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  • Whiplash 2014

    ★★★★ Rewatched 24 Feb, 2015

    J.K. Simmons picked up a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor trophy for his terrifying turn as the tyrannical music teacher who drives his students to perfection — at a cost. It’s a visceral, harrowing, and decidedly thoughtful take on a moldy old trope, questioning with great emotional force the kind of conclusions we usually draw from these stories. Miles Teller continues to cultivate a distinctive, almost roughneck charm, and Paul Reiser is quietly great as his father, but this is Simmons’…

  • Kiss Me, Stupid 1964

    ★★★★ Watched 24 Feb, 2015

    Billy Wilder’s 1964 comedy has some of the uncomfortable hallmarks of a romantic comedy of its era; there are shots of misogyny here and there, and some decidedly old-fashioned ideas about a woman’s place. And those period touches really stick out when stacked next to the picture’s rather startling sexual sophistication, which got it on the wrong side of the bluenoses at the Catholic League of Decency; they condemned the picture, which actually meant something back then, and it ended…

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  • Under the Skin 2013

    ★★★★ Watched 21 Mar, 2014

    A beautiful, bizarre, and occasionally troubling bit of abstract art-house sci-fi in the Beyond the Black Rainbow vein from director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth). Scarlett Johansson (who appears in just about every frame) plays a well-disguised alien creature who picks up men and devours them; some have dismissed the picture as an indie riff on Species, but if the narrative is derivative and a tad monotonous, there’s something intoxicating about the fluidity of Glazer’s striking images and the mood he manages to sustain throughout the peculiar tale.

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  • Boyhood 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 20 Jan, 2014

    Richard Linklater and his cast shot this chronicle of a young man’s life in bits and pieces over 12 years, a narrative feat all but unparalleled in modern cinema. But the great pleasure of Boyhood is how its tremendous ambition is belied by the picture’s charming modesty; in its pacing and approach, it is very much in the shambling vein of the Before trilogy and Slacker. It also shares those films’ verbosity, its characters frequently engaging in searching conversations about…