Film Reviews

My Top 10 films of 2020(ish)

by Ben Godar, Director of Des Moines Film   The best thing about looking back at the year 2020 in film is that it means the year is over. The fact that The Oscars are happening in late April feels somehow appropriate for this long, long year. Here's my Top 10 films that were released or at least made their way to me in this strange 2020+.   10. Bacurau How you see a film can be just as important...

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“Judas and the Black Messiah” Reviewed

When it comes to race, Hollywood has a long and uncomfortable history of romanticizing and oversimplifying American history, often transplanting Black experience into the reductive points of view of white characters. From "Gone with the Wind" to "Green Book," ostensibly Black-informed stories have too often been whitewashed, wringing out the authenticity, beauty and pain of Black realities.   Fortunately, "Judas and the Black Messiah" breaks away from this trend. The historical drama, which focuses on the betrayal...

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Des Moines Film Society: The Top 10 Films of 2020

Let’s face it: 2020 was a crazy year. The coronavirus pandemic upended normal life as we knew it, while racial unrest shed an even brighter spotlight on the deepening political divisions that have defined the last few years.   Meanwhile, movies have rightfully taken a backseat, with the pandemic leading to the closure of thousands of theaters and numerous delays of studio blockbusters.   And yet, against all odds, 2020 has yielded a number of great films, many of...

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DMFS Predicts the Oscars – 2020 Edition

The 92nd Academy Awards are less than a week away, which means now’s the time to fill out our Oscar ballots and make our final predictions for Hollywood’s biggest night of the year.   However, as is often the case, this year’s slate of Oscar nominees features some glaring omissions. The Academy’s latest snubs range from baffling (the complete shutout of the Safdie brothers’ “Uncut Gems”) to downright sexist (Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell,” Greta Gerwig’s direction for...

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Des Moines Film Society: The Top 10 Films of 2019

From Disney’s unprecedented dominance at the box office (aggravated by the worrisome Disney/Fox merger and launch of the Disney Plus streaming service) to the emergence of Netflix as a legitimate awards contender, 2019 was a tumultuous year for cinema — one marked by shifts in viewing habits and viewing tastes.    But beyond the deadening debate surrounding Marvel movies as “true cinema” and the increasing corporatization of films from art to asset, there was actually plenty to...

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Des Moines Double Feature: “Mean Streets” & “The Irishman”

Want to know which movies are worth your time? The Des Moines Film Society has you covered, with the Des Moines Double Feature! In this series, we highlight two movies that pair well together, revealing aesthetic and thematic insights about each other.   This week, we’re shining a spotlight on two masterful films from opposite ends of Martin Scorsese’s incomparable career: “Mean Streets,” from 1973, and “The Irishman,” from 2019. Although separated by nearly a half-century of...

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Des Moines Double Feature: “Jojo Rabbit” & “Pain and Glory”

Want to know which new movies are worth your time? The Des Moines Film Society has you covered, with our new series: the Des Moines Double Feature! Every so often, we'll be recommending two of the best movies currently playing at Des Moines-area theaters.   This week, we're highlighting two vastly different films from two singular artists working at opposite points in their respective careers: the wildly irreverent satire "Jojo Rabbit," from upstart director Taika Waititi, and...

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“Parasite” Reviewed: A Cinematic Sleight of Hand

“You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan at all.”   So says Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), the patriarch of the impoverished family at the center of “Parasite,” director Bong Joon-ho’s deliriously funny and darkly disturbing thriller about the unforeseen misfortunes that can alter life’s trajectory.   For Ki-taek, making plans seems to have been a futile exercise in his life. He is an unemployed car driver, forced to live in a "semi-basement" apartment with his evidently...

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“Joker” Reviewed: Predicting the Punchline

Few films in recent years have generated as much excitement, controversy and, yes, fear as “Joker,” director Todd Phillips’ dark and twisted origin story about the infamous DC Comics villain. Scrutinized for its potential to inspire real-world violence, “Joker” details one lonely man’s transformation from outcast to killer — all from a highly subjective (and arguably dangerous) point of view.   The fact that “Joker” has elicited such scrutiny, igniting a debate over the moral responsibilities of...

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“Ad Astra” Reviewed: Ambling into the Unknown

The future looks strangely familiar in “Ad Astra,” director James Gray’s space drama about mortality, legacy and familial disturbances.   From the airline-esque accommodations on a shuttle to the moon to a lunar base’s neon Subway sign, there are many times in “Ad Astra” in which we’re left with an uncanny feeling of time periods intersecting, of futuristic facilities being saturated with present-day ephemera.   In other words, what we deem familiar becomes strange. Out of place.    So it goes...

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