Vice—the new biopic about our greatest living vice president, Dick Cheney—is the movie our country needs right now: a story about a small-town guy who overcame the odds and kept his fellow Americans safe in an age of nihilistic terror. It is also the hagiography we need right now, a reminder that America’s greatness lies not with its natural resources or fantastic wealth but within the spirit of her citizens.
There’s no reason Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse should work, really. It mucks about with concepts that only deep readers of the comic books will be familiar with. It introduces half a dozen new characters in an incredibly short amount of time. It is brought to life in an odd animation style that serves as an implicit rejection of the super-slick Pixar/Disney ideal that has come to dominate animated films in recent years.
As a film critic of medium-low importance, one of my most sacred duties is participating in the Washington Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) year-end awards extravaganza. During this hallowed time of year, I watch dozens of movies and mine my own recollection of the good, the bad, and the ugly to determine what, precisely, the best films of the year were. At the end of this grueling process—this death march through endless stacks of DVDs, searching for the rarest pearl in an ever-increasing sea of muck—we WAFCA members nominate up to five films/people in each category. The five films/people who earn the most votes in every category are then voted upon by the whole of the membership, the winners are chosen, the press release is sent out, and blessed, blessed relief descends upon us as we put the exercise to rest for 11 months.
Widows is well cast and perfectly acted, tells a compelling story about how corruption aids outright criminality without being overly didactic about it, and is directed with a firmness one might expect from an Oscar-winning director whose command of visual storytelling verges on the total. If it weren’t for the fact that there’s one twist too many, it would be a nearly perfect movie.