• Beyond Utopia

    Beyond Utopia

    Refraining from a star rating, because:

    A) In the world where a documentary is rated based on subject and access (see: CITIZENFOUR) this is a 5/5. It's incredible. It's heartbreaking. It's thrilling. It’s miraculous. It's an artifact that teaches us about the world, that bears witness to something previously hidden from view. Every moment spent with the defectors and their families is absolutely essential viewing. I was floored. Not only by the footage, but by the director’s palpable empathy. She…

  • Theater Camp

    Theater Camp

    ★★★½

    Feels more like it should be a short, or a recurring gag over a season of I Think You Should Leave — jokes occasionally fall flat, the “mockumentary” concept isn’t so much half baked as it is nonexistent, and even at a cool 90 minutes it out wears its welcome. But the laugh out loud moments really got me, and that finale…for a joke that didn’t even make me crack a smile when it played in rehearsal, it’s amazing how well it landed on stage. That last burst of pathos gave it an extra half star.

  • Scrapper

    Scrapper

    ★★½

    Solid performances and kinetic editing can’t quite mask the extreme Sundance-ness of this one…feels like half a thought, like ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL distilled to its most twee essence. I respect the technique, but man was it tough to find something to latch onto.

  • Aftersun

    Aftersun

    ★★★★★

    Was my favorite film of the year when I saw it in theatres a few months back, and remains unequivocally my favorite today. A near-perfect artifact, the sort that only deepens on repeat viewings.

  • Women Talking

    Women Talking

    ★★★½

    I will admit that my enjoyment of this film may have been slightly hampered by my moviegoing experience, which began with a race to the theatre due to a time mixup, started to sour when my neighbor revealed she would be emitting a loud guttural belch-cough-combo after every bite of popcorn, and reached its nadir when two rats scurried in front of my feet about an hour in and stayed in my field of view until credits rolled—their passing bodies…

  • Broker

    Broker

    ★★★

    Expected to like this one so much more than I did. I am a sentimental guy; I love to cry; Kore-eda has made me cry on multiple occasions! And there are incredible moments in this film that clearly could have moved me in isolation. The conversation on the Ferris wheel! Thanking each other for being born! Oh my heart! 

    But the premise of this movie, the way the story unfolds, the context in which every heartfelt piece of dialogue is…

  • Descendant

    Descendant

    ★★★★

    A moving documentary about grappling with the particular ugliness of American history. Some grieve, others celebrate, others deny, others clumsily try to change the subject.

    The focal point is, of course, the centering of the descendants themselves — telling their stories, giving voice to their complicated feelings as the history is finally brought to the present. Better to bring injustice to light than keep it buried. To have something tangible to point to, some visible proof. Absolutely. But now that…

  • White Noise

    White Noise

    ★★★★

    More than any film I can recall, WHITE NOISE really captures the way it feels to read a pretentious, maximalist postmodern novel.

    Fortunately, I love that feeling! This was a goddamn delight.

    P.S. This would pair so well with ELVIS.

    P.P.S. I can’t help but think that the relatively chilly reception this one got has something to do with Baumbach, Gerwig, and Driver’s brands, and how wildly this diverges from the expectation of realism we place on them. If Alex…

  • Funny Pages

    Funny Pages

    ★★★½

    I wish the plot had a bit more meat on its bones, but tonally I absolutely adored FUNNY PAGES. It really captures the cringey arrogance of being a teenager. Particularly a teenage snob — worshiping the counterintuitive, the transgressive, the ugly, the “underground”, without having a fucking clue about the real, ugly world that necessitated it. Draping yourself in grime as an aesthetic doesn’t make you deeper; it just makes you a creepy little tourist. 

    In a genre often laden with nostalgia and sentiment, it’s refreshing to see a coming-of-age story say “We all kind of sucked, right?”

    We did. We really did.

  • We're All Going to the World's Fair

    We're All Going to the World's Fair

    ★★★★

    I want to write an essay about how perfectly this pairs with John Darnielle’s first two novels (“Wolf In White Van” and “Universal Harvester”). And if you know anything about my obsessions, you know what a high complement that is. What a wonderful, harrowing little film about alienation and living life through a screen.

    Makes me remember listening to Carissa’s Wierd and walking alone at night when I moved away to college…feeling lonely, feeling stuck, and thinking that all that…

  • EO

    EO

    ★★★½

    They Shoot Donkeys, Don’t They?


    As an experimental film, there are some truly breathtaking flourishes here. The way the camerawork (particularly the macro photography) bestows emotion onto EO; the sensory flashes of memory and imagination it conjures without explicitly stating; the roving POV, less an extension of what EO sees than it is a sort of omnipotent observer who happens to think like a donkey. So much here that not only sets it apart from That Bresson Film™, but in…

  • The Inspection

    The Inspection

    ★★★

    Despite knowing with certainty that this is a personal story, there’s just something about the way this unfolds that doesn’t have the…strangeness? unexpected detours?…I would expect from specific, personal storytelling. It feels a tad too generalized, its creases ironed out to best move an unfamiliar audience.

    And it is moving! The powerful lead performance by Jeremy Pope, the harrowing narrative at the center (albeit complicated by my inability to find “Became a Marine” particularly inspiring), the Animal Collective score, and…