Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

In truth, it doesn’t matter to me that it’s a Romanian film (I tend to love Romanian films), a dark comedy (most of my favorite Romanian films are dark comedies), a story about totalitarian politics (my favorite Romanian dark comedy, 12:08 East of Bucharest, is about the nation’s history of totalitarianism), or as the cherry […]

There’s something undeniably medicinal about the notion of yet another film in which the psychic scars of the Holocaust play out in a post-war European domestic drama. Even when they are very, very good, the questions loom: what’s actually left to say about this topic? And dear God, is it at least being said in […]

Everything about Ida sounds like it was copied verbatim from the Big Book of European Art Film ClichΓ©s: full-frame black and white cinematography with emphasis on the whole range of greys, frequently silent people staring mirthlessly and hopelessly at nothing, the Holocaust looms imposingly in the background, and the whole thing is a metaphor for […]

30 November, 1993, represents the dividing point in the career of director Steven Spielberg. Prior to this, he was primarily a director of ebullient, exhilarating popcorn movies; since then, he has primarily been a director of largely serious dramas, with even his genre films tending to be more about investigating society than providing easy thrills. […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/13 World premiere: 19 May, 2013, Cannes International Film Festival There is a great deal to be said about The Last of the Unjust, and since it is three hours and 38 minutes long, this is a good thing – if one invested that kind of time in watching a movie and […]

In Darkness, an excessively serious-minded Holocaust drama directed by the unimpeachably sober prestige film specialist Agnieszka Holland, is such a tailor-made winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar that even now that it’s all done, I still can’t believe that it lost. Especially since it actually turns out to be quite good, despite a […]

If I have dragged my feet in this Alan J. Pakula retrospective, it is because I knew what lay in wait, and I wanted to stave off my fate as long as I possibly could. For even if the director managed to delay his arrival in the 1980s by the length of one film when […]

Edward Zwick might be the most consistent director in the history of cinema. His modus operandi: take a little-known but inspiring historical event – failing that, invent one – and falteringly turn it into a lumpy action film lousy with good intentions and lousier with clumsy execution. I honestly feel a bit bad for the […]

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) […]

I’m going to be generous and assume that the creators of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas didn’t mean for their film to end up as contemptible awards-bait, but it did anyway, the kind of sanctimoniously somber Very Important Motion Picture that shamelessly manipulates the audience into believing that if you leave the theater feeling […]

Stanley Kubrick once said, “The Holocaust is about six million people who get killed. Schindler’s List was about six hundred people who don’t,” which is actually a pretty fair criticism if you stop and think about it. By the same token, we might call the exhausting 1985 documentary Shoah a movie about a few dozen […]

Before I start, I need to get this off of my chest: The Counterfeiters is good enough that it very well might have been the best of the five nominees for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars, and that being the case, it’s all the more obnoxious that 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 […]