Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s idiosyncratic vision may not be for everyone, but there’s no denying that it’s bold and original; his is a challenging lens, one which is darkly comedic, questioning, dizzyingly suspenseful, but ultimately satisfying if somewhat bewildering. Coming out of his Palme d’Or-winning 2017 feature, The Square, I couldn’t help but feel this entire wide array of emotions, even as I felt that I may not have “gotten” Östlund’s vision.
2017 Movie #122: Battle of the Sexes (2017)
Battle of the Sexes is two movies that have seemingly been combined together in a way that really shouldn’t work, and yet it does. This is largely on the strength of an excellent lead performance by Emma Stone as tennis legend Billie Jean King, as well as a strong supporting cast.
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2017 Movie #121: Some Like It Hot (1959)
Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot is a classically hilarious romp built upon a premise that, all things considered, hasn’t aged well at all. And yet, thanks to Billy Wilder’s excellent sense of comic timing, as well as fantastic lead performances by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, this movie feels fresh and vivid even nearly 60 years after its original release.
Lemmon and Curtis may be the stars of the show, but Marilyn Monroe is easily the most captivating actor in Some Like It Hot, delivering an all-timer sultry performance that won’t be easily forgotten.
Ultimately this film, despite its many signs of age, proves to hold up.
“Nobody’s perfect” is the perfect line for this film to end on, too, with absolutely top-notch delivery from Joe E. Brown.
2017 Movie #120: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Between The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow crafted two of the most important statements on post-9/11 America, despite neither film taking place in America itself. While The Hurt Locker presents the audience with a more palatable message, in a more accessible package, for my money, it’s Zero Dark Thirty that is the more well-made, well-crafted film, a film that raises more questions than it answers, that spotlights much of American foreign policy since 9/11 through the lens of the chase for Osama bin Laden.
2017 Movie #119: The Hurt Locker (2008)
Kathryn Bigelow’s bold cinematic return after seven years out of the director’s chair, and the first in a series of collaborations with screenwriter Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker is one of the best depictions of life in the Iraq war, as told through the eyes of an explosive ordnance disposal team.
2017 Movie #118: Suspiria (1977)
This review is part of my Remake Preview series, where I watch the original version (or versions) of a movie that is set to be re-made in the near future.
Wake up little Susie, wake up!
Suspiria is an unconventional horror masterpiece, a nightmarish entry from Italian director Dario Argento. Suspiria is filled with an unrelenting dread, as spurred through a dream logic not unlike that of David Lynch, vibrantly colorful and gloomily lit and off-putting at every turn.
2017 Movie #117: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok is the funniest Marvel movie yet, and the best of the three films in the Thor franchise… If this sounds like damning this film with faint praise, it really shouldn’t – while these marks absolutely represent a low bar within a broader moviegoing context, the fact remains – Thor: Ragnarok is quite good.
2017 Movie #116: K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
There’s an inherent cinematic tension to a confined space like a train (Snowpiercer, Murder on the Orient Express), or, in the case of Kathryn Bigelow’s K-19: The Widowmaker, a submarine. K-19 tells the story of a nuclear submarine that undergoes a catastrophic failure to its nuclear reactor, and Kathryn Bigelow takes full advantage of the cinematic tension to create a claustrophobic film that takes a darkly depressing turn into the fatalistic. The images of young sailors, emerging from the irradiated containment compartment of the submarine, already suffering from severe radiation poisoning, are harrowing, to say the least.
Though K-19 is ultimately a good film for what it’s trying to be, it’s easy to see why this was such a boondoggle. This is not an action film – despite being marketed as an action film, despite starring one of the biggest action stars in the world in Harrison Ford (Liam Neeson was not yet an action star in 2002), this is a dark drama at best, claustrophobic, cynical, and depressing.
Some of the accent stuff in this movie is iffy at best. Asking Harrison Ford to do a Russian accent – maybe not the best move?
In many ways, this feels very much like the precursor to Bigelow’s later career, to films like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty – the kind of dark adult drama that Bigelow is now known for, but at the time was not her modus operandi.
2017 Movie #115: Dune (1984)
David Lynch’s Dune is bafflingly incomprehensible on a number of levels. First and foremost, (and I should say that I haven’t actually read Herbert’s Dune), it’s instantly apparent that, if Dune is even adaptable, it’s not as a movie. This is a staggeringly dense sci-fi experience that, at nearly two and a half hours, still feels as if it’s barely scratching the surface of the story that is meant to be conveyed. Even in its best moments, I felt like Dune was merely summarizing broad story points of a much larger, more detailed story that couldn’t quite be condensed.
2017 Movie #114: The Driver (1978)
I appreciated Walter Hill’s The Driver as a well-made piece of noir filmmaking, very much the ur-text for films like Nicolas Winding-Refn’s Drive and Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. There’s definitely something to be said for a film with humble ambitions that successfully hits all the notes it’s trying to hit – certainly, this is a well-made film.