Well, what a clusterfuck this award season has become. The best movie of the year, Luca Guadagnino’s sensational Call Me By Your Name, is pretty much out of the game thanks to Sony Pictures Classics glacial theatrical rollout plan (174 theaters after seven weeks? Come on!). Not enough people have seen the movie, which isn’t so surprising for such a specific niche film. It’s only chance at Oscar glory at this point is if enough Academy members rank it first or second on their preferential ballot.Read More →

What a totally strange year for movies. By the time December rolls around, I invariably have a good two or three movies jockeying for the number one spot on my best-of list, and several others elbowing their way into second and third—movies that have somehow moved or inspired me. Visceral films, intense emotional reactions; that sort of thing.Read More →

Two months from now, four industry veterans are expected to compete for the Academy Award for Best Actor against a talented upstart named Timothée Chalamet. Chalamet is widely expected to receive his first nomination for his heartbreaking performance as Elio, a teenager who falls in love with his father’s intern during a languid summer in Italy, in Luca Guadagnino’s exquisite Call Me By Your Name. If he wins, Chalamet will, at 22, become the youngest lead actor Oscar winner in history, eclipsing Adrien Brody, who was 29 when he won for The Pianist in 2003.Read More →

“American Sniper” is political propaganda through and through, in the same way “Zero Dark Thirty” was and every Michael Moore documentary is. It’s essentially Neocon porn, with a vaguely seedy undercurrent of Islamaphobia in the massive box-office turnout (fueled, no doubt, by the tragedy in France) and conservative social media ecstasy, and director Clint Eastwood’s patriotic fingerprints all over every frame. Unfortunately, all of this political subterfuge is masking the fact that “American Sniper” is kind of a terrible movie.  What we have here is Bradley Cooper, as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, playing first-person shooter game for two hours with no motivation behind his obsessionRead More →

As I sat watching Mike Flanagan’s “Oculus,” I kept thinking back to Brotman’s Law of Film, which states that if nothing happens by the end of the first reel, nothing is going to happen.  That bit of wisdom, coined by Chicago movie exhibitor Oscar Brotman as a barometer to tell you when you’re in for a bomb of a flick, was first introduced to me through the writings of the late Roger Ebert many years ago.  Unfortunately, Ebert never told me what to expect when nothing happens by the end of the final reel.  Here we have what is essentially a film built on anRead More →

(Note: I was fortunate to catch the stunning 40th anniversary print of this horror classic, presented by Cinefamily in Los Angeles and Dark Sky Films.  This is the very best you will ever see this movie look.  If you have a chance to see the restoration in a theater, do not hesitate to go.)   I’ve seen “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”  Countless viewings over the past three decades have left me with a deep appreciation of its style and tone, its seamless blending of the Grand Guinol, unbridled horror, and a twisted sense of humor.  This is not a film with which I am unfamiliar,Read More →

“Have you ever wanted something so badly, you’d be willing to do anything for it?” That’s the central question posed by the aspiring actress, Patti, in Richard Ciupka’s 1983 slasher mystery, “Curtains.”  When the line comes early in the film, Patti is feeding clunky one-liners to drunks in the smoky nether regions of a local comedy club.  She tells her audience that she’s only ever wanted to be in the movies (“I was so desperate to be in pictures, I screwed a guy at a PhotoMat”), and now she may finally get her chance: she and five other actresses are about to duke it outRead More →

James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the rarest sort of achievement, a spectacular summer entertainment that’s as exciting as “Stars Wars,” as subversive as “Heavy Metal,” and as goofy as countless Roger Corman space romps.  It also happens to be smart, wickedly funny, sweet in a way that seems new to the Marvel movie universe, and just about the best example of family entertainment to come along in some time. A prologue informs us that young Peter Quill was snatched unceremoniously from the jaws of earth by a giant spaceship in the year 1988, a time when cassette mix tapes could still be foundRead More →

It’s an accepted fact in the cinema world that sequels are rarely better than their predecessors.  The case has been argued for everything from “The Godfather Part II” and “Aliens,” to “Scream 2,” but. despite all the heated debate, no consensus has ever been reached that any of those movies is better than the first.  So, it gives me a certain amount of pleasure to believe that “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is the first truly authentic example of this rarest of phenomenons I’ve ever seen.  Not only does “Dawn” blow “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” out of the water inRead More →

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho tale of post-apocalyptic insurrection, “Snowpiercer,” arrives in the states on the heels of a minor controversy, after domestic distributor and notable meddler Harvey Weinstein famously attempted to wrestle final cut of the film away from Bong and edit it down for purposes of length and pacing.  Bong fought back in a public dispute and won, maintaining final cut of the film.  Much has been made of Bong’s bravery for going head-to-head with one of Hollywood’s most ruthless titans.  But having seen the film for myself, I wonder if maybe Weinstein was right to interfere: “Snowpiercer” is a glorious mess, aRead More →