Archive | December, 2019

Top 20 Films of the 2010s–#8

22 Dec

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my countdown of my top 20 favorite films of the decade, here’s a recap: 20) Mad Max: Fury Road, 19) Fruitvale Station, 18) Hugo, 17) Parasite, 16) Spotlight, 15) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 14) Midnight Special, 13) Take Shelter, 12) The Spectacular Now, 11) The Social Network, 10) Frances Ha, 9) Get Out

8) GRAVITY (2013)

“I hate space.” Yeah, I’m not too fond of it either.

Can you imagine being stranded in SPACE? I try to. Completely lost in empty oblivion with no hope of rescue or resource? It’s terrifying to process. I can’t imagine I’d be as lucky as Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) in Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity”–but it’s a movie, and if you don’t go along on this extremely treacherous journey for her to find her way back down to Earth, you’re not going to like the movie as much as you appreciate the utterly convincing visual effects. And you’re not going to root for her to try something that may be totally improbable in order to get out of her horrible situation.

Well, I did, and I loved “Gravity” as a result.

For about the first hour in this hour-and-a-half long survival flick (in SPACE), “Gravity” works wonderfully as an experience–at one point, Cuaron even puts us in the eyes (and helmet) of Stone as she helplessly wanders through space uncontrollably and we wish for something–ANYTHING–to stop her or slow her down. Bullock’s acting is always convincing, and we really feel her anxiety and terror as it overflows through this horrible ordeal and she tries to figure out what to do next in order to stay alive. And probably the most important factor of it all–it FEELS real. If you had told me this was literally, physically filmed entirely on location in space, I would have believed you. (I would’ve had SO many questions, but I would’ve been gullible enough to consider it.)

I saw this film twice on the biggest screen with the greatest sound system (not IMAX, but close enough)–it’s the best way to see it, to say the least.

The final half-hour or so is more “movie” than “experience,” as Stone ultimately decides to try something outrageous to bring herself back home in order to fulfill a redemptive character arc set up before and continue living a new life if she survives this whole thing. But it’s still a gripping movie with emotional complexity. I wanted her to keep going, not give up, and be able to come back as a brand new person.

People will complain that “Gravity” works less on the small screen. Maybe it does. But I still watch it (on a regular TV screen) every now and again, and the effect isn’t COMPLETELY lost on me. I can still admire the marvelous effects and get into the story/experience at least almost as much as I did on the big screen.

“Gravity” is a unique film experience that can be enjoyed no matter how big or how small the screen it displays upon.

Top 20 Films of the 2010s–#9

20 Dec

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my countdown of my top 20 favorite films of the decade, here’s a recap: 20) Mad Max: Fury Road, 19) Fruitvale Station, 18) Hugo, 17) Parasite, 16) Spotlight, 15) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 14) Midnight Special, 13) Take Shelter, 12) The Spectacular Now, 11) The Social Network, 10) Frances Ha

9) GET OUT (2017)

Jordan Peele’s Get Out…man, do I love this movie!

When I first saw it in a theater in February 2017, I was blown away by this tense, enthralling, thought-provoking, flat-out entertaining allegorical horror film. It was one of the best, most unforgettable moviegoing experiences of my life–sitting in a theater, watching this crazy mystery unfold on the big screen, taking in every setup, wondering impatiently where it was going, wanting to know more, praying that the payoff wouldn’t disappoint, and even at one point whispering to the patron sitting next to me, “I am so close to running out of here screaming if I don’t get some answers right now!” It was that great mixture of uncomfortableness and entertainment that I don’t see much of in movies.

It was my favorite film of 2017, and I even included it in my Top 100 Favorite Movies list. My feelings towards it hasn’t changed in the slightest.

“Get Out” has everything I look for in mainstream entertainment–likable characters, neat atmosphere, social commentary, effective comic relief, and best of all, a feeling of nervousness as I wait on-edge for something you know is bound to happen…but I don’t know what’s going to happen or how or when. That it uses uncomfortable issues such as liberal guilt and jealous racism to craft its story and create a balance of comedy and terror makes for a film that is just brilliantly entertaining while also delivering a subtle social message.

And I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one to recognize its genius, as it since picked up so many accolades, including the Academy Awards (with four nominations, including Best Picture, and winning Best Original Screenplay which I applauded).

I also love to watch the reactions of those who are seeing it for the first time and discussing it with them afterwards. The scene in which our hero Chris (well-played by Daniel Kaluuya, who was nominated for his performance) has a strange encounter with the maid (Betty Gabriel) always delivers a reaction towards everyone I show it to–and even when I watch it again, I get a visceral reaction every time she inches closer to the camera (and Chris…and us): something along the lines of recoiling and exclaiming, “Don’t come near me!” It’s also great to see them absorb the answers to the questions that have been built up for a good chunk of the movie–it’s not what they expect and it’s wonderfully creative in how it’s all handled.

And for that reason, even though the film is almost three years old, I’m still reluctant to go into too much detail about it. I want people who haven’t seen “Get Out” to go into it just like I did and come out of it feeling…is “fulfilled” too strong a word?

I love this movie. I remember calling 2016 a great year for horror films–The Invitation, The VVitch, Ouija: Origin of Evil, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Green Room, Lights Out, and Hush. Little did I know that just a couple months into 2017, I would realize all of those films were just preparing me for the best horror film of the decade.

Top 20 Films of the 2010s–#10

18 Dec

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my countdown of my top 20 favorite films of the decade, here’s a recap: 20) Mad Max: Fury Road, 19) Fruitvale Station, 18) Hugo, 17) Parasite, 16) Spotlight, 15) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 14) Midnight Special, 13) Take Shelter, 12) The Spectacular Now, 11) The Social Network, and we are now at THE TOP 10 FILMS OF THE 2010S!

Let’s begin with yet another film that got better and better each time I saw it (and I’m still seeing it again and again to this day):

10) FRANCES HA (2013)

In my Top-13-of-’13 list representing my favorite films of 2013, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha tied with Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine for the #13 spot. My description: “Similar films aided by great dialogue and convincing acting.” How many times have I seen “Blue Jasmine” since its original release? About two or three. How many times have I seen “Frances Ha”? If I had to guess, I’d say about 30-40.

Why many critics are ashamed to admit when their feelings change towards a certain film is beyond me, but I have to share my absolute love and appreciation for “Frances Ha,” which is now one of my favorite films of the decade.

“Frances Ha” is about a New York aspiring dancer who sets out to accomplish her dreams and the ups and downs that come with it, such as moving from place to place and taking odd jobs along the way…that’s about it. Simple, yet very effective.

(Oh, and there’s a brief trip to Paris too. Not so simple.)

There was a time when writer-director Noah Baumbach’s films sort of tested me. I’m still not 100% clear as to why his 2007 dysfunctional-family dry comedy Margot at the Wedding worked so well for me and yet why I’m indifferent towards arguably his most infamous film “The Squid and the Whale” or why I’m in no hurry to revisit “Greenberg” anytime soon, for example. Sometimes I love his material, and sometimes I don’t think I hate it and maybe I liked it but I wouldn’t necessarily see myself watching it repeatedly in the future. But there was something to “Frances Ha” that I could even notice from the start, so much so that I didn’t mind that (at the time) the only way I could revisit it a year after I first saw it was by buying the Criterion Blu-Ray at Barnes & Noble (albeit at a cheaper price than usual–it was on sale, thank God).

After this, I was able to guess what to expect from his subsequent works (While We’re Young, Mistress America, The Meyerowitz Stories, “Marriage Story”) and still be flabbergasted and yet fascinated enough to revisit them every now and then.

So, what is it about “Frances Ha” that I admire so much?

Well, one thing I noticed upon first viewing is that it wasn’t as shamelessly frank as a lot of indie films were (or still are, for the most part). It was a nice change of pace to be sensitive. Oh, there are still issues present and life in this film is often a pain, but the film doesn’t go out of its way. That makes it all the more easy to care for the character of Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the film with Baumbach) and her ways of dealing with hardships such as loneliness, debt, lack of acceptance, and work confusion, because they’re not presented as depressing but rather seen through a careful eye. In that respect, this film reminded me of some of the best Woody Allen films–maybe that’s why I tied it with “Blue Jasmine” on my 2013 list.

Greta Gerwig is now seen as a superstar, not only as one of our most reliable character actors (in films like Mistress America and 20th Century Women) but also a wonderfully impressive writer-director (Lady Bird, “Little Women”), but back then, she was the “mumblecore queen” trying to find her footing in more film opportunities. So, like a lot of actors who struggled to find the right roles for them (Zoe Kazan, Rashida Jones, Lake Bell, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, among many others), she wrote one for herself–the right role and performance that would show everyone, critics and audiences, what she has to offer as an actor. And she is GREAT as Frances Halliday. She has an odd, offbeat, fun personality that doesn’t hide vulnerability or sweetness. I don’t know if that’s what she’s really like in person, but that usually comes through in her work. She gets to play that persona to further dimensions here–you see a character learning, thinking, reasoning, absorbing, etc. all throughout the film.

And in the end, I just can’t help but hope that Frances finds the happiness she’s pursuing even if it’s not the kind she expected or necessarily “wanted.” (I mean, let’s face it–life always has other plans for us when we think we have our own.) And that’s why the ending, which explains the meaning of the film’s title, affects me so deeply and even brings a little tear to my eye each time I rewatch the film (which is so often–I’m always happy to watch the film, whether on the Criterion Blu-Ray or on Netflix). Frances doesn’t get the very thing she dreamed of, but she does get her life on track by accepting change. And these changes have been ready for her all the time, and it was time she fully realized and accepted them so that she can have something fulfilling in life. And the label that simply reads “Frances Ha” represents this great development in her life, and I can’t help but cry a happy tear for Frances.

She made it.

And so did Greta Gerwig. Everything she does, I’m happy to see. I’ve seen “Frances Ha” over a hundred times now; I’m sure I’ll see it a hundred more times in the future…I’ll even watch it again after publishing this post.

“Ahoy sexy!”

Top 20 Films of the 2010s–#11

17 Dec

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my countdown of my top 20 favorite films of the decade, here’s a recap: 20) Mad Max: Fury Road, 19) Fruitvale Station, 18) Hugo, 17) Parasite, 16) Spotlight, 15) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 14) Midnight Special, 13) Take Shelter, 12) The Spectacular Now

11) THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)

OK, let’s address the elephant in the room first. IS David Fincher’s The Social Network 100% accurate, now that there have been reports long since its release about supposedly way too much creative licensing? Even Mark Zuckerberg, upon whom the film is based, noted one thing captured from the real-life story about his creation of Facebook: the clothing. Ouch…but of course he would say that, especially if he doesn’t want to admit he was (or even still is) what everyone around him proclaimed him to be–an “asshole.”

But whatever. How is “The Social Network” as *a movie?* It’s really damn brilliant.

“The Social Network,” directed by Fincher and written by arguably our finest dialogue writer today (Aaron Sorkin), is based on the creation of Facebook and the lawsuits that followed over who thought of it first and who got the shaft as it expanded. And it makes for a great modern American tragic comedy, almost Shakespearean in the way it portrays backstabbing. I’m not sure if everything (and everyone) portrayed in this film is dead-on accurate, but it strangely makes sense when you consider the different points of view of how everything happened (the film is intersected with future hearing sequences, which help narrate the story).

The script is excellent with informative, witty dialogue that the actors deliver in such a quick manner that is not necessarily “realistic” but always fascinating because it keeps the film going and you know there’s hardly any B.S. in what these people say (or maybe there is and it’s just too quick for me to catch on).

Jesse Eisenberg puts his trademark dry wit to terrific use as Mark Zuckerberg, creating a credible nerd/a-hole trying so hard not to be. Is the film unfair to the real Zuckerberg in showing him like this? Well…maybe, but honestly, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

Critics were praising this film left and right when it came out in the fall of 2010, but when I was among those talking about how great it is, I had a very difficult time convincing my friends about that. They saw it as “the Facebook movie,” nothing they were interested in (which is ironic, considering they lived half of their lives on Facebook). This film is not about Facebook—that’s just on the surface. Beneath the surface is a story about envy, ego, dependability, betrayal, and control. Historical accuracy be damned. Amadeus didn’t need to be totally accurate to get its points across.

Top 20 Films of the 2010s–#12

16 Dec

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my countdown of my top 20 favorite films of the decade, here’s a recap: 20) Mad Max: Fury Road, 19) Fruitvale Station, 18) Hugo, 17) Parasite, 16) Spotlight, 15) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 14) Midnight Special, 13) Take Shelter

12) THE SPECTACULAR NOW (2013)

2013 was a great year for film–I already talked about Fruitvale Station for this list, and there are FOUR other films from that year that will appear somewhere on the remainder of this list, but there’s also “Prisoners,” Inside Llewyn Davis, The World’s End, Frozen, The Way, Way Back, Short Term 12, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, “Stories We Tell,” Mud, “When I Walk,” “Her,” Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Nebraska,” and there was even a new chapter of the Up documentary series released that year.

WOW! And that’s just to name a few!

I’m not going to lie–at the time I had to create a year-end list (which was published not on this blog, but for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette–link here), it was tough for me to pick a #1 choice. I had FOUR options…..FOUR!!

I mean, it’s easy to pick my favorite film of 2013 now that 2013 is long past and I’ve had plenty of time to rewatch these films and single one out as “the best” or “my personal favorite.” But back then, it was tough. I think the reason I chose The Spectacular Now because it was the one of the four that I wasn’t able to see again before making my top-13-of-’13 list (and the one I really wanted to see again).

I don’t know why most film critics are ashamed to admit they’ve rewatched movies they’ve reviewed and had their opinions change even slightly–we can like a film a little more or a little less after seeing it again or a few more times after that. This happens to everybody, not just film reviewers, and we need to be proud to admit that!

Blah blah blah, ramble over (or just beginning). Let’s talk about “The Spectacular Now”…now.

Obviously, this isn’t my #1 favorite film of 2013 anymore (like I said, I still have 4 more 2013 films to talk about amongst the other 11 selections for this decade-end top-20–obviously, there’s a film or two that I’ve learned to like better after subsequent viewings). But it is still on this list nonetheless, because it is still a film that means a lot to me.

When a film truly captures what it’s like to be a teenager in high school, or in a high school romance, it’s something special. Generally, most of us come of age in a major way in our high school days and so, a film that captures certain dilemmas or relationships (either platonic or romantic) can make for a great, effective coming-of-age story, given the right amount of detail in writing and characterization. I can think of many such films that are great examples of such, a lot of which even came out this decade (seriously, I think people are going to look at the 1980s and the 2010s for some truly great high-school movies); another to add to the list is “The Spectacular Now,” a truthful, incredible film about forming a high school senior forming a new relationship with someone he’d never met before, and learning to fully prepare for his own future.

High-school senior Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) lives in “the now.” He’s charismatic, full of himself, and constantly buzzed (he keeps a flask in his pocket and pours it into his soda cup much of the time). He gets dumped by his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) because she wants more than “now”–she wants “tomorrow,” and she can’t have it with Sutter. After drinking his pain away, Sutter is found lying on a random front yard in the suburbs by wallflower classmate Aimee (Shailene Woodley), who wakes him up, thankful that he’s not dead. From there starts an interesting friendship that blossoms into somewhat of a romance (though Aimee is more into it than Sutter is), which then leads Sutter to confront his own issues, starting with meeting up with his father (Kyle Chandler), whom he hasn’t seen since childhood…

The trip to meet Sutter’s father is what makes the film far more than a high-school romantic comedy. Some very serious undertones are developed with this portion of the story, and it’s all the more deep and complex because of it. It shows the kind of person Sutter could become if he’s not careful, and it also shows glances of his former attitude and how he’s not treating his girlfriend the way he should. And so on.

When I showed this film to a friend, the main character of Sutter Keely was a difficult one for him to understand until the very end when he felt empathy for him. That’s what makes him so interesting, and when he gets his development in the final act, you really feel it and it hits you hard. The final speech he gives about his change is one of the most heartbreaking I’ve ever heard in a movie of this sort.

“The Spectacular Now” was directed by James Ponsoldt, who also made the solid dramedy “Smashed” and The End of the Tour (one of my honorable mentions for this list)–something I notice about his best works is that he’s not afraid to let his actors play with their characters and hold our attention for long single takes on-camera; you can sense he communicates well with his talent. The screenplay was adapted from Tim Tharp’s novel of the same name by screenwriting duo Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, who have become very reliable in adapting both YA novels (such as this, The Fault in Our Stars, and Paper Towns) and biographical works (The Disaster Artist, for which they were nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar).

And I’ll say this–I like this film adaptation a lot better than its original source material. My reason as to why has to do with the film’s ending, different from the book. The book’s ending is tragic, yes, but it also made the rest of the book rather pointless and left me kind of empty. But the film’s ending, while ambiguous, gave me a lot more to think about. Where will Sutter end up? Will he truly change for the better? Will he relapse to his old manners? Will he and Aimee get back together? If so, how long will it last? Will it last?

(Fun fact: both actors Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley have their own different opinions as to what happens with Sutter and Aimee after this story ends.)

I love “The Spectacular Now.” I love the acting. I love the dialogue. I love the way the characters relate with each other. I love the story themes. And I love how it makes me feel by the time it’s over. It may not be my favorite film of 2013 any longer, but it will always be one of my favorites of the 2010s.

Top 20 Films of the 2010s–#13

16 Dec

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my countdown of my top 20 favorite films of the decade, here’s a recap: 20) Mad Max: Fury Road, 19) Fruitvale Station, 18) Hugo, 17) Parasite, 16) Spotlight, 15) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 14) Midnight Special…from one Jeff Nichols masterpiece to another, my #13 choice is…

13) TAKE SHELTER (2011)

In the fall of 2011, my family and I drove three hours from small-town Manila (in Northeast Arkansas, whose cinemas rarely showed limited-release indie films) to big-city Little Rock (Central Arkansas, where just about every indie film played in Arkansas) just to see Take Shelter for two reasons: 1) its writer-director Jeff Nichols was from Arkansas and he was already practically a filmmaking legend by that point, and 2) I was a big fan of Nichols’ previous film (and debut) “Shotgun Stories” and I eagerly awaited to see what he would do next. Was it worth it?

It’s on this list, isn’t it? It was definitely worth it. We were all blown away by this film.

“Take Shelter” is a great blend of family drama and psychological thriller with a possible-apocalyptic vibe running throughout. It also features my favorite performance from Michael Shannon as a man who doesn’t know if he’s predicting a terrible storm coming to destroy everything he holds dear or if he’s going crazy. The actions he takes for the sake of caution make for an interesting character study—one that enthralls me each time I watch it.

This is an effectively disturbing psychological thriller about how fear encapsulates a man who may slowly but surely be going insane, as he has recurring nightmares about a terrible storm and even has visions of it while he’s awake. They push him to the point of building a tornado shelter in his backyard to protect his family, in case these visions are accurate warnings of a future apocalypse. The film is handled extraordinarily well, showing us the life of this man (played brilliantly by Shannon) and his family, giving us a little background so we’re not sure what to think at the moment, and further making us ask the question of what’s real and what’s not. By the time it gets to a point where Shannon wants to know if the subject of his fears are truly happening, I got chills.

Now…what about the ending? Fans of this film have discussed the ambiguity of the final scene–what does it mean? What happens? And so on. After eight years, I’m still not entirely sure of it. But it’s still very interesting to think about. All I know is that the characters know what’s happening and Nichols also knew what was happening–that’s good enough for me…I guess.

“Take Shelter” was the best film I saw in 2011 and it’s one of my favorite movies, period. It’s inspired, unpredictable, chilling, wonderfully-acted, well-executed, intriguing, thought-provoking, and one of Jeff Nichols’ absolute best.

Top 20 Films of the 2010s–#14

12 Dec

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my countdown of my top 20 favorite films of the decade, here’s a recap: 20) Mad Max: Fury Road, 19) Fruitvale Station, 18) Hugo, 17) Parasite, 16) Spotlight, 15) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

14) MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016)

Yet another film that didn’t make my initial year-end list is now recognized years later as one of my favorites of the decade. First, it was “Spotlight”; now, it’s Midnight Special. It’s always great to have your feelings about a movie change after subsequent viewings, isn’t it?

Jeff Nichols (“Shotgun Stories,” Take Shelter, Mud) had two films released in 2016: “Midnight Special” and Loving. I initially gave three-and-a-half stars to “Midnight Special” and gave it credit for being what it was even if it didn’t exactly leave so much of an impact on me upon first viewing. And I gave four stars (my highest rating) to “Loving” simply for being a well-made drama with excellent acting and a timeless message.

How many times have I seen “Loving” since its original theatrical release three years ago? Once…but that’ll probably change soon.

Now, how many times have I seen “Midnight Special” since its original release? Well…I’ve lost count.

There are movies that I know are great because all the right elements are in place (and I will give them credit for that, hence my four-star review of “Loving”)…but with a lot of those movies, I feel like as time goes on, I realize they hardly require more than a couple viewings, because once I have the movie I expect to be great, there aren’t many surprises. As a result, I “admire” the movie more than I “like” it.

Then there are movies that I don’t have many expectations for or that I hardly know anything about, and then I get pleasantly surprised by what’s presented to me. Maybe I won’t think much of it at first, but as time goes on, I’ll feel the urge to watch it again and learn something more the second time. Then, I think to myself there’s probably far more here for which I originally gave credit. More time goes on, and I watch the movie a few more times, and I don’t realize until later…it’s becoming one of my new favorite movies.

That kind of movie is so fascinating, especially when I think back to when I originally saw it for the first time. Little did I know it would become one of my favorite films of the decade.

My point is Jeff Nichols’ “Midnight Special” gets better and better each time I see it. In a track record of five great films, Nichols is always interesting and rarely disappoints. With “Midnight Special,” he’s given me something to absorb, think about, and enjoy more times than I can count.

“Midnight Special” is a sci-fi road-trip drama featuring two men who are on the run with a little boy (the son of one of the men) in tow who seems to have special abilities. The government seeks him because he seems to possess secret information, the religious cult that held him and raised him want him back because they see him as a savior, and the boy’s father (Michael Shannon) just wants to keep him safe.

“Midnight Special” was Nichols’ first studio achievement (making a film for Warner Bros.). And unlike many indie filmmakers who get their time to shine in the studio system, he was able to maintain final cut. (The budget needed for the production was small, so WB agreed to give him plenty of room.) Part of me doesn’t want to be so cynical as to how limited space directors are given when working in the mainstream…but another part of me truly appreciates the freedom that Nichols was given. At the very least, couldn’t you imagine the vagueness of this story’s execution thrown out the window for simple explanations? (At its worst, they probably would’ve had Adam Driver’s NSA character deliver every possible answer to each raised question, a la the psychiatrist’s deduction in Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”)

What I love about “Midnight Special” is exactly that: its vagueness. There is development upon development upon development in this story, and none of it feels forced or tacked-on. It feels very well thought-out, and I admire Nichols for putting faith into his audience to stay with the oddness (and the realism added to the strange and unusual) all the way through to the end. Why is the boy wearing goggles? Why do his eyes glow? How is he able to do the things he does? How does he know what he knows? Why does the government want him so badly? What were the cult’s intentions? And so on. It’s a delight seeing this story unfold–instead of being angry for getting more questions than answers, I’m actually intrigued by what’s already happening in front of me. That’s a sign of great filmmaking (and it reminds me of why Nichols is one of my favorite filmmakers).

Even the characters are somewhat vague–we just know enough about why we should root for them and yet we have to fill in the blanks ourselves about what brought them here. That’s another thing I love about this movie: all the central characters–Roy (Michael Shannon), Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), Lucas (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), and Sevier (Adam Driver)–are so interesting and beautifully realized while still leaving much for me to think about with them. I don’t know if I have everything right involving their backgrounds or even their true intentions…but it’s fun to think about.

All of that leads to the ending, which confused many people (and most critics who somewhat resemble people) even more than when 10 Cloverfield Lane ultimately gave its audience what it was secretly building up to. Like “10 Cloverfield Lane,” “Midnight Special” ended its story with so much and yet so little at the same time. And that’s a good thing.

Something else I love about this movie (and what I touched upon in the review originally) is the theme of parenthood. While the agents see this little boy as a weapon and the cult sees him as the second coming, the heroes are the ones who want to look out for his wellbeing. And it’s during this journey that they have to ask themselves what truly is best for this special child. Even if Roy worries about him when he has no choice but to let him fulfill his destiny, he knows that’s part of being a parent as well.

However, that does lead me to my one little nitpick of the film. Alton’s mother, Sarah, reveals to Lucas in one line of dialogue that she was broken apart from the cult that raised Alton and that Roy couldn’t do anything but watch as the cult leader practically took him as his own. (This also indicates that Roy was part of the cult long before he met Sarah, and perhaps she ultimately didn’t belong.) “He watched another man raise Alton for two years,” she says, “something I couldn’t even do.” She’s reunited with her son for less than 24 hours on this desperate trek when she realizes she may have to let him go. She’s the one to tell Roy that they all have to be ready to lose him… I don’t know if I buy her acceptance of that, considering she’s probably been leading a lonely life ever since she was separated from her son for two years. But still, that’s only a minor nitpick I have with the film.

On a deeper level, “Midnight Special” is more than mainstream sci-fi entertainment. It’s a wonderful, brilliant film that deserves more credit than I originally gave it. Better late than never, but I embrace this film wholeheartedly.