Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails, two San Francisco natives, met in middle school before working together on a short film and eventually a feature about the unprecedented changes facing their city. Launched as a Kickstarter campaign in April 2015, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is as unique as the story of its production.
The Silence of the Lambs is based on a best-selling novel, its casting department hit two home runs with Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, and it found a director whose career was on the upswing. The film had every reason to succeed, and it did. Still, few movies work on this level, and fewer yet are rewarded for their efforts.
There Will Be Blood, the fifth film by writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, represents a career turn that few others are capable of. Anderson’s first four films, Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love were the work of an efficient, skilled filmmaker. Magnolia and Boogie Nights, in particular, suggested that Anderson may have a loftier vision than originally thought. With more experience under his belt, Anderson wrote There Will Be Blood. Three feature-length films later, There Will Be Blood is still Anderson’s defining masterpiece; it may remain that way for some time to come.
Legendary Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus, Spirited Away, was released in 2001. Miyazaki’s animation career at his studio, Studio Ghibli, is rivaled by only Walt Disney, and Spirited Away is a big reason as to why.
High Life, the first English-language film by French auteur Claire Denis, made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018. Planned by Denis for 15 years, High Life finally saw a limited release in the United States in April 2019. In comparing the film to genre heavyweights, it is closer to The Phantom Menace’s meandering than A New Hope’s quality. High Life would’ve been better off unrealized.
It’s rare that a weighty, succinct, cerebral film slips through the cracks in the Information Age, but that’s exactly what happened to 2015’s underappreciated Ex Machina. Most filmmakers (and, let’s be honest, studios) would be happy to take home nearly $37 million at the box office on a $15 million budget and secure an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, but those accolades don’t seem like quite enough recognition for the best film of 2015.
Screenwriter and director Paul Schrader is best known for writing Taxi Driver and co-writing Raging Bull. With First Reformed, a movie written and directed by Schrader, the filmmaker can step out of Martin Scorsese’s long shadow and add an accomplishment all his own to the list of his most prominent credits.