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Review: ‘Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story’ Celebrates a City, Its Culture, Its Food, and, Yes, Its Music

If you’ve lived in Dallas for any length of time, you’ve heard about Jazz Fest, whether from Louisiana natives who’ve moved here or from Dallas visitors who have enthused about their attendance.  

Held in New Orleans every year, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival “showcases unforgettable music on multiple stages, delicious Louisiana cuisine in two large food areas, and crafts artisans from the region and around the world demonstrating and selling their work.” If that doesn’t appeal to your personal taste — in which case I question your personal taste — or if it’s been beyond your financial or physical means to attend — a much more likely scenario — directors Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern have put together a documentary that enables a virtual visit to the festival that you can now enjoy in the comfort of your home. 

Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein first expressed interest in creating a New Orleans equivalent in 1962, but at the time, Blacks and whites were not permitted (by local ordinance) to mingle. Times changed by 1970, enabling Wein to establish the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. 

Young Quint Davis, whose youthful enthusiasms are captured in archival footage, came on board for the inaugural festival and eventually became the festival’s producer. Both Wein and Davis are interviewed, and help to provide historical background and personal insights into the music and culture that power the festival to this day.   

Throughout the documentary, the various types of music that are showcased at the festival are introduced, in some cases explained, and in all cases demonstrated vividly with live concert footage, most from the 2019 festival. As might be expected, a large number of participants speak enthusiastically about the festival itself and their experiences, including notable names, such as Ellis Marsalis Jr. (and his musician sons), members of Earth, Wind & Fire, Jimmy Buffet, Katy Perry (!) and Bruce Springsteen. 

Some of the names, like Katy Perry or Pitbull, are a surprise for those of us who are not necessarily tuned into modern music, but directors Marshall and Suffern supply the background information needed to understand why and how they all fit into the rich tapestry offered by the festival every year. And they don’t ignore the cultural aspects, helping to define why New Orleans has suffered as such a marvelous breeding ground for such a wide variety of musicians, and continues to be supportive of a marvelous buffet of musical — and culinary! — delights. (Yeah, I might be tempted to go for the food alone.) 

As a cinematic work of art, Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story weaves together a comprehensive story of a city, its music, its food, its cultures, and its many changes over the past 50 years, including the great challenges posed by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. It’s heartening to know that the festival and its people survived Katrina and the pandemic; the most recent edition was held this spring, and next year’s edition is already in the planning stages. 

The film is now available on various Video On Platform platforms. For more information about the film, visit the official site.

Review: ‘The Vast of Night’

dfn_TheVastOfNight_300Andrew Patterson’s The Vast of Night begins inside a bit of a gimmick. Slowly maneuvering towards a television set located in the center of an impeccably decorated 50’s style living room, the film about to unfurl before us is introduced as part of “The Paradox Theatre” . . . an obvious nod to “The Twilight Zone,” with its block lettering and baritone narrator. The camera seeps into the splotchy, black and white images themselves, overtaking them and morphing into the film we’ll watch for the next 90 minutes.

This piece of artifice is quickly forgotten, however. The Vast of Night really doesn’t need itself anchored to anything nostalgic or self-reflexive. In the hands of first-time director Patterson and screenwriters James Montague and Craig Sanger, the film is a blast of creative joy and technical composure that’s alternatively humorous, thrilling and assured.  Long sweeping tracking shots and aesthetics aside, the film is also brilliantly acted by its two leads, played by Jake Horowitz and Nancy Drew-like novice Sierra McCormick.

Taking place in virtual real time in a small New Mexico town (with the actual location being the small Texas town of Whitney), we first meet fast-talking, chain-smoking Everett (Horowitz) as he tries to fix an electronic mishap before the big basketball game in town, which is sure to draw everyone for miles around. After wandering around with teenage Fay (McCormick), helping her play with a fancy new tape recorder, the two split up and retire to their respective nighttime destinations — his as a local disc jockey and she to her post as a switchboard operator. Yes, we’re certainly in the 1950s here.

Their dull nocturnal routines are quickly upended when a strange sound begins to wreck havoc on Fay’s switchboard and reports of strange objects in the sky begin to filter in. Enlisting Everett to help, he plays a portion of the sound across his airwaves, which not only elicits several interesting (perhaps crackpot?) caller explanations, but a heart-pumping jaunt around town as the duo try and piece together the weird events happening around them.

Blending together Cold War paranoia (at one point Everett is sure the sound is that of a Soviet invasion) and true B-movie theatrics, The Vast of Night is so good because it not only dilutes all the hallmarks of 50s cinema, but creates its own warm center through Horowitz and McCormick’s wide-eyed performances. They’re totally believable in their roles, asked to banter rapidly in dialogue often found in film noir one minute, and then settle into their scene as the camera just holds on their action and reaction, such as a ten- minute, unbroken sequence that observes Fay pushing and pulling wires from her switchboard in a feeble attempt to piece together the frantic calls. The way she listens and the pitch-perfect rise and fall of tension marks it as one of the great scenes of the year.

The Vast of Night is also compelling for the way it understands the nuance of storytelling. Two different people (one only heard and another glimpsed in half-light like a ghost remembering her past) share their experiences with the sound Everett plays over the radio. While the film is too smart to give credence or denial to either tall tale, these longueurs feel like something forgotten in recent cinema, which is that no amount of CGI or explosions can replace the powerful imagination behind listening to a damn good story. And The Vast of Night packages all this together for maximum impact and signifies, not only a handful of new talents, but that minimalist, low-fi science-fiction can still be done with verve.

The film will open at the Galaxy Drive-In located in Ennis, Texas on Friday May 15. Amazon Studios will begin streaming The Vast of Night on its service beginning May 29. 



Review: ‘How To Build A Girl’

dfn_HTBAG_1Sht_FM1_300There’s a pivotal scene in Coky Giedroyc’s How To Build A Girl that asks the viewer to suspend disbelief when 16-year-old music critic Dolly Wilde sits down for her first real interview with a thriving British pop singer. She breathlessly asks three or four inane questions (i.e. “favorite Beatle?” and “if you only had one pound to spend in a sweet shop what would you buy?”), and before he can answer any of them, he decides to whisk her away where they spend the afternoon together listening to music on the street before he ensconces her on the side of the stage for his sold-out show later that night.

This is not a teenage pop dream, but something that actually happens to Dolly (Beanie Feldstein) alongside a series of other events that observes her grow from high school outcast to lauded pop magazine writer in the matter of months. And one’s satisfaction with the overall film will depend on how easily one falls for her sweetly designed good fortunes. It worked for me, especially since Feldstein again embodies a young girl so full of life and zest that it becomes infectious.

Rather a meteoric rise and hard fall than an outright coming-of-age story, How To Build A Girl begins with Dolly — before applying that self appointed moniker — simply as Johanna, the oldest sibling in a large British Midlands family who finds more comfort in the school library awash in her own heated fantasies than with a group of friends. After winning a poetry competition for a local television station, and then ultimately crashing amidst her own stage fright once the camera zooms in on her, Johanna takes a stab at criticism when she submits a review to a popular music magazine. It’s no doubt ironic that she submits a zinger of a review for a song from the play “Annie.”

Getting an interview and then through her own sheer will, Johanna lands the part- time gig and finds herself more popular than ever as her reviews begin to resemble a pubescent Hedda Hopper, more infamous for the sharp comparisons and witty put-downs she applies to the bands.

Before long, her column size isn’t the only thing that grows. Her self-confidence blossoms as well, as anoints herself the aforementioned Dolly Wilde through her exaggerated dress and swaggering personality that resembles the titanic personalities of the bands she covers, rather than the feeble conscientious objector of the scene. In becoming part of the scene, How To Build A Girl naturally sets young Johanna up for a stronger crash landing in both her personal and professional existence.

Based on a novel by Caitlin Moran (who also penned the screenplay), How To Build A Girl claims to be based on a “tru-ish” story. It’s certainly hard to tell where the real and where the fictional collide, especially since so much of the film feels like the escapades of someone living in their own starstruck dreams. Perhaps the impoverished, blue-collar setting of the Midlands and Johanna’s large family (rounded out by comical and touching performances by Paddy Considine and Sarah Solemani as her struggling parents) serve as anchors for the truth.

Or perhaps Moran’s own highly-lauded, risk-taking works exploded from the same sense of get-me-out-of-here-desperation that young Johanna feels in the beginning of the film. It’s probably not a coincidence that Johanna dots her bedroom wall with pictures of famous people from all over the literary world. including Freud, Jo March, Maria von Trapp and Sylvia Plath, and they actively converse with her, shutting up only after she paints over them with her own magazine clippings, as if the trashiness of the words is too much for them. I’m sure there’s a strong sense of self-analysis there.

Regardless of what’s true or not, How To Build A Girl revels in the aspirations of a talented writer who breaks free and goes after what she wants. It may be fictional that anyone could walk into a well-established publishing outlet, get themselves laughed out, then later returning and landing the gig of a lifetime, but that’s exactly what happens here. Sometimes the creaky plot mechanics feel a bit too saccharine, but How To Build A Girl succeeds because, well, the wish of everybody who puts pen to paper and tries to formulate thoughts and words for the benefit of themselves and others hopes this same opportunity will happen to them. In the case of Johanna, it does and sometimes (especially now) we all deserve something sweet and worthwhile.

IFC Films will release How To Build A Girl on Friday, May 8, 2020 at the Galaxy Drive-In, located in Ennis, Texas, plus all Video On Demand platforms.

Review: ‘Blood on Her Name’ Reinvents the Noir Playbook

dfn_BOHN_Poster_300In the moment, she doesn’t know what to do. But it’s only a moment, and then she steadies her nerves and takes immediate action.

Rather than call for help, Leigh Tiller (Bethany Anne Lind) decides to clean up her own mess, which happens to be a dead body on the floor of a garage. How it happened, or her own involvement, or possible culpability … none of that matters in the middle of the night. In the moment, Leigh must clean up the bloody mess and move on with her life.

Which isn’t so easy when you are the mother of a young man who needs to meet with his parole officer in the morning.

Directed by Matthew Pope with a sure hand, Blood on Her Name is an original concoction that reinvents the noir playbook. After her night of horror, Leigh faces the day with steely determination. Her priorities are set: her son Ryan (Jared Ivers) comes first … nothing else matters, certainly not her curdled relationship with her father, local lawman Richard (Will Patton).

Her own fate? That comes a distant second to her son, who is first and foremost in her thinking. And this is communicated beautifully by Bethany Anne Lind, who gives the performance of a lifetime as Leigh, whose nerves must be hammering her with every breath she takes. As her father, Will Patton manifests the role of a man who is positive that he is doing absolutely the right thing, always, even if others can’t see it. Elisabeth Röhm also delivers a knockout punch as a woman who is deeply affected by Leigh’s actions.

Visually, the film doesn’t much resemble any sort of classic noir. It doesn’t even try. Instead, night bleeds into day and day bleeds into night, as all the action unfolds in a nightmarish netherworld of controlled panic that bubbles up and bursts periodically, without warning.

Character-wise, Leigh is a thoroughly modern woman, somewhere between a hapless male lead and a deadly femme fatale. Men keep leaning on her, making her life more difficult, mostly just because they’re too clueless to even try and see things from her perspective.

Leigh’s tolerance for such abusive conduct has boiled away over the years and she’s not having it anymore. Her seething anger lies just beneath her sheen of determination and purpose, driving Blood on Her Name to a conclusion she might have seen coming.

The film opens at Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley on Friday, February 28.

Review: ‘The Lodge,’ Long on Atmosphere, Short on Everything Else

dfn_the-lodge_300As The Shining showed us almost 40 years ago, nothing good ever comes from a deteriorating mind in an isolated, snow-bound place. In Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s new horror film The Lodge, substituting for Jack Nicholson’s crumbling facade into homicidal impulses is the always interesting Riley Keough as Grace, sent packing with her new boyfriend and his two younger children (Lia McHugh and Jaeden Martell) to their winter house after a terrible incident best not revealed here.

The deck is stacked against Grace fairly quickly, as her earnest attempts to get to know the children are muddled when the electricity goes out, the man of the house is away and Grace’s mysterious past — initially established as something quite discomfiting — begins to manifest itself in chilling ways.

With atmosphere to burn and a shadowy aesthetic, illuminated mostly by natural light and the halos of flashlights, The Lodge works best in its first half, establishing an eerie aura. Like Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019), the film begins on a somber gut-punch of violence, swelling with a sadness that it never quite regains as it tries to weave in and out of the scattered mind of Grace. And Keough, for her part, is utterly watchable and believable.

Outside of her frazzled performance, however, The Lodge missteps fairly often. Extremely hollow in its cruelty and repetitive in its narrative, anyone familiar with the previous work of Fiala and Franz, including Goodnight Mommy (2014), will detect the similarities and how much of a companion piece this work is to the filmmakers’ previous psychological horror film. Both films portray the decomposition of trust and familial bond between the nuclear family in a single environment. Both films ratchet up the atmosphere to, at times, unbearable tension. Both films are torturous in the way they expand and contract the usual horror movie tropes.

The Lodge, however, is less successful because it neglects any tangible connection to its characters. A shocking opening … the rigors of guilt and loss … religious suppression … all of this is introduced in one way or another throughout the film to explain the very horrible machinations of its plot. None of it, though, resonates outside of the filmmakers’ own commitment in crafting a very repulsive and suffocating effort in which not even the pet dog escapes unscathed.

Portions of this review were previously published as part of our coverage of the 2019 North Texas Film Festival.

The Lodge opens on Friday, February 14, at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.





My Favorite Films of 2019

15. Peterloo (Mike Leigh)

Imagining Mike Leigh tackle a historical act of massacre seems like an oblique fit for his intensely talky and introspective human nature dramas. I’m so glad he made this film, and yes, it does fit nicely as a very talky effort that exhaustively examines and discusses the swirling politics and history leading up to the event. The first 2 hours can be head-spinning for how many characters are introduced and have their say about the divisive lines between laymen and the governing body. And the final half hour, spent in an explosive  deconstruction of soldiers marching and killing scores of innocent protesters, is enough to make one’s blood boil. Peterloo is an immaculately rendered film of time and place (oh the locations and settings just reek of nineteenth century miserablism) whose distorted, complicated history is made quite clear by Leigh’s unending craftmanship.

14. Non Fiction (Olivier Assayas)

For a film largely concerned with the marching evolution of technology, Olivier Assayas Non Fiction remains grounded in a very traditional framework of simple mood and antiquated tempo. Another talky like he’s been making for over 20 years now, his latest film crackles with intelligence and sinewy humor as several couples are having affairs with each other, smoking cigarettes and talking around the sadness in their married lives. It also helps the film stars Juliette Binoche, Guillame Canet and Vincent Macaigne as said couples. In the background of it all, Assayas also touches on prescient topics such as the disappearance of the written word and our world’s dedication (or lack thereof) to its production. In my original review of the film, I called this film the next continuation in the life of the harried teenagers from Cold Water (1994). I look forward to however else Assayas wants to shape this universe of people.

13. Little Women (Greta Gerwig)

Greta Gerwig’s latest adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel has stuck with me for days. Incredible acting, a sly sense of opening up the tale with a thrilling sense of editing, and an atmosphere that perfectly captures the alternatively freewheeling and morose swaths of fate that affect the four sisters, the film is a triumph of small emotions and gentle passage of time. No matter how minor the part, each and every character is rendered as a vivid and indelible person. And it only further cements the talents of all involved as defining artists for what will be decades to come.

12. Motherless Brooklyn (Edward Norton)

I have to begin by asking why it’s taken someone 20 years to allow actor Edward Norton to write and direct again after his sweetly affectionate and witty debut film Keeping the Faith. I fell in love upon seeing it in the theater all those years ago and it remains one of the best films of the 90’s. A far cry in mood and tone than that previous ode to Lubitsch-like romance-comedy, his latest film, Motherless Brooklyn still retains his affection for people and relationships even when said relationships involve extortion, bribery, corruption and murder in 50’s set New York where the sky’s the limit for powerful men slicing up chunks of the city. Trying to unravel the mystery is Lionel (Norton), the adopted associate of a slain snooper (Bruce Willis) whose nose gets them all involved in some hefty affairs. Complicating maters is Lionel’s tourette’s disorder, which serves more as a compass for the nervousness he feels when things get heady, calmed only in moments after Laura (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who may or may not be fully involved in the affair he’s investigating. While the narrative of Motherless Brooklyn ultimately leans into noir-tinged familiarity, what’s not pedestrian is Norton’s supreme handling of the film’s pace and composure. Lots of secondary characters (played by famous faces from Willem DaFoe to Michael K. Williams) provide a sprawling canvas of depth, but they’re never allowed to overwhelm the carefully constructed atmosphere. Attuned to the beauty of the world around his concrete-bound characters, Norton continually cuts to things around them as they talk, such as golden blades of grass or the sun-lit dusted items on a bedroom dresser. For a film often caught inside the scrambled head of a man desperately trying to fit together the disjointed pieces, Motherless Brooklyn is a magnificently contemplative work and a seriously overlooked gem from 2019.

11. The Last Black Man In San Francisco (Joe Talbot)

It’s not very hard to make San Francisco look dreamy and romantic on screen, but what director Joe Talbot does with The Last Black Man In San Francisco — besides a fully realized and heartfelt relationship between two best friends — is create a film of otherworldly beauty and quirky sentiments that feels wholly original. Actors Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors are revelations as marginal personalities in a gentrified San Francisco who make it their mission to save and restore a large house that once belonged to one of their grandfathers. A beautiful soundtrack, a host of memorable secondary characters and a complete control of mood situates The Last Black Man in San Francisco as a breakout effort from all involved.

10. Dolemite Is My Name (Craig Brewer)

There was no better movie-going experience in 2019 than the Texas premiere of Eddie Murphy’s affectionate ode to 70s filmmaking and maverick-outsider status than Dolemite Is My Name. An audience rolling with every joke and riding the wave of every emotion elicited the exact same reaction I’m sure the original Dolemite did for African-American audiences in the early 70s desperate for a film idol who wasn’t James Bond or Dirty Harry. Profane and uproariously funny, Dolemite Is My Name is everything a crowd pleasing film is designed to do. Toss in a whiz-bang cast of associates such as Wesley Snipes and DaVine Joy Randolph, and the film far outstretches its modest Netflix designed small-screen ambitions into an expansive comedy whose main intention is bawdy reverence for a true cinematic pioneer.

9. Booksmart (Olivia Wilde)

About two-thirds of the way through — and once the film’s teenage friends played wonderfully by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever finally make it to the graduation party they so desperately want to attend — Booksmart affirms its creeping signs of greatness and attains something quite terrific. The film’s patchwork assortment of outrageous characters and high school crudeness coalesces into an achingly honest and masterful examination about the crushing facade of teenage life and its very thin margins of identity/acceptance. First time actor-turned-director Olivia Wilde balances the pieces together brilliantly, manifesting all the strengths of her film in one long shot that turns a shattering underwater discovery into an equally shattering composition of two young women trying to compose themselves in the uncertainties of adulthood.

8. Ad Astra (James Gray)

Even though it resides in a loopy science fiction template that features ghost ships, nerve-jangling space walks and knife fights inside a cockpit, James Gray’s Ad Astra is a lot closer to his morose studies of male psychosis and obsessive choices than it first appears. In fact, it makes for a nice double feature with his previous masterpiece The Lost City of Z in which pioneers of terrain and courage venture farther out into the unknown than anyone before them. In Ad Astra, that explorer is astronaut Brad Pitt, chosen to travel to Mars (a planet that houses the last stable outpost of humanity in near future of colonization) in order to hopefully coax his lost father (also an astronaut) to stop sending chaotic micro bursts of energy from a failed mission decades ago. I know, it does preposterous when explained, but Gray manages to create a moody and introspective work of art that challenges science fiction conventions in its quiet remorselessness.

7. Destroyer (Karyn Kusama)

There’s a trend in modern crime films I like to call “New American Miserablism.” I suppose the grandfathers were David Fincher and Michael Mann, now carried forward by any young filmmaker treading into the noir tinged waters. Even the small screen isn’t immune, specifically behind the grandiose darkness inherent in Nic Pizzaloto’s True Detective series. Granted, even I’m worn down by the heaviness permeating these efforts. So why is Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer — a crime film especially miserable, right down to the grizzled makeup coated across Nicole Kidman’s face to exemplify the haggard weight of her world bending upon her — different? Well, it is and isn’t. The film trades in so many themes and situations that have dotted the noir landscape in the past, however Kusama and screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi resuscitate their effort into something special because of the layered storytelling whose timelines slowly reveal a painful tendency to protect only the best things from a very bad time. In addition, Kusama’s crisp style renders a ubiquitous Los Angeles with new eyes, portraying viaducts and side street banks with just as much underlying ferocity as many other films have treated the beaches and Pacific Palisades mansions. Destroyer is a tough, meandering and ultimately a fragile personification of ‘miserablism’ done with grace and, well, heart.

6. Parasite (Bong Joon Ho)

Although it’s not quite a horror film, one of the most horrific moments of the year on-screen happens in Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite as a set of crazed-white eyes slowly peers up from the darkness from a set of basement level steps, igniting a child’s nightmarish imagination and sending the second half of the film into a frenzy of drastic action and numbing consequence. It’s what Bong does best: wringing recognizable genres until they twist into a morass of social commentary and obfuscated styles. What begins as ant act of greedy infiltration by a lower class family into the personal spaces of the upper class starts out simply enough before the screws are tightened and every shot, feeling and mood is controlled masterfully by Bong. There are stretches in this film where I held my breath for what seemed like an eternity, hoping I’d soon be given permission to breathe. Caustically funny and whip-smart tense, Parasite is a master firing on all cylinders.

5. Waves (Trey Edward Shults)

A film of two distinct halves. First, an untethered camera floating with a boisterous soundtrack and histrionic emotions with a story that feels right at home in any young adult/teen fiction novel as athletic Kelvin Harrison Jr. deals with a diminishing body, an inebriated state of mind and a relationship that wrecks havoc on everyone involved. It almost all seems like too much. But that’s the point of Shults’ magnificent work as it pivots in the second half to younger sister Taylor Russell and how the somber reckoning of her family settles around her delicate shoulders. With Waves, Shults has confirmed himself as a towering voice in modern independent cinema, enraging some and bewitching others. I look forward to whatever he does next.

4. Climax (Gaspar Now)

Noe’s latest is a delirious concoction of New Wave musical and Euro freak-out horror film, fire branded by his swerving aesthetic and provocative sound design that feels more like an assault rather than a viewing. I loved every propulsive moment. Watching Noe’s young and seriously tripping men and woman wander around their own cloistered psychedelic wonderland is something no other filmmaker would probably try, but Noe (the enfant terrible of French provocations for over 20 years now) does and it spoke directly to my punk rock soul.

3. A Hidden Life (Terence Malick)

I can’t even count how many times I gasped at the visual beauty present in Terence Malick’s latest work of cinematic poetry. And then those visuals were overtaken by the emotional gut punch in its story of faithful farmer Franz (August Diehl) and his refusal to serve for Germany in World War II, choosing to stand his ground and be a conscientious objector. I’ve been out on the last few Malick films (his last great one being The New World in 2005), but A Hidden Life struck me as something staggering, heartbreaking and completely worthy of Malick’s re-anointment as cinema’s most purely spiritual guide. It’s one of the few films whose passionate inner resolve of its protagonist seems to melt through the screen into our own hearts.

2. Transit (Christian Petzold)

On another given day, this could easily slide into the top spot. Adapted from a novel by Anna Seghers, Transit is a masterwork adapted (and updated) by Petzold from the novel’s original World War II set intentions into a metropolitan anti-thriller in which the vehicles, dress and locale of today are juxtaposed with the occupational fears of yesteryear (or are they so long ago?). Like Petzold’s previous, Phoenix, he gets to play with the notions of a society simultaneously crumbling and rebuilding at the same time, leaving its droll protagonists with the arduous task of picking up the pieces. Also like Phoenix, Petzold fashions a final scene so ripe with meaning and so crushing in emotional complexity that the idea of purgatory spoken about earlier in the film comes into stinging focus.

1. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese)

With his previous film Silence (2016) and now The Irishman, Scorsese has certainly entered his pensive period and, as a filmmaker whose lifelong investments have been people struggling with the cause and effect of inner turmoil (both spiritually and non), The Irishman may be his crowning reflection on the matter. As a sweeping tapestry of mid-century gangsterism and unionist history, it’s a completely enveloping recreation of the stalwart loud mouths (Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa) and powerfully quiet sea changers (Joe Pesci as mob boss Russell Bufalino) who had their fingers on the pulse. And as a character study of one man (Robert DeNiro as Frank Sheeran) along for the turbulent and violent ride, it’s a meditative masterpiece that ends on such a somber, devastating image that even after 3 and a half hours, I was still stunned it was over.


Honorable mentions (the 16-20 if you will): Pain and Glory, Tigers Are Not Afraid, Caballerango, Shadow, Uncut Gems.