Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

For the 52nd and final review in my yearlong journey through the They Shoot Pictures Top 1000, I decided it was time to shake things up a bit. Inscrutable art films and dreary social dramas are all right, but we’re going out with a bang: a nasty, occasionally sleazy British gangster picture starring a young […]

The leading face in contemporary Iranian cinema, director Abbas Kiarostami can hardly be accused of making accessible, obvious films. Nor does his wonderful 1999 film The Wind Will Carry Us even count as his easiest work, though with its inexpressibly dry, absurdist sense of humor, it’s possibly his most entertaining, given a flexible definition of […]

Occasionally, I’ll see fit to start out a film review with a personal anecdote, theoretically one that’s entertaining or somehow enlightening. This time, though, the anecdote is the review, after a fashion, for reasons that I do hope become clear and useful by the end. The time: October, 2001. I am a 19-year-old sophomore in […]

Frequently cited as the world’s first science-fiction film by people who apparently regard Georges Méliès as a documentarian (his seminal Voyage dans la lune wasn’t even his own first sci-fi picture), René Clair’s Paris qui dort nevertheless can lay claim to being the longest science-fiction film at the time of its 1924 creation. Unfortunately, I’m […]

And now the latest in my irregular series: Man, Communist Governments Hate Good Movies. For a very brief span of time following the end of World War II, China enjoyed a cinematic golden age; like so many countries that got heavily dicked-over by the biggest combatants (and it’s arguable, I think, that China’s decade of […]

I have previously spoken about Mizoguchi Kenji, sort of the “middle child” of the three canonically great Japanese directors* (Ozu Yasujiro started around the same time, but had major hits earlier; Kurosawa Akira came along a good while later), currently doomed to being the least-known of them; about his particular geometry-based aesthetic, contrasting the formalism […]

Complaining “this film suffers from too much ambition” isn’t something you get to do very often, but it’s still a fairly easy and facile criticism. But occasionally, it just fits perfectly, and if ever I’ve seen a film that seems, objectively, to be the poster child for movies that are being pressed to do too […]

The third feature by director Nicolas Roeg, Don’t Look Now is an extraordinarily peculiar horror film, not least because it doesn’t really act like a horror film for something like 100 of its 110 minutes. For the most part, it’s an atmospheric mystery cooking along at a low simmer, tremendously unsettling but never remotely scary. […]

On the afternoon of October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, AZ, Marshal Virgil Earp, his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and their friend John “Doc” Holliday engaged in a gunfight at the O.K. Corral with Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, and Billy Claiborne, an event that quickly became one of the most legendary true […]


Lousy history, absolutely perfect filmmaking. That, in a nutshell, is Oliver Stone’s JFK, one of the most contentious movies in cinema history. If only it had been about a fictional event, say, the quest to uncover a government conspiracy about aliens (man, did The X-Files ever steal both style and content from JFK), it could […]

Despite being named for the street where Paris’s most important police station is located (imagine titling a film Scotland Yard), despite a plot jammed full of intrigue and twists, and despite being written and directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, a French filmmaker noted for his exceptionally taut movies, Quai des Orfèvres is actually a pretty lousy […]

In 1973, the remarkably anti-prolific director released his first feature-length project, The Spirit of the Beehive, a film which was quickly hailed as being the single greatest work of cinema in Spanish history and is still frequently cited as such to this very day. Rubbish and hyperbole, I respond. Plainly, it is only the second-best […]