Green Book

Participant Media

In 2016, Andrew Garfield starred in—and was nominated for Best Actor for—a movie called Hacksaw Ridge. It told the little-known story of Army medic Desmond Doss, who fought in some of the most brutal battles of World War II while refusing to carry or fire a gun. That same year, there was another film called Hidden Figures, which told the true story of the team of female African-American mathematicians at NASA, whose contributions to the space program were unheralded for so many decades, even though, without them, America most likely would never have stepped foot on the moon, let alone even flown successfully into space.

I’ll tell you, those two movies really blew me away. Neither of them were great movies, in the realm of cinematic achievement, but what they were was fascinating. They told true stories that were practically unknown to the vast majority of Americans, and, like the true story that was told in 12 Years a Slave, the stories that are both true and interesting are sometimes the best kind of movie. Truth is, after all, much stranger — and more interesting — than fiction.

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Roma

Netflix

I didn’t know how to start talking about Roma, the new film from Oscar-winning writer/director Alfonso Cuarón. At first, I wanted to talk about the power of the personal—how the story is a personal homage to Cuarón’s youth, a memory poem of sorts. Inspiration is another angle to take in looking at the movie as a whole, as Cuarón was clearly inspired by the real-life nanny he had a child and wanted to make a movie about her and her life. Then I thought about the larger themes of the movie, about how every life is significant, how people and events touch our lives and impact us in ways we don’t expect, how love manifests itself in so many different ways.

But then I realized: Roma isn’t a movie to talk about. It has themes, it has a story, it has dialogue and characters, but the movie is about a place and time and a total immersion in them. The last time I had this visceral a reaction to the visual experience of a movie was, well, Gravity, which just happened to be Cuarón’s last film (for which he won an Oscar for Best Director). Roma couldn’t be further away from Gravity, but what they do share is the filmmaker’s passion and talent for putting an audience right where he wants them to be. Gravity was outer space, Roma is Mexico City in 1971.

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The Favourite

Fox Searchlight

The classics exist for a reason. Sometimes the best screenplays are the ones that take a familiar story and put a spin on it, making it unique, original and imaginative. Even stories that are familiar AND based on a true story can be made to be imaginative and clever at the hands of a good writer. Let’s just be honest: a good writer can make anything old new again.

Deborah Davis had never written a produced screenplay before. Tony McNamara is a writer whose entire career had been writing for Australian television. So why should we care about Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara? Because they have written one of the best screenplays of 2018, and if you love snappy and vicious dialogue and inventive, clever, ribald and saucy new ways to tell a familiar story, you will love their movie, The Favourite, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

And I don’t even know if the writing is the best thing about The Favourite. The direction is energetic and inventive, the production design is absolutely gorgeous, the costumes are magnificent and the acting, well, the acting is devastatingly good. And, on top of all that, The Favourite has found a way to make a movie set in 18th century England relevant to Americans in the 2018—I dare you to not find subtext here.

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