Saturday, February 27, 2016

The 2015 Markademy Awards

Live, from the concession stand at Silver City, it’s the 2015 Markademy Awards!  As always, the awards and nominees are selected via a complicated ranked ballot process as voted on by the Markademy’s 6000+ members and then the final choices are made via whatever ones I liked best.  Let’s dive right into the choices…

Actual Oscar nominees: Lenny Abrahamson/Room, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu/The Revenant, Thomas McCarthy/Spotlight, Adam McKay/The Big Short, George Miller/Mad Max: Fury Road
Likely Oscar winner: Innaritu
Should win: Miller

Alterna-ballot: Sean S. Baker/Tangerine, Ryan Coogler/Creed, Cary Joji Fukunaga/Beasts Of No Nation, Todd Haynes/Carol, Ridley Scott/The Martian
My ballot: Coogler, Haynes, McCarthy, McKay, Miller
My winner: George Miller

I really can’t come up with a better way of describing Miller’s work than io9’s Rob Bricken already did last May, in describing all the ways that Fury Road is an impossible movie.  I daresay it may be the perfect action movie — for Miller to deliver this at age 70, more or less out of nowhere, is an incredible achievement.  It’s really too bad that Inarritu is seemingly going to sweep to the Oscar on the wave of the “what an achievement this was to make” argument when Miller has just as strong an argument, not to mention making the more interesting film and is more overdue for an Academy Award.  And in fairness, directing any film is difficult, whether it’s overseeing a big-budget song of fire or ice like Fury Road or Revenant, or directing a “smaller” character piece like Room or Spotlight.  In a way, those “smaller” films are harder since you’re working on a smaller canvass and one tiny misfired scene or poor choice could throw off the whole movie.

The five actual nominees were very strong and the Academy allllllmost got it right….but I dunno, I can certainly see a case for a nomination for, say, directing a delicate period piece or reviving an often-cheesy franchise in its seventh instalment.

Actual Oscar nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh/The Hateful Eight, Rooney Mara/Carol, Rachel McAdams/Spotlight, Alicia Vikander/The Danish Girl, Kate Winslet/Steve Jobs
Likely Oscar winner: Vikander
Should win: McAdams

Alterna-ballot: Annette Bening/Danny Collins, Rose Byrne/Spy, Jennifer Jason Leigh/Anomalisa, Phyllis Smith/Inside Out, Kristen Stewart/The Clouds Of Sils Maria, Alicia Vikander/Ex Machina, Julie Walters/Brooklyn
My ballot: JJL (for Anomalisa), McAdams, Smith, Stewart, Vikander (for Ex Machina)
My winner: Kristen Stewart

Let’s be clear: Rooney Mara had the best performance of the five nominees.  If she were to win, I wouldn’t even be *that* upset since she was very good in the movie and it would be fun to see Carol get rewarded in the wake of its semi-inexplicable Best Picture snub.  Even Alicia Vikander, who’s actually going to win, gave a fine performance trying to prop up a poor movie.  The issue, however, is that neither Mara or Vikander were in any way “supporting” performances.  Their inclusion is category fraud in the highest order.  Studios often do this, trying to maneuver performers into categories that give them a better shot at an Oscar, or when you have two leads (i.e. Mara and Cate Blanchett), the veteran actor will get pushed as the lead and the younger one will go in supporting.  It’s ridiculous, and the Markademy Awards won’t stand for it!

So anyway, this really opens things up considerably in my ballot and, ironically, Vikander is still here for an actual supporting performance.  (Well, ‘actual’…admittedly, you could make a case that her Ex Machina character is also a lead.)  Jennifer Jason Leigh is still here, for another performance; it’s really kind of combo of both performances.  This is also the first year that a Markademy category has featured not one, but TWO voice performances, since you can’t tell me that Phyllis Smith as ‘Sadness’ didn’t absolutely rock the house.  McAdams ‘should’ win if the Academy actually cared about category fraud, and also because maybe she’ll read this and want to date me.

My winner is, get this, Kristen Stewart.  Here’s the thing about Kristen Stewart: she gets an unheard-of amount of crap for the Twilight movies when in reality, she’s basically a character actor.  Most actors, really, are character actors — they have particular skills that fit best in certain roles, and when cast in other roles, they can struggle.  I certainly wouldn’t say that Stewart has the most range of anyone, yet when she gets a part in her comfort zone (i.e. Still Alice, Adventureland, this movie), she hits it out of the park.  Her part in Clouds Of Sils Maria is also kind of a borderline lead though I can justify it since Binoche has a clear edge in screen time.  What I like about Stewart is that since the Twilight movies gave her the money to do whatever she wants, she’s open to picking all sorts of odd projects rather than jump into other blockbusters.  She keeps it up and she’ll end up an actual Academy ballot someday, as opposed to the just-as-prestigious Markademy listing.

Actual Oscar nominees: Cate Blanchett/Carol, Brie Larson/Room, Jennifer Lawrence/Joy, Charlotte Rampling/45 Years, Saoirse Ronan/Brooklyn
Likely Oscar winner: Larson
Should win: Larson

Alterna-ballot: Juliette Binoche/The Clouds Of Sils Maria, Olivia Cooke/Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Rooney Mara/Carol, Maggie Smith/The Lady In The Van, Charlize Theron/Mad Max: Fury Road, Lily Tomlin/Grandma
My ballot: Binoche, Blanchett, Larson, Mara, Ronan
My winner: Brie Larson

Larson has the misfortune of missing out on a Markademy Award back in 2013 when her role in Short Term 12 (a winner in just about any other year) lost to the unstoppable Cate Blanchett/Blue Jasmine train.  I’m glad she gets another crack at the top prize here, outpacing a very competitive field — Blanchett again, Mara in her proper category, Saoirse Ronan* and the close runner-up Juliette Binoche.  This is one of those cases where Binoche (who’s very hit-or-miss) was absolutely on the top of her game…she and Stewart made a great team.

* = turns out I’ve been pronouncing her name wrong for years.  I’ve been saying ’Sore-shah’ when it’s apparently ’Sir-shuh.’  And even crazier, turns out that Robert De Niro wasn’t playing her in that 1998 action movie.  But De Niro has such range!  My spellcheck recognizes ’Saoirse’ as ‘satires,’ so maybe the joke’s on me.

I’ve been riding the Brie Larson bandwagon for years, so it’s pleasing to see Hollywood at large take notice of her in such a big way.  “Room” kind of floored me, since I was one of the apparently few people who had no idea what it was about going into the film, so the horror of the plot really caught me off guard.  Talk about a very fine line to walk in keeping a movie on track, not to mention the added challenge Larson faced in having to carry a child actor for virtually the whole film.  With Larson now on the verge of becoming an Oscar-winning star, who will be the next under-the-radar actor from the cast of 21 Jump Street who I champion?  If Jake Johnson wins Best Actor next year, something’s definitely up.

Actual Oscar nominees: Christian Bale/The Big Short, Tom Hardy/The Revenant, Mark Ruffalo/Spotlight, Mark Rylance/Bridge Of Spies, Sylvester Stallone/Creed
Likely Oscar winner: TBD
Should win: Stallone

Alterna-ballot: Idris Elba/Beasts Of No Nation, Nicholas Hoult/Mad Max: Fury Road, Oscar Isaac/Ex Machina, LeBron James/Trainwreck, Richard Kind/Inside Out, Jason Mitchell/Straight Outta Compton, Stanley Tucci/Spotlight
My ballot: Elba, Kind, Mitchell, Stallone, Tucci, the guy who played the flame-throwing guitar in Mad Max: Fury Road
My winner: Sylvester Stallone

This is one of those rare cases when an Oscar category is very much a tossup as we go into the ceremony.  Stallone and Rylance have captured the majority of critics’ awards and probably have to be considered the favourites, though it wouldn’t at all be surprising if any of the other three won given the lack of true consensus.  In fact, this is also looking like a big bellwether category for Best Picture —- if Hardy, Bale or Ruffalo win, that’s a big indicator that their film really caught the Academy’s fancy.  (Same deal for Spotlight if McAdams pulls off the upset in supporting actress.)  The fact that Hardy was a surprise nominee whatsoever gives him some heat in the category, and his late entry into the race may make him the winner in a musical chairs kind of way, like how momentum shifted Tilda Swinton’s way (in another very contested category) just before the 2007 Oscars and she might’ve lost had the ceremony been a week later.

Narrative-wise, a win for Bale or Ruffalo is essentially a win for their entire ensemble, and the Hulk has the edge over Batman here since Ruffalo is overdue (this is already his third nomination) and Bale has already won.  Hardy is finally an Oscar nominee after delivering good work all decade long, and if Revenant is really poised to sweep, he could surely get caught up in the wave.  Rylance has no Best Picture heat since his movie was a snoozer but he’s also one of the most respected stage actors alive, so the British voting bloc in the Academy could reward his long-awaited breakthrough into film.

And then there’s Sly.  It’s kind of absurd to say that Stallone is “overdue” since it’s not like he’s been delivering fine performances or making great movies for the last 40 years.  You can probably count all of Stallone’s good movies and performances without needing all of your fingers, frankly.  Yet here’s the thing…the whole ideal of Oscar voting is to be objective about the performance itself.  Nobody is saying (nobody COULD say) that Stallone is a better actor than Mark Rylance, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hardy or Christian Bale since that’s objectively not true.  Judging it on just the performance alone, however, Stallone is the pick.  As goofy and maudlin as the Rocky movies have been over the years, there’s no denying that Rocky Balboa himself is a great character and Stallone is never better than when he’s in this role.  Actually, my “judge the performance only, not the baggage” idea doesn’t work in this case since the beauty of Stallone in Creed is that he’s wearing all the baggage of Rocky’s life.  You can’t think of Creed without thinking of the entire Rocky series (well, you can still ignore Rocky V) and this character’s entire journey.  I have only cried during three movies* in my life, and Stallone’s “my whole life is behind me” speech to Adonis in the locker room came within a hair of making Creed the fourth.  I mean, if Sly is killing it hard enough in a movie that he almost moves me to tears, that’s worth a Markademy Award.

* = the scene in E.T. when it looked like he was dead, the final 10 minutes of Rudy (saw that with my family and we were all crying) and the first 15 minutes of Up, which literally had half the theatre openly bawling.  

It’s a sign of how deep this category is that I’m still able to easily come up with four alternate nominees.  Speaking of crying in a theatre, Mr. Bing-Bong’s final scene made things a little dusty in the theatre so props to Richard Kind.  Elba became the poster boy for the latest #OscarsSoWhite controversy and it really is kind of amazing that he was somehow snubbed.  You’ve also got Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, who did his best to elevate a pretty routine biopic.  Pretty much anyone in Spotlight was a justifiable nominee but Tucci’s quiet and tired defiance stood out the most to me.

The flamethrower guitarist’s character name, by the way?  Coma the Doof Warrior.  Game over, man.  Game over.

Actual Oscar nominees: Bryan Cranston/Trumbo, Matt Damon/The Martian, Leonado DiCaprio/The Revenant, Michael Fassbender/Steve Jobs, Eddie Redmayne/The Danish Girl
Likely Oscar winner: DiCaprio
Should win: DiCaprio

Alterna-ballot: Abraham Attah/Beasts Of No Nation, Tom Courtenay/45 Years, Paul Dano/Love & Mercy, Johnny Depp/Black Mass, Tom Hardy/Legend, Alex Jennings/The Lady In The Van, Jason Segal/The End Of The Tour
My ballot: Dano, Depp, Hardy, Jennings, Segal
My winner: Paul Dano

Real talk: is this the worst Best Actor field of all time?  You have a half-assed Bryan Cranston, the Assbender not playing Steve Jobs as much as falling back on a Josh Lyman impression to get through the Sorkinese, Eddie Redmayne giving a legitimately poor performance, Damon pretty much playing himself, and DiCaprio’s gruntfest.  The jury’s still out on whether or not Redmayne is actually a good actor but as for the other four guys….we know they’re better than this.  This looks like a strong category on paper but in terms of actual quality roles, yikes.

So needless to say, there’s nothing stopping DiCaprio from finally capturing an Oscar.  In the “whoops, let’s do a make-up award” tradition of Al Pacino winning for Scent Of A Woman, Henry Fonda winning for On Golden Pond or Paul Newman winning for Colour Of Money, here you have DiCaprio getting his long-overdue Oscar for a film that’s far from his best work.  Is Revenant even in the top 20 of DiCaprio performances?  The top 25?  I’m not upset at Leo finally getting his Oscar due since it’s not like he’s beating anyone worthy this year, yet it’s a bit annoying that the “DiCaprio is overdue” narrative seems be sweeping Revenant towards Best Picture as well.  If DiCaprio had won Best Actor two years (when he truly deserved it for Wolf Of Wall Street), would Revenant have half as much momentum?

As you might guess, my Markademy ballot is completely different.  Playing very different twins is a gimmick, yet Hardy made it work in the entertaining Legend.  Alex Jennings is a major star of British theatre and television, and he’s kind of playing a bit of a ‘twin role’ himself in Lady In The Van, as well as matching the great Maggie Smith line for line.  Depp made for a genuinely sociopathic villain, even if his Whitey Bulger was still less frightening than his Willy Wonka.  Segal clearly adores David Foster Wallace yet didn’t let any hero worship infect his quietly great performance.

And then there’s Paul Dano, who may be Larson’s true heir as my “how is this actor not more appreciated?” pet cause.  Dano’s always needed that one big breakout role to firmly establish himself as a major talent, and Love & Mercy was it.  It’s an interesting idea for a film in having two actors (Dano and John Cusack) play Brian Wilson at different times in his life, and a tip of the hat to Cusack as well for playing a role other than “John Cusack.”  Dano had the meatier role of the younger Wilson, yet it’s also the more difficult part since you have to set the stage for what Cusack does later in the narrative.  The only downside is that the split role probably hurt Dano’s Oscar chances, as he was pushed as a supporting actor by the studio in yet another case of the older actor/younger actor category fraud split when you have two leads.

Actual Oscar nominees: The Big Short, Bridge Of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight
Likely Oscar winner: The Revenant

So as you may have gleaned, I’m not really big on Revenant as the probable Best Picture winner even though it makes my forthcoming list of the year’s best movies.  It’s one thing if a Best Picture winner doesn’t make my personal cut of the ‘best,’ yet it’s another if I can easily rattle off 22 better films (including six of the eight other BP nominees).  Revenant is quite the achievement from a technical standpoint and I can firmly believe that it was a hell of a difficult shoot, as its Oscar campaigners push down our throats at every opportunity.  “Toughest picture to film,” however, is not “Best Picture.”  As I said before, DiCaprio’s Oscar drought is dragging the film to glory as well.  It’s a pretty basic plot, it takes some very sharp liberties with the actual Hugh Glass story, the “metaphor for the environment” message DiCaprio and others are trying to shoehorn into it seems questionable at best, and I couldn’t help but feel that the movie would’ve been better had Hardy and DiCaprio switched roles.  What part do you think fits DiCaprio better: the taciturn badass frontiersman or the weaselly mercenary looking out for number one?

Revenant’s victory puts a bit of a damper on the fact that this was overall a hell of a year for the Best Picture field.  Seven of the eight nominees made my top 23, while the eighth nominee (Bridge Of Spies), uh, let’s just say it missed out and never speak of it again.  Seven films made my personal Best Picture field, with four movies appearing on both lists…

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Spotlight
3. The Martian
4. Anomalisa
5. Carol
6. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
7. The Big Short

Martian is just a superbly done popcorn movie from start to finish.  Carol was wonderfully moving, with Blanchett and Mara both in prime form (Blanchett is another one of those ‘great-or-awful’ actors with seemingly nothing in-between).  M&E&TDG is an indie movie that didn’t make a huge impact aside from, y’know, being awesome and breaking the careers of at least three fine young actors (Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler and Olivia Cooke).  I’ve never seen a film so completely shift from legitimately funny teen high school film to legitimately moving drama at the drop of a hat and be equally great in both halves.  Big Short does a wonderful job of conveying both explanation and outrage at the financial crisis while somehow making an actual narrative of Michael Lewis’ book.  Anomalisa is Charlie Kaufman’s latest bit of completely unique brilliance, with a narrative gimmick so amazing that I hesitate to even hint at it lest I ruin the feeling of dawning comprehension when you ‘figure it out.’  Spotlight is perfect in its straight-forwardness, with incredible performances all around and nothing added for any Hollywood flourish (even Ruffalo’s somewhat criticized “big scene” feels fitting for the character).

Then there’s Mad Max, which has more or less had this award locked up since the moment I saw it (open-mouthed with wonder), back in May.  As I said earlier, this has a case as the best action movie of all time.  Three epic car chases, each more intricately filmed than the next…instantly memorable characters and setpieces….an *actual* message about preserving the environment, coughcoughRevenantcough…a thoroughly badass Charlize Theron performance and a highly-underrated Nicholas Hoult supporting role (he just missed my supporting actor list)….and just overall, a truly singular movie the likes of which I’ve never really seen before.  Put it this way: this movie was so good that it still earned 10 Oscar nominations despite being just about the most non-Academy film ever made.  If it were to somehow pull the upset of the century and actually win, it would be my single favourite Oscar result of all time.  A guy can dream, can’t he?

Onto the rest of my top 26.  Just to be clear, the top seven were the ones that passed the hard-to-define “this was one of the year’s very best films” bar within my head, whereas everything else listed here is “only” an outstanding movie, not “Best Picture” outstanding.

8. Inside Out
9. Creed
10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
11. Tangerine
12. Room
13. Danny Collins
14. Cop Car
15. Sleeping With Other People
16. The Hateful Eight
17. Brooklyn
18. Love & Mercy
19. Spy
20. Beasts Of No Nation
21. The Lady In The Van
22. Mistress America
23. The Revenant
24. Ex Machina
25. Mississippi Grind
26. Ant-Man

And now, here’s arguably my favourite thing to compile every year: my list of the year’s best scenes.  Some of these are from my favourite movies of the year, some are from my least-favourite movies of the year…that’s the beauty of picking out singular moments.  Some of these scenes contain spoilers, so go back and watch every movie that was released in 2015 before going ahead with this list.  I’ll wait.

25. Pete Townshend introduces “Glittering Girl” to Kit and Chris (Lambert & Stamp)…there’s just a slight glimpse of the gleam in Lambert & Stamp’s eyes as they’re both like, “man, this song.”
24. The Green Bay Packers come to aca-battle (Pitch Perfect 2)….needless to say, this one really appealed to me.  I somehow had no idea this cameo was happening and I literally laughed out loud seeing Clay Matthews and company inexplicably pop up.
23. Agu walks through the trenches (Beasts Of No Nation)
22. The car/motorcycle chase (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation)
21. Rey and Finn go with the old piece of garbage (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
20. Nathan and Kyoko start dancing (Ex Machina)
…if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve probably seen the GIF a hundred times
19. BB-8 gives the thumbs up (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
18. Greg is chewed out by “Wolverine” (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)
…this was actually Hugh Jackman doing the voice.  Hugh Jackman may be the coolest man alive.
17. Lainie dances with the kids (Sleeping With Other People)….bonus points for the use of “Modern Love,” one of my all-time favourite songs.  More bonus points for Alison Brie dancing.
16. Liam Neeson buys Trix (Ted 2)
15. Celebrities explain stock market concepts (The Big Short)
14. Lisa sings “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (Anomalisa)
13. Brooke and the kids show up at Mamie-Claire and Dylan’s house (Mistress America)
…okay, this is one of those “is it a scene or a sequence?” debates I had with myself, since this ‘scene’ is like 20-25 minutes long.
12. Xander and Naomi wait for Jake and Lainey to get married (Sleeping With Other People)…as much as I enjoyed this movie, if it had been just Mantzoukas and Savage improvising for 90 minutes, that would’ve been fine with me.
11. The "Freebird" church battle (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
10. Mr. Bing Bong sacrifices himself to save Joy (Inside Out)
9. Brian composes “God Only Knows” on the piano and in studio (Love & Mercy)
T6. Any of the three major car chases (Mad Max: Fury Road)
….I couldn’t separate them in my mind, they’re all just so awesome in their own ways.  Also, another case of “scene or sequence?” given how long and elaborate all these chases get
5. Philippe’s walk (The Walk)….I’m really glad I didn’t see this movie in IMAX or 3D, since this scene might’ve actually given me vertigo
4. Luis explains how he heard about the job (Ant-Man)….Michael Pena is so underrated
3. The tribute to Paul Walker (Furious 7)….there was no worse Oscar snub this year than “See You Again” not getting a Best Song nomination.
2. Greg and Rachel argue over her decision to stop treatment (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)
1. Rocky’s “most of my life is behind me” speech (Creed)
….well, duh

Friday, February 26, 2016

Conan & Jordan

Gasp, a Conan O'Brien/Jordan Schlansky interaction that I somehow haven't chronicled?  This can't be!  And just in time for Valentine's Day....oh, wait, it was almost two weeks ago?  Sigh.  I'm so lonely.

Underrated moment: Jordan's enormous glass of water that goes untouched the entire segment

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Worst Movies Of 2015

Since my “favourite scenes” list is one of the Markademy Awards’ most treasured highlights, it only makes that my near-annual post of the year’s worst films also features a “least favourite scene.”  This year, the choice was beyond obvious — the excruciatingly unfunny scene from Trainwreck that featured the motley true of Matthew Broderick, Chris Evert and Marv Albert being recruited by LeBron James to give Bill Hader some love advice.  Where do I begin with this horrifying scene.  Evert looks ashamed to be there.  Albert couldn’t have been less cliched in spoofing his catchphrases.  Broderick continued his streak of no longer being able to hide the fact that he’s seemingly a creep in real life.  As always, this was a Judd Apatow film that was a good 20 minutes longer than it had to be, and if Apatow was looking to trim some fat, this awful scene should’ve been the first cut in the editing room.

Anyway, with the worst scene decided, onto the list proper!  This is a list of the year’s worst movies as culled from everything I actually saw, and we run the gamut here from movies that were bad by dint of being disappointing to bad by dint of simply being bad.  To re-use my criteria from last year’s post…

See, 'disappointing' isn't the worst thing in the world for me.  I'm generally positive going into every movie I see, yet while I may expect something great and only get something good (or, even worse, meh), that's not necessarily enough to make my list.  I'm highlighting the movies that either were arrogantly striving for excellence or, even worse, assuming greatness and then getting smacked down like Icarus.  I'm highlighting the movies that aimed low and didn't even hit that benchmark.  I'm highlighting the movies that drown in their own pretension and create the stereotype of "artsy-fartsy films that Mark likes."  This is the true lowest of the low.  A piece of crap like Expendables 3 might waste my time but I knew what I was getting going into it.  These stinkers managed to either disappoint to a GREAT extent, or even sunk beneath my already-low expectations.”

So there you have it.  Let’s see what made this year’s anti-cut…

Dishonourable mention at #11: Sicario.  In the tradition of “Noah” from last year, here’s a poor movie that had a few interesting things going for it but was overall just a misfire.  Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, the problem with having a film where the whole message is “this is ultimately meaningless” is that unless you put a lot of style into the telling, the audience can’t help but feel the whole thing was pretty damn meaningless.  At some point, I feel the filmmakers should’ve just realized that Del Toro’s character was the only interesting part of the whole proceedings and just made the entire thing about him.  This is kind of a controversial pick on my part since “Sicario” drew a lot of critical praise but in my opinion, it was a very empty movie.  Maybe I needed one more closeup of those rubber wristbands, since otherwise, I wouldn’t have gotten it — thanks for assuming I’m an idiot, movie.

Now, onto the bottom ten….

10. Tomorrowland: George “Miscast as an Old Grump” Clooney and a discount-store version of Jennifer Lawrence try to salvage a thoroughly weird movie that attempts to add pathos to (essentially) a theme park attraction.  It’s no Pirates of the Caribbean, that’s for sure.  Brad Bird has made about a dozen things that I’ve loved so this was a real disappointment on everyone’s part.

9. The Overnight: A sex comedy that was neither sexy or funny, which is a bit of a problem.

8. The Danish Girl: I get the feeling that everyone involved in this film felt very earnest about making a true statement in support of the transgender or cisgender community, and I almost feel like excusing the final product since the intentions were well-meaning.  Then again…well, you know what they say the road to hell is paved with.  Miss Piggy is an actual pig and is still less ham-handed than this film.  Alicia Vikander does her best to save the material and she is probably technically deserving of her Oscar nomination, despite the MASSIVE CATEGORY FRAUD of it being nominated as a ‘supporting’ performance when it is an outright lead.  Eddie Redmayne, on the other hand, was 100 percent undeserving of a Best Actor nomination, to the point that I’m wondering what’s up with this guy.  Great in Theory Of Everything and Les Miserables, downright awful here and in My Week With Marilyn….is Redmayne a Jekyll-and-Hyde kind of actor?  Find some consistency here, lad.

7. Chappie: Neill Blomkamp is turning into the band whose first record you really liked, until you realize that all of the songs sound kind of alike.  Then the songs on the next couple of records also sound alike except increasingly worse.

6. Bridge Of Spies: HOW is this movie so bad?  This was the real disappointment of the bunch, as I’m aghast that a Steven Spielberg film (!) co-written by the Coen Brothers (!!) and starring Tom Hanks could be so stupefyingly dull.  Even Spielberg’s poorer films have a certain energy to them but this one is just DOA.  There’s no suspense (for anyone who knows the actual story of the U-2 crash), there’s no intrigue and everything is just stultifying.  Bridge Of Spies joins the proud tradition of Benjamin Button and Tree Of Life as Best Picture nominees that earned a more fitting slot on my ‘Worst Movies’ list.

5. Z For Zachariah: Here’s another snoozer, set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where apparently humanity was doomed by everything moving at a snail’s pace.  I’ll sound like SNL’s Jebidiah Atkinson with this line but screw it…..Z for Zachariah?  More like Zzzzzzzz for Zachariah!

4. Ted 2: If the first Ted movie seemed like it was from the first four seasons of Family Guy, Ted 2 seemed like it was from a deleted scene from something in Family Guy’s 10th or 11th season.  Aside from Michael Dorn’s role/Comic-Con costume and the genuinely amusing Liam Neeson cameo, this one was garbage.

3. Taken 3: Speaking of Liam Neeson and garbage in the same sentence….I mean, nothing was even TAKEN here!  The premise imploded in on itself!  Why not just have Forest Whitaker wear a t-shirt that says “Phoning It In” written on it?  (Actually, Whitaker spent literally half this movie on the phone, so maybe it was a subtle dig.)  The first two Taken movies were goofy fun but this was a franchise-ender right here.

2. Hot Tub Time Machine 2: “Mark, did you really expect HTTM 2 to be good whatsoever?”  To be frank, no.  But I was figuring it would just be as harmlessly dumb as the original, not one of the most mean-spiritedly unfunny movies I’ve ever seen.  There were waaaaay too many actors I like in this movie, which made it all the more depressing.  I thought Scott Aukerman ripping on the movie to Adam Scott’s face during their U2 podcasts was just jokey fun, but no, Aukerman was warning us the whole time.  Also, reverse-standing ovation to Adam Scott for appearing in two movies on this godforsaken list.  I think he and Neeson are the only ones who manage that dubious feat.

1. A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence: Thanks to my film degree, I’m often forced to defend “artsy” movies against people (i.e. my friends) who often see them as self-indulgent claptrap.  And sometimes, they’re completely right.  APSOABROE is such a film, beginning with its stupid title and going downhill from there.  If you’ve never seen or heard of this film, here’s the idea — it’s a Swedish film made of a series of vignettes set in various repeating locales and usually based around some theme of loneliness or alienation.  In theory, some of these are supposed to be amusing in a macabre sort of way.  In practice, after 20 minutes I was ready to walk out and after 40 minutes, I was planning to sue the director.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

OK Go's Latest Opus

Boy, if I thought the Frinkiac made me been outdated, I don't know how much worse it would be as, oh, say, a band who went to incredible lengths to produce innovative music an era when nobody really cares about music videos.  Don't let the haters get you down, OK Go.  Keep on keepin' on.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Basically everything about the new Frinkiac website is amazing, except for the fact that it's made me completely obsolete.  For years I've been known as a "Simpsons guy," able to quote dialogue or recall scenes at the drop of a hat.  If there was an Olympic event for finding the perfect Simpsons reference as a response to someone's Facebook status, I'd have more gold medals than Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps combined.

Now?  I'm basically a typewriter.  The Frinkiac allows everyone access to Simpsons memories at the click of a button.  I'm forlorn.  My mighty heart has broken.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Hot! Live! Music! (again w/Postmodern Jukebox)

Almost two years to the day after my last splurge of PMJ songs, here we are again!

"Creep," which supports my quiet theory that Radiohead's original is actually the *worst* version of the song.

"Halo," which I'd actually is (Beygency members crack their knuckles)...almost as good as Beyonce's version!  (Beygency members sit down, satisfied)

"Gangsta's Paradise," which is admittedly no Amish Paradise, but still.  I'm pretty sure Coolio (or even L7) would handily defeat Al Capone in a rap battle.

"This Must Be The Place," which was already high on the list of my favourite songs of all time, and now it jumps up even a few more spots.

"My Heart Will Go On," which should retroactively be awarded another Oscar for inspiring this cover.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

V'Alonetine's Day

I wrote about this a few years ago, but probably my most notable Valentine's Day moment occurred when I was five years old and a kindergarten classmate gave me eight separate V-Day cards. It was all very cute and funny....and it only just occurred to me that what might have happened is she'd brought too many cards for the class and had a bunch left over, so she just dumped the extras on my desk. So, in effect, rather than being her first childhood crush, I was instead rather a glorified wastebasket. What a depressing twist.

Needless to say, I prefer to believe that my original theory was true and that this classmate was just madly in love with me. If nothing else, I prefer to admire the fact that she had the guts to outright give someone eight Valentines. What a bold romantic gesture, especially at an age where kids are usually freaked out to even sit next to someone of the opposite gender on the bus. It's very true that few things are more attractive than confidence….well, unless you're a homeless guy. A friend recently told me that she was asked out by a homeless guy, which prompted two thoughts:

1. Man, that guy has some stones. "Hey baby, pay no mind to my shabby clothes, I KNOW I can show you a good time." Granted, actually saying this exact line in most tones of voice counts as sexual harassment, but still. I wonder if she would've said yes had it been the Handsome Homeless Guy from the Eaton Centre.

2. My friend unwittingly insulted him while trying to let him down gently. He specifically asked if she wanted to go sometime in the next couple of days, so her answer was, "Oh sorry, I'm really busy this week since I'm moving." A perfectly valid excuse in most cases….but for a homeless guy, it's a double slap in the face. Not only if she turning down the date, she's also highlighting the fact that she has not just one place to live, she has in fact ANOTHER place to live since her current abode is just not up to her high standards. #onepercentproblems

So yeah, that basically concludes "the obligatory half-assed Valentine's Day post." I thought about making some joke about Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and how it was fitting that old-school pro wrestlers were all ugly, tough-looking guys but geez, I'd even be boring myself with that topic. So instead I'll leave you with a lovely sentiment from Liz Lemon.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The (New) Shame List

The original "shame list" was written back in April 2008, detailing the many classic (or at least notable) films that I'd somehow never seen, despite my self-professed status as the King Of Cinema.  It was a pretty lengthy list, and after almost eight years of trying...uh, well, it's still pretty long. 

In fact, in eight years, the list has only been shortened by eight movies: Aliens, Godfather 2, The Hustler, North by Northwest, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Rocky IV, Say Anything, Sunset Boulevard.  I have to credit my pal Kyle for his help in cutting this total down, as he's always kept that old shame list post in the back of his mind, so whenever I make my annual visit to his place, our tradition is to watch one or two movies from this list.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I got to cross off Aliens and Rocky IV.

The other problem with the 'shame list' is that by its very nature, it's bound to keep growing.  So I have not only the movies from the vintage list that I've still yet to see, I also have another secondary list of 'to-watch' films on a text file on my computer.  So at this rate, I'll be wrapped up with this project by the time the 22nd century rolls around.  Here's both the original and the new lists, and feel free to drop your mouth open in shock at how I've somehow gone my entire life letting some of these movies clip through the cracks. 

The African Queen, Amadeus, The Apartment, Apocalypse Now, The Bad News Bears (the original)
Ben-Hur, The Breakfast Club, Bridge on the River Kwai, Bull Durham, Cool Hand Luke, Das Boot
Dog Day Afternoon, The English Patient, The Exorcist, Godfather Part III, Gone With The Wind, The Goonies, The Great Dictator, Hamlet (the Olivier version and the Mel Gibson version), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Rocky II, Rocky III, Schindler's List, The Sound of Music, Stand By Me, Toy Story II

Glengarry Glen Ross, King Of Kong, The English Patient, Crying Game, Atlantic City, My Favourite Year, Paths Of Glory, Spanish Prisoner, Kicking and Screaming, Rebecca, Thin Man, Cache, Zodiac, Modern Romance, Primer, Dead Again, The Iron Giant, Not Fade Away, The Long Goodbye, Cassandra's Dream, Hot Rod, The Limey, Before Sunrise trilogy, Worricker Trilogy, I Saw The Devil, Barton Fink, Murder By Death, Tales Of The Script, MASH

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Random Nonsense

I spent a few minutes thinking about how old Tilda Swinton is, made my guess, looked it up, and was off by 10 years.


The Broncos have won about 10 games this year by keeping the score close, counting on their great defense, and getting just enough out of their craptastic offense to pull out a sloppy victory.  If you look at the Super Bowl winners carried by great defenses, this year’s Broncos are certainly a cut below the ’86 Bears, 2000 Ravens, 2014 Seahawks, the 70’s Steelers — but they might be the equal or better of the 2002 Buccaneers or the 2003 Patriots.

So the question is, are the Panthers better than the 2002 Raiders or the 2003, uh, Panthers?  I have to say clearly yes, since those teams didn’t have a singular weapon like Cam Newton.  Let’s not overlook the fact that Carolina is a whopping 17-1, and they’ve really had only a few games that were even close.  On paper, this seems like it could be a blowout, and it’s not hard to imagine Peyton Manning being as shellshocked by Carolina’s defense (no slouches themselves) just as Carson Palmer was two weeks ago, or as Russell Wilson was in the first half three weeks ago.  Never forget, Peyton Manning is a mediocre-to-lousy postseason quarterback, and that was when he was at the peak of his powers.  Shell-of-himself Peyton has been playing with house money for two weeks and it could come crashing down against the Panthers as it did against the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48.

Since Denver keeps it close even in the worst of times, I have to predict a close game, but ultimately it’s still a Panthers victory.  Call it a 25-14 score for Carolina.


I really ran quite the gamut of emotions watching the “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” trailer.  My first, third, and fifth thoughts were, “wait, they’re taking this seriously?”  My second thought was that seeing Charles Dance play an actual supportive father is even more off-putting than seeing the zombies.  My fourth thought was that apparently Jane Austen’s original novel actually included a big zombie attack subplot, but William Goldman convinced her to just focus on the love story.


Vulture’s list of the most influential jokes in history is pretty solid, if with a few notable omissions.  I mean, if you’re citing numerous sitcoms already, how do you leave off “as god as witness, I thought turkeys could fly?”  And nothing at all, not even one of Norm’s one-liners, from Cheers?

If you had to include only one Simpsons joke, however, Homer’s two falls into Springfield Gorge is the best possible choice.  The first time I ever saw that episode, at 10 or 11 years old, stands as one of the single hardest laughs of my life.  I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever laughed more at anything.  That said, if I had to pick the best Simpsons joke based on sheer cleverness…. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Arrivederci, John

With a certain foodie friend recently visiting Toronto, we were in need of a good place to eat.  My first instinct was to….suggest a chain restaurant that I had a gift card for, since I’m cheap.  But my second instinct was to suggest my old standby of John’s Italian Caffe, a quaint little Italian place in Baldwin Village that’s arguably my favourite Toronto restaurant.

Since my friend Jo (also coming to dinner) has food allergies, I went online to send her the menu to look it over.  It was then that I discovered that John’s has been closed (!) for almost a year (!!), in a complete whaaaaaaaaaat?! moment.  So okay, fair point that if it was really my “favourite Toronto restaurant,” I probably should’ve been going more than once a year.  Still, I thought I had time!  I never expected it would be a Homer-doesn’t-meet-Mr. T-at-the-mall situation. 

My last visit to John’s took place in the summer of 2014 when I had lunch with my friend Lori, which ended up unwittingly putting a thematic bow on my John’s experience since Lori was the one who introduced me to the restaurant in the first place.  Since then, I think I’ve been there with pretty much all of my Toronto crew at one time or another.  Hell, I even took my mom there when she and her retired teacher friends made their annual trip to the city on the first day of school (a.k.a. the “Ha Ha, We’re Retired, We Get To Avoid The Madness, Suckers!” trip).

If pressed to name something truly special about John’s, I’d say what made the place unique was that it simply delivered on every element, rather than have one clear drawing point.  Nice location, very nice patio, not too big a restaurant yet also not too small, a general “this looks like pretty much every Italian restaurant ever” decor, fine menu and GREAT pizza.  That quickly became my go-to order pretty much every time I went to the place, though still, from what others told me, you couldn’t go wrong with much else on the menu.  Maybe the generic “John’s” name really said it all — this was no-frills but man, was it ever good.

So with a tip of the cap to John’s, I’m now in need of another favourite Toronto restaurant.  I’m open to suggestions, with the current leading candidate being the Swiss Chalet up near Bloor and Sherbourne.  I’m, uh, not a varied eater.