Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann

Directed by Maren Ade

2016

Toni Erdmann is a film about a father and daughter that defies category. It’s a long, funny, melancholy film that changes register deftly and meanders with determined purpose.

Would see.

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Good Time

Good Time

Directed by Ben and Josh Safdie

2017

Good Time is a crime-drama about two brothers who rob a bank and weather the aftermath. The film is paced well and Robert Pattinson’s performance is riveting. Though the tone is far bleaker than its wildly deceptive title suggests, Good Time’s specificity and emotional nuance pull it away from miserabilism, and it ultimately strikes a strong and thoughtful note.

Would see.

A Serious Man

A Serious Man

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

2009

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.

Must see.

 

The Royal Tenenbaums

The Royal Tenenbaums

Directed by Wes Anderson

2001

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.

Must see.

20th Century Women

20th Century Women

Directed by Mike Mills

2016

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.

Dunkirk

Dunkirk

Directed by Christopher Nolan

2017

Dunkirk is a war drama that portrays the eponymous World War II evacuation. Deftly paced and expertly shot, Dunkirk is easily Christopher Nolan’s best film. Nolan expresses himself through Dunkirk’s visuals with seeming effortlessness; the film, perhaps not coincidentally, has a maximum of Hans Zimmer’s score and a minimum of Nolan’s dialogue.

Would see.

A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story

Directed by David Lowery

2017

A Ghost Story is a supernatural drama; the title is literally fitting (the protagonist is a ghost), but misleading (A Ghost Story is never very scary and most ghost stories are actually better the less the ghost appears).Though little is said, the ghost is portrayed by a man wearing a sheet, and there is not much plot to speak of, A Ghost Story unfolds softly but powerfully.  A Ghost Story is at times almost pretentious, but it is saved from this by its genuine emotional force, its skillful storytelling, and its (surprisingly) even keeled philosophizing.

Would see.

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.

The Beguiled

The Beguiled

Directed by Sofia Coppola

2017

The Beguiled, an adaption of a novel of the same name by Thomas P. Cullinan, is a drama about a wounded Union soldier convalescing in a nearly abandoned girls school in Virginia. (A movie of the same name – directed by Don Siegel, starring Clint Eastwood, and also based on Cullinan’s novel – came out in 1971). The Beguiled is entertaining enough, and it’s very well-shot, but it feels hollow.

Would see.

Baby Driver

Baby Driver

Directed by Edgar Wright

2017

Baby Driver is an action comedy about a young getaway driver who dislikes the life of crime and enjoys listening to music. Baby Driver is less comedic than Edgar Wright’s previous films (and than I expected it to be) and the plot drifts a bit in the middle, but it is a good action movie and it uses music well.

Would see.