Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

2014’s God’s Not Dead has a loopy, auto-erotic concept that makes no sense, but I can vaguely see how, if you were so deep in the culture war trenches that you needed binoculars to see daylight, it might seem like its story of hostile academics trying to humiliate the Christ out of their students speaks […]

Typically, Paths of Glory is described as an anti-war movie, but this is accurate only to a degree. It is, certainly, a movie that has fairly intense negative feelings about the act of warfare and what it does to the people fighting in them, with American cinema’s first really horrifying depiction of what was once […]

The newly-created American Film Company, in the end credits of its very first feature, The Conspirator, announces its intentions to oversee the creation of “entertaining, engaging, and historically accurate” movies about great events in U.S. history, and this first effort comes so damn close. It is, as far as my limited expertise suggests, more than […]

In so many ways, Conviction is a terribly defective movie, far above and beyond the ordinary ways that we already expect prestige season movies based on true stories about tremendous people doing inspirational things. Two central performances that are entirely better than the script deserves – it’s by Pamela Gray, whose last produced film eleven […]

And y’all thought I had given up on the Pakulathon. To greet the 1990s, Alan J. Pakula directed and co-wrote (with Frank Pierson) an adaptation of Scott Turow’s legal thriller Presumed Innocent, a film that works not unlike a grab-bag of narrative tropes from earlier successes – and failures – in the director’s career. There’s […]

In a monstrously prolific career spanning over a hundred films across five decades, John Ford produced greater films than Young Mr. Lincoln, but perhaps not a single one that was more perfect or more Fordian: none of the others saw the same combination of the director’s fervent love of his country, his cynical humanist view […]

In 1934, the spectacularly gifted Austrian filmmaker Fritz Lang became one of a great many European filmmakers to emigrate to the United States, hoping to avoid a, shall we say, politically sensitive climate growing in Germany at the time. A Catholic with Jewish heritage from his mother’s side of the family, Lang wasn’t necessarily all […]

Little things, insignificant things, can derail a movie. We can pretend to be as serious and objective as we like, but sometimes there’s just a tiny flaw that wrecks it all, entirely for matters of personal taste. In The Reader, there’s a scene set in Germany in 1958, in which 15-year-old Michael Berg (David Kross) […]

In retrospect it seems obvious that a film about one of the greatest tragedies of the 1960s youth movement should be explosively inventive and innovative, but years of blandly pandering films aimed squarely at sentimental Boomers have blunted a basic truth: art about radicals needs to be radical itself. While it would be arguing too […]

In honor of last week’s closing ceremony of the 60th Cannes Festival (give or take), in which the 52nd Palme d’Or was awarded to the Romanian 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, I have taken it upon myself to consider a previous winner of that most august prize. My first observation about Dancer in […]

My experience of the 42nd Chicago International Film Festival came to an end on Wednesday with a radical departure from the rest of the slate, that somehow seemed weirdly appropriate: Chicago, a 1927 comedy based on a play based on a true story that would ultimately yield two other films and a Broadway musical. It’s […]