10. Phantom Thread
Anderson paints a play of power struggles, what it means to be in the driver/passenger seat, and the necessity (or not) of enjoying food and love. And as always, he makes it look so good. Although the high fashion couture is merely the backdrop, he makes every moment of it gorgeous and cinematic. Have we ever been half as interested when watching someone make measurements?
9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
It's about ugly people and the painful or damning ways people seek an outlet for their grief. They don't always get it right, but humans rarely do. McDormand never plays for the audience, and her actions alienate as much as they rouse cheers, which puts her on even keel with Sam Rockwell's flawed, racist police officer -- a delicate tightrope walk of a caricature, which Rockwell does to aplomb. Coming from a playwright, Three Billboards sometimes plays better as an arena for bitter wit and caustic words, but there's a marvel at experiencing it in the hands of this talented cast.
Nolan gets the experience of World War II better than anyone else (although I'll have to rewatch Spielberg to stand by that statement), and Dunkirk is a barrage of sound, suffocating space and water, and hopelessness. He makes us understand that the war is littered with heroes like the Mark Rylances and the Tom Hardys, but mostly of people that were simply trying to live through it. And in the face of that, war is an equalizer, like a shockwave of soldiers dropping down to the sand simultaneously.
Nolan is probably the best director at getting audiences to shift to one side, whether it's the hallway scene in Inception, the space shuttle scene in Interstellar, or the dogfight scenes here. I still feel queasy thinking about the twists in air combined with the all-too-real movements by sea. The time-stitching of narratives on land, sea, and air was masterful, and anxiously compounded by the ticking time in Hans Zimmer's score.
You have to wonder though, whether Nolan decided somewhere along the line that Hardy emotes better through his eyes and behind a mask.
7. Baby Driver
The precise choreography of the film down to just the outright fun of it -- Baby using samples of conversations to make song clips, for one -- makes it a joie de film vivre. It's great to see Wright move on from the Cornetto trilogy to darker, more modulated fare, and still make the genre sing.
6. The Beguiled
It's a huge range of talent here, from Elle Fanning to Kirsten Dunst, all who use Farrell as a foil for their own desires. But I have to say that I love this movie because of the theatricality of it. Coppola feels no need to show us the gore and exhibitionist violence that most films these days enthralls in (for the reality of it?). The manse is shrouded with a sweltering fog, and we never see any other men or soldiers except at a distance. But the sheer theater of the first and last supper as they reflect and unfold from each other is a downright delight.
Top five to follow next week!