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May 31, 2024


I did it! Another major film festival crossed off the list, and another 41 movies watched. Yes, you read that right: I saw 41 movies. In 11 days. It was a lot — like, a lot a lot. I might even say too much, only because most of these movies I probably wouldn’t have seen had it not been for Cannes, and honestly, I don’t know that I would have even noticed or cared that I didn’t see them at some point. For comparison, of all the movies that dropped at Cannes in 2023, I’ve seen just eight of them. Two of those were Best Picture nominees Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest, and truthfully, I didn’t care for either one of those. The real talk is, I’ve learned, even as a movie lover, most of Cannes’ film slate just doesn’t appeal to me and my American sensibilities. Also, at least this year, so many movies focused on the same themes, so there ends up being a lot of repetition as filmmakers from various countries all take on the same topic. This year’s topic du jour was #MeToo and the general mistreatment of women in patriarchal societies, which… obviously those are stories worth being told, but how many times do I need to see it in such a short timeframe? I agree, 100 percent: men are the worst, and women deserve better. I’ll never not agree, but by the tenth movie in six days with that message, it just became exhausting to sit through. Honestly, I'd feel the same way after a glut of thematically similar heist movies too.

Still, though, I persevered because…why wouldn’t I? It’s Cannes, and I needed to make the most of it, both for me and for you. However, that has created a list of movies that is incredibly hard to rank against each other. How do you rank an American action blockbuster like Furiosa against a quiet Indian meditation on sisterhood? Something like Motel Destino might be objectively better than Horizon, but I’ll rewatch Horizon and all of its overlong sequels. I’ll never rewatch Motel Destino. It creates a quandary.

As a result, the ranking below is not a single, top-to-bottom ranking of every movie I saw. Instead, I decided to break it down into three ranked categories: 1. The Top 11 Movies, overall; 2. Foreign-language movies; 3. English-language movies. The Foreign-Language and English-Language Rankings will not include any titles that made the Overall Top 11. Also, you may ask, “Why Top 11?” That’s a fair question. The Top 11 is made up of five English-language movies, five foreign-language movies, and one movie that has zero human dialogue. It just worked, perfectly balanced, as all things should be.

So, who wants to read some reviews?



Despite boasting an animation style reminiscent of Studio Ghibli, Ghost Cat Anzu doesn’t deliver a story anywhere near as moving, humorous, well-paced, or emotional as that famed studio’s offerings. The first hour follows the titular ghost cat as he farts, plays cards, rides a moped, and laughs annoyingly at random things. Eventually, a Spirited Away-esque plot kicks in that features genuine stakes, a semblance of character arcs, and less randomness, but by the time it gets to that point, I was already mentally checked out of its meandering nonsense, even as I found the innovative animation generally pleasing to the eye.


Armand starts off incredibly strong, featuring terrific performances and a tone similar to 2021’s underrated gem Mass. However, what begins as a tense “he said/she said” chamber piece about lies and preconceived notions eventually goes off the rails. There is one scene where Renate Reinsve annoyingly laughs for what feels like 10 minutes, like a Family Guy joke that just won’t die. From there, it just gets weirder with the introduction of ghosts and random dance numbers. It makes me curious if director Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel even knows who his audience is. Then again, maybe these are typical sensibilities in Norwegian cinema and I’m the asshole.


The great irony of Parthenope is that, at its core, it’s an exploration of beauty and the superficiality that lies therein, yet it remains as shallow as a Calvin Klein ad. Yes, it’s beautifully shot, with beautiful people doing beautiful things in beautiful locations, but that’s about it. There is little in the way of emotional depth or resonant meaning, and it plays out just as one might expect. Gary Oldman does solid work in a small role as John Cheever, but sadly, he just made me long to watch the 1992 Seinfeld episode “The Cheever Letters.”


Of all the movies on this list, Filmlovers! probably is the least accessible to a non-French audience. Film can mean different things to different cultures, and when you create a love letter to cinema that is part philosophical essay, part historical documentary (complete with film clips and testimonials), and part narrative…all told from the French experience…something is bound to be lost in translation. It makes it hard to relate to the talking heads or to see yourself in their proclamations about how a certain movie may have changed their life. I understand and respect the approach, but American “filmlovers” aren’t the right audience for this.


Going into Julie Keeps Quiet, I was expecting something close to 2019’s The Assistant — a tense examination of what happens when one stays quiet in the face of observed abuse. As it turns out, Julie Keeps Quiet is too literal of a title because this is a tension-less film filled with long silences and avoided conversations. The thing Julie (Tessa Van den Broeck) is keeping quiet about lingers so subtly in the background that you forget it’s the crux of the story, leaving us with nothing more than a collection of lifeless scenes of people running tennis drills (“lifeless” compared to Challengers, at least).


In all honesty, I only saw this movie because the buzz on the ground at Cannes was that it could win the Palme d’Or (it ultimately won the Grand Prix, effectively second place). Personally, I don’t get it. Despite some terrific shots of Mumbai, this subtle tale of three women simply existing in a patriarchal society, shown through their friendship, desires, and traumas just didn’t grab me. I heard a lot of people call it “dreamlike,” which makes sense because it definitely made me want to take a nap. I get there is importance in the representation, but that alone doesn’t make for an amazing movie.


Shot in gorgeous and haunting black and white, The Girl with the Needle is a bleak, sorta gothic horror movie that failed to resonate with me. I can certainly recognize the dark tragedy at hand, but other than lightly bumming me out, which has as much to do with its overall aesthetic as it does the particulars of the horrendous true story, it failed to evoke much emotion out of me. The imagery never elicited gasps, the dark turns were never shocking, and the performances never made me sit up in my seat. I’ll probably forget this movie exists within the next six months.


While the story beats are reminiscent of The Talented Mr. Ripley (or Netflix’s latest adaptation, Ripley), Misericordia is a much more pared down, subtle, and quiet look at sexual repression, needs, and desires. Oh, and there is murder. It’s very dry and very slow, boasting perhaps the most indie feel of any movie from Cannes Film Festival, and while I can’t assuredly say it works, it doesn’t not work either. Personally, though? I wasn’t overly compelled by it.


Much like All We Imagine as Light, Santosh is the story of an Indian woman navigating the patriarchal society of Northern India, this time through the lens of a constable investigating the disappearance of a young girl. The investigation is nominally the core of the story, but it too often takes a back seat to the sexism and ugliness that Santosh (Shahana Goswami) must endure to get anything done, as well as the knowledge she gleans from a senior female officer. It’s not entirely unlike Indian Training Day, but it would have been more compelling with a better balance between the case and the social commentary.    


I’m always a sucker for stop-motion animation and claymation set designs, which Sauvages has in spades. On that front, I have no notes. However, the story itself is very preachy as it explores the question of (and obvious answer to) who the real “savages” are, natives or capitalists. Environmental protection is an extremely important and worthwhile message, especially in this era of climate change and its deniers, but it makes the movie feel more like a lecture than anything else. As a result, I suspect most adults will feel talked down to while most children will be bored by the dryness, cute monkey notwithstanding.


Being Maria is the story of Maria Schneider, the female lead in the controversial erotic drama Last Tango in Paris, played terrifically by Anamaria Vartolomei. When the movie focuses on the trauma endured by Schneider while filming Tango, particularly the scandalous “butter scene,” it’s striking and heartbreaking. However, once it moves to the aftermath that occurs once Tango is released, it devolves into standard and shallow representations of “the downward spiral,” including typical scenes of addiction, sex, and generally dysfunctional behavior. Thankfully, Vartolomei elevates it all to be slightly more than the Lifetime Movie tropes we’re given. Also, Matt Dillon is surprisingly excellent as Marlon Brando.   


Yet another movie that is exploring domestic abuse and the treatment of women in a patriarchal society, She’s Got No Name looks back at a true story from 1940s China about a woman on trial for killing her abusive husband. Though there are some beautiful shots and Ziyi Zhang is fantastic as the alleged murderess, the story is extremely overstuffed with random diversions, which creates a movie that is too long and exhaustingly disjointed. The pieces are there for an important story with an important message, but it simply undermines itself by trying to include too many details.


Unbeknownst to me, I, the Executioner (a.k.a. Veteran 2), is a sequel. I didn’t see (or have even heard of) its predecessor, so I have no idea if there were important nuances or backstory I was missing as I watched this movie. That said, it’s an enjoyable but fairly standard action cop thriller. It reminded me of movies like S.W.A.T. and Striking Distance — you know, the kind of movies you stop on when flipping channels but never intentionally watch. If it were in English, it may have ranked higher, but being somewhat generic and in subtitles makes for nothing more than a one-time diversion.


Have you ever watched a movie that you respect immensely even if you didn’t really enjoy the experience? On Becoming a Guinea Fowl is that type of movie. The messaging that abusers should be held accountable and that continuing to speak up even after being ignored is incredibly important. Plus, the representation of Zambian culture, tribal, and family dynamics is super enlightening. That said, this is not a movie I’d ever watch again, and I didn’t find my viewing experience to be personally rewarding. I did love the final shot, though.


The biggest compliment I can give Wild Diamond is that I very much hated — and I mean HATED – Liane (Malou Khebizi), but that is such a testament to Khebizi’s performance as she plays the character as sympathetic but abrasive, vulnerable but tough-as-nails. Khebizi aside, I found a lot of the Gen-Z-ness annoying, but I’m a grumpy old Xennial, so… shrug emoji. On a more serious note, I genuinely can’t get on board with its message that one should do whatever it takes to live that “Influencer Life” (especially the end takeaway); however, Khebizi is so damn good that I can’t dislike the movie as a whole.


Whether director/co-writer Karim Aïnouz intended to remake The Postman Always Rings Twice, or if he just made a movie with similar plot points and themes is hard to say. Either way, despite what is easily described as a Brazilian adaptation of Postman (even if it wasn’t on purpose), Motel Destino is a sexy, sweaty, grimy, and primal approach to the familiar tale. Aïnouz uses searing colors, lush cinematography, and lusty rawness to cover for a somewhat flawed but never-less-than-engaging erotic thriller. You may have seen the Postman story before, but never like this.


Another of the many movies from Cannes to touch on themes related to #MeToo, The Balconettes is a horror-comedy that relies on a wide-range of recognizable (but French-infused) vibes. There is a bit of Coen Brothers, some Quentin Tarantino, a lot of madcap burlesque, and a touch of vaudeville. Sure, it creates some massive tonal shifts, especially as it veers more towards the supernatural, which results in the movie losing steam towards the end because of the sheer scattershotness of it all, but I can’t say I didn’t have fun.


When one talks about finding hidden gems at film festivals, Dog on Trial is a perfect example. A movie that, on its surface, appears to be light and goofy (which it is) also works as a terrific metaphor for how society sees women, as well as a more straight-forward look at animal rights. Though almost never preachy, it explores the nature of the legal system, societal constructs, and humanity in humorous yet thought-provoking ways. It’s absurd and whimsical, but also deeply philosophical and observant. Plus, who doesn’t love a Movie Dog?



While I commend what The Damned wants to do (and it does it well, to be fair), it doesn’t make for an enjoyable movie-watching experience. This is the type of war movie that isn’t about characters or battles, but the tedious mundanities that come between the battles. Plus, with it being set during the U.S. Civil War, the analog aspect of it all makes it even more of a slog to watch. It’s a lot of people just walking around, filling canteens, and eating beans next to a fire. Granted, it made me feel the same disillusionment the soldiers felt, but who wants that?


Although a modern world in which ancient Rome never fell is an incredibly fascinating premise, Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis is an unmitigated disaster that vacillates from (presumably unintentional) campiness to overbearing self-seriousness at the drop of a hat. In addition to that, the story is so overstuffed and poorly developed, it’s like Coppola simply gave his stacked cast a handwave gesture and basic gist, leaving them to figure everything out on their own, which results in a collection of A-list actors who clearly aren’t working on the same wavelength. It’s not lacking in ambition, but the execution isn’t there. The visuals look sorta nice sometimes, though.


While The Shrouds isn’t without moments of intrigue, it’s generally let down by a convoluted conspiracy mystery, stilted acting (especially from Vincent Cassel), and atrocious dialogue. Also, not that I’m exactly complaining, but why is Diane Kruger naked for most of her scenes? In any case, I want to give writer-director David Cronenberg the benefit of the doubt because I know he’s using this movie to work through grief about his wife passing, not to mention it was originally written as a series for Netflix; however, in the end, I think he might have been a little too close to this one to recognize its flaws.


As a political satire, Rumours is certainly clever, but probably a little too smart for its own good. It requires a certain level of winking, “if you know, you know” awareness, and I’m not sure audiences lacking a general knowledge about geopolitical reputations will get a lot of the jokes present in this surreal sci-fi comedy. That awareness is the difference between a movie worth your time and a movie that is merely a mildly amusing diversion. No complaints about the cast, though, all of whom are game for the B-movie weirdness happening on screen.


Documentaries about movie stars tend to fall in one of two camps. They either are self-aggrandizing puff-pieces or unvarnished examinations that present the subject warts and all. Sadly, while Faye very lightly dips its toes into the latter, it’s mostly the former. Aside from a few passing references to Faye Dunaway battling mental illness and having a reputation for being difficult, this documentary offers little more than Wikipedia-level biographical facts and a collection of movie clips. That said, it may drive you to watch Bonnie & Clyde, Chinatown, and Network again (or maybe even for the first time), which isn’t a bad thing at all.


Despite what other critics and Rotten Tomatoes might have you believe, director Paul Schrader hasn’t made a great movie in years. Sadly, Oh, Canada keeps that streak alive. The weird thing is that there are several things to like here, including a terrific performance from Richard Gere, poetic dialogue, and a great Americana-folk soundtrack, but all those things are squandered by lethargic and muddled storytelling that lacks passion. It wants so hard to be a melancholy treatise on life, death, and the regrets in between, yet it fails to make you care enough about the character to care at all about his remorse.


There are two plots in Christmas Eve at Miller’s Point — one that generally worked for me, and one that didn’t. If you grew up going to big family gatherings on Christmas Eve like I did, the fly-on-the-wall approach to the family get-together offers enough relatable holiday charm and nostalgia bombs to carry you through. However, once the B-plot about annoying teenagers sneaking out takes over, I started to lose interest because all the initial recognition of my own youthful holiday seasons faded away. I suspect one’s appreciation of this movie will depend entirely on how much of their own life they can see in it.


Here is the thing about Limonov: The Ballad of Eddie — I absolutely loved parts of it. Ben Whishaw has never been better, giving a punk-rock performance that is as unflinchingly energetic as it is fascinatingly complex. Meanwhile, Kirill Serebrennikov’s direction is delightfully chaotic, grimy, intense, and stylish, capturing the vibe of 70s New York perfectly. That said, by the end, I was left wondering why I just watched a 140-minute biopic about a guy that I had literally never heard of before. It’s simultaneously too much and not enough, and for the most part, the details of Eddie Limonov’s (Whishaw) life have already faded from my memory.


Horizon — Chapter 1 is tough to review because, frankly, it’s not really a movie. Or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s like watching the first three episodes of a miniseries, which means it’s mostly just introducing a sprawling number of so-far-unrelated characters. There is very little development on any front, and nothing remotely resembling a typical multi-act story structure. The best way to describe it is “just western vibes,” so fair judgment probably should be reserved until after seeing Chapter 2, if not Chapters 3-4. Still, the acting, cinematography, and production design are very well done, and I’m invested enough to see the sequels through.


Bird is the type of meandering coming-of-age movie that is more focused on eliciting heavy emotion and sensitive realism than delivering an A-to-B story. Movies like Aftersun come to mind, which just aren’t really my cup of tea. On top of that, hopeful messages of “everything is going to be okay” and “no one’s no one” don’t really resonate with this cynic. So, double whammy for me. That said, I recognize the film’s beauty, as well as the strong performances, but predict that others, particularly women, are likely to be more moved by this picture than I was.


After Poor Things, one had to expect at least a small hangover with director Yorgos Lanthimos’ next outing, so it’s not exactly surprising that Kinds of Kindness is underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good; however, it might be Lanthimos’ least good movie, which is all because of the story structure. Kindness is basically an anthology of three short films, and there is inconsistency in their levels of intrigue and development. I would have rather watched any of the three as a standalone feature instead of the truncated versions we get here. Still, all the typically weird greatness you’d expect from Lanthimos and this cast are present.


Good One is a tremendous feature directorial debut from India Donaldson and a showcase for young star Lily Collias. Funny and insightful, understated yet complex, it explores Sam’s (Collias) transition from dependent teenager to empowered adult as she deals with two, generally harmless but not quite enlightened, middle-aged dads struggling to navigate the line between “daughter figure” and “fully realized woman.” Donaldson does a great job of putting us in Sam’s shoes as she observes their bickering, regrets, selfishness, and sexism, which creates a low-simmering tension throughout as we’re left wondering when enough might be enough. It’s simple and spare, but never slight, and always compelling.



Truth be told, I don’t watch a ton of animated movies. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, per se, but so many of them are unabashed toy commercials aimed at children. There is no real weight behind the storytelling, and it’s hard to tell which ones are worth my time. Enter Into the Wonderwoods, a charming and delightful spin on Alice in Wonderland that features beautiful and varied animation, as well as a surprisingly emotive score. I admit it’s a small sample size, but it’s one of the better animated movies not named Spider-Verse that I’ve seen in a while (...but hold that thought).


Although generally a coming-of-age tale, The Kingdom takes a darker and grittier approach than most genre offerings by focusing on the daughter of a Corsican mob leader in the middle of a gang war. It’s like watching Narcos from the perspective of Pablo Escobar’s daughter, which delivers two captivating aspects we don’t often see: 1. The effects gang life has on unaffiliated family members; 2. the dichotomy of a ruthless crime lord that is, first and foremost, a loving father. It makes for a taut, moving, and gripping experience. Even more impressive? This is director/writer Julien Colonna’s and star Ghjuvanna Benedetti’s feature debuts.


I probably didn’t get every joke in director Quentin Dupieux’s The Second Act given its overall Frenchness, but I still laughed a lot, especially at Manuel Guillot’s hilariously nervous energy and physical comedy that work in any language. In addition to Guillot, the four French A-listers (Léa Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Louis Garrel, and Raphaël Quenard) playfully play with their real-life public personas while making fun of just how silly actors and the film industry are. It’s breezy, playing like Tropic Thunder meets Extras, and though it may be sacrilege to say, there is a lot of potential here for an American remake.


Much like Oliver Stone’s W., The Apprentice offers a surprisingly sympathetic origin story to Donald Trump (Sebastian Stan), showing the evolution from Trump the Man to Trump the Brand. However, with Trump being such a divisive individual, it’s hard to pinpoint how much one’s politics will influence their opinion of the movie because, although it’s not exactly assaultive, it’s definitely not flattering. All that aside, though, the soundtrack, production design, and performances…especially Stan, who nails Trump’s mannerisms without ever falling into an SNL-style impression…are all on point. The quality certainly is there to make it worth your time if you can get past any political blockers.  


With thrilling and incredible video game-inspired fight choreography (especially during the finale’s wild “Final Boss” fight) and a decent amount of character development, Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In is a total blast! The 80s throwback vibes and gritty noir-ish feel only aid in making this one of the best martial arts movies I’ve seen since maybe The Raid series (admittedly, I haven’t seen a ton of recent martial arts movies). The story beats strain credulity at times, but if you’re like me, you aren’t coming to a movie like this for the story, and Warriors more than delivers the carnage we’re all here for.


If you get squeamish with gross body-horror imagery and flat-out disgusting noises, The Substance isn’t for you. However, for those unbothered by such things, director Coralie Fargeat delivers a hilariously audacious commentary on Hollywood ageism and the impossible beauty standards women must deal with. Demi Moore — in a brilliant bit of meta casting — gives a fearless performance that should kickstart a career comeback, while a never-been-sexier Margaret Qualley continues to show why she is one of the most in-demand young actresses working today. Despite an ending that goes on for too long, between this and Revenge, Fargeat has reached “Event Director” status in the horror genre.


Few people can portray a man’s slow descent into madness better than Nic Cage, and director Lorcan Finnegan seemingly knows this. He’s content to simply allow Cage to do his thing and go wild as a mild-mannered, white-collar yuppie suffering a maniacal and hallucinatory psychotic break in the face of toxic masculinity, framing it all in a sun-soaked, 70s exploitation aesthetic that radiates off the screen. I mean, you can almost feel the heat and sweaty grime of the Australian beach with every suspenseful revelation that drives Cage’s character further and further into the spiral. The Surfer has B-movie, grindhouse cult classic written all over it.


I genuinely have no idea how Emilia Perez works as well as it does. Sure, it features terrific performances across the board (especially Karla Sofía Gascón), but it’s just such a bonkers premise and approach that you keep waiting for it to collapse under the weight of its own ambitions. It never does, though. The gritty crime elements are tense, the musical sequences are percussive and propulsive, and the character dynamics feel real and sincere. The fact that it all comes together near flawlessly is a testament to director/screenwriter Jacques Audiard’s ability behind the camera and the self-confidence in his vision on the page.


Given the (unexpected?) modern-day masterpiece that is Fury Road, there was some concern on my end that returning with a prequel would result in a disappointing cash-grab of a movie. Thankfully, Furiosa is anything but. It might be a bit too long, but you hardly care when the acting (Chris Hemsworth, especially), action, and writing are this good and compelling. It’s the rare prequel that stands on its own merits while expanding on the lore of everything that came before it and improving the depth of its immediate predecessor. Only time will tell if it’s better than Fury Road, but it deserves genuine consideration.


Director Simon Baker’s Anora is easily his most accessible, commercial, and polished film to date. It’s also his best, electric with chaotic energy that rarely abates as it sprints through a sex- and laugh-filled comedy of errors. At the center of the whirlwind is Mikey Madison, who gives a star-making performance that is funny, fierce, empowering, and ultimately heartbreaking. If you can imagine Pretty Woman mixed with Uncut Gems, then you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect. It’s worthy of any and all awards consideration it’s surely to garner as we get deeper into 2024.   


I surely didn’t expect the best film out of Cannes to be a dialogue-free animated movie about a cat and other animals fighting for survival during a flood, yet here we are. With beautiful animation and surprisingly deep characterizations that should embarrass lots of other movies (again, zero dialogue), Flow is a tense, spellbinding, and emotional treatise on the importance of working together. It’s equal parts cute and poignant, appealing to both children and adults alike, especially those who played Stray or enjoy cat videos on YouTube. It’s already one of my favorite animated movies of all time.

Photo Credits: Cannes Film Festival

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