IN MEMORIAM PICK:
The unyielding dignity of Queen Elizabeth II flowers in Stephen Frears’ The Queen (2006), which stars an Oscar-winning Helen Mirren as the late monarch. Set in the days following the death of Princess Diana, the film shows Her Majesty struggling to console a grieving nation without forsaking her natural reserve. (“She respects emotion, and cannot fake it,” Martin Amis wrote in The New Yorker in 2002.) Restraint, it turns out, can be one of the greatest acts of love. HBO Max.
INDIE PICK 1:
These days, the pleasures of gleeful amorality are apparently lost on Paul Schrader, who keeps making movies about repentant loners soberly seeking redemption. After writing and directing the transfixing religious drama First Reformed (2017), he beautifully continued the trend with The Card Counter (2021), about a stoic gambler (Oscar Isaac) who becomes a mentor to a vengeful young man (Tye Sheridan) and falls in love with a glamorous woman (Tiffany Haddish) who manages professional gamblers. HBO Max.
INDIE PICK 2:
People like to joke that James Gray is one of the greatest living American filmmakers, but that only the French truly appreciate him. Yet he’s no arty weirdo—his storytelling is clean, clear and unashamedly sentimental. One of his best films is The Lost City of Z (2017), which stars Charlie Hunnam as Percy Fawcett, a real-life English explorer who vanished (along with his son, played by Tom Holland) in 1925 while searching for an ancient city he believed to be hidden in the Amazon. Amazon Prime.
It’s so accepted that Paddington 2 (2018) has earned a place in the pantheon of all-time classics that Nicolas Cage sang its praises in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. If you somehow missed director Paul King’s second lithe London romp with the beloved animated bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw), further your cinematic education by doing so immediately—and make yourself a scrumptious marmalade sandwich to complete the experience. HBO Max.