Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

No film has ever deserved its reputation less than How Green Was My Valley, an adaptation by Philip Dunne of Richard Llewellyn’s 1939 novel that carefully balances gooey nostalgic sentiment and troubling clarity, is one of the most beautifully-shot films of the 1940s, and represents one of the highest achievements of John Ford’s career-long fascination […]

Given the incredible number of Australian animals that can kill a human in a variety of unpleasant ways, it’s absolutely no surprise that there are horror films about such creatures. The only surprise is that there aren’t more. As far as I can tell, the first killer animal film in the country’s history was 1978’s […]

An older review of this film can be found here There are two ways one can look at the first film made by any major filmmaker. We can go backwards, hunting for all of the clues to the great, or at least prominent works to come. This approach has its charms, not least of which […]

In all the annals of final films by great filmmakers, they don’t come much more final than The Sacrifice, the seventh and last feature made by Andrei Tarkovsky. The director was diagnosed with the lung cancer that would ultimately kill him shortly after the film completed principal photography, and when it premiered at the 1986 […]

Between 1962 and 1986, Andrei Tarkovsky directed a mere seven feature films, and every single one of them was greeted as a major work. But 1983’s Nostalghia, the sixth of those seven features and the firs made outside of the Soviet Union (it was shot in Italy, mostly in Tuscany), was regarded as being perhaps […]

By 2001, Joel & Ethan Coen had already written and directed a free adaptation of Dashiell Hammett in the form of 1990’s Miller’s Crossing, and a riff on Raymond Chandler in the form of 1998’s The Big Lebowski. So of course they’d have to do their version of a James M. Cain story, to wrap up […]

The eighth film made by Joel & Ethan Coen, 2000’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? also has the distinction of being their first full-on no-two-ways-about-it major studio production. 20th Century Fox had distributed Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, and Barton Fink, but the financing and production of those films was still closer to a conventional indie […]

As we all know, On the Waterfront exists because film and theater legend Elia Kazan, when called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in April 1952, complied by naming the names of eight people who had, at one point in the 1930s, been card-carrying Communists. This cost him many of his friends, and he wanted […]

Rain, trains, sunlight peeking through the rain, a disaster of an ending: I do not know if 2013’s The Garden of Word has the most Shinkai Makoto of any film, but at just 46 minutes long, I do know that it has the highest density of Shinkai Makoto of any film. In a sense, it’s […]

My impression is that Stalker, the fifth and final film Andrei Tarkovsky made in the Soviet Union (customarily, one does not think of Soviet artists being allowed to up and leave the country to make movies in the decadent West, but I like to imagine that Goskino was just grateful to see him go), is […]

Author’s note: I’m going to be treating this like you already know the story, and after a quarter of a century, you really ought to. Still, probably best to hold off on reading this if you haven’t seen the film – and also, I strongly urge you to see the film. There are so many […]

I wonder, if I didn’t already know that Ivan’s Childhood was possibly my least favorite and certainly the least audacious and ambitious of the seven feature films directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, if I’d be less inclined to nitpick it. Taken solely in the context of the Soviet art cinema of the late 1950s and early […]