Movies to See Right Now

Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand in THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

The Oscar nominations are out, and I recommend some (not all) of the nominated films. I’ve also written If I Picked the Oscars – before the nominations were announced. The best movies of the year are in theaters right now, and here are the very best:

  • Steven Spielberg’s docudrama on the Pentagon Papers, The Post, is both a riveting thriller and an astonishingly insightful portrait of Katharine Graham by Meryl Streep. It’s one of the best movies of the year – and one of the most important. Also see my notes on historical figures in The Post.
  • Pixar’s Coco is a moving and authentic dive into Mexican culture, and it’s visually spectacular.
  • The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s imaginative, operatic inter-species romance may become the most-remembered film of 2017.
  • Lady Bird , an entirely fresh coming of age comedy that explores the mother-daughter relationship – an impressive debut for Greta Gerwig as a writer and director.
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a powerful combination of raw emotion and dark hilarity with an acting tour de force from Frances McDormand and a slew of great actors.
  • I, Tonya is a marvelously entertaining movie, filled with wicked wit and sympathetic social comment.
  • Phantom Thread, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, is Paul Thomas Anderson’s rapturously beautiful story of a strong-willed man and two equally strong-willed women; unexpectedly witty.
  • The Florida Project is Sean Baker’s remarkably authentic and evocative glimpse into the lives of children in poverty, full of the exuberance of childhood.
  • Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman brings alive Winston Churchill in an overlooked historical moment – when it looked like Hitler was going to win WW II.

Don’t forget what is sure to be one of the best Bay Area cinema experiences of 2018 – the Noir City festival of film noir in San Francisco.

Here’s the rest of my Best Movies of 2017 – So Far. Most of the ones from earlier this year are available on video.

Other current choices:

  • The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s hilarious docucomedy about the making of one of the most unintentionally funny movies of all time.
  • Diane Kruger’s award-wining performance in the German thriller In the Fade.
  • The Final Year, a wistful inside documentary about the Obama Admistration’s foreign policy during his last year.
  • The ambitious satire The Square.
  • Call Me By Your Name is an extraordinarily beautiful story of sexual awakening set in a luscious Italian summer, but I didn’t buy the impossibly cool parents or the two pop ballad musical interludes.
  • Murder on the Orient Express is a moderately entertaining lark.
  • Novitiate, the tediously grim story of a seeker looking for spiritual love and sacrifice, with a sadistic abbess delivering too much of the latter.

My DVD/Stream of the Week are recent Oscar winners for Best Documentary: Amy, Searching for Sugar Man and Undefeated. Follow the link for their availability on DVD and streaming platforms.

On January 28, Turner Classic Movies presents All the King’s Men, one of the best political movies of all time, from the novel based on the saga of Huey Long. Broderick Crawford stars as Willie Stark, the fictionalized Kingfish. Watch for the brilliant, Oscar-winning supporting performance by Mercedes McCambridge. (Note: this is the 1949 version, NOT the lousy 2006 Sean Penn remake.)

Broderick Crawford, John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge in ALL THE KING’S MEN
Broderick Crawford in ALL THE KING’S MEN

And on January 31, Turner Classic Movies plays Angel Face, the 1953 film noir from director Otto Preminger, This movie has it all, the droopy-eyed magnetism of Robert Mitchum, the fragile beauty of Jean Simmons, and (along with They Won’t Believe Me) the most shocking ending in film noir.

Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum in ANGEL FACE

Movies to See Right Now

David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. (center back) in SELMA
David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. (center back) in SELMA

The best films in theaters right now are no secret – most are Oscar-nominated:

  • Clint Eastwood’s thoughtful and compelling American Sniper, with harrowing action and a career-best performance from Bradley Cooper.
  • The inspiring Selma, well-crafted and gripping throughout (but with an unfortunate historical depiction of LBJ).
  • The Belgian drama Two Days, One Night with Marion Cotillard, which explores the limits of emotional endurance.
  • The cinematically important and very funny Birdman. You can still find Birdman, but you may have to look around a bit. It has justifiably garnered several Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture.
  • Reese Witherspoon is superb in the Fight Your Demons drama Wild, and Laura Dern may be even better.
  • The Theory of Everything is a successful, audience-friendly biopic of both Mr. AND Mrs. Genius.
  • The Imitation Game – the riveting true story about the guy who invented the computer and defeated the Nazis and was then hounded for his homosexuality.
  • I was underwhelmed by the brooding drama A Most Violent Year – well-acted and a superb sense of time and place (NYC in 1981) but not gripping enough to thrill.

My DVD/Stream of the week is last year’s best Hollywood movie, the psychological thriller Gone Girl, with a star-making performance by Rosamund Pike. It’s now available on DVD from Netflix and streaming on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, Xbox Video and Flixster.

It’s time for Turner Classic Movies’ annual 31 Days of Oscar – a glorious month of Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning films on TCM. This week, I am highlighting:

  • The Great Dictator (February 7): Charlie Chaplin’s hilarious and devastating takedown of a thinly disguised Adolph Hitler – almost two years before the US entered WW II.
  • Laura (February 9): perhaps my favorite thriller from the noir era, with an unforgettable performance by Clifton Webb as a megalomaniac with one vulnerability – the dazzling beauty of Gene Tierney. The musical theme is unforgettable, too.
  • All the King’s Men (February 11): one of the best political movies of all time, from the novel based on the saga of Huey Long . Watch for the brilliant, Oscar-winning supporting performance by Mercedes McCambridge.
  • The Bad Seed (February 13): very bad things are happening – the chill comes from the revelation that the murderous fiend is a child with blonde pigtails.

Movies to See Right Now


The best new movie is Steven Soderbergh’s psychological thriller Side Effects with Rooney Mara, Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones.  In Stand Up Guys, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin play old mobsters gearing up for one last surge of adrenaline. Quartet is a pleasant lark of a geezer comedy with four fine performances. The charmingly funny Warm Bodies has made my list of Zombie Movies for People Who Don’t Like Zombie Movies. The pretty good horror movie Mama (with Jessica Chastain) can send chills down your spine without any slashing or splattering.

Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook are on my list of Best Movies of 2012 and all are nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. The French language drama Amour, also nominated for Best Picture, is a brilliantly made film about the end of life – it’s also an almost unbearable viewing experience.

If, like me, you worship the spaghetti Western, the Quentin Tarantino blockbuster Django Unchained is gloriously pedal-to-the-metal, splattering exploitation. The intelligent drama Rust and Bone is the singular tale of a complicated woman and an uncomplicated man. Ang Lee’s visually stunning fable Life of Pi is an enthralling commentary on story-telling.

Skip the unoriginal mob movie Gangster Squad, which wastes its fine cast. Also pass on the lavish but stupefying all-star Les Miserables, with its multiple endings, each more miserable than the last. The FDR movie Hyde Park on Hudson is a bore. The disaster movie The Impossible is only for audiences that enjoy watching suffering adults and children in peril. I have not seen Movie 43 – it is the most critically reviled movie in a looooong time.

You can read descriptions and view trailers of upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.

My DVD of the week is the underrated 2012 thriller Deadfall.

Turner Classic Movies is celebrating the Oscars with its annual 31 Days of Oscars, filling its broadcast schedule with Academy Award-winning films. In the next week, the especially rich lineup will include Double Indemnity, A Place in the Sun, Seven Days in May, All the King’s Men, Anatomy of a Murder with its great jazz score, On the Waterfront, The Caine Mutiny, Easy Rider, The Last Detail, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and Tootsie.

Movies to See Right Now

Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld, both Oscar-nominated, inTrue Grit

The must see films are still True Grit, The King’s Speech, Black Swan, The Fighter and Another Year. All are on my list of Best Movies of 2010. 127 Hours and Biutiful are also good movies out now. The Illusionist is the wistful and charming animated story of a small time magician who drifts through an ever bleaker array of gigs while helping a waif blossom.

For trailers and other choices, see Movies to See Right Now.

You can see trailers of upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.

My DVD pick is Inception. For my recent DVD choices (including trailers), see DVDs of the Week.

Movies on TV include Blow-Up, The Third Man, All the King’s Men, 8 1/2 and Tom Jones on TCM.

Movies to See This Week

Click here for this week’s recommendations.  Scroll down this blog to watch trailers.  My top recommendations are Toy Story 3, Micmacs, The Secrets in their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos), and Iron Man 2. You can still find The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in theaters.

My top picks on DVD is Stranded: I’ve Come from a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains. The Messenger, Crazy Heart and Broken Embraces (Abrazos Rotos) are also good choices on DVD.

Monkey Business, All The King’s Men, The 400 Blows and The Shootist are all on TV.

The Shootist