Uneasy Rider

Lorey Sebastian/Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Hostiles (2018)

Did the makers of “Hostiles” realize they were creating something that nails the zeitgeist? One hopes so, because as an example of the current reckoning and all the ways in which it is problematic, “Hostiles” is a towering achievement. As a film, it’s fine, but its importance lies in the current moment.

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Gay to December

Sayombhu Mukdeeprom/Sony Pictures Classics

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

This is a very good movie designed for people who are helpless against the appeal of Armie Hammer — which, let’s face it, is most of us. Do we have another movie star handsome and suave enough to evoke the Hollywood stars of old? Most movies are built around men either dull to look at or dull to be around, who are not willing to grin and shrug and casually wander where their curiosity leads them so that you’re compelled to follow.

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The Death of One Man Is a Comedy

Nicola Dove/Festival du Film Britannique de Dinard

The Death of Stalin (2017)

I once asked a Russian colleague why all Russian movies were so depressing; he laughed at me and said, “Look at the history!” I said there must be some amusing Russian movies, and he laughed again and said they were so complicated and culture-specific they were impossible for a foreigner to understand. Five minutes’ rigorous research on Wikipedia informs me that the circumstances of “The Death of Stalin” are broadly historically accurate. It is as yet unclear as to whether that will make me feel better.

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Family Ties in Knots

Kris Dewitte/61st BFI London Film Festival

Cargo (2017)

This is a movie about nets. Literal nets as the ones on the fishing boat that is the family’s livelihood, but also the nets of family obligations, community ties and general humanity. Does the movie hold up to the strength of its metaphor? Not quite.

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L.A. Confidante

61st BFI London Film Festival

Gemini (2017)

You don’t often see movies named after a tattoo. It’s even more rare to see a movie about the power dynamics within a female friendship. “Gemini” is about a female friendship up against the truest test: who you call when you need to move a body.

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Fostering Care

Lucia Faraig/61st BFI London Film Festival

Summer 1993 (2017)

They say never work with children or animals, which is great advice for the theater and terrible advice for film. Children’s natural affinity for pretending, their trusting nature and an unquestioning ability to accept their circumstances make them naturals in front of the camera. First-time director Carla Simón Pipó has made something amazing here, since her two main actresses are six and three and give heartbreaking, unaffected performances. The main question is why.

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Mistress of Unceremonies

Cinema Guild

On the Beach at Night Alone (2017)

What the world needs now is not another movie about a young actress upset over the end of her relationship with a much older movie director. It’s just not. It’s not “On the Beach at Night Alone’s” fault that it’s going to be tanked by the zeitgeist, but it’s possibly also for the best.

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Child Nonsupport

Anna Matveeva/Sony Pictures Classics

Loveless (2017)

As a metaphor, “Loveless” is as subtle as an anvil. As an examination of a very ordinary way lives can be ruined, it’s spectacular and devastating. It’s somehow both extremely kind and extremely cruel, although often the kindness is given to the people who need it the least. And it all hangs on one moment in a restaurant – more on which later.

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Taking Back the Night

61st BFI London Film Festival

Beauty and the Dogs (2017)

Two young women are jammed together in a toilet stall. Mariam (Mariam Al Ferjani) has ripped her dress; her roommate has brought a blue one for her to borrow. She gets changed; they fix their makeup and take some selfies after Mariam dodges a call from her father. They enter a club for a private party, which is in a beachfront hotel; and after a little welcome chat from someone at their university get down to dancing. There’s a cute guy. Mariam gets to talking to him and they go outside together.

This meet-cute-gone-wrong between Mariam and the cute guy (Ghanem Zrelli), whose name turns out to be Youssef, is depicted in nine single steadicam shots lasting around 11 minutes each. The technical skill it must have taken to put these shots together is worn extremely lightly. The pacing is not always great, but that gives us some breathing room during the worst night of Mariam’s life. Because once she left the hotel, she became the victim of a crime.

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Time to Die

Stephen Vaughan/Warner Brothers Pictures

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

At its heart, the story of the blade runner demonstrates the importance of human feeling over machines. The blurred line of this story (as in the first installment, released in 1982 and again in 1992 in a director’s cut) is the problem that comes when the machines are designed to have human feelings, too. It’s unusual to see a movie exploring what it means to have a body. The failure of “Blade Runner 2049” is how it discriminates between men and women, and how that discrimination surpasses the distinction between human and machine. That failure leaves you with no hope for the future.

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