by Rob DiCristino
The Whale (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Babylon (dir. Damien Chazelle)La La Land’s own Damien Chazelle! Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie lead a pack of showbiz rabble-rousers scrambling to survive the industry’s transition to talkies with their star power, marriages, and livers intact. Chazelle dollies and whip-pans his way through the melodrama with all the glossy verve we’ve come to expect, and his cast (including Diego Calva as a production assistant-turned-development executive and Samara Weaving as a starlet — yes, Weaving and Robbie in the same movie) bring the noise as manic-depressive caricatures living too boldly to live long. It all goes precisely as badly for them as you’d expect, but as Chazelle’s thesis builds to its audacious, almost arrogant conclusion, he reaffirms the transcendent power of cinema and those who create it. Steven Spielberg does this in one camera move in The Fabelmans, of course, but Chazelle doesn’t exactly do subtlety, does he?
Empire of Light (dir. Sam Mendes)
After Yang (dir. Kogonata)Ex Machina and Blade Runner: 2049. Kogonata’s film is a patient and often uncomfortable investigation of who we love and — more importantly — why.
I Love My Dad (dir. James Morosini)