William is a strong character on his own, but he is also a metaphor for America’s struggle to overcome its grimmest failures and to break free from cycles of violence. Schrader understands that those are nigh-impossible tasks; still, he shows the value in trying nonetheless.
Cry Macho is almost like a Western paced at half speed, told with the deliberateness demanded by a 91-year-old movie star. That just helps underline its eulogistic narrative, one in which Mike is already a man out of time, and the more energetic Rafael tries to encourage him to enjoy the last act of his life rather than shuffle through it.
By the end of this new Candyman, little personal investment remains for the audience, just a miasma of provocative thoughts failing to cohere into something greater. The film has enough visual panache to make it an involving watch, but it struggles to live up to the audaciousness of its deeper ideas.
Pig is a blend of absurd cooking melodrama, jokey revenge thriller, and allegory, and Cage is the connective tissue holding all those ridiculous elements together. He may have abandoned the brightest spotlight, but he’s lost none of his edge.
Nomadland is a work of exploration, and not just across the sprawling American West. Fern is exorcising her darkest demons, which spring from the systemic neglect that has been visited on so many Americans in recent years. The odyssey makes Zhao’s film a transfixing mix of reckoning and catharsis.
Howard’s film is nothing more than a sensational snapshot, one that feels even less authentic than many of the think pieces that followed the release of Vance’s book in 2016. To Hollywood, J. D. is just another cookie-cutter hero, one who’s defeated the haziest of villains—adversity itself.
The Nest is one of the best films of the year: Though it’s set in the past, it’s about the feeling of one’s own home turning against you when the world outside feels all the more hostile—a theme that resonates far beyond its time period.