• High and Low

    High and Low

    ★★★★★

    Perfection in halves, possessing first the single-location mastery of Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men and later the tightly wound procedural of David Fincher's Zodiac. Kurosawa's ticking clock thriller is all the more enjoyable for its modernity, swapping out the historical epic for 1960s police detectives and conniving business tycoons. This is a post-war Japanese society now starkly adoptive of Western culture yet maintaining hallmarks of its rigid conservatism.

    High and Low's bifurcated structure opens on a brilliant twist to the…

  • Teeth

    Teeth

    ★★½

    Thoughts:

    - Only in movies could I jump from Persona to Teeth in the span of a few days.

    - The X-Men have been unfairly concealing the mutants with unglamorous powers from us.

    - As someone who works on films, I wish I had worked on Teeth. Just to have the story. I would literally pay good money to have been present at the pitch.

    - The puritanical satire in this is way more terrifying than the cavernous snarl of its femme…

  • Spirited Away

    Spirited Away

    ★★★★

    Miyazaki and co. don't just make films, they engineer worlds. Look at anything going on in the frame, no matter the distance from the main action, and you'll find the same amount of vitality, of wonder, of ingenuity. An absolute delight. What an imagination!

  • Hiroshima Mon Amour

    Hiroshima Mon Amour

    ★★★★

    We all have our Hiroshima, and we all have our Nevers, France. That is, until we allow ourselves to forget. The memory fades away when fully subsumed by a new one, and the pain with it. The final third in this heavily influential treatise on memory gets a bit tedious in its plotting, but not enough to mire Alan Resnais’ wistful touch and Marguerite Duras’ otherwise sparkling screenplay. The editing is masterful, at turns traditional and iconoclast, finely slicing together…

  • Persona

    Persona

    ★★★★★

    An experience that feels like a signpost on the road of cinema. A point in which you must ease up on the gas and pay mind to where you're going, and how far you've come. Bergman's Persona is poised like a rite of passage, both the apotheosis of the French New Wave's provocations and the bridge to Hollywood's auteur-driven wild west shortly to come. It is a route that snakes through the language of dreams and the bog of the…

  • A Brighter Summer Day

    A Brighter Summer Day

    ★★★★

    Impressive epic with novelistic reach and a lived-in, experiential punch. The deliberate, nuanced storytelling and intimacy surrounding this 1960s Taiwanese family makes its absolute backbreaker of an ending sting with unusual force. As someone only marginally familiar with Taipei’s history, that was a kick in the throat. Yang’s final shot is an all-timer, a wordless expression of unimaginable loss.

  • Ikiru

    Ikiru

    ★★★★½

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

    "I can't afford to hate people. I don't have that kind of time."

    A melancholy, tremendously moving experience about an aging bureaucrat given a terminal diagnosis coming to grips with a life that has passed him by. Kurosawa's film is so incisive, so perceptive about human nature that the subtlest gestures exude a delayed-release kind of profundity. I think of the epiphanies of Kinji Watanabe's (Takashi Shimura) co-workers as they mourn his death, in a drunken stupor promising to revolutionize…

  • Mr. Baseball

    Mr. Baseball

    ★★★

    You had me at three balls, four strikes.

    A relic of fish-out-of-water, big dick American chauvinism that is entirely predictable but strangely comforting. The girth of Jack Elliot's (Tom Selleck) ignorance and arrogance is only matched by his heroic mustache, and until the cross-cultural bridges are inevitably mended in a language of mutual respect he never fails to amuse. If Jack Elliot (and his ironically Yankee-disqualifying mustache) isn't as potent a symbol for America's standing on the world stage to…

  • Godzilla

    Godzilla

    ★★★★

    Watching Toho's original film from 1954 lays to waste, in my mind, all arguments about the great monster's subsequent cinematic legacy. The scaled, radioactive anomaly belongs in 1950s Japan, and that's it. Divorcing Godzilla from it's immediate political fears and socio-cultural anxieties is unthinkable; like if the owner of the Welles estate thought that was sufficient enough grounds to remake Citizen Kane. This is a unique cinematic expression from a culture still reeling from and reckoning with a great national…

  • Smooth Talk

    Smooth Talk

    ★★★★★

    "If your broken heart should need repair, then I am the man to see. I whisper sweet things, you tell all your friends, they'll come running to me."

    - James Taylor

    Innocence on trial in the forest of cubs and wolves. About as close to a time capsule of the 1980s as I've ever seen, Joyce Chopra's Smooth Talk paints a hazy yet acute likeness of teenage angst and sexual awakening. The rebellious sore thumb of an archetypal working class…

  • The Call

    The Call

    ★★★½

    The pleasures of the land line, revisited.

    If you have the same experience I did, you'll infer the mechanics of where The Call is going fairly early on. What I did not count on, however, was how far director Chung-Hyun Lee was going to push his science fiction / thriller / serial killer horror mashup. You'll either laugh yourself out of the scenario quickly, or be unable to slap the giddy grin off your face (like me) because you're having…

  • The Rider

    The Rider

    ★★★★½

    I've been deliberating whether or not to give Chloé Zhao's The Rider the perfect 5 star rating, as I can't yet find any faults in it after sitting on it for a day. I'll leave it at 4.5 for now, give it some more daylight and return to it.

    There are countless superlatives I could toss this picture's way, you name it, but the master descriptor I zero in on is honest. The Rider is at bedrock a very simple…