I've seen this film twice, bringing my parents on two separate occasions to enjoy the experience with me. I've admired Christopher Nolan's work since Memento, and will readily admit that he has his flaws. For a filmmaker who consistently churns out box-office hits that are thought-provoking yet easily accessible to the masses, Nolan's Dunkirk was a stunning piece of work that I just could not get enough of, with its sweeping cinematography and terse soundtrack. The minimal dialogue served its purpose as a device in itself, as well as the ensemble cast in which character stories were equally emphasised. It really drives home the fact that the war impacted everybody and left no one behind.
Kang Ha-neul has been delightful to watch as an audience member. I took notice of him in the TV drama Misaeng, and not only can he handle sombre episodes displaying emotional maturity, he also has a knack for impeccable comedic timing. This Korean buddy-cop film was so charming - it has its melodramatic moments anyone can see coming, but its a testament to the writing and the acting that it still feels fresh and inspired. Both actors are on fire in Korea right now, but you can feel the heart they put into a film that most would otherwise have put in the bare minimum due to its subject matter.
It's on top of many 'best' lists, and for good reason. The film universally stirs those that may superficially disagree with the relationship by hearkening back to the hazy summer days of youth. The setting of the Italian countryside and soft lighting throughout the film helps evoke those memories, too. It does alienate some people, and understandably so: the character Elio is arrogantly out-of-touch and disdainful to the help. Played by Timothee Chalamet, he carries the duration of the film with abandon and ease, and his face, while otherwise arguably one-note (there's a reason why the actor consistently plays privileged brats), conveys so much emotion with little flexing. It's a talent and he deserves all the praise for it, especially near the end of the film. Funny story: I had to watch this twice because the first time, I was with a friend who I forgot was quite emotionally closed off. When the end scene rolled around, I felt the tears coming, only to sneak a peek at her and see a stony face staring at the screen. Choking back my sobs, I ended up seeing the movie a second time just for the cathartic release at the end. It is kind of a long-haul film that drags in a few areas, but below is the best and most poignant scene from the film. A second, more critical study of the monologue yields the rather uncomfortable implication that the professor has never had with his wife as what Elio and Oliver experienced, but that's for a different discussion.
Park Chan-wook made one of my favorite films, Stoker, and he continues to knock it out of the park with The Handmaiden. While at one point the film was overshadowed by cast member drama, its lengthy run-time is worth every minute. The cinematography is gorgeous and sumptuous and just endlessly decadent for anyone interested in set design, costume design, and cinematography in general. The two leading actresses are stunning in the way they seamlessly embody their roles, and the plot twists (yes, more than one) are genuine surprises. If you can, watch this on a larger screen. I still kick myself for waiting too long to see it before it stopped showing at Lincoln Center.
Get Out was released at an unnervingly tone-accurate point in time, when racial tensions were at an all-time high in the States. Jordan Peele is mostly known for his comedy work, and his directorial debut builds upon his talent for finding the right timing and pacing that is crucial to landing jokes, this time, translated into drama. Can we talk about Daniel Kaluuya being completely, 100% flawless in this role? He nailed the comedy. He nailed the melodrama. But most importantly, he nailed the critical need of being able to draw in the viewer's empathy, to fantastic results during his hypnosis scenes. I remember watching this with my mom and being so engrossed in the subtleties of his facial expressions that I actually let out a breath once the scene ended, being so tense and transfixed by his performance. It actually even took me out of the movie for a little bit, just to process what incredible acting I had just seen.
Everyone goes through an anime phase, right? I thought I left that behind me in junior high, with intermittent curious explorations in-between (Bleach, Gintama, etc.). Then Your Name was released and just like Toy Story 3, I was uncomfortably in touch with emotions I try so hard to avoid, namely, sobbing my eyes out. There are some drawbacks to the film - I hated the jarring interjection of J-pop sprinkled in between - but its plot and the time spent on the little details of the story come together in a very satisfying finale. Ultimately, it's a story of pure, innocent hope. I've seen this three times now...but feel validated when someone told me their wedding theme songs were to the soundtrack.
This is more of an honorable mention for me. I appreciated the labor of love that was obviously Lady Bird, and will always be a staunch supporter of female filmmakers (as well as Saiorse Ronan), but Lady Bird was a good film - just not as excellent as everyone seems to think. It hit all the right notes and did everything well. But for me, and I can't stress this enough, that was just it. It's an autobiographical account of Greta Erwig's young adulthood, and by God, we definitely need more films told from a sole female's perspective. Especially when it comes to coming-of-age films, where it seems like the market is saturated with the dorky group of boys aiming to get their just desserts from the bullies (Stand By Me? The Goonies? Moonrise Kingdom?). But just like Manchester by the Sea, I just couldn't understand the frenetic hype around it. Was it a good movie? Yes, very good. Something was just missing for me, although I did enjoy the time I spent watching Erwig's work very much, and look forward to her future productions.