Eleven years after Fargo, the first film Joel and Ethan Coen should’ve been awarded an Oscar for, the Coen brothers finally took home the Academy’s top prize with No Country for Old Men. An old Hollywood adage surmises that directors never win Best Picture for their best work, but the Coen brothers certainly did.
Writer-director Quentin Tarantino has regularly repeated his desire to carefully craft a 10-film filmography. In what would be his penultimate film (counting the two-part Kill Bill saga a single movie, as Tarantino does), his latest effort, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, combines the director’s best qualities and most frustrating attributes to deliver a polarizing experience that has remained on my mind since I left the theater.
Fans of Ari Aster’s instant-classic horror movie Hereditary will recognize a similar framework in the writer-director’s sophomoric film, Midsommar. Although Midsommar has more in common with the thriller and mystery genres, Aster’s imprint is as clear as a sunny Scandinavian day. What Midsommar lacks in scares, it makes up in genuine laughs, captivating lore, and haunting imagery.
Spider-Man: Far From Home marks the eighth time in 17 years that your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swung into theaters for a solo film. It wasn’t until the webhead’s sixth appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming that you could truly say Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios had perfected the Spider-Man formula. By following Homecoming with the jubilant animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the European vacationing Spider-Man: Far From Home, it’s clear the studio giants understand that with great power there must also come great responsibility.
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.