It’s Only the End of the World (2016) is Xavier Dolan at his most emotionally raw and confused

Xavier Dolan’s family dramas are explosive, unrepentant pieces of art that pushes every tensile emotion to its limits. In this view, the script can come off a bit contrived, as we see how hard the writing is trying to invoke a heavy emotional response. It’s over bloated in emotional moments, reaching hard to pull that out of the audience. However, many of these moments resonate because it doesn’t devolve into melodrama. It’s mostly challenged and unacceptable. … More It’s Only the End of the World (2016) is Xavier Dolan at his most emotionally raw and confused

The Salt of Tears (2021) is the Salt of My Tears

Pointless postmodern melodramatic romance that left me feeling deeply offended. It’s a film that hits all the cliches of what’s generally associated with arthouse cinema but in the sarcastic, negative sense. There’s no essence to the character study as it simply wallows in the dourness of the atmospherics.  … More The Salt of Tears (2021) is the Salt of My Tears

No Man’s Land (2001) the messy, unthinking psychology of war

Two soldiers caught in no man’s land – one Bosnian, one Serb, barely keeping the thin veil of civility held together, while the threat of grave violence sits overhead. The pressure comes and goes, as the two soldiers seek a general truce with the understanding that violence could erupt at any time. Danis Tanović understands the psychology of the soldiers, the media covering the absurd event, and the UN soldiers having to take the impossible position of peacekeeper. It paints the situation as the evil and the obscurity of war impacting all interested parties. … More No Man’s Land (2001) the messy, unthinking psychology of war

Hud (1963) explores the brazen world of American egocentrism

Martin Ritt’s adaptation of Larry McMurty’s 1961 novel Horseman, Pass By is a nearly perfect adaptation that creates an overwhelmingly powerful acting vehicle for an all-time cast. Starting with Paul Newman’s best performance, bar none, his womanizing, apathetic and lost Hud paints a picture of disturbing ambivalence. Next is the fantastic Patricia Neal (Alma) who … More Hud (1963) explores the brazen world of American egocentrism

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) the definitive WWI experience

The greatest film experience finds a mix of immersion, thought provocation and engagement through the senses. All Quiet on the Western Front, through the use of magnificent sound design, production design, and the rawness of the actors and writing, combines all these elements to give a taste of war that’s incredibly powerful. Adapted from Erich Maria Remarque novel, Lewis Milestone bombards the audience with the mortar fire that could collapse the bunker at any second, exploring the idealism sold to prospective soldiers to sacrifice their lives. The sound design is that of a shell-shocked soldier, trying and failing to cope with the horrifying nature of this singular experience. Every second is hell for these soldiers and All Quiet on the Western Front expresses this terror. … More All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) the definitive WWI experience

Dodes’ka-den (1970) one of Akira Kurosawa’s most endearing films

The boy conductor, riding around the junkyard on his imaginary train, is the centerpiece to all the pains, grief, and highs of living in poverty. Kurosawa shows this world in wonderfully vivid colors, painting the unfortunate with humanity and grace, while also showing the dark side. The entire ensemble delivers idiosyncratic performances and helps build the culture and ideologies of this place. One of Kurosawa’s most original and endearing films. … More Dodes’ka-den (1970) one of Akira Kurosawa’s most endearing films

The Roaring Twenties (1939) a perfect summation of how the 1930s perceived the decade

 A decade long recount of the highs and lows of a raucous era, following it all through the eyes of the archetypal young man entering adulthood in James Cagney’s portrayal. It follows him from coming home from a war to the inability to get work and how that transition often led to organized crime formulating. Especially in a time of prohibition. Cagney is fantastic, showing a real emotional side not normally associated with mobsters, and how one coped with the viscosity of the roaring twenties. Priscilla Lane and Humprhey Bogart are also great in smaller roles, as they add higher stakes to the explosive lifestyle of the 20s. The dynamics between these characters brings out the radicalism in one … More The Roaring Twenties (1939) a perfect summation of how the 1930s perceived the decade

Hsiao-Hsien Hou conveys the haunting silence of the KMT in A City of Sadness (1989)

The film communicates emotion and repression masterfully, living under a psychotic, militaristic, and violent regime. It’s a film that spans generations of family characters, who all, one-by-one, get picked off by the military with no reason given – senseless violence and a provocative look at life under oppression of this nature. The craft of the production design and blocking makes each scene feel crucial and that urgency is felt through every scene and performance. And Tony Leung is excellent here, taking a vulnerable stance against a vicious, fascist government that’s unafraid of its citizens. It’s the film at the birth of a nation and shows the messy fallout from an occupying government leaving citizens out for ransom. It’s a horrifying realization and perspective on how large-scale cultural change can impact people. Hsiao-Hsien Hou conveys this through embittered personal memory, and the threatening atmosphere. … More Hsiao-Hsien Hou conveys the haunting silence of the KMT in A City of Sadness (1989)

Cyrano is unmemorable cinema headlined by sterling performances

First time I saw the trailer in theaters for Cyrano was back in late September or early October. FOUR months later and (I kid you not) 40 to 50 viewings of the trailer later, I basically understood the plot beat for beat going into the film without having seen it. And to my faux surprise, it played out exactly how I imagined. Based on a tragedy of unconsummated love, Cyrano is a traditional romance narrative where all the story beats are laid out fairly early, relying on the musical numbers and the liveliness of Joe Wright’s direction to carry it home. This approach leaves the onus on the music and while the pieces and dances are good, they’re not enough to satisfy our craving for juicier melodrama. … More Cyrano is unmemorable cinema headlined by sterling performances