Category Movie Reviews

A Quiet Passion

The words the happy say Are paltry melody But those the silent feel Are beautiful— Emily Dickinson’s sister-in-law comes over in the wee hours, alarmed to see a light on, only to find Emily awake and preparing to write poetry in the quiet of the night. The look on Emily’s face is beautiful as she […]

GET OUT

I re-watched Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner before catching Jordan Peele’s Get Out in theaters. Many critics have suggested Peele plays off the earlier movie’s title and crowd-pleasing comedy-of-manners style. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was old-fashioned when it opened in 1967. Sidney Poitier was a big star at the time; he was the only […]

MOONLIGHT

Forget Rogue One and the latest Marvel face-off: The last scene of Moonlight rivals both for intensity and suspense. Without giving everything away, we watch two men circling each other, nothing exchanged but conversation and a cup of tea. Plenty of things feel unspoken. They haven’t seen each other in years; each became someone the other didn’t expect. And we can’t […]

Hacksaw Ridge

There are two movies in Hacksaw Ridge: the well-meaning tale of good-natured pacifist Desmond Doss; and the brutal, otherworldly days he spent at war. These two pieces feel so disparate in tone and entertainment value that it’s easy to conclude the filmmakers are more fascinated by the battle story. A few critics have credited the director […]

20th Century Women

We watched 20th Century Women after the Women’s March on January 21, and it was an inspiring second bill. Despite its title, Mike Mills’ movie doesn’t pretend to capture all women from the last century, or even all women from Santa Barbara, 1979 (where he sets his story). His movie looks to understand three very specific […]

Elle

Leave it to the French. I doubt anyone will call Elle a feminist film, though it features the great Isabelle Huppert as a woman seeking revenge after she is raped in her home. The plot twists are as lurid as what we’d expect from director Paul Verhoeven, whose previous films include Basic Instinct and Show […]

LA LA LAND

A loving homage to Old Hollywood musicals, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is like a crisp sip of Champagne, a charming throwback that’s neither revolutionary nor fully developed. But I still enjoyed it. It’s a contemporary twist on an old-fashioned: the two main characters carry out a screen romance pieced together from countless classic films. Chazelle has […]

Fences

Denzel Washington’s Fences is a good exercise in separating the merits of a stage work from its adaptation. It’s one of the more acclaimed plays in August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, his ten-part chronicle of black life in each decade of the last century, and it’s sure to outlive any re-interpretation. Using the movie as my […]

JACKIE + MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

“In short, there’s simply not A more congenial spot For happy-ever-aftering…” -Camelot (1960) Richard Burton’s somnolent voice echoes through Jackie twice: once, as Jackie Kennedy parades through the White House, soaking everything in before she leaves; and later, as her car drives the streets of Washington, and she sees her own mannequins unloaded from a truck […]

LOVING

June 26, 2015. I remember sitting at my desk at work and getting a text. Obergefell v. Hodges had been decided, 5-4, and same-sex marriage would now be legal across the country. Five to four, just like that. Without taking anything for granted, milestones like this can feel (retroactively) inevitable, even if this progress was […]