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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 — Houston, TX

Movies you missed over winter break

By Arman Saxena     1/9/24 11:32pm

Every winter promises an interesting crop of movie releases and this one was no different. From animated masterpieces to remakes of beloved movies to future Oscar contenders, this winter break had something for every movie lover. The following films are five films you can’t miss. 

“The Boy and the Heron”

Possibly the most acclaimed director the world of animation has ever seen, Hayao Miyazaki is an indisputable giant of cinema. With “The Boy and the Heron,” Miyazaki has finally made his swan song. The film is a fitting end to his illustrious career, functioning as a metaphor for him grappling with finally leaving the wondrous fantastical worlds of Studio Ghibli behind once and for all. Miyazaki works at a slower pace than usual here, taking care to immerse us in the small oddities of the world he creates. It’s also one of the anime legend’s more ambiguous films, leaving many things unsaid and up to interpretation. Like always with Miyazaki, the film is a visual treat and a wonder to see on the big screen. 

“Godzilla Minus One”

Who would have thought that this year’s Godzilla movie would be the most compellingly life-affirming movie of the year? From director and visual effects artist Takashi Yamazaki, “Godzilla Minus One” transcends the typical monster blockbuster, delivering a poignant narrative that may have you shed a tear or two. Yamazaki masterfully combines awe-inspiring visual effects with a surprisingly tender exploration of the human spirit in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The film strikes a delicate balance between thrilling monster mayhem and genuine emotional resonance, making it a standout entry in the Godzilla franchise. 

“The Iron Claw”

Simultaneously a wholly American story and deeply Shakespearean, Sean Durkin’s “The Iron Claw” is an affecting work of Americana. Wrestling fans might recognize the name of the Von Erich family, the wrestling dynasty the film puts at center stage. Zac Efron delivers what may be the best performance of his career so far in a film that also stars “The Bear”’s Jeremy Allan White and “Triangle of Sadness”’ Harris Dickinson. Durkin films the wrestling scenes with the verve of an action filmmaker, yet takes care to keep the characters and the emotions at the forefront.

“May December”

With “Far From Heaven” and his work at large, Todd Haynes has made no secret of his fascination with the melodramas of Douglas Sirk. And with “May December,” Haynes brings a Sirkian examination of societal stigmas, family dynamics, and traditional filmmaking tropes to the modern world. When it comes to his recent narrative work, “May December” is a welcome return to form for Haynes. It’s a film that works as a study of performance itself, bolstered by reliable work from legends Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, and by a revelatory Charles Melton, who deservedly has won critics’ awards left and right for his role in the film. 

“Poor Things”

A film about a woman coming into her own, destroying the patriarchy every step of the way, with existential themes about what our purpose is? No, I’m not talking about “Barbie,” I’m referring to what might be the Greek Weird Wave master Yorgos Lanthimos’s best film: “Poor Things.” “Poor Things'' is simultaneously one of the funniest and most excitingly life-affirming movies of the year, combining pitch black comedy, marvelous steampunk visuals, and a career-best performance from Emma Stone in what may be this year’s finest acting work. Bella Baxter is a beautifully-realized character and we follow her through every step of her development as she learns the ways of the world and has life-changing experiences. Stone charts this development with subtle nuance — you’ll leave the film wanting to see more of her and Bella Baxter.

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