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.
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.
With 2017’s Get Out, comedian-turned-filmmaker Jordan Peele burst onto the scene in a full sprint. With just one film under his belt, Peele was already dubbed this generation’s Alfred Hitchcock, setting expectations unreasonably high for Us, Peele’s 2019 sophomoric follow-up. Although Us isn’t Peele’s second masterpiece in as many tries, the ponderous plot and themes may make Us, not Get Out, the longer standing fixture in the cultural conversation.
Based on a true story and a memoir of the same name, Can You Ever Forgive Me? follows Lee Israel, a biographer turned forger and her exploits across the collector book scene, in ‘90s New York City. One of the best films of 2018, Can You Ever Forgive Me? operates somewhere between a buddy comedy and Catch Me If You Can.
In unorthodox fashion, Steve McQueen followed a dramatic period piece about slavery with a heist movie centered around a cast of mostly women. That heist movie, Widows, is based on a British crime show of the same name that ran from 1983 to 1985. McQueen, the director and co-writer of Widows (alongside all-star crime-thriller novelist Gillian Flynn) has created an all-time heist movie. While the pair created a timeless thriller, they may have juggled one too many plot points for a two-hour film.
Heartfelt performances from Lady Gaga and actor/director Bradley Cooper are enough to make Cooper’s directorial debut worthy of an encore. A Star is Born, the third remake of the original 1937 film of the same name, is another successful retelling of an apparently ageless story of fame, music, and love.
Over the course of the last five years, the horror movie genre has been on a tear. From the psychological (The Babadook) to the satirical deconstruction (Happy Death Day) and the thriller (Get Out), we seem to have reached a new golden age for scary movies. Hereditary, the first film by writer-director Ari Aster, only adds to that list.