La Haine

La Haine

1995

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.

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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.

Charade

Charade

1963

Directed by Stanley Donen

Charade is a romantic comedy and a screwball spy thriller. The film is densely plotted, well-paced, and highly entertaining. It is a movie, though, that is much more fun to watch than to think or talk about.

Would see.

Zelig

Zelig

1983

Directed by Woody Allen

Zelig is a mockumentary about an exceptionally nondescript man. At a swift seventy-nine minutes, Zelig is a light but thoughtful film. It is very funny.

Would 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.

Bagdad Café

Bagdad Café

Directed by Percy Adlon

1987

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.

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

2017

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.

Would see.

The Post

The Post

Directed by Steven Spielberg

2017

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.

Would see.

Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name

Directed by Luca Guadagnino

2017

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.

Would see.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird

Directed by Greta Gerwig

2017

Lady Bird is a coming-of-age story set in Sacramento, California. The film is occasionally too on the nose, but it is also honest and charming. Lady Bird, unlike many movies almost like it, is the actual saying of something — not just the performance of having something to say.

Would see.