Searching (Aneesh Chaganty – 2018) B+

It’s one of those movies that i was immediately skeptical of. Mostly told via laptop screens, text messages, monitoring cameras, news broadcasts,…but it really captured my attention because it is well done, the characters are not dumb and I had no clue where it was going next.

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Silence (Martin Scorsese – 2016) A-

Set in the 17th century Japan this is a horrifying and brutal film about faith. Two Jesuit priests go looking for a missing  mentor. He, along with many others, are missionaries trying to spread Catholicism in Japan.  Not an easy task and the response from the authorities there is very determined and violent. The two, played by Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield, go on the terrible journey, smuggled in, hide for months on end protected by villagers who are “believers”. They witness first hand how strong these people’s faith is, they also experience betrayal and a whole lot of pain. Faith and religion change when they propagate and spread. They get hybridized and blended. One character named Kichijiro is a fascinating example of a Catholic who seems to have taken the power of confession to the extreme. How many times can one do horrible things, betray his people and then get the slate wiped clean by confession? Many times it seems. This is supposed to be based on a true story and is really one of Scorsese’s most personal films it feels. The struggle of balancing the guilt with faith and hoping that there is a God out there who is listening (in this case a Christian God) is a theme in his films. Here, it is front and center. It’s not a fun movie to watch but it is an excellent one.

Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg – 1994) A

Yes, late to the party in recognizing how awesome this film is. I had never seen it for whatever reason. I suppose when it came out I was too young and dumb to watch a long long black and white movie. Glad I did now. It is a brilliant masterpiece. Schindler is one of those men (Liam Neeson) who can sell anything to anyone. He’s a business man and industrialist in Nazi Germany -by default a Nazi. His journey from a selfish sales person, making money, shmoozing to Nazi officers, building a fortune….is one hell of a story. He recognizes slowly that the horrible stuff happening to Jews and other minorities are on his hands too even if he never fires a weapon. What does one man do? Can he save some lives? one life, a thousand? or maybe many thousands? The atrocities shown are horrible here but there is also a the flip side of the good side of human nature. One man’s actions can make a big difference to generations. Beyond the story, this a beautifully shot film, with its slow pace and the very small use of color it haunts and persists.

Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson – 2017) A-

looks great of course, the acting is tremendous and the film is beautifully crafted. This one felt a bit cold, keeping emotions at bay or just under the surface. The story is about a fashion designer (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his latest model/muse. She is an agent of disruption into his otherwise precise, orderly world, a world filled with women. He has his sister who never married and runs his fashion house. The memory of his beloved mother who was his original inspiration and mentor. His numerous clients who count on him to dress them in the loveliest of custom made dresses. Enter Alma who is soft spoken, pretty and strong-willed. The interplay between the two and the slow, methodical and at times crazy dynamic keeps this beautiful film humming.

Captain Marvel (Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck – 2019) B

Good movie with a fun cast. It is an origin story but it has an interesting twist that works well. I did like the 90s setting as well but it really is creepy how good this anti aging technology has become. It’s a bit weird to see 70 year old Sam Jackson looking 35.

Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino – 2017) A

As it wraps up and the credits start to role, the camera stays on Elio (Timothee Chalamet) as the “Visions of Gideon” plays and it stays on him wordless and the song plays on in its entirety. It’s a brilliant scene in a film filled with them and I mention it because it sums it up and shows what an amazing performance he delivers here. The film is set in the Italian country side in the 80s over a couple of weeks in the summer and it looks great. It is a controversial love story and everyone in it does a great job. The characters feel real and the sense of place and time is all there. It’s an art film for sure and it will trigger a lot of discussion about the central theme that can be challenging. It is not a cheap or salacious story though but more of a story about coming of age, not too unlike the great  “y Tu Mama Tambien” in some respects, and it asks us to consider it on its own terms and merits. I have to give huge props also to the awesome performance by Michael Stuhlbarg as the most perceptive and possibly mature parent one can ask for (think of the dad played by Eugene Levy from American Pie but in a serious role!). The scene where he delivers a gentle and loving advice in a long monologue to his son is one to remember.