Best Director

[7.0] Guillermo del Toro serves up a fantasy love story set in the 1960s in which a mute janitor at a top-secret research facility falls in love with… well, a fish man. Sally Hawkins plays the janitor and Doug Jones (a Del Toro regular) plays the fish. Hawkins is endearing and Jones is always reliable, but the supporting players outshine them here. Richard Jenkins is great …

[8.0] Oliver Stone’s Platoon was one of the first major motion pictures to deal with the Vietnam war. Charlie Sheen stars as an infantry volunteer who finds himself in a moral quandry, torn between two sergeants of differing philosophies. Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe give solid, Oscar-nominated performances as the two sergeants, but it’s the director’s voice that comes through most strikingly in Platoon. As …

[7.0] Colin Firth plays the stuttering King George VI, who never wanted to be king for fear of his speech impediment bringing shame to him and his family. The King’s Speech focuses on the antagonistic relationship between the king and his therapist, Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, and culminates in a live radio speech the King gives on the eve of Britain’s declaration of …

[8.0] Dustin Hoffman plays Ben Braddock, an aimless college graduate who stumbles into an affair with the older Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) before falling in love with a girl his own age… Mrs. Robinson’s daughter. The Graduate was groundbreaking for its provocative subject matter and sophisticated approach to comedy. Mike Nichols’ elegant, inventive direction earned him an Oscar, while Hoffman and Bancroft were nominated for …

[7.0] Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days, Near Dark) won the Oscar for directing this suspense thriller about three soldiers who disarm bombs in Iraq. The movie also won Best Picture, maybe just because nothing better came out during the year (except the REAL best picture, District 9, but I digress). It’s far from groundbreaking and surprisingly predictable — but it’s a brisk, entertaining flick that hits …

[7.5] Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly are at the top of their game in A Beautiful Mind, Ron Howard’s Oscar-winning biopic about John Nash, the brilliant but haunted mathematician who overcame schizophrenia and received the Nobel Prize. These are the best performances I’ve seen from Crowe and Connelly — their relationship is the glue that holds the film together. The first two-thirds of the movie …

[7.5] Close-knit friends from a mining community share a harrowing experience during their tour of duty in Vietnam. Michael Cimino’s three-hour long film focuses primarily on the aftermath of the ordeal, now one of the most famous scenes in movie history, a deadly game of Russian roulette forced upon prisoners at a POW camp. Robert DeNiro plays the most level-headed friend, who tries to help …

[7.0] An unusual sequel of sorts, The Godfather Part II spends equal time in the past and the present, exploring the early life of Vito Corleone (with Robert DeNiro taking over the mantle from Marlon Brando) while also following the continuing story of Vito’s son Michael (Al Pacino reprises his role). Thematically and emotionally, the movie plays like a long and redundant epilogue to the first …

[7.0] In colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness has an ongoing affair with a big game hunter. On one hand, Sydney Pollacks’ Oscar-winning best picture is long and subdued. But on the other hand, it does a great job transporting you to another time and place. The wildlife, cinematography, and music score (another fine work from John Barry) will whisk you away whether you want whisked or …

[8.5] Hot off his Best Director Oscar for Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu delivers another astonishing directorial effort. The Revenant is shot entirely outdoors with available lighting, capturing the story of an 1820s fur trader (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is viciously mauled by a bear and left for dead by a traitorous fellow trader (Tom Hardy). DiCaprio and Hardy are both equally up to the task here, …

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