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.

Her

Her

Directed by Spike Jonze

2013

Her is a romantic science-fiction drama about a man who falls in love with an intelligent computer operating system. Her is a first-rate film. The movie’s visions of the future, technology, and life are refreshingly free from cliché, deeply engaged, and moving. It is the rare science-fiction film that fully succeeds in using its premise to illuminate what it is to be human.

Must see.

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Directed by Werner Herzog

2016

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is a documentary about modern technology. Ambitious in scope, Lo and Behold is also ambitious in style and substance. It is the rare informational documentary that would not be similarly successful in a different medium. Werner Herzog’s frequent and distinctive narration guides a film that is not soon forgotten.

Must see.

The Bad Sleep Well

The Bad Sleep Well

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

1960

The Bad Sleep Well is a Japanese language thriller about revenge and corporate corruption. The film is occasionally sentimental and the female characters are thinly sketched, but it is still a great film. The Bad Sleep Well’s plot moves both unexpectedly and inevitably to its stark conclusion and pointed social criticism.

Must see.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Directed by Isao Takahata

2013

The Tale of Princess Kaguya is an animated film based on the folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. The film is stunningly animated, even by the high standards of Studio Ghibli. Unlike some Ghibli films, it is better seen subtitled than dubbed into English due to lackluster English voice acting. The Tale of Princess Kaguya’s lyrical images, well-crafted score, close attention to emotional detail, and strong thematic voice allow the film to effortlessly transcend its expectations.

Must see.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

Directed by Errol Morris

2003

The Fog of War is a documentary about, and largely and interview with, Robert S. McNamara. The film’s structure is innovative and effective, the music by Philip Glass is excellent, and McNamara is eloquent, fascinating, and hard to place. The Fog of War is the rare documentary exceptional in both substance and style. It is an entertaining film with rare insight.

Must see.