Right from the start, Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories has that New York cinéma vérité feel. Dustin Hoffman portrays the Meyerowitz family patriarch, an artist who seems more concerned about his creative legacy than being a good father. Meanwhile, Ben Stiller plays the successful son, a man who genuinely cares about his loved ones but appears to be emotionally detached. With all that in place, Adam Sandler steals the show as Danny Meyerowitz, an umemployed, self-loathing father who just can’t find any peace of mind. Whereas most Sandler performances are over-the-top and adhere to a specific brand of comedy, this one is subdued and entirely moving.
Baumbach directed and co-wrote both Frances Ha and Mistress America with his partner Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), but he’s long been one of cinema’s most interesting indie auteurs. The Meyerowitz Stories represents another strong chapter in the filmmaker’s oeuvre, as he comments on NYC art culture and how posturing is so crucial to the game. Incidentally, Grace Van Patten’s performance as Danny’s daughter Eliza adds even more depth, as she’s a provocative young artist who hasn’t been through the wringer yet. However, the way that Eliza communicates with her father suggests that she may have the most emotional intelligence of the entire group.
Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel, Mudbound is heavy, challenging, and heart-warming. Set in the American south during World War II, the film explores the relationship between the McAllans (a white family) and the Jacksons (a black family). When Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) return home from war, they discover that they have a lot in common, despite their obvious differences. These two central performances ground Mudbound with heart, as the world around the two war veterans is full of racism and resentment.
In Mudbound, Rachel Morrison’s cinematography represents the connective tissue. She uses a strong green-brown color palette throughout, whether it’s in rural Mississippi or during the World War II aerial scenes. There’s an incredible amount of subtext in the color contrasts alone, and Morrison’s symmetrical framing emphasizes the powerful bond between Ronsel and Jamie, along with the inherent segregation of the south. For Mudbound, Morrison become the first female cinematographer to earn an Oscar nomination, and her visuals add a spectacular amount of depth to an already effective film.
From a 2019 perspective, Cam represents a new school of progressive filmmaking. Directed by Daniel Goldhaber and written by Isa Mazzei, the Blumhouse psychological horror stars Madeline Brewer as Alice Ackerman aka Lola_Lola, a camgirl looking for a larger following and more income. Based on the premise, one might expect Cam to be full of graphic nudity and questionable dialogue, however it's less about the sexual aspects of the camgirl experience and more about the psychological manipulation that equates to big tips. Based on Mazzei's personal experience as a camgirl, she's undoubtedly familiar with basic strategies, which allows her to then manipulate the audience by infusing horror elements into the script.
After appearing in Black Mirror and The Handmaid's Tale, Brewer delivers another jaw-dropping performance in Cam. And despite the film's relatively modest budget, the production design enhances Brewer's camgirl interpretation, which makes it easier to buy into the premise and keep watching. Meaning, if Cam didn't look great, then it most likely wouldn't be on Netflix. Ultimately, the filmmakers take a simple premise and then subvert expectations to raise even more questions about Lola_Lola. Cam is the way of the future.