• Inside Llewyn Davis

    Inside Llewyn Davis

    ★★★★★

    Without spoiling the ending of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis, I’ll simply say that most of the Coens’ films have a cyclical nature – their characters run in circles, and oftentimes where they find themselves by the end of the movie is not terribly different from where they started. Inside Llewyn Davis is their first film, however, to literalize that cycle.

    In the beautifully recreated Greenwich Village of the early 1960s, folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), now…

  • Frances Ha

    Frances Ha

    ★★★★★

    I saw Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha at exactly the right time in my life. It’s amazing to me how many movies can inspire maybe only a few thoughts or feelings, and then one dense eighty-six minute movie like this can address so many of my anxieties and fears in such an artful and graceful way. This is the loveliest and most delightful film I’ve seen in a long time.

    My friend Mike and I both watched the movie in June…

  • Mud

    Mud

    ★★★★★

    With Take Shelter (2011) and now Mud, Jeff Nichols has established himself as one of the best and most original American directors. Tye Sheridan, who was outstanding in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011), stars as Ellis, a fourteen year-old boy who lives on a houseboat in small-town Arkansas with his mother and father, who are going through a divorce. While sneaking out to a nearby island on the Mississippi River, Ellis and his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) come…

  • Her

    Her

    ★★★★★

    Spike Jonze’s Her is a wonderful film about what it means and feels like to be alone. The premise – in the not-too-distant future, a lonely man named Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his personalized computer operating system, named Samantha (the wonderful voice of Scarlett Johannson) – sounds a little cute, but the film transcends any such notion.

    Mid-way through the movie, Theodore has a conversation with an old flame and neighbor, Amy (Amy Adams), in which…

  • Blue Jasmine

    Blue Jasmine

    ★★★★★

    Blue Jasmine is writer/director Woody Allen’s best film since his incredible Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Like Crimes and Misdemeanors, this film is closer to tragedy than comedy. Allen has made some extraordinary films in the last few years, including Midnight in Paris (2011, for which he won an Academy Award), Match Point (2005) and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), and Blue Jasmine is the crowning achievement of his recent work.

    Jasmine (Cate Blanchett, in one of her finest performances) has lost…

  • Captain Phillips

    Captain Phillips

    ★★★★★

    Of all the amazing survivalist films to come out in 2013 (12 Years A Slave, All is Lost, Gravity), the one that took me by the biggest surprise was Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips of the MV Maersk Alabama, which was attacked by armed Somali pirates in 2009.

    Though the entire film is brilliant, the ending of Captain Phillips is as emotionally and politically complex a piece of filmmaking as I’ve seen. There is…

  • At Any Price

    At Any Price

    ★★★★★

    My friend and I saw the last New York City showing of Ramin Bahrani's At Any Price in May of 2013. I was excited to see the picture, as I loved Bahrani's Goodbye Solo (2009) and At Any Price received Roger Ebert's final four-star review before his passing. I nearly missed the movie altogether - and if I had, I would've missed a rich and moving film with an awe-inspiring performance by Dennis Quaid. We were two of only a…

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel

    The Grand Budapest Hotel

    ★★★★★

    At one point, I didn’t think there would be a richer film in 2014 than Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. And in many ways, there wasn’t. Second by second, I don’t think there’s another movie that gave me such joy and haunted me as much as this film.

    This is the first Wes Anderson picture during which I can remember experiencing real fear and dread - particularly during the chase sequence in which the henchman Jopling (Willem Dafoe) follows…

  • The Immigrant

    The Immigrant

    ★★★★★

    The first thing that struck me about James Gray’s The Immigrant, which I saw at 2013’s New York Film Festival, were the faces of the actors in the film - so many haunted, gaunt and pale faces. People looked different in 1920s New York than they do today, and this is one of many important details that lend a great authenticity to this movie. One of the most beautiful-looking films I've seen in some time (photographed by Darius Khondji), the…

  • Whiplash

    Whiplash

    ★★★★★

    Few movies pulse with the life and force of Damien Chazelle's Whiplash, which, like Birdman, is set to constant drum beats and never stops moving forward with purpose and energy. It's cut exactly how a movie should be cut - it's a small-budget independent movie, yes, but it doesn’t have any of the handheld naturalism that seems almost required of indies nowadays. Birdman and Whiplash move at the tempo of real life, and both seem so alive that anything could…

  • Life Itself

    Life Itself

    ★★★★★

    I often walk out of movies and struggle to articulate the effect they have on me. Roger Ebert was a master at this. He always had a perfect turn of phrase to capture exactly what a certain movie felt like. Who else could write something like, “I was almost hugging myself while I watched it” of Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (2000)? I think of that quote every time I watch Almost Famous, because that’s exactly how the movie makes you…

  • Interstellar

    Interstellar

    ★★★★★

    The quiet of outer space is astonishing in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Taking a cue from the majestic silence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), it was a joy to sit in the cinema and experience the vastness of the surrounding planets, wormholes and galaxies Nolan puts onscreen, hearing only the beautiful sound of the film projector running.

    This is a positively gigantic movie. It’s Nolan’s most ambitious film to date, tackling huge themes and intercutting between stories set…