Doing some major 2016 catch-up:
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Not sure why I watched this. Maybe Zac Efron goodwill from We Are Your Friends. At any rate, this movie is completely useless, wastes some talented actors, and goes way over the top trying to be outrageous.
Never been a huge fan of Jim Jarmusch, but I thought this was excellent. Part of my love was purely on a filmmaking level, in the way it achieved an effect without making a big show of it. I liked its approach to the Adam Driver character, the way it made him a genuinely kind and likable person without making him seem un-human. Driver definitely deserves a lot of credit for this as well. I liked that it never tried to sell Paterson as any kind of a masterful poet, but it didn't sell his average-ness as anything close to a laughing point. I also think the portrayal of the wife character is pretty masterfully handled; the way she has a different career goal almost daily, the way she's ready to spend money that they probably don't need to spend, the way she cooks weird foods that her husband doesn't like, but he'll never let on, and we can understand why...so many other directors and actresses would've mishandled that character.
An important movie because it's such a rare beast: It's a serious look at issues of religious faith, it's about women, and it's for the most part made by women (director, three of the writers, cinematographer, editor). You see movies about men and their faith struggles all the time (just last year, Silence and Hacksaw Ridge), but this one deserves attention for this alone. The movie itself is very good, I think. Similarly to Ida, it deals with a Polish nun (in this case, several), with the devastation of World War II still in the background. It even features Agata Kulesza. I'm going to be sketchy on plot specifics, because I do think it will play better if you go in fairly fresh--and I do hope some people take a chance on this; it's on DVD and streaming on Amazon Prime--but essentially it plays out the question of how people of religious faith react when they face something so evil and traumatizing that it shakes their world off its axis. If the movie doesn't exactly give a quick or easy answer to that question, it's because the answer looks different for each person.
Love & Friendship
I'm a big Whit Stillman fan, and as with most of his movies, I definitely feel I need to see this again before I give a solid verdict. Stillman gets a lot of credit for dialogue, but I think he deserves mention for his attention to detail. I loved being in this world though, much more than I usually do with Austen adaptations, and the ensemble was top-to-bottom excellent.
Not going to be go-to Spielberg, but then again fantasy-land Spielberg is never my favorite mode of his (well, except A.I., but that's a very dark fantasy). To me Spielberg's strengths, especially in his most recent films, is in character interactions; when I think of War Horse, I think of that brief interaction between Jeremy Irvine and Niels Arestrup near the end; with Bridge of Spies, it's those scenes between Hanks and Rylance; with Lincoln, it's any number of scenes, but a more obscure scene that stands out is Daniel Day-Lewis and David Warshofsky, where Lincoln is trying to convince him to vote for the amendment, and Warshofsky ultimately stumbles over the line "I am a prejudiced man". You don't get as many of thost scenes in a movie like this, but when you do get Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill together, the movie is much more compelling than it is in those scenes where it's about giants fighting and such. There are plenty of great moments, and Spielberg builds a world in a way that few other filmmakers even approach. Rylance is excellent; if people complain all the time about Andy Serkis not getting nominated for this or that motion capture performance, they really should've said something about Rylance (although I know it's not motion capture in exactly the same way that Gollum is, it's still visual-effects enhanced).
The Childhood of a Leader
If you look at this on a pure plot level, it's absurd. I'll grant that. If you take out the bookends, which show the protagonist as a future Fascist leader of some sort, you've essentially just got an evil child movie, which is what the movie essentially is. The child is born to an American father and French mother; the father is a diplomat in France hammering out some of the negotiations that would help create the Treaty of Versailles. The symbolism is pretty thick then: America and France are giving birth to a Fascist brute, just as the Allies (which included America and France) contributed to the birth of Fascism with their unduly harsh terms of surrender at Versailles. Of course history is complex than that, but this movie isn't necessarily claiming to have all the answers. But let's throw plot aside for a minute, and talk about what's really important: This is, without question, one of the most assured directorial debuts in years. Brady Corbet shows more ambition and creativity here on his first film than many directors do on their tenth film.