jackkyser has written 87 reviews for films rated ★★★★★ during 2016.

  • Hail, Caesar!

    Hail, Caesar!

    ★★★★★

    The latest parable from the Coens is at once a loving tribute to the studio pictures of the 1950s and also a riotous takedown of the wobbly rules that keep the studio system in place.

    And, as always with the Coens, it’s about much more. Josh Brolin, as studio head Eddie Mannix, seeks advice from a priest in the beginning and ending of the film. He’s morally conflicted about whether to take a new job with a large salary in…

  • La La Land

    La La Land

    ★★★★★

    After seeing the film three times and finding each experience more rewarding than the last, there’s no question in my mind that La La Land is one of the most original and immensely lovable movies of the last several years. Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash (2014) was one hell of a ride, but he outdoes himself here with a sprawling and ambitious musical that’s flat-out infectious in its energy.

    What’s truly inspiring about La La Land is how impressive the film is…

  • Manchester by the Sea

    Manchester by the Sea

    ★★★★★

    Round Two.

    Kenneth Lonergan’s follow-up to Margaret (2011), one of the greatest and most unheralded films of this decade, was always going to be one of my new favorite movies. But Manchester by the Sea overwhelmed me beyond my expectations with its raw power and heartfelt exploration of grief. There’s a sequence midway through this movie that goes down as one of the most powerful pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen.

    I also really responded to the film’s lead character,…

  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller

    McCabe & Mrs. Miller

    ★★★★★

    The Criterion restoration is a thing of beauty. I can actually understand what's said in those first twenty minutes!

    I forgot how lonely and sad this film feels, particularly concerning McCabe and the poetry he says he has within him. I was chilled by the freezing wet vistas and simultaneously warmed by Leonard Cohen's haunting music. What a masterpiece.

  • Manchester by the Sea

    Manchester by the Sea

    ★★★★★

    The scene in which Casey Affleck visits Kyle Chandler's body is so affectingly quiet and restrained - it's a moment of beauty in a film full of them.

    Affleck's performance is on another level from any performance I've seen this year. As usual, Kenneth Lonergan builds a world of unbelievably complex characters with inner lives that extend far beyond the picture. The flashbacks are as well implemented as I've seen in a film.

    I am in awe of Lonergan.

  • Margaret

    Margaret

    ★★★★★

    After seeing the extended cut again tonight theatrically with Lonergan in person at the Museum of the Moving Image, my original review bears repeating. This film is something else.

    Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret is a stunning masterpiece. I can't remember the last time I saw such a brilliant film go completely unnoticed by the film community (although, near the end of 2011, a movement petitioning Fox Searchlight Pictures to screen the film for end-of-year awards consideration started online, which I was…

  • Up in the Air

    Up in the Air

    ★★★★★

    Up in the Air is a film that asks you to revaluate your life. With its story of corporate downsizer Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) flying back and forth across the United States firing corporate employees, the film felt uncomfortably relevant when released in 2009. In fact, there are several subthemes in the film that work brilliantly – Up in the Air provides fantastic commentary on hook-up relationship culture, the growing distance between large businesses and their employees (and boyfriends and…

  • A Serious Man

    A Serious Man

    ★★★★★

    Joel and Ethan Coen's A Serious Man stars Michael Stuhlbarg in a remarkable performance as Larry Gopnik, a physics professor in a Midwest Jewish suburb circa 1967, whose life slowly begins to unravel into chaos as his wife, children and community turn against him.

    The movie also features one of the finest Coens supporting characters ever – the hilariously repugnant Sy Ableman, played by Fred Melamed. A disturbingly accurate portrayal of a man attempting to do the right thing, A…

  • Inglourious Basterds

    Inglourious Basterds

    ★★★★★

    Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is on par with his Pulp Fiction (1994), which is one of my favorite films of all time, and maybe even better than its revenge companion piece Django Unchained (2012). Christoph Waltz, who plays the despicable yet oddly fascinating Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, is now one of the most iconic characters in the Tarantino filmography. And the labyrinth screenplay, which introduces and employs dozens of memorable characters, is only partially devoted to the tale of the…

  • Crazy Heart

    Crazy Heart

    ★★★★★

    Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart is one of the best movies about a struggling alcoholic I've seen. As washed-up country-western singer Bad Blake, Jeff Bridges is extraordinary - he's one of the best actors alive and has been for over forty years, and Crazy Heart is his movie.

    That being said, the supporting cast – including actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell – is uniformly excellent. Crazy Heart also uses music very movingly, with a soundtrack produced by T…

  • The Hurt Locker

    The Hurt Locker

    ★★★★★

    The Hurt Locker is an intelligent, gripping war film with extraordinary direction from Kathryn Bigelow, remarkable performances from both fresh faces and veterans, and a surging intensity that puts most thrillers to shame. Bigelow’s film is every bit as extraordinary as Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986), Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line (1998) and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) – it’s easily the best war movie of the past ten years.

    Equally impressive are the performances from Jeremy Renner, Anthony…

  • The White Ribbon

    The White Ribbon

    ★★★★★

    Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon is a haunting and brilliant masterpiece, a film that must be seen more than once in order to absorb its disturbing resonance. The story of a small German village spiraling into chaos a few months before the outbreak of World War I, Haneke's film haunted me weeks after seeing it. This is one of the few pictures that attempts to find the psychology behind Nazism and, more broadly, the origin of fascism in general. The film feels like a newly-discovered art-house masterwork from the 1950s - and that's not something you can say about many movies.