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  • The Thief of Bagdad

    The Thief of Bagdad

    ★★★★

    A significant film for co-director Michael Powell, as he writes extensively on it in his first memoir; it lacks the weight and soul of his subsequent pictures with Emeric Pressburger, but it's more a production triumph anyway. The Technicolor visuals are outstanding, especially when it nearly turns into THE WIZARD OF OZ on acid after the genie shows up. A bit broad at times, but just weird enough to sustain interest over a packed 106 minutes.

  • Magnolia

    Magnolia

    ★★★★½

    First viewing since 2001. Exhaustive without being exhausting. PTA takes a big swing in trying to outdo Altman, which he nearly does. A tremendous ensemble, with particular love for Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose beautiful restraint now just breaks my heart, for obvious reasons.

  • Elevator to the Gallows

    Elevator to the Gallows

    ★★★★

    Taking advantage of The Criterion Channel to fill in some gaps, and for me, there's a lot concerning French New Wave (give or take the obvious ones and a half-dozen Godards.) Only knowing Malle from a MY DINNER WITH ANDRE / VANYA ON 42nd STREET double feature in the late '90s (copious talk for one evening, that was), I had no clue as to what a compositional feast his first feature would be. If not for the spellbinding Miles Davis…

  • Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace

    ★★★½

    As a movie, it's somewhat chaotic, incomplete and nowhere near as transcendent as the performances it captures, which I'm guessing is primarily why it didn't get released until now. As a cultural artifact, however, it's indispensable, serving as proof of how singular a talent Franklin was in her prime.

  • A Day in the Country

    A Day in the Country

    ★★★★½

    Nearly perfect at 40 minutes; loved those silent shots floating down the Seine.

  • Annihilation

    Annihilation

    ★★★½

    This should not (and at times does not) work for so many reasons: the (deliberate) flatness of most of the performances... glossing on STALKER without much of its existential profundity... the sudden switch into 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY-level psychedelia near the end. Honestly, I'm amazed something this outwardly, lyrically weird got such a wide release but damn, that final scene resonated with me fully.

  • Transit

    Transit

    ★★★

    It's a canny move to set the 1940s source material in the present day, and shrewder still for Petzold to indulge in stylistic motifs that one would find in a film from that era (most notably, the classic-sounding score.) Alas, the narration is a major distraction, Rogowski is a more competent than necessarily engaging lead, and the ironic use of a certain 1980s song at the end feels off (it honestly worked better via its brief, jokey appearance in REALITY BITES.)

  • Exhibition

    Exhibition

    ★★★½

    Watched in anticipation of Joanna Hogg's next film, THE SOUVENIR; far more interior and enigmatic than UNRELATED or ARCHIPELAGO, it works best when exploring the conundrum of architecture-as-art and whether such a thing can actually function as a home. Visually, this is a feast of textures: shadows, shifting lighting, walls within walls, etc. Conceptually, it's more hit-and-miss, though I appreciate her attempts to leaven the overtly meditative mood with glimpses of humor and the surreal. Also, she gets decent performances out of two leads primarily known as composers rather than actors, even if they're not as compelling as their surroundings.

  • Dragnet Girl

    Dragnet Girl

    ★★★½

    Obviously a curiosity for Ozu, although his expertise for composition is fully on display: the graceful tracking shots are in direct contrast to the static, low-paced camera of his best known work, but his eye for the unusual and, in some cases, the whimsical (the multiple RCA Nipper dogs!) is sublime--more so than the story, which is your standard gangster noir freshened only by the occasional clever turn of phrase.

  • Ash Is Purest White

    Ash Is Purest White

    ★★★★

    Jia Zhangke's last film, MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART is my favorite of his assessments of how much China has evolved in his lifetime; although this repeats many of that film's tropes (plus sneaks in a callback to STILL LIFE, my second-favorite film of his), rarely does it feel derivative or redundant. His perennial muse Zhao Tao keeps improving with each feature and the circa-2006 middle section might be the most emotionally open Zhangke's ever allowed himself to be. The last third…

  • The Go-Betweens: Right Here

    The Go-Betweens: Right Here

    ★★★★

    Can't imagine this appealing to anyone other than fans; however, those already converted couldn't ask for a better overview/analysis/tribute. Happily, it's artful and poetic without being pretentious, just like this jewel-of-a-band's best music.

  • Us

    Us

    ★★★½

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

    Comparisons to GET OUT will get one nowhere--this is an entirely different beast. Peele's command of style (from imagery to pacing) is nearly unmatched in contemporary studio cinema; I just wish his allegorical pretensions were a bit less muddled (ie--most everything to do with the underground tunnel world--THE FAVOURITE made better use of its rabbits.) Still, Lupita Nyong'o is absolutely iconic and that Hands Across America finale (scored to Minnie Riperton's "Les Fleurs", no less!) nearly took my breath away, even if I still can't determine exactly what it meant.