An endlessly creative multiversal experience as delivered by the Daniels of Swiss Army Man fame and a bunch of actors, led by legend Michelle Yeoh, going all in on everything they’re given. The continuous supply of glorious and philosophical all-caps WEIRD is evenly matched with the heart of the story, ultimately combining to address the melancholia and entropy of our current universe and beyond.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Ke Huy Quan is back with a beautiful and layered performance, y’all! The Quannassance is now!”
“All I do is watch my favorite movies over and over again.”
A melancholic, romantic character study told in a prologue, 12 chapters, and an epilogue. A true reflection of modern love and how the search for it is intertwined with the search for the modern meaning of our lives. There are moments in this that are truly arresting, pulling the movie up and far away from what you think it will be while elevating the genre with it.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “The central relationship in this is between a millennial and a gen-xer, and the film captures the divide between these generations better than any other piece of media that I’ve seen or read. Although only ten years or so apart, the punk, analog past of one partner conflicts with the other’s more ‘detached’ future resulting in a soft yet meaningful commentary on generational identities.”
“Those who survive never stop thinking about the dead.”
A gentle, human drive down a highway through loss on the way to understanding and healing. It enhances the Murakami story, while thankfully steering away from some of the writer’s worst tendencies. While Pig, my favorite movie of 2021 that was actually released in 2021, didn’t get any meaningless Oscar love, Drive My Car explores some similar themes on a search for humanity in the face of loss, so I am stoked that a film like this is getting acknowledged.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “It’s three hours, too, which means it’s a good movie. Long movies = good movies. That’s just movie math, right? (Really, though, it’s so well-paced that it barely feels like it’s 2 hours.)”
A luscious staging of the off-broadway version of Cyrano de Bergerac with all that Joe Wright style and composition that we all know and maybe love. The music is gentle like the movie, so there aren’t any genuine showstoppers, but it all serves the classic story and captivating cinematography well.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “I’m surprised an app called Cyrano, which connects people with lovelorn ghost letter writers doesn’t exist. Please don’t steal this idea from me.”
A dreamy, ghostly and claustrophobic horror story that explores abusive and overbearing (and royal) control the same way Larrain’s previous film Jackie explored grief. Also like Jackie, it features a singular performance from a central actor in Kristen Stewart who commands every single scene.
Above all, though, Spencer is a sympathetic portrait of Princess Diana that, while I’m sure takes liberties with some things and completely changes others, captures the feeling of an individual trapped in circumstances she couldn’t predict.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “I guess we should be careful about conspiracies, but the royal family had her killed. At least in the Spencer cinematic universe.”
A hyper-modern masterpiece of animation and a soft retelling of Beauty and the Beast that achieves emotional highs by exploring an unexpected variation to the story and combining it with the idea of what connecting really means in a world like ours (or one that’s a half sci-fi step or two ahead of ours, to be exact). Also, because this is anime, a touch of highschool drama.
Both the CG and hand-drawn animation styles are equally impressive, especially on a large screen where you can bask in the warm glow of the real world’s earthy techniques and then can get breathlessly lost in the intimate yet magnificent scope of the digital world.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “When an actual metaverse like the one in this movie forms, I’m afraid that you’ll find me there most of the time, as an autogenerated avatar that looks like a cart of books and wires that you’d find in the back room of your local library.”
Licorice Pizza feels like a collection of scenes from different movies featuring the same shaggy characters that form an impeccable snapshot of a certain period in time at a certain place. It’s at its best when it moves away from the sketchy/lightly cringe teen fantasy movie scenes and focuses on the “loser” characters’ escapades and attempts to make something of themselves, even if they don’t know what that something is because they’re too young, too lazy, too apathetic, or any combination of the three.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “It is worth seeing for Bradley Cooper’s cameo scenes alone. His are pulled from a comedy of errors featuring these characters and he captures the coked up energy and manic drive of what I conjure in my mind palace when I think 70s producer.”
A concise, sparse production of the play that makes use of the film medium’s varied perspectives to craft something that feels less like a stage play and more like a dream, moving ceaselessly through curtains towards its conclusion in the theater of the mind.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Someone in the audience called it ‘Macbeth’ before it started so Denzel died at the end. Wish I could have seen how it really ends.”
A dark parable that casts viewers as adjudicator and soothsayer, signalling the ending and waiting for the main character to catch up to his destiny. The supernatural elements Del Toro is most famous for are relegated here to set dressing and production value, building the world and genre encroaching upon the troubled soul we follow, from carnival trappings to brutalist art deco noir and back again.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Why is the call of the carnival still so strong even though they’re barely a thing anymore? Every time I’m overwhelmed, I hear Willem Dafoe’s voice ushering me towards a field somewhere. That’s normal, right?”
It’s the same ol West Side Story, just more authentically realized on film and lavish than ever before. With Spielberg’s command of the camera, dynamic choreography, and a hefty budget to craft a 1950s NYC, the show is injected with a mix of vibrancy and a classic Hollywood mobility that keeps it thriving and alive.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “It’s been a while since I’ve seen a version of West Side Story, but the Jets are so totally the obvious villains by the end of the show and no amount of slick attitude or jazzy snaps can change that. A pox on both these street gangs? Nah, a pox on the Jets and the Jets alone.”