Movies 20-24

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Looking at my progress thus far, I think it’s safe to say I can get in about 200 movies this year. I’m not making any promises, but I’m curious to see where things land. I know I’ll watch more in the summer, when there’s less tv. Anyway, here’s what I watched this past week.

#20: Tiny Furniture – Alright, so I’ve been on a Lena Dunham kick lately. I’m constantly in denial about my status as a millennial, feeling that I’m not on the same page as “kids these days”. I looked it up, though, and LD and I are about the same age which is a sobering fact. She is so well-versed in depicting the aimlessness of “our generation”. In the film, she plays a character with more similarities to her real life than Hannah in Girls. It was nice to see some of the other actors from Girls playing distinctively different characters, as well. Oh, and there’s Merritt Weaver, who is always a pleasure. I kind of wish the audience got to see the aftermath of what happened in the final act, but I get it. We are as in the dark about her future as she is at the end of the film.

#21: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – I’m a big kid and I love Spongebob. There, I said it. I used to watch the original SpongeBob Movie all the time. My excuse to see this one was using it with my students to study characters. It was a pretty big hit with the 10 to 12 year-olds and I was laughing with them at times. The trailer made it seem like the bulk of the movie was the CGI stuff, but they don’t get to dry land until more than halfway through. Once they did, the super hero versions of the characters were a lot easier to stomach than the 3-D models of their regular forms. I also loved that Sandy was just a squirrel. The first movie will always be my favorite, along with the classic first two seasons of the show, but I liked it enough.

#22: Frank – Why did it take me so long to watch this?! It’s been in my Netflix queue for probably a year now, but I would’ve watched it sooner had I known how great it is. If you haven’t seen it yet, but have heard all the rave reviews, I want to let you know they are all true. Micheal Fassbender’s performance makes you wonder if anyone else can be that affecting from inside a papier-mâché head. And, despite what Clara says, him describing his facial expressions is a really sweet running joke. As someone who ponders the correlation of the artist’s temperament and psychology way too much, I thought the film did a great job of depicting it in a different way. The music jokes were also great. “Someone’s thinking in C!”, and having a band with a name not even the band members can pronounce come to mind. This is a film that gets it and “I love your wall”.

#23: Tusk – Kevin Smith is really getting out there as he ages. In college, I watched Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy on a loop for a few months (that’s what most kids do, right?). I love these films, but I also loved the huge leap he took with Red State. Tusk is another one of those strange films that makes me wonder what goes on his head. It’s really two movies in one, which is good because I don’t think I could’ve handled much more of the walrus stuff. The opening is the kind of two guys talking stuff you’d expect from the writer/director. Justin Long is always fun to watch and it’s really funny when he calls everyone “the worst” while his character actually is the worst.  I could’ve stayed with those opening moments forever, but that’s not what this movie is about. I wouldn’t call it straight horror, but it is really uncomfortable to watch. Like, I don’t know if I can listen to “I Am the Walrus” the same way ever again. The second half of the story is full of off-beat humor surrounding some very dark content. I kept thinking “this is so Coen brothers”, then the movie name-drops The Big Lebowski and Smith sticks his tongue out at you from behind the camera. I’m still not sure how I felt about this one, but, while looking some stuff up, I saw that Clerks III and something called Mallbrats are in post-production. If those are anything like Clerks II, I would rather get more of Kevin Smith’s crazy side.

#24: San Andreas – It was on cable, so I watched it (after catching the tail end of Furious 7 for the 8th time). I just love how the Rock can be a real-life super hero and nobody questions it. I mean, he’s huge. How would you know if he can lift a car or not? I was knocking this movie when it first came out because disaster action movies are usually pretty terrible. This one was surprisingly entertaining, as well as super cheesy. Most marriages don’t make it through the loss of a child, but teaming up to save your other child pretty much guarantees reconciliation. I liked that they kept the science guy and the action guy as separate stories, avoiding those usual hilarious conversations that debate brain vs. brawn in a cheeky way that’s totally not annoying. Sorry. Anyway, it was nice to see some non-American actors from shows I enjoy – Hugo Johnstone-Burt (Constable Collins on Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) and Art Parkinson (Rickon from Game of Thrones).

Ok, now back to my Double XP weekend.


It Begins | One Long Day

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Netflix has proved once again that it won’t be long until they put cable providers out of business. The service has done a decent job of picking up above average series. It doesn’t hurt that they give opportunities for established vets like Tina Fey and Judd Apatow to have free reign over original material.

Love is a bit different than your normal romantic-comedy. First of all, there’s very little romance in these first two episodes. I’m curious to see how things will play out for the characters, especially since all signs point to it not being easy for them. Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust are a delight to watch and their performances show off their comic skills.

The first episode is very pilot-y, setting up the lives of the two leads who don’t even meet until the end of the episode. Gus, played by Rust, is planning to move in with his girlfriend and buys a new rug for their home. As soon as we see that it will take 4-6 weeks for the delivery, we know that the relationship won’t last that long. The metaphor of the rug is a bit obvious as Gus is the type to let people walk all over him. A month later, his girlfriend reveals that she has cheated on him and Gus takes the newly arrived rug with him as he moves out.

Jacob’s Mickey, on the other hand, is in a tumultuous relationship with drug-addicted slacker, Eric – played by the hilarious Kyle Kinane. When she finally breaks things off with him for good, we get the sense that much of what she says is projecting. She’s also the type of person who names her cat “Grandpa” because he’s the reincarnation of her grandpa. A while after the break-up, she receives a text from Eric after taking a couple of Ambien and decides to meet up with him any way. The resulting race against the pills is the funniest sequence of the episode and she arrives at a new-age church and realizes that she’s never really known love.

The episode ends with the two finally coming together. Mickey, in a post-Ambien daze, goes to get coffee from a convenience store and forgets her wallet. After arguing with the clerk, Gus – also hungover, following a failed threesome attempt (which, ew, he’s right on the incest thing) – steps in to pay for her coffee. And a pack of cigarettes. This scene does a fabulous job setting up their dynamic from the jump.

“One Long Day” starts with the same scene, but from Gus’s perspective. It’s a nice touch. Outside of the store, Mickey insists that she pay Gus back and the two walk back to her house. They are a classic odd couple, but the two of them play it really sweet. They clearly don’t operate on the same wavelength and it’s funny to see them constantly explaining themselves. When they reach Mickey’s, she realizes she left her wallet at Bliss House, the place where she met Eric the night before. They decide to “have an adventure” to go find her wallet. Mickey is the exact type of person that can turn the seemingly straightforward task into an adventure.

After finding her wallet, the two hot box her car and go for some fast food and coffee. Paul Rust acting stoned and paranoid was pretty amusing and his high Space Balls rant was just about perfect. A little too high from the Green Crack, Gus lounges in Mickey’s back seat as she drives him home. Unfortunately, he gives her the wrong address and they show up at his ex’s house. The entire scene had me cracking up. Gus discovers that Natalie didn’t cheat on him, she just said that so he would break up with him. That’s about the saddest/funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Their argument leads to a nice moment where Mickey sticks up for Gus, but not to worry. The comedy moves back to the foreground when Gus decides that his belief in romance comes from lies in movies and proceeds to throw all of his Blurays out of the car window on the ride home. (Gus’s collection is quite eclectic – Pretty Woman, Homeland Season 3 – and calling them DVDs makes you look stupid.)

Ir was indeed a long day for Gus, so Mickey tucks him into bed when he gets home. Half asleep, he asks for her number and she replies, “Normally, I hate meeting people, but I don’t hate you.” It’s super cute. They are so doomed.



This Unruly Mess I’ve Made – Review

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The discussion of white people appropriating Black art is by no means new. Even before Elvis took the music industry by storm, there was a significant rift between white and black jazz. The former was viewed by true fans and critics as a hokey imitation of the latter. However, as Ellington would put it, “it makes no difference if it’s sweet or hot”; some people are just happy to enjoy music without focusing on the people creating it.

That’s not as easy a task when listening to hip-hop. The art-form begs the listeners to see the world from their perspective. While, it’s difficult to make a blanket judgement on “white rap”, white emcees are faced with the challenge of checking the privilege that may be the reason of their success. I’m not sure if Macklemore helps or hurts his case by attacking this issue head on in This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.

I guess I should start with a confession. I loved The Heist. It’s one of my favorite hip-hop albums post-Watch the Throne (which, for me, marks the end of an era). Every track exemplifies why Ryan Lewis is an equal member of this partnership. The songs weave together to build a consistency that forms one of the few albums I can listen to from start to finish. There’s no doubt that Macklemore has skills, as well. He deftly switches up his flow with lyrics that range from silly, to uplifting, to insightful.

There’s something to be admired about an artist who decides to make a name for himself instead of selling it to the highest bidder. If you don’t believe it, listen to “Jimmy Iovine” and tell me it doesn’t jam. Following their Grammy win, there were those who claimed that “Same Love” was shameless pandering to the LGBT community to gain recognition. While it’s definitely not my favorite song (with a riff that brings to mind John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change”), I disagree. Call me naive, but they come off more sincere than that, maybe even detrimentally so.

“Sincere to a fault” is also how I would characterize the release of “White Privilege II” as a single before This Unruly Mess. The internet blew up over that song in a way that would make even the less skeptical wonder if he was for real. I’ll always be the type to defend an artist’s intention (well, except for Kanye), and I can’t bring myself to see anything insidious in what he’s trying to do. Let’s not forget that this is part 2, a follow-up to a 2005 mixtape. You can say that the song is more about himself than the Black Lives Matter movement, but I think that’s the point. He’s trying to figure out, as a white person, how he can be a part of the conversation and I don’t think we should knock him for making an effort. If more people ask the question “how do I talk about it?”, we get to the point where we can actually discuss the issue. It’s sad to imagine a future where an artist is afraid to make a genuine statement because their intentions are being called into question.

Backing up the argument for good intentions is the song “Kevin”. The over-prescribing of pharmaceuticals is a big issue that Macklemore won’t get as much attention about addressing. Yet, he still felt the need to speak out about it. I got some major feels to Leon Bridges singing “give me a dose of the American dream.” The track is wisely followed by two more of their signature reflective songs: “St. Ides”, in which Macklemore raps solo about his struggle with drug addiction/alcoholism; and (my favorite song on first listen) “Need to Know”, which features a great guest performance by Chance the Rapper.

Not every song on This Unruly Mess I’ve Made has a message, though. The album title comes from a line in the opening song, “Light Tunnels”. From the very beginning you’ll remember why you love or hate Macklemore and Lewis, as he recounts their experience at the 2014 Grammy’s. Most people hate it when famous people are dejected about their fame, and I thought this song came off a little like that. I did think it was a clever way to sort of explain why it took so long for this album to come out, though.

The upside of having a hit album is getting a bunch of guest appearances on your next one. The list even includes Idris Elba (!) appearing on “Dance Off”, a club banger that’s so fun I challenge you not to be compelled to at least nod your head to the beat. Ryan Lewis has put together some great stuff here, producing a sound that elevates them from their sophomore status. The post-modern throwbacks “Downtown” and “Buckshot” get an old-school feel not just from the collaborators, but also the prominent melodic bass lines that I’ve been missing in contemporary hip-hop. Plus the silliness of a song about mopeds puts you in a great mood. They also recapture the catchiness of “Thrift Shop” with “Brad Pitt’s Cousin”. Like their first hit, I get the feeling the kids are going to really dig repeating the nonsense in this song. I mean nonsense in a good way, of course. I love stuff like “now my cat’s more famous than you ever will be.”

Speaking of kids, there’s another feel-good song aimed at youth with “Growing Up”. Ed Sheeran sings the chorus, but Macklemore pulls his weight with some rap/singing that is less grating than the usual fare. Also, reading Langston Hughes is good advice for any youngster. I’ll give an honorable mention to “Let’s Eat”. It’s a full song about trying to diet that could easily be a skit or interlude. I did laugh at “I never knew what a carbohydrate was / Turns out it’s all the snacks I love”. I hear you, man.

Overall, I thought this album was pretty good. Unlike their first album, there were 2 songs that really didn’t speak to me so I didn’t mention them. I’m all about positivity here. If you liked them before, then this is a solid album for you. I think they’ve evolved enough while still maintaining some of the hunger that got them recognized in the first place. That’s really all I want out of a hip-hop album.

Rampant Speculation

WARNING: Spoilers for the Songs of Ice and Fire series and “Game of Thrones”, the show, ahead.Game-of-Thrones-Season-4-Trailer.jpg

Thrones, Thrones / Game of Thrones, Thrones / Game of Thrones, Thrones (The lyrics to the “Game of Thrones” theme, in my head)

The time has come. No, not winter. Game of Thrones the television series has run out of source material from Songs of Ice and Fire. George RR Martin has recently announced that the sixth book in the series will not be released before the premiere of the sixth season, as previously suggested. I’m not surprised. The books are really involved and I wouldn’t expect Martin to do a rush job. I’m pretty sure the showrunners saw this as an eventuality as well. Either way, for the first time Game of Thrones is venturing into completely new territory, and fans of both the book and show can only take wild guesses as to what will come next.

Random aside, I recently tried to explain the “R+L=J” theory to my husband, who has not read any of the books. Oddly enough, my thoughts aren’t as well put together when I’m speaking as they are in writing. It’s also really hard to talk about the books or show without a list of characters in front of you. All this to say book readers have had an advantage in watching this show that other fans didn’t have. Will our viewing experience be different now?

Well, there are still some plot lines that the show has yet to explore. I see it as a means of simplification. The show already has tons of characters and adding more to the mix may make it hard to whittle it down to 10 hours a season. As more people die off, though, I think we’ll pick back up on some of these. I’ve seen some casting announcements pop up that make it look like we’re finally going to explore the Iron Islands story some more. I really hope we get to see the “queensmoot”. It will also bring on some awesome raiding sequences that will be a joy to pirate fans. We also haven’t seen much of Bran or his adventures beyond the wall, lately. I wonder what the tree dude is going to look like.

Oh, and are they going to bring back Lady Stoneheart?! It’s been a while since the red wedding. With Catelyn out of play for so long, I don’t think they would go there, but I’m remaining hopeful. I could see them adding Beric Dondarrion’s brotherhood into the mix at this point, which would be a good sign for the Lady. Other established characters/stories from the books that could easily fill out the sixth season: Aegon/Young Grif – Tyrion’s journey bypassed their meeting, but it would be odd to completely ignore another contender to the throne. His landing at Griffin’s Roost is one of the stories I really wanted to follow up on in the next book; on that note, the different sellsword companies can be explored a lot more; Sam’s got some stuff to do at the Citadel; the wildlings brought inside of the wall. There’s also Quentin Martell, but with Dany already out of Meereen, it doesn’t make much sense for him to show up at this point. There’s a ton of material in the books to start to get into now.

I have a list that’s kind of the opposite of Arya’s list. I think there are 5 characters that are probably going to make it to the end of the show. It’s probably a bad idea to make this kind of bold statement about a show that can kill off your favorites at any time. It just makes sense that the next generation and players in the game are going to be significant in the future. Jon, Arya, Sansa, Bran and Daenerys. I could literally go on about this forever. So, I’ll try to wrap it up by checking in with where they were at the end of last season.

Let’s get the big one out of the way. Jon is alive and that’s what I’ll believe until I see otherwise. Even people who haven’t read the books know that it’s more than a coincidence that Melisandre rode up to the wall right as the mutiny was about to happen. What we know from the books is that her powers are way more extensive than anyone could imagine. She’s definitely got a better handle on blood magic than the maegi who brought back Drogo in season one. The Mance/Rattleshirt trick she pulled makes me believe she is the key to Jon’s survival. I worry that she may hold some sort of power over Jon if she does use her magic. But Jon is the key to everything, so obviously he can’t die. I really hope I’m right about this.

The “girl” formerly known as Arya has just lost her sight and hasn’t really gotten into much of her training at the house of white and black. The upside of her story being so removed from the rest of the action is that it’s sort of a life boat for those of us who are holding onto the knowledge we have from the books. I can’t see why her story wouldn’t follow her chapters in A Dance with Dragons at this point. Bran has just met the children of the forest and I think that’s where we left him. Looking forward to seeing him train with the 3-eyed crow. Dany’s plot fast-forwarded to being found by a khal. I was annoyed to have spent so much time with her struggling in the Dothraki sea (knowing it was the final chapter of the last available book), but I see now how it was helpful to making her discovery more affecting. She’s on the verge of death and found by a group of people who want her dead. I have no idea where this could go and, as usual, I’m most excited to see what happens with Dany in the coming season.

Lastly, there’s Sansa. Of the core characters, she’s probably the farthest from where the book puts her at this point in the story. Again, this is probably a case of lessening confusion. The real Sansa actually marries Ramsay (ending in a scene I won’t even talk about because it’s so disturbing). Poor Sansa can’t catch a break. First she’s engaged to a psychopath, married to the laughing stock of King’s Landing (speaking from a character’s perspective, of course; I love Tyrion), rescued by a creep who probably sees her mother when he looks at her, and now this. At this point, she has the back story of a future badass and you could see her starting to decide enough was enough. At the end of last season, she escapes with Theon (I assume Reek is dead after this act of defiance), just like Jayne does in the book. Hopefully, the first conversation they have once they get a safe distance away starts with “hey, so, I didn’t really kill your brothers.” Otherwise, it will be an even more tense journey to wherever it is they’re going. Riverrun? The Wall?

Game of Thrones season 6 premieres April 24th, which gives me two more months to obsess over all the different ways this could go. Maybe I’ll write another speculation post to ease some of the tension.

Wedding Day

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The Girls are back! I didn’t even know that I was missing them. Since I watch so many shows, some of them tend to fall off of my radar. This habit has lead me to sit on the sidelines while the people around me get caught up in the latest hot thing. After a while, I started to like watching things after all the hype died down because it made it easier to form my own opinions about them. Thus began my binge-watching addiction.

I made it through the first four seasons of Girls over the course of this past month. I got hooked from the first episode. I love shows that don’t feel the need to create unrealistically perfect characters. Everyone has their flaws and, boy, do they let their true colors fly. I know a lot of people stopped watching after a couple of seasons, fed up with the characters’ awful behavior. For any defectors out there, I would urge you to watch season three’s seventh episode, “The Beach House”, in which they all take turns pointing out exactly what we are all thinking. The show knows what it’s doing with these characters.

The other arguments against this show are made by people who just don’t get it. Not only that, they are angry that other people relate to it. Comparing this show to others led by prominent female voices is, in a way, giving the critics what they want, but if you look at the negativity surrounding them you can see a lot of similarities. Haters gonna hate, especially men who believe women should be focused on entertaining them.

“Wedding Day” is one of the funniest episodes of Girls yet. There are so many quotable lines, I could go on for hours transcribing them. I thought the wedding was a great way to get all of the characters on screen for the first time this year. The change of scenery was a nice touch. Seeing all of them out of their usual element really puts the focus on the people. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it!

First: Marnie. After a couple of awful seasons (for her), it’s nice to see Marnie in the foreground of the premiere. She makes the perfect annoying bride, completely open to whatever, but needing final say on everything. Full disclosure: this episode probably hit a little closer to home for me, since I just had my wedding last summer. I apologize if I focus too much on details that don’t stick out to most people. The details were perfect, though. Marnie’s strange concept of her wedding (“with a nod to my heritage, which is white Christian woman”) perfectly matches the mess that would be her marriage to Desi.

Hannah (in an “I Woke Up Like This” sweatshirt that I seriously need in my life) is the kind of friend you would want to have with you on the day of your wedding, but would be kind of useless. Correct me if I’m wrong, but was it inappropriate for her to invite Fran to hang out with them while they were getting ready? Marnie didn’t handle it well, or at all, but that should’ve been something Hannah (or Fran, who is way too early) should have seen coming. I get it, though. We all have friends who hate weddings and everything that comes with them, but there comes a time when you need to step up, as Hannah eventually does.

Shoshanna , on the other hand, is totally on top of it which fits right in with her character. I’m so glad that she was in the episode instead of doing whatever in Japan, unseen. She manages the craziness of the day with the kind of focus that only Shosh can pull off. She was made for this. I was intrigued by the fact that she didn’t bring her boyfriend (I’m assuming Jason Ritter’s Scott from last season) as a date. She mentions in passing that it would mess up the dynamic of their long-distance relationship, but it’s weird that she’d come home for the wedding and not see him. This does not bode well.

On the guy’s side of things, Desi is reminding us all why he is the worst. Apparently, this is his 8th engagement and, after bonding with all the male series regulars, gets some seriously cold feet. I’m a little confused why all these guys are together before the wedding, so excuse the digging into wedding tradition for a moment. None of the guys are dressed alike, which is fine, but if Marnie is making the bridesmaids wear those awful matching dresses, I doubt she would let that fly. I’m guessing there are three groomsmen to match the three bridesmaids. That leaves Wolfie (Baron Vaughn from Grace and Frankie) as best man and Adam and Elijah(?) to round out the party. I loved every word out of Elijah’s mouth, but it seems a stretch to put him in the wedding so he can be a part of the episode. Fran is there because he was banished from the women’s space and Ray is there why? Because Marnie said he should be. Well, that’s weird.

Ray is the one who, accidentally, talks Desi into going through with the wedding. Still in love with Marnie, Ray walks into the lake with Desi to tell him how any man would be lucky to marry her. I thought he was getting ready to pull a “Graduate”, but I think he would rather have her marry the wrong guy than be jilted. Why he even went at all remains a mystery to me.

Fran spills the beans about Desi’s previous engagements and the fact that Marnie’s ring was intended for his ex- Carmen. Silly Fran, you thought Hannah can keep a secret. Rushing in to reveal this information, Hannah finds Marnie on the verge of a complete meltdown (the result of the scary work done by hilarious guest star Bridget Everett’s make-up artist). It is at this point that Hannah begins to show some signs of maturity. She really wants to say what’s on her mind because that’s what she always does, but she sees her friend is hurting. Marnie has her doubts and Hannah goes against her instincts and supports her. Clearly Marnie and Desi are not a good match. Everyone is aware of this, but at this point, on their wedding day, it’s probably too late to voice concerns.

In the end, Jessa is the one who pulls everything together. She has a habit of disappearing and showing up just in time to fix everything which is really frustrating. She walks into the episode with one of the her best lines ever and ends it with some styling magic. It’s the in between part that I’m unsure of. I thought the kiss between her and Adam was the first one. I’ve spoken to some fans who think the two are an item, but that doesn’t mesh with his awkwardness with Fran. Wouldn’t hooking up with one of your ex’s best friends kind of preempt the whole new boyfriend/old boyfriend stand-off. I guess the fact that the kiss was just a passing moment gives credence to the fact that this wasn’t the first time it happened. I’m glad that scene took place in the middle of the episode so there wasn’t too much emphasis on it. It happened and we’ll have to address it later.

I’m stoked for the rest of this season.

The Downside of Binge-watching

The following is a re-post from my previous blog, dated 2/3/16.

I want to gush a little about so-called “peak television”. First of all, does the coining of the term “peak television” foretell its eventual demise? I’m no expert, but I guess all good things must eventually end. In the meantime, I’m sure enjoying the ride.

My goal for the year is to watch more movies and the biggest challenge to that has been getting sucked in by good shows. It’s not like I can be upset about it. There’s some thoroughly entertaining stuff out there for all tastes. The reason why I was perusing AV Club in the first place was to check out the review on American Crime Story, the premiere of which had me floored last night. Seriously, historical dramas have no reason to be this good, especially on TV. But that’s where we are right now. That’s what keeps me preferring in-depth 10-13 hour stories over the 2 hour movies. We are spoiled and I can only hope that this trend continues.

The other issue I’m having is that I rarely watch shows as they air, putting me in position to binge after the season is released on other formats. This is something I’m working on now with ACS and Colony (even USA has good stuff now!). FX ended 2 of my favorite shows around the same time (SoA and Justified), then pushed my favorite comedies to a second channel that, at the time, my cable company didn’t offer. I kind of forgot about the channel after a while. And then Fargo happened. I had read and heard nothing but good things about it from the start, but it wasn’t until this last season started picking up steam that I decided it was probably something I should watch. Being a completionist, I started with the first season and finished it in about a week. Hopefully, I’ll burn through season 2 soon and free up some time to watch more movies.

The upside of bingeing on Fargo, is that it has motivated me to get back on track for my resolution. It’s a great show and I love that the story stands on its own, but it made me really want to re-watch the movie to compare the over-all tone and revel in the little Easter eggs from the show. I also realized that, while I love every Coen brothers movie I’ve seen, there are a great many I never got around to. So, those will definitely be additions to my list this year. But if I had to answer which of my preferred modes of entertainment was my favorite: movies, TV or music; my answer would probably be “it’s complicated.” It definitely is.

Movies 16-19

Ok, so we’re all done with catch up. This is my first time in a while, trying to come up with what to say about these films, so here goes nothing.

#16: Funny or Die Presents: The Art of the Deal – Yeah. This was so much fun to watch. I felt a little guilty adding this to the list. Exactly how long is feature-length? Anyway, I know it’s too long to be a short film. Johnny Depp can actually be a chameleon. Who would’ve thought? Every little mannerism was just spot on. It’s hard not to wonder if they timed the release to hurt him in the election. (Though, I do believe that’s true about Mitt Romney and “The Book of Mormon”, so I guess I’ll believe anything.) Too bad it doesn’t seem to be doing much damage. The movie, however, is hilarious and the guest appearances are perfect. Let’s all hope the real Trump doesn’t get all litigious and have it taken down. Though, from the look of his campaign, I’m pretty sure he’s happy with any mention of himself in the media.

#17: Snowpiercer – I managed to describe the last movie without getting too political, but it may be an even bigger challenge here. I got a huge laugh out of the opening, and I’m not sure that was the intended response. But the world’s governments attempt to fix a problem (as in do their job), only to have it backfire in the worst way possible is spot-on humor. The rest of the movie was pretty entertaining. I dug the whole concept without getting too caught up on how impractical running a train around the world would be. Like, if you dig deep enough, can’t you find warmth underground? Speaking of chameleons, Tilda Swinton killed it. I was sad to see her go.

#18: Get on Up – I grew up with James Brown. His music might as well be the soundtrack to my childhood, my dad was such a big fan. It took me a while to understand why this movie wasn’t a hit. I had watched bits and pieces whenever it was on tv and it instantly brought me back to that time period (which I, admittedly, didn’t live through, but have gotten more than enough anecdotes to understand the overall feeling of the era). Now that I have finally gotten around to seeing the whole thing, I get why this movie isn’t getting some Ray-level praise – even though I would argue that they are equally revolutionary to the world of music.  The issue with this biopic is that it focuses maybe too much on the live performances. And on top of that, they are lip-synced. Ok, so James was a legendary live performer and the movie goes to great lengths to show this. Chadwick Boseman does a great Brown and the lip-syncing is done very well, but it’s not worth spending so much time away from the characters. I feel like they really just scratched the surface of all the drama in the life of the man and instead added a bunch of music videos to make people feel nostalgic. I would watch it again for the music, but there’s not much story there.

#19: Deadpool – This movie is awesome. I don’t think I knew how much my life needed a super-violent, super-funny anti-superhero movie. I laughed. I cringed. I’ll probably see it again before it leaves theaters (there’s not much else to see now anyway). I love how self-aware it is and, having starred in a super flop, Ryan Reynolds is perfect for it. I think it’s about time we got a grown up comic book movie. I also can’t wait to see what kind of crossover will happen within the Marvel-verse. Will they really let our most beloved X-men appear in this potty-mouthed series? I guess we’ll see.

Movies 10-15

Almost caught up to the last few I’ve watched. I guess these cover the first week of February. I was getting a little stuck; it took me a while to write about these because I didn’t know what to say about them. Turns out, when I start typing, the words find a way out. I still feel bad that I didn’t love Inside Out, though.

#10: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Another movie from my A-Z list crossed off. I remember seeing the trailers for this movie when it was first released and being excited about what looked like the return of the gripping thriller. Watching it proved to be more work than entertainment. Don’t get me wrong. I liked it, but it took all the attention I could muster to follow the whole fricking thing. I didn’t see the reveal coming (it can’t be the charming, good-looking one!), so that was a pleasant surprise.

#11: The Overnight – “This series is called portals.” I judge everything by its cover art. Don’t we all? The picture and description on Netflix instantly made me think of one of my favorite movies, Carnage. Two couples played by great actors (maybe not as great as the cast of Carnage, but few actors are) working off each other for most of the film. Okay, so the comparison between the two pretty much ends there. Having Taylor Schilling acting as an audience surrogate is something I’ve grown accustomed to and, as the night progresses, I’m right there with her, wondering “what is happening?”. The climax (absolutely no pun intended) when it comes is as inevitable as the awkward aftermath and I think I just wrote myself into liking this more than when I first saw it. Either way, my point is everyone should watch Carnage.

#12: Duplicity – I watched the opening of this movie while reading an A.V. Club article praising its composition. It is a beautiful scene, which is why I got sucked into watching the whole thing. I did not know that I’d be in for a mix of romance and corporate espionage. I’m still not sure that those things can even blend, nor can I tell you how the movie ends. All I know is that it was nice to see Paul Giamatti as frustrated and empowered, rather than the regular sad-sack.

#13: Inside Out – I’ll probably need to watch this movie when I’m in a better mood, i.e. not in the dead of winter. I was really upset that I didn’t get what everyone was raving about. The voice acting was great. The story was, well, what you’d expect from a Pixar movie. The fact that I wasn’t overcome with joy (pun intended) by the end made me feel like an emotionally disconnected monster. Either I’m too cynical, or this movie just didn’t do it for me,

#14: The Big Short – I listened to the screenwriter of this film on The Black List podcast describing how they were able to make the very technical aspects of the housing market crash accessible to wide audiences. I wish all my econ. classes were this easy to understand. Once I got over the wigs, I was amazed at how easily I could follow all of the action leading up to the biggest financial crisis of modern times. It’s also great how I could enjoy watching the characters while deep down despising what they were doing (a little reminiscent of The Wolf of Wall Street, in a way). The big question is who would resist taking advantage of it if they saw it coming?

#15: Amy – I’m going to resist gushing over this. I was a fan of her music and I’m glad the documentary didn’t trash her reputation or make her out to be someone she wasn’t. I also liked the lack of camera time for those being interviewed. This was clearly made for people interested in the woman behind the music, not those trying to profit off of her early demise.

So, I’m going to keep plugging away and try to update more often so I’m not stuck trying to remember details. Did I mention you should watch Carnage?


Movies 5-9

No one’s perfect. It’s our flaws that define us. At the beginning of this quest, I told myself that I was going to stop binge-watching tv shows to make more time to watch movies. I even deleted all the shows in my streaming queues so I could focus on the task at hand. Then all the hype around Making a Murderer popped up online and, literally the second week in, I was back to my old ways.

Anyway, since the time when I first wrote this, I have gotten better at sticking to my guns and not getting sucked in. This first review does allude to what a waste of a weekend Making a Murderer was, so I thought I’d explain. I watched all of these in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of January.

#5: The Master – Wow. The first word that comes to mind is “beautiful”. The images on screen paired with that score completely erased all the despondency that Making a Murderer left in me. I was delighted to watch gone-to-soon Phillip Seymour Hoffman at his best with an equally amazing cast (including Rami Malek, star of my second weekend diversion – Mr. Robot). I had read so many confused reviews that I was expecting an insanely long, rambling think-piece that would leave me confounded for days. I don’t know if it’s because I got lost in the beauty, but I couldn’t disagree more. What an enjoyable end to such a frustrating weekend.

#6: Goodnight Mommy – This Austrian horror had me gripped from the start. As I’ve already admitted, I’m not a fan of subtitles, and fortunately there isn’t much reading to do. The sparse dialogue made the beginning even more tense as I wrapped myself in blankets in a state of “wtf?”. So many questions: Where is Lukas?; Do we know the other kid’s name?; Seriously, though, WTF?! I grew up in a family full of twins, but this movie made me legit creeped out by them. The reveal at the end was so crazy, I think there may be a re-watching of this in the future. In one word, brutal.

#7: Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Ah, lucky number seven. Full disclosure: I’ve never been a Star Wars fan. The reason for this may be lack of exposure. I didn’t have someone in my life that introduced me to them as a kid, so the only one’s I’ve seen all the way through are Episodes I and II, which I saw in the theaters (I was in middle school). That being said, I do fully appreciate these movies’ standing in pop culture as a whole and probably know more than any non-fan should (for instance, I watched a large part of The Empire Strikes Back for a class on film music). Anyway, you can’t be a pop culture fanatic and manage to avoid the ubiquitous franchise. Before heading to the theater, though, I brushed up with some videos and articles discussing the plot of the first 6 movies, just so I wouldn’t be completely lost. It turns out, that I would’ve survived without it, because this is a complete re-boot. I enjoyed it, immensely. I thought Rey and Finn were adorable. And since I spent all weekend watching the first season of Girls for the first time, I now recognize Kylo Ren as Hannah’s creepy boyfriend, so that should make future viewings interesting. The 3D was also probably the best I’ve ever seen in IMAX. Afterward, my husband schooled me on all the references to the previous films that I probably missed, but I didn’t care much. As a stand-alone movie, it was one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

#8: Anomalisa – The best part of having this list of movies to watch is that I’ve already forgotten what most of them are and why I wanted to watch them in the first place. Enter Anomalisa. I’ve made a point to stop “IMDb’ing” movies as I watch them. It’s a hard habit to break, but it’s really kept me more in the moment, enjoying the art instead of satisfying trivial urges. So, that’s what I did. I lived in this world for the full 90 minutes, completely unaware of what I was supposed to be getting from it. It was dream-like. I couldn’t believe how intricate the puppets and scenes were, how human the characters were despite the obvious seams (and, for most of them, identical voices). It was just so weird and amazing at the same time, hilarious and heart-breaking. I was not at all surprised that this movie came from the writer of one of my all-time favorites, Being John Malkovich. I could say a lot of the same for that movie as well. This movie reminded me why it’s always better to go in blind, because I would have been drawing comparisons the whole time, which would’ve taken away from my experience. Side note: the thing I really wanted to look up was the voice actor of Michael. It was bugging me that it sounded so much like Gabriel Byrne. Turns out he and David Thewlis have similar voices.

#9: Soaked in Bleach – I love conspiracy theories. They are an art unto themselves. So when a different point of view is presented in a decent documentary, I could start to believe it. I know, on an intellectual level, that all docs are presented in a way that shows the maker as exposing the ultimate truth, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the ride. I like it when questions are raised that I hadn’t considered. I also like poking holes in theories. When Montage of Heck came out last year, I began to believe that Courtney Love was maybe the worst person in the world (a belief solidified by Dave Grohl’s reaction when she hugged him on stage at Nirvana’s Hall of Fame induction). Does that mean I think she did it? No, but it’s pretty messed up that murder was never even considered. Maybe not messed up, exactly. You have a police department that is desperate to get a high profile case off its hands and assuming what seems obvious would get it done. I’m just glad that someone is asking questions [read as James Adomian’s Jesse Ventura].

Movies 1-4

These are the movies I watched the first week of January.

#1: Alan Partridge – This one has been sitting in my queue for a while. I love Steve Coogan. I’ve never seen the show this movie spun out of, but I’ve seen all 13 episodes of Saxondale multiple times and would encourage everyone else (especially classic rock fans) to do the same. I’m not sure if more familiarity with the characters would have made this movie more enjoyable, but I liked it just fine. It got a few good laughs out of me on a lazy morning after a long couple of days of New Year’s festivities, so that’s something.

#2: The Ridiculous 6 – This was a sheer “Netflix is already on, might as well watch something else” choice of movie. I chuckled a few times, but couldn’t shake the guilt of knowing the racial tension that occurred on set. It was nice to see Sandler as the straight-man for once, but then I fell asleep. (Again, it was post-New Year’s.) I woke up during the end and felt like the climax I missed was probably every thing I would have expected. Even though I didn’t technically see the whole thing, I’m counting it because it was that predictable (probably why I fell asleep, actually).

#3: The Hateful 8 – Now that’s more like it. I missed you, Quentin. I wish I had seen this on film, with the overture and intermission, but I’m glad I saw it in a packed theater anyway. While watching those beautiful outdoor panoramas, I kept thinking “how has he only made 8 films?!” There should be more. And more of Samuel L. Jackson in full badassery (I really hated him in Django; like, I know you’re supposed to hate him, but it was very upsetting for me). Anyway, this ties with Reservoir Dogs for 3rd place; under Kill Bill: Vol. 1 at 1, and Pulp Fiction at 2. I’m curious where other people put it, so let me know if you disagree. My list could easily change each time I watch or re-watch one of his films.

#4: Pitch Perfect 2 – This one was a no-brainer for my list, since I’ve had it ready to go on my computer for a while now. Well, I’m a music nerd and I loved it. Is that surprising? Besides it being a musical (should I do musicals next year?), I really enjoy Anna Kendrick and her whole thing with the German chick was hilarious. “Fat Amy” is a little tired at this point, though. I wonder what the 3rd one will do with these characters. I’d also like to point out that as nerdy as I am, I do not enjoy the onslaught of a capella in the real world. I blame these movies for picking up the torch that should’ve fizzled out with Glee.