16 Best Movies To Watch After Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)
Bradley Cooper pays respectful homage to Leonard Bernstein in this lavish passion project.
The problem inherent to most biopics is one of balance. Err too far on the side of worshipful and you get nonsense like Oliver Stone’s The Doors. Or you could swing in the other direction and you end up with an “oops, all warts” camp disaster like Mommie Dearest. Most linger somewhere in the middle, at a respectful distance, so that they’re ultimately kind of boring, and offer nothing new or particularly insightful about its subject matter.
Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, about the life of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, isn’t boring. It’s too visually dazzling for that. It does not, however, leave one feeling like they’ve really gotten to know more about Bernstein other than he was a complicated, workaholic genius who struggled with his sexuality, which is all information that could be gleaned from his Wikipedia page. But it sure is lovely spending time in his world for a little while. Continue Reading →
Yorgos Lanthimos directs a sumptuous adult fairy tale featuring Emma Stone at her very best.
Here’s the thing about Yorgos Lanthimos: you’re either on board with him, or you’re not. Even in The Favourite, arguably his most accessible film, there’s a sort of joyful grotesqueness to it, leaving the audience laughing and wincing simultaneously. His latest offering, Poor Things, is his most visually dazzling film yet, with moments of stunning beauty and bittersweet insight, but still isn’t afraid to test the audience’s sensibilities. It’s a film about what it means to be alive, every little disgusting aspect of it.
Based on Alasdair Gray’s novel of the same name, Poor Things opens in dreary black and white London, where eccentric scientist Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) is overseeing an experiment that’s both miraculous and horrifying. Baxter, whose face looks like it was carved into several pieces and then put back together the wrong way, has brought a woman back to life after she committed suicide. The woman, whom he’s renamed Bella (Emma Stone, with a magnificent pair of eyebrows), initially has the mind of a toddler, but she’s learning and maturing at an astonishing rate. Bella refers to Godwin as “God,” and so far knows no one and nothing else but him and their home together. Continue Reading →
Ridley Scott’s surprisingly hollow biopic of the French military commander falters as a character piece and comes shy of victory as an epic.
For a film with as many contradictions as Napoleon, it’s odd for it to be so straightforward. It covers 28 years, but it never feels like a lot of changes. It’s over two and a half hours, which, while not a herculean runtime, never entirely slows down. Perhaps it’s because it never really gets started. Ridley Scott’s latest opens with a public decapitation of Marie Antoinette (Catherine Walker), giving way to the 1793 Siege of Toulon. The violence is often unsparingly graphic, so why, then, does it feel so cosmetic? Shouldn’t a live horse eviscerated by a cannonball to the chest do something to the viewer?
Maybe not when there’s such little context. If Napoleon is one thing, it’s episodic—ahistorical, even. David Scarpa’s script begins in the trenches and is content on staying there. Everyone and everything are simply window dressing. That includes Napoleon Bonaparte himself (Joaquin Phoenix), whom the film oversimplifies from intrinsically flawed leader to wholly externalized man-child. After the Siege, he wins the affections of Joséphine de Beauharnais (Vanessa Kirby). The two soon marry. Continue Reading →
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 →
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Despite a challenging premise and an overlong runtime, the Hunger Games prequel makes the most of the hand it’s been dealt.
The character of Coriolanus Snow is an odd choice for a Hunger Games hero. In the original books and films, as played by screen giant Donald Sutherland, Snow was a cold-hearted, cruel dictator clearly meant to echo real world fascist leaders. Here, in the prequel story The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (say that five times fast), Coriolanus (Tom Blyth) is just a sensitive, emotional teen dreamboat whose main goal is to provide for his family in the wake of the violent revolution that tore apart Panem, the country formerly known as the United States of America.
It’s difficult to understand why author Suzanne Collins, who wrote the novel Songbirds is based on, made the decision to try to humanize a violent authoritarian when a core theme of the original Hunger Games books and movies was lashing back at systemic oppression. Nonetheless, director Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire, I Am Legend) and his enthusiastic cast of talented performers make the best of the rather thematically confused story arc they’ve been given, turning in one of the most exciting, emotionally arresting entries in the franchise. Continue Reading →
As daybreak bleeds from within the walls, Priscilla Presley (Cailee Spaeny) wakes up next to her husband, Elvis (Jacob Elordi). Her water’s broken and, as he calls for a car, she goes to the bathroom, where she applies the perfect fake eyelashes in silence. Continue Reading →
In such films as Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, Velvet Goldmine and I’m Not There, filmmaker Todd Haynes has taken the stories of famous people and utilized what we know—or think we know—about them to explore ideas about celebrity and our all-consuming need to render their often-complex stories into straightforward narratives. That strange compulsion to explain, understand, and commodify the lives of real people is at the heart of his latest work, May December, and it certainly seems to have sparked something in him because the end result is the strongest work that he has done in quite some time. Continue Reading →
At this point, you can roughly divide the output of Nicolas Cage into one of two categories. First, there are films so tailored to his reigning wild man of cinema persona that it seems unimaginable they could exist if he passed. In the other camp are the quieter efforts like The Weather Man, Joe, and Pig that remind of what a powerful actor he still can be. His latest project, writer-director Kristoffer Borgli’s Dream Scenario, combines both approaches into a single offering. The result is a strange and wildly audacious work anchored by a surprisingly deft and low-key turn from Cage that stands in marked contrast to the weirdness surrounding him. Continue Reading →
Whenever a crowd pleasing movie hits theaters or streaming, people lament, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” Often, these people refer to middle-of-the-road movies from the 80s and 90s, the type of film that would play on cable television in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, something that people watch over and over again, simply because it makes them feel lighter. The Burial, the new courtroom drama from writer/director Maggie Betts, falls firmly into this category. It’s dad-fare, set in 1995 when it also likely would’ve had mainstream success in popular culture. Continue Reading →
At the risk of making a "getting a lot of Sorcerer vibes from this" guy out of myself, The Hunted—William Friedkin's 2003 old-master-hunts-rogue-student thriller really does make for a fascinating counterpart to his earlier men-on-a-desperate-mission masterwork. Both delve into the lives of damaged, forlorn, isolated men on perilous quests for deliverance. And both of those quests lead deep into madness. Both pointedly contrast man-made, flame-choked hellscapes (Sorcerer's exploding oil well, The Hunted's secret mission amidst the Kosovo War) with the vast, amoral green of the deep forest (Columbia and Oregon, respectively). Both turn on setpieces that thrill while maintaining a grounded (if not necessarily "realistic") feel and weave surreality in with care. Continue Reading →
After the aggressively negative critic and audience response to 1980’s Cruising, William Friedkin took a curious “hell with it, I’m going to do whatever I want” approach to projects. None of what he directed over the next decade, save for To Live and Die in L.A., came close to receiving the kind of acclaim his early 70s career did. If anything, it seemed as though he had given up his precise, occasionally unreasonable eye for perfection in favor of churning out the most generic cable-friendly nonsense possible. 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 →
A Haunting in Venice
The first two entries in director/actor Kenneth Branagh’s foray into Agatha Christie adaptation lost the magic of the English writer’s mysteries. With his third attempt, A Haunting in Venice, Branagh decides to make considerable changes to the story. Using the bones of Christie’s Hallowe’en Party, writer Michael Green changes the setting from a small town in the English countryside to a palazzo in Venice. Branagh emphasizes the gothic elements of Christie’s story, leaning on the horror of the location, the manic nature of the children’s Halloween party, and the gruesome moments before and after an unexpected death. Continue Reading →
Beau Is Afraid
If there’s anything Ari Aster wants you to understand after watching his newest film, it’s that he’s funny. With just three feature films under his belt, Beau Is Afraid marks both a massive departure from his previous films and a solidifying of his style. It’s a movie about terror, without a ton of interest in being terrifying. More specifically, it’s a movie about the absurdity of fear and the ridiculousness of human nature. And yeah, it’s definitely about moms, too. Continue Reading →
The Portrait of a Lady
Campion followed The Piano with a Henry James adaptation dedicated to the magnificently fraught question of desire or duty.
Artwork: Felipe Sobreiro
In the wake of the critical success of The Piano, Jane Campion’s 1996 adaptation of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady barely made a splash at the box office, grossing only a fraction of The Piano’s $140 million US earnings. It too seemed to puzzle critics. Some called it “claustrophobic” and “stifling,” and to be fair–they’re not wrong. The world that James creates in his masterful 600-page novel is at once lush and chilling, thrillingly intimate and so frustratingly tragic that as a whole it’s nearly impossible to quantify. James’s Portrait is not necessarily Campion’s, and vice versa. But few authors have had such a clear-eyed view of the inner lives of women, so it’s fitting that Campion–a director who has always portrayed women as they are, without pretense or romanticization–should be the one to adapt James’s greatest work. Continue Reading →