• Old Stone

    Old Stone

    ★★★

    Old Stone is an independent Chinese thriller that conscientiously takes aim at a scrutinized law, and that is an important gesture considering how popular films depict life in that nation in a far more state approved and sanitized fashion. This social realist film essentially takes its plot from the headlines, a story about a vehicular manslaughter where the offender, a cab driver, has to foot the accumulating medical bills. In spite of a fairly contrived setup, the general tension of…

  • Parallel Mothers

    Parallel Mothers

    ★★★½

    Parallel Mothers, as the title imparts, is a tale of two women who deliver their babies on the same day in the same hospital. If you know Almodóvar, you can be sure of two things. First, he takes that setup to the predictable Spanish soap opera baby mama drama space the concept implies. And second, nothing else about the film is predictable. This tale of motherhood, femininity and family is framed by a collision of present and past, a burning…

  • The Lost Daughter

    The Lost Daughter

    ★★★

    Struggling to put together exactly why The Lost Daughter didn't perfectly work for me. In general, I find the story and its underlying concepts interesting, and I found Colman and Buckley to be particularly great in their roles, but overall it felt a bit listless, overlong and unengaging. Perhaps somewhat like Rebecca Hall's Passing, also an actress making her 2021 directorial debut, this is an effort where a first time filmmaker leaned on the written work like a crutch to…

  • Eternals

    Eternals

    ★★

    Sense8 for babies. Favorite guys were the speedster and Angelina Jolie who, miraculously after all these years, is quite convincing and compelling when she pretends to give a shit about lousy material like this. Brutally boring, overlong drivel. Maybe the worst dance number ever unleashed on a wide audience. An unconscionable waste of money, time and talent.

  • The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra

    The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra

    ★★★½

    In this stunning and expressive short, Vorkapich and avant-garde French-American co-director (that's a lotta hyphens!) Robert Florey depict that hardships of an aspiring actor. It's a well-worn story trope in film, but this rendition from 1928 distills it into a haunting and creative series of images that reminds of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as well as Dreyer's Vampyr which would release a few years later. Accompanied by a contemporary jazz score (clearly inspired by Badalamenti, a great choice for…

  • Moods of the Sea

    Moods of the Sea

    ★★★

    In this brief montage, Vorkapich splices together breathtaking images of the ocean as it clashes with rocks and breaks on the beach. There is a beautiful rhythm to how this is cut, rendering the sea as violent as it is majestic. It's not quite defined enough as a document of nature to reach its full potential, but it nonetheless keenly demonstrates the director's keen eye for visual abstraction. It once again gives the sense he could uncork something truly masterful with more defined character or concept. But more on that in just a moment.

    Watch it here.

  • Viridiana

    Viridiana

    ★★★★

    Buñuel's return to Spanish cinema is an acerbic plate of beans, a satirical takedown of, well, everything in his path, as per. Most notably this film, the story of the pious Viridiana, is looking at the limits of charity, and the sinful human nature that undermines their erstwhile righteous crusade. Like the director, Viridiana hasn't been living in Spain proper, but in the isolated bubble of a convent. The film begins as she steps out of that environment and into…

  • The Furies

    The Furies

    One of two montages directed by Serbian filmmaker, Slavko Vorkapich, from the 1934 film Crime Without Passion. It's remarkably expressive and inventive, a shrieking caterwaul stemming from a cold blooded murder. Were it unto itself complete, it would likely be even more stunning than it already is.

    Watch it here.

  • Red Rocket

    Red Rocket

    ★★★

    This week, I sat down with my friend Ryley to discuss one of last year's most polarizing and funniest features. During our conversation we unpack the film's regional specificity, inspections of class issues, raunchy lead character and explosive needle drops. It's one of the most purely entertaining movies of the year, and we had a great time discussing it.

    Those who would like to listen can do so here!

    Sean Baker Ranked and Reviewed

  • The Moment of Truth

    The Moment of Truth

    ★★★½

    Armed with a tiny crew, zero professional actors, no shooting script, one 300mm lens used for shooting soccer matches, and only the most cursory knowledge of Spanish culture and bullfights, leftist Italian director Francesco Rosi marched into the teeth of Franco's Spain and crafted one of the finest sports films ever made. With the use of wide angles, the cinematography captures the wide scope of corridas, the intimate artistry of the toreros and a load of imagery to draw out…

  • The Return of the Prodigal Son

    The Return of the Prodigal Son

    ★★★

    Greatly enjoyed the musical numbers, which are creative and convey a wide range of emotions through the songs and choreography. On the whole however, I found this to be quite plodding. Good news is there were a bunch of musical numbers!

  • Macbeth

    Macbeth

    ★★★

    Doubtless it's a handsome film, shrouded in color and dense fog. And I think Fassbender does well in the title part. Past that, I think this is stiff, a bit of a down-the-middle Ridley Scott-type effort that lays the production on thick and leaves the poetry feeling alien and inhuman, particularly because loads of word changes hamper the meter it's written in. Curious adaptation, one which I'd for sure be more fond of in a world with fewer films based on the Scottish play.