Posts in Best Films
MOVIE REVIEW: The Guilty

Played in nearly real-time, The Guilty jolts the audience with the fits and spurts of the received and dropped calls. Some are dangled snippets and others linger with impact. Their rising and falling tensions are shrewdly and sharply written by director Gustav Möller and TV writer Emil Nygaard Albertsen. Their unforgiving suspense create an engrossing and choking mood of unknown and mounting dread. The Guilty is as smooth and taut of a 85-minute feature as you’ll see, no matter the language.

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EDITORIAL: The Best Films of 2018 (so far)

Usually for this website, half of a year equals half of a future “10 Best” in December, meaning normally only five films make this “best of” list. However, I have seen six 5-star feature films as well as one 5-star documentary and one 5-star short film. I’m giving all of them the spotlight. As always for this “so-far” list and the year-end final and true to my website’s hook, I present each film with its best life lesson from my review. Enjoy!

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COLUMN: 17 hidden gem films from 2017

With each year of PR and press access, I’ve been diving deeper to experience more and more of what this art form and entertainment source has to offer.   For the second year in a row and on the heels of the Oscars putting a bow on all things 2017, I wanted to share a list of personal recommendations of hidden gems from last year.  Even these 17 are but drops in a larger bucket.  There so many little gems that I have yet to see.

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OSCAR PREDICTIONS 2018: The race for Best Picture

Throughout the awards season, I’ve been tallying the minor and lead-up award winners in all of the Oscar categories on the 2018 Awards Tracker as a big source of my prognostication data. In this seventh post, we look at the race for Best Picture.  As I say every year, stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool! 

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COLUMN: The 10 Best Films of 2017

The end of the year brings grading and reflection points for both the school teacher in me and the film critic.  Looking at the online Trapper Keeper portfolio called Every Movie has a Lesson, I published 126 full film reviews in 2017, topping last year’s 114 and setting a new high mark.  Here’s my definitive list of the "10 Best" films of 2017.  True to this website’s specialty, each film will be paired with its best life lesson.  Enjoy!

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20 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE: The best of the rest of 1997

In a new annual series, Every Movie Has a Lesson is going to look back twenty years to revisit, relearn, and reexamine a year of cinema history to share favorites, lists, and experiences from the films of that year. Partly taking my film critic hat off and adjusting the collar on my fanboy shirt, these next lists follow my “10 Best” list from 1997 with more categories of distinction and remembrance.

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20 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE: The 10 Best of 1997

In a new annual series, Every Movie Has a Lesson is going to look back twenty years to revisit, relearn, and reexamine a year of cinema history to share favorites, lists, and experiences from the films of that year.  Twenty years ago, I graduated high school in 1997 and the movie milestones matched the personal ones for me.  Here's my list of the best of 1997.

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EDITORIAL: The Best of 2017 (so far)

I'm beginning to love making this annual halfway point list.  For me, 2017 has been a year for immense volume.  Since January, I've reviewed 64 films, 58 of which were 2017 releases and not carryovers from a late 2016 awards season.  Thanks to some film festival and advance press access, you can add 16 short films and four more feature films pending the windows to publish reviews. True to my website's hook, I present each film with its best life lesson from my review.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short

This year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Animated Short are an eclectic bunch.  One of them, “Borrowed Time,” I have previously reviewed in full on this website.  Here are my collected capsule reviews of the slate of five, complete with my signature life lessons.  Look for the theaters this month bundling these nominees together for public viewing and ticket opportunities.

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COLUMN: 16 hidden gem films from 2016

Even with my access to more-than-most with festival coverage and press credentials, I can’t see everything.  What I can do is prop up some hidden gems that I was lucky enough to see and review.  Here are 16 under-seen winners from 2016.  The qualifier for the list was title earning less than $1 million at the box office.  They are ranked from highest-scoring review to least.

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COLUMN: The 10 Best Films of 2016

I’ll have you know that this is the latest this website has ever posted a “10 Best” list in its six-plus year history.  I want to say that 2016 exhausted me, but it didn’t.  “Every Movie Has a Lesson” published a personal-best 114 film reviews in 2016.  Even after a record year, there is part of me that sits here and knows there was room for more.  The to-do list of recommended films and overdue titles is never empty.  

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on "Kicking the Seat" to wrap up 2016

In the same taping as our back-and-forth boosting or spiking "Passengers," host Ian Simmons of Kicking the Seat brought a group of film critic peers to put a bow on 2016.  Ian, David Fowlie of Keeping it Reel, Emmanuel Noisette of Eman's Movie Reviews, Harold Egbo, myself, and a pre-taped Pat McDonald of Hollywood Chicago came together to answer a few key pre-selected questions and compare our reflection on the year that was. 

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SPECIAL: First annual CIFCC Awards nominations

Capping off their inaugural year, the members of newly-formed Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, of which I am a director and co-founder, have announced their nominees for their first annual CIFCC Awards.  Their voting membership of 28 members strong completed ballots over the holidays with the goal of three final nominees in 25 categories.  They will commence a final round of voting ending on January 1, 2017 and host an invitation-only awards banquet at Transistor Chicago on January 8, 2017.

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EDITORIAL: The Best of 2016 (so far)

Many of my personal most-anticipated picks and my crystal ball Oscar prognostications are still coming, but I have been lucky enough to see over 50 film films in the first half of 2016.  Since it's only been a half-year, I'll split a year-end "10 Best" list into a Top 5.  True to this website's theme, I present you my picks for the "Best of 2016 (so far)" coupled with their best life lesson from my full reviews. 

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COLUMN: The 10 Best Films of 2015

I prefer to be strict enough with my mind and my heart to rank the best and not just give some alphabetical list.  This was a difficult list to settle on for an order.  After 84 films this year, I think I've seen all I need to see to give out a complete and legitimate "10 Best" list.  Here are my picks and, in the spirit of this site, each of the "10 Best" are paired with their best life lesson.  Enjoy!

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Big Short

Closing out 2015, you will find the most argumentative and ballsiest movie of the year hitting wide theatrical release over the Christmas holiday.  The real film in question to bear those bold superlatives is "The Big Short."  Headlined by a star-studded cast and directed by one of the most unlikely of sources, this legitimate must-see film tip-toes audaciously between biting satire and topical cautionary tale.  You won't know whether to be pissed or be entertained and that's a powerful quality to pull off.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

No matter where today's "Star Wars" fans come from, all of them want the same thing out of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."  Everyone wants an inspired, entertaining, and compelling fantasy adventure.  They want a return of the emotions, wonder, and heartstrings that stirred and inspired their souls when they first encountered these science fiction fantasies.  With great pleasure and a nearly pitch perfect blend of innovation and reminiscence, J.J. Abrams promised, and now has delivered, all that anyone could hope for with "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

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MOVIE REVIEW: Spotlight

The extraordinary new film "Spotlight" answers the motivating historical benchmark set by "All the President's Men" nearly four decades ago to make a truly transcendent film about real print journalism and true history.  Chronicling another Pulitizer Prize-winning case of investigative journalism, director Tom McCarthy's fifth directorial effort is nothing short of a new masterpiece.  "Spotlight" is, far and away, the best film about the media since Clooney's "Good Night and Good Luck" and the best about print journalism since Pakula's landmark classic.  This film will make people rewrite "best of" lists.   

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