I keep track of all the movies I watch every month and have various mental goals to keep up with. Sometimes I get a little panicked in the middle if I haven’t watched enough. Though we aren’t even halfway through this month, at the beginning of this week that panic set in real good. So I kicked my watching habits up a few notches and watched a few movies from last year that got a lot of love and a couple of much older ones that had been on my radar.
Greta Gerwig’s semi-autobiographical movie stars Saoirse Ronan as a teenager growing up in Sacramento at the beginning of the 21st Century. Laurie Metcalf is her sometimes overbearing mother. It got all sorts of accolades last year (including a glowing review from us), but for one reason or another I never saw it in the theater. I’m all sorts of glad I finally caught up to it. I’m a couple of decades from being a teenager and thus a bit removed from that phase in my life but it feels like it gets being that age and all the turmoil and joy that comes with it. Metcalf is terrific as the mother who both loves her daughter and is never quite sure what to do with her.
I’ve become a pretty big fan of Denis Villeneuve, so I was excited to see one of his earlier films on Netflix. Polytechnique re-enacts the school shooting that took place at a university in Montreal in 1989. It shares a lot of similarities with Gus Van Sant’s movie Elephant, which was about the Columbine shooting. Both films stay clear of trying to give us concrete reasons behind the massacres. Both films use a sparse, documentary style and show certain scenes multiple times from different perspectives. Both films are also rather gut wrenching.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is a brilliant work of filmmaking that isn’t quite as emotionally satisfying as I wanted it to be. Still, it is the work of a master craftsman and auteur at the top of his game. You can read my review and that of Sentry David Wangberg.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Another film that got a lot of accolades last year that I also missed. It is a strange, difficult film that seems to be both loved and hated in equal measure. Colin Farrell plays a well-respected heart surgeon who seems to have it all - money, respect, a nice house, and lovely family (including a wonderful Nicole Kidman as his wife). He’s taken a teenaged boy under his wing as the boy's father died while he was operating on him. It is somewhat based on a Greek myth and can be read as allegory. I don’t want to give more of the plot away as part of the joy of the film is watching how strangely it unfolds. Its definitely not for everyone but I really enjoyed it (as did Matthew St. Clair, who wrote us a full review here).
Andrei Tarkovsky died of lung cancer at the age of 54. Having only recently discovered him I can’t help but mourn over all the films he wasn’t able to make. The Sacrifice was his final film and it is an eloquent, beautiful, impactful swan song. You can read my full review of the gorgeous recent release of it on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
"This is America"
I know nothing of hip hop and rap. It's just not a genre of music that I’ve ever listened to. Which is to say I am not the man to place this new track from Childish Gambino into context nor can I place him in the long history of the genre. What I can say is that this is some powerful stuff. Upon first viewing of the video. I was just knocked out by it. Each subsequent viewing finds more and more interesting layers. It's packed full of symbolism. So much so there are multiple videos trying to break down what it all means.