• Petite Maman

    Petite Maman

    Is Céline Sciamma the New Spielberg?
    Petite Maman resists the anti-child movement.

    When M. Night Shyamalan was ballyhooed as “the new Spielberg,” only the media class fell for it, looking for a way to categorize what had been Spielberg’s success and popularity through the latest example of Hollywood box-office formula. It’s how the media always attempt to explain away the complexities and peculiarities of popular art. That’s why the French movie Petite Maman has gone unnoticed — kept from the…

  • The Harder They Fall

    The Harder They Fall

    The Harder They Fall — a Thug-Western Allegory.
    The Hollywood branch of the NAACP disrespects itself.

    The eight Image Award nominations given this week by the NAACP to the fantasy western The Harder They Fall, as one of the best “race films” of the year, set a record for commendations from the civil-rights group. (The Image Awards began in the 1970s.) This excessive acclaim should not be taken too seriously, yet it measures current, degraded standards. The NAACP’s political goals…

  • Parallel Mothers

    Parallel Mothers

    Almodóvar Loses His Sense of Humor.
    Parallel Mothers mistakes fascism for fashion.

    What happened to make Pedro Almodóvar, one of international cinema’s most entertaining directors, get all sanctimonious?

    His new film, Parallel Mothers, starts with the expected vibrant visual panache and mischievous melodramatic twists: Janis (Penélope Cruz), a celebrated photographer, approaches middle age desiring motherhood. An assignment to shoot a renowned archeologist, Arturo (Israel Elejalde), leads to a brief affair and pregnancy. Her sense of fulfillment is paralleled with Ana…

  • Licorice Pizza

    Licorice Pizza

    Licorice Pizza Redefines American Beauty.
    A nostalgic look at ’70s Americana.

    Paul Thomas Anderson’s most famous films, Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood, cursed America. But Licorice Pizza lifts the curse with every seemingly spontaneous moment of young adult discovery. This is easily the American eccentric’s best film because his usual indie-movie flaws — obscure themes, cynical perspective, and technical showing-off — are mitigated by a rare, relatable narrative. The 1970s story about California youth on the margins of…

  • Don't Look Up

    Don't Look Up

    What Is the Worst Film of 2021? That's easy. It's Don't Look Up.
    Adam McKay wages civil war, Hollywood style.

    Readers have asked why the Better-Than List did not include a Bad Luck Banging > Don’t Look Up entry. My answer comes from W. C. Fields: “Too blatant.”

    Radu Jude’s funny, shocking essay on Covid-era lunacy and its political roots was third-rail satire that found little public and media response. That old theater maxim “Satire is what closes on Saturday” seems…

  • France

    France

    France — Inside Media Sainthood.
    Bruno Dumont examines media-induced mass hysteria.

    Bruno Dumont knows there’s more than one way to skin a media rascal. His new movie France is titled after Parisian TV interviewer France de Meurs (played by Léa Seydoux), who hosts the popular news program A View of the World and is considered France’s top journalist. She shares the name of the country she represents, a trick that expands Dumont’s usual spiritual examination of human struggle into multileveled…

  • The Power of the Dog

    The Power of the Dog

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Jane Campion: Fraud, Misandrist, Homophobe.
    An anti-everything protest Western.

    ‘What kind of man would I be if I didn’t defend my mother?” asks a gay male character, explaining why he killed another gay male, in The Power of the Dog. Only Jane Campion’s status as a female director of art movies allows this appalling film to go uncriticized for its queer-baiting and man-hating — all in the name of defending a woman.

    Refusing a straightforward feminist argument, Campion inflates a…

  • Red Rocket

    Red Rocket

    Red Rocket Unites the States with Shallow Loser Vision.
    Sean Baker’s trash, vaudeville, and soft-core politics.

    At the beginning of Texasville, Jeff Bridges’s middle-aged entrepreneur character Duane slumps in his backyard swimming pool and points a gun at his groin. “I’m thinking about shooting my pecker,” he drawls. “It’s done nothing but get me in trouble all my life.”

    In Red Rocket, Simon Rex plays Mikey Saber, a past-prime Lone State stud who doesn’t realize he’s headed toward Duane’s regret.…

  • Drive My Car

    Drive My Car

    House of Hamaguchi.
    A Japanese import repackages sentimentality for film buffs.

    Don’t confuse Drive My Car, the most acclaimed film of the year, with the Beatles’ “Drive My Car.” That 1965 song broadcasted the excitement of fame, commercialized sex, and isolation that the Beatles experienced and the whole world saw but, perhaps, could not themselves appreciate. Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi takes the title literally for a three-hour demonstration of bourgeois alienation.

    Japanese theater doyen Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima), seen performing Waiting for…

  • The Lost Daughter

    The Lost Daughter

    The Birthing-Person Movie.
    Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut goes from feminist to eugenicist.

    The Lost Daughter is so perfectly rotten that it surely reflects some twisted, deep-seated attitude held by Maggie Gyllenhaal, the actress turned director-writer, again taking to her soapbox for a politically modish statement. The title suggests the female condition: a wayward woman trying to understand her life’s path as radical feminists see it. She assumes the privilege to be obnoxious.

    The film’s protagonist is prickly Harvard literary professor…

  • Get Out

    Get Out

    When Movie Writing Goes Wrong.
    The Writers Guild’s ‘Greatest Screenplays’ list shows the low standards of Hollywood’s reigning groupthink.

    As if keyboard jockeys in the media haven’t caused enough problems already, last week’s announcement by the Writers Guild of America saluting the “101 Greatest Screenplays of the 21st Century (* so far)” tells us American filmmaking is in deep trouble. The list, determined by a poll of the Hollywood-industry union, declares their standards as practiced by the long-vaunted purveyors of…

  • West Side Story

    West Side Story

    The Wokening of Steven Spielberg.
    His West Side Story remakes cultural history as farce.

    In Make Spielberg Great Again, I traced the artistic trajectory of the eponymous American populist to a fateful period when his humanistic, ecumenical worldview changed. He encountered a deceptive social force — one that altered the morality and artistic focus of the millennium. Spielberg’s own career then seemed upended by misguided egotism, not necessarily his own, but that of a faction hiding behind a facetious pretense…