Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Every mainstream movie is commercial product, of course, and plenty of the less-mainstream ones as well. But it’s been a good long bit since I’ve been left as incapable of ignoring that fact as I am with PAW Patrol: The Movie, a throwback to a simpler time in children’s animation when cartoons were not merely […]

Probably the simplest way to start explaining what the living hell we have in front of us with The Twentieth Century, the first feature-length film by avant-garde director Matthew Rankin (who had some fairly substantial attention, by the standards of such things, with the shorts Mynarski Death Plummet in 2014 and The Tesla World Light […]

The, as it were, “house style” of most Romanian films that get exported to the United States with any sort of visibly marketing push is already four-fifths of the way towards documentary: early milestones of the Romanian New Wave like 2005’s The Death of Mr. Lǎzǎrescu and 2007’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days […]

I have from time to time mentioned that I have a rule of thumb for evaluating documentaries that I call the “glossy magazine” test: did I get anything from this movie that I wouldn’t have gotten from reading an article in a glossy magazine on the same subject. It’s basically a way of getting at […]

Quo vadis, Aida? takes place over a few days in July 1995, in the small town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and if that date in connection to that place has any meaning to you, you already know more or less exactly what kind of movie you’re in for. And also, maybe you don’t. […]

The great Polish director Agnieszka Holland is in the pantheon of European master filmmakers whose work we are more or less required to grapple with, if we take seriously the idea that cinema is an art form. And in this light, it’s not surprising that Mr. Jones, a political history lesson that premiered at the […]

Judas and the Black Messiah is a perfectly fine film about Fred Hampton, a man who deserves much better than a perfectly fine film. If you haven’t heard of Hampton, ah! such a marvelous figure you have in front of you, and truth be told, as a starting point – only as starting point, mind […]

Camilla Nielsson’s 2014 Democrats is one of the best documentaries of its kind, an unblinking look at the unsexy, downright ugly deal-making that goes into the compromises that fuel democratic governments, as experienced by politicians in Zimbabwe during that country’s writing of a new constitution that would help it transition to something that could actually […]

Boys State, a documentary by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss (who’ve worked together and apart in the world of “let’s look at this thing with a journalist’s eye” PBS-esque documentaries for years; their chief collaboration prior to this was 2014’s celebrated The Overnighters), is interesting or less-interesting for any number of different reasons, but I […]

I have noted many a time that it is a particular privilege of genre films to comment on society, politics, and humanity much more craftily than the blunt-force lecture of more traditional message movies, but there’s no reason they can’t be pretty damn blunt themselves. And so it is with La Llorona, a Guatemalan film […]

There are directorial debuts that reveal the newborn cineaste to be someone who thinks and feels in images, a visionary who has just been searching for an outlet. One Night in Miami…, the first film directed by the endlessly reliable character actor Regina King, is not one of these. But it is a very promising […]

Director Olivier Assayas has made world-class masterpieces, like Irma Vep (1996); he has made solidly routine arthouse fodder, like Something in the Air (2012); he has made films that I think simply do not work, like Clouds of Sils Maria (2014). But one thing he had not made prior to Wasp Network in 2019, or […]