• Eureka

    Eureka

    ★★★★

    Any attempt to summarize what makes this film so rich and rewarding would be reductive—boiling down a nearly 4-hour drama into a phrase about the resiliency of the human spirit and capacity for compassion only makes it sound corny and sentimental, when the film is decisively not those things. In fact, just about any adjective that I could use to accurately describe this film—patient, meditative, observational, warm—would likely conjure a false impression. The film's real strength is in its modesty, allowing audiences to embark on a subtle but complex emotional journey along with the characters and arrive at meaningful observations about humanity without ever imposing them.

  • Scream

    Scream

    ★★½

    For me, 4 nailed the balance between comedy and horror, leaning further into the metacommentary and satire without deflating the tension from the set pieces or taking focus away from the character-focused story. This new entry feels cut from the same cloth, with similar ambitions, but it consistently fails where that film excelled. "Makes great use of the additional characters," I wrote in my log for a recent revisit of 4, but I certainly can't say the same for this…

  • Station Eleven

    Station Eleven

    Frustratingly inconsistent; starts out strong—building off an intriguing premise and using nonlinear narrative structure and editing to the story's benefit by eliding key moments—but eventually, it's obligated to neatly untangle all the threads, betraying the ambiguous and enigmatic qualities that the show had previously thrived on, and the (perhaps not coincidentally Murai-less) disappointing final few episodes trade mystery for melodrama, leading to a resolution that, while still somewhat satisfying, falls far short of the promise set out by the show's fairly remarkable first half.

  • Chinese Roulette

    Chinese Roulette

    ★★★½

    The brilliant premise sets the stage for a chamber drama, but by the tense third act, it becomes more of a psychological thriller. A beautifully staged and shot film with a fantastic cast bringing the characters to life, mostly through subtle glances and reactions, thinly veiled looks of desire, shame, and contempt. It's a work focused around weighty implications and complex dynamics; characters inflicting malice as a defense mechanism. There's so much to love here that I can't help but finding the resolution somewhat deflating by comparison. Still, Fassbinder's lavish formalism is absolutely hypnotic, and there's such rich, thought-provoking subtext to explore here.

  • World on a Wire

    World on a Wire

    ★★★★

    The first half is definitely more consistent, but even in its comparatively weak final hour, there are plenty of thrilling sequences and inventive plot developments which keep it engaging for the lengthy runtime. Clearly influenced by Alphaville, another sci-fi noir I loved, but the atmosphere and ambition reminded me of Until the End of the World but more structured and focused. The filmmaking is absolutely astounding.

  • Assassin's Creed

    Assassin's Creed

    ★★

    I actually really liked the active VR idea (not sure what else to call it) which has modern day Fassbinder moving around a physical space while he's hooked up to the Animus, making the concept of "synchronization" literal and adding an interesting visual element to the present day portion. Other than that and the admirably committed performances—though I have no idea what Cotillard is doing—this was pretty bad. The stone-faced seriousness and dour atmosphere drain it of any excitement.

  • Living in Oblivion

    Living in Oblivion

    ★★★★

    There's a part of my subconscious that still lives in video stores, perusing the aisles (now Wikipedia/Letterboxd rabbit holes) looking for the undiscovered gems I can champion and foist upon friends who largely react with a shrug. Living in Oblivion is a perfect example, and one that I'm shocked hasn't found a larger audience in the decades since its release. Unlike a lot of the indie comedy/dramas of the mid '90s, this one barely feels dated and is surprisingly progressive…

  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

    The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

    ★★★★

    Loved it until the last 30 minutes where characters explicitly state things that are better left implied, but there's still so much complexity to appreciate about the characters and the way the story unfolds. Also, it's formally exquisite.

  • The Lost Daughter

    The Lost Daughter

    ★★★½

    Great performances all around and Gyllenhaal's direction keeps the somewhat unfocused material engaging and at times thrilling, but what really impressed me was how the story consistently subverted my expectations of where it was headed. I'm really interested to see the choices Gyllenhaal made in adapting the novel, so I may give this a second watch after reading the source material.

  • C'mon C'mon

    C'mon C'mon

    ★★★

    Not as saccharine as I feared, though Mills aims for a balance between melancholic and life-affirming which sometimes veers too overtly in both directions for my taste. Though the attempts at profundity did nothing for me, most of the film is more naturalistic scenes between Phoneix and Norman, which are often effective.

  • The Daytrippers

    The Daytrippers

    ★★★

    Prefer the early portion when it's just the five of them trading light banter in the car over later on when it gets weighed down by the ordinary plot and drama.

  • Spencer

    Spencer

    ★★½

    Far more engaging formally than dramatically, I found myself more invested in the set design than the characters. I have no knowledge about the British royal family so maybe having some context is the key that transforms this into a "psychological thriller," but it played to me like a lifeless prestige drama, sometimes verging on parody.