• The Janes

    The Janes

    ★★★★

    Sometimes a very straightforwardly told documentary about a few people in a very specific place and time is what's called for. The small number of protagonists in The Janes makes the storytelling straightforward but also actually helps to make the scope feel bigger, because the task of providing safe illegal abortions was so far beyond what such a group could reasonably be expected to do: as their original plan gets more complicated and they get more directly involved and start…

  • Loving Highsmith

    Loving Highsmith

    ★★★½

    The only Patricia Highsmith I've actually read is an outlier in her work, The Price of Salt, so everything else I know is adaptations, plus just the legend of the author as a personality. But that's probably true of a lot of the audience for this too, and I think the movie does a good job of reframing whatever you do happen to know; a major theme is Highsmith's disconnection from and dissatisfaction with nearly everything and everyone, so that…

  • Impresario

    Impresario

    (Disclaimer: this is made by a friend)
    A Marc Huestis biography is one of the most SF-Bay-Area-specific things one could do; without having been around here a while, it'd be hard to explain what his particular cultural niche was in the last couple of decades (short version: organizing celebrity Q&As at classic movie screenings, but in a queer-specific context that made these into community events), or how different that was from the other things that at various times looked like…

  • Singin' in the Rain

    Singin' in the Rain

    ★★★★½

    The main difference between seeing this now and seeing it many times as a kid—besides that I was only able to see it on video as a kid, and it sure does look amazing on a big screen—is that when you have more of a sense of how time works, and how things change, a period piece like this feels both more real and more artificial. For a grownup watching this at the time, 1927 was well within living memory;…

  • Dirty Dancing

    Dirty Dancing

    ★★★½

    This is a sweet, solid little movie that deserves the following it has—and at the same time, I can't help also seeing a lot of missed opportunities. Some of those are just due to the time: it's not the movie's fault that late-20th-century Hollywood didn't really value dancing for its own sake and didn't know what to do with a graceful hunk who could act, so that this didn't lead to the new generation of movie musicals I would've liked…

  • Catch Me If You Can

    Catch Me If You Can

    ★★★★

    My vague knowledge of the Frank Abagnale story, plus the way Catch Me If You Can was promoted (including its title), plus Leonardo DiCaprio's pretty face, made me imagine a "con man who's a lovable rogue/rebel" thing... which isn't my favorite kind of thing. What I ended up liking most about this movie (besides its basic pleasures of cinematic energy) is that it lays out right away how this won't exactly be that kind of thing—that there's something corrupt about…

  • Bringing Out the Dead

    Bringing Out the Dead

    ★★★★

    What a memorable and frustrating experience. On the one hand, in terms of filmmaking and acting, this deserves to be better known than it is: Scorsese was the right person to do it, the look and feel of it is perfect, the cast is just right. And the writing is memorable, but that's also a problem. Joe Connelly's semi-maybe-kinda-autobiographical paramedic novel is very self-consciously a cross between Taxi Driver and Catch-22 with a side of Pynchon, it's full of vivid…

  • X

    X

    ★★★½

    The other Ti West features I've seen, The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, took pretty familiar horror ideas without a ton of plot and made them memorable for their style and characters. This is similar; it's his best script that I've seen, but if you didn't like those then you probably won't like this and if you did then you will, regardless of whether you like slashers much (I don't) or have much interest in '70s film-nerdery (I…

  • Lady Windermere's Fan

    Lady Windermere's Fan

    ★★★

    This makes a very weird double feature with the only other silent Oscar Wilde adaptation I've seen, Salomé, because they're pretty much at opposite extremes in almost every way: instead of a slowly building hallucination of lust and suicide and murder, staged in long takes in a fantasy nightmare world, with acres of text, this is a breezy comedy of manners set in nice rooms and executed with such skillful classical Hollywood technique that it rarely needs to bother with…

  • The Night House

    The Night House

    ★★★½

    Rebecca Hall has been getting most of the praise for this, which is fair: it's mainly a solo thing and she's perfect, making the most of a kind of character I always like in horror, someone who's traumatized and creeped out but is facing the scary things with resilient curiosity and not taking any shit. The movie around her is a ghost story/"my dead loved one had a secret life" story, and it's well directed but otherwise pretty ordinary for…

  • Salomé

    Salomé

    ★★★★½

    I thought I knew what this was, but I wasn't prepared. Possibly if I had known more about Alla Nazimova ahead of time, I would have known to expect something visually extravagant, star-centered, self-consciously avant-garde, and very queer, but that's still not an adequate description of how much of its own thing Salomé is. I'm not even sure it's trying to be its own thing—the filmmakers are so worshipful of the original material (or at least a translation of it)…

  • Apart from You

    Apart from You

    ★★★½

    I'm still pretty ignorant of Japanese film in general (I haven't even seen any Ozu, to whom Mikio Naruse is sometimes compared) and this movie is in a category that's even less familiar to me: silent films made pretty far into the sound era. It's striking how much more modern Apart from You looks to me than films with sound of the early '30s, and I'm guessing that that's partly due to the latter being still hampered by the state…