East Side Sushi

Equal parts charming and clumsy. It felt like a senior project, and the script had all the usual characters, as if cut from film school cardboard. But there is heart, and… Oakland.

The Handmaiden

Is it fair to say that this is┬áPark Chan-wook at his most restrained? And most elegant. Which is appropriate, given the tale at hand, and its source material. It’s great to look at, and very solidly structured. My only real complaint is how easy it is to see what is coming, during the second third of the film…

Isle of Dogs

I like Wes Anderson best when he doesn’t have doesn’t have actual actors being so quirky. It’s better, and less cloying, when puppets are put into these situations, and saying these lines.

Even if the lines are in Japanese. Would I have liked this film as much if there were no Japan connection? I’m not certain. And I’m also not sure about the racist charges that the film seems to be attracting. Again, maybe because I know that Japan is… like this?

At any rate, first-rate eye candy, as usual. Superb attention to detail. I liked it.

The Florida Project

An oddly engaging movie. There is nothing that a synopsis might tell you that would indicate the level of engagement that this story engenders. It may be in part the fact that we see most of the movie from the point of view of the children, who, however mischievous they may be, remind us always that what they represent is hope and possibility, for all of us. Disneyland may be an overt symbol of the fantasy life we all desire, but these kids show us that real life can be full of joy as well.

Biggie & Tupac

This director has to be one of the worst documentarians on the planet. And definitely the worst narrator. And yet I managed to learn a few things from this movie. And strangely, the people that he approached for interviews and filming seemed oddly to allow him a level of access that I wouldn’t have expected. Why? How?

This is probably only for real fans of the title characters. Otherwise, just check out Notorious – much more entertaining.

Definitely Maybe

Disappointing to the point where not even Ryan Reynolds’ charms could revive it. Not even Rachel Weisz as a love interest could save it. There is too much script here. You can just see the writers piling it on. One more wrinkle, another complication, the expected unexpected. And back around to the beginning. Cute by a little too much.

Art and Craft

There was more than one person who suggested that, given his talents, Mark Landis should paint original works, and sign them with his own name. Which sort of misses the point.

What he does, and why he’s become famous, is copy works by famous painters. Or copy their style, at least. And then pass off the works to museums and galleries as originals. One key point though, is that he doesn’t try to sell the works, and therefore he is not committing any crime.

He may know that what he does is forgery, but he calls it “philanthropy.” For Landis, it is the act – the entire act, of painting and presenting a work, complete with paper and wood and frames and canvases all made to look age-appropriate, and then presenting it to a gallery as authentic – that is important.

Yes, his work is undeniably good. But if he had toiled for these same years producing originals, would he be a famous painter? Probably not. As someone in the film said, his schtick is as much performance art as it is painting. And what a performance.

The Shape of Water

I’ve never been a big fan of del Toro, but he does have a signature style that is arresting and interesting to look at. This is a beautifully filmed movie, with impeccable attention to detail. It should win something at the Oscars, or several things – set design, costumes, makeup…

I could even overlook the magical realism – or is this even beyond that? Is this straight-up fantasy? – because this was so engagingly told and brought to life. Sally Hawkins will never get the Oscar for this, though… sex with the creature from the Black Lagoon? The Academy will never go for it…

The Adjustment Bureau

Another one of those films that relies largely on Matt Damon’s charismatic screen presence to carry it through. The plot is so silly as to be a distraction, really, as you poke holes in all of its obvious weak points. But yes, I get it, it’s a parable! True love! Nothing can keep them apart! How romantic…