1. Fire of Love
Fire of Love is an American-Canadian documentary film detailing the lives of Katia and Maurice Kraft—French volcanologists killed in the eruption of Mount Unzen in 1991. Employing dazzling 16-millimeter archival footage and photography, the film stitches together a breathtaking depiction of one couple's global campaign in pursuit of answers to the Earth's myriad mysteries. First meeting at university in France, their immediate chemistry would carry them forth on a pioneering dual career documenting volcanoes and pyroclastic activity while making significant contributions to the field of volcanology. Their story, however, is as much one of adoration and camaraderie as it is of molten lava—filmmaker Miranda July narrating their adventures with sublime elegance, while French musician Nicolas Godin adds a wonderfully beguiling musical accompaniment. Co-written, produced and directed by American documentarian Sara Dosa, Fire of Love is an utterly sublime viewing experience imbued with palpable wistfulness—not to be overlooked by any measure.
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Tár is a remarkably assured psychological drama starring Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, a world-renowned composer and chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. Highly dependent upon personal assistant Francesca (Noémie Merlant) and wife Sharon (Nina Hoss), Lydia enjoys great success while preparing for a landmark recording of Mahler's 5th Symphony. Yet beneath the steely veneer lies the soul of a predatory svengali—quick to coerce and ridicule in every attempt to preserve her carefully constructed self-image. After a former protégé levies allegations of improprieties against her, Lydia begins to come unglued—bedeviled by nightmares, chronic pain and discordant sounds. Further accusations ensue as she scrambles to take hold of her sanity, all the while obsessing over young virtuoso Olga (Sophie Kauer) and clinging to adopted daughter Petra (Mila Bogojevic). Written and directed by Todd Field (Little Children), Tár is a riveting tale of self-destruction—Blanchet simply extraordinary in her depiction of self-possession, seductiveness and abject toxicity.
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3. Triangle of Sadness
Triangle of Sadness is a wildly transgressive dark comedy that tells 3 separate yet interrelated stories, each chapter satirically attacking wealth and privilege. The storyline begins with Carl and Yaya, a male model and a social influencer respectively, as they quarrel over money and their individual gender roles. Invited to vacation on a luxury superyacht, the pair is soon mingling with an amalgamation of Russian oligarchs, weapons manufacturers, tech billionaires and an alcoholic captain (Woody Harrelson). Rough seas and brutal calamity befalls the ship, however, with Filipina steward Abigail (Dolly de Leon) rising to fore in a tenacious coup that sees the entire assembly's social hierarchy turned on its ear. Written and directed by Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure), Triangle of Sadness is a scathing indictment of affluence and materialism, unabashedly trolling class differences to generate gasps and guffaws in equal measure. Decidedly unsubtle and replete with pitch-perfect craftsmanship, it's a boldly engaging vehicle for modern social critique.
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4. The Banshees of Inisherin
The Banshees of Inisherin is a singularly wry comedy-drama starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as Pádraic and Colm, lifelong friends on the Irish isle of Inisherin. Set in 1923, the storyline begins with Colm unceremoniously ending his friendship with Pádraic, intent on focusing entirely on musical composition. He deems Pádraic as dull and unworthy of his time, much to the guileless Pádraic's dismay. Attempts to win back Colm's favor only furthers the gulf between them, Colm going so far as to threaten bodily harm to himself if Pádraic persists. What ensues is a darkly humorous tête-à-tête between the two, as Pádraic sinks into despair despite the support of his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and village dimwit Dominic (Barry Keoghan). Written and directed by Irish playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), The Banshees of Inisherin is a multi-layered depiction of discordance and actualization. Farrell and Gleeson are pure gold in their wonderfully earnest performances—disparate souls at a dramatic turning point, confronted by the enigma of human individuality.
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Aftersun is a deeply emotive human drama starring Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio as Calum and Sophie, a father-and-daughter duo from Scotland on summer holiday in Turkey in the 1990s. Calum is separated from Sophie's mother and yearns for quality time with his 11-year-old daughter, booking a shared room at an aging seaside resort. Sophie is a perceptive girl teetering on adolescence who senses dismay in her father, though he masks his feelings with enthusiasm for their shared adventure. As the storyline progresses, the two enjoy holiday amusements while hints of Paul's melancholy eke out, Sophie struggling to understand his all-too-adult difficulties. Some time later we come upon Sophie as an adult, wistfully watching grainy video footage of this very trip as she reminisces about the experience, finally able to comprehend her father's grief. Written and directed by Scottish filmmaker Charlotte Wells, Aftersun is a piercing illustration of perspective and contemplation—Mescal and Corio assiduously recreating Wells' relationship with her own father in the form of searing autobiographical visual art.
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Nope is a strikingly ambitious science-fiction horror film starring Daniel Kaluuya as Otis "OJ" Haywood Jr., proprietor of a Southern California horse ranch alongside his sister Emerald "Em" Haywood (Keke Palmer). Catering to the film and television industries, the Haywoods share their land with Ricky "Jupe" Park (Steven Yeun), operator of a Western theme park named "Jupiter's Claim". One evening the ranch experiences electrical fluctuations and the sudden disappearance of several horses, with the fleeting image of saucer-like shape disappearing into the clouds above. Determined to capture authentic footage of a U.F.O. to be sold to the media, OJ and Em launch on a daring surveillance campaign—recruiting Jupe, electronics technician Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and professional cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott) in their intricate plot. Written and directed by emerging filmmaker Jordan Peele (Get Out), Nope is an uncanny viewing experience—Peele deftly fusing Spielbergian spectacle with his own unique sensibilities and stylings to create a one-of-a-kind extravaganza.
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7. Bones and All
Bones and All is a seductively romantic horror story set in the 1980s and starring
Taylor Russell as Maren, a teenage girl with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. After biting off the finger of a classmate in a moment of unrestraint, Maren and her father Frank (André Holland) are forced on the run—relocating to Maryland before Frank is ultimately impelled to abandon her. Left alone, Maren sets off for Minnesota in search of her long-lost mother, along the way encountering a variety of fellow "eaters" including the eccentric Sully (Mark Rylance) and young vagabond Lee (Timothée Chalamet). It's with Lee that Maren first experiences true love, as they traverse the crossroads of Regan-era America in pursuit of human nourishment—the enigmatic Sully maintaining a shadowy proximity. Based on the novel by Camille DeAngelis and directed by Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name), Bones and All is equal parts revulsion and enchantment—a cannibal love story that far exceeds genre trappings in the hands of the enormously sincere and talented Guadagnino.
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8. Women Talking
Women Talking is a deeply compelling drama set within an ultraconservative Mennonite colony, where a group of 8 women grapple with the choice to leave the community after a dreadful revelation. The storyline is inspired by the Manitoba Colony in Bolivia, where it came to light that a group of male Mennonites had been anesthetizing the women and raping them in their sleep. In adapting the novel of the same name by Miriam Toews, filmmaker Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell) has crafted a piercing depiction of the ramifications of sexual assault and domestic violence. Meeting in a barn while the men are away, the women take turns making their case for 1 of 3 options: 1) Do nothing, 2) Stay and fight or 3) Leave the community. This framework sets the stage for a remarkable ensemble performance, Rooney Mara, Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley all standouts in their impassioned roles—questioning their faith, their remaining pathway to heaven, responsibility, forgiveness and human conditioning. It's an arduous and fascinating discourse—one that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
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9. Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun: Maverick is a blistering action thriller that sees Tom Cruise returning to the role of U.S. Navy Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, 36 years after the original Top Gun debuted on the silver screen. Mitchell now operates as an aviation test pilot, unable to achieve promotion due to repeated acts of insubordination. Protected from being grounded altogether by Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer), an early infraction finds Mitchell reassigned to Naval Air Station North Island to train an elite team of Top Gun graduates. Their top secret mission is to destroy an unsanctioned uranium enrichment plant in the Middle East—the team including Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, son of Maverick's late best friend Nick "Goose" Bradshaw. The ensuing adventure sees Mitchell forced into active service alongside his youthful flight squad, engaging in a high stakes infiltration rife with hazardous conditions and surprising turns. Sleek, well-crafted and exceedingly enjoyable, Cruise's return to the skies is a top tier affair—perfectly capturing the blockbuster nostalgia of yesteryear.
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Navaly is a stunning documentary feature focused on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, beginning in the Fall of 2020 while he recuperates from a failed assassination attempt. Poisoned with a deadly nerve agent while on a flight to Moscow, Vladimir Putin's most vocal critic is subsequently hospitalized in Omsk before being transferred to a clinic in Berlin. The film follows Navalny's recovery and reunion with his family, along with the ensuing investigation into the poisoning led by members of his Anti-Corruption Foundation and investigative journalist Christo Grozev. Their extensive research reveals a conspiracy to murder Navalny that points directly toward the Kremlin and Putin—a scene with Navalny calling up one of his assassins while masquerading as a Russian bureaucrat serving as one of the film's most breathtaking moments. Canadian documentarian Daniel Roher captures all of this and more, including Navalny's ultimate arrest and imprisonment, in what amounts to an utterly staggering real-life spy thriller, made all-the-more-relevant in the face of Putin's ongoing war against democracy.
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All Quiet On The Western Front
All Quiet On The Western Front is a harrowing adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's classic novel, depicting youthful German soldiers stationed on the Western Front during World War I. Central to the storyline is Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), a patriotic young idealist thrilled to join the Imperial German Army alongside his schoolmates. Their collective enthusiasm is shattered, however, once deployed in Northern France and introduced to the grim reality of trench warfare. As months of heavy conflict wear on and the German High Command gradually negotiates armistice, Paul's regiment suffers harsh conditions and tremendous losses—their nerves frayed amid the never-ending brutality of warfare. Directed by German filmmaker Edward Berger, it's a world-class production and a deeply immersive experience, delivering an achingly sincere depiction of the sheer futility of armed conflict.
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EO is a Polish-Italian drama that follows an unassuming circus donkey named EO on a languid journey across Eastern Europe, experiencing varying instances of kindness, cruelty and despair. Departing from his loving trainer Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska) after the circus goes bankrupt, EO wanders the Polish landscape interacting with humans and nature alike, without destination or outright intention, adorning a blank yet telling expression of awareness. Inspired by Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar (1966), director Jerzy Skolimowski and cinematographer Michał Dymek have crafted a surreal and intoxicating odyssey out of EO's passage, with a major lift from Paweł Mykietyn's mesmerizing musical composition. It's an unusual departure from child-friendly animal tales, instead delivering a documentary-like portraiture of humanity at war with itself—EO as the ever-present observer.
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Broker is a deeply humanistic South Korean drama starring Song Kang-ho as Ha Sang-hyeon, a laundry service proprietor in Busan who volunteers at a local church alongside his friend Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won). Together, the two run an illegal operation stealing babies left at the church for adoption before selling them on the black market. A crisis occurs when young Moon So-young (Lee Ji-eun) returns to reclaim her abandoned baby, forcing Ha and Dong-soo to embroil her in their scam. The 3 set off on a highly eventful road trip alongside a young orphan named Hae-jin (Im Seung-soo), in search of adoptive parents that Moon approves of for her child. Written and directed by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters), Broker overcomes its melodramatic premise to become something special—a warm-hearted character study and a moving depiction of makeshift familial relations under the most unlikely of circumstances.
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Emily the Criminal
Emily the Criminal is a taut crime thriller starring Aubrey Plaza as Emily, a struggling artist overwhelmed by student debt. With a felony conviction on record she's unable to qualify for proper employment and is forced to scrape by as a contract caterer. A co-worker introduces her to an illegal but advantageous opportunity, leading to an open call for those interested in making a quick $200. The meeting is run by Youcef (Theo Rossi), the organizer of a credit card fraud ring, who persuades Emily to undertake a trial run—the payoff quickly intoxicating her in the ways of increasingly high-stakes larceny. Written and directed by first-time filmmaker John Patton Ford, Emily the Criminal is a gripping thrill-ride, incredibly timely in this age of insurmountable debt. Plaza wholly embodies the titular lawbreaker in every nuance and action, helping to deliver a spot-on conduit for social commentary.
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The Fabelmans is celebrated filmmaker Steven Spielberg's semi-autobiographical depiction of his own coming-of-age, beginning in 1952 when Burt (Paul Dano) and Mitzi (Michelle Williams) Fabelman take their eight-year-old son Sammy (Mateo Zoryon) to his very first movie: Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth. Sammy's fascination with the experience—a dramatic train crash in particular—paves the way for a lifelong passion for the moving image. As the family relocates from New Jersey to Arizona and eventually California, a growing Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) has become obsessed with the filmmaking process, often using it as a means for forging friendships, placating enemies and charming young women. As Spielberg's stand-in, LaBelle delivers a strikingly confident performance as the young savant—buoying an affectionate depiction of manifest talent and self-actualization.
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Armageddon Time, The Innocents, Living, Argentina 1985, The Inspection, All The Beauty And The Bloodshed, The Whale, Close, Happening, Decision to Leave, Playground, The Wonder, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Hit the Road, Crimes of the Future, Aisha, Holy Spider, Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes, Causeway, The Good Nurse, Athena, White Noise, Blonde, The Territory, Corsage, Amsterdam, Hustle, A Love Song, Empire of Light, Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood, The Quiet Girl, Meet Me in the Bathroom, Novembre, Don't Worry Darling, God’s Country, Thirteen Lives, Babylon, The Silent Twins, The Northman, Both Sides of the Blade, God’s Creatures, Klondike, Glass Onion, Anonymous Club, The Stranger, Moonage Daydream, Girl in the Picture, Brian and Charles