Clayton has written 87 reviews for films rated ★★★★★ .

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • In the Mood for Love
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

    Batman: Mask of the Phantasm


    Only has Nolan's The Dark Knight to compete with for finest Batman feature film ever made.

    I'm still elated nine year old me convinced my mother to take me to the criminally short theatrical run so I could bear witness in an almost empty theater. Sublime production top to bottom, and with a climactic confrontation that still gives me the heebie-jeebies. Chillingly good.

  • Harakiri



    Bamboo is no steel.
    My Second. Oh, ill you say?
    Expunge me. Your shame.

  • The Sandlot

    The Sandlot


    “Henry Aaron. Don’t know why but can I have this, kid?”

    In the theater for this as a nine year old. Perfect film for the young at heart. Seen it more times than I can count since. It’s as much a part of me as any other film.

    A little surprised the Letterboxd ratings I’m seeing are so low. Guess you had to cut your teeth on the diamond and grow up with Scotty Smalls and co. for it to resonate? Scratch that. Thought about it. It’s great.

  • Come and See

    Come and See


    Come and See is not an anti-war film in the conventional sense so much as it is the distilled horrors of an entire generation. Its verisimilitude is immediate, relentless and in all likelihood, peerless. Unforgettable image after unforgettable image abounds:

    The closeups. Anguished. Haunted. Lifeless. The split diopter lens.
    Glasha's eyes. Flickering jade.
    Two photographs. Same body, different being.
    Fountains of earth in the forest. You shouldn't have dug holes, kid.
    Pileup in the corner of the village. A life…

  • Bad Santa

    Bad Santa


    Black comedy classic. Terry Zwigoff's modern-day grinch, who literally puts the "stole" in "How The Grinch Stole Christmas", sets intimidating standards in foul hilarity that I've been laughing over since busting my ribs back at the inaugural viewing on a chilly 2003 November day in Folsom, California. Bad Santa never puts a boozy black boot astray. Thornton inhabits the role of Willie T. Stokes like flies dipped in shit, each sardonic, disheveled delivery more convincing than the last. With such…

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

    How the Grinch Stole Christmas!


    Does more in 26 minutes than similarly themed feature films dare dream. The 1966 animated holiday treatment of the Dr. Seuss classic is a triumph of the written and visual imagination, chock full of artistic wit* and draped by a beautiful sense of warmth. It's one of the rare films that believes in what it's doing and makes you believe it too.

    "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch" is so masterful as a complement to our lime-skinned scoundrel's shriveled black…

  • Die Hard

    Die Hard


    The better movie about a bartender released in July of 1988.

    One of those "if you don't like this I fundamentally don't understand you as a human being" movies.

  • Beau Travail

    Beau Travail


    Outpost? No. Arena of man.
    Circuitous cheers of the thunderous onlookers.
    Teal glass donned with speckled crests.
    Mangled shadows of the arid land.
    Marbled pawns caked in dust, bleached by sun.
    Thick sweat of brothers in arms.
    Red mist embroidered in the flaming wreckage.
    Commands of the sunken-faced man. Unrelenting.
    Buried desire awakened, choking on new air.
    Walk you deceitful slender bastard!
    His grave on the bed of crystal salts.
    The compass that lost its way.
    Rhythm of the Night.