My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on three very different American movies from the 80s and 90s that I liked a lot recently.



Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This has been on my list a long while as a follower and admirer of John Sayles for many years. On one hand, it is an outlier in his body of work, which has mostly focused on American stories from around the country. On the other, it perfectly fits his consistent ability to capture the essence of a region and its people.

Could any other American director make an Irish film that feels less American? I don’t think so. Sayles and his team absorb the Irish coast and its characters, creating a moving yet grounded fable. There aren’t many films I would describe as magical. This is one of them. Its themes of heritage and homecoming moved me to tears in the final act.

I didn’t think Sayles could show me anything he hadn’t already. I was wrong.

Watched on Criterion Channel



Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I recently listen to a good podcast interview with Nancy Savoca where she discusses this film and her other work:

I have been interested in this movie for a while and that only increased after hearing her talk about it. A studio made picture with an independent spirit, Dogfight is far from typical. What could have been a feel-good American Graffiti style coming-of-age picture is far more rough around the edges. Much like the John Milius movie Big Wednesday, it tries to capture what the people and time as they really were, instead of how we’d prefer to remember them. For that reason, Dogfight and its characters may not be likable enough for some viewers but I found it to be refreshing.

The movie is carried by the central performances from River Phoenix and Lili Taylor. Phoenix reminds us from beginning to end how missed his presence has been since his early death. Taylor gives what might be her best performance, especially capturing the social awkwardness of her character with nuance in the film’s first half.

One thing I admire most about Dogfight is its unwillingness to make us feel good. Yes, there’s romance but it’s far more realistic and not sugar coated. The ending is especially right. This is a good movie that deserves more attention than it received on its release or in the decades since then.

Watched on HBO Max.



Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Adapted from the James Baldwin novel by my friend and mentor Gus Edwards, it has taken me far too long to watch GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN. Recently programmed by the Criterion Channel, it was definitely time.

This moving, sometimes disturbing tale of a family should receive more attention. It is not nearly as obvious as most movies about African-Americans and therefore more profound. It paints a complex picture of religious hypocrisy and broken father/son relationships. The performances are all good, especially Paul Winfield and Ving Rhames as the older and younger patriarchs. Some might struggle with the way the narrative bounces around through time but I very much liked the approach, which was fluid and never called attention to itself.

I cannot say that I truly understand the ending in the church. Perhaps I would upon reading the source material. However, GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN is a strong piece of 80s American cinema and I’m glad I finally saw the adaptation Gus beautifully wrote.

Watched on Criterion Channel.