• Oppenheimer

    Oppenheimer

    ★★★★½

    I don't know, y'all. Watched this for a third time to give a lecture about it tomorrow, and its strengths, ambitions, and manifold scene-level subtleties carry more weight with me each time. Conversely, its miscalculations (some graceless dialogue, almost everything with Jean Tatlock, though Pugh herself is exempt) matter less and less. I'm amazed at what they pulled off, and if the costs of keeping this a monumental public event and not a privately consumed multi-installment miniseries are a breakneck…

  • Destiny

    Destiny

    ★★★½

    Dakan (or Destiny) was an unusually frank movie for 1997 about young boys in love, no matter where in the world it was made. Manga and Sori have already fallen for each other by the time the first scene starts, making out in a bright red car in a dark, tree-lined area, eager to go further but also sweetly, smartly nervous about it. Each guy has just one parent, and both gamble on candor. Manga (Aboubacar Touré) tells his single…

  • Anatomy of a Fall

    Anatomy of a Fall

    ★★★★½

    Just gets better on third viewing, as prior encounters accumulate, shifting what I emphasize and how I interpret from viewing to viewing, and also as new possibilities and nuances strike me.

    I do love how a film so seemingly premised on an all-caps question of Is She Lying or Isn't She? (as, even more forwardly, is the marketing campaign) is actually a concerto of conscious truths, conscious untruths, and untruths the speaker earnestly believes. These all sometimes alternate at high…

  • The Royal Hotel

    The Royal Hotel

    ★★★½

    Not quite a groundbreaker, and I wouldn't have minded more texture to the two leads and their relationship. Still, director Kitty Green once again demonstrates her talent for slow-build control in this suspense drama, which sustains a clear, steely look at the kind of individual and collective male violence that too many people write off with phrases like "at least nothing happened." Something absolutely happened. A solid exercise in exposing and indicting a broad, globally pervasive ecology of gendered endangerment…

  • The Assistant

    The Assistant

    ★★★★½

    The Assistant was one of the last movies I saw in the theater before the first COVID lockdown and one of ones that struck me as most undermined in potential cultural impact by appearing and disappearing at that chaotic time. Everything I remember about the pristinely controlled, persuasively menacing ambience holds up four years later, as does Julia Garner's brilliantly sustained performance of surgical minimalism, as does her indelible standoff with an impeccable Matthew Macfadyen. From editing to sound mix…

  • American Fiction

    American Fiction

    ★★

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

    It's not just that every single aspect of the filmmaking is so lazy and drab as to seem actively negligent, as if someone invited you for dinner and served only Saltines, even as they talked at you for hours, fished for compliments, asked if you found their jokes funny.

    It's not just that the satire is so dated and toothless, and so erratically integrated into a family saga that badly needs more shape. It's not just that three different characters—pointedly,…

  • Barbie

    Barbie

    ★★★★

    I have passed the challenge of still enjoying and admiring Barbie even while watching it with someone who was not enjoying it and only laughed a handful of times!

    (Blu-ray)

  • Atlantics

    Atlantics

    ★★★★★

    Got to watch this projected onto a big screen with a good-sized audience and field a discussion afterward, which was full of rich questions and reflections. For me, that's a perfect night. This movie remains a majesty. I've been teaching it a lot lately but hadn't re-experienced rhe whole thing in a while. I just get more obsessed with the Dior character. And with how the first 10 minutes show us that Diop knows the style, texture, and pitch we…

  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

    Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

    ★★★½

    As a gallery tour of unusual, eclectic, often inventive animation styles, absolutely flaunted for their own virtuosic sake but also meaningfully in dialogue with the movie's quantum conceits, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is totally amazing. We're talking a JFK-level parade of limitless technical showcasing at a breathless pace, this time conveying not pervasive paranoia but the protagonists' sheer affective overwhelm with the exuberance, the toll, and the haughty exclusivity that can accompany top-flight powers, whether superheroic or cinematic. There's an…

  • Air

    Air

    ★★

    This Film Is Based on Actual Events. However, Certain Characters, Characterizations, Incidents, Locations, and Dialogue Were Fictionalized or Created for Purposes of Dramatization. With Respect to Such Fictionalization or Creation, Any Similarity to the Name or to the Actual Character or History of Any Person, Living or Dead, or Any Product or Entity, or Any Actual Incident, Is Entirely for Dramatic Purposes and Not Intended to Reflect on an Actual Character, History, Product or Entity.

    Mkay. Par for the course,…

  • Spa Night

    Spa Night

    ★★★★

    Still an under-regarded contribution to U.S. queer cinema of the 2010s, not least for its understated yet intricate imbrication of pressures around race, sexuality, class, national identity, gender, and class, all while preserving David as an individualized character study and not just a stand-in for an easily projected group of peers. Camera adopts interesting angles, revealing of tight-lipped psychologies and affects as well as thematic conversations, and sound sometimes echoes, sometimes counters, and often complicates what we see. Editing rhythms,…

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    ★★★½

    Rewatched this for a lecture I'm giving later this week about multiverse movies and entropic narrative, specifically in recent movies by and about people of color (Everything Everywhere All at Once being the centerpiece, with Spider-Verse, Sorry to Bother You, and the novel Interior Chinatown as key supports). Also eager to at last catch up with this movie's nearly year-old sequel, so a refresher was due.

    I also genuinely thought I'd feel a big leap in enjoyment and in awe…