• Gates of Heaven

    Gates of Heaven

    ★★★★★

    100 Years of Cinema: 1978

    Despite being only 85 minutes long, it’s difficult to choose where to start with Gates of Heaven - a peculiarly beautiful insight into the world of pet cemeteries, by seminal documentarian Errol Morris.

    This isn’t a case of a formally bland documentary enlivened by strange and intriguing subject matter, but a film that is fascinating right down to its grammar. Morris makes heavy use of talking heads – the oft-derided staple of documentaries, notorious for…

  • The Squid and the Whale

    The Squid and the Whale

    ★★½

    The Squid and the Whale is interesting on the level of craft and not so much when it comes to the story itself. Populated with intolerable people, Noah Baumbach’s first rumination on divorce and its fallout lacks an empathetic anchor. There is no question that the script is sharply written, with biting lines and wry moments concerning self-delusion. None of that impresses me, though, when I cannot care enough about any of these characters to feel invested in their plights…

  • Ratcatcher

    Ratcatcher

    ★★★★½

    There aren’t many filmmakers who know how to respectfully portray trauma. On that short list, Lynne Ramsay’s name outshines all others.

    It is truly remarkable to see an adult relay childhood with such accuracy and love. From the complex, multi-layered relationship between a son and his father, to the aimless but entrancing joy of kicking an empty Coke can down the street. The world Ramsay has built is so real, so tangible. I believe in every one of these characters…

  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God

    Aguirre, the Wrath of God

    ★★★★

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

    100 Years of Cinema: 1972

    In 2019, Werner Herzog seems more myth than man. After a few middling years, attention concerning the German filmmaker has shifted more from his work to his eccentric personality and experiences – to breaking the law, getting shot, and chickens. Even his frequent cameos in shows such as Rick and Morty and Parks and Recreation riff on that outlandish personality.

    Returning to his early work reminds us of why he is among the best directors…

  • Singin' in the Rain

    Singin' in the Rain

    ★★★★½

    100 Years of Cinema: 1952

    I don’t think any other film can be as fun as Singin’ in the Rain. Funnier, sure. But not as fun. It’s an enormous wave of colour and joy that knocks you flat and leaves you smiling.

    The wonderful handling of the silent-to-talkies transition makes it even more delightful – showing (rather than telling) us a pivotal moment in the history of film. The awkwardness of the sound equipment, the need to redesign movement and…

  • The Beach Bum

    The Beach Bum

    ★★

    Do you think Harmony Korine wants to be Moondog? I only ask because this film is hyperventilating in its love for the protagonist – something that just did not work for me. I don’t morally object to any of the characters in this film. That’s not the issue at all. Given a focused script, this could have been an entrancing trip into an otherworld American dimension, filled with strange and wonderful subplots. Instead, we trail behind him, hoping for a…

  • View from the Top

    View from the Top

    “I won’t spoil the film for you. The filmmakers have already done that.” – Richard Ayoade, during his introduction

    (Suffice to say, I was there to meet Ayoade. And, on that front, I was not disappointed.)

    It has been a while since I have seen a film as bad as View from the Top. Granted, I saw The Room for the first time recently, but experiencing that in a cult screening with Tommy Wiseau present is hardly the same thing.…

  • The Night of the Hunter

    The Night of the Hunter

    ★★★

    100 Years of Cinema: 1955

    This will be short because, sadly, there is not enough moral complexity in The Night of the Hunter to fully engage me. It is certainly a gorgeous work of cinematography, and most effective when introducing and fleshing out Powell and Miss Cooper. Mitchum’s voice is a character in itself, seeping into minds and buildings like a spirit searching for something to possess. Similarly, Gish’s stare is so full of fierce compassion that it becomes overwhelming.…

  • Malcolm X

    Malcolm X

    ★★★★½

    An epic that justifies its length with powerful performances and a clear quest: to demystify, debunk and define anew one of America's most controversial figures. Malcolm X begins with a punch to the gut and then proceeds to explain why that was necessary.

    As with Do the Right Thing, Lee is not interested in providing a monolithic view. Instead, we follow Malcolm's trials, tribulations and victories: cutting his teeth in Detroit's bookie scene before entering prison and the Nation of…

  • Beloved

    Beloved

    ★★

    Although it is true that every adaptation of literature must be taken as an interpretation, there are some films that really test said concept. Toni Morrison’s Beloved is among the most potent and challenging novels I have ever read, but Jonathan Demme’s adaptation strips much away from the text's incendiary power.

    There are two reasons why this is not a one- or a half-star review. The first is because I could still sense a general attempt to communicate the concerns…

  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

    ★★½

    When it comes to horror and exploitation films, there is nothing more aggravating than inconsistent malevolence. I found Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic to possess exactly that: a film of great and disturbing ambition, but one that hinted at an uncertainty peering in from the corners. There are moments that telegraph – so, so loudly – their importance in the film’s overall generation of atmosphere that Hooper’s need for you to take them seriously becomes distracting.

    Perhaps quintessential of these is…

  • Reconstructing Utøya

    Reconstructing Utøya

    ★★★★½

    It is deeply moving and rewarding to watch a film that embraces our limited ability to represent trauma on screen. Reconstructing Utøya is not concerned with trauma as spectacle, but rather with relaying, in the most straightforward of fashions, how an individual’s psyche is forever altered by violence and an encounter with unnerving hatred. This is not a film that dances around its subject, attempting to impress you with cinematic trickery or invent new metaphors for the most profound experience…