• The Merry Widow

    The Merry Widow

    ★★★½

    You can't beat the ebullience of Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald, even if MacDonald's songbird bleating is too high-pitched for the modern ear to countenance. You simply can't feel down while watching a pre-code Lubitsch musical sex comedy. (I put it to the test, because I watched while grieving my father.) The scenes at Chez Maxime (essentially a bordello) are a model of good-natured lasciviousness, motion and emotion.

  • In Jackson Heights

    In Jackson Heights

    ★★★½

    Frederick Wiseman looks at Jackson Heights, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world. If you're from Chicago, as am I, it might remind you of the Devon Street area and Rogers Park more broadly, or the Albany Park/North Park area, but with that added level of NY density. Every Wiseman film considers an institution and here the institution is a neighborhood—a system, if not quite as concrete as some he investigates. There's a lot of music; if you…

  • The Lovers on the Bridge

    The Lovers on the Bridge

    ★★★½

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    What expressive, raw cinema from Carax. Moving, darling work from Binoche, Lavant, and Grüber. Should be downbeat but it's a celebration, thanks to the tapping of these lost souls into the celebrations around the bicentennial of the French Revolution in a way that makes a public event an expression of their private life-force. Even dares to have a happy ending, which I'd like to think Titanic copped—but not really.

  • Betty Blue

    Betty Blue

    ★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    It's not a great movie, but this 3-hour extravaganza is cinema. It's got an episodic picaresque structure that you don't see in the movies that much. It reminds me a bit of O Lucky Man! It's sexy and it has a terrifically evocative soundtrack by Gabriel Yared. The scene in which Betty and Zorg improvise a piano duet together is moving. It's atmospheric, passionate, and funny. The vision is of mad, doomed love. Zorg doesn't judge Betty's periodic fits of…

  • Honeydew

    Honeydew

    ★★½

    Karolyn's new favorite film! This is devilishly effective in the old "Grand Guignol" sense of horror, i.e. showing you something horrific in a titillating manner. The celebrity cameo is as amusingly gobsmacking as the NYT hinted it would be. Ghastly good show.

  • Death in the Garden

    Death in the Garden

    ★★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Not one of Buñuel's most discussed films, but on first viewing it seems one of his most intriguing. It's got a jaundiced view of humanity, even by Buñuel standards. Simone Signoret, Michel Piccoli, and Georges Marchal (this is cinema!) star as French ex-pats in a mining town in South America (it was actually filmed in Mexico). Buñuel makes careful and vivid use of the tri-color Eastmancolor filmstrip. It's a film where the second hour cannot be predicted from the first.…

  • A Quiet Place Part II

    A Quiet Place Part II

    ★½

    Harmless enough, but predictable and unnecessary.

  • It's Always Fair Weather

    It's Always Fair Weather

    ★★★½

    It’s a delightful musical comedy, but how could it not be, with a book by Betty Camden and Adolph Green, direction by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, music by André Previn, and starring Kelly, Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse, and Dolores Gray?

  • New York Stories

    New York Stories

    ★★★

    All these decades as a cinephile, and I hadn't seen this. Maybe I'd read about it so often I felt like I didn't need to. It's very much as reputation over the decades would have it: the Scorsese (Life Lessons) is exhilarating, with a poignant performance from Nick Nolte as the shambolic Action artist. The Coppola (Life Without Zoe), a fantasy co-created with Sofia, who would have been a teenager at the time (she is exactly one month younger than…

  • Bisbee '17

    Bisbee '17

    ★★★

    Robert Greene's deeply thoughtful film is about its own making, for better and for worse. In 1917 the mining company in Bisbee, AZ deported miners associated with the IWW, as well as sympathizers and others, to the New Mexican desert. Certain forces wish the ghosts of the past to remain buried, but the idea is to have contemporary Bisbee residents, mostly non-actors, reenact the incidents of the day. Even as they reenact the past, they're really playing out current deportation…

  • Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

    Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

    ★★★½

    One of the most joyous and uplifting things I've seen in some time. Rescues from obscurity incredibly galvanizing performances from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Sonny Sharrock, Mavis Staples and Mahalia Jackson, the Staple Singers, Sly and the Family Stone, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, Ray Barretto, Hugh Masakela, and Nina Simone (I'd seen bits of her performance on YouTube before), among others, all at the height of their powers (well, the great Ms. Jackson wasn't feeling well, but man...does…

  • The Pajama Game

    The Pajama Game

    ★★★

    This is Stanley Donen’s staging of the fun labor vs. management Broadway musical, with songs by Adler and Ross. The script, of course, is just an excuse for the numbers, choreographed by Bob Fosse. They’re a hoot: "Hernando’s Hideaway," "Steam Heat," et al. Doris Day (the obligatory movie star addition to the original Broadway cast, replacing Janis Paige) really belts it out. The picnic scene (“Once-a-Year Day") and the rest—it’s all pitched at a nearly hysterical level that plays quite…