February 23, 2023

I’m worried about the movies. Covid accelerated our attachment to the home screen, where our attention is divided and our experience less communal. We discover things on our own time, fracturing our collective conversation. We watch more but seem to retain less. Studios rely upon fewer franchises to carry the economic weight while original work that sneaks through the system rarely has enough time in theatres to build an audience. The messy middle, where younger filmmakers more adventurous work gets... Read more

February 9, 2022

I’ve devoted so many hours (years!) of my life to film-going. And yet, increasingly, movies now come to us. We don’t need to go anywhere. The options spread across streaming services are overwhelming. Even for film fans, it is tough to discern the patterns of where or when movies are released. The magic of lights dimmed within a crowded theater has been nearly lost to us. As the Academy Awards grow increasingly international and occasionally diverse, audience indifference to the... Read more

February 3, 2022

With Covid still cutting into our concert going, I’ve increasingly turned to documentaries for musical inspiration. Remarkable concert footage continues to be unearthed even fifty years after it was first recorded. The splendor of Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace (2020) is rivaled by the unbridled joy captured in the Summer of Soul (streaming on Hulu). While Woodstock got the headlines, Harlem hosted an equally significant musical celebration circa 1969.  In his directorial debut, director Questlove opens this treasure trove with Stevie... Read more

March 18, 2021

What a golden era for documentaries. They are more readily available, more widely viewed, and more actively discussed than ever before. An independent filmmaker can chip away at a big story slowly or burst on the scene with found footage newly appreciated. A film as seemingly small and localized as My Octopus Teacher can become a word-of-mouth sensation amongst friends offering Netflix recommendations almost overnight. How shocking to see this backyard story of a man and his South African reef... Read more

March 3, 2021

The finest films of 2020 may have been low-key, but then so were we. They sparked reflection and introspection. Small and even silent screen moments were loaded with complex emotions. Who needs explosions and car chases when we still have that most special effect–a close up on the human face. I’m grateful that cinema slowed us down in quite appropriate ways. Due to the coronavirus, the line between television and movies has never been more blurred. With the Oscars pushed... Read more

January 5, 2020

How to respond to an era when we seem to have stopped listening? Shall we pump up the volume when aggrievement resides behind so many of our political battles? Everyone seems to be making a list and checking it twice to defend their victimhood. The race to claim the moral high ground has left us mired in the mud we’re slinging. Before we have an answer on what feels like a cataclysmic referendum on the future of America, filmmakers have... Read more

December 31, 2019

What are your favorite films of the 2010s? Mine tend to have a kinetic, visceral kick. Or plunge viewers into a deeply contemplative space. The best provide thrills, chills, and an eternal perspective on our vexing human conundrum. They shake us up, disturb our peace, demand an active response. While I love well crafted genre movies from Sicario and Hell or High Water to John Wick and The Edge of Tomorrow, I also relish films that defy conventions and move the... Read more

December 31, 2019

The best documentaries of the 2010s expanded and reimagined the form in surprising ways. In The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence, Josh Oppenheimer brought the victims of an Indonesian genocide face to face with the bloodthirsty victors.  Remorse remained remarkably remote even when atrocities were reenacted. Our capacity to justify even our most heinous actions is chillingly robust. Bisbee 17 arises from the one hundredth anniversary of a reprehensible deportation along the Arizona/Mexico. We are much closer... Read more

December 29, 2018

What a cinematic year uplifting the underdogs, the outsiders, and those on the margins. Our finest filmmakers dignify the oppressed and elevate the overlooked (as in the instant classic, Roma). Empathy can arise from unlikely sources, from a western rodeo story directed by a woman from Beijing (The Rider) to a nuanced portrait of 13 year-old girl made by a seemingly crass YouTube comedian (Eighth Grade).  Such compassion and decency rose far above our hard-headed and hard-hearted politics. Righteous anger... Read more

December 28, 2018

Filmmakers responded to our troubled times with remarkably captivating movies in 2018. Seemingly tired genres like the romantic comedy, the superhero origin story, and the caper film were given new life thanks to rigorous reinvention. A fresh approach to cast and setting can make such a significant difference.  Old tropes are suddenly revived. So many cinematic riches were bestowed upon us in 2018 that none of these diverse films cracked my Top Ten list.  While streaming services like Netflix may... Read more

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