It’s been a good year for cinema.
Marvel made its mark on cinematic history with Black Panther, and Lady Gaga proved that you really can act and sing (Madonna and Britney had us convinced that it wasn’t possible).
We also saw a great depiction of the first moon landing in the same year that NASA landed InSight on Mars.
This beautifully shot film by director Alfonso Cuarón is carved from his memories of growing up in the Roma suburb of Mexico City in the 1970s. The filmmaker contrasts the personal drama of divorce and domestic tension with the era’s politics, including a student revolt that ends in violence.
A Star Is Born
Bradley Cooper takes the standard showbiz fairytale of the underdog who rises to fame and gives it actual depth.
Under the fine hand of Cooper — acting up a storm, and a surprisingly down-home singer — a remake that many worried might be a dumb gloss on 21st-century rock emerged as intimate and indelible, with an out-of-the-shallow soundtrack that killed.
Lady Gaga also slays in this one.
The best Marvel film to come out of the superhero franchise…
Black Panther, with Chadwick Boseman crushing the title role as the crime-fighting king of the fictional African country Wakanda, isn’t only a global box-office phenom ($1.4 billion worldwide) — it’s the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movie ever, period. Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) led a cast of champs, including Michael B. Jordan as the ultimate badass villain and a quartet of powerhouses (Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett) to give the men a run for their money.
It made the Oscar list, and superhero movies never make the Oscar list.
You gotta love a provocative period piece.
You’ll savor every note of delicious, depraved, comic malice in this hellzapoppin’ period piece from Greek provocateur Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster). Olivia Colman is diabolically funny — and sometimes just diabolical — as Queen Anne, a gout-ridden, body-scarred monarch who grants power to a pair of rivals, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Lady Abigail (Emma Stone), in exchange for sex and shameless flattery.
I haven’t seen this one yet, but I’m really looking forward to it.
Spike Lee is back and better than ever.
Spike Lee’s best film in years brilliantly digs into the 1970s true story of Colorado police officer Ron Stallworth (the excellent John David Washington), who called on a Jewish cop (a superb Adam Driver) to help him infiltrate and expose the KKK.
Funny, smart and takes some well-aimed stabs at Donald Trump. What’s not to love?
If Beale Street Could Talk
Director Barry Jenkins follows his Oscar-winning Moonlight with an incredible adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel.
KiKi Layne and Stephan James excel as the Harlem couple at the center of a racial storm, while Regina King is hardcore funny, fired-up and fabulous as the girl’s mother, a fighter who’s hellbent on getting her future son-in-law released after he was framed for rape. For Baldwin, Beale Street represents the blues. And Jenkins, a true poet of cinema, uses his wrenching, incurably romantic film to hit you both where it hurts and where it heals.
James Baldwin meets Barry Jenkins – I’m here for this.
Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
Objections have been raised to a 1960s right-wing worship of whitey on the moon. Huh? Chazelle did not make that movie. Gosling shows us the stoic Armstrong coming apart inside. And Claire Foy, in a stunningly realized portrait of his wife, reveals the emotional toll that repression takes on a family when a husband and father straps himself into a death-trap rocket for reasons that have little to do with waving a flag.
Worth a watch.
A classic take on the man-about-to-lose-his-faith-in-a-world-gone-wild theme.
Hawke, in his best-ever screen performance, commits totally to Schrader’s cinematically exhilarating vision of existential despair.
Not a light watch, but a good one.
Being a kid is tough these days.
When people ask me to recommend a film by a first-time director they know nothing about, Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade is my go-to choice. It’s about a 13-year-old girl (the astonishing Elsie Fisher) trying to survive adolescent angst in the digital age. It’s also like nothing you have ever seen.
It’s kinda nice that teen movies are moving away from the stereotypes.
A sort-of-true story about an unlikely friendship.
Black classical pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) hires working-class Italian-American Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) to drive him on a perilous concert tour through the Jim Crow South in 1962, director/co-writer Peter Farrelly only paints inside the box.
A reverse spin on Driving Miss Daisy. There’s a bit of sugar coating when it comes to the racial politics in America at the time, but the acting is great.
Movies not your thing? Here’s a list of the five series you should be binge-watching this month.
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