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  • Ham on Rye

    Ham on Rye

    ★★★½

    Among the best debut features of the 2010s, Ham on Rye unites the humanism and attention to detail of Robert Bresson with a uniquely subdued style of direction and aesthetic sensibility that feels to be inspired by some of modern American cinema's more sincere, soul-baring filmmakers (to varying degrees, Linklater, Zemeckis, and Shyamalan). Such is the level of cinematographic and directorial talent on display that should the dialogue have been cut, little would have changed in our understanding of its…

  • The Woman Who Ran

    The Woman Who Ran

    ★★★★

    In an early one-shot scene in The Woman Who Ran, a young man visits an older woman outside her home to ask her to stop feeding stray cats. He is her new neighbor, he explains, and his wife is afraid of cats, so by feeding the strays, the woman is indirectly terrorizing her neighbor and prioritizing the lives of animals over the lives of humans. As the pair discusses the matter, they are careful to remain respectful, laughing at their…

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  • Ghost Strata

    Ghost Strata

    ★★★½

    As someone says in the first minute or two of the film, Ben Rivers's work is largely about time and Rivers's own relationship to it; Ghost Strata is one of the clearest indicators of that fact. Structurally, it's composed of 12 segments ostensibly filmed in each month of a calendar year, none of which have any linear narrative connection to any other, and most of which use radically different filmmaking styles with radically different emotional effects.

    I recall the oddly…

  • Force Majeure

    Force Majeure

    ★★★½

    Film #11 in Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020–21

    As hilarious as it is uncomfortable, Force Majeure begins with an extremely simple conceit and brilliantly follows this to see the implied ramifications on the emotional states of those involved. As with much of Ruben Östlund's work, the hyper-specific situations in each scene allow for laser-sharp insight that still doesn't lack anything in the way of universality, and this approach to writing and directing allows the jokes to be even funnier in their…

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  • The Shape of Water

    The Shape of Water

    After having seen only three of his films, I'm starting to think that Guillermo del Toro chooses to work in a "fairy tale" register because it means that he gets to be lazy with characterization and thematic development, chalking it up to the simplicity of the form. There is little other excuse that I can think of for why the villains in his films, perhaps true for The Shape of Water even more than for Pan's Labyrinth, seem to be…

  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

    Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

    ★★★★½

    Visually, Birdman is a beautiful film whose appearance as one unbroken take allows us to understand the complexity of life behind the Broadway stage and the fast-paced nature of the world of theatre. It is this world where we find Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor who is about to star in a stage adaptation of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love that he both wrote and directed but who struggles with his own descent from fame. Despite…