The titles are listed alphabetically; here’s N to Z
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019) Quentin Tarantino has always been singular in his filmmaking but this one feels different. It’s clearly rooted in the b-movies that inspire his vision but here he is contemplative, allowing his leads—Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in full-on charismatic mode—to channel and portray the insecurities that accompany uncertainty. The film is specific in its setting but universal in portrayal of how people react to the shifting sands of time. Funny, sad and occasionally outrageous, it’s just like real life as filtered through a camera lens.
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019): Described as a “pitch black fairy tale,” Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” is the story of two families on either side of the economic divide. The wealthy Park family and the street-smart Kim clam. Fate (and some very ingenious scams) brings them together but when the fragile upstairs-downstairs relationship between the two is threatened class warfare erupts. A study in hubris and greed, this satire is ripe with dark humor, suspense and social commentary.
Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016) “Personal Shopper” doesn’t feel like a horror film. Olivier Assayas has made a moody psychological thriller that is about the absence of a loved one as much as it is about thrills and chills.
The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010) The opening scene of the movie sets the tone for the rest of the film. Zuckerberg and his soon-to-be-ex girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) engage in a long, awkward conversation that reveals his disconnect from regular society. He’s the smartest guy in the room, but has a chip on his shoulder and an attitude. Their exchange, beautifully written by former “West Wing” screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, displays the kind of verbal fireworks that propels the movie.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman, 2018) “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” is a cortex-boiling hit of boffo superhero theatrics. Visually it’s a pop art explosion, paying tribute, in its more restrained moments, to the work of original Spider-Man artist Steve Ditko. In the climatic multiverse showdown, however, it’s as if M.C. Escher and Roy Lichtenstein did acid and conceived a psychedelic freak-out that mixes and matches op art, anime and everything in between. It doesn’t look like any other superhero film you’ve ever seen. It’s wild and woolly, a pastiche of styles formed into one seamless whole.
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012) What could have been a self-indulgent home movie is, instead, a riveting look into the dynamics of a group of individuals bound together by birth and circumstance.
Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014) The beat goes on. And on, although maybe not at exactly the right tempo, at an upscale New York music academy where teacher Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) rules with an intensity that makes the drill sergeant from “Full Metal Jacket” look positively warm and cuddly by comparison. The toxic mix of perfectionism, ambition and hubris meet in a perfect storm, and, “Black Swan” style has serious repercussions for both teacher and student.
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013) With its fourth wall breaking narration, scandalous set pieces and absurd antics “The Wolf of Wall Street” is an experience. At three hours it’s almost as excessive as Balfort’s $26,000 dinners. It feels a bit long, but like the spoiled brats it portrays, it will not, and cannot, be ignored.