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

September 7, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians has become the most popular romantic comedy in years.  Not since “Pretty Woman” (in 1990!) has a rom com topped the American box office for three weekends in a row. This remarkable reception is an overdue affirmation that moviegoers (and finally, maybe even Hollywood) see Asian actors and stories as significant and worthy of investment.  In an era when questions of identity dominate academia and social media, Crazy Rich Asians overcame massive expectations.  Imagine the pressure on… Read more

August 12, 2018

Last summer, Get Out took us inside the sunken place that paralyzes those caught in a spiral of racism.  Now, BlacKkKlansman exposes the unholy marriage of white nationalism and Christianity which motivates cross burnings and lynchings, excuses police shootings and justifies racist dog whistles.  BlacKkKlansman is an enormously entertaining mix—equal parts comedy and crime drama, cinematic valentine and potent agit-pop.  It is a fierce exploration of the past that we need NOW. BlacKkKlansman was originally slated to be directed by… Read more

October 5, 2017

How rare for a movie to allow kids to be kids in all their ferocious glory. They are capable of wreaking so much wondrous havoc in their natural, unfettered state. The frankness and fearlessness of the children in The Florida Project is both refreshing and disarming. Director Sean Baker revels in the anarchic, comedic spirit of kids. We meet Moonee, Scooty, Dicky, and the newest member of their gang, Jancey, as they race through the breezeways of The Magic Castle… Read more

January 4, 2017

Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence. One of these is not like the others. How could the same director who repeatedly reveled in the high cost of unchecked male rage also deliver the meditative and masterful Silence? Feudal Japan seems so far removed from the Mean Streets of New York City. Catholic priests dispensed wisdom and sacraments in both milieus, but the pace, tone, and body count is so different in the two… Read more

January 1, 2017

Bad times often produce great music. The socio-political disaster of 2016 was met by remarkably moving, relevant, and inspiring songs. Thank God for African-American artists who continue to rise above trying times with sounds of praise and protest. We have so much to glean by simply listening. I was raised as a music buyer and still enjoy owning a physical album, yet some of the finest songs of 2016 were only available in digital formats. Self-released mixtapes could prove even… Read more




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