It distills a harrowing story through a prospector – played with demonic intensity by Daniel Day-Lewis – who pursues a savage, hollow dream. He embodies the best of the United States only to become the very worst of it.
Chihiro evolves from her poise, dress, attitude, emotion and spirituality from being a child to being a young woman and coming into her own, and in that position she has to go through the loss of everything. She loses her parents, she loses her name, she's called nothing, she's called Sen, she's called zero. There's a beautiful, very melancholic meditation – the same melancholy that permeates all Miyazaki's films.
There's much more to this movie than its plot. The warm, sharp banter among the principal characters never gets old. The images glow with unexpressed, somber feeling. Fifty years from now, as the end credits scroll on whatever screen viewers are watching on, they will reach the same conclusion my editor did back in 2004. This is what a movie looks like.
Roger Ebert described “Yi Yi” as “a movie in which nobody knows more than half the truth, or is happy more than half the time,” something that could also be said (optimistically) of life itself. And “Yi Yi” is one of those movies that you remember less as something you saw than as something you experienced.
The personification of abstract concepts and the visual rendering of human consciousness from the inside are astonishing feats, executed with unparalleled inventiveness. And the message – that Sadness is as essential in our lives as Joy – is perfectly matched by a story that elicits laughter and tears in almost equal measure.
As one year slips into the next, Mason grows up before your eyes, a progression that at times seems scarcely noticeable but at other times can knock you flat, recalling those moments when you look in the mirror and wonder, Where did the time go?
The film draws you in because everything is so effortlessly lovely – and French – the people, homes, furnishings, gardens. “Summer Hours” is about life, death, impermanence (and cinema), but it’s also about being French.
The French director Fran?ois Truffaut once said, “Every film about war ends up being pro-war.” I wish he had lived long enough to see “The Hurt Locker,” a movie that is antiwar not because it offers an easy critique of war but because it reminds us of how human beings need war, how they live for war as intensely as die for it.
The Coen brothers' “Inside Llewyn Davis” is an achingly melodic tribute to an unloved underdog.
Davis (Oscar Isaac) is striking out on his own after his musical partner goes solo. Along his dour journey, he'll find others vying for similar success and others just trying to survive, in a very Coen-esque manner.
“Timbuktu” is a tragic movie but not a nihilistic one. Mr. Sissako doesn’t shy away from showing violence, but he never sensationalizes any of the horrors. Instead, he answers those atrocities with visual beauty and moments of everyday joy and pleasure that, as the story unfolds, register as acts of artistic resistance.
He also insists on humanizing the jihadists, as when an older man vainly directs a younger one on how to deliver a speech for a propaganda video. It’s an extraordinary scene, at once absurd and believable, and a reminder of the truth that it is people, not faceless monsters, who commit these horrors.
The problem is that non-material sources of value have deteriorated. Religion, family, class solidarity, hometown pride – none of these have the power they used to. The reckoning of this loss, and the emphasis on personal responsibility (paternal responsibility in particular) makes "L’Enfant" in some ways a conservative movie.
A fractured story about love, strength, the costs of white patrimony and the continuing ravages of postcolonialism, "White Material" finds the brilliant French director Claire Denis again in Africa, where she spent much of her childhood in Francophone countries. Watching the performances in her movies, you can just feel the freedom she gives her actors. She creates an entire world for them to behave in.
The film is a twisty and suspenseful thriller with unsettling and ambiguous ethical questions at its core. What is the line between justice and vengeance? How can human decency survive the fight against fanaticism? These questions have not hardly lost their relevance, and neither has "Munich."
The movie drags the snarling, anti-authoritarian, punk-rock wit of the first “Mad Max” movies into a new era, updating and conserving in a single gesture. In Imperator Furiosa, Charlize Theron’s one-handed, buzz-cut, kohl-eyed avenger, the movies that famously didn’t need another hero found the one we all needed.
Kelly's characters aren’t very expressive or easy to read. That has to be a challenge for an actor.
“Wendy and Lucy” came out at the end of 2008, right in the middle of the election campaign and the economic collapse. There’s a powerful sense that while the movie is very much about this one young woman and her situation, it’s also about a lot more than that.
“I’m Not There,” Todd Haynes’s film about Bob Dylan, is not a biopic. It’s an extended essay in Dylanology, with six actors (among them Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett) incarnating aspects of the future Nobel laureate’s protean personality.
In “Silent Light,” the Mexican director Carlos Reygadas does more than tell a religious story – he invites you into a world of grace and wonder so beautiful that it turns his film into a kind of prayer. The narrative is minimal; the filmmaking lush.
Set in an isolated Mennonite community in Mexico, it traces the agonies of a farming couple, Johan and Esther, who are being torn apart by his love for another woman. Little seems to happen but this is a movie about everything: what it means to love, to have faith, to live in the world.
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”– by critical fiat as well as popular acclaim – is a movie that combines laughter and melancholy, nostalgia and hope. It’s a movie about how you never forget your first love. It’s also about how desire and loss are inseparable, and about how the yearning to clean the slate and start over is just another case of eternal recurrence.