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  • Back to School

    Back to School

    ★★★

    Back to School features both Billy Zabka and Kurt Vonnegut. For that reason alone, it belongs on the National Film Registry.

  • Serenity

    Serenity

    I was about 30 minutes into Serenity when it occurred to me that every choice made by every person involved in this film was somehow more baffling than the one that came before. Every acting decision, every cut, every line of dialogue, every music cue, every directorial flourish? It's like they were all backwards. It felt as if every frame of the film was a conscious decision to do the opposite of what any sane and rational craftsman would have…

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  • Before Sunset

    Before Sunset

    ★★★★★

    There's a moment about halfway through Before Sunset that I can't get out of my mind. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are sitting in a Parisian café, and she lights up a cigarette. He's got the demeanor of a man who has quit smoking against his will (probably at the behest of a significant other, whom I'm guessing broke his spirit with the subtlest "I just want you to be healthy" psychological warfare imaginable), so he steals a…

  • A Separation

    A Separation

    ★★★★★

    A few years ago I was talking to a friend who had just seen David Gordon Green's "All the Real Girls." My friend isn't much of a film buff, but he knew that he'd seen something special. When I asked what he liked most about it, he didn't say anything about the acting or the direction or nuances of the plot. Instead, he simply said "because that stuff really happened."

    Of course, my friend was not speaking literally. Instead, I…