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  • American Animals

    American Animals

    ★★½

    It started off too cute: in addition to documentary–narrative crossover, much effort went into ensuring that I would recognize the truthy “touches” that make what is being presented “unreliable.” (A lite Rashomony, ultimately underused, multi-narrator structure.) For example, two narrators providing trivial counter-narratives—“No, he was wearing a blue scarf...I think” (note: not a for-real actual quote).

    I had a bad attitude about all that because the cleverness/perspectiveness/documentary-frame only went skin-deep. This film is crazy ambitious; but I’d have liked to…

  • Unsane

    Unsane

    ★★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    This beautiful, tense trash really improved my Q1 2018. I am going to have a hard time forgetting what I have seen. This movie is too real and too much of a movie all at once, like many B-movies; and usually that creates a write-off for me. So, I must celebrate even its weakest, trashiest moments.

    Too real: the shadowy, unprocessed aesthetic does not flatter any of the fifteenish speaking characters: rightly so. The hospital at the centre of the…

  • Foxcatcher

    Foxcatcher

    ★★★½

    1. In biopic terms, the story and structure is understated and not unnecessarily contrived. Except that one scene.

    2. Casting Steve Carell seems risky, especially considering when this film came out. But it turns out that he was perfect for this role. Funny, a stressful person to engage with, but never a character worth laughing at.

    3. Casting everyone else turned out weirdly well. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo play incredible brother-foils. Although, maybe the actors playing du Pont's associates…

  • Sullivan's Banks

    Sullivan's Banks

    ★★★

    At first, I wasn’t sure this would be worth watching; it seemed more like crude documentation than crude documentary. Then, I settled into the stark personality of Sullivan’s banks and started to understand the opinionated, overstated Dutch tilts. The buildings don’t deserve the townships they have been built in. Each building is at odds with the things and sounds that fill them. It became funny to watch the buildings tower over their communities, simultaneously being assimilated by small-town spirit and local radio.

  • Crooklyn

    Crooklyn

    ★★★★½

    Episodic films are attractive to me: they are prone to lyrical tangents and memorable portrait. Crooklyn brings exactly that to the table, but not without losing its hyper-focus on the Carmichael family. The kids all perform surprisingly well, and nothing about the household feels like a caricature. Visually, Spike Lee gets way crazier than he needs to—to the point where stoners and southerners don't adhere to the laws of physics.

    While it's a pleasure to see the Carmichaels' home-life, the…

  • Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania

    Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania

    ★★★★

    Lacking in self-consciousness; furnished in nostalgia—without leaning into cliché and sentimentality. Mekas offers casual, extensive familial and historical context—more than necessary, maybe, but with the softest touch.

    This film intimately brings me into Mekas' travels: from New York City in the 1950s, to the Lithuanian countryside of the 1970s, to the Lithuanian countryside of the 1940s, and then somewhere in Vienna in the 1970s. Everything that happens along the way is small and authentic.

  • The Disaster Artist

    The Disaster Artist

    ★½

    My regards to James and Dave Franco for their incredible takes on the Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero we all know and love from The Room. Unfortunately, I don't have many other nice things to say about this The Disaster Artist.

    This Apatow-derivative buddy comedy never felt fleshed out enough for me to suspend disbelief. I never did read the source material—Sestero's book The Disaster Artist—but I'd be shocked if this didn't over-simplify and composite the shit out of what…

  • A Ghost Story

    A Ghost Story

    ★★

    There are some things to like about A Ghost Story. It is decidedly minimal and refuses to let viewers understand the mechanics of life after death; and it is decidedly prototypical in when dealing with its (living) main characters (no full names, no back stories). It jumps between sad, long shots and jokey, cartoon aesthetics kinda effortlessly. All the while, the movie remains borderline fun—probably even for kids—without seeming tired or overproduced. 

    Still, I ended up feeling put off by…

  • The Republic

    The Republic

    ★★★★

    1. This film contributes to a future where film is a more diverse and interesting ecosystem. This is important.

    2. It is visually unique and aurally surprising. It shows great range and ventures beyond the sounds and atmosphere of real life. Listen for the doorbells. Listen for the self-conscious reading styles of the performers.

    3. It treats its libertarian outsiders and e-cigarette enthusiasts with seriousness. This is important.

    4. Nour Mobarak's narration is reserved and incredible.

  • Somewhere

    Somewhere

    ★★★★½

    This is Sofia Coppola's most minimal film. It is understandably not everyone's favourite Coppola film. It's easy to compare it to Lost in Translation, which is also a quiet, contemplative trip where a main character get strung along, not understanding the local language. That it is comparable is probably where it falls flat for many viewers. 

    But unlike Lost in Translation, Somewhere's male lead has no sense of humour and continuously brushes off the fact that his day-to-day life is…

  • My Cousin Rachel

    My Cousin Rachel

    ★½

    This one was perfectly, wonderfully mediocre. It had that classic piano-and-strings mediocre movie score—where every measure ends in a question mark—and that classic mediocre thriller structure, where the main character is just two embarrassing steps behind you. After two acts and two horrible montages to show the sweeping passage of time, I started to dread how much time I was spending in the theatre.

    If I had to pick something stand-out, I did like how dumb and bold they let the leading guy be. But if that's what you're looking for, go see A Cure for Wellness. 

  • Interstellar

    Interstellar

    ★★½

    There are as many things to love about Interstellar as there are to hate about it. The world depicted is mysterious and original: it's post-military, pre-apocalypse, but the end of our food supply looms. The west seemingly prepares for its end. As far as near-futures go, this one is prophetic in a fresh, understated way. At least, until Donald (John Lithgow) starts waxing poetic about it on the dang porch.

    The script's inability to mask expository dialogue and its tendency…