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2019 Mid-Year Movie Reckoning

Keanu Reeves in John Wick 3: Parabellum (Niko Tavernise/Lionsgate)

Where movie culture stands in the summer of debate, disinformation, and sequelitis

Box-office figures don’t enlighten. Thanks to inflation, they’re no longer an index of popularity. Aggregate website figures are only a consensus of the cultural fringe meeting the media elite. And that’s the reality we face at Mid-Year Reckoning. The situation is made even more dire by the cablecast of CNN’s disinformation series The Movies. This is what happens when a lesser form cannibalizes a higher form — the non-symbiotic relationship of film and television is disguised as a celebration.

But there are a few movies worth the attention of readers who reject mainstream media hype. Here’s the year’s best so far, alphabetically.

The Best of Enemies is a civil-rights drama that would have been extolled for Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell’s outsized characterizations demonstrating U.S. divergence and convergence (not “diversity”) if critics had not given up on the promise of national unity.

Domino, Brian De Palma’s B-movie dreamscape about global distress, is uncomplicatedly political and the best kind of comeback: driven by compassion.

Dragged across Concrete is S. Craig Zahler’s ultra-genre flick — a carthartic, emotional epic in which Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, and Toby Kittles movingly personify modern American anxieties.

Fast Color is sci-fi about female independence. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and director Julia Hart evoke personal and political principles (as articulated by pop icons X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene and Lauryn Hill) that #MeToo have forgotten.

Greta is a chick-flick nightmare about the spectre haunting Millennials; Neil Jordan’s modern folktale could also be called “Socialism and the Snowflake.”

The Image Book is an essay on the spiritual and political loss of film culture’s decline, by Jean-Luc Godard, the last genius standing.

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