Wednesday, March 20, 2019

New Puns In Hi-Fi

A friend recently stated that she was making some ungodly/delicious dinner combination of elbow macaroni, alphabet pasta, and fettuccine in a single dish.

My response?  “The recipe for 'fettuccine, elbow macaroni and alphabet pasta' was originally conceived by Michael Stipe and Patti Smith.  They call the dish Ne-Bow The Letter.”

*Bill Berry rimshot*

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Ultra Violet

Here's something I didn't expect to read --- an absolutely airtight case about why Violet Beauregarde is both wholly done wrong by Willy Wonka, and why she was the ideal candidate to take over his chocolate factory.

From Tumblr user Evayna...

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Next Barney

That is, not Stinson or Rubble, but rather the next Barney the Dinosaur.  (He's closer to my body type anyway.)  For I, your pal Mark, may have found my true calling as a children's entertainer.

I base this new career path on my innate ability to delight my friends' young children.  If you're between the ages of 6-24 months, then you are guaranteed to find me hilarious.  I have four major go-to routines that never fail to draw merriment....

* pretending to be a dinosaur, in the style of Colin Mochrie

* pretending to eat in the style of Cookie Monster

* waving my arms around and saying YAYYYYYYY in the style of Kermit the Frog.

* what I like to call "Advanced Peek-A-Boo," which is several variations on peek-a-boo (hiding your eyes behind your closed hands, your hat, a menu, your semi-linked fingers so the kid can only see one eye, etc.) within a rapid-fire sequence

* the exploding fist bump.  Be warned, this one works so well that once you introduce it, the kid will make you do it a minimum of 40 consecutive times.

There are a few more bits being workshopped that I'd rather not reveal at the moment, since obviously I won't want to just give away the whole act.  But let's just say that one involves Charlie Chaplin, rolls of bread and....wait, I may have said too much.  MAY.

Once all of these surefire hits are compiled into a single 90-minute concert, I feel like I'll be the next Raffi.  Or the next Sharon, Lois & Bram.  Or maybe I can just join Sharon & Bram, since Lois is no longer with us.  Or I can be the Wiggles, who I know nothing about besides the fact that they're Australian and that they're absurdly successful.  But really, it's not all about the money for me.  It's about entertaining the kids, to at least the 30th percentile.  The remaining 70% is indeed all about the money.

Being a childrens' entertainer seems like the logical extension of my current role as "wacky Uncle Mark," which is a sweet gig.  It's all the fun of parenting with literally none of the downsides or responsibilities.  I just show up to hang out with my friends, chat with them while putting in a modicum of effort in entertaining their toddlers, and then I get to go home, back to my responsibility-thin life.  Procreation sounds like a real scam, to me.  Almost as much of a scam as my $79.99 concert tickets, but I can just blame that on TicketMaster.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Extra-Verse

Like a moron, I left "Into The Spider-Verse" when the movie itself ended.  For some reason it didn't occur to me that there might be a secret scene after the credits, perhaps under the logic that since this technically wasn't a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, it wouldn't have the signature bonus scene.  (Even though pretty much every comic book movie has a secret scene these days.) 

Had I known this existed, I might've bumped Spider-Verse up another spot on my year-end best movie rankings.  And ironically, I spent the whole film wondering why they didn't make a joke about the "Spider-Man pointing" meme.  It seemed so obvious! 

Friday, March 08, 2019

Cringe

At the restaurant tonight, I was seated at a table close to the bar, where I got an unfortunate close-range view of some truly pathetic business. 

Two middle-aged guys, both tipsy, both looking like (here's a timely reference) Herb Tarleck and Les Nessman from WKRP In Cincinnati, if Herb and Les had boundary issues.  Well, if Herb had more blatant boundary issues.  Anyway, these two clowns were openly flirting with the female bartender, and were under the impression that they were killing it.  They couldn't have been more impressed with how smooth they felt they were being, to the point of (I wish I was making this up) low-fiving each other whenever the bartender walked away. 

From where I sat, however, I could see her face when her back was turned to these two.  Needless to say, they weren't killing it.  The world's most prolific bowler couldn't have rolled as much as this poor woman was rolling her eyes.

It gets worse.  The guys eventually stumbled off, saying "we'll see you next week."  Thus, strongly creating the impression that they're regulars.  This bartender has to put up with this sorry display on an ongoing basis.

Anyway, Happy International Women's Day.  Hope any men reading this celebrated by not being human garbage.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

The 2018 Markademy Awards


Live from the entertainment capital of my house, it’s the 2018 Markademy Awards!  We’ve never had a host, and we’ve always gotten along just fine!  Incidentally, I think it was around the 35-minute mark into the actual Oscar ceremony when it suddenly dawned on everyone that “hey wait, did we never need a host this entire time?  I don’t miss it whatsoever.”

Still, in this brave new Oscar ceremony world of a host-less show, a running time of less than 200 minutes, and an interestingly varied group of nominees, the Academy can’t be stopped from falling all over itself to reward a mediocre movie as its “Best Picture.”  This is where the Markademy Awards step in as a righter of wrongs.

BEST DIRECTOR
Actual nominees: Alfonso Cuaron/Roma, Spike Lee/BlacKkKlansman, Pawel Pawlikowski/Cold War, Yorgos Lanthimos/The Favourite, Adam McKay/Vice
Actual winner: Alfonso Cuaron

Alterna-ballot: Bradley Cooper/A Star Is Born, Debra Granik/Leave No Trace, Marielle Heller/Can You Ever Forgive Me, Barry Jenkins/If Beale Street Could Talk, Joe & Anthony Russo/Avengers: Infinity War

My ballot: Cuaron, Heller, Jenkins, Lanthimos, the Russos
My winner: Alfonso Cuaron

Well, okay, the Academy got this one right.  Cuaron captured well-deserving Oscars for both directing and cinematography, since this film is just beyond stunning.  He isn’t dealing with incredible landscapes or windswept vistas here — Roma is largely set in a normal home, on a mostly normal (affluent, to be sure) city street, and yet Cuaron makes this movie look somehow even more visually impressive than a Gravity or a Children Of Men.

If there’s a theme in this year’s ballot, it’s directors who really bring the ordinary to life.  (Plus the exact opposite of this theme in the Russos, who do the impossible by juggling a decade’s worth of movies and characters into a single, coherent, epic.). I don’t want to suggest the stories of CYEFM, Favourite, Beale Street, or Roma are basic by any means, but it’s very easy to imagine versions of these films that get tedious, since we’ve seen some variations on these types of movies before.  The British costume drama, the family drama of a young couple torn apart by a tragic event, the dark Woody Allen-ish New York literary drama, the personal story of the working class…so much new life is breathed into these familiar concepts.  For Roma, it’s incredible how everything is so perfectly cinematic yet also so naturalistic and slice of life.  It would come off as a documentary, were it not for Cuaron’s camera making it clear that no, you’re watching a perfectly-composed film.

Special shoutout to Lanthimos, who merits a directing nod for one of the year’s best movies, just a year after his The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (a strong 10 on the “Insists Upon Itself Scale”) captures the 2017 Markademy Anti-Award as the year’s worst film.  Not to mention Lanthimos’ previous film, The Lobster, a stinker that somehow didn’t make the worst list for 2015.  Third time’s the charm for ol’ Yorgos.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Actual nominees: Mahershala Ali/Green Book, Adam Driver/BlacKkKlansman, Sam Elliott/A Star Is Born, Richard E. Grant/Can You Ever Forgive Me, Sam Rockwell/Vice
Actual winner: Mahershala Ali

Alterna-ballot: Josh Brolin/Avengers: Infinity War, Josh Hamilton/Eighth Grade, Bill Heck/The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, Nicholas Hoult/The Favourite, Cedric Kyles/First Reformed, Billy Magnussen/Game Night
My ballot: Brolin, Driver, Elliott, Grant, Hamilton
My winner: Richard E. Grant

The theme of my alternate ballot is earnestness and duplicity, as my nominees have a nice mix of the disingenuous (Hoult, Kyles), the straight-laced (Hamilton, Heck), and the in-betweeners.  Magnussen is playing a womanizing moron, but it’s hard to hate a character who just nails an unending stream of “but why male models?”-level clueless one-liners.  It may be weird to describe an intergalactic despot like Thanos as “between” two moral poles, but that’s a tribute to what Brolin does with a role that seems impossible, on paper.  Thanos has to live up to a decade’s worth of expectations, has to be believable and almost sympathetic despite an end-goal of universal genocide, plus Brolin is limited by motion-capture, and he can’t hide amongst the enormous cast since Thanos is basically the (*checks notes*) star of the movie?!  It was really incredible work.

So, while we’re here praising one “star of the movie,” you might notice that Mahershala Ali didn’t make even my shortlist of nominees.  That’s because he is deservedly in my Best Actor ballot, and it’s time for the annual Markademy Awards tradition of Mark calling out blatant examples of category fraud.  We might as well have the Green Book talk here — I thought it was pretty mediocre.  It’s the worst Best Picture winner since A Beautiful Mind, which says something that I’m even putting Crash ahead of it.  There have already been piles of criticism heaped on the movie’s sketchy racial politics, but the lead/supporting split between Mortensen and Ali is itself a red flag.  I’m sure the publicists saw the value in not splitting Best Actor votes, but even if you deny the obvious that the two are co-leads, shouldn’t Viggo’s character be supporting, narrative-wise?  It’s Don Shirley’s story, he has the stronger growth arc from start to finish (or at least the more apparent growth arc, as it was hard to tell anything from Viggo’s East Side Mario’s commercial-level caricature of a performance) that should mean more in determining “lead” or “supporting” than just counting up Mortensen’s 5-10 extra minutes of screen time. 

Whatever, the movie stunk, let’s never speak of it again.  Let’s focus on Josh Hamilton’s incredible speech to his daughter by the fireside, or the tears in Sam Elliott’s eyes as he’s pulling out of the driveway.  Not big parts, either actor, but key moments that almost stole a movie.  Going into larger roles, CYEFM was the role that took Richard E. Grant from a high-level “that guy” actor to someone that could’ve or should’ve won an Oscar, and I think BKK was the film where Adam Driver’s potential started to click for me.  My award goes to Grant by a hair, unless I learn that Brolin also did motion-capture on Sam Elliott’s moustache.
 

BEST ACTRESS
Actual nominees: Yalitza Aparicio/Roma, Glenn Close/The Wife, Olivia Colman/The Favourite, Lady Gaga/A Star Is Born, Melissa McCarthy/Can You Ever Forgive Me
Actual winner: Olivia Colman

Alterna-ballot: Elsie Fisher/Eighth Grade, Nicole Kidman/Destroyer, Thomasin McKenzie/Leave No Trace, Saoirse Ronan/On Chesil Beach, Emma Stone/The Favourite, Rachel Weisz/The Favourite
My ballot: Colman, McCarthy, McKenzie, Stone, Weisz
My winner: Melissa McCarthy

Category fraud charges were also levelled at Olivia Colman’s victory from the Glenn Close fan club, though here is the Markademy Awards’ Gordian knot-style answer to how to define the three Favourite actresses — they’re all leads.  Boom!  Simple as that.  Stone and Weisz have the largest arcs and the most screentime, but Colman is the movie’s narrative center, holding steady whenever Stone or Weisz disappear or reappear as their importance to Queen Anne’s court varies.  All three, by the way, are amazing in this movie, and as a long-time member of the Olivia Colman fan club dating back to her days on Peep Show, her win was my favourite Oscar result of the night.  That said, if Weisz had actually shown up to the Oscar ceremony in her supremely badass scarf/facial cover from the movie, she might’ve won every Markademy Award for the next three years running. 

(Sidebar on Glenn Close: she wasn’t robbed.  She was very good in The Wife, but nothing special.  I’m also not really on the “Glenn Close is overdue and deserved to win!” train since she lacks that signature Oscar robbery moment.  For Peter O’Toole it was Lion In Winter, for Richard Burton it was Virginia Woolf, for Amy Adams it’s looking like it’ll be her odd trend of getting nominated for everything except her actual best roles, which were Arrival and Enchanted.  Plus, as an Oscar geek, I’m actually more interested in the idea of someone challenging or breaking Peter O’Toole’s record than I am in seeing Close win.  I mean, come on, her last name is literally CLOSE!  Is there a better possible name for someone who always comes up short at the Oscars?!)

The winner, however, is Melissa McCarthy.  In addition to joining Cate Blanchett as a proud Markademy Award recipient, McCarthy may also be threatening Blanchett’s title as the most no-middle ground performer in Hollywood.  Every time you watch McCarthy, whether it’s a movie, an awards show presentation, or even something like an SNL sketch, you’re left thinking either “that was amazing” or “man, that bombed.”  (I think her only lone average role was in Ghostbusters, where she was unmemorable but the movie was overall pretty good.)  CYEFM is damn near career-peak McCarthy, as she inhabits a hard-to-like character and leaves you understanding why Lee makes it so hard on herself.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Actual nominees: Amy Adams/Vice, Marina de Tavira/Roma, Regina King/If Beale Street Could Talk, Emma Stone/The Favourite, Rachel Weisz/The Favourite
Actual winner: Regina King

Alterna-ballot: Elizabeth Debicki/Widows, Zoe Kazan/The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, Sissy Spacek/The Old Man & The Gun, Phoebe Waller-Bridge/Solo, Dolly Wells/Can You Ever Forgive Me, Letitia Wright/Black Panther
My ballot: Debicki, King, Spacek, Wells, Wright
My winner: Regina King

My verdict on the lead/supporting actress of the Favourite actresses thins this category out a bit, plus I didn’t think Adams was anything special in Vice (nothing was special about Vice), and de Tavira is barely in the movie.  That opens the door for seasoned pros in King and Spacek to a bunch of relative newcomers — Kazan carrying the best of the Buster Scruggs vignettes, another mo-cap performance for PWB, Letitia Wright for bringing such joy to Black Panther (then, as a bonus, pwning Bruce Banner in Infinity War), and a breakout low-key role for Wells.

And then there’s Debicki, who steals (no pun intended) Widows wholesale.  This film has a lot of good performances, though mostly from actors digging into their familiar playbooks — Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell are all doing “Viola, Michelle, and Colin things,” as it were.  This opens the door for lesser-known performers to really break out, be it Daniel Kaluuya going in a distinctly different direction from Get Out, Brian Tyree Henry continuing his great all-around year, and another multi-movie favourite of 2018 Cynthia Erivo, who was also one of the highlights of the otherwise forgettable Bad Times At The El Royale this year.  They were the lesser-knowns, however, whereas Debicki so stands out in part because I’d never seen her in any kind of substantial role before.

But in the end, King narrowly takes both the Markademy Award and the Oscar.  I almost put “The Leftovers” after King’s name in the ballot out of sheer habit, since we’ve known for a long time what great acting she’s capable of doing in any kind of notable part.  Even this role isn’t much in terms of screentime, though King has two major scenes to nail, and they’re both home runs.  


BEST ACTOR
Actual nominees: Christian Bale/Vice, Bradley Cooper/A Star Is Born, Willem Dafoe/At Eternity’s Gate, Rami Malek/Bohemian Rhapsody, Viggo Mortensen/Green Book
Actual winner: Rami Malek

Alterna-ballot: Mahershala Ali/Green Book, Simon Russell Beale/The Death Of Stalin, Ethan Hawke/First Reformed, Stephan James/If Beale Street Could Talk, Robert Redford/The Old Man & The Gun, Geoffrey Rush/Final Portrait
My ballot: Ali, Hawke, James, Redford, Rush
My winner: Ethan Hawke

I didn’t actually see At Eternity’s Gate, and I have little reason to believe that Dafoe wouldn’t give a good performance, so I can’t entirely call this the weakest Best Actor field in recent Oscar history.  But good gravy, between SNL-caliber impressions of Freddie Mercury, Dick Cheney, and (let’s be honest) Sam Elliott, and Mortensen playing such an Italian caricature that even Steven Van Zandt would’ve asked him to take it down a notch, this category didn’t have much to work with. 

Frankly, even my alternate nominees aren’t super, as it was a weak year overall for lead performances.  (Beale and Rush are both kind of reaches.)  Redford was charm city, Ali did his best to try and bail out a weak movie, and James (Canada’s own) looks like a big star of the future.

Into this void, however, comes not just a clear winner, but one of the more fascinating performances in years.  First Reformed is such a wonderful, looming threat of a movie, transposing the classic Paul Schrader violent outcast character into the body of a milquetoast priest.  It’s played by Hawke in a way that’s both true to the character, yet also sort of taking the piss out of Hawke’s entire “do-gooder who also seems kind of sketchy?” public image, whether Hawke necessarily intended this or not.  The catch of it is, Reverend Toller is actually pretty decent at his job (i.e. his initial talk with Michael) yet is just in an inescapable downward spiral that leaves the viewer where exactly this is all going to lead, since stories about church management don’t lend themselves to an obvious climax.  But what a climax it is, as I don’t think I’ll ever forget that ending…even if I’m in the film theory camp that believes it was all imagined.  I’m open to debate on this point!  I’m not open to debating whether Hawke deserved an Oscar nomination or not, since it’s absurd that he wouldn’t even get a nomination in a year with such a thin field.


BEST PICTURE
Actual nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice
Actual winner: Green Book

The following are my top six of the year, the ones that made it over the hard-to-define bar that separates “that was really good” from “that was one of my Best Pictures of the year.”

1. Avengers: Infinity War
2. First Reformed
3. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
4. The Favourite
5. Mission Impossible: Fallout
6. Roma


To address the films we haven’t, uh, addressed yet, we’ll start with one of the best all-out action movies of all time.  I can’t honestly call Mission Impossible one of best franchises ever when I only really liked two of the six films, and because whatever ongoing story element there is throughout the series fades from my memory after every movie.  Watching Fallout, I was like, “oh that’s right, Michelle Monaghan and Alec Baldwin are in these.  Oh, and Rebecca Ferguson’s back, cool.  Is Renner in this one?”  The only thing I remember (and maybe the only thing you need to know) going into an MI movie is Rhames, Pegg, and Tom Cruise performing at least one crazy stunt that may have gotten him killed in real life.  If you told me that Cruise had died on set years ago and been replaced by Tom Crooze, I wouldn’t doubt it.  All I’m looking for at this point is at least one wild action setpiece, and Fallout gives us not one, not two, but three of them, plus a bunch of fine lower-level action in between.

Spider-Verse is just absolute catnip to a longtime Spidey fan like me.  Between this and Tom Holland, there has been more great Spider-Man content on the big screen in the last three years than there was in the previous 15 years.  It’s at once such a great tribute to the character for classic Spidey fans, while also doing the heavy lifting of introducing a new Spider-Man in Miles Morales for a new generation.  I loved it so much that I’ll even accept that my own Spider-Verse idea is now likely never going to be made.  :(  Part of me wants to check the blog analytics on that post to see if I could somehow track down if Phil Lord or Chris Miller could’ve read it, then I can get some sweet, sweet, lawsuit money. 

Finally, we conclude this genre-heavy turn through my Best Picture field with the movie that I’m frankly a little surprised to be awarding with my top prize.  Needless to say, Infinity War’s release was cause to clear the schedule, and get a ticket to the theatre’s earliest possible screening.  I showed up amidst an eager, buzzing, audience that spent the next 2.5 hours laughing, gasping (Red Skull?!), outright cheering, and then….complete dead silence.  Well, not entirely silent.  Some parent had brought their six- or seven-year-old son to the movie, and the youngster spent the movie happily yelling out the name of every character when they first appeared on screen.  This kid was having the time of his life, until, uh, he suddenly wasn’t.  Imagine a theatre frozen in place, save for that one kid now bawling his eyes out.  (To be fair to that kid, I heard a couple of other muffled sobs after “I don’t feel so good.”)

I mean, it wasn’t the most unpredictable ending in the world, especially for everyone who knew how Infinity Gauntlet played out in the comics.  But the specifics of it, man.  I’m going to remember that experience watching Infinity War forever, and while that’s hardly the only reason I’m giving it the Markademy Award, it might be the tiebreaker in a field of excellent but maybe slightly flawed contenders. 

Even Infinity War isn’t perfect — the stuff with the GOTG drags a bit, and holy cow, Peter Quill’s character just goes down the toilet in this movie.  But going back to what I mentioned about the Russos’ directorial effort earlier, this film is just such an incredible culmination of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe up to this point.  The degree of difficulty was off the charts, and yet the movie still delivered.  I could not be more fired up for Endgame (and Captain Marvel before it) to see the next steps of this “phase three” of Marvel’s movie plans.  There is a decent chance that I, a grown man in my late 30’s, may also be dropping a few tears in the theatre, and then blaming it on the air-conditioning.  The cold makes my eyes water!  No, you shut up!

The rest of the notables from the year in cinema…

7. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
8. A Star Is Born
9. Widows
10. If Beale Street Could Talk
11. The Old Man & The Gun
12. The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs
13. Leave No Trace
14. Black Panther
15. Sorry To Bother You
16. Searching
17. BlacKkKlansman
18. American Animals
19. Destroyer
20. Eighth Grade
21. On Chesil Beach
22. Deadpool 2
23. They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead
24. Game Night
25. Annihilation
26. A Quiet Place

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Glue



"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffin' glue" is about as funny as a one-liner gets. Its sardonic charm is applicable in just about any situation and can be delivered by anyone. In fact, the more unlikely the deliverer of the line, the better. Just imagine Queen Elizabeth watching coverage of parliament's Brexit arguments, then turning to a nearby footman and delivering the line in a perfect deadpan.

The problem: "Airplane!" isn't well-known among many of my generation. So when I recently busted out the line amongst friends and casual friends, there was a minor stir of confusion. "Wait, you used to sniff glue?" No no, it's from a movie....well, I don't want to get into the full explanation, but needless to say, whenever you deliver a joke and then need to explain it afterwards, brother, you just told a bomb of a joke. Not only did the reference fly over everyone's heads, but given how some of these people didn't know me very well, they might in fact think that I'm actually some kind of glue-sniffer.

For the record, I'm not. I've always had a very indifferent relationship to glue as a product, let alone as a stimulant. In grade school, I quickly grew tired of the unnecessary stickiness and lumps caused by Elmer's Glue and moved on to staples and tape at a young age. Glue irritated me so much that it never occurred to me to try and sniff it. Would you sniff something that annoyed you? Exactly.

I guess my point is that everyone needs to watch "Airplane!" again so I can keep using this line. Since surely that's a more reasonable request than for me to just stop busting out that quote.* The only other alternative is for glue-sniffing to become so socially acceptable that even if nobody gets the reference, at least I'm not looked on as a weirdo. But do I want to be responsible for a generation's drug addiction issues? No dice.

* And don't call me Shirley.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Hot! Live! Music!

Rab Noakes, "Mississippi"
This just reinforces my long-standing theory that nobody sounds better singing Bob Dylan songs than anyone other than Bob Dylan.

Alvvays, "Archie Marry Me"
I highly recommend Alvvays' debut album, which was released in 2014 but I only recently just heard from start to finish.  Hey, by the way, isn't it hilariously weird that the Archie Comics characters were rebooted into a hard-bitten noir show that is, by all accounts, crazy?  I realize this doesn't technically relate to the song or the band, but still, it's pretty weird, right?

Queen, "Under Pressure"
Not to repeat myself from the "Worst Movies Of 2018" post, but it still blows my mind that people felt a half-assed biopic was necessary to fall in love with Queen's music, when....you can just listen to Queen's music.  Or, if a visual element is required, just watch the actual performances, like this one.  Who needs Mr. Robot when you can watch the actual, inimitable Freddie Mercury?

Oasis, "Acquiesce"
I love that this is sort of the gritty underbelly version of the aforementioned Queen performance.  Liam Gallagher isn't Freddie Mercury (who is?), but damned if that hands-behind-the-back, microphone-pressed-up-against-upper lip singing stance isn't almost as iconic in the pantheon of British rock performances.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Best Movie Scenes Of 2018

A great scene can take place in a great movie, an awful movie, or anything in between.  It can be one line of dialogue, maybe even as simple as a character's glance or even a quick camera cut...or it can be a massive setpiece that lasts for 10 minutes or more, as I stretch the boundaries of what a "scene" exactly is, perhaps compared to what a "sequence" is.

Anyway, here is my annual compilation of the scenes that most stood out to me over the course of the last cinematic year.  I laughed, I cried, I said "wow" out loud to no one in the theatre.

SPOILER ALERT for some of these movies, as though I tried to be somewhat vague about some plot details, it couldn't be helped in some cases.

33. John forgives Dexter (Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot)
32. Cassius and Salvador heatedly compliment each other (Sorry To Bother You)
31. Kayla and her dad at the dinner table (Eighth Grade)
30. The Wolf King shows up (Hotel Artemis)
29. Nina and Boris go for a boat ride (The Seagull)
28. Lena enters the lighthouse (Annihilation)
27. Will makes the big jump (Skyscraper)
26. Sullivan finds the secret hallway (Bad Times At The El Royale)
25. The High-Five enter The Shining (Ready Player One)
24. The Russian state dinner (Creed II)
23. Joan and Joe return from the banquet (The Wife)
22. The heist (Widows)
21. “How much do you weigh, Mary Poppins?” (Mary Poppins Returns)
20. The trip to the beach (Roma)
19. Luis recaps the first movie (Ant-Man & The Wasp)
18. The second heist (American Animals)
17. Evelyn gives birth (A Quiet Place)
16. Karen chases after Nic and Lauren (Beautiful Boy)
15. Reverend Toller meets with Michael (First Reformed)
14. Sharon goes to Puerto Rico (If Beale Street Could Talk)
13. Mr. Arthur and Alice against the tribe (The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs)
12. Thor, Rocket, and Groot arrive in Wakanda (Avengers: Infinity War)
11. The ending (First Reformed)
10. Bobby tearfully backs out of the driveway (A Star Is Born)
9. Kayla and her dad by the fire (Eighth Grade)
8. The bathroom fight (Mission Impossible: Fallout)
7. The formation and, uh, breakup of X-Force (Deadpool 2)
6. Jerome Turner’s speech (BlacKkKlansman)
5. Cassius watches the video (Sorry To Bother You)
4. The 15-minute countdown (Mission Impossible: Fallout)
3. Ally and Jackson sing “Shallow” (A Star Is Born)
2. Jack Mulligan drives from his inner-city campaign event to his house (Widows)
1. The decimation (Avengers: Infinity War) 

 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Worst Movies Of 2018

We’re back for my rundown of some of the year’s dirt-worst films.  It’s quite a mixture this year, ranging from random Netflix movies to some of the year’s biggest and most star-studded pictures.  Just as a reminder for the countdown, we're starting from the least-worst, with #1 being the absolute crappiest filmic experience of the year.


10. Bohemian Rhapsody
People know that the actual footage of Queen’s Live Aid performance is easily accessible on YouTube, right?  You can just watch that 25-minute clip, as opposed to watching a half-assed recreation sandwiched within two hours of just about every musician biopic cliche in the book.  It’s an embarrassment that this was nominated for the actual Best Picture Oscar, and possibly even more embarrassing that it only just barely beat out another Best Picture candidate for the #10 spot on my list.  (Looking at you, Adam McKay!)

9. The Mule
John Mulaney and Pete Davidson recently had an entire Weekend Update segment on SNL devoting to ripping on his ridiculous movie, and unfortunately I can’t find the clip online.  (Damn you, Lorne Michaels’ stringent copyright policies!)  I forget if Mulaney & Davidson mentioned this part or not, so if I’m repeating their bit, I apologize.  But for me, the single most absurd scene was the head of the drug cartel inviting Clint Eastwood over to his mansion for a party, as a nod to all of Eastwood’s good work.  Granted, I’m not an expert in how drug cartels operate, but I’m pretty sure the bosses don’t have an Employee Of The Month program.

8. Escape Plan 2
7. Ibiza
6. Small Town Crime

My “worst movies” list has been gradually getting shorter every year, which I attribute in part to a) Netflix, and b) my increasing lack of patience with garbage.  If I find my attention waning after, say, 20-30 minutes, it’s easy to just shut down a movie and move on to something else.  That said, I watched all of Escape Plan 2/Ibiza/Small Town Crime from start to finish, and for that I have no excuse.  Was I too sleepy to bother hitting the stop button?

5. First Man
Click here for a more in-depth look on this snoozer.

4. A Wrinkle In Time
Many considered this classic children’s book to be unfilmable.  They were right!

3. Den Of Thieves
Imagine “Heat,” except terrible yet somehow almost as long.  And, imagine instead of the mano-a-mano acting showcase that is Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, you instead had Gerard Butler and Pablo Schreiber.

2. The Catcher Was A Spy
This one is a particular disappointment for me as a baseball fan, since I’ve heard of the Moe Berg story for years, and always felt it would make for an interesting film.  (Especially since there’s no small chance that Berg was actually something of a fraud, making for a Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind-esque type of movie.)  So I was excited to see that a Moe Berg movie was finally being made, and starring no less than Paul Rudd himself.  The end result, however, was an absolute snore.

1. Like Father
I almost hesitated calling this my worst movie of the year since, really, it isn’t a movie.  It’s a 90-minute commercial for Royal Caribbean cruises.  This is the most egregious case of actors taking a bad job to get a paid vacation since Couples Retreat….which, it should be noted, also starred Kristen Bell.  (Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a better movie, but also a pretty strong example of this phenomenon.)  Everything in this movie felt completely hackneyed.  The premise, the entire relationship between Bell and Grammer as estranged father and daughter, their steps towards reconciliation, their inevitable blowup, and their just-as-inevitable thawing by the end of the movie.  This isn’t meteorologically possible for a Caribbean cruise, but I was rooting for an iceberg by the 40-minute mark.
 

ACTING AWARDS
Worst Supporting Actor: TIE!  Chris Hemsworth/Bad Times At The El Royale, Lin-Manuel Miranda/Mary Poppins Returns
Everyone in BAATER is operating on some level of bad Tartantino pastiche, but Hemsworth really goes for it as a Manson-esque cult leader, and the result is yikes.  Five points to Thor for effort, minus a thousand points for execution.

As for Miranda, I haven’t actually seen “Hamilton,” so obviously I hesitate in writing this guy off as a bad actor.  But in everything I’ve seen him in, the hamminess and overly theatrical nature of his performances would make even Kenneth Branagh tell this guy to take it down a notch.  It probably also didn’t help Miranda that MPR was maybe the single most “why is this happening?” movie of the year, so his performance was just icing on a cake of un-necessity. 

Worst Supporting Actress: TIE!  Claire Foy/First Man, Mindy Kaling/A Wrinkle In Time
Mindy Kaling has pretty much just play “Mindy Kaling,” which is a persona that (surprise surprise) doesn’t translate super-well to playing a cosmic entity.  As for Foy, if you took a shot every time she looked at her husband with pensive worry, you’d be dead within about a half-hour.  If you gave yourself a dime every time she didn’t have a look of pensive worry on her face in the film, you’d leave First Man with a total of zero dimes.  

Worst Actor: Clint Eastwood/The Mule
Eastwood was a pretty limited actor even in his prime, and now it’s safe to call him completely over the hill, to the point that his age actively detracts from the plot of the movie.  He’s 88, for pete’s sake!  Eighty-eight years old!  Again, I didn’t intend for this post to focus on how I’d do things if I operated a drug cartel, but while there’s some logic in the “hire old people as mules because nobody looks twice at them” plan, enlisting an 88-year-old has its own unique set of issues.  Chiefly, there’s the whole HE COULD DIE AT LITERALLY ANY MOMENT obstacle.  Casting even a 70-year-old in the role would’ve made more sense.  Hell, Dianne Wiest is right there, in the completely thankless role of Eastwood’s ex-wife, just use her as the lead instead.  Wouldn’t this movie suddenly be way better if Dianne Wiest is The Mule?

Worst Actress: Kristen Bell/Like Father
Keeping it all in the family, Dax Shepard won my worst actor award last year.  On the bright side, I like Good Place and the podcast!


BEST PERFORMANCE IN BAD MOVIES
Supporting Actor: Tom Hardy/Venom
Wait, supporting actor?  That’s right, this is a real thread-the-needle situation where I’m specifically awarding Hardy not for his role as Eddie Brock, but as the voice of the symbiote.  I’m convinced that Tom Hardy hates the sound of his own voice, and only takes roles where he is allowed to deploy whatever weird accent or vocal tick he wishes.  In this case, his choice for the symbiote is halfway between Shredder on the old Ninja Turtles cartoon show, and Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors.  It is so absurd and over-the-top that it turned all the way around into being entertaining as the film went on — I admitted laughed out loud when the symbiote referred to itself as “a bit of a loser.”

Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway/Ocean’s 8
Her character is, essentially, Everyone’s Perception Of What Anne Hathaway Is Like, so it’s kind of a clever bit of casting to simply cast Anne Hathaway.  This movie, by the way, ran a close second to Mary Poppins Returns in the “most unnecessary film” race.

Lead Actor: Rami Malek/Bohemian Rhapsody
Let’s see, how many qualifiers can I put on this award?  I would’ve much rather seen what Sasha Baron Cohen would’ve done in the role.  Malek absolutely shouldn’t win the Oscar.  It is nigh-impossible for any actor to properly play Freddie Mercury, though I guess technically Malek isn’t playing “Freddie Mercury” as much as he’s playing a watered-down, audience-friendly version of the man.  Other than all that, Malek is fine? 

Lead Actress: Toni Collette/Hereditary
Academy, if you’re going to nominate an actor from a bad movie, maybe throw Toni Collette a bone?  She doesn’t make my personal ballot, but she does her level best at carrying this completely overrated and overblown horror movie.  Raised expectations are partially to blame, since the critics praised this one as a real landmark in the horror genre and I went in thinking I was going to see something special.


WORST PERFORMANCE IN A GOOD MOVIE: Rafi Gavron/A Star Is Born
You might remember this guy as the sleazy producer/record company exec who signs Lady Gaga, turns her into a generic pop star, and also more or less encourages Bradley Cooper to kill himself.  I daresay that last item kind of took the whole movie down a peg — narratively, it’s more powerful if Cooper decides for himself that he’s holding Allie back, rather than have someone else spell it out for him.  This isn’t exactly a subtle movie, but Gavron might as well be twirling a mustache and tying a puppy to railroad tracks.