“How many caramel onions can I make before the day is up?” Lissa giggled, dunking another batch of the disgusting trick in sweet, sticky, and sneaky caramel. “Nothing says fall harvest festival time like a nice, classic caramel onion trick.”
Manuscripts Don’t Burn: Mohammad Rasoulof somehow made this film without the Iranian government’s knowledge. The film centers on the murder of intellectuals by the government’s secret police, highlighting both the efforts of authors to get their works published, and the police tracking down extant documents. Rasoulof, who was arrested alongside fellow filmmaker Jafar Panahi, and banned from making films for twenty years, is an expert at making deceptively disturbing images, and while not his greatest film, Manuscripts Don’t Burn is an exceptional “fuck you” to the forces opposed to creative freedom. Available on Netflix.
Phoenix: One of last year’s best films, Christian Petzold’s Phoenix is about a woman (played incredibly by Nina Hoss), disfigured in a concentration camp, tracking down her husband. What ensues is a strange scheme to defraud her family of her inheritance, but at the center is her struggle to find a place, both with her unwitting husband and in a rebuilding Berlin. While the film is a bit slow-starting, it’s worth a watch for the final scene alone. Available on Netflix.
A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting on Existence: Roy Andersson’s latest is in the same style he adopted for his two previous films, You, The Living and Songs From The Second Floor (think something between Jacques Tati and Wes Anderson, except everything is grey). Despite a few extremely problematic scenes near the end are hard to sit through, the film is mostly wonderful, and as funny as anything he’s ever made. Available on Netflix.
I Am Love: This movie is not very good! But it has Tilda Swinton, and really, really wonderful cinematography. There are worse ways to spend your time! Available on Netflix.
A Summer’s Tale: I don’t actually remember which Eric Rohmer summer movie this is, but that’s ok because they are all great! Available on Netflix.
The Last of the Unjust: Always wanted to watch Shoah, but never had nine hours to spare? Well lucky you, Claude Lanzmann’s latest is only four hours long! (But also, watch Shoah). Available on Netflix.
Pariah: I tend to avoid Sundance films, and while Dee Rees’s film has a lot of the feel-good trademarks of that wretched festival, it’s a very good movie! A coming of age story about (and by) a black lesbian, dealing with the struggle for acceptance by friends and family. Available on Netflix.
The Babadook: Part nightmare-inducing horror, part heavy-handed metaphor, 100% enjoyable movie. A film about depression and why having children is probably a horrible thing to do. Available on Netflix.
Black Coal, Thin Ice: Featuring my favorite cinematography from last year, Black Coal, Thin Ice is a neo-noir with an overly complicated plot that never seems to add up to much. And that is perfectly fine. The film is a delight to watch, even if it’s not a masterpiece. Available on Netflix.
Winter Sleep: Sometimes, when I’m feeling a bit down, I remember that his movie exists, and that makes me a happier person. That this isn’t even Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s best movie is incredible. Available on Netflix.