The characters in Luca Guadagnino’s quietly staggering Call Me by Your Name are members of an incredibly wealthy family. These “Jews of discretion” whose family tree covers most of Western society and who spend summers and holidays at their country home outside a small Northern Italian town live in a separate stratosphere from the everyday ham-and-eggers who make up what we proudly think of as “the real world.” But there are reasons other than financial ones to hold them in high regard. For one thing, with their rustic antique furniture and simple but casually elegant wardrobes, they have exceptionally good taste, something that no amount of money can buy (just look at our president). Most importantly, they are intellectuals and lovers of art and history, traits Guadagnino suggests are responsible for their being understanding, respectful and compassionate people.
The Polka King, from directors Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, aspires to be a stranger-than-fiction account of an eccentric real life swindler with a heart of gold. And, technically, that’s what it is. Its true purpose, however, eventually reveals itself to be an elaborate excuse for Jack Black to act crazy and speak in a thick, goofy accent.
In the first full scene of Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits, a palpable tension hangs over the seemingly innocuous preparation for a small dinner party. An archivist named Nick (Adam Horovitz) is about to introduce to his wife Aly (Chloe Sevigny) and her sister Gwen (Mary-Louise Parker) the assistant he’s hired to work with him over the next few months, Naomi (Emily Browning). Before the young woman even arrives, suspicions and accusations hang in the air, yet they remain unspoken. Of course they do; in Perry’s cerebral but yearning movie, everyone talks constantly but no one ever says what’s really on their mind.
Mudbound is not just a clever name for Dee Rees’ extraordinary new film. Rain and the thick, brown, sticky slop that ensues are a constant presence. In the opening scene, which we’ll soon learn is a flash-forward, two brothers (Jason Clarke and Garrett Hedlund) are attempting to dig a grave, inter their father’s body and get the hole filled in before the storm arrives. Of course, they don’t succeed. Who ever does?
There’s more than a bit of a wink to the casting of Sam Elliott in Brett Haley’s The Hero. The veteran Western actor and prolific TV commercial spokesman plays a veteran Western actor and prolific TV commercial spokesman. Luckily that’s more than a cheap joke as Haley uses Elliott’s Lee Hayden as a way to illustrate that the life of any freelancer, which is essentially what an actor is, consists largely of cycling in and out of other people’s workspaces. Unfortunately, beyond that–and despite a number of good performances, little else of this slice of life dramedy rings true.
Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is the best kind of genre movie, the kind that uses its fantastical elements as exaggerated yet incisive metaphors to illustrate its more human stories. In fact, Vigalondo goes beyond that, managing skillfully to slot various interpretations into his metaphors and doing justice to all of them. Then, finally, he delivers the dramatic grand finale we want from a monster movie while reminding us that the issues he’s exploring will have no such simple answers in real life.
If it weren’t for the fact that it’s a harrowing tale of survival in the dangerous, freezing mountains, Alex and Andrew Smith’s Walking Out would serve as a hell of an advertisement for the Montana tourism board (to certain types, it still might read that way). Full of snowy, widescreen vistas courtesy of cinematographer Todd McMullen and lovely, lingering shots of wildlife, it’s both more beautiful and more emotional than a similar film like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant.
Francois Ozon’s Frantz is set, at least initially, in small town Germany in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. That this defeated nation is already a breeding ground for the nationalism that will give rise to Nazism years later is an obvious parallel to our current climate here in America; when the father of a slain soldier declares, “Every Frenchman is my son’s murderer,” it’s clear there’s little room for nuance in this atmosphere. But Ozon has something else on his mind, crafting a classical tale of yearning and tragedy that is particularly well suited to his strengths and tendencies.
Two features in, it continues to be difficult to talk about director Gillian Robespierre without comparing her to Woody Allen. Her new film Landline may trade Allen’s Upper West Side for Downtown but the Jewish middle class milieu and the autumnal New York City setting are more than enough to draw parallels. There’s even a Zelig reference thrown in for good measure. Robespierre, though, is following Allen’s career at an increased pace. She’s already onto her Hannah and Her Sisters, a more ambitious, less funny follow-up to Obvious Child that may not quite live up to its predecessor but further cements its director’s status as a talent with things to say.