Kent's Top Ten: (Alphabetical)
“Being The Ricardos” — A pivotal week in the life of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz reveals a behind the scenes look at the creation of this outstanding show. Top-notch writing, acting and directing defines this gem.
“Belfast” — Shot in black and white, this period piece opens a window in time showing the start of a dark and dangerous chapter for Ireland. Poignant, heartfelt and memorable, this film touts the strength of family.
“Don’t Look Up” — Funny, sad, and right-on-the-nose. This comedy skewers our culture, media, social media and politics as two scientists work tirelessly to warn earth of its imminent destruction. Funny, dark and unforgettable.
“Dune” — One of my favorite directors has successfully tackled a gargantuan adaptation. Stirring, beautiful, compelling and riviting, this film will stand the test of time. . . and space. . . and this only part 1.
“Joe Bell” — This film was all but ignored this award season. Yanking on the heartstrings, this sad, but unforgettable true story is about a father’s undying love for his son as he undertakes a journey of understanding and healing.
“The Last Duel” — This gritty, uncompromising and bloody period piece finds Matt Damon and Ben Afflek once again joining forces as screenwriters. The result is dark, dangerous and ferocious. Great acting, writing and cinematography.
“Mass” — This film is structured and unfolds like a stage play as two couples meet to talk. One couple’s son killed the others’ in a mass shooting. Obviously, sad, but also fascinating and thought-provoking. Beautiful writing prevents this film from getting mired in politics. Instead it focuses on the victimization of both couples.
“The Power of the Dog” — Beautiful and tragic, this western follows two brothers in 1925 Montana, a time of transition for the country and these two men. Gorgeous filming, directing, acting and writing makes this a sure bet, add a suitable twist and you have a must see.
“The Rescue” — This documentary follows the efforts to rescue twelve boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. The processes, the plans, the immense human effort and risk undertaken is staggering as is the final solution. Trust me, you’ll be captured by this story.
“Small Engine Repair” — Another film that has been overlooked, but is absolutely worthy of your time. This is a film about daughters. It begins as one story and is flipped flawlessly into another story. Great writing, fantastic characters, but the acting performances make this film what it is – a top ten film.
“Antlers,” “A Quiet Place Part II,” “The Card Counter,” “Cruella,” “Cyrano,” “The Dig,” “Finch,” “Free Guy,” “The Green Knight,” “King Richard,” “Last Night In Soho,” “The Lost Leonardo,” “The Map Of Tiny Perfect Things,” “The Mitchells vs. The Machines,” “Pig,” “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bordain,” “The Sparks Brothers,” “Spencer,” “Storm Lake,” “The Tender Bar,” “West Side Story.”
Lynn’s Top Ten: (Alphabetical)
“Being the Ricardos” – Smartly written and well-acted, this intimate portrait shows what a trailblazer Lucille Ball was, how women in showbiz were treated in the 1950s, what a visionary producer and electric entertainer Desi Arnaz was, and how tempestuous their professional and personal relationships were. Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J.K. Simmons, and Nina Arianda rise to the challenge of portraying the indelible quartet behind a landmark TV sitcom. Writer-director Aaron Sorkin took three real major crises and compressed them into a fictional time frame that is absorbing and insightful. (Streaming on Amazon Prime).
“Belfast” – Dramatically charged and filled with gentle humor, writer-director Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical account is of his early childhood in Northern Ireland when “The Troubles” began in the summer of 1969. Through the eyes of a child – an unaffected, lovable Jude Hill as Buddy, Branagh shows how being exposed to turbulence changes your life forever. This warm reflection about family and community is elevated by a pitch-perfect ensemble (Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds are particularly poignant as the grandparents), evocative black-and-white cinematography, and a score by Van Morrison. (In theaters and video on demand).
“CODA” – A touching coming of age story earns its way into our hearts because it resonates and amplifies a conventional dynamic through a different perspective. Writer-director Sian Heder has presented the challenges of deaf adults with compassion and accuracy. It’s impossible not to be moved by Emilia Jones’ breakout performance as a Child of Deaf Adults, who is the only hearing person in her family, and deaf actors Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur, who display warmth and humor as her parents. Eugenio Derbez is strong as the no-nonsense choir director while deaf actor Daniel Durant is winning as big brother Leo. (Streaming on Apple TV+)
“The Crime of the Century” – Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, who also wrote and narrated this hard-hitting two-part documentary, exposes the truth on the current epidemic in an urgent, blunt way. He takes a sobering look at America’s opioid crisis – the first part is on oxycodone and the second part is on fentanyl – and every minute is riveting. Since 2000, 500,000 Americans have died of drug overdoses. Exhaustively researched, this expansive work traces the origins and evolution of one of the biggest public health tragedies of our time. (Streaming on HBO Max).
“The Dig” – Watching people dig in the dirt is a richly textured, never-dull historical drama rooted in facts and steeped in human nature. In 1938, a 6th century Anglo-Saxon ship is discovered underground on a widow’s property in Suffolk, the largest archeological find ever in England, which provokes museum officials and university archeologists to fight over it. A riveting book adaptation endears because of the mutual respect that develops between landowner Edith Pretty (a terrific Carey Mulligan) and modest working-class excavator Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes, in one of his best performances). (Streaming on Netflix)
“No Time to Die” – This 25th entry in the franchise is everything you want in a Bond movie. Class-act Daniel Craig’s swan song is a super-spy thrill ride elevated by director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s keen eye and flair for assembling dynamic action sequences. Globe-trotting camera work and assertive women (Ana de Armas, Lashana Lynch and Lea Seydoux) dazzle in this slick yet gritty adventure, with screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge providing a refreshing perspective on the male patriarchy. (Available on video on demand and DVD/Blu-ray).
“The Power of the Dog” – A sly study of male personalities in the early 20th century American frontier known for its rigid definition of masculinity, this suspenseful western is confidently executed and artfully acted (Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee). As trailblazing writer-director Jane Campion shifts between darkness and light, the intent comes into sharper focus, but she keeps us guessing as a sense of unease grows. A slow burn with a measured pace, nuanced performances lead to a knockout payoff. The clues were there all along.
“Tick, Tick…Boom!” –Like the gone-too-soon composer Jonathan Larson himself, this shimmering origin story appeals to the dreamer in all of us. One of Broadway’s game-changers, the legendary creator of “Rent” is brought vividly to life by fellow game-changer and first-time movie director Lin-Manuel Miranda. Featuring a passionate performance from revelatory Andrew Garfield, who depicts how Larson’s unique voice evolved as he dealt with doubt and anxiety, this ambitious work celebrates vision and drive. (Streaming on Netflix).
“The Tragedy of Macbeth” – Written in 1606, William Shakespeare’s epic tragedy has undergone countless interpretations. Singular writer-director Joel Coen has stripped it down to essentials for a lean, mean retelling of “the Scottish play,” a frantic, eerie dreamlike vision of how power warps perceptions, and how reactions can fuel fear and madness. It’s a masterpiece of style – austere scenic design with sharp angles, brilliant black-and-white cinematography of hallucinatory shadows, not to mention acting titans Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand as lord and lady. (Streaming on Apple TV+ on Jan. 14 and in theaters currently).
“West Side Story” – Director Steven Spielberg has made smart choices in finessing the classic 1957 Broadway musical for a new generation while honoring the original 1961 Oscar-winning film. Brimming with vitality and seamlessly integrated breathtaking songs, the remake’s vintage look and teeming street life stand out. Tony Kushner’s grittier script expanded the backstories, made the relationships more intimate and urgent. Rita Moreno anchors this re-imagined version while young performers Rachel Zegler, Ariana Debose, Mike Faist and David Alvarez soar. (In theaters).
“C’mon C’mon,” “Flee,” “Free Guy,” “A Hero,” “House Of Gucci,” “In the Heights,” “The Last Duel,” “Last Night in Soho,” “Luca,” “Mass,” “The Mitchells vs. The Machines,” “Pig,” “A Quiet Place Part II,” “Summer of Soul,” “The Sparks Brothers,” “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street,” “The Tender Bar,” “Test Pattern,” “Tina,” “Val,” “We Are the Thousand.”