It has been the main art form of our time, though its boundaries are eroding and it’s running into similar distribution problems as music and literature… so it’s hard to say how much longer the movies will be with us in the format we recognize. — JHK
Silence (Dir: Martin Scorcese, with Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson)
Quite a stately slog through the hardships of the Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in 16th Century Japan. For me, the society of that time and place holds deep fascination with its richly aestheticized culture — even in its methods of torture and execution. That said, the brutality of the story is taxing, and it’s a little hard for a non-religious person (yours truly) to wrap his head around the strange exigencies of Roman Catholic practice. Beautifully photographed (or cinematogged), with sturdy performance by all concerned, especially the chap who plays the frisky old Japanese grand inquisitor.
La La Land (Dir: Damien Chazelle, with Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend.)
A genuinely charming and smart contemporary love story with a really good score by young Justin Hurwitz. Critics have compared it to Singing in the Rain, which it resembles only slightly. I actually had a look on disk at Francis Coppola’s 1982 musical One From the Heart (music by Tom Waits), which La La Land resembles more. Both are pastel-colored pastiches of movie musical conventions, set in the palm-treed urban west (LA and Las Vegas). But the earlier movie was a spectacular flop and brought down Coppola’s fledgling Zoetrope Studios. The difference is largely better casting. In La La Land, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone both radiate intelligence, tipping off the audience that, whatever else happens, they will not end up as losers. Chazelle says it took six years to get it made. Surprising to me that it got made at all, actually.
Jackie (Dir: Pablo Larrain, with Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup.)
Surprisingly deft and moving portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy in the four days following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, focusing on the events around the funeral arrangements. The movie is remarkably devoid of sentimentality and projects the viewer forcefully back into the very different world of the 1960s. Portman is outstanding in the title role.
Nocturnal Animals (Dir: Tom Ford, with Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson.)
An interesting, complex, well-paced thriller for grown-ups. A story-within-a-story about lost soul LA art gallery owner (Amy Adams) reconnecting with the college love she spurned (Jake Gyllenhaal). Ford knows all the practical details about life in the .01 percent demographic and the pathetic status-signaling it entails. Will make you kind of glad you don’t live that way. Former fashion-designer Ford understands human emotion and orchestrates the drama confidently.