Monday, December 31, 2018

Movies: 2018

Alrighty folks, here it is. Please take your time reading it. I needed to take the day off work to write it, so economically speaking I need you to read every last word. I gotta mention a few things this time around. This year I really utilized the Letterboxd site and app. It's like Instagram for movie reviews. You say something about a movie and your followers like or comment or whatever and you do the same for them. You can find me at! Anyway, I've been using the app to keep track of movies the day I watch them rather than trying to remember what I thought about them on the last day of the year. The length of my notes sort of ranged between 2 and 1,000 words, depending on my mood, energy level, or mental state at the time. So yeah, there are lots of different lengths this year. That's not necessarily a comment on movie quality. Also, speaking of movie quality, I love talkin' movies and I love doing the ranking thing, but I don't want to put too much emphasis on the numbers. A movie can be good or bad, but I hope that minor detail is secondary to what a movie makes us feel. The discussion is ultimately the benefit of this. That's why I put in so many words. Please please comment or message me with your thoughts.

As usual, I've divided the movie log into a few different sections with some stats at the end. We'll start with the one you'll probably find most interesting for the last day of 2018.

Top 70 movies of 2018!

Alrighty here's the list of movies from this past year. Way more than usual, there are a few here that were specifically released on Netflix rather than theaters. I imagine by the end of my life they'll all be Netflix movies. I've tried to point those out. I've also tried to point out the ones I specifically saw at Sundance. The Sundance ones will either be the most important movies of the year, or mentioned here and nowhere else. Anyway, here we go.

70. Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot
Sundance viewing. Ugh. Hmm. So there's a guy in a wheelchair and he's a jerk. Didn't really connect with this and I get the feeling Gus Van Sant didn't either. Joaquin Phoenix gives us a blankness. Jonah Hill is a rich hippie character that seems to be one of his cut from air SNL characters.This movie also clinches my vow to never attend group therapy -- especially if there's any truth to how it stereotypically presents it here with all the participants thinking they're witty screenwriters. Actually if you ever see it, the good part is Jack Black's performance toward the end. He seems to be the only one living in the story rather than the set.

69. The Cloverfield Paradox
Netflix movie. Two things going against this: 1) I just finished the mirror universe arc on Star Trek Discovery, so I’m parallel universed out and 2) a Netflix movie is a movie with distractions, so the movie’s details escape me. Something tells me, though, that the details don’t actually make any sense at all. Still it’s nice that the actual character of Roy from The IT Crowd is moving on to more lucrative careers.

68. Ibiza
Am I really supposed to believe a celebrity DJ played by Robb Stark has ANY problem talking to girls? Fun is saved by Vanessa Bayer’s (often non-verbal) reaction shots.

67. A Boy. A Girl. A Dream: Love on Election Night
Sundance viewing. Always a fan of the single shot or the near-single shot film. I only wish this one backs up its characters voices in finding inspiration. It’s something discussed — constantly — but hardly shown. There's a Transmorpher moment when one character shows another character some life-changing piece or work on their phone and the viewer reacts like it's life-changing. We don't see what they're attempting to react to, so it's neither show nor tell. The movie says we need to be more inspired without bothering to be inspired itself.

66. Sierra Burgess is a Loser
Netflix movie. Oh Sierra. You’re gonna need to better convince me that you’re an interesting person. Despite this movie’s purpose, more than ever I feel like appearances are more important than they need to be. The movie is shot in a high contrast that appears to reach for an East Beverly feel rather than Bayside — nevertheless every character is pasted in from high school parodies. The best friend is so silly he should have been revealed to be an imaginary friend. The mean girls fall into such simplistic movie superficiality that I find it impossible to believe anybody could even have their feelings hurt by them. Other haters of this movie may disagree, but I think the biggest gleam is what turns out to be the centerpiece. The middle section focusing on the unlikely girl-on-girl friendship needs even more lingering, because despite the routine high school characterizations, the nerd and bitch bonding actually feels like a new concept. The boyfriend should be faceless and inconsequential.

65. Like Father
Netflix movie. Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer as father and daughter stuck on a boat together. Look, it’s important that we put our phones away every once in a while, but it’s just a bit too obvious as a moral. Maybe also throw in a sincere argument over which karaoke song to sing.

64. The Kissing Booth
Netflix movie. A fun reminiscing of 90s high school movies. Sometimes strengthened by the expected tropes, but mostly hindered by them. I watched this movie because I saw a promo with just the two leads arguing about American and Australian words. The promo was much more exciting. I’ll look forward to the next Joey King high school movie where she’s NOT expected to scrape so much from insincere material.

63. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
There’s only one man evil enough to officiate this monster auction... AND HE’S ONLY GOT TEN MINUTES!!! Yeah we really could do without the evil business meeting halfway through. Yeah yeah, businesspeople are evil. Now it’s like we just get that first day day of work chronicled immediately after our island vacation. There’s a part where a little girl is surrounded by dinosaurs and she’s scurrying through her house and just runs into her room and hides under her covers and I’m like THAT’S ME EVERY DAY, SISTER! There’s also a part where a bad guy hides under a car during a dinosaur stampede and gas starts leaking out of the car and I wanted a raptor to throw a lit cigarette lighter at it then walk away, but that didn’t happen :( :( :(.

62. Solo: A Star Wars Story
We’ve heard it all before. Seeing it for the first time has a remake blandness to it. The stuff I hadn’t heard already is the most fun to see, but it's about a 40/60 on that ratio (40 being new interesting stuff). Big sorry to Alden Ehrenreich. He's so great in Hail Caesar, but nobody saw it. He's pretty good in this, but he's probably going to take most of the blame for its failure. It's kind of weird how I love Star Wars, but get sick of the Jedi Skywalker family mumbo-jumbo. It's always been the scoundrel blaster-toting stuff in that universe I find so fun, yet strangely everytime we expand out in any way from the continuous saga it just feels bland and empty. Maybe there isn't really a universe there for me. Maybe it's just about that original small story that shines bright in comparison to the universe itself.

61. Life of the Party
Sort of suffers from What About Bob syndrome. We get an over-the-top character that a majority of the other characters accept as perfectly normal. The natural conflict of the situation is unnaturally bypassed. Melissa McArthy is always pretty amazing, but the stuff she produces on her own somehow doesn't channel her potential.

60. I Think We're Alone Now
Sundance viewing. My ever-growing list of movies titled after songs that don’t actually appear in the movie increases. Dinklage is always great to hang out with even when he doesn’t want to be hung out with. The third act takes a sharp, mostly unwelcome turn, but thematically necessary, I guess. Certain elements of finding goodness in grief and regret apparently just can’t be managed in a last two people on earth scenario.

59. Blockers
Alrighty, here's a movie about horny girls trying to get some, but somehow I don’t believe those girls. But then again, making them more believable would REALLY make the parents seem more clownish. I hate John Cena, but only because he has incredible muscles and has great comic timing and I usually have neither.

58. Ready Player One
And now for another edition of Jon Would’ve Done It Different™️. A movie with different layers of reality needs a visual distinction — especially at the top level. More dirt, sweat, and blood is essential in the so-called real world. At the same time, such a lost opportunity in the virtual world. Varying cultural timeframes could have yielded varying degrees of pixelated beauty (with the horror sequence a notable exception). I hate when people overuse this criticism, but a surprising amount of tell, not show. I’m using that card now, because if ANY movie had the potential to be the other way around it would be this one. Even the inevitable “we should appreciate the real world” is only mumbled half-heartedly. I really hate how the main girl is far more attractive in person than her avatar. She just has this mega-cute birthmark that she says is hideous, but then the douchey lead guy only has to say she's beautiful to him. She's bloody universally beautiful! There's no need for pity! There is also a tacked-on-ness with the whole "see the world and don't be online so much" message at the end. Hmm, really? The whole entire movie up to literally the last minute consists of a bunch of people risking their lives to save a virtual video game world. Perhaps I missed the line, but the movie could have moved up an entire grade if it just acknowledged that the real world is in shambles, but the phony things we create online aren't and if we just spent a fraction of the time working on our real world rather than our fake one, we can seriously rebuild something special. As far as I remember, that line isn't in there. The book is its own kind of sensation that would have culturally played much better as a movie like ten years ago.Here's a great thing though. All those evil gamers hired by the corporation? Gold. Seeing them all collapse in the VR machines while other minions scurry to take their place is some great chuckly visual. Even better are the higher-up young professionals arguing in what seems to be writers' rooms about the meaning of the game. Interpreting media is fun stuff that sometimes passes on to tedium and those people are really just all of us now.

57. Clara's Ghost
Sundance viewing. So you know Chris Elliot from Get a Life. He's got a couple of daughters: Abby, once a regular on SNL, and also Bridey, the director of this movie and a couple others. Anyway, the whole Elliot clan got together for this movie about a family's stressed out mom (played by the actual Elliot mom, Paula) and some kind of haunted happenings. Fun idea, but it comes across as the Elliot family's sweary Family Home Evening.

56. Price of Free (Kailash)
Sundance viewing. Very well-meaning documentary with a stance against child slavery -- actually more than a stance. The movie actually provides a lot of instruction to combat the issue those of us so seemingly removed from it. Unfortunately I'm left a bit cold because there's an uncomfortable emphasis on the personality of of the activism leader that overshadows the activism itself. My perception is the personality works the spotlight a bit too much. Imdb just told me the movie changed names from Kailash (the name of the guy) to Price of Free. Perhaps that little editorial adjustment between Sundance and regular release is a step in the correct direction for this movie's ultimate effect.

55. The Predator
Turns out the real predator... was love. Well, maybe too much love for the Predator legend, anyway. Part of me is charmed by the silly funny zingers of the characters and part of me is a bit annoyed they don’t take the situation more seriously. I’m also conflicted about Olivia Munn. I mean I love her, but it would be nice if she said something like she’s training for Ninja Warrior or she’s a coke addict or something to explain her inexplicable badassery. Of course just one “back off me man, I’m a scientist” wouldn’t be out of place in the slightest. There’s a strange through line theme of mental illness tolerance with the spectrum autistic kid indispensable to puzzle-solving and the new muscley crew composed on the fly of psych ward (but trigger-happy) military weirdoes. There are far too many other ideas that make it difficult to latch onto anything specific. Similarly, the characters make mega leaps in logic just to inform us backstory when they shouldn’t be concerned with such things when their total reality is this weird monster killin’ stuff. Back to the Dream Team (in that they’re mentally ill like that Keaton movie and not that they’re basketball players). Threat level is high the entire movie, but there’s a strange story sense that they’re not allowed to die until the situation is similar enough to the first movie. Seems to break the rules with the good gang invincible during the first set of threats, but then made of straw in the end. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with Predators in general. Not so much the movies, but the creatures themselves. Maybe I’m generalizing or just being racist, but I don’t think their haughty attitude is justified. They come to Earth, apparently for the thrill of the sport, but then they need every advantage. Where is the adrenaline rush when they have laser-aiming, a force shield, a tough eco-skeleton AND wussy invisibility? Wasn’t it Mitch Hedberg who said something about the toughest tennis opponent being a brick wall because it’s so “relentless.” Watching bullets do nothing to these creatures is like spectating a tennis match between a guy and a brick wall. And why are Predators so into being the brick wall?

54. Summer of '84
Sundance viewing. I’m not sure if I like the lack of plot twists here, but by the end we kind of see where they’re going with an anti-Spielberg wrap-up (that certainly sets this apart from the Stranger Things tidal wave). I still struggle with the love interest. A little too pretty and loose with our young boy hero. Also one of the boys lands half his zingers, but the rest need cutting. Maybe 25 “your mom” zingers rather than 50? Thinking about it nearly a year after I saw it and my ultimate take is that it just want to put a gritty dark dagger into cute Spielbergian nostalgia drama. Not that I'm a big fan of the Spielbergian, but taking down something that's already built up hardly qualifies as a new ediface.

53. Dumplin'
Watched this in waves so I’m probably not giving it a fair shot. Glad it’s not just about the Willowdean character, but with that decision a bit more emphasis on the three other pageant misfits would be welcome (especially that gothy one). Also, they really start the heartwarming smiles a bit too early. I mean I don’t want to be THAT supportive of beauty pageants. By the final third I’m nervous and fidgety with the barrage of supportive hugs and there’s still a lot of comfortable sarcasm left untapped in the tank.

52. Believer
This is that one from the Imagine Dragons guy about mostly the gay aspet of LGBTQ+ism and also Mormonism (CoJCoLDSism). A great overview of the middle of the issue, but probably needs rep from both extreme ends to become truly thought-provoking. That's likely a copout on my part. I think the movie could be better and more interesting and have more thoughtful interview subjects, but ultimately I like that this is presented by someone struggling with the topic within the church (even if his music is the annoyingest rock music that still exists). If nothing else this illustrates that as silly as religious people are, the faith life is still filled with reckoning rather than aloof justification (at least if you're doing it right (or maybe wrong, who knows?)). Of course this isn't a new club or whatever. Kind of a big point of religion is that you don't get to pick the rules. At the same time the organization can at least try to seem a bit more compassionate in the enforcement. Arrgh. Whatever. We need to get along better and it's very tricky to get along better when every discussion and counter discussion draws more lines in the sand. I debated with myself whether to get into it over what I think is a more forgettable movie than we deserve, but whatever there it is.

51. Apostle
What a shame there’s not a lot of people kicking each other like in The Raid, but at least Dan Stevens gets to channel crazyface in ways his Downton Abbey character darest not dream. We also get a delightful melange of torture implements to make Jigsaw proud. I get the sense thinking up new miseries in this world is the only way to stave of inevitable despair.

50. Suspiria
So it’s finally revealed that there’s a great connection between the power of dance and the power of witchcraft. There’s a bludgeoning scene in particular that really edits the two together. Apart from that here’s another film that just hasn’t grabbed me lately. Yeah, could be my fault. I just think here there’s not enough compelling me to wonder and invest. A little whimsy, humor, gore, seduction, intellectualism, SOMETHING needs to peek behind the curtain to let me know it’s there. The extra mile in this remake THIS time around is lots of background exposition. Here we have the talk about flight hijackings and WWII and witch politics and Mennonites. I think all are the backdrop for a unifying theme, but strangely most of the (nearly 3-hour movie) is muddled with the other ungraspable bits. Oh, the thing’s long enough for seven (!) title cards. Six acts and an epilogue. One would think that device would provide structure, but it really mostly points out the sameness from scene to scene.

49. Ant-Man and the Wasp
Evangeline Lilly’s ankle game is very on point. That's actually the only note I took for this movie. I mostly love the Marvel movies, but from now on they're gonna need a lot more gimmicks per episode to be really memorable. This one has a lot more shrink/enlarge guns in it, so that's pretty fun. Also, I'm now pretty sure my plasticy red Scion XD is just a toy car enlarged by Hank Pym.

48. Game Night
Some fun choices (weird electric music, tilt shift camera that sets the scene miniature as if in a board game), but ultimately the movie asks us to believe a certain amount of charm that doesn’t quite exist. There's a really great montage of embarrassing game night dates and I would’ve liked more of that. Rachel McAdams is delightful.

47. Mandy
Sundance viewing. This movie is delicously mesmerizing in its apocalyptic neon nightmare look, but it's cursed back into the real world with one of the Cagey-est Nicolas Cage performances ever. It's absurd and weird and a bit silly, but Cage puts an automatic camp stamp on it. Still, put it on as a screensaver sometime. It's like the side of an airbrushed fantasy scene on the side of a 70s van come to life.

46. Madeline's Madeline
Sundance viewing. This definitely DOES NOT assuage my deep terror of experimental theater groups. The lead is sparkling and intense (and very talented). Full disclosure: due to waitlist error I arrived five minutes late and I missed five (important) minutes near the end to get in my next waitlist. For the most part I didn’t get this, but I can tell in the clutter there’s an interesting story about two different authority figures taking advantage of the protagonist in different ways. Somehow this would make more sense to me with a consistency of weird abuse from the mother — and not scenes sprinkled in that pretend the weirdness didn’t happen.

45. Mute
The fightin’ Amish. Swaths of this to dislike— needlessness of muteness anyway, fullness of a love interest, boring side character flamboyance, etc. — BUT so much is salvaged by Paul Rudd channeling Trapper John M.D. by way of all the charismatic scumminess that’s ever existed in the world. Also future Berlin is built well even if seems to distract Jones from a more interesting story.

44. Outlaw King
After an audacious (if not unnatural) one-shot opening, the movie sure settles quickly into straight-to-video Braveheart sequel mode far from the grandeur of the William Wallace tale. Chris Pine’s baby blues get stuck behind a shaggy beard and mullet, not to mention Battle of the Bastards levels of mud. His dourness is such a shame considering his charm and verbal prowess could have been used to greater success than his physical fighting ability. Hey the fights are cool and bloody enough, but I counted more than once a soldier slowing his attack in order to get to his death mark at the proper choreographed moment. Still, one guy took off his chain mail helmet and used it as both a whip and a boxing glove so that’s pretty badass. But what’s with the English falling for the pikes again? Did they not even see Braveheart?

43. Ocean's Eight
There’s a part where Sandra Bullock considers the impression their crime team will make to young girls as a positive thing and I totally dig it as the feminine part of me that wants to be a feminine badass (with the obvious stipulation that NOBODY (not even women) should be thieves). I saw this six months ago, and looking back, I'm betting this will be pretty forgotten six months into the future. Looking over my notes, I apparently liked the ending, but don't quite remember the ending now. I just have a note that a lot of people won't like it (thanks A LOT Past Jon). I'm thinking now that it's not that this movie doesn't take chances, but the chances it takes are really pretty boring when it comes down to it. John Mulaney has this (probably pretty offensive) bit from long before this movie's existence about how a group of women could never pull off a heist properly because at least two of them would break away to talk crap about the other nine (how could Mulaney have known they'd only bother with eight?). Obviously that doesn't happen here. The girls are cool and a team and the plan goes off without a hitch and even the woman they DUPE thinks it's all cool. Okay that's awesome girl power and everything, but this lack of conflict is the dullness I was implying earlier. My notes also mentioned my own prediction that I'd get really into Awkwafina in the next six months and that was indeed an accurate prediction.

42. Deadpool 2
I can deal with five meta jokes. I have a much more difficult time with 50 meta jokes. I’m not sure how I’m expected to invest in a story that constantly pisses on itself. FORTUNATELY, by halfway through, the movie finds other means. The pretty good action isn’t an afterthought and a few new characters bring a reasonable balance to Reynolds (who doesn’t deserve the burden of being the life of the party for the full two hours). I love the look of Domino. For those unaware, she normally has a white face with a black blotch over an eye. The movie version has a black girl playing the part (a smokin' Zazie Beetz), so it's a white blotch rather than a black. It's little touches like that that make movie interpretations so much fun. It's a tiny little spin in the cinematic interpretation with a callback to the source without being enslaved to it.

41. Burden
Sundance viewing. Garrett Hedlund exhibits an exaggerated bro-stagger that makes him immensely punchable, but I suppose that’s the least of his character’s concerns. Often racism is depicted as so overtly villainous it doesn’t seem real. Here, it’s still plenty ugly, but it’s believable as a sort of inertia that’s very difficult to stop once the conditions are in place. Heckler does a great job showing the natural state of being defensive helping to perpetuate the problem. Ultimately, swagger aside, Hedland’s performance wins over. Even the scumbag moments are understandable while still despicable. Like eyes that constantly read like shame, despite all that nervous limb motion.

40. Creed II
So I know it would be impossible to pull off, but if I could have seen this movie without knowing Dolph Lundgren was in it, that opening scene with the Drago reveal in the shadows would have been my favorite movie moment of this century. Alas, once Drago is introduced, it’s pretty disappointing to see him with the same dull revenge identity as the bad guy in Taken 2. There’s a scene where Rocky and Drago meet after 30 years and they simply have nothing to do but stare at each other. Minor spoiler warning, but the places Drago gets to by the end are all well and good and great for like a minute, but the previous 129 minutes would be far more interesting if the Dragos had gotten to that point ahead of time. Okay but this is mostly the Americans’ movie, yeah? Michael B. Jordan is ripped and delicious, Tessa Thompson is strong and soothing, and Sylvester Stallone is now a zen-like (yet endearingly dopey) Burgess Meredith type. The players in place, I really wish the screenwriters (Stallone and some guy) didn’t use terrible sports commentators as the Greek chorus of whatever they wanted the tone and theme of the story to be. It’s like these guys are just reading a screenplay’s emotional notes between the lines rather than just let the characters act. Okay but there’s good. Two fights and two awesome training montages. I think by now we all know boxing movies are really about the training montages. I mean, boxing as a concept, by all notions of even a partially-civilized society, should have been banned, oh, 500 years ago (conservatively speaking). Still love boxing movies though. Funny how Stallone wrote this, because that’s the only reason Brigitte Nielsen appears. Perhaps he’s actually the one who wants her back? I also wonder if the movie was fast tracked because of all the crazy Russian stuff in the last couple of years. Strangely no mention of current tensions, or even any talk of it really being an entirely different country 30 years ago (not even referring to the Soviet Union). Perhaps it’s the Russians who did the fast tracking. Yes, Americans. Russians always the same. Nothing to worry about with us. Only boxing.

39. Avengers: Infinity War
I've found that when the Marvel movies are strong, they're able to focus on individuals. They struggle a bit when they all jump in together in the Avengers movies. This one is kind of like a great cocktail party with eager, fun-loving people. Over the course of a few hours you get to hang out with different groups interacting with each other. Every individual has a bubbly personality and a different dynamic depending on who flows in or out of the party circle. By the end of the night, though, you don’t get the action you were anticipating before the party started. Also, Thanos is a goofy cartoon. He looks like Barney the dinosaur. Even beyond the blatant cartoonishness, it's silly to make him tortured/complex when his motivation is beyond Hitlerian. SPOILER -- Do I like the ending? No. Does the ending at least have balls? Also no. Maybe that's an unfortunate side effect of knowing there's a part 2 and the harsh real world reality of knowing the studio won't REALLY kill off its biggest new moneymakers. Notice all the young people die, but the old people live. Okay well prep yourselves for part 2 when they use gem magic to bring everybody back to life and then the old people (who are getting too expensive to keep in the franchise) will then die. The downer ending could have worked. Maybe if they made the deathcount a bit more conservative it would be believable.

38. Crime + Punishment
Sundance viewing. Documentary that channels a present-day urgency with universal stakes rather than a hindsight stuffiness take on heroism. Even afterward at the Q&A, the heroes of this movie gathered united, but with several different opinions regarding a police system that's more about harassing and arresting than service.

37. Andre the Giant
Began my watch kind of annoyed the doc wasn’t delving into the mechanics of the sport itself. I’ve never gotten a straight, intriguing answer about it in the last 30 years. Nevertheless, I’ve become swept away in the sad tale of a kind man doomed to die young in a prison of his own body.

36. Search
Sundance viewing. A gimmick like Unfriended, so I guess these movies that take place on computer screens are gonna be around for a bit. Maybe replacing found footage movies? This one utilizes hidden cameras and newscasts and the strange concept of FaceTime self-video outside of a conversation. The inventiveness of cramming in-story media is pretty fun, but also makes me wonder if it’s more worth it just to cheat a bit to be less distracting. John Cho brings some strange capability in order to bring real emotion to the unusual method.

35. Halloween
So I’m like totally ready to list off a bunch of unnecessary homages left over from the original that this movie doesn’t need (the white Shatner mask for example). Also locked and loaded is my annoyance regarding dismissing all the other sequels, but still maintaining the in-movie reverence of a 40-year franchise monster. Thing is, as much as David Gordon Green annoys me with pretension, the movie eventually comes around to some interesting ideas that actually benefit from the whole idea of a sequel. I forgive the characters’ reverence for the killer because I ultimately believe villain-worship is the true villain of this particular story. Characters want to be Michael by choice and others become him by necessity. I suppose his fancy teleportation trick isn’t so much a superpower so much as it’s a symbol for the spreading of the bizarre psychological condition known as Auto-pilot Killer Crazy.

34. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Sundance viewing. I was told this movie has a “John Hughes” quality. I guess maybe, because angsty teens talk to each other, but I’m not sure Hughes ever dealt with homosexuality. Chloe Grace Moretz seems to suddenly have a startling ability to more gay than usual when she’s sitting perfectly still. It’s on her face even when she has no expression. The film has a restraint I respect. There is a monstrosity to the gay-fixers, but they’re not comically villainous. John Gallagher Jr. brings a conflicted soul on the opposite side. Emily Skeggs brings a refreshing Ellen Page similarity and a heartbreaking complexity on the side.

33. A Quiet Place
It’s not just bringing a baby into this world. It’s the AUDACITY to think you can do it silently. Well-enough executed. Surprised this silence novelty hasn’t been this utilized sooner. I’m slightly bugged that this feels like the one big chance to do it. I kinda feel the gimmick could have been used even more, but at least they didn't screw the whole concept up. If nothing else it got people to finally shut up during a movie.

32. Super Troopers 2
“Happiness in the household.” Good enough. I like these guys a lot except: 1. Still can’t really tell them apart 2. Some jokes feel laaaaame and old (like the ongoing thing where the guy takes woman drugs and becomes more sensitive) 3. The chummy banter is often unnatural.   I say “some” and “often” in the last two points because it’s worth noting that the rest of the time it’s fresh AF ranging from sustained giggliness to jump-laugh. Is jump-laugh a term? I’m using it in the sense like jump-scare. Like when a guy suddenly gets electrocuted and you involuntarily exude a sudden loud breath of laughter. Btw, consider just watching the first ten minutes. The first ten minutes are AMAZING.

31. Set it Up
Netflix movie. Is this the “Scream” of rom-coms where the characters know they’re in a rom-com? No, definitely not. The trope-awareness is definitely for the viewers’ pleasure only. Just like old times. Old, comfortable times. Get me some ice cream and pizza and I’ll watch it again.

30. To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Netflix movie. Another Netflix exercise in rom-com. The tropes and cliches are here again, but the formula is used as a playground for fun young romance and earnest feels. Not sure why the three sisters look to be three separate races though.

29. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Turns out the horse is the father! Strangely better than the first one. I have a few theories. 1. While the additional songs are definitely lower-tier ABBA, at least they don't have the burden of living up to the other masterpieces in the visual presentation. 2. The movie fully acknowledges the whoreish irresponsibility of condomless dalliances with three strangers within a week's time. 3. The two separate timelines not only mean two sets of beautiful people, but also enable easy quick cuts when things get boring.

28. Hereditary
Sundance viewing. A few earned startling moments, but at least a half dozen too many horror story elements. By the climax I was hoping the traumatized main characters would call time out to ask the baddies the logistics of the cult and how it applies to the family line and also what fire has to do with beheadings and also possession and then the gender thing. I saw this at Sundance and was extremely underwhelmed. I'm very surprised to see it become such a sensation. It does really well with the amazing horror mood, but, as somewhat stated above (something I jotted down the day I saw it), there are simply too many vastly different horror elements for me to take it seriously.

27. Ophelia
Sundance viewing. Naomi Watts is so nice, she has to act twice. The film seems quite proud of itself for retelling Hamlet from the female perspective, but I mean, what changed, REALLY? Pretty much the perspective shifts just enough to say “told you so,” with no real shifts in character or consequence. The character of Ophelia is already painted in a corner, so may as well knock down the corner walls. There is plenty of delight in the pseudo-Shakespeare back-and-forth dialogue that feels like sixteenth century burn contests.

26. Incredibles 2
The first Elastigirl/Screenslaver fight: Blows. My. Mind. Although my favorite is an examination of decision and doubt. Doubt needs to be more of a virtue these days.

25. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Great! Buuuuuut, I’m not giving it the 4.5 stars everyone else is giving. I may just completely dissociate with the concept of several parallel dimensions. I mean that kinda stuff is real groovy and I dig it, but with possibly infinite characters and settings and tones, I just have a hard time latching on to THIS particular story. Also, choppy animation. YES I know it’s stylistically on purpose, but that fact doesn’t help me see what’s going on when what’s going on isn’t discernible. But the animation is oh so cool at other times. My eyes wig out during the flickery parts, yes, but the tactic really brings to mind the flipping of actual comic book pages. It’s about time comic book movies leaned into the brilliance of comic book spectacle rather than the tired old cinematic spectacle.

24. Won't You Be My Neighbor?
The documentary about Mr. Rogers as a person. It's obviously inspiring to see what kind of positive person we can possibly aspire to, but it's also sort of evidence that we're living in one of the darkest parallel universes. What have we as a people become when there's only one Fred Rogers? How especially WEIRD is it that someone would value love and kindness above everything else? How absolutely messed up are we (especially myself) to think that? This is such a terrific movie that examines the best aspects of a man, but yeah, beyond the movie i worry about the earth. The Flanders-like kindness of Fred Rogers is like absurd alien behavior and it obviously shouldn't be.

23. Free Solo
Boy this makes Man on Wire look like a pile of puke, huh? Ultimately far and away scarier than any horror movie I’ve seen this year, so I’ll definitely give it that. I have guilt pangs for watching it though. I don’t like how Alex Honnold visits schools and talks about what he does and I don’t like how my movie ticket likely feeds into the free solo industrial complex. Maybe this amygdala-less freak isn’t a great role model. We should literally look away. Free soloing is wreckless and dangerous and yeah it’s a free country and people can commit suicide if they want to, but the weight of that seems to fall on friends, loved ones, and the rest of us with normal brains that get anxiety about falling off mountains. I feel guilt. But it’s such an amazing feat. And the documenting is another amazing feat. With my above qualms I would have just done a slight editing switcheroo. The ethical ramifications with loved ones is studied in the middle, to leave room to conclude with the triumph. Switch those around and leave the audience thinking about the cost of dreams. I think that’s the right decision, but movies like this are great at picking at the thoughts and emotions of the audience. Other movies might have objective correct editorial decisions, but this one (ironically) depends on individuals’ amygdalas. A LOT can be said about the unusual romance. The way the movie puts it into perspective I would think Sanni McCandless probably broke up with him on the way out of the movie’s premiere. It’s interesting that his passion is obviously what makes him so attractive. Here’s the best example, though, of that same passion actually derailing what it wrought. We’re weird beings like that. We couple up, but we need to abandon what brought us together in order to stay together. Alex’s single-mindedness and the woman who loves him simultaneously because of and in spite of that is like something out of Greek myth. I’m also a little mad at Alex because he beat Captain Kirk to the top (see Star Trek V).

22. Bohemian Rhapsody
Okay too bad musical versions of “Death on Two Legs” and “You’re My Best Friend” are left out, but certainly not much to complain about the musical aspects of this movie. Very weird, though, is the absolute rubbish bits of dialogue and insincere drama between all those musical sequences. The normal talkie scenes are like if some side character of some other movie visited a movie set and those are the lines written for THAT film within a film. It’s like when the band isn’t performing, the action is beyond mere placeholder levels of insincerity. I’m almost ready to believe the dullness of the uh, recitatives if you will, is completely deliberate in order to make the musical sequences that much more grand by comparison. So Freddie is obviously larger than life, but I definitely appreciate the attention to the other band members. Gwilym Lee in particular looks and sounds exactly like Brian May and I love how much screen time the Roger Taylor character gets (Ben Hardy looks amazing in drag). If there is a lesson to the movie at all it may be that eccentric genius is best when tempered against down-to-earth normalcy. So yeah, there’s the music. As someone who actually took the time to watch Live Aid through Netflix DVDs, I can tell you we’re treated to far more Live Aid here than the movie narrative needs or deserves, but it is so very very welcome. The montage surrounding “Another One Bites the Dust” is also a bit of fun that sits outside the flow of the movie. It’s actually that “Dust” disco sequence that makes me think how much better this thing would be if it were organized more experimentally. My friends and I agreed afterward that the trailer for the movie is actually the superior work (with the disadvantage of being over two hours shorter). Seeing this, MY experiment would be to structure completely around the musical sequences — May and Taylor were on board with production, so we could fill the time with even more Queen music. Those ghastly in between bits could just run underneath the musical interludes sans dialogue. The simple events need not be spoken aloud; we’ve all seen any episode of Behind the Music. I think the result would cheekily be similar to, you know, an opera. Also this has Lucy Boynton.

21. Widows
Years from now we’re gonna take a nice contextual look at all female-led movies from this era and decide whether #metoo and #timesup and all that were a subtle influence or a bludgeoning one. I find a bit of subtlety in the setup. Several sets of men mismanage the world and ultimately the innocent must set things right — fueled by desperation rather than greed or power. When asked where to find a gun, Viola Davis quickly responds with “This is America!” These women have a job to do and they’re doing it within the dystopia men in charge have created. Unfortunately the pendulum swings a bit sideways at times. The battle of the sexes is a bit overdone and simplified in another Davis line, “no one thinks we have the BALLS to pull this off!” I wonder in that future I mentioned at the beginning of this review will have a lot of wishing that we didn’t just compare women to men as a means of showing strength. Bit of a slow burn as far as heists go. McQueen doesn’t achieve the same resonance as 12 Years a Slave, but he does something right with the build-up. All the pieces move into place like a compelling chess match with a kickboxing match at checkmate. Oh hey also nearly forgot to mention some great casting here. Watched Daniel Kaluuya for two hours thinking, who is that guy? I KNOW I just saw him in something. I think I didn’t recognize him because here he unlocks a sinisterness I didn’t realize was possible after Get Out.

20. Mission Impossible -- Fallout
The cracks are barely starting to show. His running is almost not believable. Almost. Spectacular armrest-gripping sequences, but at the same time a few sequences where characters are weirdly dispatched (probably because they didn’t have a specific stunt sequence planned for that setting). Henry Cavill has a great mustache and great arms. I'm still stunned they haven't fired Simon Pegg. Not from the movie, but from the IMF. Is the whole force just Tom Cruise and every single other person dumb enough to apply for such a dangerous job?

19. Unsane
The Get Out for highly-approachable white women. Living the stifled life of a queen must have done a number on Claire Foy because she's done a lot of crazy things this year, like this one about a woman committed against her will. Slight spoiler warning, but also slightly not as well. With wrongfully committed movies, there's a tendency to go the "is she really insane?" route. Here, the perspective distinctly shifts to another character for a scene in order to throw the question of her sanity right out the window. I actually really appreciate the movie for letting us know, okay THIS is the movie you're watching. Don't worry about some other interpretive thing that may be a twist later. That choice allows the viewers to not expend energy elsewhere and just focus specifically on the character as presented.

18. Private Life
It’s so bloody simple. It’s just a strung-together series of events centered around a couple’s fertility quest and the family it affects. It’s riveting, but they make it look easy. Perhaps it was easy to make, and if so it’s a credit to the work it must have taken writing-wise and acting-wise to fully create these different characters before the cameras ever rolled.

17. Crazy Rich Asians
Fortunately and weirdly this thing is long enough to build sympathy for the main character. That first half is iffy for her with a few groany lines (like the swaggery "go buy a haircut" after tossing that white bro student (the only white character with lines I think (!)) a poker chip). Anyway, once the glitz yields to the more interesting family guiltism, we’re totally on the way. Btw, in it’s second week and my theater was totally filled to the brim with whiteys like me. I don’t think it has anything to do with some kind of progressivism that’s suddenly hit town. I read EW, so I know this and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a big deal because studios always angle white for business reasons. Right now I’m thinking the reason these things are succeeding is Romance in the academic nineteenth century term. "Anywhere but here" because we’re pretty sick of ourselves. The bigness of another culture is practically high fantasy now. Hey for the second time this year I want even more Awkwafina. She’s the absolute master of side-eye. Oh but what’s up with that mega all’s well ending? Either go back to NYC with your convictions, or split up to sort out your issues. These are heavy dilemmas and can't be solved with another 24 hours of extravagance. In short, the movie sputters at the beginning and end, but quite a tasty middle (like an egg roll burned too crispy at both ends). Okay I’ve been thinking more about that weird ending. Is it possible there’s some kind of background cynical message? Almost like a Casablanca-like vibe of putting love second to the needs of the world? There’s that little mini-conversation in the middle of the movie where a character tells the male lead that leaving the family business would be impossible. The irresponsibles next in line would destroy it. These people are so ensconced in the world economy, that they’re too big to fail. Doing so would send repurcussions that any NYU economy professor would agree would have a negative effect across the globe. His staying and her looking the other way is the bailout price for us all.

16. Roma
Fortunately there’s all that footage of the big car scraping through narrow spaces to prepare me for that horrendous birth sequence. I’m so very sorry to Cuaron and the world that I didn’t see this in the cinema. I’m glad Cuaron got like a billion dollars from Netflix and everything, but it’s unfortunate that the majority of viewers only get the 55-inch version. I hear it’s quite a big screen spectacle. At the same time, though, it’s not like there are THAT many action sequences. Also the nude martial arts sequence doesn’t need much enlargement. The camera precision is pretty fascinating. It calls attention to itself constantly with steady robotic pans. The world of 1970s Mexico City appears utterly complete. It’s like the camera injects itself like a syringe needle to withdraw a specific portion of the larger world. As for emotion, it’s there a bit in this story pulled from the director’s childhood memories about his family’s house servant. We’re observing events much more than getting deep in anyone’s head. This may be more pure, and allow us our own imaginations of the main character’s deepest feelings, but part of me wishes the needle went more into her soul than the surrounding scenery. This, though, might be the restraint needed to make the movie more deep and personal on repeated viewings. We’ll see how time tells it.

15. A Futile and Stupid Gesture
Okay this one played at Sundance, but I caved and watched it alone on Netflix rather than with a theater full of rowdy moviegoers. Part of me hates Netflix for quashing any kind of cinema run, but it looks like the film actually has home viewing in mind. Several jokes rely on pausing the action (including a long sequence that’s pretty much the film’s Imdb trivia section). Doug Kenney and Henry Beard are portrayed as humorists who are driven by humor, but take little joy in it. Hardly a chuckle from either of them — like humor is a weapon (or at least just the most agreeable way to pass the time). Domhnall Gleeson is commendably intriguingly so American and so straight. Didn’t recognize him for the first 20 minutes. The lovely stunt casting of the significant players of the time elicits pleasure, but it’s hardly a factor as the cameos are mere seconds of screen time. The movie is about Doug Kenney more than National Lampoon, which is fine. Not sure if Will Forte is a lot like Kenney, but I sure hope so. I got much more of the Forte personality I know rather than a new version of the Kenney I don’t know.

14. Black Panther
Again with the dark, murky action scenes. Also got my tickets late so had too sit too close, which doesn’t help. BUT, fun to be had here. They say there are only seven stories in the universe or whatever. I suppose that means there’s at least enough scenery in the Marvel Universe to live with just two or three stories. And Wakanda is quite a beauty too. It’s not perfect, but I love the newness of such an alien, but distinctly human world. I’m sure Michael B. Jordan really loves finally sinking his teeth into villainy. Would like even more baring of teeth from him, though. The above are my notes the day I saw it. I suppose I didn't have the energy to really comment on the racial aspects. Perhaps I was smarter then. I'm the last person who should comment on that kind of thing. However, I should mention how the movie addresses Wakanda as a secluded nation in much the same way The United States is becoming more secluded. A few terrible opinions use this as ammunition that the movie ignorantly promotes the same kind of xenophobic attitude exhibited by our own government right now. The beauty of this movie isn't just that it's cheerleading for Black pride. It uses the fictional country as a separate and needed perspective for everyone else. Notice the method for making Wakanda great again is not to actually keep their walls up.

13. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Weird how Netflix didn’t talk the Coens into just making an anthology TV show rather than draping a bunch of separate stories within a movie. I love love love the opening psycho whimsy sequence of Buster Scruggs himself, but I have a feeling it’s the more sincere and contemplative segments that follow are gonna be the ones I truly remember. Probably the delightful one with Zoe Kazan upended by the slightest tragic imperfection. It’s a shame that the cinematic Coen splendor is reduced to straight Netflix, but at least it makes sense in a series of episodes. Maybe the Coens have been watching the TV version of Fargo for inspiration. Didn’t do the research, but I imagine this project is the result of several unfinished writing projects they had difficulty extending to feature-length. Actually a breath of fresh air as far as short films go. Gosh, wouldn’t it be great if each one of these were individually nominated for the Best Live Action Short film Oscar? Shoot. I’m sure they’re wrongfully disqualified for at least two reasons I can think of.

12. A Star is Born
See THAT’S why I don’t like watching the Emmys. Unlike a Behind the Music episode, this is sincere and unboring. Cooper is earnest and real, but maybe too much so with his dialogue belched up in a low register my ear can’t recognize. He has some kind of family relationship with his brother and his parents or something that they talk about a ton, but it only gets in the way of the Gaga stuff. Gaga's a natural and the movie would do well to put a greater weight to her struggles rather than his. Her eyes and purposely pouty lips defy the character’s naïveté, but I’m certainly not complaining. Great music from the both of them though. He's got his weird loud rock country thing and she belts out the works, but there's an expected unevenness between pretty good and pretty spectacular. We get the showstopper to begin the stardom, but subsequent similar songs just aren’t revved up as much. "The Shallows" is a thing of beauty in itself and explodes the film, but that's not the case for the rest of the songs stuck with having to be compared to it. And the pop-style image adjustment is purposely not as interesting so we can’t get our tune thrills there.

11. Tully
Putting the spoiler warning on here even though I’m gonna avoid super specifics. This is about Charleze Theron hiring Mackenzie Davis as a night nanny and there's a twist that I think some may consider very groan-inducing, but I really love it here. I really hesitate to bring it up in my end-of-year list thing, because now if you see it you'll be looking for the twist rather than just watching the movie. Just watch the movie. The twist is slightly absurd, but hardly cheap. It’s a device to emphasize the personal themes of the main character, rather than distract from them and this is more about character than yelling "called it!"

10. Juliet, Naked
First of all, Rose Byrne is an international treasure. Her series of perplexed faces issue sincere feeling that’s somehow unaware of her outrageous beauty. Chris O’Dowd is the flawed doofus with possibly too much sympathetic hurt in his eyes. Ethan Hawke is the scumbag I was born loving, almost as if it’s in my genes. Not sure I can write a real review, though, because this one caught me in some bizarre outer context. I’m slightly frustrated with the ending. Not to be too spoilery here (probably add the spoiler screen because I’ve been called out for less), but I question one character’s “deserving” of another character, despite the implied off-screen mistakes — while another character is abandoned over one such mistake. Yes yes yes, it’s a world of difference, considering the third member of the triangle has never had the displeasure of being hurt by the more immoral one. Still somehow my gut feels a tinge of “problematic” (or is it just a touch of hurt masculine “unfairness”). Alrighty, all that is mega-silly though, because the last thing we need is to keep score. The heart wants what it wants and definitely harms those that don’t sync with it and it’s not fair to say who deserves what. But then again how does anybody wind up together? If there’s one thing Juliet, Naked points out, it’s that it’s the tiniest, dumbest things that spur the end of relationships and it’s the tiniest, dumbest things that begin them. But what goes in the middle? Just imperfection that rarely aligns. Really quick, two scenes resonate. 1. Ethan Hawke’s fumbling attempt at family control in the hospital. 2. Chris O’Dowd’s curt declaration of love for the art minus the artist. I wonder what would really happen if Annie were more positive about the album (SIDENOTE: she really DID love it, right? I mean it absorbed her so much she burnt the leftovers. BUT she doesn’t admit that to Duncan or even Tucker. Almost as if she can’t admit the same sort of Duncan-type vulnerability. (I could be seriously wrong on this sidenote)). If so, would her continued standard relationship still somehow be valid or would it just be eternally dishonest sans outright lies? I ask all these questions because more and more often I find myself annoyed IRL at the love story not going the way I want. Perhaps I’m just consistently the antagonist, a sin short of perfection and forced out of alignment on a detail important only to me. With all these dang movies I’ve seen, I wonder if they’ll ever really teach me anything.

9. First Man
Might possibly be overranking at this time. We’ll see how time tells, but right after seeing it it’s like I felt a moon landing more than saw one. Weird in a good way how such an event considered so universal is shown from such a dangerously clinical level of introversion. Surprisingly Chazelle throws in a sequence with a black protester singing about the needlessness of whitey going to the moon with so many problems still on earth. At first thought it’s a possible inadvertent dig at the unnecessary Moonlight/La La Land rivalry among fans of both movies after the Oscar screw-up. As a big fan of Chazelle I cringe a bit that this will be interpreted as promoting white accomplishments over other social problems. On further thought, the movie actually does nothing to debate the idea that the moon landing does anything at all for a whole society. Rather than waving a flag, Chazelle gives in to space travel critiques in order to make it so completely about a near mental disorder it takes to see the journey done. Not that the effort wasn’t accomplished through the work of thousands. The movie just uses the massive moments to go almost completely first-person. The momentous events aren’t framed in hero shots on the outside for us to admire. They’re framed in the small perspective on the inside from the experiencer himself. The shakiness does well to put us there, but as a personal complaint, it sometimes shakes me out of the action when it’s likely not supposed to. This may be crazy, but I’m submitting the movie is inspired at least a little by another space movie, Making Mr. Right. As you likely recall, that movie is much about the concern of what space travel does psychologically to humans, so maybe we should send robots (and also the movie is mostly anout the John Malkovich robot falling in love with some hot human PR lady I think). ANYWAY, kind of interesting that Gosling plays even more of a focused robot-type here than he did when actually was a robot. The things robots do to earn humanity. Btw during one of the bad day test sequences, the sound design emitted this horrific rhythm screech that’s the scariest thing I’ve been exposed to in the Halloween month.

8. BlacKkKlansman
Haven’t had a lot of love in my previous Spike Lee experiences, but I appreciate the balancing act here, even though the altitude is unexpected. The bulk is behind-the-scenes KKK doltish bigotry, which isn’t offset by power rallies on the other side. Both perspectives induce discomfort and rather than evening out the sides, the duality emphasizes an inescapable tension. Lee gives us a break by easing that tension with humor and a final, hopeful narrative epilogue of sorts that brings the barriers down a bit in favor of a common achievement.

7. Annihilation
Alienation at a cellular level. Okay shoot. I really really like this movie, but that's all I wrote down when I saw it. Obviously it says something about the human condition, but I'm not entirely sure I can parse out anything useful in that regard here. I'm actually more fascinated by the literal alienation of literal aliens. Our life on Earth is so very complicated that would we even recognize life outside of Earth if we encountered it? Such life would have a completely different basis. In the past 30 years or so we've gone from E.T. to Arrival, but the concept of otherworld visitors reaches a kind of horrific and wonderful culmination with this one. We watch the progress Natalie Portman makes, but even with all the revelations we can't even really conclude what these beings want, or if they're even conscious. Is it a matter of survival or love or hostility or nothing at all? Normally I'd ask all these questions and say the movie is taking the safe way out by presenting unanswerable questions and passing that off as deep. I'm not gonna say that here. Even though I practically had more questions leaving the theater than going in, the movie still gets a pass for invoking possibility instead of lone befuddlement.

6. Hold the Dark
Netflix movie. Okay I don’t know what this movie means. I’m completely perplexed. I’m wondering if I’m even supposed to know. The characters in the movie certainly say as much. I suppose in these trying times it’s almost insulting to even pretend to understand the downtrodden, so maybe that’s what’s up. All I need to know, or rather, all I need to feel, is that tension Saulnier provides (as usual). I always love a good dream logic movie. Sometimes it’s a cheat to throw logic out the window, but at least there’s the thrill of unpredictability. This time there’s the over-arching bizarre inexplicable character (which can be explained by someone else, I’m sure) behavior coupled with the absolute visceral reality of cold and bullets and blood. It’s like a constant pinch assuring us we’re in no dream.

5. The Favourite
Definitely maybe dressing up in Rachel Weisz’s rifle outfit for Halloween. There’s a cynicism of humanity on display that’s a delight to behold. We’re savage animals lurking underneath the makeup and fine dress. The game played here must be won at all costs, but Lanthimos is sure to let us know the endorphin rush that comes with smug victory hardly lasts. Weisz has a natural sparkling chilliness in this evil survival game, but her worst decision is likely the small act of compassion toward Emma Stone. This is the part Stone was meant to play. Her subtle expressions in her own solitude are priceless and somehow cartoon-like with her large eyes as emphasis. And when I say cartoon-like, I mean the very best cartoon. The locale and costumes are firmly 18th century, but the camera moves in a way unusual for such a period picture. It’s not so much in the angles as it’s in the entire geometry. There’s a lot of severe swiveling as well as foreboding low angles. This somehow brings to mind a sense of a paranoid perspective.

4. Shirkers
Okay here's an intriguing documentary about a bizarre little filmmaking tale from the director's own life. The footage begins with the thrill of creativity and collaboration, but as often (nearly always) happens, individual personalities clash against the spirit of creativity. That's an understatement here, as the film chronicles a 20+ year search for the film the director, Sandi Tan, thought she made. We're treated to an obvious and intensely mysterious villain, but the movie morphs a bit into discussing those same villainous qualities on our seeming protagonist. That thrill of creation becomes a sort of blindness from another perspective. I weirdly love these sort of introspective documentaries. They have the tendency to be a bit more overtly personal than a highly-manufactured narrative.

3. Minding the Gap
This is a documentary. Sort of. We're treated to some really great moving skateboard footage that weaves in and out of riders for some breathtaking stretches. Eventually the subject matter slowly moves from skateboarding to much deeper relationship matters. It really makes compelling filmmaking look easy. As a small example, sometimes characters are filmed during an interesting bit of dialogue or action and in the same shot the phone would ring with important information on the other side. Okay I haven’t researched this, but a big part of me believes this is actually a scripted narrative framed as a video diary-style documentary. If that’s the case I think I’d feel a sort of sense of betrayal, but it could be argued that such a thing would be even more of a filmmaking accomplishment. Regardless, brilliant work easing a harsh theme slowly into fantastic skateboarding footage. I probably already said this (because as of this second I haven't actually written anything about Shirkers yet), but I believe the future of filmmaking is in documentaries rather than features. The documentaries of today surprisingly find a much easier time exhibiting a director's personality than a narrative. We're gonna see a lot more docs where the camera is turned inward rather than a focus on an external subject.

2. Sorry to Bother You
Okay this one's great. The simple flourishes, such as the desk dropping into homes to illustrate the privacy disruption of telemarketing, will make this one worth talking about in the future. Oh, and of course there's the extra horse mile. It could have stayed solid as a grounded, safe satire, so mad respect for all the insane perplexing curves it takes. It starts off as a telemarketing comedy, but I'm at a loss in how to describe where it goes. Ultimately I think I like it so much because I didn't quite get it. Like a bunch from this year, it's a movie about race, but it's told in a bizarre fantasy world where I'm not quite sure what the allegories are, but rather than frustration, there's exhilaration in knowing there's more to uncover. Regardless on the details, it's certain this movie comes from a place of aggravation at the absurdity of the current state of black peoples' place in the country right now. It''s funny in the most whimsically angry way.

1. Eighth Grade
Sundance viewing. Right from the he beginning we love Elsie Fisher as young Kayla. It’s not coolness or precociousnees, but a pure heart, I think. The girl carries her burdens in a way that doesn’t necessarily convince us of the stresses of young adult life as much as it brings it to our sudden and tactile remembrance. Middle school stakes are paltry on paper, but Fisher brings a truth that says these stakes outweigh any war or moon landing. Was genuinely worried about little Elsie Fisher as a person until she came out for Q&A after the show with so much of the same sputtering goofiness as in the film, but also mixed with a real-world confidence that made me excited for the rest of her life. Meta bonus that the young actor who provides her chicken nugget date has the real-life name of Jake Ryan, Molly Ringwald’s object of affection in Sixteen Candles.

So that above paragraph is what I wrote when I first saw the movie almost a year ago. It's not the highest praise, but I will tell you that at times throughout the year, I've remembered an especially sad scene from Eighth Grade where the Kayla character finally reveals her insecurities to her father. Remembering his immediate and sincere response to her nearly brings me to tears every time I just remember it. I haven't actually seen the movie again, so perhaps a lot of this has the benefit of misremembering. If that's the case then good for the movie for incepting me like that. Anyway, I feel like my anxieties really started around the time of eighth grade and the movie shows that feelings don't change that much, but by some miracle we get through it.

Leftover top 25 movies from 2017!

Okay so these are the awkward ones from 2017 I either saw at the beginning of the year or, for some reason they weren't released here in Utah until 2018 or I caught them once they finally went streaming. Quite a few like this from Sundance, etc. I didn't write these up too much.

25. Our New President
Sundance viewing.

24. Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Some silly thing about He-Man.

23. Blade of the Immortal
Was this a martial arts movie?

22. The Greatest Showman

21. Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie
Netflix movie.

20. The Post
Last year's big one from Spielberg.

19. Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts
Yeah these are always boring.

18. Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts

17. Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman finally lives up to his name.

6. Papillon
What’s up with just how AMERICAN both versions of this movie are? An ascot, accordion, baguette, ANYTHING to put a little French tickle into it.

15. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Jack Black as a woman for the win.

14. Jungle
Harry Potter gets lost in the forest.

13. Sweet Country
Sundance showing. Narrative about Australian Aboriginals.

12. The Lego Batman Movie

11. Molly's Game
Aaron Sorkin movie about that poker game lady.

10. Patti Cake$
The girl from Dumplin'. Better than Dumplin'.

9. Brawl in Cell Block 99
Vince Vaughn beats up a car and it's awesome.

8. Good Time
Robert Pattinson saves his brother by being a blond scuzzbag.

7. Phantom Thread
Big picture from last year that's funnier than you might think.

6. First Reformed
All the negative feels with a slight grace of the positive. Even with the benefit of faith there’s hopelessness without seeking to care for each other. This one asks quite a few difficult questions about faith and environmentalism. In a more broad sense it asks whether the individual is absolved from society's sins. Faith-based subject matter, but hardly the usual Christian-themed movie. A challenging breath of fresh air, though. Dealing with doubt is the essential aspect of faith, after all. This is a super fun one and a bit of an awesome bummer.

5. I, Tonya
Maybe Tonya was better than Nancy.

4. Call Me by Your Name
Way long, but I think I still cried at the end.

3. Foxtrot
Wow this one provides an unfair whiplash of emotion.

2. The Death of Stalin
Good to know politicians in Soviet Russia back in the day were just as petty as ours now.

1. Thoroughbreds
Why not have psychopaths on both ends of the emotional spectrum and let them talk to each other? So anyway this one's about a couple of odd high school girls who become friends and then bad things happen.

A ranking of all the old movies I watched in 2018 that I'd never seen before!

I put the year in parentheses. No blurb on these because you've probably seen 'em all anyway. I should mention I've been watching a lot of older movies because of my duties on the Yours, Mine & Theirs Podcast. Check it out.

52. Scrooged (1988)
51. Batman & Robin (1997)
50. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)
49. The Worst Witch (1986)
48. Rocky V (1990)
47. Pink Floyd: The Wall (1972)
46. The Prowler (1981)
45. The Fly (1958)
44. The Tingler (1959)
43. Hoosiers (1986)
42. Diggstown (1992)
41. Conan the Barbarian (1982)
40. The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)
39. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
38. Demons (1985)
37. Swamp Thing (1982)
36. Bachelor Party (1984)
35. Hard Eight (1996)
34. Get Over It (2001)
33. 3 Godfathers (1948)
32. Persona (1966)
31. My Bloody Valentine (1981)
30. The Way of the Dragon (1972)
29. U2: From the Sky Down (2011)
28. Angel and the Badman (1947)
27. F/X (1986)
26. The Blob (1958)
25. Timecrimes (2007)
24. Found Footage 3D (2016)
23. Train to Busan (2016)
22. Atlantic Rim (2013)
21. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)
20. Holiday Inn (1942)
19. Key Largo (1948)
18. Rabid (1977)
17. Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter (1971)
16. Hocus Pocus (1993)
15. Deep Red (1975)
14. Wait Until Dark (1967)
13. Coffy (1973)
12. The Thing from Another World (1951)
11. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
10. Fort Tilden (2014)
9. The Exorcist III (1990)
8. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
7. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
6. Infernal Affairs (2002)
5. The Big Sleep (1946)
4. High Plains Drifter (1973)
3. Halloween (1978)
2. Solaris (1972)
1. Starred Up (2013)

A ranking of all the movies I watched in 2018 that I'd already seen!

Alrighty, so maybe don't think all these lower ranking ones are too bad. I said it last year and I'll say it again: I usually only rewatch movies I actually enjoy, so most of these are real winners.

45. Rubin & Ed (1991)
44. Mac and Me (1988)
43. True Grit (1969)
42. The Overnight (2015)
41. True Grit (2010)
40. Suburban Commando (1991)
39. Four Lions (2010)
38. The Wolverine (2013)
37. They Live (1988)
36. Dead Snow (2009)
35. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
34. Evolution (2001)
33. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
32. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
31. Idiocracy (2006)
30. The Love Witch (2016)
29. Dark City (1998)
28. Moon (2009)
27. Wanderlust (2012)
26. Clueless (1995)
25. The Village (2004)
24. Splash (1984)
23. Role Models (2008)
22. The Death of Stalin (2017)
21. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
20. Raw (2016)
19. Soylent Green (1973)
18. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
17. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
16. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
15. Evil Dead II (1987)
14. Never Let Me Go (2010)
13. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
12. Better Off Dead... (1985)
11. The Thing (1982)
10. Sing Street (2016)
9. The Fly (1986)
8. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
7. Batman (1989)
6. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
5. Highlander (1986)
4. The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
3. Die Hard (1988)
2. Point Break (1991)
1. Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Silly facts and stats only I care about!

Bound to be a bit of human error here.

Total number of movies seen: 195 (a bunch more than last year (169)!)
Total number of 2018 movies seen: 70
Total number of non-2018 movies seen: 125
Year of oldest movie: 1942 (Holiday Inn)
Total number of movies seen more than once within 2018: 2 (Die Hard, Mac and Me (for some reason))
Biggest movie-watching month: January (30 (thanks again Sundance!))
Smallest movie-watching month: September (11)
Movies seen at the cinema (excluding Sundance showings): 64 (this is going down because of the disintegration of MoviePass)
Most popular theater: Tower (17 showings)
Movies seen on Netflix: 24
Movies seen on DVD/Blu-ray: 38 (up 17 from last year!)
Movies seen at Sundance: 19 (a new record!) and that's not counting A Futile and Stupid Gesture
Movies seen at the annual 24-hour movie marathon: 11
Movies seen on an airplane: 0
Movies seen as part of a special screening/special event: 0
Movies seen on Amazon Prime: 13
Movies seen as an Amazon rental: 1 (Dead Snow)
Movies seen on Hulu: 2
Movies seen on YouTube TV: 4
Movies seen on Shudder: 7
Movies seen on HBOGo: 7
Movies seen on iTunes: 0
Movies seen on TubiTV: 1 (My Bloody Valentine)
Movies seen on Vimeo: 0
Movies seen on Vudu: 3
Movies seen on just some computer file that someone sent be 'cause it was the only way to find the movie: 1 (Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith)
Movies seen on straight-up broadcast TV: 0
Average Rotten Tomatoes score: I didn't have time to check! But last year it was 79.77%

END LIST! Now send me yours!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Airing of Grievances 2018

Airing of Grievances 2018

It’s Festivus. I reveal now this year’s Airing of Grievances. Taking requests for next year. I’m already planning on a grievance regarding all your spectacularly lame ideas.

Useless Wi-Fi networks-
When I was a young boy I dreamed of a spanning online network enabling me to read moronic social media updates from all parts of the world. Now we have several networks -- most of them offline. If I’m gonna turn on the Wi-Fi of my phone, I’d like to be linked to networks that actually take me to the internet and not, as most do, to nowhere. Okay fine, I’ll call out the big one. Xfinity, your network never works. It’s more like a worldwide jamming frequency than anything. My absolute serious theory is that all the wireless networks block the net on purpose so we’ll all just give up and dip into (our strangely always reliable, yet costly) data plan.

iPhone cursor-
This thing is like a game of keepaway. There’s only one delete button on the phone keyboard and it goes backwards. 99% of the time the cursor wants to go to the beginning of a word, meaning whenever I need to delete something in the middle of my rant, I’m forced to delete at least two words rather than one. Some tech nerd or possibly some sinister AI wants me to have mistakes in the middle of my sentences. And precision cursor-placement is impossible enough when fingertips are nearly the size of the entire phone screen anyway. And forget all about it if I’m trying to adjust something in the bottom right corner. Rather than moving into edit mode, it’s more likely a fat finger on the send text/tweet button sends something like this to the world: “I’m ferlingupsert tod.”

Still haven’t tried them, but what’s up with the people who have? It’s like, “hey look how good my ear muscles can flex!” Yeah, no need to keep them in all day. Don’t freaking wear them into meetings. The things are dorky and make you look like White Shrek.

Additional self-promotion when tweets go viral-
Okay this one popped into my head at the very beginning of the year and it’s practically already to the self-parody stage. That’s progress, I suppose. Anyway, for the Twitterless, here’s what’s going on. Sometimes a tweet comes along that’s totally viral with like over a thousand retweets -- usually a great joke about some current trend or president. Once popularity has been assured with that many retweets, the protocol is now for the author to then attach ANOTHER tweet (thus creating a “thread”) to the original that says something like “Thanks for the support! I have a SoundCloud full of manifestos you should check out!” This little act of self-promotion not only muddies up the original brilliance, but the “Show this thread” messaging that’s automatic with the tweet addition gives the false impression there’s more to the original. We’re now at a point where the true test of the add-on tweet should be just how much the author can troll the retweeting masses by saying something completely off-base in the add-on. “Hey wow this tweet really blew up! Please click on this link to join my personal society of Nazi flat earthers!” Please sign my petition that all Twitter thoughts and all thoughts in general should be self-contained and limited to 140 (yes, 140) characters.

Tweets that think retweets are currency-
Hey have you ever seen something this one? “Hey Michael Jackson! How many retweets would it take for you to rise from the grave and play at my high school prom?” Okay that’s sort of an extreme example, but usually a dream prom or wedding with a celebrity is often involved.  Look man, don’t open that up. There’s democracy and then there’s a bunch of people wishing we could change spacetime. Social media is just a way to talk to each other and we can’t let it get more than that. Think about the world you’ll create where the popular have even more riches and power than they do now.

Presidential tweets-
Adding this one real quick right now. It’s kind of related. Hey we need to not pay so much attention to one person’s social media. I think we like it because it’s a trainwreck, but by paying so much attention, we’re actually giving a runaway trainwreck a lot more power than warranted. His stupidity is actually benefiting him. He’s skirting process by acting like a clown. The rest of the government finds out “policy” before any plans are in place. Disorder is control. CNN, MSNBC, NYT, AP, BBC, WSJ, WP, NBC, ABC, CBC -- all y’all have got to stop reporting on the president’s tweets. AND ALSO the rest of us do too. The emperor’s clothes are meaningless and we shouldn’t have gone to the parade in the first place.

Character take-downs when people die-
Hey everybody’s scum. Let’s just acknowledge that right now. With this in mind, maybe don’t worry about hot or even lukewarm takes regarding the weaknesses of the recently deceased. They can’t respond to you, so give ‘em a couple of months. Give them respect as a human and then Nixonize when the flowers are gone.

Buffering issues-
This is like totally a 20th century grievance. Somehow sometimes some days I’m playing some video through this thing called the internet and the nerds or the robots in charge only give me audio without the video -- as if I wouldn’t notice. Look, I know there’s only so much internet to go around, so don’t play the video until the whole thing is ready to play. And also get the whole thing ready to play like right now! I pay taxes!

Girls who can’t figure out their age-
Okay so all you married people, there are a lot of new society-ending dating apps that the rest of us (and many of you!) are using. Usually these apps link directly to social media profiles (probably so users can’t create a million fake identities). Very very very VERY often, somehow many of these girls (and I assume this goes the other way too) say something like “i’m not really 35 haha i’m really 42 i don’t know why it says the wrong age!” Yeah, it says the wrong age because you’re lying about your age somewhere. Hey, just look to Aaliyah and treat age as just a number. Not that I’ll reveal mine.

Stacks of paper towels in fancy restaurant bathrooms-
Terrible bathrooms have paper towel dispensers, but really posh bathrooms apparently find the bulky beasts incredibly gauche. Rather, we’re treated to a stack of paper towels meticulously folded into each other like an accordion art exhibit. After proper post-waste disposal sink procedure, our sopping wet hands attempt to gather one or two towels, but the entire stack is affected with the damp of a thousand diluted pee-riddled bathroom occupants. That’s if we’re lucky. Usually the whole accordion of towels sticks together long enough to spread out, landing in the massive liquid pools that have now collected on the counter. This is luxury? What do the peasants use?

Opening new box for used item-
Sometimes you return things and then I buy them again unawares. I can tell by the shoddy inner packaging. Hey it sure looked new on the outside. What did you do to it? What could you have done to it that would make me comfortable? Anything at all? Where did you stick this thing you bought and returned?

Misplaced faith in aggressive driving-
Okay look, driving fast and swerving through cars and cutting people off is a grievance in itself, but what really irks me is when people say “well where I come from everybody drives like a dick and we’re better drivers so we should all be dicks because that’s the way to drive because medick.” AGAIN, please think about the world you’re trying to create. Why is being a jackhole considered the correct action? Be patient and realize if you’re disrupting the system, you’re a jerk and not in a noble revolutionary way in this case.

Empty space between sitting cars-
Okay perhaps you need some kind of carburetor breathing room or something, but when you’re stopped at a light (most likely in the left turn lane), for cars’ sake pull as forward as you can. You’re ignorant to those around you, but there’s an entire blocked intersection behind you because you want 50 feet of extra space to accelerate into. WE NEED YOUR SPACE. And don’t think that just because I said “your space” that it belongs to you. It’s ours. The ones forced to stick our butts out for other cars to clip.

Self-titled album ridiculousness-
Hey Weezer, you went through the effort of composing music and lyrics for 12 entire albums, can’t you at least think of five more words and slap them on as album names? There is no need for a band to have five self-titled albums. Or four. Or three. Or two. Or even one isn’t necessary. It’s a nightmare of organization. Hey, if everybody calls it “The Green Album” then officially call it “The Green Album.” This is why the music industry failed. Also, if you have it, your self-titled album can ONLY be your first album. Who is The Cure fooling when they release an album called “The Cure” in 2004 (their 12th). Are we really expected to believe that THIS work is the over-arching piece that sums up exactly who you are? Hey if you self-title your albums AT LEAST number them (I, II, III, IV, and so on). But also don’t do that. Queen started this and then abandoned it by the third album. I mean think of SOMETHING to call your piece. Just a random lyric from the work. YOU WORKED HARD ON IT (maybe), so throw your words around a little bit more. The time this most makes sense is when Van Halen III came out to coincide with their third lead singer taking the job. I think it’s also considered their least-successful album by far, so again, don’t do it. We must all blame Zeppelin for this. Led Zeppelin rules, of course, but they’re fiends when it comes to album naming. Here are the first four: “Led Zeppelin,” “Led Zeppelin II,” “Led Zeppelin III,” and then the one with the guy on the cover with sticks that’s technically called “Led Zeppelin” (again), but is usually called “IV” even though it doesn’t say it anywhere. So yeah pretty much Zep broke decent album-naming conventions FOUR times in TWO different ways. Jimmy, John, John Paul, and Robert, you’re gods of rock, which is why you need to set a better example to your worshippers. This grievance may have been more relevant 45 years ago.

Dumb slowed down cover songs-
I’ve mentioned this in years’ past thinking that the dumbest trends would be first to go, but at least 15 years later and here we are. This is constantly a matter of silly marketing of something else rather than anything to do with the music industry. Usually it’s for a cheap trailer to a new movie or TV show. The process is meant to lend an added sense of drama, but the result is silly after silly -- mostly because of the sheer volume of the practice. Literally just now I saw a commercial with a slowed-down “raw” version of “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim. Here’s an article from earlier this year with the author lamenting that this is the third such list he’s needed to compose -- This trend is most often associated with “gritty” reboots of previously existing franchises. As a side grievance maybe it’s time to stop making fun properties all dark and gritty. There are only so many numbers on a standard brightness/contrast scale and we’re into the negative ones now. Freakin’ bring on the bright spandex already.

Social justice as a means to be mean-
Look, I get that most progressive causes mean well. 30 or so years of political correctness have gotten a lot of us to re-evaluate how we exist in a society and what we can do to make others’ lives easier. But veeerrrrrry often I see a lot of social justice warriors blatantly calling stuff out not so much to help the oppressed, but to use an opportunity to take someone else down without the darn social consequences. It’s pretty much sidestepping one form of oppression in favor of another. These up and comers are remnants of high school mean girls. It’s like they’ve got to be mean to SOMEBODY, so victimizing with justification is the most convenient path. Listen, do what you need to make the world a better place. Just don’t enjoy hurting others (this is pretty much the same advice one of the cruel SJWs would recommend to others anyway).

Too many end of year movies-
I watch a lot of movies. I also write -- twice a year. These two things reeeeeaaaaallly get in the way of each other. I write my grievance list on 12/23 and my movies of the year list on 12/31. Traditions old as time. For some reason, the movie industry drops about half of the year’s “good” movies within the single month of December. That usually means I don’t get to see most of the prestigious pictures until after the year is over. December’s busy enough with all the lame Hanukkah and solstice stuff going on. I swear I really really would have watched Roma in the theater if I weren’t camping at my parents’ house for the holidays right now. Obviously this wreaks havoc on my end of year movie list. I always have this stupid awkward separate list within my movie list to point out all the interesting movies from the previous year not included on the appropriate list. And why? The movie company thinks people won’t remember anything for awards season unless it’s released within a couple weeks of the year deadline. More often than not, most of these movies get forgotten in a sea in which they’re a measly drop. Hey movies, we need awesome ones of you in March too.

USB plugging in wrong-
I’ve plugged a USB device in, I’m guessing, about 2,500 times. I haven’t ONCE gotten it right. It’s ALWAYS upside-down. Just once, before the technology goes obsolete I’d like to be correct in my insertion.

Day is life, sleep is death-
So I’ve just realized every day is its own life story. At the beginning, my eyes are glazed over and I can’t walk. After that I get the most stuff done in the youth of mid-morning. By the afternoon or mid-years I’m over it and just want to rest. And then at the end of it all I’m in bed, wide awake and remorseful, horrified by the mystery of sleep or horrified to repeat the process.

Merry Christmas-
So all other holidays are “happy,” but isn’t there something limiting about “merry”? It’s like a happiness subset. I feel the need to be bloated or at least halfway to jolly in order to be merry. What if I don’t like merry? What if we can have the kind of endorphins for Christmas that aren’t the same as unbuttoning after a day at the buffet? What about the “thrilled” or “demure” or “blithe” aspects of the day? I want those for Christmas. The season covers like a tenth of the entire year so we can’t limit ourselves to just being merry. I propose each day during the holiday season is something other than merry. “Ecstatic Christmas!” “Jubilant Christmas!” “Intoxicated Christmas!” “Tickled Christmas!” “Can’t complain Christmas!”

Pain hurts more than joy satisfies-
An eternal imbalance. Most of what I feel could apply to this list, but can't be properly covered. It would amount to just taking constant dictation of my feelings and that would be closer to typing than writing.

The end of the world-
So yeah. After all this -- the world is ending. We’ve practically got an exact time and it’s very likely we’ll destroy each other before even then. This is like, super annoying. I don’t want the world to end. As much as I hate everything, I’m actually quite fond of this world. I think even if we had another world or maybe even two others, this one, the one we have, is so filled to the brim with wonder, that it’s hard to even imagine someplace cooler. There’s too much to love and I’m not just talking about nature. DEFINITELY not just talking about nature. I’m more about the whimsy of our own weird minds. Humans are a joke, but we’re also hilarious and at times -- at times -- we’ve really been there for each other. And yeah I know. Some of us are religious and the end of the world is a good thing. It’s when God Himself sorts out everything for the better. But, BUT, doesn’t it annoy you just a little bit that we couldn’t just get the house all sorted by the time our parents got home? After doing the fire thing and pyramids and The Renaissance and landing on the moon and The Office we couldn’t learn from all that and just finish it all up for the good on our own? God’s on His way and you don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about the NEED for such divine intervention? Life in general may be the ultimate universe mutation and our end may have been coming since our inception, but I hate to see it go with so much unsaid and unfelt. We ALMOST made it. Strangely I feel we were totally on the very cusp of figuring everything out for each others’ sake, but even those of us who have everything we could ever want are only met with the depression that comes with the emptiness of matter.

One of these days Mom won’t be around anymore and I have no idea what I’ll do at that point.