David Edelstein

David Edelstein is a film critic for New York magazine and for NPR's Fresh Air, and an occasional commentator on film for CBS Sunday Morning. He has also written film criticism for the Village Voice, The New York Post, and Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section.

A member of the National Society of Film Critics, he is the author of the play Blaming Mom, and the co-author of Shooting to Kill (with producer Christine Vachon).

It's easy to giggle at the hero of Jeff Nichols' second feature, Take Shelter. Michael Shannon is Curtis, a crew chief for an Ohio sand-mining company who's ravaged by apocalyptic visions and nightmares. He's wiggy to start with and increasingly more unhinged, on a switchback track to madness that threatens to devastate his family. Curtis sees funnel clouds, locusts, even people staggering through the night like zombies. He knows it might all be in his head: His mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia at about the same age he is now. But in the end, he follows his dreams.

The film of Michael Lewis's game-changing nonfiction bestseller Moneyball is inside baseball, literally, but it wouldn't be so rousing if that were all it was. The book tells the story of Billy Beane, the General Manager of a small-market ball team, the Oakland Athletics. Heading into the 2002 season, he has a quarter the amount of money to pay players as the near-perennial champions the Yankees.

The hero of Drive is called "Driver" because that's what he does, and in a thriller this self-consciously existential, what he does is who he is.

He's played by Ryan Gosling as a kind of anti-blowhard. He's taciturn, watchful, cool. He works as a mechanic and sometimes a Hollywood driving stuntman. He also drives getaway cars with astonishing proficiency and a computer-like knowledge of L.A. surface streets, holding a matchstick between his teeth as if to keep his mouth from moving, and his feelings under wraps.

Vera Farmiga's Higher Ground centers on a woman who joins and, after a decade, flees a fundamentalist religious order, but the tone isn't irreverent: The film is flushed with wonder, hope, and, finally, heartbreak. In the memoir on which it's based, This Dark World, writer Carolyn S. Briggs never stops longing for a connection to God.

Chilean-born director Raoul Ruiz is 70 years old has made more than 100 films, only a few of which have been distributed in the U.S. — but he's beloved at festivals and in film studies programs everywhere. I've seen seven of his movies, and five struck me as less than meets the eye — not just difficult but pointlessly disorienting, the disjunctions like manic tics meant to break up the relationship between image and language.

Few fictional films wear their political messages as proudly or loudly as The Help, which centers on black female domestic servants in Jackson, Miss., in the early 60s and a 23-year-old white woman who induces them to tell their stories for a book to be called, appropriately enough, The Help.

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