I’m Baaaaaack….and Here’s My Top 50 of the Decade

Hello all! It’s been nigh on four years since I last dropped some knowledge on you here at Reel News Daily. I went off and got a Master’s degree, new job and all that, but have still been rocking films from all over the world. I’m happy to be back in the fold here at Reel News Daily and look forward to contributing more this year. Don’t you feel lucky?

So, I figured my phoenix rising from the ashes post should be something that might start a little conversation – my Top 50 films of the last decade. There were so many great films to choose from, which made this list very difficult. After two days of whittling it down and moving films around, I feel confident with what I decided on. I’m sure I missed a few of your favorites, but this is my list so you’ll just have to deal with it.

Here we go:

50) Shoplifters (2018) dir. by Hirokazu Koreeda
49) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) dir. by Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman
48) Gone Girl (2014) dir. by David Fincher
47) A Hidden Life (2019) dir. by Terrence Malick
46) Annihilation (2018) dir. by Alex Garland
45) Under the Skin (2013) dir. by Jonathan Glazer
44) Her (2013) dir. by Spike Jonze
43) The Favourite (2018) dir. by Yorgos Lanthimos
42) Take Shelter (2011) dir. by Jeff Nichols
41) Leviathan (2012) dir. by Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel
40) Upstream Color (2013) dir. by Shane Carruth
39) Death of Stalin (2017) dir. by Armando Iannucci
38) Columbus (2017) dir. Kogonada
37) Holy Motors (2012) dir. by Leos Carax
36) Shame (2011) dir. by Steve McQueen
35) Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010) dir. by Edgar Wright
34) Midnight in Paris (2011) dir. by Woody Allen
33) Stories We Tell (2012) dir. by Sarah Polley
32) Cold War (2018) dir. by Pawel Pawlikowski
31) Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) dir. by George Miller
30) Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) dir. by Ethan & Joel Coen
29) The Look of Silence (2015) dir. by Joshua Oppenheimer
28) We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) dir. by Lynne Ramsay
27) BlacKkKlansman (2018) dir. by Spike Lee
26) First Reformed (2017) dir. by Paul Schrader
25) Carol (2015) dir. by Todd Haynes
24) Winter’s Bone (2010) dir. by Debra Granik
23) Citizenfour (2014) dir. by Laura Poitras
22) Animal Kingdom (2010) dir. by David Michôd
21) A Separation (2011) dir. by Asgar Farhadi
20) Meek’s Cutoff (2010) dir. by Kelly Reichardt
19) La La Land (2016) dir. by Damien Chazelle
18) Phantom Thread (2018) dir. by Paul Thomas Anderson
17) The Lobster (2015) dir. by Yorgos Lanthimos
16) Calvary (2014) dir. by John Michael McDonagh
15) Best of Enemies: Buckley Vs. Vidal (2015) dir. by Robert Morgan & Morgan Neville
14) Looper (2012) dir. by Rian Johnson
13) Frances Ha (2013) dir. by Noah Baumbach
12) Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) dir. by Benh Zeitlin
11) Lady Bird (2018) dir. by Greta Gerwig
10) A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) dir. by Ana Lily Amirpour
9) Moonlight (2016) dir. by Barry Jenkins
8) Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) dir. by Jim Jarmusch
7) Zero Dark Thirty (2012) dir. by Kathryn Bigelow
6) The Tree of Life (2014) dir. by Terrence Malick
5) You Were Never Really Here (2017) dir. by Lynne Ramsay
4) Ex Machina (2014) dir. by Alex Garland
3) Melancholia (2011) dir. by Lars Von Trier
2) The Act of Killing (2012) dir. by Joshua Oppenheimer

1) The Master (2012) dir. by Paul Thomas Anderson

So there you have it. It was a tough job, but I was happy to do it. Here are a few that nearly made the list: Everybody Wants Some!! (underrated Richard Linklater that more people should watch), Tomas Alfredson’s slow burn spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Paul Thomas Anderson’s hippie noir adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. Admittedly, it was hard to weave many of the films from 2019 into the list as they’ll need to sit me a longer. I will say that Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story nearly edged their way on.

Here’s to hoping that the next ten years brings as many great films as the last ten have.

Tribeca Film Festival 2017 review: ‘MANIFESTO’ is life giving art.

Originally a stage experience in which 13 vignettes play simultaneously, Manifesto the film is another vehicle for Cate Blanchett to be Cate Blanchett being awesome. Performing words from the likes of Karl Marx, Freidrich Engel, and Jim Jarmusch, the film begs the question, ‘What is art?’ from every angle possible. Blanchett is a masterclass, playing each of the 13 characters completely differently and with precision, humor, and honesty worthy of a nomination for each. This film is most definitely not for everyone. It is highly stylistic and gorgeously shot. While it is up to the audience to decide whether there is an actual plot line, it’s more about the interpretation of the words and the specific decisions director Julian Rosefeldt and Blanchett have made as a team. The transitions from “scene” to scene are just as striking as the bold costume and makeup choices. One cannot help but be fully engrossed in every word and chosen movement, by both the camera and our leading lady. Defying gender, class, or form, Manifesto will challenge your mind and capture your imagination.


CAST & CREDITS
  • Director:
    Julian Rosefeldt
  • Screenwriter:
    Julian Rosefeldt
  • Director of Photography:
    Christoph Krauss
  • Makeup:
    Morag Ross
  • Costume Designer:
    Bina Daigeler
  • Editor:
    Bobby Good
  • Sound:
    David Hilgers, Fabian Schmidt, Markus Stemler, Tschangis Chahrokh
  • Production Designer:
    Erwin Prib
  • Executive Producer:
    Wassili Zygouris, Marcos Kantis, Martin Lehwald
  • Producer:
    Julian Rosefeldt
  • Hair Stylist Designer:
    Massimo Gattabrusi
  • Post Production Supervisor:
    Jan Schöningh
  • Cast Member:
    Cate Blanchett

Review: ‘Paterson’- Adam Driver Shines in Jim Jarmusch’s Beautiful New Film

Jim Jarmusch’s new film, Paterson, is a slow, tranquil walk thru the life of an ordinary man, which is very Jarmuschian, but this calming experience is like very few of the directors predecessors, which makes the unique film an even bigger treasure to behold.

Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey who secretly likes to write poetry. Every day, Paterson follows a simple routine that suits his mundane lifestyle. He wakes up to his creatively ambitious wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and his dog Marvin, eats his breakfast, walks the same path to work, drives the same daily bus route, eats dinner and walks the dog thru the city and takes a moment to stop at the local bar and have a beer on his way home. Life is simple and that’s the way Paterson prefers it. Each passing moment offers Paterson a chance to expand his secret book of poetry which is comprised of intimate experiences in his life. A matchbox or a thought or a simple calm breeze can spark the creative juices within this brilliant mind, however, Paterson doesn’t FEEL brilliant.

Paterson likes life with very little disruption, Laura’s world is ever changing. Each supports the other in their creative endeavors, but it’s Laura who needs to chip away at Paterson’s timid persona to help him envision a world where everyone gets to enjoy his poetry as much as he does. This is life, daily life, for Paterson, but when faced with a moment of disruption that throws off the balance of his life, it will take a soul searching event to climb back to his comfort and regain a normality to his tiny piece of the world.

Jim Jarmusch has created another masterpiece for us to treasure for decades to come. The delicate telling of this beautifully written film plays like an insiders look into one man’s existence, but the truly exceptional part of the journey is that you become engrossed within the frames of the film and begin to see life thru the eyes of this wonderful character. Adam Driver is exceptional as the titular character. There are multitudes of complicated layers within this character that you see fighting to surface, but the struggle of keeping this uneventful life on course seems to control every aspect of his existence. Golshifteh Farahani is a vision and the one counter aspect to Paterson’s life. Her performance is a peaceful, and yet, disruptive force within the film that adds humor, compassion and love that acts like a sanctuary for her counterpart.

Overall, Paterson is one of Jim Jarmusch‘s finest moments and a movie that offers many interpretations for it’s viewers. This movie is one of the best films of the year and one the best films this decade.

Stars

4 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

No

Trailer:

NYFF54 Review: ‘PATERSON’ is poetry in every sense of the word.

nyff54-bannerpaterson-poster

PATERSON written and directed by Jim Jarmusch

PATERSON_D06_0197.ARW

Adam Driver in PATERSON

  • Jim Jarmusch
  • 2016
  • USA
  • 118 minutes

Adam Driver is Paterson, a bus driver who writes poetry and happens to live and work in the city of Paterson, New Jersey, with his effervescent and energetic girlfriend (Golshifteh Farahani). Jim Jarmusch’s exquisite film is set to the rhythm of an individual consciousness and is made under the sign of the great American poet and New Jersey resident William Carlos Williams.

adam-driver-patersonJarmusch does it again with this seemingly simplistic story. The film elegant in that very simplicity. Following Paterson along on his daily routine, which only slight varies as the plot rolls along, we are privy to the everyday moments we often take for granted. We watch his breakfast, eavesdrop on conversations among his route passengers, sit with him on lunch breaks, walking home, and his nightly interactions with local bar patrons, his dog Marvin, and girlfriend Laura. She is a free spirit, artist, baker, and aspiring musician, painting everything in their home in black & white patterns. This is a stark juxtaposition to the lush cinematography when Paterson is out and about. There is an abundance of visual symbolism utilizing time and shadows and even with an almost 2 hr run-time, the film never loses its gentle pace. The beautifully easy score that underlies Adam Driver‘s fantastic voice overs as he writes his poetry in real-time, only serves to highlight how lovely this film truly is. Driver brilliantly portrays a man of calm and old-fashioned demeanor. He is quietly contemplative and extremely well read. With each role, he proves more and more what a star he is.

New York Film Festival announces a wonderfully diverse lineup – Jim Jarmusch, Paul Verhoeven & Mia Hansen-Løve among directors

NYFF 54 Header

25 features include new films from Maren Ade, Pedro Almodóvar, Olivier Assayas, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Alain Guiraudie, Eugène Green, Mia Hansen-Løve, Hong Sangsoo, Jim Jarmusch, Barry Jenkins, Pablo Larraín, Ken Loach, Kenneth Lonergan, Alison Maclean, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Cristian Mungiu, Matías Piñeiro, Cristi Puiu, Kelly Reichardt, Gianfranco Rosi, Dash Shaw, and Paul Verhoeven

The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces the 25 films for the Main Slate of the 54th New York Film Festival, September 30 – October 16.

NYFF Director and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones said, “The cinema is so many things at once. And when I look at the films in this year’s selection, I’m aware of the fact that it is a form of response. The Dardenne Brothers, Ken Loach, Cristian Mungiu, Gianfranco Rosi, Kleber Mendonça Filho, and Ava DuVernay are sounding alarms, while Jim Jarmusch, Kenneth Lonergan, Barry Jenkins, Maren Ade, Olivier Assayas, James Gray, and Mike Mills are fixed on internal landscapes, proclaiming the urgency of self-realization. I also see in this year’s lineup a bounty of vital work from artists from all around the world who will not stop until they see their visions all the way to the end.”

This year’s Main Slate showcases award-winning films that wowed viewers at international festivals, presented to New York audiences for the first time. Selections from Cannes include Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning I, Daniel Blake; Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper and Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation, which tied for Best Director; and Maren Ade’s highly acclaimed Toni Erdmann, awarded the Cannes Critics’ Prize. From Berlin, Gianfranco Rosi’s Golden Bear winner, Fire at Sea, will mark the director’s NYFF debut, and Mia Hansen-Løve returns to the festival with Things to Come, which won her Berlin’s Best Director award.

Other festival veterans returning to NYFF include Pedro Almodóvar, Kelly Reichardt, Hong Sangsoo, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Matías Piñeiro, Paul Verhoeven, Alain Guiraudie, Cristi Puiu, and Eugène Green. A number of celebrated filmmakers will make their NYFF debuts, such as Kenneth Lonergan with his third feature Manchester by the Sea; Kleber Mendonça Filho, presenting Aquarius, his anticipated follow-up to Neighboring Sounds; Alison Maclean with her coming-of-age story The Rehearsal; Dash Shaw, whose animated My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is his first feature; and Barry Jenkins, with his three-part portrait of a young gay African-American man,Moonlight.

Strong female performances are a prominent focus this year, with standout turns from Isabelle Huppert in Verhoeven’sElle and Hansen-Løve’s Things to Come; Brazilian legend Sônia Braga in Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius; Piñeiro favorite Agustina Muñoz in Hermia and Helena; and Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, and Laura Dern in Reichardt’s triptychCertain Women, among others. The Main Slate also features two films that bring poetry to the screen: Pablo Larraín’sNeruda, a portrait of the beloved Chilean poet, and Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, which carries the spirit of William Carlos Williams through the story of a city bus driver (Adam Driver) who also writes poetry.

As previously announced, the festival also boasts three World Premieres in the gala slots: Ava DuVernay’s The 13th(Opening Night), Mike Mills’s 20th Century Women (Centerpiece), and James Gray’s The Lost City of Z (Closing Night).

The 13th (Opening Night, previously announced)
Directed by Ava DuVernay
USA, 2016
World Premiere
The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis. A Netflix original documentary.

The 13th (Opening Night, previously announced)
Directed by Ava DuVernay
USA, 2016
World Premiere
The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis. A Netflix original documentary.

20th Century Women (Centerpiece, previously announced)
Directed by Mike Mills
USA, 2016
World Premiere
Mike Mills’s texturally and behaviorally rich new comedy seems to keep redefining itself as it goes along, creating a moving group portrait of particular people in a particular place (Santa Barbara) at a particular moment in the 20th century (1979), one lovingly attended detail at a time. The great Annette Bening, in one of her very best performances, is Dorothea, a single mother raising her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), in a sprawling bohemian house, which is shared by an itinerant carpenter (Billy Crudup) and a punk artist with a Bowie haircut (Greta Gerwig) and frequented by Jamie’s rebellious friend Julie (Elle Fanning). 20th Century Women is warm, funny, and a work of passionate artistry. An A24 Release.

The Lost City of Z (Closing Night, previously announced)
Directed by James Gray
USA, 2016
World Premiere
James Gray’s emotionally and visually resplendent epic tells the story of Lieutenant Colonel Percy Fawcett (a remarkable Charlie Hunnam), the British military-man-turned-explorer whose search for a lost city deep in the Amazon grows into an increasingly feverish, decades-long magnificent obsession that takes a toll on his reputation, his home life with his wife (Sienna Miller) and children, and his very existence. Gray and cinematographer Darius Khondji cast quite a spell, exquisitely pitched between rapture and dizzying terror. Also starring Robert Pattinson and Tom Holland, The Lost City of Z represents a form of epic storytelling that has all but vanished from the landscape of modern cinema, and a rare level of artistry.

Aquarius
Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho
Brazil/France, 2016, 142m
Portuguese with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
A highlight of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s follow-up to his acclaimed Neighboring Sounds revolves around the leisurely days of a 65-year-old widow, transcendently played by the great Brazilian actress Sônia Braga. Clara is a retired music critic and the only remaining resident of the titular apartment building in Recife. Trouble starts when an ambitious real estate promoter who has bought up all of Aquarius’s other units comes knocking on Clara’s door. She has no intention of leaving, and a protracted struggle ensues. Braga’s transfixing, multilayered performance and the film’s deliberate pacing and stylistic flourishes yield a sophisticated, political, and humane work.

Certain Women. Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

Certain Women. Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

 

Certain Women
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
USA, 2016, 107m
The seventh feature by Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff), a lean triptych of subtly intersecting lives in Montana, is a work of no-nonsense eloquence. Adapting short stories by Maile Meloy, Certain Women follows a lawyer (Laura Dern) navigating an increasingly volatile relationship with a disgruntled client; a couple (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) in a marriage laden with micro-aggression and doubt, trying to persuade an old man (Rene Auberjonois) to sell his unused sandstone; and a young ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) fixated on a new-in-town night school teacher (Kristen Stewart). Shooting on 16mm, Reichardt creates understated, uncannily intimate dramas nestled within a clear-eyed depiction of the modern American West. An IFC Films release.

Elle
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
France/Germany/Belgium, 2016, 131m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Paul Verhoeven’s first feature in a decade—and his first in French—ranks among his most incendiary, improbable concoctions: a wry, almost-screwball comedy of manners about a woman who responds to a rape by refusing the mantle of victimhood. As the film opens, Parisian heroine Michèle (a brilliant Isabelle Huppert) is brutally violated in her kitchen by a hooded intruder. Rather than report the crime, Michèle, the CEO of a video game company and daughter of a notorious mass murderer, calmly sweeps up the mess and proceeds to engage her assailant in a dangerous game of domination and submission in which her motivations remain a constant source of mystery, humor, and tension. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

Fire at Sea. Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber.

Fire at Sea. Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber.

 

Fire at Sea / Fuocoammare
Directed by Gianfranco Rosi
Italy/France, 2016, 108m
English and Italian with English subtitles
Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Gianfranco Rosi’s documentary observes Europe’s migrant crisis from the vantage point of a Mediterranean island where hundreds of thousands of refugees, fleeing war and poverty, have landed in recent decades. Rosi shows the harrowing work of rescue operations but devotes most of the film to the daily rhythms of Lampedusa, seen through the eyes of a doctor who treats casualties and performs autopsies, and a feisty but anxious pre-teen from a family of fishermen for whom it is simply a peripheral fact of life. With its emphasis on the quotidian, the film reclaims an ongoing tragedy from the abstract sensationalism of media headlines. A Kino Lorber release.

Graduation / Bacalaureat
Directed by Cristian Mungiu
Romania, 2016, 127m
Romanian with English subtitles
Cristian Mungiu’s expertly constructed drama concerns a doctor desperate for his daughter to escape corruption-plagued Romania by accepting a scholarship offer from a British university (after-the-fact layer of irony courtesy of Brexit), contingent on her high school final exams. But after she’s assaulted, perhaps for past sins of her father, the doctor must decide whether he will take advantage of his position to ensure that she receives high marks, despite her trauma. Parents anxious about their children’s education will appreciate the moral dilemma the film poses. Like Mungiu’s superb 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (NYFF ’07), Graduation resonates beyond national boundaries. A Sundance Selects release.

Hermia and Helena
Directed by Matías Piñeiro
Argentina/USA, 2016, 87m
English and Spanish with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Shooting outside his native Argentina for the first time, New York–based Matías Piñeiro fashions a bittersweet comedy of coupling and uncoupling that doubles as a love letter to his adopted city. Working on a Spanish translation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on an artist residency, Camila (Agustina Muñoz) finds herself within a constellation of shifting relationships (an old flame, a new one, a long-lost relative). Mingling actors from the director’s Buenos Aires repertory with stalwarts of New York’s independent film scene (Keith Poulson, Dustin Guy Defa, Dan Sallitt), Hermia and Helena offers the precise gestures, mercurial moods, and youthful energies of all Piñeiro’s cinema, with an emotional depth and directness that make this his most mature work yet. 

I, Daniel Blake. Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects .

I, Daniel Blake. Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects .

 

I, Daniel Blake
Directed by Ken Loach
UK, 2016, 100m
U.S. Premiere
Unable to work after suffering a heart attack, Daniel (Dave Johns) must apply to the government for benefits. But with the seemingly endless documentation he has to provide, his lack of familiarity with computers, and the condescending attitudes of the functionaries to whom he must repeat the same information in one soul-killing encounter after another, he is all but defeated from the beginning, as is his new comrade in misery, Katie (Hayley Squires). English director Ken Loach’s thoroughly shattering film, which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, will strike a chord with anyone who has ever tried to negotiate their way through the labyrinth of bureaucracy. A Sundance Selects release.

Julieta
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Spain, 2016, 99m
Spanish with English subtitles
Pedro Almodóvar explores his favorite themes of love, sexuality, guilt, and destiny through the poignant story of Julieta, played to perfection by Emma Suárez (younger) and Adriana Ugarte (middle-aged), over the course of a 30-year timespan. Just as she is about to leave Madrid forever, the seemingly content Julieta has a chance encounter that stirs up sorrowful memories of the daughter who brutally abandoned her when she turned eighteen. Drawing on numerous film historical references, from Hitchcock to the director’s own earlier Movida era work, Almodóvar’s twentieth feature, adapted from three short stories by Alice Munro (“Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence”), is a haunting drama that oscillates between disenchanted darkness and visual opulence. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

Manchester by the Sea. Photo by Claire Folger, courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions.

Manchester by the Sea. Photo by Claire Folger, courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions.

 

Manchester by the Sea
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
USA, 2016, 137m
Casey Affleck is formidable as the volatile, deeply troubled Lee Chandler, a Boston-based handyman called back to his hometown on the Massachusetts North Shore after the sudden death of his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), who has left behind a teenage son (Lucas Hedges). This loss and the return to his old stomping grounds summon Lee’s memories of an earlier, even more devastating tragedy. In his third film as a director, following You Can Count on Me (2000) and Margaret (2011), Kenneth Lonergan, with the help of a remarkable cast, unflinchingly explores grief, hope, and love, giving us a film that is funny, sharply observed, intimately detailed yet grand in emotional scale. An Amazon Studios Release.

Moonlight
Directed by Barry Jenkins
USA, 2016, 110m
Barry Jenkins more than fulfills the promise of his 2008 romantic two-handerMedicine for Melancholy in this three-part narrative spanning the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of a gay African-American man who survives Miami’s drug-plagued inner city, finding love in unexpected places and the possibility of change within himself. Moonlight offers a powerful sense of place and a wealth of unpredictable characters, featuring a fantastic ensemble cast including André Holland, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali—delivering performances filled with inner conflict and aching desires that cut straight to the heart. An A24 release.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. Photo by Dash Shaw.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. Photo by Dash Shaw.

 

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea
Directed by Dash Shaw
USA, 2016, 75m
U.S. Premiere
No matter your age, part of you never outgrows high school, for better or worse. Dash Shaw, known for such celebrated graphic novels as Bottomless Belly Button and New School, brings his subjective, dreamlike sense of narrative; his empathy for outsiders and their desire to connect; and his rich, expressive drawing style to his first animated feature. Packed with action but seen from the inside out, My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is about friends overcoming their differences and having each other’s backs in times of crisis, and its marvelously complex characters are voiced by Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, and John Cameron Mitchell.

Neruda
Directed by Pablo Larraín
Chile/Argentina/France/Spain, 2016, 107m
Spanish and French with English subtitles
Pablo Larraín’s exciting, surprising, and colorful new film is not a biopic but, as the director himself puts it, a “Nerudean” portrait of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s years of flight and exile after his 1948 denunciation of his government’s leadership. Larraín’s heady blend of fact and fancy (the latter embodied in an invented character, straight out of detective fiction, played by Gael García Bernal) is many things at once: a loving, kaleidoscopic recreation of a particular historical moment; a comical cat-and-mouse game; and a pocket epic. Featuring Luis Gnecco, a dead ringer for the poet and a formidable actor, alongside a terrific cast. A release of The Orchard.

Paterson
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
USA, 2016, 118m
U.S. Premiere
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver who writes poetry drawn from the world around him. Paterson is also the name of the New Jersey city where he works and lives with his effervescent and energetic girlfriend (Golshifteh Farahani). And Paterson is the title of the great epic poem by William Carlos Williams, whose spirit animates Jim Jarmusch’s exquisite new film. This is a rare movie experience, set to the rhythm of an individual consciousness absorbing the beauties and mysteries and paradoxes and joys and surprises of everyday life, at home and at work, and making them into art. An Amazon Studios release.

Personal Shopper. Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects.

Personal Shopper. Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects.

 

Personal Shopper
Directed by Olivier Assayas
France, 2016, 105m
French and English with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Kristen Stewart is the medium, in more ways than one, for this sophisticated genre exploration from director Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria). As a fashion assistant whose twin brother has died, leaving her bereft and longing for messages from the other side, Stewart is fragile and enigmatic—and nearly always on-screen. From an opening sequence in a haunted house with an intricately constructed soundtrack to a high-tension, cat-and-mouse game on a trip from Paris to London and back set entirely to text messaging, Personal Shopper brings the psychological and supernatural thriller into the digital age.  An IFC Films release.

The Rehearsal
Directed by Alison Maclean
New Zealand, 2016, 75m
U.S. Premiere
Alison Maclean (Jesus’ Son) returns to her New Zealand filmmaking roots with a multilayered coming-of-age story about a young actor (James Rolleston) searching for the truth of a character he’s playing onstage and the resulting moral dilemma in his personal life. Set largely in a drama school, featuring Kerry Fox as a diva-like teacher who tries to shape her student’s raw talent, The Rehearsal, adapted from the novel by Eleanor Catton, demystifies actors and acting in order to reveal the moments where craft becomes art. The same happens with Maclean’s understated but penetrating filmmaking. Her concentration on the quotidian yields a finale that borders on the sublime.     

Sieranevada. Photo courtesy of Elle Driver.

Sieranevada. Photo courtesy of Elle Driver.

 

Sieranevada
Directed by Cristi Puiu
Romania, 2016, 173m
Romanian with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
A decade after jumpstarting the Romanian New Wave with The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu returns with a virtuosic chamber drama set largely within a labyrinthine Bucharest apartment where a cantankerous extended family has gathered forty days after its patriarch’s death (and three days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris). Rituals and meals are anticipated and delayed, doors open and close, and the camera hovers at thresholds and in corridors. As claustrophobia mounts, heated, humorous exchanges—about the old Communist days and the present age of terror—coalesce into a brilliantly staged and observed portrait of personal and social disquiet. 

Son of Joseph / Le fils de Joseph
Directed by Eugène Green
France/Belgium, 2016, 113m
French with English Subtitles
U.S. Premiere
The American-born expatriate filmmaker Eugène Green exists in his own special artistic orbit. All Green’s films share a formal rigor and an increasingly refined modulation between the playfully comic, the urgently human, and the transcendent, and they are each as exquisitely balanced as the baroque music and architecture that he cherishes. His latest movie, Son of Joseph, is perhaps his most buoyant. A nativity story reboot that gently skewers French cultural pretensions, it features newcomer Victor Ezenfis as a discontented Parisian teenager in search of a father, Mathieu Amalric and Fabrizio Rongione as his, respectively, callous and gentle alternative paternal options, and Natacha Régnier as his single mother. A Kino Lorber Films release. 

Staying Vertical / Rester vertical
Directed by Alain Guiraudie
France, 2016, 100m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Léo (Damien Bonnard), a blocked filmmaker seeking inspiration in the French countryside for an overdue script, begins an affair with a shepherdess (India Hair), with whom he almost immediately has a child. Combining the formal control of his 2013 breakthrough Stranger by the Lake with the shapeshifting fabulism of his earlier work, Alain Guiraudie’s new film is a sidelong look at the human cycle of birth, procreation, and death, as well as his boldest riff yet on his signature subjects of freedom and desire. The title has the ring of both a rallying cry and a dirty joke—fitting for a film that is, above all else, a rumination on what it means to be a human being, a vertical animal. A Strand Releasing release.

Things to Come. Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects.

Things to Come. Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects.

 

Things to Come / L’Avenir
Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve
France/Germany, 2016, 100m
French with English subtitles
In the new film from Mia Hansen-Løve (Eden), Isabelle Huppert is Nathalie, a Parisian professor of philosophy who comes to realize that the tectonic plates of her existence are slowly but inexorably shifting: her husband (André Marcon) leaves her, her mother (Edith Scob) comes apart, her favorite former student decides to live off the grid, and her first grandchild is born. Hansen-Løve carefully builds Things to Come around her extraordinary star: her verve and energy, her beauty, her perpetual motion. Huppert’s remarkable performance is counterpointed by the quietly accumulating force of the action, and the result is an exquisite expression of time’s passing. A Sundance Selects release.

Toni Erdmann
Directed by Maren Ade
Germany, 2016, 162m
German with English subtitles
An audacious twist on the screwball comedy—here, the twosome is an aging-hippie prankster father and his corporate-ladder-climbing daughter—Toni Erdmann delivers art and entertainment in equal measure and charmed just about everyone who saw it at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Maren Ade’s dazzling script has just enough of a classical comedic structure to support 162 minutes of surprises big and small. Meanwhile, her direction is designed to liberate the actors as much as possible while the camera rolls, resulting in sublime performances by Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek, who leave the audience suspended between laughter and tears. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

The Unknown Girl. Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects.

The Unknown Girl. Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects.

 

The Unknown Girl
Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Belgium, 2016, 106m
U.S. Premiere
It’s a few minutes after closing time in a medical clinic in Seraing, Belgium. The buzzer rings. Doctor Jenny (Adèle Haenel) tells her assistant (Olivier Bonnaud) to ignore it. She is later informed that the girl she turned away was soon found dead on the riverside. From that moment, Jenny becomes a different kind of doctor, diagnosing not just her dispossessed patients’ illnesses but also the greater malady afflicting her community. And this is a different kind of movie for Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, in which the urgency pulses beneath the seemingly placid surface, and it is all keyed to Haenel’s extraordinary performance. A Sundance Selects release.

Yourself and Yours
Directed by Hong Sangsoo
South Korea, 2016, 86m
Korean with English subtitles
Prolific NYFF favorite Hong Sangsoo boldly and wittily continues his ongoing exploration of the painful caprices of modern romance. Painter Youngsoo (Kim Joo-hyuk) hears secondhand that his girlfriend, Minjung (Lee Yoo-young), has recently had (many) drinks with an unknown man. This leads to a quarrel that seems to end their relationship. The next day, Youngsoo sets out in search of her, at the same time that Minjung—or a woman who looks exactly like her and may or may not be her twin—has a series of encounters with strange men, some of whom claim to have met her before . . .  Yourself and Yours is a break-up/make-up comedy unlike any other, suffused with sophisticated modernist mystery.

Jeremy’s Review: Spike Lee’s “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” a Nod to Indie Roots, But Ultimately Falls Short on Execution

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Spike Lee is a lot like Stanley Kubrick to me in that they are both hit or miss directors that can wow me with one film and completely lose me with another. I can’t think of two directors that can make my opinion of their work swing from liking to disliking as quickly. It’s been since Lee‘s 2002 film 25th Hour that I’ve felt he lived up to what he gave with his masterpiece Do the Right Thing. Since then, it’s been a series of misfires and almost-theres. So, when I had the chance to see Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, his remake of Bill Gunn‘s cult classic Ganja and Hess, I will admit I was curious. I had high hopes that his working independently of a studio would capture some of the lightning that was bottled back in the 90s. Unfortunately, this film fell more in the Oldboy (which was an absolute mess) camp than his He Got Game camp.

Da-Sweet-Blood-of-Jesus-Stephen Tyrone Williams

The story is as such: Dr. Hess Greene (Stephen Tyrone Williams), a foremost expert on African cultures, begins a new project with the help of a researcher Lafayette Hightower (Elvis Nolasco). After the two meet and have some in depth conversation at Hess’ beautiful Martha’s Vineyard estatel they adjourn for the evening. When an unidentified sound drags Hess out of his house, he finds Hightower wailing high in a tree with a rope around his neck, about to throw himself from the branch on which he sits and kill himself. He is clearly a troubled man and Hess does everything to convince him to keep from committing suicide and it works…for the time being. Later, after further discussing the events of the evening, Hess is convinced that this is a one time thing and that Hightower will recover. Short lived, Hess wakes up to Hightower trying to strangle him. As the two battle back and forth, Hightower grabs a recently unearthed Ashanti dagger (the Ashanti are the major culture in Ghana) and stabs Hess, killing him. Or so we think. Later, Hess wakes up, still alive and apparently well despite the wound from the dagger. However, he is a changed man with an insatiable lust for blood. When he confronts Hightower after rising from the dead, Hightower shoots himself and we see Hess lapping at the blood left behind, sealing his fate. What plays out after this is Hightower’s wife, Ganja (Zaraah Abrahams), arrives on the island looking for her husband as he owes her money. They are on the outs and she just wants to be rid of him. It’s fairly easy to tell what happens after this…Hess and Ganja fall in love, marry and Hess turns her into a bloodlusting fiend just like him. How does all of that play out…well, for that you will need to see the film.

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Tonally, this film is all over the place. It plays like the original (although I will confess I’ve not seen all of it) but with a higher class level of exploitation. The film’s thematic material also runs the gamut – colonialism, race, class. The way it was filmed reminded me so much of Fassbinder‘s Whity, although there is little other reference to it in Da Sweet Blood of Jesus aside from the racial aspects, which Lee has always had a knack for transcribing to the big screen. This is where Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is most successful, even though Lee isn’t terribly subtle with some of his references (e.g. Hightower trying to hang himself in a big tree). I really enjoyed Williams in the lead role, but the acting aside was spotty at best. I also really appreciated that this film didn’t devolve into some ridiculous vampire film. No one will ever do an understated vampire film better than Jim Jarmusch‘s Only Lovers Left Alive in my opinion so Lee was wise not to tread on that territory. The eroticism that was laced  throughout was well earned and avoided the trappings that befall other bloodsucking films. I love that Lee used Kickstarter to fund this film as no studio in their right minds would have funded it. This definitely allowed Lee the license to add content that would never have been allowed otherwise. I applaud his courage for that.

As a whole, this certainly is an interesting film and I may revisit it again. This film has been very hit or very miss with little wiggle room in between with other critics. I think this film is a near miss, but perhaps my opinion of it will change after finishing Gunn‘s film in its entirety. If you are a Spike Lee fan, this is worth a watch. If you want to see some off the beaten path, then I would suggest it. It may strike your fancy where it didn’t strike mine.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus was released this week on Blu-Ray and DVD.

If I Chose the Academy Award Winners and Nominees – 2015 edition

I’ve now seen most of the films that had a release in 2014. This makes me more qualified to vote for the Oscars than 97.548% of the Academy’s membership. With the Oscar ceremony occurring tonight, I’ve picked, as I have the previous two years, who I think the nominees and winners should be in the bulk of the major categories. Once again, the foreign film category will be left off because I simply haven’t had access to enough foreign films to make a comment on them. Those that have made it to my neck of the woods, I will say, have been very good for the most part. Read More →

Reel News Daily’s Top Movies of 2014 on The Reel Big Show!

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It’s a full house on The Reel Big Show! Michael leads the group in discussion of their favorite movies of 2014, the night before the Oscar nominations. Below are their lists – with bold for which were nominated. See the list of nominations at Oscar.org.

Check out the fun IMDb quiz based on the 36 movies in all the lists!
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Reel News Daily’s Top Summer Movies of 2014

TopSummerMovies2014At one point the Summer Season was depicted by the film’s released between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, but the time’s have changed and so has Hollywood. Summer tent-pole films are being released earlier and earlier to avoid the cluster of blockbusters being released weekly to capitalize on the lack of competition which of course means more money. So we’ve decided to expand our scope and include April into out Top Summer Movies of 2014…buuuuut we’re also cutting off the last 2 weeks of August…so sue us!

Jeremy‘s List

10. Fort Tilden
9. Obvious Child
8. X-Men: Days of Future Past
7. Calvary
6. Life Itself
5. Bluebird
4. Snowpiercer
3. Boyhood
2. Under the Skin
1. Only Lovers Left Alive

Liz‘s List

10. Neighbors
9. Chef
8. Coherence
7. Filth
6. Dom Hemingway
5. Frank
4. About Alex
3. Boyhood
2. Snowpiercer
1. Only Lovers Left Alive

Michael‘s List

10. Edge of Tomorrow
9. Filth
8. X-Men: Days of Future Past
7. Nymphomaniac
6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
4. Only Lovers Left Alive
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
2. Snowpiercer
1. Boyhood

Melissa‘s List

10. Coherence
9. Godzilla
8. Locke
7. Dom Hemingway
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
5. Filth
4. Frank
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
2. Only Lovers Left Alive
1. Snowpiercer


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