Here is a mid-year report (drawing from D’Angelo’s definitive list). There is a lot yet on the horizon this year, but I really enjoyed the following films and could imagine them jostling for position on a year end list. I also note a few films that have me on the fence or worse.

Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier) – This film drew me in through its sheer economy. Few revenge films deal with the practical difficulties involved with a regular guy mounting a full scale war against his perceived adversaries. The amount of time Blue Ruin spends on just watching its lead character figure out how to get the upper hand in a long-standing family feud makes for some oddly engaging viewing.

Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) – I can imagine wavering between this and Moonrise Kingdom on a best of decade list. Time was, a large trend in criticism was apprehensive about Anderson’s ability to produce anything other than sterile formal statements. His last two films argue otherwise. They convinced me, anyway.

Ida (Paweł Pawlikowski) – This gets a bit paint by numbers given its exploration of the contemporary contemplative style. And the Catholic imagery that kicks off the film is superfluous, like that journalistic lede you skip out of habit. But despite these shortcomings, it remains a stunning example of film as a container for historical trauma and memory. Review here.

Joe (David Gordon Green) – I am not sure which is more surprising here, that David Gordon Green does an excellent, nuanced job as director or Nicolas Cage does a restrained, nuanced job as the lead? Both are surprising, and welcome.

The Lego Movie (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) – I have already watched this half a dozen times with the kids. Hysterical.

Like Father Like Son (Hirokazu Koreeda) – The more time I take with Kore-Eda’s latest, the more I can identify with its questions about fatherhood, control, and the blessing of having time and space to become the parents our children need. I can’t think of a film I have connected to so emotionally for a while, as the plot point on which the film turns is quite provocative.

Nothing Bad Can Happen (Katrin Gebbe) – One of the most challenging and obliquely theological features I have seen for a while. My review here.

Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch) – The pacing, the finely crafted interiors, the nocturnal globe trotting that pairs Detroit ruins with Tangier alleys, and then the growing realization that this film is somehow all about music in a way few films are. This would be high on my list of favorite Jarmusch films, which is a top-heavy list.

Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho) – Closest I have seen to a Harry Harrison novel on screen. The film is an adaptation of a graphic novel I have yet to experience, but I am compelled by the way it both resists and attracts being read as a political statement.


Films otherwise well-worth a peek:

Nebraska (Alexander Payne)

Beyond Outrage (Takeshi Kitano)

Child’s Pose (Călin Peter Netzer)

The Double (Richard Ayoade)

Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman)

The Immigrant (James Gray)

Locke (Steven Knight)


Films that really failed to meet expectations, for reasons I would be happy to discuss:

Under the Skin (Glazer)

Enemy (Denis Villeneuve)

It Felt Like Love (Eliza Hittman)

Le-Weekend (Roger Michel)