Six Degrees of Separation
Directed by Fred Schepisi
Six Degrees of Separation is a comedy-drama adapted from the play of the same name. The theatrical origins show. The acting is stagey and the direction is flat—it would have been better just to tape a showing of the play; no use is made of the change in medium. Six Degrees of Separation is pretentious schlock. The overly broad comedy is unfunny, the unearned dramatic scenes land with a thud, and the film’s structure is complicated for complication’s sake. Six Degrees of Separation tries so hard to be clever, wry, and important that it ends up being none of those things; it is only insufferable.
Would not see.
High and Low
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
High and Low is a police procedural crime drama that is loosely based on Ed McBain’s 1959 novel, King’s Ransom. High and Low is a masterpiece. Expertly controlled pacing and cinematography paint vivid picture of class divisions. High and Low is an entertaining film and an incisive social commentary.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fantasy set in Francoist Spain. The fantasy elements are beautiful in themselves, and Guillermo del Toro elegantly interweaves them with the historical setting. Pan’s Labyrinth is a moving parable of childhood, courage, and belief.
Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz
La Haine is a black-and-white drama about the banlieues of Paris. The film is didactic and contrived. The strings behind the screen—telling the viewer what to think and what to feel—are frustratingly unconcealed. Many movies are obscure to appear deep without actually being thoughtful; La Haine is so concerned with black-and-white moralizing, it never actually allows the viewer to think.
Would not see.
The Wind Rises
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
The Wind Rises is an animated historical drama based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi and Tatsuo Hori’s 1937 novel, The Wind Has Risen. The Wind Rises is an exceptionally great film. The animation is stunning, the music is delightful, and the story is thoughtful and affecting. The film is devastatingly beautiful.
Directed by Richard Linklater
Boyhood is a coming-of-age drama. Richard Linklater filmed it over twelve years, so the actors’ ages match those of the characters that they play—as the protagonist goes from six to eighteen years old. Boyhood is unhurried, charming, and poignant.
Directed by Percy Adlon
Bagdad Café is a German comedy-drama set in the Mojave Desert. The film is boring, banal, and bizarre all at the same time—the American release is ninety-five minutes, but it feels much longer.
Would not see.
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Phantom Thread is a period drama about a fashion house in 1950s London. It is a beautiful and very strange film. The acting, directing, and costuming are all self-assuredly excellent. The film defies category.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
The Post is a dramatization of The Washington Post’s publication of the Pentagon Papers. The Post is didactic, flat, and self-satisfied, but it’s still a fun film — and it’s too earnest a paean to its ideals to dislike very much.
Call Me By Your Name
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Call Me By Your Name is a romance set in Northern Italy in 1983. Call Me By Your Name is a good film, but it is too impressed with its own importance — this itself is fine, except that the film appears more motivated by the desire for importance than an urgency to speak. Call Me By Your Name likes the idea of intelligent characters, but is bored by the details of their interests. It is a romance populated exclusively by ideas of people — there are no actual lives. The scenery is pretty and the story is moving, but Call Me By Your Name is entirely submerged in an ethereal emptiness.