and original, and the film easily transcends its genre.
20th Century Women
Directed by Mike Mills
20th Century Women is a comedy-drama about a 15-year-old boy, three women, and a man who live in Southern California in 1979. Every accusation of pretension and hollow style baselessly levied against Wes Anderson’s films would accurately describe 20th Century Women. 20th Century Women goes through all the motions of saying something meaningful without ever actually saying anything at all. It’s saccharine, unfocused, and painful to watch.
Would not see.
Ils Sont Partout
Directed by Yvan Attal
Ils Sont Partout [They Are Everywhere] is a French-language comedy composed of vignettes about Jews and antisemitism. Ils Sont Partout is very funny and intermittently incisive – Yvan Attal acts like a very French Woody Allen – but a handful of the sketches drag.
Do the Right Thing
Directed by Spike Lee
Do the Right Thing is a comedy-drama about race relations in Brooklyn. The film is paced well, directed with verve, and generally nuanced, but it is a little didactic at times.
Directed by Jacques Tati
Play Time is a French comedy with minimal dialogue. It is almost entirely unlike other movies, which is more than can be said for most films. Most of the scenes are funny and some are even incisive, but a handful fall flat – and the film (at 124 minutes) feels longer than it is.
Directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano
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.
Directed by Jordan Peele
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.