Burn After Reading

No one loves idiots more.

The Coen brothers delight in concocting tales about people who think they know more than they do, morons who stumble in and out of danger, often ending up prematurely erased.

This pitch-dark comedy, while not on the top tier of their filmography, has some huge laugh-out-loud moments.

Especially from Brad Pitt as a man so remarkably stupid you expect him to forget how to breath at times.

From the mystery project George Clooney is building in his basement, to Frances McDormand’s letting the CIA buy her off with plastic surgery, this is primo tomfoolery.

 

Nomadland

“I’ll see you down the road.”

There’s at least one funeral in Chloé Zhao’s lyrical road trip, but that statement captures the quiet beauty on display.

People come, and people go, some drifting down the road out of necessity, and some out of something deep in their souls which won’t allow them to linger long.

Whether it’s a day or years, they’ll cross paths again. At least that’s their hope.

Surrounded by a cast of largely amateurs, Frances McDormand is the battered heart and soul of our journey.

The road heals, and it replenishes. And that’s all you can ask.

Moonrise Kingdom

True love will set you free.

Well, as long you’re fast enough to stay one step ahead of the posse, that is.

A pair of gob-smacked young’uns flee their “repressive” lives, setting off a whimsical chase as their parents, Scoutmasters, and the authorities try and stop them from becoming a ’60s version of Romeo and Juliet.

Writer/director Wes Anderson is different things to different people.

For some, his twee films are like fingernails on a chalkboard. For others, like me, they’re manna falling on an often-blighted movie landscape.

I get the antipathy, but I refuse to wallow in it.

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Hell hath no fury like Frances McDormand.

The undisputed queen of playing women who will snap you in two, physically or verbally, our national cinematic treasure claimed her second Oscar for this punch to the gut.

Darkly funny in places, but also deadly serious, it tells the tale of a woman who refuses to let her daughter’s unsolved rape and murder be forgotten.

Clashing with local cops, clashing with her ex-husband, clashing with everyone, period — tentative friend or hardened foe — Mildred Hayes is righteous rage personified.

This is McDormand in her wheelhouse, and man, does she ever deliver the goods.

 

Darkman

He owns the night.

Savagely attacked by mobsters, scientist Liam Neeson somehow survives, but with a seriously-scarred face and soul.

Driven by a need for vengeance, he plunges into the seedy underbelly of the city, a cross between Batman and the Phantom of the Opera, running from true love (Frances McDormand) while putting a shiv into crime.

This was director Sam Raimi’s first studio film, and the madcap genius behind the Evil Dead movies shows what he’s capable of, crafting one of the best “superhero” films we’ve seen.

The straight-to-video sequels were largely forgettable, but the original film still rocks.