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  • All the King's Men

    All the King's Men

    ★★★

    A "man of the people" rises in politics despite (or because of) sordid affairs, blackmailing honest men, and overall boorish behavior. In broad strokes, it certainly sounds familiar to those of us tolerating our way through 2019.

    A Face In The Crowd is a stronger and even more resonant tale of a twisted populist politician, released 8 years later, and it's really a crime that that didn't win Best Picture — or even get nominated for a single Oscar.

    All…

  • Tom Jones

    Tom Jones

    ★★½

    One of the weirder Best Picture winners, Tom Jones is a bawdy sex comedy set in the 18th century. There's a lot of highly stylized direction and storytelling that feels ahead of its time — the opening scene is a silent film pastiche, there's plenty of 4th wall breaking — and very goofy humor. It's an intermittently amusing curiosity.

  • Ghost World

    Ghost World

    ★★★★★

    Of all my 2001 favorites, this is probably the film I've re-watched the most, and it only gets better with age. Following their high school graduation, BFFs Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) hang out and fill their last summer of freedom in that idle, aimless manner you can only get away with as a teenager. Their primary preoccupation is Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a lonesome sad sack, who they set up on a fake date. Then Enid starts to…

  • WALL·E

    WALL·E

    ★★★★½

    A truly visionary piece of work, WALL*E manages to be a crowd-pleasing family film featuring two robotic leads with little conventional dialogue, at the same time delivering a not-at-all-subtle environmental message. Pixar’s standard of visual razzle-dazzle is matched by a story that feels just as groundbreaking as the animation. It should come as no surprise that these talented animators make a love story between two robots feel not only credible, but incredibly moving; even so, WALL*E takes romance to new…

  • Iris

    Iris

    ★★½

    Jim Broadbent deservedly has an Oscar because of this film. He's the best thing about it.

    Ranked at #9 in my Top 10 back then, I rewatched it because I remembered so little about it. It's about what you'd expect from a Miramax prestige film circa 2001. There are certainly other films from 2001 I'd rate higher now — Dench and Winslet are both better elsewhere, but again, it's nice to see Broadbent get a showcase like this. (He should really probably be considered the lead, not supporting, though he does share the role with Hugh Bonneville as the younger Bailey.)

  • Rift

    Rift

    ★★★★½

    ”Do you ever get that feeling, when you wake up in the middle of the night, that there’s something with you in the dark?”

    My contentious relationship with Call Me By Your Name’s Italian fantasia is counterbalanced by Rift, a stark tale of two ex-boyfriends’ tense reunion. Here, the picturesque backdrop in a remote European location is not Italy, but Iceland. Here, Call Me By Your Name’s infuriating summertime beauty is replaced with foreboding cliffs and cold that can kill you.…

  • The Irishman

    The Irishman

    ★★★★

    Believe it or not, it's been nearly 30 years since Martin Scorsese made GoodFellas, one of the auteur's least disputed masterpieces. The film was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture. Joe Pesci won Best Supporting Actor.

    Scorsese's name has been mentioned in a lot of film criticism lately, and not just because he's teamed up with streaming giant Netflix to make the year's premier awards season juggernaut. (And not just because he's been lightly dissing the Marvel…

  • Going My Way

    Going My Way

    ★★

    The Best Picture winner from 1944 isn't terribly exciting, unless you're riveted by the minor politics inside a Catholic church. "Swinging On A Star" won a Best Song Oscar, Bing Crosby won Best Actor, and Barry Fitzgerald was nominated twice — for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor — winning the latter (which prompted the Academy to make a rule against double noms for the same role). It's nice and all, but slow-moving, with uninspired supporting characters.

  • Arachnophobia

    Arachnophobia

    ★★★

    Still legitimately likely to give me nightmares.

  • Beach Rats

    Beach Rats

    ★★★★

    Call Me By Your Name was 2017's big gay independent release, while Beach Rats flew under the radar. Eliza Hittman's Beach Rats could be Call Me By Your Name sour twin. It also centers on a young man grappling with his sexuality over the summer while still living at home.

    Frankie (Harris Dickinson) has no job and no direction. He's content to spend his days and nights getting high with three buddies, all rough-and-tumble Brooklyn types. They commit petty crimes and play handball and…

  • Nocturama

    Nocturama

    ★★★★

    Nocturama is about a bunch of French teenagers hanging out in a mall. They blast an eclectic mix of music, try on clothes — one even takes a bath right in the middle of the a department store. The mall is empty; they've snuck in at night.

    If that sounds uneventful, you're half-right — the midsection of Nocturama doesn't have a lot going on in terms of drama. Personal conflicts are minimal and very little happens, for a while. What adds…

  • All These Sleepless Nights

    All These Sleepless Nights

    ★★★★

    All These Sleepless Nights is a bit of a musical. Much of it is set to the EDM, and its characters dance along with the music, and the music tells us what they're thinking and how they feel. But All These Sleepless Nights is also a documentary, in the sense that it features real people behaving as themselves without a script. In truth, it's more like a Polish reality show about teenage hedonism than a tried-and-true doc, except that it's feature…