Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

A finalist in the latest round of voting in the poll to select what 2020 arthouse film I should watch and review next. Vote in that and the other polls if you want to control my, and the website’s fate The great Polish director Agnieszka Holland is in the pantheon of European master filmmakers whose […]

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 […]

A finalist in the latest round of voting in the poll to select what 2020 arthouse film I should watch and review next. Vote in that and the other polls if you want to control my, and the website’s fate Director Olivier Assayas has made world-class masterpieces, like Irma Vep (1996); he has made solidly […]

Reviews of all episodes: Episode 1: “Mangrove” (15 November 2020) Episode 2: “Lovers Rock” (22 November 2020) Episode 3: “Red, White and Blue” (29 November 2020) Episode 4: “Alex Wheatle” (6 December 2020) Episode 5: “Education” (13 December 2020)

Education, the fifth and final entry in director Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology is almost certainly the most straightforward: as a narrative, a delivery system for a political message, as an aesthetic object. Whether this is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder; for myself, I will not pretend to be a […]

The consensus of opinion, as far as I can tell, is that Alex Wheatle, the fourth episode of Small Axe, is also the weakest, granting an exceptionally high lower bound for “weakness”. I don’t agree, but it’s not hard to understand why somebody might come to that conclusion: the 67-minute story (written and directed, as […]

It would hardly be righ to expect a filmmaker to crank out what amounts to five consecutive feature films all right in a row and have absolutely no detectable drop in quality, so the fact that Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s five-part TV anthology, couldn’t keep knocking out one Lovers Rock after another isn’t surprising, and […]

Frederick Wiseman, who persists in making some of the most sophisticated and effective documentaries in the United States even as he enters his 90s,* is well known for his films all being about “institutions”: he goes so a specific kind of place (a hospital, a museum, a cabaret), plops his camera down, sits behind it, […]