31 December 2023

2023 at Eternium's Gate: Movie Moments, Songs, and THRILLS

It's time here now, at the end of all things to talk about whatever else there is to talk about this year. 2023 wasn't too bad, right? I mean, the world always sucks. In terms of film and art we were stricken with the writers and actor's strikes and are really at the crux of art and technology. I don't know what's going to happen with the studio system, we're seeing a lot of what had been working over the last few years completely melt down. I mean, who cares, these movies are terrible. We really need to burn the entire industry down and start again.

Let's get into the fun! And of course we here at NMW have some boffo picks.

Comedic Performance of the Year

Kid Cudi in House Party (2023). That's right, I've been sitting on this for a year. There aren't even good clips of this shit. House Party was actually decent, although it assuredly did not push its premise far enough. The Kid Cudi scenes offer a glimpse into this much more out there film and it's fun to think of this dude carrying a whole movie. He's great!

Hero of the Year

It's Rocket in Guardians 3 (2023). I mean, that's the whole point of the movie. I think this third installment lacked the novelty of the first one and the heart of the second, but it's still upper tier stuff. Rocket is sidelined through most of the present film, but we see his origin through extensive flashbacks, a moral code developing that is fulfilled by the end. A close second is Pete Davidson in Transformers! You forgot about that one, didn't you.

Villain of the Year

I'm tempted to go with Mamoa in Fast X, but ultimately we have too little of this kind of insanity, which I guess was on purpose?! How could you? This franchise is so dead in the water, we really could have used some of his chaotic energy to spice it up. But no, let's go with BOWSER from the Super Mario Bros. Movie. They really found the zone between his goofiness and threateningness and of course adding a signature Jack Black song gave us THE Movie song of the year (until "I'm Just Ken" came along). He's monstrous but also totally in character. A great villain.

Actors of the Year

This is tough. The obvious is just Margot Robbie, right? Can we go with Chris Melton or Ayo Edebiri? Chris Pratt was technically in two of the biggest films of the year, but it doesn't feel like he was ubiquitous. Can we go Jonathan Majors? Oof. Kang really should have been the greatest villain, him appearing in multiple platforms as a legit threat could have been a really cool way to show him encroaching on the entire MCU. Some What Ifs would have been great. Whomp-whomp. Creed III, too, but that was a bit of a thud. Is it weird to say Matt Damon had a big year? Same with Joaquin Phoenix, and Nicolas Cage. And Jason Statham was in a ton of movies!

Let's go Dave Bautista. Knock at the Cabin gave him indie cred and Guardians 3 gave him blockbuster cred. He's still a rising star and has a lot more interesting roles in him. I was thinking Florence Pugh or uhhh....Taylor Swift? But I think this is Margot Robbie's year again! Barbie is just a great film, the #1 film of the year somehow, and it doesn't work without Robbie.

Scenes of the Year

In no real order,  here are our favorites:

MCU's First F-Bomb I mean, I laughed out loud, an unreal way to send-off these guys.
I'm Just Ken - probably the #1 scene. The production is insane, I love re-watching and seeing the guys just dancing in the background. It's so incredibly melodramatic and the song is a genuine banger. Also the greatest film of the year climaxes with interpretive dance. Brillian.
All of Saltburn, but let's go with this. No clips exist, but if you know you know.
Jason Statham vs. Shark. The Meg 2 was somehow far superior to its predecessor and deserves a lot of moments here. Let's go with the entire final battle. Also, this movie mostly took place in the Trench, which I guess is the title, but the trailers were totally just this scene.
Oppenheimer crowd Most folks will go with Trinity, but THIS is the scene, man. This is where Oppie realizes the world-ending chain reaction.
Spider-Prowler super ending spoiler but damn is this well crafted
the stop motion alien in Asteroid City man I didn't like this movie but this was rad
John Wick Sacre-Coeur an OK end to two OK films after two great films, but John Wick falling down stairs was funny
DnD glitch I don't think I laughed harder at anything in this fun but not actually well written at all film.

Songs of 2023

This was a big year for music that was Spanish jibberish to my ears, along with Taylor Swift, and female rap artists. What a terrible year for racist uncles. You still got Morgan Wallen.

What do I like? "Paint the Town Red" by Doja Cat or "Hot City" by Bonnie McKee. The Barbie Album was non-stop bangers. "Kill Bill" SZA had a big year. And Olivia Rodrigo might not be an industry plant! Her wit reminds me of like 2017 Taylor Swift. And I'm a Gorillaz fan so it was a lot of fun to get Cracker Island on our butts. "Lil Boo Thing" is fun, feels like an old song.

That's it for 2023! What a wonderful year! Next year will be a big crossroads for Hollywood - mergers, streaming failures, non-superheroes and more! Stay tuned, folks!

29 December 2023

The Best Movies of Each Year Every Year Since This Blog Was Founded

We've been at this a while now and it's about time we assessed the top films of each year since we started this nonsense. We'll post our original lists along with what is probably now the definitive rankings. And since we started this along with the start of time, in 2009, that's how far back we're going!

2009: A Serious Man, Coen Bros
2010: The Social Network, David Fincher
2011: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher
2012: The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson
2013: The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese
2014: Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer
2015: Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller
2016: American Honey, Andrea Arnold
2017: Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve
2018: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
2019: The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers
2020: Nomadland, Chloe Zhao
2021: The Green Knight, David Lowery
2022: The Northman, Robert Eggers
2023: Beau is Afraid, Ari Aster

Close finishes:

2010: MacGruber
2011: Take Shelter or Melancholia
2014: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
2015: Ex Machina
2016: The VVitch
2019: Midsommar
2020: Promising Young Woman or Color Out of Space
2021: PIG

Some of these pics surprised even me. Some years like 2017 and 2012 I have never really doubted who #1 should be. Others like 2011 and 2019 put up a good fight and I could go either way. 2020 is a really tough year, I'm not super satisfied but Nomadland is a great choice. 2016 I had a ton of trouble with, I like American Honey and think about it a ton these days. But there just isn't a lot of great choices there. I might call 2016 the worst year for film since I've been doing this. The best is probably 2011 or 2012. Maybe 2022.

This will be our immutable list for all of time!

28 December 2023

10 Years Gone: The Best Films of 2013

It takes a long time for movies to sit and develop both within a culture and within my brain. So in addition to reevaluating one year gone, we really need to do a ten-year reevaluation. That is what this is all about. We'll look at all of our previous 2013 lists and come up with something really really distinctive and definitive. So let's start with our shortlist. These would be all the movies I kind of liked from 2013:

John Dies at the End
Warm Bodies
Side Effects
Spring Breakers
The Place Beyond the Pines
Pain & Gain
This is The End
The Lone Ranger
Bad Words
The Way Way Back
Pacific Rim
The World's End
You're Next
Cloud with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Don Jon
12 Years a Slave
Inside Llewyn Davis
American Hustle
Anchorman 2: The Legend Contiues
The Wolf of Wall Street

Alright, we've got to widdle this down. There are definitely some that have always been on my list, and I think that's true again here. Let's go with our immutable, the definitely always going to have a spot here:

The Wolf of Wall Street
Inside Llewyn Davis
Pacific Rim
Spring Breakers
The Place Beyond the Pines
Pain & Gain

That might be it. I can't believe I dropped Frozen and 12 Years a Slave from that list, but I'm not sure either are totally as awe-inspiring as they once were. Maybe Frozen, still, just because that felt so fresh at the time. It's always hard to divest the original work from the repeated influences thread over the past ten years. I think on a real list it still has to make an appearance. I don't know who gets the last bit, out of either Apocalypse comedy this year, probably The World's End.

Okay, so here is our original list from 2013, which was weird because we copped out and gave very clear distinctions to everything. What's amazing is that that list is almost the exact same as what I have here, down to Don Jon and Side Effects. In 2017 we again added most of the same things we see here. In 2021 we morphed a bit, adding Anchorman 2 and room for both This is The End and The World's End as our three bonus films. Other than that, it's pretty much still on the money with my tastes.

One thing it really makes me thing is...why am I doing this? It's pretty much the same. I'm surprised at how much it canonizes so fast.

2013 becomes a nice year for everything, much like my original list. There are really compelling dramas, action films, and fun or experimental films pretty much everywhere. I'm surprised, honestly, that so many of these movies I can still think, "Yeah, that's okay!" Part of this is just me seeing more films like The Place Beyond the Pines and recognizing how legit they are.

2014 is weird, always the year of Guardians and Birdman, but I'm curious if we have more surprises than this year!

2023 at Eternium's Gate: Best of 2022!

I have gotten into this more lately - it really does take a whole year to catch up. And I didn't even watch all the ones I said I would here. But there's a lot that I've shifted around and some painful losses. Ultimately I chose Puss in Boots over Pinocchio because it does a better job of saying the same thing about death and immortality, even though I do have fondness in my heart for the latter. And it might one day get in here, but I just had to leave Ambulance out. You should definitely watch Ambulance, though.

#10: Prey still works and sticks in my head as one of the cleanest, purest action movies in recent memory. It's remarkably direct and simple and still one of the best Friday nights you can have.

#9: Weird: The Al Yankovic Story I just bought on DVD because I don't trust the ability to watch it on any platform, much less Roku. I was pleasantly reminded of just how funny this thing still is. It helps to be steeped in Weird Lore, but every line just slays me. I fully grasped the concept that Michael Jackson's "Beat It" is actually a parody of Weird Al's "Eat It."

#8: The Banshees of Inisherin I was thinking about Barry Keoghan in this while watching Saltburn (2023). I often reference cutting off my fingers to get away from friends I don't like as well. I'm actually not convinced of this film's 10-year staying power, but for now it's still pretty fresh with me.

#7: Babylon is for sure a bit of a mess, but it's so damn realized and the characters hit so hard. There are for sure unnecessary slurs but it secretly belongs amongst Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt's best work. No small feat. I really enjoyed thus. Definitely too long. I don't 

#6: TAR took me a bit to get into and it is almost certainly too long. We could have used quite a bit less lengthy inside conductor talk, but it does add to the whole story. Anyway, it's a continuously unexpected story of this woman's life falling apart, it being continually her fault, and her absolute refusal to acknowledge it. And the ending is spectacular. You can picture anyone else but Cate Blanchett in the role but also she totally loses herself. Just a great experience.

#5: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has no right to be as good as it is. This sequel to a Shrek spin-off brilliantly finds a sublime challenge for its protagonist, intrinsic to his character while also being a treat to look at and very funny as well. Its playfulness matches its style and Antonio Banderas owns this role like few others. It's a lot of fun, has a lot of heart, and one of the best villains ever in that Wolf Death guy.

#4: RRR is still an unbelievable movie. We are getting into the probably never off this list section of this list and I don't see it ever dropping. It's the kind of movie I remember watching every second for the first time. And then I put it on again as soon as it ended. It's the ultimate action bromance and what every American action movie wishes it was.

#3: NOPE remains Jordan Peele's best film. I hate to be a hater, but I didn't think his other stuff is all THAT great, I mean, they're fine, but NOPE is really where he lands as both a supreme visual storyteller, but one who can bathe his films in metaphor, callbacks, multiple coherent themes firing at once, and legit scares and tension. It's great and deserves so much more praise.

#2: Everything Everywhere All at Once somehow someway became an Oscar darling which is a baffling thing to think about, but also we need to admit that the Academy Awards have become deeply deeply weird. But this is one that they got right. It's an epic, a movie for our times, who we all wish our situation may have turned out differently, but we need to learn to deal with the relationships in our reality. Also we're all living in different realities anyway. It's impeccably crafted and full of boffo action scenes as well. It'll be on list list forever.

#1: The Northman remains my favorite, even if it hit a little less hard on my second re-watch. It's just very very cool. And also I still believe it's about how masculinity is stupid. In my opinion. It has everything firing at once, the visuals, both CGI and just shooting great landscapes, acting ranging from Dafoe to Kidman, a compelling story of twists and familial betrayal, and a volcano fight. What else do you want?

2022 - what a year! I like this list a lot and although we'll keep watching and reevaluating, this is pretty solid. I would watch any of these any day. Let's get ready to reassess 2023 in a year!

27 December 2023

2023 At Eternium's Gate: Best Movies!

Ladies and gentlepeople, thanks for sticking with us for our whopping TWELFTH post of the year! Needless to say, 2023 was excessively busy, most with my wife and newborn son. But we still watched some movies! I found that I didn't get to see nearly as many films on my list as I would have liked, so I wanted to do this in parts. First is a mild ranking of my favorite 2023 films that I actually saw. It's...it's not great, people. So I then cobbled together a mix of let's call them projected favorites. More and more I'm finding that we should just do a list a year from now when everything is settled.

And let's face it folks - there is only one big reason why I didn't see a lot of 2023's films this year. The collapse of Netflix DVD! It pains me quite a bit to lose access to what was once one of the greatest movie libraries of all time. I really did spent a lot of November / December catching up each year. Now I wait until streaming (The Holdovers comes to Peacock Dec 29!) but it does become tough when I clearly don't have things like Peacock.

So, let's start with the most honest ranking ever of movies I actually saw in 2023:

The Machine
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The Killer
May December
Beau is Afraid

Well, there actually were nine films that I'd consider rankable. And yeah, we've got The Machine and Strays on there. These aren't good movies. But they're definitely the #8 and #9 movie I actually saw in 2023.

Movies I think I would like:

The Holdovers
American Fiction
Killers of the Flower Moon
Poor Things
Anatomy of a Fall
Zone of Interest
Godzilla Minus One
Dream Scenario

Alright, now let's be real bold and just straight up combine these lists and make the ultimate Top Ten list of films I have both seen and not seen. 

Poor Things
Killers of the Flower Moon
Godzilla Minus One
The Killer
May December
Beau is Afraid

It pains me to boot off Across the Spider-Verse. It is a very good film but ultimately too scatter-brained and incomplete to be truly great cinema. Maybe I'll change my mind next year....

Napoleon is probably not actually the great film it wants to be, and to be honest I wasn't that enthralled by the trailer for The Holdovers, although I dig the style and it's getting great reviews. American Fiction has gotten praise, but some are saying it's not actually treading new ground. I am cautious about Dream Scenario, too. The Cage says it's one of his best and it's an intriguing premise, but the trailer didn't seem to push the concept enough (one might assume the actual film pushes it farther and doesn't spill its hand).

I knocked off weird foreign and indie films. They're probably all very good. I'm really intrigued by Godland and Anatomy of a Fall, but based on not seeing them, I'm not actually all that jazzed up. From there let's get into the official, immutable, unchangeable TOP TEN of 2023!

#10: Poor Things is the latest Yorgos Lanthimos film. Someone get this guy an MCU contract! No, no, please don't. I actually thought The Favorite (2018) wasn't especially great, but I'm still an eternal fan of The Lobster (2015). There's a lot of humor to the darkness of his subject matter and this is combining a stellar cast, feminine doctrine, and Frankenstein into a pretty palpable mix.

#9: Bottoms looks pretty fun. Get Marshawn Lynch a Best Supporting Actor statue! Probably! In an era where it's supposedly impossible to make a comedy film, we need more Bottoms. Again, I have not seen this movie, but it's got a grind and lack of polish to it that actual comedies need. Probably.

#8: Killers of the Flower Moon - I came so close to actually seeing this in theaters. But it's three hours long and my wife was eight and half months pregnant. Oh well. I do really want to see this and even the most pretentious of year-end lists have this ranked pretty high. It will probably creep higher by the time I see it on Apple TV+ next year. I really did want to support this in theaters. The De Niro / DiCaprio is of course really interesting, and any S-tier Scorsese needs a lot of attention. Hopefully this is actually good,

#7: Godzilla: Minus One is a film I've loved since it was announced. The Legendary Godzillas have been hit or miss in terms of being actual movies (I have been a die hard fan for all of them of course), but it's nice for Toho to reassert itself and throw down some really legit Godzilla films in recent years. It's such an evolution from the hokiness that persisted, even through the Millennium Era. I'm not sure what Era we are in now, but I'll take these one-off reinventions as long as they continue being this good. Probably.

#6: The Killer was a lot of really sly fun. It felt like Dave Fincher taking a big step back from big filmmaking and just having a bit of of fun. The moment you realize that Mike Fassbender is full of shit is incredible and then the film keeps building his hypocrisy and idiocy from there. There is a constant juxtaposition throughout the film and it does it all while reminding you that Fincher really know how to light and shoot a film.

#5: Barbie was a huge event this year and the movie really backs up all the hype. With all the talk of Ryan Gosling as Best Supporting Ken, Margot Robbie really deserves more attention for her role as the Barbie. She has such a ridiculous range but is also a perfect Barbie, both in her eloquence, flustered, and preoccupation with Death. It legit hits humor hard, hits obscure Barbie Lore hard, and pivots as a great meta movie and obviously feminist. But also shows how Barbie is anti-feminist. It's all a big pot of fun.

#4: May December is full of real REAL thorny material, but navigates it well. It's simultaneously a character study, a commentary on acting, trauma, generational trauma, and also weirdly funny. The ending is brilliant and almost impossible to conceive based on what has preceded it. It's really that kind of movie that pushes everyone out to the emotional edge. I loved the 4:3 aspect ratio. So many films are praised for their visuals that are really just made in a computer lab. I mean, that does take skill, but Toddy Haynes shows us that you can have incredible images that advance the story and supplement theming with simple shots in the mirror.

#3: Saltburn definitely will have its detractors but dude this movie rules. It's pretty fucked up and some of that just dips into shock value, but it's basically Parasite (2019) and everyone liked that, right. And it's not even all THAT fucked up. Right? Like, that bath water was mostly drained. It's got this cheekiness to it, straight from the opening titles and I always enjoy films where every single character is awful. When will Barry Keoghan get his statue? I think he's probably just too weird. I love the ending, too.

#2: Oppenheimer, I mean, of course. This is just a monumental film, the kind of old war film that features every actor who has ever lived. It succeeds on so many levels simultaneously - a character study, a historical epic, a cautionary tale, subjective vs. objective playing with cinema, an acting tour de force from everyone involved, and at times even a surrealist masterpiece. It's got everything and as a film about the atomic bomb, that is precisely the point. Give these people Oscars. Nice to remember how good of an actor Robert Downey, Jr is.

#1: Beau is Afraid I watched on a plane and even that didn't bar my enjoyment. It is a long, rambling, wackadoodle film that fits my sensibilities with Saltburn, May December, and The Killer in being a super dark comedy. It's maybe the most comedic of these four in that it revels in absolute absurdism. It's not even quite satire as it plays its world straight. You never quite know if it's in Joaquin Phoenix's mind that we are just seeing or the world as it is being played out. It's again full of fearless acting, although it's far too weird to get any real notice. The journey depicted here is truly epic and although it loses a bit of steam as it goes along, it stuck its landing really well. I still don't know if that thing in the attic was a metaphor or not. Just an altogether fun flick.

I really do need to get on some of these if I'd like to continue to claim to run an unsuccessful film blog, but c'mon, this is good enough for you animals! We'll end the year with much more fun recaps, so stay tuned!

29 October 2023

Summer Jam 2023: The lost summer

Yeah, dude. After years of decline, I don't know. This summer was confounded by both actually important things going on in my personal life (my pregnant wife), a waning disinterest in a lot of pop culture for primarily personal reasons (again, creating a life changes you), and a continued fracturing of what it even means to be a Summer Jam.

I'm not sure there was even one big song that you could point do and say, "Yes, that's it!" So this isn't even in any order and I'm not anointing one. That may seem like it breaks from tradition, but if you've learned anything from this site is that tradition for anything matters very little. We always focus on what our lives, actually mean, and freely disregard what we are supposed to do for what we are doing. Anyway, let's review a smattering:

Morgen Wallen brought huge crossover force to the summer and found a lot of mainstream pop success in addition to the country charts. Country might actually be getting popular, and I know that there are more country stations than any other, but that is also because radio stations exist in like five mile blocks and you need a lot to fill the...country. But real humans might actually be listening now, and this was a big summer. Anyway, it was also apparently the #1 Streamed song on Spotify.

This is probably my pick if I had to grab one. SZA has been around forever, but is also finally finding some mainstream appeal, especially with youths. This is not her best song, but easily one of her most accessible. It was on the radio forever and is very listenable. I dug it.

This was also the summer of Ice Spice, which is fun because it rhymes. Man, this is the most mispronounced song ever. My rate of mondegreens are already way too high. I can't understand anything. I thought it was about astrological signs. Again, on the radio forever and really did seem catchy. But that doesn't even matter any more, does it!? I think people liked it.

It's genuinely rare for anyone to come out with a song as popular (and superior) so an initial hit fourteen years apart, and ten years after her peak. But "Flowers" is great, unpretentious, a true maturation of Miley as an artist, which proves what a lot of knew, which is that she's far more Lady GaGa than Katy Perry - as in, she's actual artist with things to say, someone who works hard, and finds new ways to challenge herself. We're big fans.

Taylor Swift might be one of the most powerful artists (and frankly, human beings) on the planet right now. She is more powerful than the NFL. And the movies. It's wackadoodle. She keeps coming out with genuinely great hits. When do we just acknowledge her as one of our greatest artists? She had some continual hurdles or some reason. This and "Karma" are reliably great, either are fine choices for song of summer.

Dua has had some great years and Barbie (2023)'s obscene success certainly thrust this forward. It's a standard Dua Lipa song, which means it's very solid but not earth-shattering, but it also really works as a perfect song for the movie, where it can just innocuously exist but is also a legitimate banger.

Is it possible that Olivia Rodrigo isn't an industry plant after all? Nice that she's showing she's not a one-hit wonder although this isn't really any kind of step forward as an artist. It's a step sideways, which is...fine. It's not backwards awful. It's just not really anything hugely new or interesting. Will it get on a Halloween mix this year?

Obviously the Tracy Chapman version is definitive, but man this version hits hard. It wasn't all that big, but I did really dig it this summer. Somehow the blue collar cred just seeps out of this one and it becomes deeply sad. I get bummed out just about every time, but it's a good kind of bummer. 

This was definitely a song that would come on, be enjoyable, but like, you could never place the artist or what the song really was. It was a classic 5-8 spot by our old list system. Like, always around but never at the top. And again, I don't think it ever did well on streaming. Just radio. Sort of. We're in weird territory here, folks. I don't even know how we share anything.

What a great 2008 song, right? Of course it's got today's modern sampling. But there isn't really any passion here, it's two old dudes fighting for relevancy. I mean, it's fine, but this made zero splash anywhere. Except on my local radio stations that would still play it, presumably to go after the wacky dad vote. As you can tell, I'm so out of touch. It's why I'm retiring. I couldn't get into any Bad Bunny this summer.

This always reminded me of that intro song from La La Land (2016), you remember that? I feel like no one cares about La La Land anymore. Which is fine, but the future will be surprised to remember how big of a deal we felt about it at the time. This song is so light and fluffy, it really is a great summer song. It seemed like it was mildly popular.

We gotta have one Tik Tok meme song, right? Man, all this shit has just left me. Anyway, this is pretty cool, it's got a tubthumper of a beat and some pretty fire bars to land on our poor old ears. I'm down with the youth. I don't know if anyone actually listened to it, I think that maybe it didn't take off? I saw them running down the street and stuff, seemed fun.

Here's another sampled song that does work, but it also feels old and outdated. But sort of popular! It's fine. We had so many just fine songs this summer. It gets me kind of amped, right? I don't know, the original is probably better and they're just counting on nostalgia to push forward, but the truth is there are plenty of great original songs like "You Wish" out there that are genuine products of artistry. Oh well.

There were other ones like "Chemical" by Post Malone, which is just kind of dumb, and that Selena Gomez song that starts with VIBES which was cool but came out like a year ago, I guess? Anyone, one of the above, or definitely just Bad Bunny is the song of summer.

And that's probably why I'm hanging this up. It's all Bad Bunny's fault. But more accurately, it's my fault for not being able to distinguish in the slightest modern Spanish-language songs from each other. Pop culture moving on without me combined with some significant life changes are really fueling a disinterest in keeping up this section of our Fabled Blog. Maybe we'll keep doing a Fall wrap up, right around Halloween, of course, but I just think its time to move on.

Happy 2023, everyone!

03 September 2023

First Impressions: Across the Spider-Verse

 Hey Folks! What a long strange couple of months. I never get personal here, but needless to say, I've been busy. Mostly a lot of travel, including a few cross-hemispheric weddings this summer, playing a lot of Tears of the Kingdom, and also my wife is pregnant. I have seen a decent amount of films, although August was the lowest month in years. I have not been exploiting Netflix DVD's last ride quite at all, I'm afraid. I also failed to make a post in August, which is the first post-less month since we started this in June 2009.

So is this done? Maybe? I can't really see me ever being done, but I'll certainly take a step back with impending children and whatnot. But I've seen four theatrical movies this summer and it's our solemn duty to review each one, dammit. So let's pretend it's June, 2023 again and talk about Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023).

More and more I really think Into the Spider-Verse (2018) is not only one of the greatest superhero movies, greatest animated movies, but straight up greatest movies of all time. It created this new visual style which has finally started creeping into other mainstream works, it echoes and comments on a very old superhero story and still finds something new to say, is incredibly funny, and most importantly, all three aforementioned aspects relate to and enhance the actual story being told. It's amazing. So how do you follow this up?

Well, just do it again. I might give Into the edge because of its novelty, and it's always hard to really strike out on your own when you're following up such a project, but damn Across really comes close to surpassing it. It is an excessively long movie that never feels quite so long. It takes a tremendous time with its characters and dealing with all their problems and sincerely fleshes out both Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales. At first it seemed like it would just be a Gwen movie, and you could still make the deuteragonist argument, but then they circle back and give Miles both an organic advancement of his story from the first movie, but his own sincere stakes as well.

That sincerity is something that it seems like some filmmakers are having trouble coming to grips with. This and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) are so deeply, deeply silly, but the characters have real emotions and they react like real people when conflict arises and when obstacles emerge to interrupt the path to both their tangible and subtextual goals. It's why these are films people can actually connect to and why something like Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) completely falls apart, despite being equally (or more) silly. We continually learn the wrong lessons, but nothing is new there.

The basic premise is that Miles is a few years into his career as Spider-Man now (maybe even one year), but he's visibly older and more confident, although like all Spider-Men, he's having a tough time balancing school and family and all that good stuff. Gwen, having her own issues with her father and struggling to find her place after her best friend Lizard Pete died, joins a multidimensional Spider-Person task force. They succumb to temptation and see each other and then the whole world gets into a mess.

There is a lot more going on here. First of all, this series is adept at consequences. Even very minute things from Into seem to echo here. And that is also the whole point of both this movie and Spider-Man himself. This movie centers on what it means to be Spider-Man and not affecting "canon" events, or arbitrary moments that every hero deals with like deaths, that try as they might, they cannot affect lest they not learn the lesson they need to learn. This is inherent to Spider-Man. Don't do your duty and stop a burgler? Well, he killed your Uncle Ben.

It's revealed that the whole reason why Miles became Spider-Man is because of an intradimensional spider got loose and bit him, giving him both slightly odd powers and a misalignment with the other Spider-People. His universe got two Spider-Men after all, although Miles' presence got the Alpha Spider-Man killed (or so he's blamed, I mean, choose your own interpretation of what happened).

The butterfly effect carries from there. He threw a bagel (maybe everything) at a guy and he got caught in the dimensional collider and became the Spot - a great perfect throwaway villain that they joke about being an A-lister, who then turns into an A-lister. Spider-Man has too many great villains to not use them in a movie (I guess all I'm really waiting for at this point is Kraven...and no, that movie does not look good. Where's my Stegron?!). Maybe a proper Scorpion. At the same time, we've seen a lot of these jabronis on screen already, so it's fun to find a new antagonist. But then that antagonist becomes Spider-Man 2099, who treats Miles harshly for both refusing to comply with his rules about canon and frankly, for being a different, out of place Spider-Man.

And this core concept has so many ramifications. For one, what does it really mean to be Spider-Man? Or a hero in general? Are we a hero because of the tragedies that made us or can we just forge our own path and make our righteous decisions? What does it take to actually be a Spider-Man? And what doesn't seem to be written about that much is the huge elephant in the room - that Miles Morales is a Latino African-American Spider-Man.

There was this whole undercurrent in the first film that Miles had to prove he could be his own Spider-Man and do it his way. This involved the infusion of a lot more black culture than the typical Peter Parker, who is the whitest dude on earth. Not only is this a way better update for a contemporary resident of Queens and the downtrodden underdog that Spider-Man is supposed to be, but it pushes the other-ness of the character. Folks write him off, or say that he can't be a real Spider-Man. Like the best sci-fi this is interdimensional on the surface, but the subtext is racial.

The truly amazing feat is that this was all there in Into, but it's fully formed in Across. He's outright rejected as a Spider-Man because his background isn't the same as everyone else's. But he shows that he can be the best out of all of them. He outwits hundreds of Spider-Folk and earns the admiration and trust of both new and old friends because of his character, drive, and righteousness, not because it's automatic. And it's not automatic because he's not a white Spider-Man.

Continuing this theme, the first movie felt like it had a satisfying ending and could have been done, and it's also amazing that this movie makes that feel like a necessarily first installment in a trilogy. I'm not sure I've ever felt that way, maybe in the John Wick movies. Like, this is such a perfect second installment in Miles' character journey. He's no longer the naive kid, he's an experienced hero, but the big thing he needs to learn is that he doesn't know everything yet. He thinks he's got everything down pat, but he has a long way to go. It's such a crystal clear character progression. You can really see that he will hopefully become a fully formed hero by the third installment. Suddenly there is meaning to everything from the first film that echoes here.

Against all this we also have Gwen, which is where the film starts, then we get a big Miles section but she comes and goes. You can feel her pain quite a bit here, with her conflicting feelings about protecting Miles, even that means abandoning him, but that's all because of Lizard Pete. She's guarded but the movie earns it, with some of the most brilliant abstract art on film to display emotion that I've ever seen. The whole movie is gorgeous but they saved the most stunning aspect for the Gwenverse.

And apparently the animators were treated like shit, so it's important to remember workers rights. The art on display here isn't some tortured artists enacting his or her vision at all hours of the night. It was paid professionals executing someone else's vision toiling under pretty rough circumstances. Every movie needs a disclaimer now! Nothing is ever fun.

What stuck out the most is the juxtaposition of radically different animation styles simultaneously, which is downright breathtaking to behold. This of course only works because everything else is firing at such a high level. It is thankfully not the kind of film where you say "the story sucks but you gotta see it for the visuals!" You definitely need to see this for the visuals, which seem to somehow push the genre even more further than the first film, but it's also for the characters, the story progression, and the tight as hell thematic resonance.

Also SPOILER here, although if you're still reading you should know the deal with this website, the ending is mind-blowing. You can see it coming quite a bit but it doesn't deaden the impact. My only real gripe is that for again, an excessively long film that ends on a cliffhanger, it definitely Return of the King (2003)'s its ending and you're sitting there like, "Okay, I get it, let's go" but it still has a tremendous impact. I'd like to think that mostly this is because this movie series is so obsessed with genuine consequences that this should carry on for the whole third movie, with three antagonists. It should hopefully be a lot of fun.

24 July 2023

Summer Jam 2023: Mid-Summer Jam Check in 2023!

I know, your ears are blistered from all the tasty jams crushing the radio this summer! Nah, I think we literally broke somewhere in the past year. No more mainstream shared music. That's okay. We've still got some cherry jams for you here, a little past the infamous July 4th weekend.

It's just a weird time, man. Your options are country, Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, or the Barbie Soundtrack. That's the deal. I might even break this column more than I usually do. Let's just throw everything at the wall in no real order.

Morgan Wallen and Jason Aldean

I heard, "Try That in a Small Town" song by Aldean, and I dunno, it's typical bizarrely defensive posturing. Morgan Wallen seems to have more crossover appeal with "Last Night" overtaking "Wasted on You" as the preeminent song. There are always some more creeping in the woodwork, but Wallen seems to be the big dude who is getting the mainstream hits right now. Probably because he's not actually overtly racist.


Yeah, pick "Karma" or "Cruel Summer" or even "Anti-Hero" still and Taylor Swift is still cranking out the jams. It's bizarre to say, but it's because she's an artist and is still coming up with things to say. The more she shakes off what she should be and the more she just puts out genuinely groundbreaking songs that continue to evolve and push her image the more success she seems to find. In an era of façade, posturing, and gilded success we yearn to latch on to something genuine. Yeah, I'm saying Taylor has it.

Bad Bunny

I'd like to throw in not just Bad Bunny, who has had a remarkable run the last few years, but other Hispanic hits like Peso Pluma and Grupo Frontera. I'm sorry that I just can't get into this stuff, but I don't want to ignore it. After all, Summer Jams exist irregardless of my opinion. But for sure they aren't playing this on my local radio. All I get is country trash. Maybe if I heard it every day I'd develop some kind of yearning for the hot Latin rhythm.


Pick Nicki, Dua, Lizzo, Billie, Charlie XCX. I mean, this soundtrack is bangin, bro. Barbie's huge, the music's huge, you love it, I love it, RED WHITE AND PINK BABY! I'm not sure how much any of this will last and it's a little late in summer for anything to jump out, but it's definitely in the zeitgeist right now.

The Rest

Is Olivia Rodrigo not actually an industry plant?! "Vampire" is pretty solid. SZA and Ice Spice and PinkPantheress are all still holding strong. "Creepin'" remix from the Weeknd, that's a thing. GaGa and Miley still creepin too. I'm not super into "fukumean" by Gunna, but that's representing all of hip hop right now.

So, that's that. What songs are you vibin this summer? Anyone rediscover any other Kate Bush songs?

28 June 2023

First Impressions: The Machine

You know, sometimes I really love this blog. The entire Internet is ablaze with The Flash (2023) and Dial of Destiny (2023), and maybe even Rise of the Beasts (2023) sort of, but what does Norwegian Morning Wood go out and see? Bert Kreischer's The Machine (2023), of course. And it's genuinely one of the best comedy films to come out in a long time, so let's get into this!

Bert Kreischer has been a quasi-popular comedian for a while, I'd say far from a household name, but his shirtless stand-up is certainly notable and memorable. His best bit, about becoming The Machine in Russia as a college exchange student and accidentally getting involved with the Russian Mafia is easily his most-well known routine. I can't remember another movie totally based on a single comedy routine, but the story is goofy and rich enough to earn such distinction.

This ends up being a pure Kreischer vehicle like we just don't see any more. It really exists purely to give him bits to riff on, and despite that it has a surprisingly amount of focus and pathos. The core conceit is continual flashbacks to the core story, featuring younger Bert, played by Jimmy Tatro, in some of the best casting of all time. It's all motivated by the current Russian mafia's search for a watch, which brings Bert on a present-day tour of his old trip in sort of an E-MC Hammered situation where he's trying to remember his time as a blacked out college student. It's an ingenious way to have this play out - we get all the regret of adult Bert and all the nonsense of young Bert.

It's uncompromising but not necessarily offensive, and it's bizarre that so many current comedians can't seem to find a way to balance all this. When Russia rules the world and we think differently about them, will we change our tune? They're the only country left no one has a problem making fun of anymore. And to be sure, it was filmed and cast mostly by Serbians. No love lost.

The cast is great, Bert does a serviceable job, and Mark Hamill as his dad is a relevation. It makes me regret that we really didn't get to see actor Mark Hamill for a very long time after Star Wars. There's just not a ton in his non-Joker, non-Luke filmography, except for recent works like Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Brigsby Bear (2017). He plays these old twisted weird dudes so well, it aches me to see what he could have been cranking out in the 90s if he could have escaped Luke's shadow. I think he literally had to age out of looking like Luke Skywalker to find his success.

He plays the overbearing dad well, even if the physical resemblance isn't there in the slightest. The only bit I didn't quite buy was his turn and then re-turn near the end, but the movie keeps pushing forward. Iva Babić as our main antagonist that sort of becomes our hero's main ally is also fantastic and somehow has the most coherent arc in the movie. She has a tough role balancing the ferocity necessary to be a female gangster in a very patriarchal society while stepping up to everyone around her, including when she gets shot and has to stay tough while recovering. It's fun to watch.

There are a lot of other stuff going on here. Irina has a few brothers, one is dispatched remarkably quickly (I did not pick up that it's in the trailer), and then our main bad brother emerges. It works because they're all antagonistic and we always have that momentum. The ending to all this was sublime as Irina does finally take control. SPOILER, I don't know, it's a comedy, it's going to end nice. Sort of.

That's because there is a fair share of violence here. It's mostly comedic, in the sense that decapitation can be comedic. But there's this happy-go-plucky vibe with these two dudes completely out of their element in the throes of the Russian mob, where things aren't so cute as they were back in the day when Bert was drunk and innocent.

I do really want to talk about the direction and editing, because this movie LOOKS amazing. In an era where mainstream movies seem obsessed with looking dingy and without contrast, this was one of the best shot and edited films I've seen outside of Spider-Verse in a long time. There are these amazing framing bits, panning and matching shots to convey flashbacks, and some genuinely Birdman (2014) - level editing here. It really stuck out to me. I can't think of another comedy movie where I left the theater being so impressed with the direction.

The director was Peter Atencio, who hasn't done much, but did do Key and Peele's Keanu (2016). That movie doesn't have as nearly as strong of a script, but I just watched it, mostly because I saw The Machine, and the direction holds up there, too. This dude needs more work and to join the underrated comedy directors' club like Steve Pink and Nicholas Stoller.

If there was one thing lacking, I would have liked to have seen it get into somehow even MORE cuckoo bananas territory. There is a bit where Kreischer lights his cigar on a live AK-47. We needed more of that energy. Just ultimate party energy. For a movie about 1997's number one partier, we didn't really get a classic party scene for the ages or for him to drink a beer and get super powers like Popeye. That's the biggest thing, just drink a beer and get super powers like Popeye.

I really enjoyed this, I have no idea if it's even in theaters anymore. It has also clearly had no cultural impact. Cult classic? I don't even know how films become cult classics anymore. I don't mean that as a whining old guy, I mean I literally don't know. Our culture is utterly fractured and it seems both immensely difficult for a film to stand out, but also we have all this groupthink that has anointed Game Night (2018) as the only good comedy movie in the past decade. We're in this weird realm of simultaneous fracture and homogeneity. Maybe they lead into each other? It's very dangerous when we lose our way and may easily cave to the whims of despots. Whomp-whomp. Go see THE MACHINE!

29 May 2023

Summer Jam 2023: It's back for the 2023rd Straight Year!

Hey folks, we are definitely clearly not doing weekly rundowns anymore, but it is extremely worthwhile to administer the Summer Jams for the Month of May, 2023! There are a handful of songs clamouring to be THE song of Summer 2023 and who knows, maybe Kate Bush will have some song featured during the finale of Succession and repeat that nonsense. Let's get at it:

"Cinderella Snapped" by Jax

I heard this on the radio and I literally thought they were playing some Avril Lavigne deep cut song. This is kind of surface level angsty stuff that is remarkably outdated. Like, totally a mid-2000s throwback. It's not really popular at all to my understanding, but it's kind of fun. Right? I know, it's not. That's what this position is for.

It's nice to see SZA getting some mainstream play after years cranking out legit tunes. This a nice floaty ethereal song that definitely gets in that category of songs I've heard of a million times but can't place. Those are the best kinds of jams, people. I actually dig this one quite a bit.

There is a reason why I've faded away from this column. I truly never thought it would happen but my age is definitively catching up to me. I do not know what Ice Spice is and I just don't care to. I am sure she is great, and I dig this song, but it seems like a meme that I was not invited to. I thought this was like "That boy's a Leo" or "That boy's Aaliyah" or something. My ears have always been terrible, but it's clearly time for me to hang this escapade up.

Is this considered a cover? I don't know, but I like this one. We're really undergoing an explosion in hardcore female rappers. I'm going to tick Nicki Minaj off by saying thanks, Cardi B! This hits pretty hard, the beat is super minimalist and I love how completely re-contextualized this song becomes. Can it jam the summer? I don't think so, it's not really bouncable or joysunfull enough to break away.

I know next to nothing about Morgan Wallen. Do people like him? Like I know country fans will likemind into digging the same exact sound, but it seems like Morgan Wallen has big crossover appeal. This is kind of nice, as far as country songs go. Is it weird that our current landscape is covered in black female rappers, Taylor Swift, and Morgan Wallen? Are we actually a mixing pot?

I hear this all the time. It's a song that sounds a lot like everything else out there right now, but it's cute and fun and I hate to say I kind of like it. I definitely don't like the breaking at the end, but then again, that's the only way I knew how to search for this song, so maybe there's something there. I think this could do it, but it's also a big radio song, not a big Spotify song. So basically useless garbage.

I didn't know what Taylor song to pick, "Lavender Haze" is still doing its thing, but this seems like the next one to be anointed. Taylor just seems like an unstoppable force. Her lyrics are always witty and clever and she's ridiculously adaptable to just about everything. Oh, I'm watching the video now. Is that Ice Spice with the Little Orphan Annie hair? It just feels like a Cardi B situation where they got someone hot and threw her on every song in the world to exploit that zeitgeist popularity. Yes, it's a hot take, I'm calling Hollywood exploitative. I like this song, though. I should make a whole post about pop artists. Like, Beyonce doesn't make songs anymore, she just self-proclaims herself to be our Queen. Katy Perry became way too corporate to be likable. I give GaGa credit because she commits to music and film projects, but she's somehow good in them. Like, how does this girl do Top Gun, Toy Bennett, AND Born This Way. But Taylor is just about the music, man, and when you focus on that, you actually get to evolve as an artist and you crank out songs like this that keep finding ways to stay something different.

We should talk about Miley Cyrus more. Like, poster wild child that everyone wrote off as nonsense, but bruh she's still cranking hits just as good as anything. And we've crested the ten-year mark, which is usually as long as pop stars get. She's really proven folks wrong without any sense of vindication or even trying to. This is a major crossover hit and she seems like she's doing great. Just gotta get through all that stupid bullshit. I just think she's more nuanced and talented than folks give her credit for. Just listen to Bangerz on repeat like I did in 2012. 2012!

Next month...

Hey man, I dunno. Like I said, I'm getting close to old man yelling into the Internet. Should I listen to more Bad Bunny? I don't think it's the language barrier that turns me off, I've definitely listened to enough Korean and Spanish songs in my time. It's just kind of whack, I dunno. Takes over Spotify, though. I also just don't really get non-radio exposure to big songs and guh-hyuck, they don't play them jams in the rural midwest! Let's get at some if it next month!

26 April 2023

First Impressions: The Super Mario Movie

Crap, I think this was the first movie I've seen in theaters since 3000 Years of Longing (2022). That was a long dark winter. But Mario is here to brighten up your day! This will be our official SPOILER-heavy impressions where we just ramble on for a while about this film, so stay tuned.

I liked this bastard a lot. It somehow felt really fresh despite being full of one of the most-repeated video game stories of all time. I sat there watching it thinking, "This would make a good video game!" which was a positively bizarre sentiment. I honestly don't know why I liked this. The gripes I usually have were all there. It was rushed, full of fan service, and most character decisions were blatantly unmotivated. But it drilled down into the most important thing a movie can do - be charming and fun! It is truly amazing when this aspect is nailed, how many more small details can easily be forgotten.

There are some great story beats right off the bat. Mario and Luigi are starting their own plumbing business in Brooklyn, NY, USA and are called on to fix a wealthy couples' house. Luigi steps on a dog bone, breaks it, and amazingly, there are real consequences! The dog attacks, the house is ruined, and they're forced to seek bigger and better jobs. It's cunning writing from a "this happens so this happens" standpoint.

Don't get too excited. There is a lot that is just there. I'm curious how a lay-person would feel in this film. Bowser is there with his huge army because he's Bowser. This is just a conceit we have whenever we boot up any innumerable Mario game from the past forty years. It's weird but at this point it's iconic so we give it a pass. Power-ups, mushrooms, it's all just there and we accept it. My guess is I would have had a tougher time rolling with nonsense had I been a bit more unfamiliar with the whole deal. The movie does a good of a job as it's going to just letting us swallow this stuff, they definitely focus on power-ups a good deal, which is fine, but that's the only bit that felt slightly like cheating. Like, when Peach whips out the Ice Flower I can imagine folks being "Oh, that's just super convenient writing!" But no, the Ice Flower is totally thing and definitely plausible! They probably should have hinted at it earlier to make the writing more crisp.

There is a lot of just going with it. Mario arrives at Peach's Castle and asks to join her to convince the Kong Army to defeat Bowser so he can save his brother, Luigi. Peach is like, "Sure, pass this platforming challenge and you can come!" Mario definitely fails but she's just like "That's okay, we need to get on with the movie." This happens constantly. Things are just there for fun. Mario definitely cheats to defeat DK for the right to employ the Kong Army, and Cranky's just like "Hey, that's cool, now we need Karts!" and then it goes into a whole Mario Kart Sequence.

But this didn't make me upset. I know, it's shocking. Maybe it's just how they found an organic way to recreate World 1-1, or throw in Easter Eggs ranging from scuttlebugs to Cappy. There's elements of almost every game from Galaxy to Odyssey. A surprisingly lot from the latter, actually. All I really wanted was for Mario to spin Bowser by the tail like in 64. And he does!! I cheered. That's so fan service-y of me. The Rainbow Road was most similar to Super Circuit. Bizarre. But it branched off like Yoshi Valley. Now I want a Rainbow Road Yoshi Valley. I truly wonder how much of this movie will seep into future games, because movies do tend to standardize things. And Mario aesthetics (not gameplay) are getting stale anyway these days.

There's one genuinely horrifying moment of Luigi in the Dark Land fighting off Dry Bones, Shy Guys, and Snippets. It's a wonderful test of character. I love how Luigi is just known as the scared joke character now. In fitting fashion, most of this movie is about how Luigi isn't in this movie. More 64 references! It was a great turn to make him into the typical Princess Peach role. The moustache in distress. Because Luigi sucks anyway, and to stay true to the character now is to sideline him from the adventure.

And since we're massive Kong Fans, oh boy was there a lot in there for us. This had to be a testing ground for a DK movie, right? Why else would you include Chunky Kong? DK was a pretty nuanced character here, with daddy issues, big and brash, but childish. Where is our Brothers Bear movie?! My other fist bumping moment was the DK Rap. The Fucking DK Rap, people. You want to talk all-time character introductions? It all fits spectacularly well. The DK movie needs to be coming.

The Mario Kart sequence, while definitely forced, was amazing. There's literally a Kart Selection scene straight out of Mario Kart 8. It made me think of Battleship (2012), how the best scene in that movie is the somehow organic re-creation of the actual board game. Like, it was super faithful but also felt natural. Amazing. Also, now I really want Mario Kart game where if you're hit with a shell your Kart actually explodes and takes damage and you have to find or steal a new one. Or where you could climb on other Karts. That would rule. I'm going to go ahead and plug our sideblog, Blue Shell News here...

Now, it's not all great. We were skeptical of the voice acting when it was all announced, and yeah, we were right to be. Chris Pratt isn't great, I just never lose myself in him. Charlie Day is a bit better but still not great. I hate to say it, I think they would have done better to stick with the accents they put on in the Commercial to start out. It's a cartoon, man, it can be cartoon-y. Anya Taylor-Joy doesn't bring much Joy to Peach and Fred Armisen just doesn't sound like a grumpy old Cranky Kong. It doesn't really work.

Except Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek, Keegan Michael-Key as Toad (I can't tell it's him at all), Seth Rogen surprisingly fits Donkey Kong despite being very Seth Rogen-y (maybe it's just voice experience?). And Jack Black is a magnificent Bowser. He doesn't scat at all! He does get some songs in, which are just wonderful. It's underrated how much Jack Black is accepting his back-up roles in his older age but remaining very weird and funny. You can definitely hear his Jack Black-ness but it's not that distracting.

I also didn't really like the Penguin and other Head Toad character having these uber-serious voices that are immediately undercut. It's not a very good joke, if they're cute, let them be cute, like how does that reality work? I could do with out it all. Cringe, baby. So cringe.

This is all a big turn for Illumination, who is usually just the worst damn studio there is. I don't even know how many Minions movies they have out now, but they basically churn out that drivel for kids along with Sing (2016) and Secret Life of Pets (2016), which just have no value at all besides celebrity voices. I was honestly sitting there watching previews for all this sheer crap like a new Trolls movie and even Pixar's new Elementals (2023), which looks like the same fucking movie they've been making for the past twenty years (admittedly with some really cool looking Fire animation) and then Migration (2023) dropped and I took notice. That looks really beautiful and mellow. I'm into it. I can get behind this. I've never seen a studio put so many clips of their own crappy work in a trailer before. It was almost to serve to show how much they're willing to change and move beyond the vapid colors and shallow efforts of the past. I'm surprisingly down with Illumination now.

That's also because The Super Mario Bros Movie largely avoids the kind of cringe humour of adults trying to be cool or chasing trends like so many of these and Dreamworks' movies do. It's remarkably fresh while being stunning to look at.

I really dug this - heavy recommend, maybe especially for non-fans. I'm eternally curious if you'd be able to make any sense of this thing or if you'd just be along for the ride like I was!

15 March 2023

52 in '23: Man Bites Dog

Movie: Man Bites Dog (1992)
Method: Netflix DVD

Why Did I Watch This?

I have no idea how this got on my radar. I honestly forgot. I thought it was just like a phrase and I remember it as a joke in Spaceballs (1987). Now I'm not sure I've ever known less about a movie going into it. They literally started speaking French and I thought, "Oh, is this French?" I did not know it was black and white. Or actually what year it was made. I figured like, old? OR how violent and insane this would be.

How Was It?

This is assuredly a good movie, maybe one of the best of all time. But it's decidedly not for everyone. It is starkly violent and wholly uncompromising in its depiction of the worst actions imaginable. I mean, child murder, gang rape, it's all in there. Fun for someone who has no idea any of this is coming.

The whole bit is that it's amazingly matter of fact. The premise is that a documentary crew is following this guy who is incredibly charismatic and jovial, but also kills quite a few people. He seems to be maybe a professional robber or assassin or something? But no one gives him a job, he mostly just mugs and kills folks. He sees it as a job, though, he is remarkably detached. But there is some kind of moral code in there, when he kills a family and finds they have nothing for him to steal he's lascient about it.

That's not to say he has any redeeming qualities. He's one of the worst human beings to appear on any screen. It's like how Goodfellas (1990) showed all these really charismatic crooks who were so complacent and comfortable with death. Except this depiction is taken far far further. The documentary crew at first just seems to be taking it all in, but they slowly get more absorbed into his deeds, until they are helping him dispose of bodies, join in on killing children and raping wives, and all sorts of nonsense.

It's unnerving, to say the least. You wonder at first what their deal is, like is this some alternate universe where these actions or more acceptable? Or are they just morally apathetic? We don't get insight into why they are creating this project, but they keep moving forward, even after a few are caught in stray gunfire in the line of duty. Slowly all possible redemption for every character melts away.

It's shot super cheap, on 16MM. You know, I wonder if I put this on my list after watching "Truth in Journalism" which as I'm watching now is definitely the same movie, down to the hairstyles and really short tie. I'm really the worst film blogger of all time. Or maybe I just don't pretend to know everything. Anyway, they ingeniously got around hiring a cast by just hiring themselves to act and be the crew at the same time. It's pretty fun. The cinematography isn't super awe-inspiring, but I was struck by how good black and white looks. Especially the blood effects. Every film really should probably just be black and white.

This only works because lead actor Benoit Poelvoorde is amazingly engaging and charismatic. There's this weird satisfaction in knowing how he'll react to a situation, even if it's invariably horrific. He's incredibly well-defined for what must have been mostly improv, or a quick and dirty script. There are such large stretches of him on camera, it really is fantastic. There is just nothing held back, this is really humanity at is most raw and visceral.

The editing is unreal, too. Man that shot that cuts between kids with toy guns to actual guns being fired gets me every time. There is such wise use of editing to imply violence, but they also then definitely go for graphic violence as well. It all works in service of a story that feels somehow satirical? It's as if you have no choice but to laugh. But you also do really feel for these inhuman monsters! Their desires are so well articulated - not just killing folks, but the loss of a communion bracelet or wanting to hang out and eat some bad mussels. It's all as real as the horrific violence.

I don't know about this one, you have to be into it. It's really compelling and will stick with you for quite a while, but also definitely not for Grandma. I say check it out if you're able to. Netflix DVD for the win again!

13 March 2023

For the 95th time...OSCAR RESULTS!

This was such garbage. Not even a single on-stage assault or incorrect nominee read out! Why am I even watching this? By all accounts it's a very smooth ceremony when the major thing that happens is Elizabeth Banks almost falling. In general, my predictions were noticeably terrible, but that's really because so many films were shut out! How does Tar, Elvis, and Banshees of Inisherin all come home empty handed? I thought Everything might sweep, but this was a hell of a sweep. Let's dive in!

2023: 11/23
2022: 12/23
2021: 12/23
2020: 13/24 
2019: 13/24 
2018: 16/24 
2017: 13/24 
2016: 14/24 
2015: 13/24 
2014: 20/24 
2013: 14/24 
2012: 16/24 
2011: 14/24 
2010: 12/24

Best Picture

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Top Gun: Maverick
Triangle of Sadness
Women Talking

Predicted Winner: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Actual Winner: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Heyyyy got this one right. I am so bad at Best Picture predictions, I did get Nomadland right in 2021 but it had been seven years before that. This is super weird and also full of heart and to be really honest, should be a poster child for how unpredictable Oscar Best Picture winners have really become.


Best Director

The Banshees of Inisherin, Martin McDonagh
Everything Everywhere All at Once, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg
Tár, Todd Field
Triangle of Sadness, Ruben Östlund

Predicted Winner: Kwan and Scheinert
Actual Winner: Daniels

Yay! Loved Swiss Army Man (2016) and it's insane that they win Best Director in their follow up going against this insane field. But it's deserved, EEAAO is a bonkers movie that they keep smooth and coherent. In lesser hands this would fall apart immediately.


Best Actor

Austin Butler in Elvis
Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Fraser in The Whale
Paul Mescal in Aftersun
Bill Nighy in Living

Predicted Winner: Colin Farrell
Actual Winner: Fraser

Listen, I'm all about the Fraserssance. Airheads (1994), Gods and Monsters (1998), The Mummy (1999), and uhhhh....surely others in the past twenty years. Doom Patrol? The dude is great and so genuine and sweet, he deserves this. Except he doesn't, I don't really like exploitative performances behind a bunch of make-up and how is this Colin Farrell's first ever nomination? And Austin Butler is right there! I'm very torn, this isn't an Eddie Redmayne thing where it's so blatantly undeserved, but there just feels like there was better work to recognize, despite everyone loving Brendan Fraser.


Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Tár
Ana de Armas in Blonde
Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie
Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: Yeoh
Actual Winner: Yeoh

Ye-haw! This was tough between Blanchett, Yeoh, and de Armas, but it's great to go to Yeoh. You could tell Blanchett was over it and get real, Tar is so hard to get through, man. This is a great win.


Best Supporting Actor

Brendan Gleeson in The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree Henry in Causeway
Judd Hirsch in The Fabelmans
Barry Keoghan in The Banshees of Inisherin
Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: Quan
Actual Winner: Quan

Harrison Ford giving Quan the Best Picture award was really, really surreal. Great win, I think Keoghan really deserved it but this was such a dark horse. It's really fun. Barry will be back.


Best Supporting Actress

Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Hong Chau in The Whale
Kerry Condon in The Banshees of Inisherin
Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere All at Once
Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: Bassett
Actual Winner: Jamie Lee Curtis

I could have maybe seen this coming if I had made predictions closer to the ceremony. This was definitely going to be an award to honor a lifetime of work and although Bassett seemed to crush awards early on, it felt more like JLC going into the ceremony. I might even say that both performances weren't either actress' best, but it's surely going to deserved person here.


Best Original Screenplay

The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Triangle of Sadness

Predicted Winner: Banshees
Actual Winner: Everything

This really tripped me up, it's crazy to win director, screenplay, and three quarters of the acting awards these days. I wonder if this will signify changing trends or be the outlier. Dude, Banshees was better. Like, I love both movies and I know Everything was a lot to keep track of, it certainly owns every moment, but I just thought they'd spread the love.


Best Adapted Screenplay

All Quiet on the Western Front
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Top Gun: Maverick
Women Talking

Predicted Winner: Western Front
Actual Winner: Women Talking

See, this is why I thought Banshees would win. It's such a pared down and dedicated, dialogue-focused screenplay. I don't know. I suppose they couldn't read German so now my prediction there seems stupid. But also All Quiet on the Western Front won everything else, so who knows. Now my predictions will really crater.


Best Film Editing

The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Top Gun: Maverick

Predicted Winner: Maverick
Actual Winner: EEAAO

Yeah, dude. I get it, it's tough to edit this kind of film to make sense and the sequences come together with really crisp efficiency. But Top Gun: Maverick needed to win something to acknowledge how insane its flying hours came together, right? I mean, it was nominated everywhere, I thought it had more love. I guess not. It's a good win, it just comes down to the same deal - I thought awards would be spread out, instead this film won seven out of ten nominated categories!


Best Animated Film

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
The Sea Beast
Turning Red

Predicted Winner: Pinocchio
Actual Winner: Pinocchio

Yay! Well deserved although I just watched Puss in Boots and that might actually be a bit better! This is fantastic, no whining from me.


Best International Feature Film

All Quiet on the Western Front
Argentina, 1985
The Quiet Girl

Predicted Winner: Quiet
Actual Winner: Quiet

Yep. No brainer here.


Best Cinematography

All Quiet on the Western Front
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Empire of Light

Predicted Winner: Quiet
Actual Winner: Quiet

Same. The best of the lot.


Best Original Score

All Quiet on the Western Front
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans

Predicted Winner: Babylon
Actual Winner: All Quiet on the Western Front

Everyone was saying Babylon so I went with it, then I watched the movie and the score was actually amazing and tied the entire film together and added such driving energy that it towered over all other nominees. But I guess people just hated this movie so went with their default, which was somehow the only other movie to win anything last night!


Best Original Song

“Applause” from Tell It like a Woman
“Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick
“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“Naatu Naatu” from RRR
“This Is A Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: "Naatu"
Actual Winner: "Naatu"

Hell yeah. How is this actually the first India-produced song to win anything? We really ignore Bollywood huh? Tollywood too.


Best Production Design

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Fabelmans
Predicted Winner: Elvis
Actual Winner: All Quiet on the Western Front
It just seems so easy now. Like, that was just going to win everything. Sure. Folks were predicting Babylon, which I resisted, but I just didn't pick the right upset.

Best Costume Design


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Predicted Winner: Wakanda Forever
Actual Winner: Wakanda Forever
Hey, it wins again! Got this right, no notes, clearly the best.

All that Breathes
Fire of Love

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

Predicted Winner: Fire of Love
Actual Winner: Navalny
Neither what people thought nor what I thought. Fire of Love was not that great, I actually did end up watching it. Navalny sounds like nuns in the navy to me for some reason, I'm going to assume that's what that was about, so a well deserved win.
Best Visual Effects
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Top Gun: Maverick
Predicted Winner: AVABAR
Actual Winner: AVABAR
Sure, makes sense.
Top Gun Maverick
Avatar the Way of Water
All Quiet on the Western Front
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Predicted Winner: TOP GUN
Actual Winner: TOP GUN
Sure, makes sense.
Best Animated Short

“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud
“The Flying Sailor” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby
“Ice Merchants” Joao Gonzalez and Bruno Cactano
“My Year of Dicks” Sara Gunnarsdottir and Pamela Ribon
“An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It” Lachlan Pendragon
Predicted Winner: "Ostrich"
Actual Winner: "Boy, Mole, Fox, Horse"
Meh, whatever.
Best Documentary Short

“The Elephant Whisperers” Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga
“Haulout” Evgeniaq Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev
“How Do You Measure a Year?” Jay Rosenblatt
“The Martha Mitchell Effect” Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison
“Stranger at the Gate” Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones

Predicted Winner: Martha Mitchell
Actual Winner: Elephant Whisperers



Best Live Action Short

“An Irish Goodbye” Tom Berkeley and Ross White
“Ivalu” Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan
“Le Pupille” Alice Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuaron
“Night Ride” Erik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen
“The Red Suitcase” Cyrus Neshvad

Predicted Winner: Le Pupille
Actual Winner: Irish Goodbye


Best Make-up and Hairstyling

The Whale
Wakanda Forever
The Batman
All Quiet on the Western Front

Predicted Winner: Did not predict
Actual Winner: The Whale

Hey! I didn't actual predict this somehow. I probably would have honestly slid into Elvis, because it just seemed more viable at the time, but whatever. Give it to double Oscar winner The Whale I guess.


Man I just got tripped up this year. Usually I'll get at least one or two documentaries or shorts go my way, so that hit hard, as well as some acting and technical awards that didn't spread the wealth the way I thought they usually do. I suppose that's every year. But for real, best writing, directing, acting, editing and picture is friggin WILD. Good for them, Everything Everywhere All At Once is spectacular and one we can be pretty proud of. We really don't want to be in this timeline right now, do we?
Related Posts with Thumbnails