What’s a film that you loved but everyone else seemed to hate?
When you cover films at festivals and after premieres – i.e., when you’re part of the very first wave of reaction – you typically don’t know how anyone else is going to feel about them, beyond the general mood in the room during the screening. So there are often surprises when everyone hits publish.
Four years on, I remain astonished that James Gray’s The Lost City of Z wasn’t received as the masterpiece it so obviously is – though I should add it was by no means hated. David Robert Mitchell's Under the Silver Lake was widely hated, though it was one of my favourite films of last year: a modern-day Los Angeles noir that was exactly as stylish and bamboozling as LA noir should be, and also skewered a certain contemporary masculine neurosis – a kind of refusal to accept the world was not built for the benefit of young men with time on their hands – that no other film has yet managed to put its finger on.
The director I usually end up out on a limb for is Michael Bay, of Transformers and Bad Boys renown, whose trashy maximalist aesthetic captures something essential about our times in a way no other filmmaker’s work does.
If you want to understand contemporary America, watch Pain & Gain. Also, I once heard from someone who worked on Transformers 5 that when they were shooting on location at Stonehenge, Bay told his crew “We’re going to put this place on the map.” You have to respect that.
Have you ever walked out of a film?
Occasionally, you have to – though never for reasons of taste or enjoyment. At festivals, when two or more potentially interesting titles overlap, you sometimes have to bail on the first if it doesn’t turn out to be particularly worth covering, then sprint to the queue for the other and hope you made the right choice. But of course I’d never review something I hadn’t seen all the way through.
What should our readers make time to watch right now, that they might not have seen?
My big hope at the moment is that the success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, after its Best Picture Oscar win, will coax more cinema-goers into subtitled films. Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire is essential – and a great clothes film, though perhaps not so much for men, as we barely figure in it.
Uncut Gems, from New York's Safdie brothers, landed on Netflix a few weeks ago and for me is one of the great films of the last ten years: it also contains the best performance of Adam Sandler’s career, even surpassing Punch-Drunk Love.
The elusive French director Leos Carax has a new film out this year, which makes it the perfect time to catch up with his Holy Motors from 2012, one of my go-to recommendations for something off the beaten path (and again, one of the best films of the 2010s.) And if you’re a Drake’s fan, you obviously can’t go wrong with Phantom Thread.