If you have finished watching the film Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and are looking for other movies like it, here is a list of options to consider.
After stumbling with Downsizing, Alexander Payne bounces back with a gentle & witty comedy-drama.
The artist Dmitry Samarov one said to me that the ratio of good to bad late periods in an artist's life was depressing to consider. For every Sir Edward William Elgar there was an Eric Clapton (my example, not his), and that it was rare to see someone sharpen as they aged. Now, I like Dmitry and certainly respect his opinion, but I can’t help but feel that when film overtook painting as the dominant artwork that people engage with, the ratio shifted towards bizarre experimentation and welcome self-reflection as much as dull self reflection.
Take for instance 62 year old Alexander Payne, who, after the biggest disaster of his career (2017’s confused parable Downsizing), has started his fourth decade as a director by leaning hard back into what he knew (and what the royal “we” enjoyed) and rediscovered himself with The Holdovers, a movie no one can seem to stop comparing to Hal Ashby. No mean feat, of course, but even that sells its virtues short. This is no mere homage, no mere return to form, this is the movie that Payne’s been hoping to make since his 90s heyday, a film that earns both its jaundiced gaze and its catharsis. Continue Reading →
Rules of Engagement
Even William Friedkin's most loyal fans would admit the Nineties were not a particularly fertile artistic period for him. That decade saw him putting out the laughable horror film The Guardian (1990), the eventual release of his long-on-the-shelf and heavily recut 1987 death penalty drama Rampage (1992), the tepid sports drama Blue Chips (1994), and the resoundingly unnecessary (save for a nifty car chase) Jade (1995). On the small screen, he helmed two made-for-cable remakes, the Roger Corman production Jailbreakers (1994) with Shannen Doherty, Antonio Sabato Jr., and Adrien Brody, and 12 Angry Men (1997) with a powerhouse cast that included Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Ossie Davis, James Gandolfini and, perhaps inevitably, Tony Danza. Continue Reading →
Flora and Son
About 75 minutes into Flora and Son, its script veers toward the self-reflexive. “What movie are you in?” Flora (Eve Hewson) snaps. “One without you in it,” her son, Max (Orén Kinlan), replies. This sort of exchange fits holistically into writer-director John Carney’s latest. It’s self-aware, sure, but it’s not meta. Like most of the film’s writing, it is entirely transparent in its machinations, going so far as to declare them at points. Supporting characters largely function as symbols rather than people. Continue Reading →