We’re being spoiled with some all-time classics
January 12, 2022
In last week’s column I suggested that, in regards to quality, right now might be one of the great times ever at theaters.
I spent the week trying to watch as many of the current films as possible. I saw a bunch of them. It’s a truly special batch of films. We’re so incredibly spoiled, and yet a lot of folks haven’t returned to the movie theater in years. This due to better at-home viewing options. This due to COVID. This due to a general shift in how we live.
Of course there’s the omicron variant and all that to consider, right? But if you are able to go to the movies in a way that’s safe, here’s how I’d rank and rate your current options: 20. Eternals (director Chloe Zhao); 19. The Matrix Resurrections (Lana Wachowski);18. Nightmare Alley (Guillermo del Toro);17. Belfast (Kenneth Branagh);16. Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Jason Reitman);15. Spencer (Pablo Larrain);14. Spider-Man: No Way Home (Jon Watts);13. Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi);12. The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal);11. West Side Story (Steven Spielberg).
10. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion): Four of Hollywood’s most interesting actors, gorgeous landscape photography, a brilliant director with a classicist script. This one is getting talked up as the most likely film to win the Best Picture Oscar. I liked it, but it’s not even one of the nine most interesting films on screens. 85/100
9. House of Gucci (Ridley Scott): A living legend puts together an incredible cast and makes a flashy, fun, funny ensemble ... err ... comedy? I’m in! 87/100
8. C’mon C’mon (Mike Mills): We don’t have a lot of these movies anymore: arthouse dramas with sharp scripts and brilliant performances. Noah Baumbach makes one every once in a while, but most of his films play on Netflix. C’mon C’mon is Joaquin Phoenix at his best, giving a soulful, sweet performance worthy of Mills’ incredible script. 89/100
7. Dune (Denis Villeneuve): I’m not a big Denis Head. Not at all. I think his most effective movie is still Prisoners. That being said, this is legendary source material and features his remarkable production team. This might be the most beautiful thing you’ll see on screen all year. 90/100
6. Don’t Look Up (Adam McKay): This would maybe be my No. 1 recommendation, but I’m fully aware that everyone already watched it on Netflix over the holiday weekends. I think this is a new classic, and it stars several of the biggest names of the last 50 years going big on a big script from a big director (with a big message). I thought it was not just brilliant political satire, but brilliantly executed. And super fun funny. Seeing it on a big screen would make it a blast. 91/100
5. Red Rocket (Sean Baker): Baker’s third consecutive classic, here telling another rough and loose story about, as Dave Chappelle would say, “the Poor Whites.” Once again, Baker is a stylist with a vision, purposefully operating at an almost DIY production level. This one also features one of the year’s best performances from, gulp, Simon Rex. Didn’t see that one coming. 92/100
4. The Tragedy of Macbeth (Joel Coen): Coen makes a movie without his brother Ethan, starring Denzel Washington as Macbeth and Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth. The legendary Bruno Delbonnel shoots it in some of the most beautifully designed black-and-white frames of recent memory. How can you not be in? I’ve not seen this one yet, but based on everything I know about it, everything I’ve read about it and the few clips I’ve seen so far, this looks like one for the ages. 94/100
3. Parallel Mothers (Pedro Almodovar): Every Almodovar film I’ve seen has felt special to me. He’s unlike anyone else, and when he works with his muse Penelope Cruz, the results are often very good. 95/100
2. Licorice Pizza (P. T. Anderson): The greatest working director essentially does a cover version of Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, but set in the 1970s in Southern California. It’s fun, freewheeling, artsy, and unique. I’ve only seen it once, but to me it felt like a purposefully “minor work.” The GOAT just having fun making a pretty, breezy, easy, low-stakes film with a cast and crew of friends. Is it an all-time classic like The Master or There Will Be Blood or Boogie Nights or Punch-Drunk Love? I don’t think so. But maybe I’ll peel away layers as I inevitably watch it over and over. So, yes, go see this. A PTA film on the big screen should not even be a question, even when it’s a minor work. 97/100
1. The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson): By now you know if you’re a Wes fan or not, right? A big, colorful, wild new Anderson film on a big screen? What’s better than that?! It’s an art film, a full-Fellini art film, featuring a big, incredible cast, Anderson’s all-star production family he always works with, incredible music (as always for a Wes film), and, in my opinion, some of the best art direction ever in a film. This one is style over story in a glorious, all-out, truly eccentric way. I loved it, and because of how pretty it is, highly recommend going to see it on a massive screen. 100/100