Inside Llewyn Davis
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
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.
La La Land
Directed by Damien Chazelle
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.
Directed by Wes Anderson
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.
Directed by Spike Jonze
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.
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
Directed by Werner Herzog
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.
The Bad Sleep Well
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
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.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Directed by Isao Takahata
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.
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
Directed by Errol Morris
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.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Directed by Joel Coen
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is an adventure comedy film, loosely based on Homer’s The Odyssey, and set in 1937 Mississippi. Well written, well paced, and well acted, the film has stunningly innovative cinematography, sharp dialogue, and a precise sense of place. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the Coen Brothers at their best.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Yojimbo is about a wandering samurai who arrives in a small town divided between competing crime lords in 19th century Japan. Yojimbo is a movie that demands to be seen. The film’s score, cinematography, pacing, and choreography are flawless, and its as fun to watch the fifth time as it was the first.