What we've been watching...

  1. Wasp Network—written and directed by Olivier Assayas, starring Penélope Cruz, Edgar Ramírez, and Gael Garcia Bernal—just short of Excellent (a bit too long, plus Assayas tries to cram in too much information, would have worked better as a limited series). Based on a true story of (depending on how you look at it) actual Cuban patriots of the Revolution who fake their defection to Miami in order to spy on the right-wing Cuban Community in Exile, whose activities included drug-running in Latin America to finance terrorist activities against the Castro regime. Penelope Cruz steals the show. Now streaming on Netflix A-

  2. Shirley—directed by Josephine Decker, with Elisabeth Moss as horror author Shirley Jackson and Michael Stuhlbarg as her husband Stanley Edgar Hyman. I really wanted to love this, I really did, as I adore the work of Shirley Jackson ("The Haunting of Hill House"). And I really like the work of both the principal actors. But sorry to say I found it to be a big fat incoherent mess (and worse, boring). Read her books and short stories instead. Now streaming on Hulu C-

  3. An Officer and a Spy—directed by Roman Polanski, starring Jean Dujardin, Louis Garrel, and Emmanuelle Seigner / Gala. A super return to form for Polanski who beautifully renders here the story of l'Affaire Dreyfus (the supposed treason of French-Jewish military officer Alfred Dreyfus, a scandale which caused multiple anti-Semitic pogroms across France at the turn of the century and nearly brought down the French government before Dreyfus was eventually exonerated). The acting and cinematography is exceptional, the pace is measured and methodical, almost like a police procedural. If you're an American reading this you probably won't be able to see this for some time, as Polanski was #MeToo'ed to death when the film premiered last year at the Venice Film Festival, which effectively put the kibosh on wide-scale distribution of this film in the current climate. Now streaming nowhere. Contre la Censure! A

  4. Tommaso—written and directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Willem Dafoe. A largely autobiographical realistic and beautifully photographed slice of Ferrara's daily life as an ex-pat with all his hopes, dreams and fears laid out for your enjoyment, set in Rome where Abel lives (right next door to Willem in fact). Dafoe is one of our greatest actors (okay he's my buddy, but still) and Ferrara is consistently capable of turning out compelling and artful, thoughtful cinema since his high-water mark movie "The Bad Lieutenant". Co-starring Abel's actual wife and kid, this film is available from Kino Lorber.A-