High and Low

High and Low

1963

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 RansomHigh 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.

Must see.

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Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth

2006

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.

Must see.

Django Unchained

Django Unchained

2012

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Django Unchained is a highly stylized revisionist Western set in the American South. All of Quentin Tarantino’s movies have flawless style, but some have more substance than others. Django Unchained is a film of style and substance—an immediately fun tribute to Spaghetti Westerns and an acid indictment of the fathomless cruelty of American slavery. It is a spiritual sequel to Tarantino’s 2009 movie, Inglourious Basterds—in which American Jews kill Hitler.

Must see.

The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises

2013

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.

Must see.

Boyhood

Boyhood

2014

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.

Must 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.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

Directed by Joel 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.

La La Land

La La Land

Directed by Damien Chazelle

2016

La La Land is a romantic musical about a jazz musician and an aspiring actress who fall in love in Los Angeles. La La Land is a stirring defense of unjustified objects of condescension: musicals, nostalgia, and Jazz. The film is unreservedly romantic and unabashedly confident in the fragile, weak, transcendent power of art. La La Land, with ebullient bravura, basks in deep feeling and looks back with wistful longing.

Must see.

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom

Directed by Wes Anderson

2012

Moonrise Kingdom is a coming-of-age film that follows a boy and girl who run away in 1965 New England. Moonrise Kingdom is an endlessly charming film. It ineffably captures the effervescent beauty of childhood. Wes Anderson’s style is mildly divisive, but it ought not be. Nothing in Moonrise Kingdom is frivolous affectation; the style invariably contributes to the substance. The film is meticulously crafted, but it is suffused with expansive feelings and casual insight.

Must see.