• The Spiral Staircase

    The Spiral Staircase


    The characters aren't much and the pace is kind of shocking, but damn if this isn't one of the most atmospheric gothic films of the Golden Age. Seriously, it has everything you could want from this kind of film: a mansion with cellars and corridors, weird bedridden old women, gaslamps, thunderstorms, black-clad men stalking the protagonist, gates banging in the wind, sneaky "insignificant" plot points that get brought back up when the suspense is building, and tons and tons of murky shadows. Bonus points for Elsa Lanchester stealing brandy right under her employer's nose.

  • Match Point

    Match Point


    The praise of this as "Woody Allen's best since [x]" (and Allen's own inexplicable love for it) has given it a reputation it doesn't deserve considering it's basically just a rehash of ideas in Crimes and Misdemeanors welded onto a story of social climbing a la A Place in the Sun or Room at the Top that, from a narrative perspective, doesn't bring anything new to either of those things. The film has a very weird handle on its protagonist;…

  • Fists in the Pocket

    Fists in the Pocket


    Why do films about ennui have to be so good at instilling that emotion in the audience?

  • Jaws



    Not my favourite Spielberg film, but perhaps the most objectively flawless. It's only looking back over it that you realise how tightly it all fits together, not simply as a work of filmmaking (Spielberg hadn't yet become Spielberg™ by this point, and the craft on display is as beautiful as anything he's done since without being at all showy - there's a leanness to the film's rhythms that somehow never flattens the director's characteristically emotionally expressive instincts) but as a…

  • Beginners



    Genuinely astonished that so many people seem to think this has anything meaningful to say about the human experience. In fact, Mike Mills has got to be the most disgustingly overrated filmmaker alive. Everything he does is slathered in try-hard indie mannerisms: if you haven't seen any of them, the non-sequitur conversations, arch voiceover monologues (set to still-photo montages) and shoegaze music that appear in his films as if on cue are exactly as pretentious as they sound (to be…

  • Underground



    Without a doubt one of the most extraordinary films I've ever seen: it's impossible to fully digest in a single viewing, though I don't expect ever to have an urge to revisit it. It's frequently irritating on moment-to-moment basis - good clean storytelling doesn't seem to be Emir Kusturica's strong suit (though he does love himself a big fat allegory), and a great amount of what he supposes to be funny simply isn't - but take a step back and…

  • Lacombe, Lucien

    Lacombe, Lucien


    Louis Malle lets things get away from him in the third act (the film can't settle on an ending and so goes on aimlessly past the point that it has anything new to say, though fortunately that's quite close to the end), but this is a remarkably compelling character study of the kind of blank slate who uncritically adopts the ideology of those around him and thereby comes to embody its fundamentals. Lucien can seem an impenetrable figure - the…

  • Thieves Like Us

    Thieves Like Us


    One of the hardest-to-love of Altman's films - it's extravagantly slow, and the story feels like a retread (it was based on the same novel as They Live by Night, so it makes some sense, but it's still kind of disappointing that you never feel as though it's headed in any direction other than the one it ends up heading in) - but it's still an Altman film, and worth seeing for that reason alone. Through the sheer naturalism of…

  • Sunshine



    Rose Byrne actually do an Australian accent challenge.

    Ranking Danny Boyle

  • The Son

    The Son


    I recognise it's not exactly sporting to castigate a film that's been pretty much panned into oblivion as awards-baiting message movies go. That said, it truly does suck. It's rare you come across a screenplay this comprehensively idiotic, for one thing. The central character (I won't say protagonist) is weirdly distanced and opaque for someone we're clearly meant to empathise with; that could be defended by pointing out that the actual POV characters are the grownups trying to make sense…

  • A Room in Town

    A Room in Town


    Jacques Demy's most cheerless film, a minor-key sung-through musical full of passionate romance and fatalistic melodrama against a turbulent social backdrop, dressed in sombre jewel tones that make it feel like a more jaded, adult version of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (i.e., exactly what it is). It's a bit too brief to fully support Demy's ambitions for it, and it can't really be said that it cares about workers' rights except as a stage for grand tragedy, but Demy was…

  • Saving Private Ryan

    Saving Private Ryan


    Take out all the parts of the film not directly focusing on men in combat, and my guess would be that Spielberg read the script, realised it wasn't much, and promised himself he'd direct it so damn well we wouldn't notice either. For the character-drama material he opts for a gritty toughness which he infuses with his trademark classical refinement, giving these scenes a sense of genuine honesty and a harshness that never tips over into excesses of dour bleakness.…