New York Stories and V/H/S are among the most notable anthology movies, but the best known of all is already 2018’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the most recent film from Joel and Ethan Coen. In Buster Scruggs, the directors open and close each of the movie’s six short films by flipping through the fictional book of short stories that the tales emanate from. This is apt imagery from a collection of unconnected, darkly comedic Westerns that belongs on a list among the best short stories in any medium.
Twenty-nine years after Driving Miss Daisy unconscionably secured the Academy Award for Best Picture, Green Book, a movie informally dubbed the reverse Driving Miss Daisy, took home the same prize at the 2018 Academy Awards. Studios won’t halt production on the Green Books of the world until movies like it are no longer profitable and well received, but the Academy should stop rewarding them. Green Book is entertaining, innocuous (on its surface), and feel-good for the right viewer, but the context surrounding it and the subtext that can be garnered from it change the conversation.
With Booksmart, Olivia Wilde becomes the third rookie director in a year to kick her career off with a coming-of-age story. Wilde joins a list that includes Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade) and Jonah Hill (mid90s). Burnham and Hill, coming from comedy and acting, respectively, made the transition with ease. Wilde’s lively, pensive debut about female friendship and identity makes her the third new director to find success in the genre.
Long Shot, an R-rated, politically-set romantic comedy starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, enters theaters as streaming services continue to dominate the genre. Charming and surprisingly raunchy, Long Shot could serve as a litmus test for the future of rom-coms at the multiplex. Fortunately, subverting comedy norms and relying on its stars is enough to make for an enjoyable trip to the theater despite the film’s tendency to step into worn genre tropes like a pair of old shoes.
Raw is the most apt word to describe mid90s, a 2018 coming-of-age skate film and the directorial debut for actor-turned-director Jonah Hill. Though thin on plot, mid90s finds redemption through its authentic characters and genuine story.
Set in Harlem in the early 1970s, If Beale Street Could Talk is a story of family, hope, and despair. Released in 2018 and based on a book of the same title by famed author James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk reveals what we already knew: writer-director Barry Jenkins is a master of the craft.
Damien Chazelle’s third feature film, First Man, salutes the ingenuity and sacrifice necessary to launch rickety spacecrafts into the great unknown. The film spends its 141-minute runtime as a cross between a Neil Armstrong biopic and a recounting of the Apollo space program. Despite Chazelle’s technical mastery and the intrinsic allure of the subject matter, the film is unable to replicate the feelings that inspired a generation of scientists.