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Thursday, November 26, 2020

10 Best Christmas Movies Of All Time

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.

10) The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
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. 

9) Klaus (2019)
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. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Who Deserves to be an All-Star? 2020 Edition

Back on my old site I used to run a series of articles about who deserves to be an All-Star (as well as Pro Bowlers). What can I say, I'm a big fan of rankings, even when it comes to sports. In this shortened, pandemic season, MLB has opted not to have an All-Star game. Makes sense, because there's no reason to risk getting COVID-19 to play in an exhibition game. Also, the sample size for 2020 is so much smaller than normal. But all that being said, this season still counts. Counting stats will still be attributed to players and division and league champions will still be crowned. We still (unfortunately) still use All-Star appearances as a measure for legacy greatness. Even if there won't be a game, there's no reason we still can't have selections. Truthfully, IRL, there's no reason we can't have the players vote (or sports writers or really anyone competent) on who should have deserved an All-Star selection, even if there's no actual game to play. The NBA has First Team, Second Team, and Third Team honors as well as All-Star selections. Why can't the MLB do something analogous? Players should still be honored if their actions still count - which they do. That's where this post comes in. I will give out First Team and Second Team honors for each league. As the DH exists for both leagues, each League will get a selection for the eight individual defensive positions, DH, and one relief pitcher spot. I will also honor five starting pitcher spots for each Team (seeing as all teams have a five-man rotation normally). Below are my lists for who I believe deserves to be an All-Star for the 2020 MLB season:


First Team:

C: Salvador Perez (KC) 1B: Jose Abreu (CWS)* 2B: DJ LeMahieu (NYY) SS: Tim Anderson (CWS) 3B: Jose Ramirez (CLE) RF: Teoscar Hernandez (TOR) CF: Mike Trout (LAA) LF: George Springer (HOU) DH: Nelson Cruz (MIN) RP: Liam Hendricks (OAK) 

Jose Abreu, Jose Ramirez, Mike Trout, and DJ LaMahieu are all legitimate AL MVP contenders by year's end. To me, Mike Trout is clearly 4th on this list. He's last among these players in WAR and the Angels were never competitive for a playoff spot, despite the fact that 2020 saw the most teams per league ever earn one (and the other three players are on teams that did make it). But, he's still Mike Trout and he's, in Larry David voice, pretty, pretty, pretty good. After a close battle with Tim Anderson for most of the season, LaMahieu ended the season with the best batting average in baseball. DJ has been great when he played, but I don't think you can miss 10 games in a 60 game season and still win the MVP award. It's a super, super close contest then between Ramirez and Abreu. Feel free to call me a White Sox homer, but I'm going with Abreu. I think he's been the slightly better offensive player this year, and he's been more consistent throughout the year. Abreu led the AL in hits and RBIs - an incredible 60 RBIs in 60 games - and has the batting average, slugging percentage, wRC+ and home runs advantage to Ramirez. Abreu also has the better WPA (2.01 to 1.45) than Ramirez, which means Abreu's offense meant more within the context of his individual games than Ramirez's. The Cleveland third baseman led all of baseball in WAR, but a big reason his WAR is better than Abreu's is due to the nature of the position each player plays. By their inherent value, a first baseman is the least valuable defensive player, only to a DH. WAR takes their defensive positions into account. However, as Jayson Stark wrote in The Athletic for his case for Abreu as the AL MVP, "Abreu is tied for the AL lead in Defensive Runs Saved at first base (+5) - while Ramirez is -6 at third base. So does Abreu deserve to have points deducted just because of the position he plays? I couldn't convince myself of that." 

I definitely cheated a little with my outfield, but since both Trout and George Springer play center field and both finished 1 and 2 among AL outfielders in WAR, I thought both deserved First Team considerations. Since I didn't feel any left fielders play well enough to earn First Team honors, I slotted Springer in left. Plus, because Springer plays the hardest outfield position well, if this were a real game, he should have no issue playing the easiest position well. Teoscar Hernandez finished 3rd in the AL among qualified right fielders in WAR, but first among them in wRC+, wOBA, home runs, and OPS. Plus, I wanted to honor the Blue Jays who played well enough to earn a playoff spot in 2020. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Movie Review: The Devil All The Time

Even during a pandemic, the tech titan Netflix has been consistently churning out original content. Now that Labor Day has come and gone, now is the time of the year where that original content is prestige, award-hopeful films. With Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7 and David Fincher's Mank coming later in the year, and past the release of Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things, this past week saw the release of Antonio Campos' The Devil All The Time, a southern gothic epic starring basically every young and talented white actor working nowadays, such as *takes deep breath* Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Sebastian Stan, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Harry Melling, Haley Benett, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, and Robert Pattinson. 

The film spans two generations during the 1940's through 1960's in the American South as the film is about the cyclical and generational cycle of religion and violence. Early in the film, Bill Skasgard's Willard, a soldier in the Korean War, comes across a fellow soldier that has been tortured and crucified. Willard comes home from the War with PTSD (never explicitly said, but shown through Skarsgard superb acting). A nice fellow, but clearly haunted by both his religious past and his overseas experiences. We see his tendencies, both pure and evil, passed down to his son Alvin, the older version of the character is played by Holland, ostensibly the film's lead but feels like he doesn't show up until two hours into the film. Along the way we meet Charlotte (Benett) who eventually becomes Willard's wife and Alvin's mother, Alvin's step-sister Lenora (Scanlen), Lenora's mother Helen (Wasikowska), Helen's pastor beau Roy (Melling), a cop named Lee (Stan), Lee's sister Sandy (Keough), Sandy's husband Carl (Clarke), and a flashy snake-in-the-grass preacher named Preston Teagardin (Pattinson). 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

100 Greatest Films of the 2000's

As we recently saw the end of one decade and the start of another, I decided to write my 100 Greatest Films of the 2010's article. After I completed that article, I was inspired to write my 100 Greatest Films of the 1990's post, as I personally think it was one of the greatest decades ever for the art form. As such, we are here so I can discuss the greatest films of the 2000's (films released from 2000 through 2009).

I was initially hesitant to do this list because I felt the decade didn't seem to stand for anything. In some ways, I found this to be true. The 1990's saw the rise of Independent Cinema and thus an overall increase in quality of films released. The 2010's saw the exact opposite of that approach with major studios spending more and more money on bankable franchises. The 1990's saw the rise of auteurs and the 2010's saw the rise of Disney with Marvel and Star Wars franchises dominating the decade. The 2000's were a transition between these two decades. The quality of prestige and Oscar films seem to drop as franchises started to gain steam. The 2000's not only brought us Iron Man, the literal start to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also brought us franchises like Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Dark Knight. Further, the quality of prestige and Oscar-worthy films seemed to dwindle in the 2000's. The 1990's gave us a murderer's row of excellent Best Picture Oscar winners such as Schindler's List, Unforgiven, and Forrest Gump. Even if the best film of the year didn't win the ultimate prize (as is often the case), the winner still felt deserved and had a long tail thanks to the quality of the film (for most of the decade's winners). The 2000's saw a drop in that as the decade went on. I purposefully left off many Oscar nominated and winning films in exchange for more interesting choices. 

That being said, the 2000's did give a rise in two areas: documentaries and comedies. The 1990's saw a rise in making cheap narrative films, and the following decade used that approach to make a wave of compelling documentaries. Starting with Michael Moore 2002's instant classic Bowling For Columbine, the 2000's gave us great doc after great doc. This list by far and away will have the most documentaries than either of my prior two Top 100 lists. Further, this decade saw the rise of Judd Apatow and Adam McKay. Anchorman was released in 2004 and The 40 Year Old Virgin was released in 2005. Both were critical and commercial hits which allowed the filmmakers to ascend to their apex to direct and produce even more comedy gold throughout the decade. 

Lastly, I found the 2000's to be the deepest list out of the three Top 100 movies lists that I have done so far. The 1990's were so good that I struggled to leave off good films from my Top 25 and felt that a handful of films outside my Top 10 would have been in it in any other decade. The 2010's weren't quite as strong, but I did feel confident in this films I chose for the top. However, with both lists, I felt that the Bottom 25 were fine, but not great films. I felt the opposite with this 2000's list. I don't feel the top is very strong, but struggled to leave off great films from making the Top 100. Again, this is part of the reason this list doesn't include many prestige and Oscar winning films. 

As always, I tried to make this list as objective as possible. Check out the introduction to either of my previous two lists to see how I tried to do that. Further, this post is organized like my 1990's post - at the top is the decade's Top 25 films, each one with a personal essay about it by me. As to not spoil the surprise, these films are ranked 25 to 1. Then, the remaining 75 films are ranked and listed while interwoven with a handful of mini lists such as the Greatest Documentaries of the Decade, the Greatest Animated Films of the Decade and the Greatest Comedies of the Decade That Didn't Make This Top 100 List. 

So without further ado, here is the list of the 100 Greatest Films of the 2000's:

Friday, September 11, 2020

What I Learned Watching All of Daniel Craig's James Bond Movies

Partially in preparation for No Time To Die, partially because we are still in the middle of a pandemic and I am bored, and partially because Netflix has Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace to view and I'm a completionist, I recently watched all four of Daniel Craig's James Bond movies: 2006's Casino Royale, 2008's Quantum of Solace, 2012's Skyfall, and 2015's Spectre. I had seem them all before, some of them multiple times, but never in subsequent order back-to-back. 2020 is the year for me watching consecutive franchise films (I started the year watching all Marvel movies in chronological order (from the story's perspective) and have since moved on to watching all 8 Harry Potter films and even saw the first four Pirates of the Caribbean movies). Again, pandemic. Overall, I enjoy all 4 James Bond movies, if not for different reasons. Casino Royale and Skyfall are still the consensus top two and best films out of these four, but I also enjoyed Quantum of Solace and Spectre despite the consensus panning them. I am not a fan of the franchise as whole (it's not like I dislike it or anything, I just haven't seen Bond movie that didn't star Craig or Pierce Brosnan), but I am a movie fan, and these are my thoughts on Daniel Craig's Bond films.

Four years since Pierce Brosnan suited up to play James Bond, the Broccoli family (the producers of the Bond movies) hired Daniel Craig to play the character and rebooted the franchise with Casino Royale. Based on Ian Fleming's book of the same title, it was the perfect film to start over. The 1967 version technically is not a part of the James Bond movie canon and the film was able to capitalize on the online Texas Hold 'Em craze at the time (The mid-2000's were weird man). The film was a gritty, more self-serious take on James Bond which fit perfectly for the era. This was two years before Iron Man was released and so Marvel's light-hearted, rose-colored look at action movies had not taken hold yet, and Casino Royale was released a year after Christopher Nolan's gritty, dark, humorless first take on Batman was praised. We have Mike Myers to thank for this current iteration of James Bond. As Daniel Craig said, "I am huge Mike Myers fan, so don't get me wrong- but he kind of fucked us." Thanks to the wild success of the Austin Powers movies, a direct rip off of the campy early James Bond films, it was hard for these newer Bond films to be humor-filled and campy as well. They needed to distance themselves from the Austin Powers films. Luckily, it worked. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

100 Best Movies of the 1990's

Like with our list of the 100 Greatest Films of the 2010s, I am attempting to make this list as objective as possible. As a Millennial, this is a tougher task thanks to my nostalgia goggles. I also think this is a tougher task thanks to the wide variety of films that were released and popularized during the decade. Nowadays, studios only spend a million dollars or one hundred million dollars to make a film in order to limit their risk. Not so much in the 1990's. Thanks to the rise of Independent Cinema, combined with our eternal love of Big Blockbusters, this decade produced every type of film imaginable. Thanks to auteurs like Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, and Paul Thomas Anderson coming to prominence, we were introduced to stylish films that changed the way we viewed cinema. Thanks to funny people like The Farrelly Brothers, Adam Sandler, and other SNL alums, we were treated to low brow comedies that we still can't stop quoting. Thanks to James Cameron, Michael Bay, and Roland Emmerich we got summer tent-pole movies that we still love to watch when they appear on cable. The 1990's also gave us genius films from The Coen Brothers, Steven Spielberg, and Ron Howard. This decade popularized David Fincher, Frank Darabont, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Julia Roberts, and so many more.

As I previously mentioned, I wanted this list to be as objective as possible. I wanted to rank films solely on their quality and how well they have been indoctrinated into our pop culture. I included my own biases of course, but I looked at many outside factors as well. How well received and talked about is the film on Twitter? Are YouTube videos or podcasts made to discuss the film? How often is it a cable rewatch? What did critics think of the film? What did the Academy Awards think of it? The American Film Institute? My friends? My parents? All of this went into consideration in trying to determine the absolute best films of the decade. Although I know you think I'm wrong, we're going to give it a shot anyways.

This list is broken down rather peculiarly I'd imagine. It starts with a deep dive on the Top 25 films of the decade to explain a little bit further about the cream of the crop, but I didn't want to start off with #1 starring you straight in the face. Therefore, I ranked the films 25-1. After that, the films are listed chronologically from 26 through 100. Along the way, you're treated with a handful of mini-lists, such as: The Top 10 Action Films, Top 10 Animated Films, Top 10 Dumb Comedies, and Top 10 High Schools Films.

So without further ado, below is our list of the 100 Best Movies of the 1990's:

Saturday, February 29, 2020

My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2019

I thought 2019 was an excellent year for film. Not only did we get an excellent Quentin Tarantino film, BUT we also got an excellent Martin Scorsese film. Two of the best filmmaker of ALL TIME releasing masterpieces months apart, how often does that happen? A lot of film years this past decade have been decently deep, but pretty light on top. Take 2012 for example. I ranked the films that year and talked about a whopping 20. But what was the best film year, even in retrospect? I had Looper at the time and still feel strongly about it, but my top five were Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, and Wreck-It Ralph. Seven years later, is there a consensus best film of the year? (and go fuck yourself if you say The Master you pretentious snob). Point is, 2019 is different. I think it's crazy top heavy this year. Not only were Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood and The Irishman instant classics, we had a great Awards Season of Sam Mendes' 1917 vs. Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, both excellent in their own right. So where do these films rank on my list? I just you're just going to have to read below!

10) Ford v Ferrari
Directed By: James Mangold
Starring: Christian Bale & Matt Damon
STARS: 3 out of 4

Why It's Great: Sometimes movie stars just need to be movie stars and charm the fuck out of the audience. We knew Matt Damon was the cream of the crop and his character Carol Shelby gets to smile and charm his way to both Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) and our hearts. Christian Bale gets to play opposite Damon as the driver Ken Miles and he's equally as compelling. He doesn't need to gain or lose an unhealthy amount of weight and he even gets to use his real accent and proves he can act with Acting. Ford v Ferrari is just a charming, enjoyable experience and one I'm glad to have seen in the theaters. It's also another great notch in James Mangold's belt, because while he has some misses and a lot of *shoulder shrug emoji*, he now gets to add this Best Picture nominee to his other greats like 3:10 to Yuma and Logan to his resume.

9) Booksmart
Directed By: Olivia Wilde
Starring: Beanie Feldstein & Kaitlyn Dever
STARS: 3 out of 4

Why It's Great: I do get why the people behind Booksmart are a bit peeved when their film is called the female Superbad, but I do think it's the 2019 Superbad. Superbad came out when I was in college and I, like the rest of America, was swept away by it. I still fucking love the movie, but do understand that many of the jokes have not aged, and that movie as is would not be released by any major studio. But if a major studio were trying to capitalized on the success of Superbad in today's "woke climate", Booksmart would be the film released. Instead of the same white horny kid(s) at the center we have two horny women, one of which is gay. One of the main side characters is Black (Jessica Williams) along with one of the lead's crushes (who also happens to be the son of Cuba Cooding Jr). However, most importantly, no one in the film is mean. In the beginning of Superbad, one dude spits on Jonah Hill's character. Sure, some of the characters say some unflattering things about Beanie Feldstein's character, but it's mainly that she's not fun. The movie could have easily said things a million times worse. But that's what makes Booksmart so great. It takes 2019's sensibilities and is still able to mine laugh-out-loud humor that hold up upon rewatch. In an era of anti-bullying and demands for better representation in film, Booksmart is able to deliver AND still be gut-busting hilarious.

Friday, February 7, 2020

The Best Movie Soundtrack of 2019

There should be a litany of additional Oscar categories. In 2014, I advocated for a Best Soundtrack one. Here are my nominees for the  Best Soundtrack of 2019:

Dir. Quentin Tarantino, Music Supervisor Mary Ramos

It should not be a surprise to see a Quentin Tarantino film nominated in this category. Music and QT films are synonymous, whether it's Steeler Wheels "Stuck In The Middle With You" and Reservoir Dogs or Rick Ross's "100 Black Coffins" and Django Unchained, Tarantino has always spectacularly been able to use songs to elevate his story telling. And just like Tarantino is able to resurrect careers of former A-listers like John Travolta, he's able to take little known hits and B-sides and turn them into iconography. For instance, see "Brother Loves Traveling Salvation Show" by Neil Diamond. It's the main music bed for the film's trailer and runs throughout the film like a theme song. 

For me personally, a lot of what makes a great soundtrack is that it places the movie in a specific time, and no better way to represent the Summer of '69 in Hollywood than to play what was on the radio at the time while characters drive around the city.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My Top 10 Favorite TV Shows of 2019

As if there weren't already too many shows to watch, 2019 saw the release of two brand new streaming services: Apple+ and Disney+. Even if you wanted to watch everything, how could you afford it? The diversity of shows is apparent on my list, I have six different channels/streaming services represented, but I am now at the point where I retreat to my favorite and what I enjoy. There might be quote unquote "better" shows out there, but this list represents the 10 shows that gives me the most pleasure.

10) Watchmen (HBO)
Season: 1
Created By: Damon Lindelof
Starring: Regina King, Jean Smart & Jeremy Irons

Why It's Great: This might be blasphemous to put into writing and have anyone on The Internet have the ability to read it, but I really liked the 2009 Zach Snyder film Watchmen, and I enjoyed the Snyder Cut with an additional 24 minutes even more. I also never read the original Alan Moore comic book either. (What a fun way to start off this list, huh?!). Damon Lindelof did what I expect to this recycled IP, nostalgia culture: he made something wholly new and original, created and explored new and ambitious themes, added in his own unique personality and vision, all while being true to the original work. So sure, at the end we got a whole lot of Dr. Manhattan, and Laurie Blake, and Adrian Veidt, but we also got a show where Regina King's character takes some pills and gets to basically reenact her grandfather becoming the first superhero in America.

9) The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)
Season: 1
Created By: Danny McBride
Starring: Danny McBride, Adam Devine & John Goodman

Why It's Great: Normally, I am not the biggest Danny McBride fan. I liked the first season of Eastbound and Down, but couldn't get far past that, and I couldn't get past the pilot episode of Vice Principals, but for some reason, The Righteous Gemstones got hooked. I know a lot of people think this show was a fun parody of MegaChurch culture, but I always found it more singular. I never felt like it was an examination of the culture as a whole, but of these bad people, many of them hypocrites. As we got to know these particular characters, we were treated with humor and delight. Plus, an awesome video of Jennifer Nettles and TV Legend Walton Goggins singing about Misbeahvin'.

The Top 10 Best Songs of 2019

10) "Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

What a helluva year for Lizzo. When you're 100% That Bitch, you can twerk your ass off in a wedding dress while playing the flute and pull it off flawlessly. Not only does every woman love Lizzo and have her as their spirit animal, everyone in America now loves Lizzo.

9) "Blind Leading The Blind" by Mumford and Sons

Gotta love a Mumford and Songs with a driving drum beat. "Blind Leading The Blind" is a classic Mumford and Sons song through the filter of Kings of Leon and I'm all about it.

8) "Woman" by Karen O and Danger Mouse

What does a song sound like when it has the beats of the DJ who made The Grey Album and St. Elsewhere with the lyricist and vocalist of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs? This awesome song is what.