Most horror films are dumb, irredeemably so, but Jordan Peele's Get Out is so clever you could write a thesis on it the length of War and Peace.
English actor Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris Washington, a Brooklyn photographer who's dreading an impending trip to meet his girlfriend's parents. Chris is black, Rose (Allison Williams) is white, and he is concerned that she hasn't told her family he's African-American.
When he gets to the large and impressive Armitage estate, however, Chris's fears initially seem unfounded. For Dean and Missy Armitage (Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener) are dyed-in-the-wool liberals, who voted for Obama and bend over backwards to assure their potential son-in-law that his colour is not an issue.
But Chris has a nagging feeling that maybe they're trying too hard. Their gardener, the maid and the handyman are all black, evoking nasty undercurrents of the bad old days, and when Chris approaches them they seem stiff and tense. Something's amiss, and the Armitages may not be as wholesome as they seem.
Jordan Peele has made no secret of the fact that his film is inspired by movies like Stepford Wives, and the horror stories of Ira Levin. Get Out has the creeping dread and insidious normalcy of those classic 1970s horrors, as well as bracing undercurrents of social satire. Racism is the word no one has the bad manners to utter, but Peele and his actors have great fun showing us white liberals trying and failing not to be bothered by blackness. It's a smart film, timely and funny, and an instant classic.
Kristen Stewart is a very interesting actress: she radiates a kind of intense unhappiness, and given the right director can produce fascinating performances. She does just that in Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper, a strange, slow-moving psychological thriller that's less about plot than mood. Stewart is Maureen, who lives in Paris and tends to the sartorial needs of Lara, a thundering bitch who appears to be some sort of international celebrity model.
Maureen trawls the designer stores of the Eighth Arrondisement second-guessing the stylistic whims of her mercurial employer. Some women might love that job, but Maureen does it all with a frown. She's bored, and is haunted by the memory of her recently deceased twin brother.
She could in fact literally be haunted by him, for Maureen has psychic tendencies, and she and her brother shared a pact that whomever died first would send back a sign from the other side. She thinks he might be trying, and spends nights alone in his former home waiting for him to clear his ghostly throat.
That makes Personal Shopper sound silly, and in truth it does push the supernatural element a touch too far in the end. But for the most part it's a beautifully made, mournful meditation on life and death, with a nervy sub-plot involving a stalker and lots of amusing asides. And Stewart is luminous throughout.
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi made a great show of not turning up at the Oscars to collect his gong for The Salesman. It was all a bit theatrical to be honest, and the theatre is front and centre in this thoughtful and quietly gripping morality play. Husband and wife Emad and Rana (Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti) are rehearsing a production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman when she is attacked in their new apartment.
It transpires the flat was previously the home of a prostitute, and a former client may have been the assailant. The incident affects both Rana and Emad profoundly, and seeps into their relationship, and their work. The complexities of patriarchy and corruption in Iranian society form the backdrop to this and all of Farhadi's films, and while The Salesman is not quite as good as his other Oscar-winner, A Separation, it's a very strong piece of work.
Everyone on the internet seemed to have an opinion about Emma Watson's photoshoot in Vanity Fair last week. Wearing a rather revealingly cut bolero jacket, the 26-year-old came under fire from keyboard warriors arguing the shots were incompatible with the actress's professed feminist views. Watson, of course, has every right to pose wearing whatever she chooses - but what is surprising is that she has been doing so while promoting new film Beauty and the Beast, a movie which marks her debut as a Disney Princess.