( 1 ) The Wailing
Developing in a manner that consistently undermined my expectations and gradually worked its way into my subconscious, The Wailing proved to be disturbing and unsettling.
My knowledge of Korean cinema is quite limited, but when a knowledgeable friend of mine, Pierce Conran, highly praised the film, and then I noted that it would be playing soon at Oasis Cinema in Carrollton, I avoided all further news about it. Admittedly, I was lost at first; I had trouble following what was happening, story-wise and character-wise. And then something about its urgent insistence snapped at my soul and captured my full attention. From that point forward I was riveted to my seat.
Like a nightmare that unfolds in the daylight, The Wailing sometimes makes no logical sense. (In this regard, it reminds me of Jean Cocteau’s brilliant La belle et la bête.) It is a primal tale, told with jumbled building blocks that are diabolical in their intent. I am afraid to unpack the film any further.
( 2 ) The Nice Guys
“So silly and superficial in its intentions that it’s easy to overlook its faults and shortcomings. Instead, like young Holly, it’s far better to salute all the strong points and entertaining sequences that make up one of the better comedies of the year.”
( 3 ) Hell or High Water
Stylish, tough and gritty, this high-strung crime thriller, set in bleakly contemporary rural Texas, thrums on the haunted souls of Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges.
( 4 ) O.J.: Made in America
As good and stinging as the small-screen The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story proved to be over the course of its multiple episodes, perfectly capturing a time and moment, Ezra Edelman’s documentary was even more ambitious and effective, laying out all the societal elements that were present and developing as O.J. Simpson worked his way into sporting fame and criminal infamy over a period of decades.
( 5 ) 10 Cloverfield Lane
Mary Elizabeth Winstead gave a towering performance as a woman who is by turns frightened, grateful, and then frightened once again, matched (mostly) against John Goodman as a mysterious figure in an underground bunker that may (or may not) be a place of refuge during an apocalyptic event.
( 6 ) Paterson
Adam Driver stars as a bus driver and poet, married to an artist and housewife in modern day New Jersey. It’s about nothing at all and everything important in life. Jim Jarmusch’s cagey direction gives the entire affair a loose, relaxed air, even though in retrospect it’s among the most precisely-arranged works in his career. (Note: the movie will open in Dallas on January 27.)
( 7 ) Elle
A provocation and an affront, the movie begins with a rape, though that’s only the opening gambit in a game that stands in for morality. Paul Verhoeven directed, of course, but the real star is the actual star, Isabelle Huppert, who is spiky and disturbing.
( 8 ) Hunt for the Wilderpeople
The gentle-spirited movie is absolutely hilarious, if you can tune your radio to the frequency of Taika Waititi’s deadpan comedy.
( 9 ) The Salesman
Once again, Asghar Farhada (A Separation, The Past) stares into the abyss and brings back an assertive and compelling drama that lays bare two people and a marriage in Iran. (Note: the movie opens in limited release on January 27, though, unfortunately, Dallas is not included.)
( 10 ) Sing Street
With Once, Begin Again and now this nostalgic treat, John Carney has quickly become one of my favorite filmmakers.
It’s one thing to set a movie in Ireland during the 1980s and make it revolve around a band that’s formed, in large part, because a boy wants to impress a girl. It’s quite another to create an experience that’s filled to bursting with good cheer, good music, and good characters.