‘What You Gonna Do …?’ and our critics’ 15 best choices to watch at home
What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? The Italian-born filmmaker Roberto Minervini makes movies about the lives of rural, working-class Americans (“Stop the Pounding Heart,” “The Other Side”) that blur the lines between documentary and art film. In the extraordinary, galvanizing “What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?,” Minervini turns a sharp and unfailingly sympathetic eye on a black community in Louisiana, where his battered, resilient subjects include a bar owner, a pair of young brothers and a member of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
Shot in gorgeous black-and-white with a camera that sometimes seems to fade into invisibility, the movie conjures a poetic stillness amid the tumult of lives scarred and shattered by violence and injustice. At times you might wish that its loose, fragmentary structure coalesced into an angrier piece of cinematic activism, but whatever “What You Gonna Do” may lack in directness, it makes up for in a more impressionistic, spiritually infused kind of portraiture. Minervini sees his subjects as whole individuals, rather than as means to a rhetorical or even political end.
More movie recommendations from Times critics Justin Chang (J.C.) and the recently retired Kenneth Turan (K.T.). Titles are available via video-on-demand (VOD) platforms or streaming services as noted.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood A deeply moving companion piece to last year’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” Marielle Heller’s subtly directed drama casts an excellent Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers and Matthew Rhys as a cynical journalist who is transformed by their encounter. (J.C.) PG. VOD
Clemency Chinonye Chukwu’s gripping movie, starring Alfre Woodard as a death-row prison warden, is a sterling piece of American realism, powered by the transfixing spectacle of a great actor at the peak of her powers. (J.C.) R. VOD
Emma A very satisfying new version of Jane Austen’s sprightly novel has been directed in high style by Autumn de Wilde, making her feature debut, with a shrewd selection of gifted young performers, starting with Anya Taylor-Joy, very different than in her breakthrough role in Robert Eggers’ “The Witch,” in the title role. (K.T.) PG. VOD
Ford v Ferrari A barnburner of a motion picture that mainlines heart-in-mouth excitement and tug-at-the-heart emotion in a career-defining effort by director James Mangold, this glorious throwback combines a smart, modern sensibility with the best of traditional storytelling, plus sterling acting by stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale and a tip-top supporting cast. (K.T.) PG-13. VOD
The Invisible Man Led by a superb Elisabeth Moss, this Universal reboot of a classic horror title is a gaslighting thriller expertly retooled by writer-director Leigh Whannell for the era of #MeToo. (J.C.) VOD
Invisible Life Directed by the gifted Karim Aïnouz and set in 1950s Rio de Janeiro, it’s a drama of resilient women, thoughtless men and crushingly unrealized dreams, told with supple grace, deep feeling and an empathy that extends in every direction. (J.C.) R. Amazon Prime
Knives Out Rian Johnson’s deliriously entertaining country-house murder mystery brings together a splendid cast (led by Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas), an ingenious script and a razor-sharp indictment of class inequality and moral rot in contemporary America. (J.C.) PG-13. VOD
Les Misérables Like the celebrated Victor Hugo novel with which it shares its title and setting, the film is both culturally relevant and dramatically compelling, finding a way to balance artistic metaphor, hugely involving storytelling and criticism of a system that allows crushing poverty to survive and prosper. Directed and co-written by Ladj Ly. (J.C.) R. Amazon Prime
Little Women As written and directed by Greta Gerwig and starring a transcendent Saoirse Ronan, the seventh and latest big-screen version of Louisa May Alcott’s novel is here and it’s a pip, with its strong, unmistakable message and even stronger emotions reinforcing each other to splendid effect. (K.T.) PG. VOD
The Lighthouse Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe give towering performances as a pair of feuding 19th century lightkeepers in this mad, magnificently crafted New England gothic from “The Witch” writer-director Robert Eggers. (J.C.) R. VOD
Never Rarely Sometimes Always Winner of major prizes at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals, Eliza Hittman’s beautifully observed and acted drama, about a Pennsylvania teenager (Sidney Flanigan) trying to secure an out-of-state abortion, tells a haunting story of solidarity and survival. (J.C.) PG-13. VOD
Parasite Winner of the best picture Oscar and Cannes’ Palme d’Or, Bong Joon Ho’s deviously entertaining thriller about two very different families is an ingenious weave of domestic dark comedy, class allegory and, ultimately, devastating tragedy. (J.C.) R. Hulu; VOD
Portrait of a Lady on Fire Looking and seeing become quietly radical acts in Céline Sciamma’s rapturously intelligent love story, starring Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel as an 18th century portrait painter and her subject. (J.C.) R. Hulu
Uncut Gems Adam Sandler gives the performance of his career as a Manhattan jewelry dealer and gambling addict pinballing from one bad decision to the next in Josh and Benny Safdie’s relentlessly tense thriller. (J.C.) R. VOD
Waves Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown and Renée Elise Goldsberry play a South Florida family weathering tragedy in this emotionally turbulent, formally astonishing drama from writer-director Trey Edward Shults (“Krisha”). (J.C.) R. VOD
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