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Tuesday, December 29, 2020
I could go into the plot further, but the story of what happens in this movie is so damn confusing, that it's basically better to visit the r/Tenet Reddit thread to figure out what happens. The first third of this film is all confusing exposition dumps of people sitting down and talking to each other and the rest of the film sees characters going forward and backwards through time yet partaking in the same events. The whole film is needlessly elaborate and makes for a frustrating moviegoing experience.
I normally love Christopher Nolan films and don't generally mind his long-winded attempts to explain the rules of the film. The first third of Inception is also basically full of exposition dumps, but Nolan found a way to entertain the audience while clearly explaining the rules. He fucking flips an entire city on itself! I also don't mind if the film is confusing and messes with the concept of time, when again, Nolan clearly communicates that in the movie. Tenet follows a lot of the same rules of Memento. But whereas Memento firmly establishes how to watch the film and what it is (the present day scenes are going in reverse chronological order intercut with the main character talking on the phone about Sammy Jenkins), Tenet is a narrative mess. Everything does make sense and loop together as Reddit has confirmed, but the film itself doesn't convey that well. I don't mind a Nolan film that doesn't explain itself fully upon a first viewing and requires multiple rewatches, but it needs to be entertaining and make somewhat sense the first time around. Tenet does not.
Monday, December 28, 2020
In 2014, I wrote a blog post arguing that The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack was so good that the Academy Awards should create a new awards category. Since then, I have been writing about the best soundtracks of the year, which you can find examples of here and here and here. Here are my nominees for the Best Soundtrack of 2020.
BIRDS OF PREY: HARLEY QUINN
Dir. Cathy Yan, Music Supervisor: Season Kent
NOTABLE SONGS: "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" by James Brown, "Experiment on Me" by Halsey
Captain Marvel had one of the worst soundtracks I've heard in recent memory. Since the film was female-forward and set in the 1990's, the soundtrack was full of 90's female artists like Garbage, Hole, TLC, and Salt-N-Pepa. The climax of the film was even awkwardly set to No Doubt's "Just A Girl". The problem was that these songs were pigeon-holed into the film and didn't work with the flow of the movie. Cathy Yan smartly took a different approach. While the soundtrack is prominently female-centric thanks to tracks from Halsey, Saweetie, and Whipped Cream, the songs pair perfectly with the mood of the scene. The film also isn't afraid to use male artists when appropriate, something the Marvel film seemed allergic to. Birds of Prey is also a lot more fun than Captain Marvel and the songs selected for the soundtrack reflect that. One of the reasons Birds of Prey worked creatively was because of the tone of the film that Yan established, and that tone was accented by the soundtrack.
Sunday, December 27, 2020
The Devil All The Time
Why The Performance is Great: While Antonio Campos' campy Southern Gothic epic The Devil All The Time may not be very good (though it continues to live in my head rent free), Robert Pattinson's performance will haunt my dreams. He plays Preston Teagardin, a morally corrupt reverend who uses The Lord to justify his wicked ways. There's a slickness like a used car salesman to his performance that allows him to steal the show and monologue in a way where you want to punch his character in the face while hanging on his every word. In a film loaded with some of Hollywood's best young stars, it's Pattinson's performance that stands out. His attempt at a Southern accent doesn't hurt either. While the rest of his non-American co-stars are trying to use a traditional movie Southern dialect, Pattinson created a voice all his own. While Campos himself might not have approved, the words that ooze out of Teagardin's mouth like an oil sludge only helps to elevate Pattinson as one of the best young actors currently working today.
Best Supporting Actress
Blow The Man Down
Monday, December 21, 2020
Written & Co-Directed By: Seth Porges
Co-Directed By: Chris Charles Scott III
Featuring: Chris Gethard, Alison Becker, & Gene Mulvihill
Why It's Great: Action Park was an amusement park/water park in north New Jersey run by an unscrupulous business man named Gene Mulvihill. It was in its heyday in the late 70's, early 80's and known for being the most dangerous amusement park in the country. The stories about the lawlessness and dangerousness of the park in this documentary is told through talking heads of many of the lifeguards and teenage supervisors that worked at the park as well as some of the park's patrons, mainly comedians Chris Gethard and Alison Becker. It's hard to believe rides this treacherous could have and did exist in an American amusement park, and fairly recently, and a lot of the joy of the film comes from the stories of explaining these rides and attractions - Gethard's talking heads in particular make this movie for me. Yet underneath the backdrop of "kids being kids" and "back in my day" is the story of American greed. Action Park creator and CEO Gene Mulvihill made his money off of selling penny stocks a la Jordan Belfort (as portrayed by Leo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street) and Mulvihill was just as ruthless and greedy as Belfort was portrayed. The lightness and nostalgia of looking back at what the park was for so many young kids is contrasted with the darkness that was Gene Mulvihill. Class Action Park is just like one of its attractions- it's a fun roller coaster ride, but it will leave you with a scar to remember.
Class Action Park is available to stream on HBOMax
Co-Written & Directed By: Thomas Vinterberg
Co-Written By: Tobias Lindholm
Starring: Mads Mikkelson, Magnus Millang, & Thomas Bo Larsen
Why It's Great: Druk (literally translated to English means "binge drinking" but Another Round works so much better) is a Danish film about four friends and teachers who are having a midlife crisis, so they start day-drinking. The film stars all-time movie Bad Guy hall of famer Mads Mikkelson (Casino Royale, Dr. Strange) who is allowed to play a normal human being. As such, it's one of Mikkelson's best performances. His character Martin begins the film as a sad sack. He's messing up teaching so badly that his students stage an intervention. His wife works nights and he barely sees her. He asks her if he's gotten "boring" and she's more than happy to assure him of what he already knows. So he and his friends start day-drinking as an "experiment" to see if their lives will improve. Another Round is a character driven vehicle to allow its 4 main protagonists, though mainly Martin, to explore the nature of how alcohol affects their lives and what they must do to be happier. The film is surprisingly propulsive and always keeps you entertained, even though you know when things start to go sideways, and has one of the most memorable endings to a film in 2020.
Another Round is available to rent wherever you rent movies
Monday, December 14, 2020
Like all David Fincher films, the technical aspects of Mank are top notch. The creamy black-and-white cinematography to reflect Old Hollywood, the score that feels time period appropriate by frequent Fincher collaborators Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, and the pitch perfect costume design and production design. The weakness in the film is its script, written by David Fincher's now decreased father Jack Fincher, in particular the story. The first time I saw the film, it felt empty. I felt so disconnected that it made me mad (and the hype of seeing a brand new David Fincher film didn't help either). But that being said, Mank lived rent free inside my head for so long that I give the film a second watch. I enjoyed it a lot more the second time around, and the second viewing helped because I was able to get invested in the story earlier because I knew where it was going.
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
The increase of original television programming has led to this current era of Peak TV, and thanks to the late 2019 launches of Disney+ and Apple TV+, there was no shortage of apps to download if you wanted to watch a TV show this year. In the past, we bemoaned the amount of distribution services, but thanks to the pandemic in 2020, our curse turned into a blessing. Considering the only thing we were allowed to do all day every day was stay inside, the glut of original television shows meant we had something to do to help pass the time. Heck, we made Tiger King a thing this year because of it. As such, I allowed myself to have a wide variety of streaming services at my disposal. I'm paying for Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, I dabbled throughout the year with Showtime and Starz, and I have access to HBOMax and most cable shows thanks to immediately family members. Yet still, I'm not made of money so I don't have everything, most notably Apple TV+. While that mainly means no Ted Lasso on this list, I'd still like to think, as just a regular dude with a full-time job and raising a toddler, I had the ability to watch most of the shows that aired this year. So without further ado, below is my list of the 10 Best Television Shows of 2020.
Created By: Dave Burd & Jeff Schaffer
Starring: Lil' Dicky, Taylor Misiak, & GaTa
Why It's Great: Before the pandemic really wrecked havoc over 2020, white rapper Lil' Dicky (born Dave Burd) gave me Dave and allowed me to go down a rabbit hole rocking out to $ave Dat Money, Lemme Freak, and Professional Rapper. You wouldn't normally think a show about a White Rapper trying to emerge in The Game that tackles issues of race, mental illness, and sexual inadequacy would be funny, but thanks to Burd's humor that's already baked into his rap songs, Jeff Schaffer who co-created The League, and director Greg Mottola (Superbad), your left with a showcase from someone who can act, make you laugh, and can really spit. Dave certainly falls in line with FXX's brand of humor and style of comedy that often addresses "serious" issues, but this type of show really works for me.
Directed By: Jason Hehir
Starring: Michael Jordan
Why It's Great: The Last Dance is a 10-episode docu-series about the basketball career of Michael Jordan, using the 1998 season of the Chicago Bulls trying win their 6th NBA Championship as a through line. Outside giving us some great memes, the documentary provided great insight to what made Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time. Jordan is so beloved and universal, that the show allowed us to have a Monoculture moment, if only for a little bit.
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Back in 2012, I wrote up a quick list of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. Of course, this was coming from a movie fan who grew up Jewish. And who didn't see many of the classics. Yeah, I was really not one to put out a Christmas list. But since then, I married a nice Irish Catholic girl, and I've now spent at least a decade celebrating Christmas with her (our) family. I've also spent the last 8 years filing in the gaps of my Christmas movie knowledge. As my wife can attest, Christmas is now one of my favorite holidays. I love this time of year. But one thing I'm still down on are Christmas movies. As I didn't grow up on them, I'm not nostalgic for many of the films that the rest of you goyims deem as "classics". As such, I'm convinced that many of the holiday films are beloved because you loved them as a kid. Sure, there's something about a great Christmas films that ties into the wonder you felt as a young kid waking up on December 25th and running to see what Santa brought under the Christmas tree, but there's a difference between a film evoking an emotion out of you, and one where you enjoy it because you used to enjoy it. Without the "benefit" of nostalgia googles, but now an unabashed Christmas fan, here is my list of the 10 Best Christmas Movies Of All Time.
Directed By: Brian Hensen
Starring: Michael Caine, Dave Goelz & Steve Whitmire
RT Score: 76%
Why It's Great: There are no shortage of films based upon the Charles Dicken's classic A Christmas Carol (most notably Scrooged and the 2009 animated film of the same name starring Jim Carrey and directed by Robert Zemeckis) but the Muppets version of the story is by far and away the best. Not only does it have an injection of the classic goofy muppets sensibility, but it's one of the only films that consistent throughout its entirety. Most adaptations fall apart, especially once the Ghost of Christmas Future shows up, as the film moves along, but The Muppets Christmas Carol, and its brisk 85 minute run time, manages to still stay funny and good - even after most adaptations fall flat after a great start out of the gate.
Directed By: Sergio Pablos
Voices Of: Jason Schwartzman, JK Simmons & Rashida Jones
RT Score: 94%
Why It's Great: American culture now is extremely nostalgic, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Christmas movie genre. Despite the fact that Hallmark (and now Netflix too) puts out like 20 new generic Christmas movies a year, and Hollywood pumps out three versions of the Couple-Comes-Home-To-Dysfunctional-Family-Dinner-But-Learns-To-Love movie each year, new Christmas movies cannot seem to pierce to zeitgeist of the holiday watching experience. As mentioned in my opening, we're fond of the films we grew up on, and that's that. But also, basically every Christmas movie produced since 2003 has just been outright bad. Enter Klaus, the Netflix film that was so good it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Film. Klaus works because it's not about Santa per se, but about mythmaking. It's like the Wicked of Christmas films. It introduces a (semi) realistic look at how many of Christmas traditions got started, but using its own original take, and its that originality - with a dash of holiday sentimentality - that makes Klaus an instant Christmas classic.