By: Henry J. Fromage –
An elongated business trip out to Los Angeles means catching up on all those Oscar nominees that won’t ever get to the Midwest.
The reviews for this prepared me for something miserablist, but what I found when I watched was actually somewhat life-affirming despite all of the undoubtedly tragic things that occur to its primarily child cast. If Nadine Labaki is angling for her own 400 Blows franchise, she’s certainly found the lead actor to make it happen (and my ticket). Two Beers.
A barely recognizable (gaunt, haggard, driven) Nicole Kidman and Karyn Kusama deliver what may be the most muscular, hard-hitting action film (and certainly police drama) of the year. Captivating from start to cleverly deployed finish. A Toast.
38. At Eternity’s Gate
There probably aren’t many more appropriate directors to tell the story of history’s great artists than fellow painter Julian Schnabel (who also helmed Basquiat) His approach, full of woozy visuals and gorgeous natural surroundings bolstering Willem Dafoe’s deserving lead performance, is about what you want, but the pacing is a bit slow and understated to really stick as hard as you’d want it to. Three Beers.
39. They Shall Not Grow Old
The immediately grabby aspect of this WWI documentary is the jaw-dropping technical marvel of watching black & white newsreels near-literally come to life (just… go with the 3D), but it soon becomes clear that Peter Jackson has more on his mind than that. What emerges is one of the most, if not the most effective anti-war films I’ve ever seen. This is his magnum opus. Yes, I understand what I’m saying. A Toast.
Yes, that ending is probably the main factor behind that low rottentomatoes rating (some characteristic clunkiness certainly is present as well), but for my money M. Knight Shyamalan achieves exactly what he was going for in this most unexpected of trilogies. Unbreakable is still one of the best if not the best superhero films, and the pathos this film adds in retrospect worked… for me at least. Three Beers.
41. Minding the Gap
This heartbreaking documentary looks a goddamn lot like my own lowest middle class Illinois upbringing, minus the skateboards and (thankfully) most of the trauma. What Bing Liu has crafted from his and his friends’ own stories and tragedies is remarkable, and my de facto favorite for Best Documentary. A Toast.
Unlike this documentary which is painfully, punishingly… fine. The subject material is, of course, both interesting and educating, but the approach is as up the middle… fine… as they come. This is what they picked over Won’t You Be My Neighbor… Three Beers.