Another Day of Life (dirs. Raul de la Fuente, Damian Nenow)
This animated feature, co-produced by Poland, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Hungary, is a beautifully poetic and tragically violent recounting of Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński’s coverage of the war in Angola. Based in fact, it brilliantly uses a touching inner monologue and wild visuals to elevate this far beyond the typical biographical movie.
Bombshell (dir. Jay Roach)
While The Loudest Voice limited series on TV covered much of the Fox News meltdown, this feature is scintillating, thanks in large part to Charles Rudolph’s excellent script. It’s also a bounty for actresses; Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie are eminently watchable, but so are the wonderful supporting players and, of course, John Lithgow as Fox News head and serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes.
1917 (dir. Sam Mendes)
This will prove to be one of the greatest war movies ever made, and not just because of Mendes’s breathtaking opening hour continuous shot. George Mackay and Dean-Charles Chapman as the two British soldiers entrusted with getting a crucial message across German-occupied lines in France are heroic, not only in the story but for the agonizing stunts they go through, including being shot at while walking a bridge rail and nearly being buried alive by a collapsing underground complex.
The Great Hack (dirs. Jehane Noujain, Karim Amer)
Co-directors Noujain and Amer (The Square, Startup.com) were following Cambridge Analytica’s Brittany Kaiser when the scandal involving Facebook, the Trump campaign and Kaiser’s former bosses exploded onto world headlines. Covering the attempts to unfairly, solely blame her, with perspective from the New School’s David Carroll and British investigative journalist Carol Cadwalladr, makes this a rare doc that is as thrilling as a carefully honed suspense script.
Where’s My Roy Cohn? (dir. Matt Tyrnauer)
Most people who are aware of the villainous Cohn think of his relationship to the McCarthy hearings, which is well explored in this shocking doc. But it is Cohn’s coaching of one Donald Trump that explains a lot about where we are today. And Tyrnauer also discovered that Cohn’s buddy Ronald Reagan, who ignored the HIV-AIDS pandemic, personally got Cohn placed into a Florida experimental treatment center, jumping the line of dying AIDS patients. An exceedingly important historical document.
Yesterday (dir. Danny Boyle)
When was the last time you saw a good British speculative science fiction romance, anyway? Yesterday works even if you are not crazy about The Beatles, who no one has heard of in an alternate world. Richard Curtis is a master in rom-coms and his script is constantly surprising, led by the hilarious Himesh Patel and the object of his affection, the bubbly Lily James. It is a rare romantic comedy that defies one’s expectations all the way to its end and Boyle and Curtis deserve their just desserts for this effervescent confection.
The Current War (dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)
While exploring the history of Edison and Westinghouse battling over who would control the use of electricity as a public utility, this gorgeously lensed film also brings in one of history’s most poorly treated geniuses, Nikola Tesla. Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Gomez-Rejon’s sumptuous direction, helped by d.p. Chung-hoon Chung and production designer Jan Roelfs, all contribute to this feast for the eyes as well as the mind.
Luce (dir. Julius Onah)
A tremendous indie overlooked by many, Luce, written with dramatic flair by J.C. Lee from his play, has two parents (Naomi Watts, Tim Roth) forced to confront the fact that the black child they adopted in Africa, in addition to being brilliant and well-liked, may be hiding a venomous reaction to his privileged life. Octavia Spencer also gets to burn up the screen as does Kelvin Harrison, Jr. as the titular character.
Mike Wallace Is Here (dir. Avi Belkin)
The relentless, no-nonsense investigative journalist from TV’s 60 Minutes is shown to have started out as something quite different, in this eye-opening documentary. Wallace was a pitchman for an absurd collection of products for commercials. By the time the interviewer is interviewed, we learn that Wallace, while opening up some of the most famous people in the world, has some skeletons in his own closet.
Velvet Buzzsaw (dir. Dan Gilroy)
This writer has no affinity for horror films, except when writer-director Gilroy (Nightcrawlers) works the bloodshed into a black comedy/satire of the art world and it soulless obsession with commerce over identifiable craft. Gilroy wisely teams up with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, again, with welcome turns by Toni Collette and John Malkovich. Gilroy’s visual sense and wickedly amusing dialogue make this one of the few horror films I will ever recommend to anyone.
Worthy competitors: Under the Silver Lake, Cold Case Hammarskjold, Diego Maradona, Ask Dr. Ruth, Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, The Apollo, Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer, Framing John DeLorean.