Scott Tobias

When director Travis Wilkerson first premiered his documentary, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?, at the Sundance Film Festival and True/False last year, it was a unique piece of performance art. Seated next to the screen with a desk, a laptop, and a microphone, Wilkerson narrated the film in his deep, booming voice, leading the audience through a semi-experimental assemblage of home movies, snapshots, musical interstitials, and original footage of his travels to Alabama, where he went to investigate a shameful chapter in his family history. His great-grandfather S.E.

Over the past few months, the roll-out of several high-profile Netflix releases has revealed a predilection for expensive, hard-edged, futuristic genre fare, starting with the human-alien buddy picture Bright, continuing with the TV series Altered Carbon and the surprise post-Super Bowl unveiling of The Cloverfield Paradox. None of them opened to much critical acclaim and Netflix is notoriously cagey about sharing its numbers, but the company has found a niche market that its algorithm can reinforce.

Look closely at a frame from Early Man — or any of the other features and shorts by Nick Park, the stop-motion animator behind Creature Comforts, the Wallace and Gromit series, and Chicken Run — and you can spot the truest and most literal of all auteur stamps: The curvatures of a fingerprint. As computer animation has become the dominant format, Park and his craftspeople at Aardman Animations have remained defiantly analog, using their hands to manipulate the features of plasticine models, frame by painstaking frame.

With films like The Color Wheel, Listen Up, Philip and Queen of Earth, writer-director Alex Ross Perry swiftly established himself as indie-cinema's premier misanthrope, as if the literate class of Woody Allen movies had been body-snatched by caustic malcontents of John Cassavetes movies. Shot in 16mm, mostly in interiors free of electronic distraction, Perry's films are defiantly analog in their four-walled intensity, committed to unpacking the restive desires of characters who act on impulse and often look ugly in the process.

The late Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami often talked about the audience "completing" his movies, which of course implies that he left his work deliberately incomplete, as if to tease the imagination. "I make one film as a filmmaker," he once said, "but the audience, based on that film, makes 100 movies in their minds. Every audience member can make his own movie. This is what I strive for."

The maze-running part of The Maze Runner trilogy wrapped up about two-thirds of the way into the first film, leaving it to exist only as a metaphor for fresh-faced young people getting treated like laboratory rats.

The funniest throwaway moment in Freak Show, an unsteady coming-of-age fantasy, finds Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther), a gay teenager with a penchant for sequins and feather boas, introducing himself to his new classmates at a private school somewhere in the Deep South.

In the desert outpost of Five Keys, New Mexico in 1953, the Rainier family lives so close to the federal penitentiary that all the lights in the house flicker from the surge of a nearby electric chair. While her little brother Christian greets the occasion with boyish enthusiasm ("You're on the Hades Express, mister!"), Elise quietly sketches a vision of the man in his final moments and recites certain facts about him, like how he chose a ribeye steak for his last meal and told the witnesses to "Go to hell!" before the executioner flipped the switch.

Even the title, Phantom Thread, sets the mind reeling. The term refers to a Victorian Era phenomenon in which East London seamstresses, utterly exhausted by a long day's work, continue to go through the motions at home, sewing threads that do not exist. It also evokes the otherworldly quality of artistic creation, some divine and inexplicable force that helps bring a work to fruition.

For a simple children's story about a pacifist bull in Spain who would rather smell the flowers than charge a matador, Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand generated tremendous controversy, owing to its worldwide popularity and its date of publication, 1936, which found it caught in political crosswinds. It was banned in Franco's Spain. Hitler ordered it burned as "degenerate democratic propaganda" in Nazi Germany, though it was republished and distributed for free in the same country once the war was over, to teach children a message of peace. Gandhi was a fan. So was H.G. Wells.

About 20 minutes into the beautiful documentary Quest, a stray bullet strikes a 13-year-old African-American girl in a neighborhood in North Philadelphia, robbing her of sight in her left eye. What's remarkable about the incident is that the documentary would have existed without it: Director Jonathan Olshefski had already committed to making a film about the girl's family, the Raineys, and the errant gunfire just happened to occur within the flow of the day.

Through an accident of timing, 2017 has produced complementary films about British perseverance and moxie at a dangerous inflection point in World War II, when 300,000 men were penned in by encroaching Nazi forces in France. Earlier this summer, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk celebrated the multi-pronged effort to rescue these soldiers and bring them back across the English Channel, where they could regroup and continue the fight.

At one point during Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton, a documentary about Jim Carrey and the making of Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon, Carrey gets emotional when asked about his father. Carrey remembers his dad as the funniest person in the room and a brilliant saxophonist who gave up his musical ambitions in order to care for his family. Then he lost his job as an accountant at 51 and it broke him. He hadn't just failed to achieve his dreams. He failed at the compromise.

The title of Greta Gerwig's semi-autobiographical Lady Bird refers to the name— not the nickname, the name — a mildly rebellious senior gives to herself, part of the comprehensive array of quirks meant to separate her from the pleated drones of an all-girls Catholic high school. She insists that everyone call her "Lady Bird," including her parents, who grudgingly oblige, though they prefer the name they gave her, Christine, and it stings a little to see it rejected so casually.

Director Tomas Alfredson is in the ennui business. His films are heavy and portentous, often blanketed in the permafrost of his native Sweden and always just as chilly indoors. His 2008 breakthrough, Let the Right One In, reinvigorated the vampire myth by draining it of sensationalism and using it as an affecting metaphor for the eternal loneliness of adolescence.

The Sundance-winning documentary Dina is a tale of two movies, sometimes at odds with each other: One is a quirky indie rom-com about two people on the autism spectrum who are getting ready to tie the knot. The other is an unvarnished verité about the difficulties they have with sexual intimacy. Directors Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles structure and frame the film so carefully that it almost seems like the staging of a script, rather than real life unfolding before the camera.

The first time we meet Zach and Josh, two high-schoolers and best friends who gets tangled up in violence, guilt, and psychosis in Super Dark Times, they're hanging out in the basement, assessing photos of girls in the yearbook and watching softcore porn through the bars on a blocked cable channel. The year is 1995, but it's little details like this that make the time stamp unnecessary.

There's one extraordinarily beautiful shot in Stronger that helps account for why this inspirational drama, about a man who lost both his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, stands out from other films of its kind. As the city of Boston processes this traumatic event and the manhunt that followed, Jeff Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, braces himself for the agony of having the dressing removed from his amputated limbs for the first time.

In the best Stephen King adaptations — and the best Stephen King novels, for that matter — there's precious little daylight between the psychic stress of the characters and the supernatural forces that torment them. Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Christine: All are defined by the frightening intimacy of terrors that come from within, rather than external forces that can be vanquished like a priest exorcising a demon or ghosts expelled from a haunted house.

The first words uttered by Frankie, the sexually confused teenager at the center of Eliza Hittman's Beach Rats, are a lie: "I don't really know what I like."

Based on Jeannette Walls' memoir, The Glass Castle refers to the fanciful home an impoverished father intends for his family, one with glass walls that welcome natural light during the day and, at night, become a window to the stars. The structure never gets built, but it's the Burj Khalifa of metaphors, a symbol of big dreams and broken promises that rises majestically to the heavens. At one point in Destin Daniel Cretton's leaden adaptation, a young Walls and her three siblings help their father actually dig the foundation. Later, the foundation is filled with garbage.

When Martin Scorsese directed the nervy black comedy After Hours in 1985, it was both a catharsis and a reckoning, a means to reenergize himself after The King of Comedy flopped and address the hang-ups with women that united many of his characters. Instead of the jealous brutes in Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull, that film follows an ineffectual office drone, played by Griffin Dunne, as a hoped-for sexual liaison turns into a luckless, surreal night in New York City.

Set in the days leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Atomic Blonde takes place in an underworld where the Cold War is over but the conflict continues, like the throbbing of a vestigial limb. In that respect—and perhaps that respect only—it belongs to the tradition of post-war thrillers like Carol Reed's The Third Man or Andrzej Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds, where danger and intrigue exist where they shouldn't and the players involved are enmeshed in self-doubt and crippling mission drift.

Among the four stars of Girls Trip — the third and funniest summer comedy about hard-partying women in trouble, following Snatched and Rough Night — Tiffany Haddish is the least well-known, having bounced around in minor roles on film and television before landing a spot as a series regular on The Carmichael Show. All that stands to change overnight. As Dina, a pleasure-seeker of unapologetic, bull-in-a-china-shop relentlessness, Haddish is so incandescently filthy that a new ratings system should be developed to accommodate her.

Early in To the Bone, writer-director Marti Noxon's harrowing yet utterly approachable drama about eating disorders, Ellen (Lily Collins) considers a plate of food her stepmother has optimistically plopped in front of her. She runs down the calorie count: 280 for the pork, 350 for the buttered noodles, 150 for the roll, and 75 for butter.

In the prestigious New Zealand drama school where much of Alison Maclean's The Rehearsal takes place, young thespians search within and without for an authenticity that's not so easily achieved. The program's director, played with ferocious wit by the veteran Kiwi actress Kerry Fox (An Angel at My Table), demands that students earn her respect, which is not freely or easily given. Even when acting exercises leave them feeling immensely vulnerable in front of their classmates, she breaks them down like J.K.

The premiere of John Cage's famous/notorious composition "4'33"" in Woodstock, New York in 1952 stirred some measure of the outrage that greeted Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," only here the audience was upset by the notes they didn't hear, instead of the ones they did. The first of three movements started with the pianist opening the keyboard lid and ended with him closing it; that same pattern was repeated for the next two.

Kate McKinnon plays an Australian in Rough Night, a shrewd gender-reversal of sloppy-drunk bro comedies like Bachelor Party, Very Bad Things, and The Hangover. There's no particular reason for her to play an Australian, beyond a thin running joke about cultural insensitivity of failing to distinguish between Aussies and Kiwis. And yet it's funny. McKinnon merrily swishes her dialogue around the accent and makes her character's jet lag and fish-out-of-water misunderstanding to keep her a beat behind the action, like the caboose of the comedy train.

In search of an answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that choo-choo-ing money train where all the cars are linked together, Universal Pictures has been trying to revive its classic monster movies from the '30s and '40s, in the hope that Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man will do for it what Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have done for Marvel.

Princess Diana of Themyscira was sculpted from clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, brought to life by Aphrodite and bequeathed her superhuman powers by the Greek gods. Over the 75 years she has been kept off the big screen, her fitful appearances on the small screen, most notably in the Lynda Carter TV series and on animated shows like Super Friends and Justice League, have made it easy to forget that Wonder Woman is not one of us.