MICHAEL’S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2016

2016 was a really good year at the movies, particularly for independent film. Summer blockbusters and year end blockbusters generally disappointed me, but independent films released February thru December (January is always a stinker of a movie month) in the US were more solid than usual. This is just an opinion piece, I’m not claiming these are objectively the best movies of 2016, just the best ones viewed through my chubby eyes. So all you La La Land fanatics and Nocturnal Animals lusters and people who thought Arrival defined 21st century science fiction and American Honey I-like-20-minute-stretches-of-film-where-people-just-sing-in-a-van fans can just calm the shit down.

10. The Witch (dir. Robert Eggers)

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An incredibly impressive debut feature from filmmaker Robert Eggers, The Witch was the most terrifying filmgoing experience I’ve had in years. And they did it all without a single jump scare. Using atmosphere and soft sounds, The Witch slowly builds to terrifying moments much like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Written using authentic texts from the 1600s, The Witch features unfamiliar dialogue spoken by mostly unfamiliar actors (all of whom are excellent) that significantly adds to the creep factor.

 

09. Elle (dir. Paul Verhoeven)

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Viciously dark comedy about rape, gender politics and what it means to be a victim, Elle is a film that is almost impossible to describe without making it sound revolting. However, without giving anything away, it manages to be both intelligent and surprising, diverting our expectations of how a rape revenge movie or even just a standard thriller should play out. This is mostly due to an extraordinarily complex and nuanced performance by Isabelle Huppert, the year’s best.

 

08. Jackie (dir. Pablo Larrain)

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I’m usually pretty weary of biopics, but Pablo Larrain’s Jackie is anything but a typical one. Less like Lincoln and more like The Babadook, Jackie chronicles the deteriorating sanity of Jackie Kennedy in the weeks following the JFK assassination. With extremely claustrophobic and almost surreal cinematography, accompanied by a manic score, the film feels like a lucid nightmare. Natalie Portman was amazing in Black Swan, but here she gives the most complex and powerful performance of her career.

 

07. The Handmaiden (dir. Chan-wook Park)

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Completely unlike anything he has done before, The Handmaiden is Chan-wook Park’s best film since 2003’s Oldboy. Gorgeous cinematography and wonderful performances perfectly compliment an extremely layered and unpredictable narrative. It’s surreal, shocking, but never for a second unbelievable.

 

06. Hell or High Water (dir. David Mackenzie)

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Speaking of “completely unlike anything he’s ever done before”, David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water couldn’t be more different than his last film, the excellent but little seen Starred Up. That movie was about a horribly unloving and manipulative father/son relationship in prison, while this movie is all about fulfilling family obligations.  Chris Pine and Ben Foster give career-best performances as brothers robbing Texas banks to save their mother’s farm, while Jeff Bridges is wildly entertaining as the eccentric lawman hot on their tail. However, the real star of the movie is screenwriter Taylor Sheridan who provides some of the year’s best dialogue for wholly realistic characters.

 

05. Green Room (dir. Jeremy Saulnier)

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A technically perfect thriller from the new up and coming genre genius on the scene, Jeremy Saulnier. While not as “scary” as The Witch, Green Room might have it beat for intensity. How refreshing it is to see basically a home invasion movie with characters as clever and three-dimensional as real people. Featuring powerful performances from everyone involved. The stand-out is clearly Patrick Stewart playing a villain so mundane it will make your skin crawl.

 

04. Toni Erdmann (dir. Maren Ade)

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Hands down, the best comedy of 2016, Toni Erdmann is the hilarious, bitter-sweet story of a stressed-out workaholic (Sandra Huller) who’s distant practical joker father (Peter Simisischek) rolls into Bucharest to try to mend their relationship. When things don’t work out, he refuses to leave and follows his daughter to all of her business functions sporting a ridiculous wig and fake redneck teeth as his alter ego, Toni Erdmann. Maren Ade brilliantly balances the outlandish physical comedy sequences with poignant human drama. Huller and Simisischek’s amazing chemistry keep the proceedings real and relatable even when one has to don a nine foot sloth costume during what is possibly the funniest nude scene ever committed to film.

 

03. Manchester by the Sea (dir. Kenneth Lonnergan)

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God, I wish I could write like Kenneth Lonnergan. I wish I could create characters that were so painfully real and weren’t profound every time they opened their mouths but were profound in how they just existed. I wish I could blend comedy and drama so seamlessly and resist the urge to provide my characters with absolute closure. Lonnergan displayed this talent in the underrated You Can Count on Me and the little-seen but severely flawed Margaret, but Manchester by the Sea is where all of it works perfectly. He takes you on a journey with Lee Chandler, and by the end you kind of feel like you are the guy.

 

02. OJ: Made in America (dir. Ezra Edelman)

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A staggering piece of work, this near 8-hour documentary chronicles OJ Simpson’s life in three parts — before the murder, the murder trial and after the murder trial. But it’s really about race relations in America and how a celebrity murder trial became a fight for civil rights. Never glamorizing OJ Simpson, the doc simply just attempts to understand him in the context of what was going on in the country at the time of his rise and fall. It’s one of the best documentaries ever made, and you can watch it on HULU.

 

01. Moonlight (dir. Barry Jenkins)

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No film moved me more this year than Barry Jenkins’ beautiful, cerebral and ever so timely Moonlight. Rarely is something this effortlessly compelling and truthful. Perfectly acted by an amazing ensemble cast, Moonlight tells the story of a gay black male with three strikes against him, growing up in 1980s Miami while struggling to come to terms with his identity. Moonlight never offers any easy answers and while it has every opportunity to be saccharine or ham-fisted with its’ message it always resists the temptation in order to be honest. The Academy would be real fucking assholes to pass this one up.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

13th, Everybody Wants Some!!, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Midnight Special.

MOST OVERRATED:

Nocturnal Animals

MOST UNDERRATED:

Green Room

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Moonlight

Maren Ade – Toni Erdmann

Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Pablo Larrain – Jackie

Kenneth Lonnergan – Manchester by the Sea

 

BEST ACTRESS

isabelle-huppert

Amy Adams – Arrival

Sandra Huller – Toni Erdmann

Isabelle Huppert – Elle 

Natalie Portman – Jackie

Emma Stone – La La Land

 

BEST ACTOR

casey-affleck

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Adam Driver – Paterson

Jesse Plemmons – Other People

Peter Simonischek – Toni Erdmann

Denzel Washington – Fences

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Moonlight

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight 

Ben Foster – Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

Andre Holland – Moonlight

Trevante Rhodes – Moonlight

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

naomie-harris

Viola Davis – Fences

Naomie Harris – Moonlight 

Min-hee Kim – The Handmaiden

Molly Shannon – Other People

Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

adapted-screenplay

Arrival – Eric Heisserer

Elle – David Birke

The Handmaiden – Chan-wook Park, Chung Seo-kyung

Moonlight – Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney 

Silence – Jay Cocks, Martin Scorsese

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

original-screenplay

 

Green Room – Jeremy Saulnier

Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan

The Lobster – Yorgos Lathinmos, Efthimis Filippou.

Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonnergan

Toni Erdmann – Maren Ade

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

cinematography

Arrival – Bradford Young

The Handmaiden – Chung-hoon Chung 

Jackie – Stephane Fontaine

La La Land – Linus Sandgren

Moonlight – James Laxton

 

BEST FILM EDITING

film-editing

Green Room – Julia Bloch

Jackie – Sebastian Sepulveda

La La Land – Tom Cross

Moonlight – Nat Sanders, Joi McMillon

OJ: Made in America – Bret Granato, Maya Mumma, Ben Sozanski

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

original-score

Arrival – Johann Johannsen

Jackie – Mica Levi 

La La Land – Justin Herwitz

Moonlight – Nicholas Britell

Nocturnal Animals – Abel Korzeniowski

 

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST

ensemble-cast

Fences – Jovan Adepo, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Saniyya Sidney, Denzel Washington, Mykelti Williamson.

Manchester by the Sea – Casey Affleck, Anna Baryshnikov, Matthew Broderick, Heather Burns, Kyle Chandler, Tate Donovan, Josh Hamilton, Kara Hayward, Lucas Hedges, Gretchen Mol, Michelle Williams, C.J. Wilson.

Moonlight – Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, Andre Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monae, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders.

Other People – Maude Apatow, Madisen Beaty, Paul Dooley, John Early, Mike Mitchell, Paula Pell, Jesse Plemmons, Retta, Molly Shannon, June Squibb, J.J. Totah, Matt Walsh, Bradley Whitford, Zach Woods.

The Witch – Lucas Dawson, Kate Dickie, Ellie Grainger, Ralph Ineson, Harvey Scrimshaw, Anya Taylor-Joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FILM REVIEW – GOAT

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Goat is not a movie about people. It’s a movie about shock value. “Shocking” sequences are shown of freshman getting physically, emotionally and even sexually abused in hazing practices. Since none of the characters, save from one, are developed or distinguished in any kind of way, these “shocking” sequences have absolutely no impact. It uses slick cinematography and a constantly brooding protagonist as some kind of cheap parlor trick to cover up the fact that it is an utterly hollow experience. This is the best example of “cinematic posturing” in recent memory.

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The movie opens with a pair of brothers, Brett (Ben Schnetzer) and Brad (Nick Jonas!!!!). Brad is a member of the fraternity that Brett will be rushing this upcoming fall semester, and Brad really wants him to be a brother. That’s about all the relationship building you get from these characters whose literal and collegiate brotherhood is supposed to anchor the entire picture. Brad is a handsome, confident and completely uninteresting guy who always seems to score with the three dozen Victoria’s Secret models that inexplicably attend this small Midwestern college. Brett is more sensitive and overly passive. He doesn’t know how to stand up for himself. This is lazily demonstrated by having him submit to a beating and robbery by two muggers in the first ten minutes of the film. I guess that’s why he needs to prove himself a “man” during this hazing ritual. Multiple times throughout the movie he sadly looks at a selfie he took the night of the mugging of his bruised up face trying to figure out who he is. How deep.

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When the hazing starts, we are introduced to a couple of frat brother clichés. One walks around the party eating a can of tuna fish. Only someone completely comfortable with themselves eats at a party, he must be the alpha. Another is the rich preppy guy who is always the first to yell in your face but lies on the ground crying when he gets lightly tapped. In the grand ironic tradition of frat hazing, it’s both completely homophobic and electrically homoerotic at the same time. The frat brothers stick bananas encased in condoms in the mouths of blind-folded pledges and instruct those “faggots” to “suck their dicks.” Maybe Goat would have worked better if it had been a satire on pledging. It would have at least been less disgusting than being pressured into shedding a tear for a couple of privileged white dudes who chose to be there.

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There’s a scene towards the middle of the hazing where Brett and the boys successfully drain a keg of beer after being covered in chocolate pudding and urinated on. After ringing a cowbell to signal a success, the brothers celebrate with the pledges at a bon fire. Covered in chocolate pudding and looking sinister, Brett slowly walks over to his brothers as the fire illuminates his face. The shot is a direct rip-off of Apocalypse Now. The fact they are comparing Brett’s mission to be in a frat to Martin Sheen’s mission to kill Colonel Kurtz is the only indication Goat might actually be a comedy.

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The only truly redeeming quality of Goat is the lead performance by Ben Schnetzer. As much as I loathed the character, I never loathed Schnetzer. He almost succeeds in selling his garbage character. Schnetzer is a magnetic and powerful talent that manages to impress even in the most hostile of conditions, like being in a piece of shit like Goat. In fact, the majority of the cast with the exception of Jonas are all pretty solid. As much as I want to bite my own foot off for saying this, James Franco has a good cameo. He plays a former frat bro who stops by the house from time to time to relive his “glory” days and escape from his wife and baby. In a completely unsubtle but effective way of displaying this character hates himself, the writers have Franco rip off his shirt and scream at a pledge to hit him.

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I think the real tragedy of Goat is the fact that it’s competently put together by someone who very clearly knows how to make a movie. It’s co-written by the wonderful David Gordon Green and the cinematography is gorgeous. It’s just lazy. It’s clear its main purpose is to shock audiences with ridiculously cruel hazing methods. It’s not interested in any kind of human element or mining any deep truths on why we put ourselves through hell in order to be popular or well liked. Goat isn’t a movie, it’s a compilation of outrageous YouTube videos in sheep’s clothing. Grade: D 

Available to Rent on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video, go nuts! 

 

 

My 100 Favorite Movies

I waste so much of my precious time on this Earth watching movies. Here are my 100 favorites that I strongly recommend you see and own and watch many more times.  Also, these are my favorite movies and not what I’m saying are the objectively best movies ever made. But, feel free to give me shit about it in the comment section.

 

100. Die Hard (1988/dir. John McTiernan/USA)

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The perfect action movie.

 

99. Bad Education (2004/dir. Pedro Almodovar/Spain)

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Pedro Almodovar is one of the only filmmakers able to walk the thin line between realism and soap, and Bad Education, while one of his most disturbing efforts, is no different. It’s a harrowing drama wrapped in a murder mystery about two sexual abuse victims trying to make a movie based on their experience.

 

98. Se7en (1995/dir. David Fincher/USA)

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Speaking of disturbing efforts, David Fincher’s breakthrough film about the week-long hunt for a sadistically pious serial killer is one of the darkest movies you’ll ever see. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt provide solid performances, but the MVP is Kevin Spacey.

 

97.Dear Zachary: A Letter to His Son About His Father (2008/dir. Kurt Kuenne/USA)

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From a technical perspective, Dear Zachary is not a great documentary. However, the story at the heart of Dear Zachary is so heart-wrenching and unbelievable it makes for essential viewing. Given that it’s made by the subject’s childhood friend adds to its intimacy. This is one you’ll never forget. It’s impossible not be deeply affected by this film. Available to Stream on Netflix. 

 

96. The Wizard of Oz (1939/dir. Victor Miller/USA)

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I watched The Wizard of Oz so many times as a child I wore out the VHS copy and my mom had to buy another one. It’s fun, it’s vibrant, it’s funny, it’s scary, it’s actually really fucking twisted now that I think about it. There’s something perverse and odd going on under the surface of this movie, and I’m not exactly sure what it is. The Cowardly Lion will forever remain one of my favorite movie characters.

 

95. Inglourious Basterds (2009/dir. Quentin Tarantino/USA/Germany)

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After being slightly disappointed with the Kill Bill movies, my mind was completely blown my sophomore year of college when I went with some comedy buddies to see Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. The best of Tarantino’s revisionist history epics, Basterds features one of the best written villains of all time, Colonel Hans Landa flawlessly embodied by the great Christoph Waltz. It also features a bar scene that is as good as an episode of Cheers.

 

 

 

94. The Piano (1993/dir. Jane Campion/New Zealand/Australia/France)

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Jane Campion’s gorgeous period piece The Piano had the misfortune of being released the same year as Schindler’s List, so it was almost forgotten. It features Holly Hunter’s finest performance, Harvey Keitel’s penis and Anna Paquin in a role that won her an Oscar at the age of twelve. Available to Stream on Amazon Prime. 

 

93. Requiem for a Dream (2000/dir. Darren Aronofsky/USA) 

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The scariest and saddest movie ever made about drug abuse and how it destroys human beings. Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto and most surprisingly Marlon Wayans impress with stunning work, but the real show-stopper is Ellen Burstyn. This is the film that established Darren Aronofsky as a major American filmmakers.

 

92. Boyz N the Hood (1991/dir. John Singleton/USA)

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“Any fool with a dick can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.” One of the many pearls of wisdom spoken by Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne), the tough-as-nails patriarch in John Singleton’s cautionary tale of life in the ghetto, Boyz n the Hood. One of the biggest criticisms I consistently hear of the film is that the characters all act as mouthpieces for the film’s message, and while I usually don’t like that lack of subtlety, it works in the context of this movie. Boyz n the Hood is like a ghetto opera, overly dramatic, a little surreal but extremely powerful. Increase the peace.

 

91. The Celebration (1998/dir. Thomas Vinterberg/Denmark/Sweden) 

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Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration is a Danish film I first saw in my independent film class in college. It’s a simple and intimate domestic drama about a family’s darkest secrets being exposed during a reunion. It’s a Dogme film, meaning it was filmed all on a hand held camera with only natural lighting and no audio added in post production. A bunch of filmmakers got together at Cannes one year (Lars Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and a couple of others) and were upset that film was becoming too artificial or something, so they drafted this manifesto on what film should be. Sounds really pretentious and up it’s own ass, and it probably is, but The Celebration followed these rules and turned out incredible. Vinterberg would later go on to make The Hunt with Mads Mikkelsen, another incredible, but simple film.

 

90. Magnolia (1999/dir. Paul Thomas Anderson/USA) 

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Powerful but bizarre series of interconnecting stories set in the San Fernando Valley. Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson patterned much of Magnolia off of Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. Featuring one of the most impressive and effective ensemble casts ever assembled for a movie and one of the best opening sequences of all time. Tom Cruise got an Oscar nomination for his solid performance, but truth be told, he was one of the weaker parts of the cast.

 

89. Zero Dark Thirty (2012/dir. Kathryn Bigelow/USA)

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Kathryn Bigelow won her Oscar for The Hurt Locker, but Zero Dark Thirty, released three years later, was hands down the better film. Featuring fantastic performances from Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Jennifer Ehle, Kyle Chandler and the late great James Gandolfini, this docudrama chronicles the hunt and eventual capture of Osama Bin Laden. The film was plagued with controversy claiming it celebrated and/or condoned torture, but I found the film to be pretty indifferent from a political standpoint. It seems far more interested in the psyche of the highly-stressed characters rather than making any kind of statement.

 

88. Sexy Beast (2000/dir. Jonathon Glazer/UK/Spain) 

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Everyone says Ben Kinglsey gave his best performance as Gandhi, but I call bullshit. His best performance was as the emotionally unstable vicious mad dog Don Logan in Jonathon Glazer’s surreal crime drama Sexy Beast. Ray Winstone is almost as good as a retired bank robber being stalked by Logan, as is Deadwood’s Ian McShane as a manipulative crime lord who loves orgies.

 

87. 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (2007/dir. Cristian Mungiu/Romania/Belgium)

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Far and away, one of the most unsettling and hard to watch films on this list, 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days chronicles the awful experience of a college student trying to get an illegal abortion in 1980s communist Romania. Over the course of 113 minutes, our pregnant protagonist is poked, prodded, harassed, abused and traumatized over something that should be every woman’s right. It’s a nauseating experience as a viewer since filmmaker Cristian Mungiu refuses to sugar coat anything.

 

86. Punch-Drunk Love (2002/dir. Paul Thomas Anderson/USA)

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When I first saw this movie in sixth grade I did not care for it. I found it to be long, boring and not quite as entertaining as Sandler’s other movies where he does stuff with poop. However, repeat viewing as an adult have made me realize what a unique and heartbreaking character study this is. Adam Sandler gives us his very best performance here, before he was sponsored by Bud Light. Available to Stream on Amazon Prime. 

 

85. Anomalisa (2015/dir. Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman/USA) 

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Last year’s R-rated Oscar-nominated stop-motion animated feature from Charlie Kaufman was a bit of a bait and switch. The trailers led audience members to believe it was an optimistic and whimsical life-affirming journey of a marionette, but the film ended up really being about how unchecked narcissism can drive a person to levels of loneliness bordering on psychosis. David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and especially Tom Noonan as every other character, deliver phenomenal voice-work, but the real magic comes from Kaufman’s cynical and frightfully accurate worldview.

 

84. The Empire Strikes Back (1980 / dir. Irvin Kershner / USA)

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Why didn’t I rank the most popular movie ever made higher? As much as I appreciate/love the Star Wars trilogy it never really played a huge role in my childhood. I feel 99.9% of people who are obsessed with Star Wars started at a single digit age. My VHS collection was a lot more fucked than Han and Lea’s sexual tension though, with Tarantino, Scorsese, Craven, and Kevin Smith playing a large role. The Empire Strikes Back is the finest installment and the snow battle, Boba Fett and that ending are definitely epic.

 

83. Drive (2011/dir. Nicolas Winding Refn/USA)

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Usually I see a movie on my birthday weekend and usually I end up being disappointed. I remember on September 18, 2011 I saw Drive with my roommate and best friend and was absolutely blown away. Drive is a non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end with rich, empathetic characters and brilliant film editing. Refn went on to direct two extremely disappointing films after Drive, the gorgeous but completely hollow The Neon Demon and the completely cold and detached Only God Forgives.

 

82. Zodiac (2007/dir. David Fincher/USA)

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Many people credit The Social Network as Fincher’s masterpiece, but I whole heartedly believe it is Zodiac. This cold and meticulously made crime drama tracks the long and arduous investigation of the Zodiac killer. Fincher perfectly captures the late 60s/early 70s and coaxes brilliantly understated performances out of his large ensemble cast. The music supervision is on-point featuring Donovan, Three Dog Night and Steely Dan.

 

81. House (1977/dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi/Japan)

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House is the most bat shit crazy movie I’ve ever seen. Is it even a movie? It’s like a music video dropped acid with a children’s book. Whatever it is, there is nothing like it. It will have you screaming BANANAS BANANAS BANANAS BANANAS all night long. Available for Streaming on HULU Plus 

 

80. Toy Story (1995/dir. John Lasseter/USA)

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My vote for the greatest animated feature ever made. Toy Story is the remarkably original and emotionally resonant story about growing up, seen through a collection of forgotten toys. Also, Tim Allen is in it.

 

79. The Departed (2006/dir. Martin Scorsese/USA)

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Relentlessly entertaining and unpredictable, Martin Scorsese’s return to form The Departed, already felt like a classic the year it was released. Featuring very well drawn characters brought to life by excellent performances including a terrifying Jack Nicholson and a never better Leonardo DiCaprio.

 

78. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013/dir. Abdellatif Kechiche/France/Belgium/Spain)

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An incredibly tense and incredibly frank French drama chronicling a decade long relationship between an artist in her twenties and a high school aged girl. Over the course of three hours, I became so emotionally invested in the characters I felt like I knew them my entire life. Blue is the Warmest Color marked the first and only time a filmmaker and his two leading actresses were awarded the Palme D’Or at Cannes. Available for Streaming on Netflix. 

 

77. Alien (1979/dir. Ridley Scott/UK/USA)

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Most people credit Blade Runner as Ridley Scott’s best film, but I honestly find it to be pretty overrated. For me, Scott’s masterpiece is the simple and terrifying Alien. Expertly paced and better acted than any genre film has the right to be, Alien introduced us to one of the scariest monsters in movie history, the xenomorph.

 

76. The Pianist (2002/dir. Roman Polanski/France/Poland/Germany/UK)

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Most every non-fiction Holocaust film seems to just exist in the shadow of Schindler’s List, but Roman Polanski’s chilling survival story of a Polish pianist is one of the rare exceptions. Featuring a riveting Oscar-winning performance from Adrien Brody that should have sky rocketed his career. Instead, he did a couple of Diet Coke commercials.

 

75. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993/dir. Chris Columbus/USA)

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I guess I’m supposed to like Tootsie more, but I don’t. Dustin Hoffman is brilliant in it, but Mrs. Doubtfire makes me happier. Robin Williams plays such an incredibly likeable character you’re able to feel everything he feels as a viewer. And that scene where him, Harvey Fierstein and Aunt Jack are figuring out Mrs. Doubtfire’s look is a montage for the ages.

 

74. L.A. Confidential (1997/dir. Curtis Hanson/USA)

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Beautifully written and powerfully acted 1950s detective story that was unfortunately overshadowed by James Cameron’s visually impressive but intellectually hollow love story Titanic. Kevin Spacey does some of his best screen work here.

 

73. Whiplash (2014/dir. Damien Chazelle/USA)

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There is never a dull or unneeded moment in Damien Chazelle’s explosively thrilling tortured artist film. J.K. Simmons rightfully won an Oscar for portraying the music teacher from hell and Miles Teller holds his own as an ambitious young drummer. The ending is a work of genius. Pure fucking genius.

 

72. About Schmidt (2002/dir. Alexander Payne/USA)

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Speaking of endings, the ending of About Schmidt always gets me. An against type Jack Nicholson plays Warren R. Schmidt, a retiree who takes a cross country road trip in his RV in a desperate attempt to find himself before his daughter gets married.

 

71. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992/dir. James Foley/USA)

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A phenomenal play, but an even better film in my opinion. David Mamet wisely adds an outside force played by Alec Baldwin to taunt and fuck with the six desperate real estate men. Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon deliver two of the best performances of their career, while Ed Harris, Alan Arkin and a very young Kevin Spacey add solid support. Always Be Closing, Coffee is for Closers, and a bunch of other quotable lines.

 

70. The War Zone (1999/dir. Tim Roth/UK) 

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Incest is a tricky subject to base a film around, but real life survivor Tim Roth has crafted a truly harrowing but remarkable motion picture that perfectly captures the emotional destruction it does to a family. Set in a Shining-esque isolated setting (the father’s job is to be the caretaker of an old castle in Ireland), The War Zone inflicts pain upon characters with nowhere to flee for help.

 

69. Mystic River (2003/dir. Clint Eastwood/USA)

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Many people will tell you Clint Eastwood’s best movie is Unforgiven or that pile of horsedicks Million Dollar Baby, but for my money it’s Mystic River. While not as graphic in it’s depiction of sexual abuse as The War Zone, it’s accurate in its depiction of how those wounds never really heal. Featuring an amazing ensemble cast including Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Laura Linney, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River is able to hit notes so subtle you’ll never guess The Empty Chair Guru thunk it up.

 

68. Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999/dir. Errol Morris/UK/USA)

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Errol Morris might be the best documentarian working today and the peculiar Mr. Death is one of his best works in a sea of exceptional work. A bizarre story of a chain-smoking coffee-inhaling man who dedicated his life to modifying execution equiptment and later went on to become the “scientific” voice of Holocaust deniers.

 

67. The Conversation (1974/dir. Francis Ford Coppola/USA)

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The same year The Godfather Part II won Coppola Best Picture at the Oscars, The Conversation won him the Palme D’Or at Cannes. Feautring Gene Hackman’s finest performance as a surveillance man who becomes slowly obsessed with his subject, the great John Cazale (RIP) and a very young Harrison Ford.

 

66. Annie Hall (1977/dir. Woody Allen/USA)

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Widely regarded as Allen’s best film and one of the best romantic comedies ever written. While I think it’s only his second best film, I think it’s his funniest and most charming effort. Christopher Walken is in this.

 

65. In the Bedroom (2001/dir. Todd Field/USA) 

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If you want to see some of the best acting ever committed to screen, watch Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek duke it out over the grief of their dead son in one hit wonder Todd Field’s In the Bedroom. It’s a slow burn, but it builds to a devastating final shot. Available for Streaming on Amazon Prime. 

 

64. Barton Fink (1991/dir. Joel & Ethan Coen/USA)

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The Coen Brothers have always done their own thing, and Barton Fink might be the best example of how different they are from other filmmakers. An eccentric hybrid of comedy and drama, Barton Fink follows a squirrely writer (a never better John Turturro) and his bumpy journey through the Hollywood film industry. A highlight is John Goodman firing a shotgun and screaming down a hallway engulfed in flames.

 

63. Gates of Heaven (1978/dir. Errol Morris/USA)

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The documentary that Roger Ebert calls one of the top ten films ever made, Gates of Heaven was Errol Morris’ breakthrough hit that set the tone for his exceptional body of work. This portrait of very unusual and desperate pet owners is unexpectedly touching and poignant.

 

62. The Long Goodbye (1973/dir. Robert Altman/USA)

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Initially trashed upon its release, Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye is one of the best goddamn detective movies ever made. Elliot Gould is magnetic as the infamous Philip Marlowe, and the hilarious opening sequence involving him buying cat food is one of the best stretches of film I’ve ever seen.

 

61. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986/dir. Woody Allen/USA)

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I haven’t seen every Woody Allen movie but out of the ones I’ve seen, Hannah and Her Sisters is the best. An ensemble piece about relationships, marriage and adultery featuring a half dozen incredibly well developed and realistic characters brought to life by magnificent performances. Dianne Wiest and Michael Caine are clearly the stand-outs and won Oscars for their work.

 

60. Animal Kingdom (2010/dir. David Michod/Australia) 

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A Greek tragedy disguised as an Australian crime drama, Animal Kingdom is a powerful and disturbing examination of a criminal family falling apart. Most crime dramas use shocking and graphic violence to jolt viewers, but Animal Kingdom simply uses dialogue and tense confrontations between its characters. Jacki Weaver was nominated for an Oscar for her role as the deceptively sweet matriarch, but the real scene-stealer is Ben Mendolsohn as the sociopathic eldest son.

 

59. The Deer Hunter (1978/dir. Michael Cimino/UK/USA)

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Before Michael Cimino murdered United Artists with Heaven’s Gate, he directed one of the best war movies of all time. The Deer Hunter centers around small town Joes forever changed by the horrors of Vietnam. Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken deliver devastating performances especially in the almost unbearable Russian Roulette sequence.

 

58. Mean Streets (1973/dir. Martin Scorsese/USA)

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While not his first film, Mean Streets was the movie that established Martin Scorsese as one of the best working American filmmakers. Centering around Scorsese’s two favorite subjects – street crime and Catholic guilt – Mean Streets follows Charlie (Harvey Keital) and his struggle to keep his best friend Johnny Boy (an unhinged Robert DeNiro) alive and out of trouble.

 

57. The Usual Suspects (1995/dir. Bryan Singer/USA/Germany)

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While it has what is possibly the best twist ending in the history of cinema, it seems unfair to only remember Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects just for that. It’s a tightly paced and surprisingly funny crime thriller with fascinating characters including a sly but unintelligible criminal played hilariously by Benicio Del Toro. Available for Streaming on Netflix. 

 

56. Apocalypse Now (1979/dir. Francis Ford Coppola/USA)

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“My film is not a movie. My film is not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam. It’s what it was really like. It was crazy. And the way we made it was very much like the way the Americans were in Vietnam. We were in the jungle. There were too many of us. We had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little, we went insane.” – Francis Ford Coppola. Available for Streaming on Amazon Prime for both “Redux” and “Theatrical” versions. I prefer the Redux version. 

 

55. Talk to Her (2002/dir. Pedro Almodovar/Spain)

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Very few filmmakers understand the human condition as well as Almodovar, and while Talk to Her is certainly one of his most surreal and bizarre motion pictures, it features some of his most painfully realistic and relatable characters. The whole cast is excellent but the stand-out is far and away Javier Camara.

 

54. The Silence of the Lambs (1991/dir. Jonathon Demme/USA)

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The best acting you’ll ever find in a horror movie and possibly the greatest characters are in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter. One is a brilliant and ambitious FBI trainee trying to move past her white trash past, and one is a brilliant and manipulative former psychiatrist holding the key to solving a series of murders. And so a great cat and mouse game is built around an already stellar mystery thriller. Available for Streaming on HULU Plus. 

 

53. The Shining (1980/dir. Stanley Kubrick/USA/UK)

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The Shining isn’t Stanley Kubrick’s best film, but it’s the best horror movie ever made. This isn’t because of the characters, the actors or the story. This is because of the atmosphere. Kubrick creates a terrifying atmosphere that automatically fills you with dread. Every time you ride down that hallway with Danny, your heart sinks.

 

52. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996/dir. Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky/USA)

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Documentaries don’t get more disturbing and near impossible to watch than Paradise Lost. From the graphic images of ritualistically murdered children to the fact it’s about three teenagers being sentenced to life (and in one case death) merely for listening to Metallica. It’s an important watch though, because it perfectly illustrates how ludicrous our justice system is and how an ignorant small town mentality can condemn innocent people. If you were a fan of Netflix’s Making a Murderer, be sure to check this one out. Available for Streaming on Amazon Prime. 

 

51. No Country For Old Men (2007/dir. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen/USA)

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Far and away, the Coen’s darkest film and probably the most non-Oscar-y Oscar winner of all time. Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel almost word for word, No Country For Old Men is an extremely cynical view of the world seen through the eyes of the epitome of everything good and just (Tommy Lee Jones’s Sheriff Bell), the epitome of everything evil and unjust (Javier Bardem’s Anton Chirguh) and the epitome of human stupidity (Josh Brolin’s Llewelyn Moss). Available for Streaming on Netflix. 

 

50. Short Cuts (1993/dir. Robert Altman/USA)

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Robert Altman’s entire career seemed to be building towards Short Cuts, an incredibly compelling and fascinating ensemble drama about twenty-something troubled lives caged inside Los Angeles. Featuring one of the greatest casts ever assembled: Julianne Moore, Lily Tomlin, Tom Waits, Matthew Modine, Bruce Davison, Andie McDowell, Robert Downey, Jr., Lily Taylor, Chris Penn, Frances McDormand, Madeline Stowe, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Robbins, Peter Gallagher, Fred Ward, Anne Archer, Lyle Lovett and a heartbreaking Jack Lemmon.

 

49. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003/dir. Peter Jackson/New Zealand/USA)

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While I agree that Return of the King had seventeen too many endings, it doesn’t change that fact that Peter Jackson has crafted one of the finest and most visually impressive film trilogies of all time with J.R.R. Tolkein’s source material. Singling out the installments and ranking all three seems pointless since they are just separate parts of one gigantic story. I also wanted two extra spaces on my list.

 

48. Happiness (1998/dir. Todd Solondz/USA)

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Any film that almost succeeds in making you feel sympathy for a pedophile is incredibly well written. Todd Solondz’s ironically titled Happiness is an ensemble-driven epic about the crippling power of loneliness. Seen through the eyes of a narcissistic New Jersey family and the losers and monsters they encounter every day, the film strikes a brilliant balance between dark humor and devastating drama. It’s mean-spirited but incredibly honest, and features perfect performances from it’s cast including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jon Lovitz and especially, Dylan Baker. It’s hilarious.

 

47. Being John Malkovich (1999/dir. Spike Jonze/USA)

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Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze’s feature film debut, Being John Malkovich, is fucking ridiculous. A failed puppeteer (John Cusack), his animal-obsessed wife (Cameron Diaz) and a horribly manipulative asshole (Catherine Keener) find a portal into John Malkovich’s head behind an old filing cabinet. Extremely whimsical but very sad at its core, Being John Malkovich ends up being less about John Malkovich and more about how desperate desire can make human beings.

 

46. Trainspotting (1996/dir. Danny Boyle/UK)

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I was in third grade when my best friend at the time gave me a run down of the plot for Trainspotting. He explained to me it’s about these heroin addicts stuck on an island (Scotland) who hallucinate and steal shit and there’s this super graphic sex scene with this totally hot chick. This enthusiastic rundown didn’t even begin to prepare me for the unhinged visceral assault that is Trainspotting, a volatile ADHD-addled thrill-ride that grabs you by the throat for 90 minutes and doesn’t let you go. Available for Streaming on Netflix. 

 

45. This Is Spinal Tap (1984/dir. Rob Reiner/USA)

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I think the mockumentary was more or less invented with 1984’s comedy classic. This Is Spinal Tap, a spot-on parody of 80s rock bands involving foil-wrapped cucumbers, birthing pods that don’t want to open and a beautiful love ballad titled “Lick my Love Pump.” One of the funniest movies ever made and completely timeless.

 

44. The Seven Samurai (1954/dir. Akira Kurosawa/Japan)

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Akira Kurosawa’s 3 hour –plus epic about a group of samurai who take the law into their own hands was re-made several times but never improved upon. Unfortunately, I’ve only seen four Kurosawa films (Rashomon, Dreams, Throne of Blood and this) or else more would most likely be on the list. Available for Streaming on HULU Plus. 

 

43. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975/dir. Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones/UK)

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Although I think Monty Python’s absolutely best work was their sketch show Flying Circus, they made three near-perfect films. The first was The Holy Grail, a parody of the classic King Arthur story, featuring homicidal rabbits on crack and plenty of flesh wounds.

 

42. Monty Python’s The Life of Brian (1979/dir. Terry Jones/UK)

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Monty Python’s second feature film was far and away their most controversial, parodying the Christ story. It pissed a lot of people off but it demonstrated Monty Python’s willingness to go anywhere.

 

41. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983/dir. Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam/UK)

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Although it’s an unpopular opinion, I think Monty Python’s best film was their third and final feature, The Meaning of Life. A series of alarmingly clever and hilarious vignettes that attempt and fail to explain the meaning of life. SPOILER ALERT – There is no meaning, we die, the end.

 

40. The Lives of Others (2006/dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck/Germany)

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The late Ulrich Muhle gives such an incredibly nuanced and touching performance in The Lives of Others that it’s an absolutely travesty he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. Muhle plays a STASI agent tasked with running surveillance on a “suspicious” couple in 1984 East Berlin. Slowly but surely he gets to know the couple and empathizes with them. The film, which won the Oscar in 2006 for Foreign Language Film, matches the brilliance of his performance in every way.

 

39. Blazing Saddles (1974/dir. Mel Brooks/USA)

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It goes without saying that Mel Brooks is one of the greatest comedic minds of all time, and at least for me, Blazing Saddles is far and away his greatest achievement. A comedic western and an interesting commentary on race relations, the movie doesn’t pull any of it’s punches and features hilarious performances from the entire cast, especially Madeline Kahn.

 

38. Wet Hot American Summer (2001/dir. David Wain/USA)

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Every time I watch David Wain’s 1980s summer camp epic, it makes me laugh so hard I physically hurt myself. All of Wain, Showalter and Black’s films are fantastic, but this one clearly soars ahead of the pack. Featuring an impressive ensemble cast including David Hyde Pierce, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper and the criminally underrated Christopher Meloni as a disturbed camp chef plagued with thoughts of fondling sweaters and rubbing mud on his ass. Available for Streaming on Netflix.

 

37. Boogie Nights (1997/dir. Paul Thomas Anderson/USA)

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That opening shot. That beautiful two-minute, single take going into Luis Guzman’s club established filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson as one of the best working American filmmakers. He’s the heir to Kubrick’s genius as far as I’m concerned. His second feature, an epic ensemble piece about the porn industry of the 1970s seen through the eyes of a fresh-faced horse-dicked young man (Mark Wahlberg), is one of the most energetic and compelling period pieces ever made.

 

36. Do the Right Thing (1989/dir. Spike Lee/USA)

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In my mind, the most poignant film ever made about race relations, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is about a mixed race neighborhood at each other’s throats during the hottest day in Brooklyn. I’m generally not a fan of Lee’s work, but Do the Right Thing is a masterpiece of American cinema.

 

35. 12 Years a Slave (2013/dir. Steve McQueen/USA/UK)

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There hasn’t been many movies made about slavery, and the ones that were made prior to 12 Years a Slave always seemed to have a sappy and cheesy emotional slant. 12 Years a Slave succeeds because filmmaker Steve McQueen is as unsentimental as they come and is unwilling to sugarcoat anything. While the film does a vivid and horrifying job painting the physical tortures of slavery, it also, and I’d argue even more frighteningly so, portrays the blind acceptance of an institution that degraded an entire race of people.

 

34. City of God (2003/dir. Fernando Meirelles/Brazil)

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City of God succeeds in being both horrific and entertaining, sometimes at the same time. Perhaps Brazil’s best known contribution to celluloid, it chronicles the real life story of crime lords residing over Rio de Janiero from the late 60s to the mid 70s. Featuring a fascinatingly unconventional story structure that filters incredibly complex characters through shocking and at times, bizarre, situations. It also has some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen set to an amazing soundtrack featuring James Brown and Tower of Power.

 

33. Schindler’s List (1993/dir. Steven Spielberg/USA)

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Schindler’s List is commonly regarded as “the” movie about the holocaust and for good reason. It’s a relentlessly compelling three hours that manages to be both horrifying and emotionally rewarding. It manages to have optimistic and warm moments (though not many) without ever being ham-fisted or cheesy. Liam Neeson creates one of the most empathetic movie characters of all time with Oskar Schindler and Ralph Fiennes creates one of the most terrifying, ruthless and ultimately sad film villains of all time. Available for Streaming on HULU Plus. 

 

32. Chinatown (1974/dir. Roman Polanski/USA)

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Painfully cynical yet beautifully crafted film noir set in the 1930s about a sleazy private investigator (Jack Nicholson) stumbling upon a gigantic conspiracy about LA’s water. The recent drought in California makes Chinatown particularly relevant today and for the most part Polanski’s quick pacing and storytelling is more similar to today’s cinema than it is with cinema of the early 1970s. Jack Nicholson delivers his finest film performance of all time and Faye Dunaway and the great John Huston provide outstanding supporting work.

 

31. Blue Velvet (1986/dir. David Lynch/USA)

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On the surface, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is a kidnapping thriller. Below the surface, beneath the dirt and ravenous beetles, it’s a commentary on artificiality of the American Dream. Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper, creating perhaps the most frightening movie villain of all time, deliver career -best performances.

 

30. The Act of Killing (2013/dir. Joshua Oppenheimer/UK/Denmark/Norway)

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The most unique documentary I’ve ever seen, and certainly one of the most affecting. Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer gives Indonesian death squad leaders the chance to re-enact their murders with a low budget action film. This forces them to come to terms with the atrocities they committed and meditate on the thin line between murder and patriotism. Available for Streaming on Netflix.

 

29. The Killing (1956/dir. Stanley Kubrick/USA)

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Stanley Kubrick apparently invented the tracking shot during the apartment scene in this perfect thriller. It’s a heist film with interesting, jaded characters and a plot that keeps you guessing all the way until the beautifully ironic ending. The fact a film like this was made in 1956 is a minor miracle.

 

28. The Godfather Part II (1974/dir. Francis Ford Coppola/USA)

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While I strongly believe the first Godfather is far and away a better film than the more critically acclaimed Part II, I still believe Part II is a masterpiece in it’s own right. The juxtaposition of Michael Corleone’s life with his father’s life at his age (played by a rarely better Robert DeNiro) is brilliant, and the ending sequence is one of the most quietly tragic stretches of film I’ve ever seen.

 

27.Full Metal Jacket (1987/dir. Stanley Kubrick/UK/USA)

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When people think of the definitive Vietnam movie, Coppola’s Apocalypse Now or Oliver Stone’s annoyingly overrated Platoon usually come to mind. For me, the definitive Vietnam war movie is Stanley Kubrick’s aggressively angry dark comedy, Full Metal Jacket. It’s comprised of two equally impressive halves, one focusing on Private Joker being broken at boot camp and the other focusing on the psychological effects of Private Joker’s boot camp experience. Available for Streaming on Amazon Prime.

 

26. The Thin Blue Line (1988/dir. Errol Morris/USA)

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Watching The Thin Blue Line again recently after four or five years, really cemented it for me as the best documentary ever made. Unfolding like a thriller, The Thin Blue Line explores a terrible miscarriage of justice through startling interviews heightened with one of the most effective music scores I’ve ever heard in a film. Filmmaker Errol Morris creates such an incredible sense of unease throughout you might be able to classify it as a horror movie. Available for Streaming on Netflix. 

 

25. Saving Private Ryan (1998/dir. Steven Spielberg/USA)

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The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan has been written and talked about to enormous lengths, but I’ll talk about it anyway. It’s one of the most harrowing and impressive opening sequences ever committed to film, and the movie that follows it doesn’t let that stellar opening down. Tom Hanks’ line about how every man he kills he feels farther away from home still hits me hard to this day. Available for Streaming on Netflix. 

 

24. Best in Show (2000/dir. Christopher Guest/USA)

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Laugh for laugh, Best in Show might be the funniest movie ever made. It’s certainly one of the most consistently funny movies ever made with multiple laughs per minute. Christopher Guest’s overwhelmingly talented improvisational ensemble from This Is Spinal Tap and Waiting For Guffman returns to lampoon super intense dog owners. Available for Streaming on Amazon Prime. 

 

23. Paths of Glory (1957/dir. Stanley Kubrick/USA)

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Stanley Kubrick is most often described as a filmmaker ahead of his time, so a WWI film made in 1957 that manages to bear a strong anti-war statement fits in perfectly with his oeuvre. Meticulously filmed in gorgeous black and white, Kubrick’s second of three war films is possibly his most underrated work.

 

22. All About My Mother (1999/dir. Pedro Almodovar/Spain)

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Your mileage may vary, but for me, Pedro Almodovar’s magnum opus is 1999’s All About My Mother. It’s a beautiful portrait of femininity seen through the eyes of different mothers, daughters, sisters, actresses and men who are transitioning into women. It’s a powerful, realistic and unpredictable ensemble piece with an early performance from Penelope Cruz as a nun dying of AIDS.

 

21. Rashomon (1950/dir. Akira Kurosawa/Japan)

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Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon invented a sub-genre for thrillers where a crime occurs and the audience sees the incident from several different character perspectives. The genius of Rashomon is that the truth is never revealed. The film was released in Japan in 1950 and was light years ahead of American movies. I haven’t seen every Kurosawa film but this is my hands down favorite. Available for Streaming for HULU Plus. 

 

20. Oldboy (2003/dir. Chan-wook Park/South Korea) 

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One of the most strikingly original and entertaining films ever made is Chan Wook Park’s Oldboy. An intense character study wrapped inside of a thriller wrapped inside of a mystery seasoned with notes of bizarre humor. It’s the only movie I ever re-watched immediately after the first time I watched it. Available for Streaming for Netflix. 

 

19. The Big Lebowski (1998/dir. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen/USA)

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I’ll admit that the first time I saw The Big Lebowski I didn’t think it was all that great. I’ll even admit that the second time I saw it I didn’t think it was much better. But somewhere around the fourth or fifth time you watch it, you realize it’s one of the most ingenious comedies ever filmed. Oddly structured, it unfolds in very surprising ways but never comes across as pretentious or tedious. Jeff Bridges and John Goodman deliver some of their finest work and John Turturro’s Jesus is a minor miracle.

 

18. Raging Bull (1980/dir. Martin Scorsese/USA)

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Known for having the best film editing ever (thanks Thelma Schoonmaker), Raging Bull is one of the few modern movies filmed in black and white that completely justifies being filmed in black and white. It’s beautiful and pristine, the most gorgeous movie Scorsese has ever shot. DeNiro gives one of the all time best screen performances as Jake LaMotta, a deeply flawed human being with whom it’s incredibly difficult to empathize. It is almost unreal that Ordinary People beat this out for the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars.

 

17. The Master (2012/dir. Paul Thomas Anderson/USA)

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I strongly believe that Paul Thomas Anderson is the most interesting and gifted filmmaker working in American movies today. The Master is his incredibly meticulous and unsettling post WWII drama about desperate men who need something, anything, to believe in. Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman give career best performances (and that is definitely saying something) as master and sensei, perfectly playing off each other with opposite approaches. Phoenix is a very extroverted and loud character while Hoffman is more introverted and subtle, quietly holding the power in the relationship. The first “processing” scene they share together might be my favorite two-person scene of all time.

 

16. The Godfather (1972/dir. Francis Ford Coppola/USA)

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There aren’t many three-hour movies that earn their runtime, but The Godfather manages to justify it with one of the tightest and most intense three-hour stretches ever recorded to film. The performances from Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan and Richard Castellano are amazing but the real standout is an understated Robert Duvall as Tom Hayden, the outsider.

 

15. Memento (2000/ dir. Christopher Nolan / USA)

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Christopher Nolan will never top Memento, which is interesting, seeing as though he had much less of a budget as he does now with blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Interstellar. Memento is one of the most unique and interesting films ever made, told in reverse about a man suffering short-term memory loss trying to solve the murder of his wife. The film’s ending is a startling revelation that sent chills down my spine.

 

14. Taxi Driver (1976/dir. Martin Scorsese/USA)

Robert De Niro Mimes a Shot to His Head in Taxi Driver

Travis Bickle could have easily been an over-the-top character, but Robert DeNiro wisely positions the character’s psychosis internally. It’s his very best performance and proves DeNiro can convey more menace with a simple shift of his eyes than most actors can convey with their entire bodies. One of Scorsese’s only slow burns, Taxi Driver is an incredibly disturbing experience that seeps into your skin.

 

13. Sideways (2004/dir. Alexander Payne/USA)

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I was recently asked what my favorite feel-good movie was and I responded with ‘Sideways’. It was met with a lot of controversy, but I stand by my decision. Alexander Payne’s masterpiece is about depression and failure, but it celebrates the humanity that lives in both of those things. It’s about deeply flawed human beings, Miles (a never better Paul Giamatti) in particular, getting a shot at redemption. It also has one of the best screenplays ever written.

 

12. There Will Be Blood (2007/dir. Paul Thomas Anderson/USA)

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A landmark in American cinema. Daniel Day-Lewis gives the most powerful screen performance I’ve ever seen in my life as an insatiable oilman who is more or less the personification of capitalism. In his quest for capital, he has a run in with a manipulative local preacher who is basically the personification of organized religion. When they clash there is a lot of blood, and capitalism reigns victorious. Available for Streaming on Netflix. 

 

11. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968/dir. Stanley Kubrick/UK/USA)

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Stanley Kubrick’s visual orgasm/overwhelming mind-fuck is the greatest science-fiction film ever made. When you’re nine years old and see if for the first time it’s boring as shit, but as you grow older it slowly becomes one of the best films ever made. Available for Streaming on Amazon Prime.

 

10. Waiting For Guffman (1996/dir. Christopher Guest/USA)

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Hands down, the funniest movie I’ve ever seen in my life. Having done community theatre for pretty much my entire life, all the little nuances and subtleties of this Christopher Guest outing really hit home hard for me. Every time you watch this movie, you find something new to laugh at.

 

9. A Clockwork Orange (1971/dir. Stanley Kubrick/UK/USA)

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A Clockwork Orange has this amazing way of presenting the most horrifically violent and disturbing images as pure beauty. If there was ever a film that needed to be described as grotesque, this is it. Kubrick’s two hour-plus journey through the mind of a sociopath is a fun, energetic, yet painful ride that’s similar to chugging a two-liter bottle of soda in under a minute. Available for Streaming on Amazon Prime. 

 

8. Mulholland Drive (2001/dir. David Lynch/France/USA)

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The biggest cinematic mind-fuck of all time is David Lynch’s masterpiece Mulholland Drive. One of the only films to actually get better with every viewing, I’ve seen it about eight times now. Naomi Watts delivers her best work as a struggling actress who fantasizes about a better life.

 

7. Fargo (1996/dir. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen/USA)

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There might not be a filmmaker out there better at seamlessly blending comedic and dramatic elements in movies than the Coen Brothers. Their formula is perfected in 1996’s thrilling, funny, sad, frightening and completely genuine Fargo about a small but ugly crime wave washing over a small town.

 

6. Pulp Fiction (1994/dir. Quentin Tarantino/USA)

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Quentin Tarantino was my favorite filmmaker growing up because he was so fucking loud. He was making movies in a way that nobody every really did before him, but he was doing it in such an extravagant and borderline-obnoxious way that even a nine-year-old Michael Margetis could pick up on all the “subtleties” of his style. Pulp Fiction and most all of Tarantino’s movies work based on the strength of his characters that are given so much detail as a viewer you feel like you personally know them. Available for Streaming on Netflix.

 

5. Network (1976/dir. Sidney Lumet/USA)

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Network was viewed as a piece of satire when it was released because the revolting nature of reality television hadn’t played out exactly like the film predicted yet. Featuring six of the best film performances of all time (Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Beatrice Straight, Robert Duvall and a menacing Ned Beatty) and in my personal opinion the number one greatest screenplay ever written, Network stands the test of time perhaps as more of a drama than initially intended.

 

4. GoodFellas (1990/dir. Martin Scorsese/USA)

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Martin Scorsese’s best film is also his most entertaining film. GoodFellas is relentlessly entertaining, a flawlessly edited adrenaline-fueled ride through the rise and fall of a mob associate that never once stops for air. Joe Pesci more ore less created the violently insane and unpredictable sociopath template that’s seen in most gangster movies today.

 

3. Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 

(1963/dir. Stanley Kubrick/UK/USA) 

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Not the funniest comedy ever made, but without a question the best. Stanley Kubrick’s crowning achievement is a brilliant satire on the cold war made during the height of the cold war. With five amazing comedic performances, three from Peter Sellers and one each from the uncharacteristically hilarious George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden, a brilliantly sharp screenplay and possibly the most meticulous production design I’ve ever seen.

 

2. Reservoir Dogs (1992/dir. Quentin Tarantino/USA)

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I was nine years old the first time I saw Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. I was hanging out in a hotel room in Amsterdam while my parents were at a dental convention. I realize it’s not objectively the best movie ever made (it’s still excellent though) but it’s the movie that made me want to be a filmmaker or at least involved in films. I still think its simplicity and incredibly well rounded characters make it Tarantino’s best work. Available for Streaming on Netflix

 

1. Amadeus (1984/dir. Milos Forman/USA/France)

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I’m an actor and every actor is insecure in one way or another. Having seen Milos Forman’s Amadeus at a young age it really stuck with me because on the outside it’s a biopic about Mozart, but on the inside it’s this painful character study of a brilliant musician who puts in so much work but is unfortunately upstaged by a once-in-a-century kind of talent that never had to work hard a day in his life. It’s a film about blood, sweat, tears and time artists pour into their craft and how sometimes tireless work and an abundance of talent just isn’t enough to cut the mustard. Available for Streaming on Netflix. 

 

 

SHUDDER PLUG PART 1 – 14 DAY FREE TRIAL ON AMAZON PRIME

SHUDDER

Amazon Prime has been offering a bunch of new add-ons for the past three months or so. The most popular ones are SHOWTIME and STARZ, but for my money, the best one is SHUDDER. A collection of more obscure horror movies ranging from modern indie art house flicks to ridiculously over-the-top low budget 80s trash, SHUDDER seemingly has something for everybody. With your Amazon Prime membership, you can enjoy a FREE 14 day trail. Here’s some quick reviews of the first 6 movies I was able to catch during my 14-day trial:

BEHIND THE MASK LESLIE VERNON

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006 / dir. Scott Glosserman / USA) 

Uninspired mockumentary about a camera crew following an ambitious serial killer as he “immortalizes himself.” Derivative of Man Bites Dog, a funnier and overall better film, Behind the Mask thinks it’s a lot more clever than it actually is but features a few good laughs and solid performances all around. (2 1/2 meta jokes out of 5)

 

DEAD AND BURIED

Dead and Buried (1981 / dir. Gary A. Sherman / USA)

Boring and confusing are two fantastic adjectives to describe this lackluster sort-of-zombie film. Dead fishermen come back to life to terrorize and take pictures of the living. There’s some genuinely spooky moments, but they are few and far between in a movie that seems to have no idea what the hell it is doing. (2 unfocused flood lights out of 5) 

 

DEMONS 1985

Demons (1985 / dir. Lamberto Bava / Italy) 

Absolutely fucking ridiculous. When a weird steampunk silver-masked dude in the subway hands out a free pass to a movie premiere, a young woman and her friend decide to go. At the movie premiere, hipsters and aging artists gather only to be possessed by demons one by one and rip each other apart. An Italian movie centered around Americans with awful English dubbing. (3 1/2 Steampunk Phantom of the Opera Dudes out of 5) 

 

innkeepers

The Innkeepers (2011 / dir. Ti West / USA)

Expertly crafted slow-burn from the director of House of the Devil, that provides a small but incredibly effective amount of scares. It also provides a lot of great humor thanks to two very well developed leads beautifully played by Sara Paxton and Pat Healy. They are the two clerks working at the Yankee Peddler Inn on it’s closing weekend. Apparently the place is haunted and in between virtually ignoring guests, they try their hand at ghost hunting.  There are moments when the film will definitely test your patience, but the pay-off is more than worth it. (4 1/2 ignored towel requests out of 5) 

 

MANIAC COP 1 2

Maniac Cop (1988 / dir. William Lustig / USA)

Bruce Campbell and Tom Atkins battle Maniac Cop, the NYPD’s dirty little secret. Apparently Maniac Cop was once a good cop, he shot first and asked questions later, but he was still a good cop. After getting sent to prison, he was brutally killed and then released onto the public by the police or medical team that brings him back from the dead or something. Anyway, they send him out to the street to “take out the trash” but once he starts killing white people it’s suddenly a problem and Maniac Cop must be stopped. This is a poorly made film that’s just competent enough so it’s not even funny. Since it’s about a cop who murders unarmed civilians and the failure of the NYPD to do anything about it, it takes on a sort of eerie relevance in 2016. There’s even an anti-NYPD protest in the streets towards the end. Oh, and Bruce Campbell’s stunt man clearly has a mullet. (1 1/2 human rights violations out of 5) 

 

MANIAC COP 2

Maniac Cop 2 (1990 / dir. William Lustig / USA) 

Bruce Campbell is back to take on Maniac Cop again. Everyone just assumes Maniac Cop is dead, but he’s not, he’s just more decomposed than he was the first time around. In this one, he’s more like Jason Voorhees meets Sloth from The Goonies. He goes around helping rapists/murders and murdering their victims as well as declaring war on all NYPD officers. It’s offensive, misogynistic, poorly made but in a lot of ways the film the first Maniac Cop should have been. At least this installment is so off-the-rails it’s amusing and features a lot more sequences involving people running around on fire. Just a year before his Oscar nomination for Barton Fink, Michael Lerner appeared in this as a police commissioner rarely seen without his pipe. Technically not on Shudder, but worth the $2.99 7-day rental if you already hate yourself.  (3 Christopher Dorners out of 5) 

Later this weekend, I’ll post mini reviews of the other 6 movies I watched during this 14-day trial period:

MURDER PARTY

THE PACT

PIECES

SHAKMA 

SLEEPAWAY CAMP

THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS 

 

 

 

 

 

CRITERION COLLECTION REVIEWS – VOL. 7 (In the Mood for Love, The Killing, Secret Honor)

THE KILLINGIN THE MOOD FOR LOVESECRET HONOR

IN THE MOOD

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000 / dir. Wong Kar-Wai / Hong Kong / China) Talk about a slow burn, Wong Kar Wai’s little romance story runs 98 minutes but feels like 150. In the Mood For Love stars Tony Leung (Chow Yun-Fat’s sidekick in Hard Boiled) and Maggie Cheung (Hero) as two lonely married people who find solace in each other, but the film really stars some of the most gorgeous and bizarre cinematography in film history. Wai commonly uses multiple cinematographers for his films, for this he used Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping Bin, which can very easily result in a incoherent and jumbled vision. However, In the Mood for Love has a remarkably strong, singular vision. However, the pacing becomes a problem with the film seems to become more concerned with the visuals rather than the human drama. The scenes between Leung and Cheung are beautifully written and touching, but you wish there was more of them. There’s a logical closing point 80 minutes into the film but instead of closing on the movie’s most relevant and powerful scene, it stretches out for another 18 minutes to show us pretty but irrelevant shots of a monastery in Cambodia. Still, this is a powerful and beautiful film that is wholly unique. Grade: B+

 

THE KILLING 2

THE KILLING (1956 / dir. Stanley Kubrick / USA) – Stanley Kubrick’s third film about a racetrack robbery suffers from completely unnecessary and even condescending voice-over narration that was forced into the film against the auteur’s will. Besides that, there is nothing wrong with this blackly hilarious and edgy film noir, Kubrick’s first true masterpiece. The film features solid acting that plays heavily to the genre, including a unique leading man role by the criminally underappreciated Sterling Hayden, gorgeous lighting, and a single tracking shot so good I almost shit myself. The Criterion Collection DVD and BluRay also includes a 4K digital transfer of Kubrick’s previous film Killer’s Kiss. This is an absolute must-own. Grade: A

 

SECRET HONRO 2

SECRET HONOR (1984 / dir. Robert Altman / USA) – Secret Honor could have been a really solid stage production, but instead it’s a Robert Altman film. Featuring really dull cinematography that lingers without purpose, the only saving grace to the film is a powerhouse performance by Philip Baker Hall as a desperate Richard Nixon. I suppose Nixon’s long monologues would have been more engrossing for me if I hadn’t already seen Hopkins and Langella mine the Dick’s psyche in their respective Nixon films. In all fairness, Secret Honor came first, but I had the misfortune of seeing it last. Still, I can still say fairly objectively, that both Nixon and Frost, Nixon were both more engaging motion pictures. If only because they ventured out of one room. Altman should have known better. Available for Streaming on HuluPlus. Grade: B-

FILM REVIEW – THE OSCAR NOMINATED LIVE ACTION SHORT FILMS

I’ve never really followed the short film Oscar race. I saw a few shorts here and there, but never really cared enough to see the five nominated shorts compiled together in theaters. When this category is announced during the Oscar telecast I’m usually getting more queso dip in my friend’s kitchen or taking a shit, preferably in a bathroom.

These were five live-action shorts nominated by the Academy out of surely hundreds of submissions, so I was a little disappointed that only two were good. It makes me want to watch more of the 2015 life action submissions. Surely there were better shorts than at least three of these ones, deemed the cream of the crop. This category might be the weakest #OscarsSoWhite has to offer. I will be reviewing the five shorts in the order they were presented to me at the ridiculously overpriced $14 screening. Thanks Camelview, you goshdarn jerks.

 

AVE MARIA

AVE MARIA

Palestine / France / Germany

In Arabic, Hebrew and English w/ English Subtitles

15 minutes

What starts out as a quirky little story about nuns in the middle of a vow of silence trying to communicate with each other, quickly turns anti-semitic when a car full of Jews crash into their convent. Complaining of course, the Jewish family gets out of their car and doesn’t really care that they accidentally decapitated a Virgin Mary statue. A young nun goes out to help them and they complain more, especially the grandma. The adult male Jewish man needs to call a tow truck, but he can’t operate the phone because he’s not allowed to operate electrical equipment for religious reasons. The nun has to dial it for him and we get to listen to him argue about money on the phone, while the grandma breaks Jewish dietary laws by drinking water from a kitchen with a lovely looking prosciutto in it. I guess I just didn’t like the idea of the Palestinian nuns being portrayed as martyrs while the Jewish family was just this loud, destructive force that found a million things to bitch about. Even without this sour anti-semitic slant, the story of two religions trying to put aside their differences to work together is such a bullshit, schmaltzy premise that the old out-of-touch whores of #OscarsSoWhite would eat up like free samples at Costco. The first two minutes of this short are actually pretty funny and the acting is solid enough. Plus, it’s only 15 minutes. Grade: C- ***PREDICTED WINNER***

 

SHOK (FRIEND)

SHOK

UK / Kosovo

In Albanian and Serbian with English subtitles

21 minutes

Predictable but extremely powerful, Jamie Donoughue’s Shok begins with a man coming across a bicycle in the middle of the road which takes him back Citizen Kane-style to his childhood during the Kosovo war in 1998. Two fantastic performances by the lead child actors and dialogue that never seems inauthentic or forced make it all the more tragic the film resolves on such a cliche note. Grade: B 

 

EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY

EVERYTHING WILL BE OK

Germany / Austria

In German with English subtitles

30 minutes

After two disappointing shorts about really heavy world issues, it was interesting that Germany’s Everything Will Be Okay, about a contained domestic issue, was so much more effective. More than effective, Everything Will Be Okay is just about perfect. The story of a divorced father trying to kidnap his eight-year-old daughter is an absolutely riveting and emotionally draining half hour, imbued with so much honesty and tension it will break you apart, piece by piece. The two lead performances are both outstanding, but it’s young Julia Pointner (pictured above), who steals the film with her disappointed and hurt glares at her father. Sometimes it takes someone as un-jaded as an eight year old to see through all the bullshit of a divorce and resulting custody battle. Grade: A

 

STUTTERER

STUTTERER

UK

In English

12 minutes

Coming off the pure cinematic bliss that was Everything Will Be Okay, I was forced into the festering shit pile that was Stutterer. A Wes Anderson hipster love story stripped of any creative and compelling visual flair, the short follows a young attractive dude with a really extreme stutter. He falls in love over Facebook, but when presented with the opportunity to meet his online sweetheart he fears she’ll be repulsed by his inability to speak properly. The dude coaches himself into meeting her and when he finally does, the film ends one of the most saccharinely sweet, mind-blowingly stupid and sadly predictable notes possible. The only decent thing about the short is the performance of the lead actor, which is actually pretty convincing. It’s a shame he’s working with awful material. My advice for the filmmaker would be to edit the short down to about 90 seconds, and make a really shitty but effective Facebook commercial with it. This guy has a real future in social media commercials. Grade: D- 

 

DAY ONE

DAY ONE SHORT

USA

In English

25 minutes

USA’s entry into the live action short race is an incredibly well-acted but very awkwardly constructed. Zero Dark Abortion might have been a more appropriate title for it, since it follows an Afghani interpreter for the US Army who is tasked with cutting up a pregnant woman’s dead fetus in order to save her life. A nauseating premise somewhat redeems itself along the way but ends on a sour note. Layla Alizada gives a powerful lead performance and the dialogue isn’t ever really ham-fisted or over-the-top in a way military movies tend to be. It’s just the premise…why was this short made? Grade: C+ 

 

Well, that’s it unfortunately. I wish the nominees were better. Everything Will Be Okay was one of the best short films I’ve ever seen, and completely undeserving of being surrounded by these other shorts. It makes me really wonder what great live action shorts were submitted and rejected by #OscarsSoIncapableOfCompetentlyAssessingMedia. I heard Night of the Slasher was fantastic, did anyone see that? In all honesty, I’d nominate Netflix’s Kung Fury over Ave Maria, Stutterer and Day One. Tomorrow I’ll post my reviews of the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts. They were a lot more consistent.

 

 

 

 

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2015

10. The Revenant (dir. Alejandro G. Inarritu)

TOP 10 REVENANT

The most grotesque film of the year, in that it’s both beautiful and revolting at the same time. While I don’t agree with all the awards hype surrounding Leo’s powerfully realistic screams of pain, director Inarritu and cinematographer Lubezski succeed in bringing a fairly hollow and often repetitive screenplay to thrilling life with groundbreaking visuals.

 

9. 45 Years (dir. Andrew Haigh)

TOP 10 45 YEARS

Running an incredibly tight 95 minutes, Andrew Haigh’s (HBO’s Looking) 45 Years unfolds more like a blackbox stage production than a film. Using several long takes and two-person shots (as opposed to close-ups), we get to see Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay’s wounded married couple actually play off of each other. Rampling and Courtenany deliver two of the best and most meticulous performances of the year that give a seemingly dull premise, life or death stakes.

 

8. Brooklyn (dir. John Crowley)

TOP 10 BROOKLYN

The trailers for Brooklyn were misleading. They made the film seem like some sappy tween take on the Irish immigrant story when actually Brooklyn is the farthest thing from that. While it doesn’t sugar coat the grittiness of the immigrant’s journey, it doesn’t get bogged down with cynicism either. Sairose Ronan and Emory Cohen give incredibly empathetic performances that completely reel you in. Brookyln is very pretty and optimistic little film. My mom would love this.

 

7. Room (dir. Lenny Abrahamson)

TOP 10 ROOM

Another film that manages to be warm without ever being sentimental, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is an incredibly overwhelming experience. As Joy, Brie Larson solidifies herself as one of the best actors working in the industry and nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay is equally impressive as Joy’s son. This is the type of film that could have easily sank into Lifetime Original Movie territory, but Abrahamson is wise to never make it exploitative or ever make it about Joy’s psychopathic abductor. Instead Abrahamson opted to make a film about the strongest bond of all, between a parent and their child.

 

6. Sicario (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

SICARIO 3

Agonizingly suspenseful and flawlessly crafted, Sicario is a powerful exploration of the United States involvement in the ongoing Cartel wars. Featuring riveting performances and Roger Deakins cinematography, Sicario is a morally ambiguous descent into hell.

 

5. Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)

TOP 10 MAD MAX

George Miller has created what is hands down one of the greatest action films ever made. What’s most impressive, is how he’s able to build characters and a universe through the action sequences. With only a combined ten minutes or so of non-action sequences, Mad Max: Fury Road is a grand operatic spectacle that uses stunning and outrageous imagery to tell it’s story. It’s where art and entertainment meet for a drunken night and have wild unprotected sex. Prepare to get fucked.

 

4. Carol (dir. Todd Haynes)

CAROL 5

Todd Haynes completely transports you to the 1950s in this tender and cerebral love story between a married woman and a naïve shopgirl trying to come to terms with her sexuality. Many period films set in the 1950s look like the 1950s, but very rarely do they feel like they were actually made in the 1950s. Carol is kind of like Frank Capra’s Blue is the Warmest Color.

 

3. The Look of Silence (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)

TOP 10 LOOK OF SILENCE

Joshua Oppenheimer’s perfectly shot, gut-wrenching companion piece to 2013’s The Act of Killing is far and away the best documentary feature of 2015. While The Act of Killing focused on the Indonesian death squad leaders of the 1960s, The Look of Silence focuses on the victims and their families struggling to accept and forgive the atrocities that were committed against them. Not nearly as provocative as The Act of Killing but much more emotionally reasonant. This is an extremely intelligent documentary that carefully and thoroughly examines the country’s politics and the human condition without falling into the tired clichés that plague most documentaries being made today.

 

2. Son of Saul (dir. Lazlo Nemes)

TOP 10 SON OF SAUL

More of a character study than a Holocaust film, the soul crushingly bleak Son of Saul follows a jewish man in Auschwitz, Saul, who has completely lost his mind. Saul is a sonderkommando, which were jewish prisoners granted special privileges in exchange for leading other jews into gas chambers. While cleaning up “the showers”, Saul discovers a teenage boy barely clinging onto life that he believes is his son, giving him something to live for.

Impressively shot on aspect ratio 1.37:1, which is like a vertical rectangle, the camera hangs on Saul like a hawk the entire 107 minute runtime. We don’t see much, and pretty much everything in the background is out of focus. We hear the screams though. The Nazis angrily shouting, the prisoners begging for mercy, the sound of fingernails frantically scraping on the gas chamber doors, ect. It’s a revolutionary film in terms of technical filmmaking, but it’s an unfathomably difficult watch.

 

1. Anomalisa (dir. Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman)

ANOMALISA 1

As much as I loved Inside Out, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s stop-motion animated study of narcissism and depression blew it out of the fucking water. One of the most wholly unique movie-going experiences I’ve ever had in my life, Anomalisa creates two painfully realistic characters desperate to find solace in each other. Completely free of any easy Hollywood cliches, Kaufman’s completely crowd-funded Anomalisa is both funny and thought provoking. In a world where Star Wars and Marvel merchandise rule all, a film getting released as unique and honest as Anomalisa is a miracle.

 

Honorable Mention

Amy
Cartel Land
The End of Tour
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
It Follows
James White
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Mommy
Spotlight

 

OTHER MENTIONS:

 

BEST DIRECTOR

TOP 10 GEORGE MILLER

GEORGE MILLER for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Honorable Mentions:

TODD HAYNES for CAROL
ALEJANDRO G. INARRITU for THE REVENANT
DUKE JOHNSON and CHARLIE KAUFMAN for ANOMALISA
LAZLO NEMES for SON OF SAUL

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

TOP 10 CHARLOTTE RAMPLING

CHARLOTTE RAMPLING for 45 YEARS

Honorable Mentions:

CATE BLANCHETT for CAROL
BRIE LARSON for ROOM
ROONEY MARA for CAROL
SAIROSE RONAN for BROOKLYN

 

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

TOP 10 TOM COURTENAY

TOM COURTENAY for 45 YEARS

Honorable Mentions:

CHRISTOPHER ABBOT for JAMES WHITE
MICHAEL FASSBENDER for STEVE JOBS
BEN MENDOLSOHN for MISSISSIPPI GRIND
GEZA ROHRIG for SON OF SAUL

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

TOP 10 CYNTHIA NIXON

CYNTHIA NIXON for JAMES WHITE

Honorable Mentions:

MARION COTILLARD for MACBETH
JANE FONDA for YOUTH
JENNIFER JASON LEIGH for THE HATEFUL EIGHT
ALICIA VIKANDER for EX MACHINA

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

TOP 10 JACOB TREMBLAY

JACOB TREMBLAY for ROOM

Honorable Mentions:

STEVE CARREL for THE BIG SHORT
IDRIS ELBA for BEASTS OF NO NATION
TOM HARDY for THE REVENANT
MARK RYLANCE for BRIDGE OF SPIES

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

TOP 10 BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

ANOMALISA – Charlie Kaufman

Honorable Mentions:

BROOKLYN – Nick Hornby
CAROL – Phyllis Nagy
THE END OF THE TOUR – David Margulies
ROOM – Emma Donaghue

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

TOP 10 BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

INSIDE OUT – Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen, Meg LaFauve and Josh Cooley

Honorable Mentions:

THE HATEFUL EIGHT – Quentin Tarantino
IT FOLLOWS – David Robert Mitchell
JAMES WHITE – Josh Mond
SPOTLIGHT – Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

THE REVENANT

EMMANUEL LUBEZKI for  THE REVENANT

Honorable Mentions:

ROGER DEAKINS for SICARIO
MATYAS ERDELY for SON OF SAUL
ROBERT RICHARDSON for THE HATEFUL EIGHT
JOHN SEALE for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

 

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST

TOP 10 BEST ENSEMBLE

SPOTLIGHT

Honorable Mentions:

THE BIG SHORT
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
STEVE JOBS
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 MOST OVERRATED MOVIES OF 2015

2015 was an amazing year for cinema, but some of these movies didn’t live up to their potential and made my head and soul hurt.

5. Ex Machina

EX MACHINA

There are a handful of truly breathtaking sequences in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina and it’s very well edited and shot, but I found myself without anything to really care about. This is a movie as cold and soulless as the research facility it’s set in and while I’m usually a fan of films that opt to approach it’s audience from an intellectual perspective rather than a pure emotional one, Ex Machina really doesn’t have much to say that hasn’t been said in a million other science-fiction movies. Oscar Issac and Alicia Vikander elevate the film to a degree with their powerful performances, but Domnhall Gleeson is a bore playing yet another awkward hipster. He’s played the same goddamn character in Frank, Black Mirror, Brooklyn and now this, and quite frankly I’ve had it.

4. Tangerine

TANGERINE

It’s impressive Tangerine was shot solely on an iPhone, but there really isn’t anything gripping or remarkable about the story of a ignorant, drug-addled transgendered prostitute seeking revenge on her pimp (the always solid James Ransone) for fucking a new bitch he broke in and a middle-Eastern cabbie cruising the streets for tranny dick to gobble down. There are a couple of good performances and honest moments, but Tangerine seems to rely on campy humor that just come to fruition. It aims to be a quirky social commentary in the vain of Spring Breakers, but ends up being more like a very special episode of South Beach Tow.

3. Bridge of Spies

BRIDGE OF SPIES

When the dust settles years from now, Bridge of Spies might be remembered as Steven Spielberg’s most boring film. Not only is it dull, but it also manages to be ham-fisted and corny at the same time. When the film isn’t indoors in the midst of a jargon-heavy conversation, characters are busy not being genuine. Tom Hanks plays the flawless happy all-American white protagonist that saves the day. I hate these types of protagonists because they aren’t realistic and they also make me feel pretty shitty about myself. Human beings make mistakes, and protagonists’ flaws are what make them accessible and relatable to viewers. Speaking of not being able to relate to characters, Tom Hanks’ wife played by the great Amy Ryan serves only as a cheerleader to Hanks. She’s there to add helpful quips like “You’re a great man!” and “You know what’s best.” Spielberg is usually a pretty progressive filmmaker so it’s odd his only female character is a one-dimensional homebody. The only saving grace of the film is an outstanding Mark Rylance as a Soviet Spy on trial. It’s amazing he was able to give such a restrained and complex performance in such a by-the-numbers Hollywood movie.

2. Phoenix

PHOENIX

Here’s a film that every critic was ravenously eating the butthole of for some reason, a thriller set in post-WWII Germany named Phoenix. Nelly (Nina Hoss) survives Auschwitz, but her face is severely disfigured. After a radical facial reconstruction operation (which seems most likely impossible for 1945), she’s virtually unrecognizable. Not even her husband recognizes her (which is bullshit, you’d recognize the woman to whom you’re married), who tries to rope her into a scam to get his wife’s (which he doesn’t know is her) life insurance money. More centered around misogyny than anti-Semitism, Phoenix is a slow burn in the worst possible way. While I fully support a feminist story about the struggle of women in post-Nazi Germany, the movie does so with wooden characters that are impossible to empathize with. None of the characters are three-dimensional, and the male characters only serve as abusers to women. It’s relentlessly depressing and seems almost gratuitous after a while. While the cinematography, direction and writing are wholly unimpressive, lead actress Nina Hoss is absolutely riveting. It’s a shame her performance is completely wasted on a film that is unable to meet her half way.

1. The Martian

NASA Journey to Mars and “The Martian"

Actor Matt Damon, who stars as NASA Astronaut Mark Watney in the film “The Martian,” smiles after having made his hand prints in cement at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Mars Yard, while Mars Science Lab Project Manager Jim Erickson, left, and NASA Astronaut Drew Feustel look on, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, at the JPL in Pasadena, California.

This is the one I’m going to get the most shit for, but to be honest I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut.  So cheesy it could clog your arteries, Ridley Scott’s survival story centers around a smug Matt Damon farming his way back to Earth with the help of a bunch of white dudes who can’t stop patting each other on the back. This is the kind of limp-dicked, schmaltzy bullshit I’d expect from the Damon/Clooney “movies have the power to inspire, you have the power to act” bland collective. Technically, the movie looks wonderful and Ridley Scott does a fine job directing it, but the screenplay is so predictable and emotionally false that dazzling effects can’t save it. It’s a by-the-numbers survival story with the emotional complexity of a Kodak commercial. It’s fodder for the masses, and they’ll just love all them dang ABBA jokes. Get it?! Cause ABBA was a band from a time much different than our own! HAHAHAHAHA! Somebody pass the arsenic.

FILM REVIEW – THE REVENANT

THE REVENANT POSTER

The word ‘grotesque’ is the perfect word to describe Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant. It is simultaneously one of the most beautiful and one of the most disgusting films I’ve ever seen in my life. Shockingly graphic and realistic images of scalpings, guttings and bear attacks are often immediately followed by breathtakingly gorgeous and serene images of nature. It’s unnerving. I’ve run out of adjectives to describe how beautiful The Revenant is. It’s a goddamn work of art and solidifies Inarritu as one of the most important artists of our time. This is groundbreaking filmmaking.

REVENANT 4

The story of The Revenant is relatively straight forward. A French frontier man Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) guides a group of fur traders (Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson, Will Poulter) through the icy wilderness. When Glass gets his shit rocked by a bear, he’s left for dead and must survive on his own. Glass goes through a series of unbelievably painful and harrowing challenges. He has a series of deeply symbolic prophetic dreams. He won’t rest until he gets his revenge.

REVENANT 1

Far and away the most unspectacular thing about The Revenant is the screenplay. Compromised of not many words, characters for the most part  speak in a way that only progresses the plot. Early scenes involving Glass telling his half-Native American son “You are my son!” over and over again get a bit silly and repetitive. All the technical aspects of The Revenant are astonishing. Innaritu’s direction and Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography are far and away the best elements of the film. Using only natural light, Lubezki captures nature as this beautiful but sinister force. All of the battle sequences are tightly shot and compromised of several long-lasting single tracking shots. As an audience member, you feel like you are right in the middle of it, exhilarated beyond belief and scared out of your fucking mind. Inarritu and Lubezki’s images are powerful on their own but when supported by seamless film editing, crisp sound editing and a powerful score, they are transcendent.

REVENANT 5

So much has been said about Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance and for good reason. For years the actor has been playing it safe with relatively straight forward performances. Here he completely pushes himself out of his comfort zone and the results are compelling. However, for as good as he is the character itself seems underwritten. We never get a feel of who exactly Glass is other than a desperate man trying to survive. The story gives him a son and a dead wife, but not much in the way of a personality. The same can not be said for Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald, who is a wholly realized villain driven by the inability to trust anyone due to past traumas. I’d argue the best performance of the film is given by Hardy, inarguably the most nuanced performance in the film. Hardy makes this character instantly unlikeable without ever going over-the-top with it. Perhaps what makes this character so hard to watch is that he doesn’t relish in being the villain. In age where charismatic and flamboyant antagonists are the norm, Hardy gives us a truly despicable prick. He hates himself and everything around him, this is a man who is incapable of enjoying anything.

REVENANT 2

The Revenant runs two hours and thirty-eight minutes, but it never once loses your interest. It’s long and grueling, much like Glass’ journey, but you won’t soon forget it. Grade: A- 

 

FILM REVIEW – CAROL

CAROL POSTER

2015 has been a year for brilliant but chaotic entertainment. From car crashes to lightsaber battles, it’s nice to take a break with a film that doesn’t scream down your throat. I never really understood what film critics meant when they described a movie as “quietly powerful” until I saw Carol. So subtle and carefully constructed, Carol washes over you so gently you don’t have any idea you’re watching a great movie until it’s all over.

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Carol is about a timid saleswoman, Therese (Rooney Mara) who is questioning her sexuality. While making Christmas sales at her department store, she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), a strikingly beautiful and stoic woman who is in the middle of divorce proceedings with her husband (Kyle Chandler). The two hit it off and so begins the classic all-American love story.

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Carol, much like Haynes’ previous film Far From Heaven, doesn’t just capture the look of the 1950s, but the spirit as well. It’s incredibly rare to find a film that takes place in a certain time period that actually feels like it was filmed in that time period. Carol does just that, and sheds a lot of the cynicism trending in films today. In just about every other movie about the 1950s, the antagonist, whether they’re not allowing the protagonists to vote or in this case, express themselves sexually, is a snarling cartoonish oppressor fueled by what seems like pure evilness. Kyle Chandler tackles the antagonist very carefully, creating a threatening yet relatable character who acts wrongly but out of fear and frustration.

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Even though this is the story of two lesbians on the down-low falling in love with each other, it never becomes over-sexualized or provocative. The sex scene is relatively tame and focuses wholly on the emotions of the characters rather than their bodies. These are two women who come from different circumstances, Blanchett is older and thus knows herself completely, and Mara is barely an adult, just beginning to discover herself. They both share one common goal, shared by every human being, which is to be happy. The 50s weren’t just a tough time to be a lesbian, it was a tough time to a woman in general. The movie really hammers down the limited options these women faced.

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In the title role, Cate Blanchett is predictably phenomenal, making Carol as intoxicating to the audience as she is to Therese. As fantastic as Blanchett is, the film really belongs to Rooney Mara who establishes herself here as one of the best film actresses we have working today. It’s a performance so minimalist, it’s seemingly non-existent. It’s miraculous she’s able to elicit so much of our sympathies. The cinematography, costume design and art direction are all on-point, while Carter Burwell’s musical score is absolutely beautiful. The real star here is Todd Haynes however, who blends all of these incredible elements together seamlessly. Imagine a film that is able to completely engross and move you for the entirety of it’s runtime without a single decapitation. In a body of impressively unique work, Carol is Haynes’ masterpiece. Grade: A