• French Exit

    French Exit

    ★★★★

    75/100

    Sustenance! Second viewing, no change; I acknowledge that there are many people who don't find this an utter delight (another friend of mine blew it a raspberry within the past hour), but I can't say I understand how their pleasure centers work. And while this doesn't particularly factor into my ardor, I can't think offhand of another movie that can be described as a love story between a mother and her adult son. (No, Psycho does not count.)

  • The Killing of Two Lovers

    The Killing of Two Lovers

    ★★★★

    78/100

    A.V. Club review. Thought for a while that Machoian had made a less deliberately tedious version of Puiu's Aurora; that's not quite what he's up to, turns out, but this is still a singular amalgam of heightened tension and mundane domestic discord, anchored by two perfectly judged performances. Very excited that the Academy ratio is making a comeback (though I should confess, with some embarrassment, that I didn't even notice when the film shifts to 1.66 for its dramatic…

  • The Road Home

    The Road Home

    27/100

    Second viewing, last seen a few months prior to its U.S. theatrical release. (It didn't open here until 2001, so I'd already discovered Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, though this was actually her big-screen debut.) My reaction then was scathing and I stand by every word, calibrating for my lack of awareness that Zhang Y. was about to give us Hero. A film so nauseatingly inspirational that it actually ends on a shot of someone scampering.

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    Perhaps it's…

  • Here Today

    Here Today

    ★½

    25/100

    A.V. Club review, in which I couldn't find room to scoff at the notion that a bunch of present-day 12-year-olds know the words to "Piece of Your Heart." But that is very much the least of this movie's many, many problems.

  • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

    The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

    ★★★½

    70/100

    Third viewing, last seen 2003. My Watch This piece for A.V. Club focuses on David Shore's magnificent score, but the film's other virtues are equally self-evident; what still holds me back from truly loving it is a glib jokiness (most evident in any scene involving the mayor) that undermines the otherwise considerable tension. Though I do love the choice to end on that note, via Matthau's ineffable gotcha look.

  • On the Seventh Day

    On the Seventh Day

    ★★★½

    61/100

    Dude deserves a rest, frankly. McKay sets the plot in motion almost immediately but devotes the film's first third or so to a whirlwind tour of Brooklyn neighborhoods, as well as the wide variety of crappy jobs held by undocumented Mexican immigrants (including mopping up a sex shop's porno viewing booths, which I'm surprised to learn still exist). It's much more formally confident than his earlier work—startlingly so, really—but doesn't sacrifice his trademark humane verisimilitude, e.g. José checking in…

  • The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum

    The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum

    ★★★½

    67/100

    Second viewing, last seen 1992. (Looks like it was one of Theatre 80 St. Marks' rotating double features, thematically paired with Ace in the Hole which I first saw that same night.) Given the current climate, I had to continually remind myself that Boll was specifically targeting tabloid "journalism," not legit journalists—there's never really been a U.S. equivalent of Bild-Zeitung or The Sun, as the National Enquirer makes no pretense of actually being a newspaper. Helps enormously that Dieter…

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

    The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

    ★★★★½

    84/100

    Third viewing, last seen 1999. Early on, during the fair at which Caligari exhibits Cesare, we briefly see a random extra walk across the frame holding a sign above his head, protest-style. More likely it's an advertisement, given the context—whatever's being communicated is too small to decipher on my TV set, and perhaps even on the big screen. Makes no difference. We've all seen a zillion such signs, and we know what they look like. They're big rectangles. Very…

  • The Incredible Shrinking Man

    The Incredible Shrinking Man

    ★★★★

    74/100

    Elevated by one of the most audacious endings in Hollywood history, for which I was not at all prepared (even as I was thinking, with real bewilderment, "This movie is nearly over and hasn't even made a feint at restoring normality"). Admittedly, it's much more literary than cinematic, leaning hard on Matheson's prose; Arnold does what he can to provide a visual correlative, though (right down to dressing Scott in something not unlike sackcloth), and the sheer expectation-thwarting chutzpah—which,…

  • The Circle

    The Circle

    ★★★½

    66/100

    Second viewing, last seen at TIFF 2000. As with Taste of Cherry, I no longer recognize or comprehend my original low opinion, which just goes to show that one's taste never stops evolving. (I was already 32 and a full-time professional critic the first time around.) "Y'all are welcome to this blunt instrument," I sneered at the time. "I'll be in the auditorium next door, watching a goddamn movie." That's not entirely insane, I guess—there's no denying The Circle's…

  • Beatriz at Dinner

    Beatriz at Dinner

    ★½

    21/100

    Do you cheer and fist-pump when an activist barges into a private luncheon—not a corporate event or anything like that—and dumps some rapacious industrialist's bowl of soup on his head? If so, this is the movie for you. Like Sachs' Little Men (which I likewise hated), it asks us to identify with truly obnoxious behavior by someone toward whom we'd otherwise feel sympathetic, ostensibly justified in this case by making one of the targets irredeemably awful. (The others are…

  • The Informer

    The Informer

    ★★★½

    62/100

    Started to call this enjoyably ludicrous thriller the cinematic equivalent of an airport novel, but (a) that's a comparison I've overused, and (b) The Informer was actually adapted from one, I believe (though I've never flown to Sweden and have nary a clue what kind of books are available in Stockholm-Arlanda's version of Hudson News). No better way to grab me than to open in medias res, and here we just skip merrily past the pro forma business of…