Ella Taylor

Unless you're of a certain age or a United Nations history buff, chances are you've never heard of Dag Hammarskjöld, the U.N.'s second secretary-general and a man noted for his commitment to protecting newly independent African nations from their colonial masters. Hammarskjöld's integrity earned him many corporate and Western state enemies, which is one reason why sabotage was suspected when his plane crashed in 1961 as it neared touchdown in the small town of Ndola, Zambia, then called Northern Rhodesia, killing him and most of the crew.

Blink and you might miss a priceless bit of fly-by news footage in a new documentary about rocker David Crosby, he of the sixties bands The Byrds and endlessly self-dissolving combinations of Crosby, Still, Nash and Young. Emerging from a spell in prison for gun possession and drug abuse in the mid-'80s, Crosby — shorn of his signature walrus mustache, knitted cap, and cocksure charisma — might easily be mistaken for a low-level clerk in a button-down shirt and nondescript pants belted over an ample paunch.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, a warmly absorbing new documentary by British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, opens with an image of a beautiful young Norwegian woman steering a sailboat off the sun-soaked Greek island of Hydra. The footage, which was shot by famed documentarian and Broomfield mentor D.A. Pennebaker on a visit to the island in the 1960s, recurs from slightly different angles throughout the film.

The rising Irish actress Jessie Buckley, who plays an aspiring Scottish country singer in the beguiling new film Wild Rose, is small and scrappy with hot brown eyes and a mane of chestnut hair tossed into a rough ponytail. Buckley has bags of pugnacious charisma and a soaring, throaty singing voice tempered with enough vulnerability to make us want to hold her close even as the screw-up she offers us drives everyone in her orbit up the wall.

Elegies for a dead or dying San Francisco lie thick on the ground, but a ravishing new film made by two friends who grew up there offers a loving elegy for the city's black community.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is about a man trying to reclaim a house. It's also about reclaiming the history of the Fillmore district, a neighborhood dubbed the Harlem of the West whose black families were pushed out to the city's outer margins long before Google buses rolled in to drive up prices and exile artists and oddballs (see Tales of the City) of all stripes.

In Ritesh Batra's new film, Photograph, a villager scrabbling to make a living on the streets of Mumbai falls for a well-heeled young stranger whom he's persuaded to pose as his fiancée in order to please his grandmother. That hook is a durable staple of Hollywood and Bollywood movies alike, and both industries leave a strong footprint on Batra's mildly arthouse love stories. If you've seen the director's genial, if skin-deep 2014 hit The Lunchbox, you'll know him as a storyteller who's preoccupied with romance across social and geographical divides.

"I'm here to die," cancer patient Martha (Diane Keaton) announces to a boosterish reception committee as she arrives at the Georgia retirement community where she plans to end her days. Martha is a lifelong single who has accrued little in the way of family or friends. Now, having refused all treatment and polished off her own estate sale, she expects no fireworks (hold that thought, though) from her imminent demise at Sun Springs, a pricey pastel village dotted with semiotically resonant golf carts, water aerobics, and funeral buffets.

In Non-Fiction, five characters in search of renewed authorship sit around in more or less fetching Paris locales, holding forth on the state of literature and publishing in the digital age. Will e-readers, and online chatter kill the book as we know it? Do texting and tweeting count as writing? Can fiction survive the age of confessional memoir? Who owns the written word anyway?

The opioid crisis looms large over Little Woods, a modest but intensely empathetic first film by writer–director Nia DaCosta. But you won't see lurid footage of bewildered tots hovering near the prone bodies of parents immobilized by Oxycontin. Instead, the movie draws its drama from the underground economy in which the prescription drug crisis thrives, and the perpetual state of emergency lived by residents of former boomtowns faded into ghost towns by recession or corporate flight.

The terrific young actress Elle Fanning has a still, otherworldly beauty and a quizzical air, as if she just wafted in from some other planet and was baffled by the odd ways of Earth. A wise old soul in a supermodel's body, Fanning might not be the intuitive choice to play an unpopular high school girl with songbird ambitions and no threads to match. Turns out she can sing, dance and handle dialogue in both Brit and Polish — all while projecting a chronically introverted Cinderella vibe, with a wild side yearning to break free.

In his first narrative feature, Diane, the critic and documentary filmmaker Kent Jones (Hitchock/Truffaut) comes in praise of older women, the crankier the better. The troubled New England woman at the center of his drama seems at first to embody a familiar type: the fussy old enabler without a life of her own. But Jones proves a loving, if clear-eyed world-builder who invites us into the orbit of a woman muddling through a complicated life, rather than peddling a tactfully edited "senior" identity.

Some mighty fancy millinery plays a key role in the Hungarian film Sunset.

Remember Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network as the callow Harvard undergrad who cooked up a little thingie called Facebook because his girlfriend dumped him? Please welcome back both actor and, more or less, character in The Hummingbird Project, a likably cheeky but rambling and overstuffed hedge-fund romp by Canadian writer-director Kim Nguyen.

After bombing as Grace Kelly, Nicole Kidman is currently on a gratifying roll, stealing scenes as a Southern Christian mom awakening to her gay son's plight in Boy Erased, as a deceptively prim PA to a quadriplegic Bryan Cranston in the upcoming The Upside, and in television's Big Little Lies and Top of the Lake. With any luck, Kidman's golden streak has only hit pause with her turn as a rogue cop in Karyn Kusama's dispiriting Destroyer.

Midway through All Is True, Kenneth Branagh's imaginary wrangle of the troubled last years of William Shakespeare, a young fan approaches the Bard, who has returned to his native Stratford-upon-Avon to lick old wounds and reinsert himself into the family he has neglected for two decades. The eager visitor wants to know how Shakespeare did it — how he understood so deeply what drove the many disparate kinds of people in his plays.

At my all-girls high school in England, history class was basically an ongoing roster of uncivil wars between the Tudors (English) and Stuarts (Scottish) over who would be king of which scept'red British isle. So I knew from bickering royals, though invariably it was all about the men, mostly rascally Henry VIII and his disposable wives, fondly known to us girls as Divorced-Beheaded-Died-Divorced-Beheaded-Survived.

In 1993, twelve-year-old Giuseppe di Matteo was kidnapped and held in brutal captivity to put pressure on his father, a Mafia informer, to stop unburdening himself to prosecutors about the Sicilian mob.

Sicilian Ghost Story, written and directed by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, wraps a bleakly realist account of young Giuseppe's three-year ordeal into a kind of memorial — by way of a love story, which itself unfolds in a fairy tale more Grimm than Disney.

In Postcards From London, a lovely piece of whimsy about gay life in a bygone London, Harris Dickinson plays Jim, an innocent who leaves the wilds of Essex (translation: London suburb often associated with dull-and-boring) for the metropolis in search of fame and adventure. Winding up in a nostalgically refurbished Soho from before the sleek corporate types moved in, the eager teen suffers the usual big city roughing-up. His luck improves when he's hired by The Raconteurs, a group of young male escorts who specialize in brainy after-sex conversation about the arts.

Based on a 2016 memoir by Garrard Conley, Boy Erased is the second movie this year — after last August's The Miseducation of Cameron Post — to focus on so-called gay conversion therapy centers, where LGBTQ teens are sent to be, as their mostly evangelical parents see it, straightened out. Both films are worth your time; both, in their way, are intelligent message movies that refuse to hide their outrage at a repressive practice that, as a coda before the Boy Erased end credits informs, 36 American states still allow.

'Tis the season, in movie-world, to run the family-dysfunction tape on a loop. If you tire easily of snickering variants on Home For the Holidays, let me recommend What They Had, a finely textured family drama deceptively wrapped in that overworked subgenre. I doubt writer-director Elizabeth Chomko even thought of building her impressive debut feature around the reductive term "dysfunction," a noxiously bullying word that feeds the fantasy of a smoothly operative family somewhere out there in Perfectsville, where none of us lives.

Like many in the stand-up world, Nina Geld (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a comedian whom we meet working the edgier comedy clubs of New York City, is angry. When she's not riffing on menstrual blood and other female troubles nobody else wants to talk about, her potty-mouthed monologues are studded with the case against men, which earns her appreciative laughs from young audiences both male and female. Nina is poised, articulate, funny and unsparing — none of which prevents her from throwing up after every performance.

As she moves through middle age, there's a whiff of acid in every Emma Thompson performance that adds a lively bump to the actress's Stateside image as an eternally flowering English Rose. The bracing asperity that juiced Thompson's self-directed turn as a warty governess in Nanny McPhee, as a bigoted headmistress in An Education, as the neurotic Mary Poppins author P. L. Travers in Saving Mr.

For a drama about the capture of one of the most notorious architects of the Holocaust, Chris Weitz's Operation Finale begins with a bit of a caper. A crack team of Mossad agents, on a tip from a young Jewish woman (Haley Lu Richardson), bungle the job by bringing down the wrong Nazi. Shrugging off their error, the unit, headed by Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) forges ahead to snag the real Adolf Eichmann as he's walking home through a leafy Buenos Aires suburb. Needless to say, he's played by Ben Kingsley; so also needless to say, he is seriously unflapped.

In 1978, embarking on a career at the ripe age of 58 that would earn her a raft of literary prizes, the British novelist Penelope Fitzgerald published a wonderfully tragicomic tale, short-listed for the Booker prize, about a 1950s middle-aged war widow who wakes up one day and decides to open a bookstore in her fog-bound East Anglian fishing village. The Bookshop's plot turns on all the locals who mobilize to thwart Florence Green, and a stalwart few who come to her defense.


When Cameron Post, a Montana teenager with bee-stung lips and an air of quiet intransigence, is caught smoking weed and making out with a girlfriend on prom night, her evangelical guardians pack her off to God's Promise, a gay conversion therapy center whose inmates — no other word for it — are required to make and regularly revise drawings of the sinful roots of their sexual identities. At God's Promise the word homosexuality makes the authorities jumpy, and even the gingerly label "same-sex attraction" signals the downhill road to moral rot.

Which is worse, corruption you can see or corruption you can't? In Dark Money, a documentary about invisible corporate shenanigans in her home state of Montana, director Kimberly Reed makes the incisive case that the latter threatens to sink our democracy outright.

What is left to say about the spectacular rise and agonizing fall of Whitney Houston, whose drug-fueled decline played out in such full public view that it's hard to imagine any biopic rising above tabloid cliché? Give or take a few new tidbits about the pop superstar's childhood scars and fluid sexuality, Scottish director Kevin Macdonald's absorbing documentary Whitney doesn't break with the sad blueprint that frames rock docs by the handful.

Now in his grizzled late fifties, Bobby Shafran is an affable, ordinary fellow whose life ran away from him back in 1980, when the nineteen-year-old freshman drove his beat-up Volvo to enter community college in upstate New York. He was puzzled at being effusively greeted by fellow students who called him Eddy. It quickly transpired that he was a dead ringer for another student at the college named Eddy Galland, who turned out to be the twin Bobby never knew he had. The discovery got into the local press, and soon a third lookalike, David Kellman, turned up.

In July 2009 Gabriel Buchmann, a Brazilian student researching poverty in Africa, disappeared while on the last leg of a year-long backpacking trip through the continent. Gabriel and the Mountain, a docudrama made by his friend Fellipe Barbosa, lets us know right off the bat that Gabriel's body was found by local villagers in Malawi nineteen days after he'd vanished.

I expect you'll be wanting to know whether Mr. Rogers was really like that in life. According to Won't You Be My Neighbor? Morgan Neville's loving portrait of the much-beloved champion of slow television for children, the answer is yes, but it's complicated. Which is just what you want from a tender tribute that's anything but a hagiography of the ordained Presbyterian minister who took the pie-in-the-face out of TV-for-tots.

Pages