• Ladies' Man

    Ladies' Man

    ★★

    Rare instance of giving a film a lower score because of its amazing leads. The trifecta of Powell, Francis, and Lombard builds this up too much for what you actually get—a dry, forgettable affair. It’s not their fault, of course, but by golly you want more out of it.

  • The Prince of Egypt

    The Prince of Egypt

    ★★★★★

    The whole movie is something of a marvel. But the tightness and near wordlessness of the final climactic one-two punch is textbook dramatic storytelling efficiency. I’m tempted to call it pure cinema. The plagues lead right into the Red Sea deliverance, separated only by an effective final tête-à-tête between Moses and Rameses which serves to balance the pacing and finalize the break between them, like a final statement of themes. It’s quick but perfect, and almost musical in structure.

  • Pilgrimage

    Pilgrimage

    ★★★★

    Cinematically stunning mostly in the first half, with the narrative ironically slowing down for the titular pilgrimage. But three things stand out as truly exceptional:

    1. The pure cinema of the trench battle scene cutting to Mrs. Jessop’s house during an intense storm, shutters banging like gunfire, as she shouts out for her son.

    2. The handing off of the flowers at the train station. 

    3. Henrietta Crosman’s entire unforgettable performance as Hannah Jessop. I’ve never seen anything quite like her screen presence.

  • Hangman's House

    Hangman's House

    ★★★★

    Eyman opined in his biography that this was Ford’s best silent. It is indeed quite good, though I’d put 3 Bad Men and Four Sons over it as the best I’ve seen. 

    It’s remarkable how pure Ford’s trademarks are here, esp. the outlaw who saves everyone but can’t enjoy it himself. It even takes place in Ford’s beloved Ireland, albeit a shade darker than you’d expect: it’s more Gothic in tone. There’s even a scene of horror featuring a character seeing…

  • The Bad Sleep Well

    The Bad Sleep Well

    ★★★★½

    Gripping, smart, doesn’t hold your hand as it sets up the premise (that whole wedding scene at the beginning is genius). So dang good, but also more cynical than you’d expect. Would make a good but depressing double feature with No Country for Old Men. 

  • Four Sons

    Four Sons

    ★★★★½

    Four Sons shows Ford having a great time doing his version of Murnau, but with his favorite themes showing through.

    I’m interested in Ford’s portrayal of a happy, provincial, idyllic Europe, contrasted strongly with the fast-paced, urban America. When Joseph tells his mother he wants to go to America, he says “everyone is equal.” Not so in Bavaria, where imperialist officers later barge into the mother’s house and demand the last son living with her to surrender his services to…

  • Kentucky Pride

    Kentucky Pride

    ★★★½

    You give Ford a silly story narrated by a horse and he will not turn in a dud. I’m learning he can practically do no wrong. It’s shot brilliantly and ends up being chalk full of classic archetypal storytelling. Think hints of big stuff like Les Miserables, Gone with the Wind, etc, and this for what could otherwise be forgettable and cliched and which is, again, narrated by a horse.

    I actually wondered a couple times if this just might have…

  • Ride Lonesome

    Ride Lonesome

    ★★★★½

    This mix of characters, brought together out of necessity but all expecting to get different things out of the relationship, make this incredibly strong. 

    That hanging tree was like a nightmare—a nasty, gnarled specter rising out of an otherwise serene landscape. It’s a perfect visual metaphor for all it represented to Scott’s character.

  • Everything Everywhere All at Once

    Everything Everywhere All at Once

    ★★

    Begins with a Chinese immigrant family running a laundromat as they face an IRS audit (it’s a Tax Day movie!) and family troubles.

    Then, uh, some stuff happens, it goes insane, then basically tries and succeeds to fulfill the promise of the title. It’s a hyperactive exploration of post-modern mumbo jumbo that literally attempts to solve the meaning of life. It is not interested in subtlety or restraint.

    Oh, and it’s also a Kung fu film and Short Round is in…

  • Deep Water

    Deep Water

    ★★

    Man has an open marriage and yet violently protects his wife. Did Will Smith see this?

  • Blood Simple

    Blood Simple

    ★★★★½

    I was dumb last time I saw this, my first viewing. I liked it a lot but not enough. It’s remarkably mature for a debut film. Such a firm grasp on genre ideas, delivered with masterful simplicity and suspense.

  • Munich

    Munich

    ★★★★

    As an espionage film, Munich is perhaps too contemplative for its own good. It’s over long, like Spielberg’s other films with screenwriter Tony Kushner. And while Eric Bana acts phenomenally here, he is not a Bond or Bourne. He’s not supposed to be, of course, but he is written broadly in a way that makes him more of a stand-in than a well-defined character.

    But Munich uses the ever-popular espionage genre instead to invite the audience to reflect deeply on themes of Jewish…