Tagged: review

Nine Tweets About LITTLE WOMEN

beach

1. Greta Gerwig made a perfect thing. If I had actually written that “best-of 2019” list, right now I’d be flinging it dramatically into the flames.

2. LOVED the time-shifting storyline. Culminating with cross-cutting to the publisher during the happy ending which was *chef’s kiss* Also: the cinematography. I wanted to eat the beach scene with a spoon.

3. Seriously I’d be very happy to see it win Best Picture (it won’t) and Best Adapted Screenplay (it’d better).*

4. I think one reason I loved LITTLE WOMEN so much is that it is probably the only Best Pic nominee (of those I’ve seen) that is aspirational. Given the preoccupations of the other nominees, and our current real-world hellscape, it feels like a balm.

5. No one’s in danger of getting shot. No one wallows in dysfunction. The stakes are fulfillment/self-actualization vs. conforming and settling.

6. It’s full of kindnesses. Neighbors look out for each other. The lonely are befriended. Wrongs are forgiven. Kind gestures are reciprocated.

7. Even the ‘antagonist’ characters are just people with different opinions who are doing their best. And after blundering around and making mistakes, most of the characters end up where they ought to be.

8. I like movies that explore the stakes of the everyday. People trying to figure out how to live. (It’s why I’m so often on here evangelizing about HOLIDAY, one of my favorite films) And dammit, I like happy endings. So? Also I’m a big sissy and think everybody should be nice.

9. On that note, see also: A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. (Nice to see so much of Chris Cooper lately.)


*Nope. Taika got it for JOJO RABBIT. Which I haven’t seen. Not in protest, you understand. But since I didn’t see it, I won’t render an opinion here about how Greta obviously got robbed.

I’m @giantspecks on Twitter. Occasionally Yelling About Movies #YabtM with my friends. Come say hi. Or yell back!

Consumption: 2019

Screen Shot 2020-01-04 at 3.25.10 PM

I make this list every year, for fun and as a reference. It only reflects things seen for the first time; “POLTERGEIST was on again” doesn’t make the list. There are plenty of 2019 releases I haven’t gotten to yet. Of the films I did see, here are some noteables:

THE LIGHTHOUSE brought the crazy. Dafoe, Pattinson and director David Eggers deliver absolutely everything one could ask for in a two-guys-go-nuts-in-a-lighthouse movie. Shot on vintage cameras in black-and-white in 1.55 AR Claustro-vision.

ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD was my favorite Tarantino in a long time. 2018’s THE FAVOURITE was another, uh… favorite. Ditto for THE FAREWELL. Awkwafina, so good. Lulu Wang, so good. Most of PARASITE is watching grifters build a Jenga tower of lies and wondering when and how it’s gonna fall, and that = a good time at the movies! Meanwhile, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER was an imperfect end to an imperfect saga. I cried anyway.

What’s on TV? Well, I finally saw KLUTE. TCM, thank you. Jane Fonda, holy shit. They don’t make movies like this anymore; do they? Watching films from the 70s you realize how sanitized and smug most mainstream movies are now. We’re backsliding.

Also caught FIRST REFORMED on video. Paul Schrader’s still got the goods, and brings ’em. AT ETERNITY’S GATE features Willem Dafoe again, this time as Van Gogh. Heartbreaking and beautiful. In its own way, so was RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET… and it feels like this one kinda got overlooked. It’s endlessly clever, has great visuals, and an emotionally affecting core all about friendships and how they can change.

Marvel recently announced they will do a superhero movie centered on a gay character. But, they already have CAPTAIN MARVEL! I mean, come on…

If you like docs, TICKLED dives into the weird world of “competitive endurance tickling.” You’ll want to shower after. Also finally caught up with Berlinger and Sinofsky‘s 1992 doc BROTHER’S KEEPER – riveting. Highly recommended.

On the series side of things, I liked HBO’s “Dead to Me.” Great performances, and the first episode delivered not one but two A+ OMG moments. Held up throughout the season, too. Season 3 of “The Crown” introduced an entirely new cast without a hiccup. If I ever write anything as perfect and delightful as the last two scenes of episode 5 (“Coup”) I can hang up my mouse and die happy.

Adult Swim’s “Primal” was an amazing, totally dialogue-free animated series about a caveman and his dinosaur. The season (series?) finale may be the goriest thing I’ve ever seen on TV. “Undone” (Amazon) was another fine adult animated show. Come for the mind-bending premise and trippy visuals, stay for the writing and performances.

MOVIES ON THE BIG SCREEN
Mary Poppins Returns
Welcome to Marwen
The Favourite
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Vice
The Kid Who Would Be King – Every boy in this movie has chapped lips. England’s cold.
Ralph Breaks The Internet
Apollo 11
High Life – Infuriating “art movie.” Somebody explain to me why this wasn’t terrible.
Pill Head
Avengers: Endgame
Booksmart
Toy Story 4
Yesterday
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood
The Farewell
Ad Astra
The Lighthouse
Parasite
Terminator: Dark Fate
Knives Out – My mom would have loved this movie. I loved it too.
Frozen 2
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

MOVIES ON THE SMALL SCREEN
Mary Poppins
Obvious Child
Avengers: Infinity War
First Reformed
Ant-Man and The Wasp
Eighth Grade
The First Monday In May
At Eternity’s Gate
Vox Lux
The Peanuts Movie
Blackboard Jungle
Victoria & Abdul
Lean On Pete
Where The Boys Are (1960)
Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
Swim Team
The Invitation (2015)
Clouds Of Sils Marias
Miracle Mile
Spiderman: Homecoming
The General (1926)
Brother’s Keeper (1992)
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Wendy And Lucy
Late Night – Needed a rewrite
Captain Marvel
Klute
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Thunder Road
I Lost My Body
Marriage Story – Alan Alda, MVP
Rocketman – Bohemian Rhapsody ain’t brilliant, but still better than this mopey pity party
Tickled
Empire of Dreams

TELEVISION
Supergirl
Mom
The Orville
Russian Doll
Better Things
What We Do In The Shadows
Archer: 1999
Game of Thrones
Shrill
Dead To Me
Barry
The Great British Baking Show
The Good Place
Fleabag
Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal
Undone
Bless This Mess
The Crown
Catastrophe
A Year In Space
Mike Birbiglia: The New One – Delivered to me my single biggest belly laugh of 2019
Rick and Morty
Encore
The Mandalorian

###

Consumption: 2018

A moment from Leigh Whannell's UPGRADE

Leigh Whannell’s UPGRADE

I keep this list every year, for fun and for reference. The list only reflects films seen for the first time.

I don’t do a numbered ranking, but my #1-most-fun-I-had-at-the-movies award goes to Leigh Whannell’s UPGRADE. Visually inventive and spectacularly violent, this rough-and-ready cyberpunk B-movie felt like a return to the days of ROBOCOP, or peak John Carpenter. Bravo!

Kudos, too, to the makers of SPIDERMAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE. It’s got heart, it’s got style (more than one, actually) and it’s so smart, fast, funny and original it makes all the other superhero movies look kinda stupid by comparison.

Have you ever been watching a movie when a moment comes along that suddenly shifts your entire sense of what it is you’re watching? I LOVE that. It’s rare to get even one of those in a film, and it happened to me twice while watching Ali Abbasi’s BORDER. This one’s about a Swedish customs officer who can literally smell fear. That’s all I knew going in, and all you need to know too. Don’t read the reviews.

I’ll buy that for a dollar! Boots Riley’s SORRY TO BOTHER YOU takes place in the same universe as ROBOCOP and Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL. That’s just my theory. But it’s true.

Other 2018 theatrical standouts for me included ANNIHILATION, A QUIET PLACE, THE FAVOURITE (seen in 2019 so it’s not on this list) and (sniffle) WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

On the TV series front, favorites at our house included The Crown, The Good Place, Better Things, Travelers, and Killing Eve.

The rise of Netflix streaming is very much in evidence in this year’s list. Standouts include Tamara Jenkins’ note-perfect PRIVATE LIFE (Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn as a middle-aged couple racing against their biological clocks), and writer/director Macon Blair’s 2017 release I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE. By turns funny and violent, the latter stars Melanie Lynskey as Ruth, a woman in way over her head as she tries to recover her grandmother’s silverware from some burglars. Ruth’s simple, heartfelt plea is one for our times: “For people to stop being assholes.” Amen, honey.

Linked titles take you to my review, or more info on the film.

MOVIES ON THE BIG SCREEN
Coco
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Post
Annihilation
Black Panther
Darkest Hour
A Wrinkle In Time
Isle Of Dogs
A Quiet Place
Finding Your Feet
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Upgrade
Incredibles 2
American Animals
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Bohemian Rhapsody
Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse
Roma
First Man

MOVIES ON THE SMALL SCREEN
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping*
Double Indemnity
Dr. Strange
Hunt For The Wilderpeople
The BFG
My Happy Family
Beauty And The Beast (2017)
All That Heaven Allows
Mute
The Secret Life Of Pets
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Table 19
For The Love of Spock
Mad
Don’t Breathe
The Florida Project
The Informant!
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
Battle Of The Sexes
Dredd
Blockers
The Endless
Take Me
E Il Cibo Va
Henry Fool
The Land Of Steady Habits
Game Night
Private Life
The Trip To Italy
Book Club
Sorry To Bother You

TELEVISION
The Crown
Rick and Morty
Travelers
Modern Family
The Good Place
Supergirl
Better Things
Mom
The Orville
Big Little Lies
Abstract: The Art of Design
The Great British Baking Show
Killing Eve
The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes
F*ck That’s Delicious
Black Mirror: U.S.S. Callister

BOOKS and OTHER READING
Spill Zone – Scott Westerfeld
The Best American Short Stories 2009 – ed. Alice Sebold
Orfeo – Richard Powers
Creatures of Habit: Stories – Jill McCorkle

*Surprise, Motherfucker!

Time is an inky circle

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This post contains spoilers for ARRIVAL.

ARRIVAL is one of those rare birds, a sci-fi movie for grownups. It’s aesthetically and conceptually elegant and at the same time very moving, and if you haven’t already, you should see it before you learn too much. Not that there is a huge and sudden reveal: there is no SIXTH SENSE moment. At least, there wasn’t for me: it was more a gradual, growing awareness of the story’s main premise and all its implications.

The protagonist of ARRIVAL is linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), recruited to communicate with alien visitors who have appeared in our skies. As the story begins, language is seen by all the characters in the film as a means to an end. Slowly and simultaneously, you and the characters on screen come to realize language itself is the point.

Central to the film is the notion that language shapes perception. As Louise learns to parse the aliens’ looping pictographs she also acquires their ability to perceive time in a non-linear way. Exploring this concept, ARRIVAL does that amazing thing science fiction can sometimes do: it re-situates you, offering a unique vantage point from which to consider the conscribed parameters of your human experience. After seeing it, your own inability to perceive events before they happen may feel to you a sorry limitation, like a kind of blindness.

Screenwriter Eric Heisserer employs non-linear story structure to represent Louise’s expanding perception. As directed by Denis Villeneuve, it’s a fairly daring tactic that tosses the audience without warning or cues into key scenes in Louise’s future. A sequence in which Louise and a high-ranking Chinese general collaborate to avert global catastrophe is breathtaking, cross-cutting between Louise’s present and future while defying notions of cause and effect.

But the film is not just a think piece: in ARRIVAL, the intellectual and the emotional are unified, inseparable. For Louise’s newly expanded perceptions also allow her to foresee a great personal tragedy. Ultimately she embraces the choices that will lead to that tragedy, fully aware of the terrible cost. I found myself turning her decision over and over in my mind for days afterward. That says everything about the strength of the film.


I’m John Harden. I also write and direct. I’m on Twitter as @giantspecks, sometimes Yelling About Movies with my friends. Come say hi. Or yell back! #YabtM

JOHN WICK – a review in 6 tweets

dog1. A hired-killer revenge flick. Keanu is called upon to grimace & bleed & murder a fuck-ton of people in entertaining ways. He delivers.

2. Action plays out in sleazy/swanky private clubs & posh hotels, apparently all catering exclusively to rich gangster-types. Silly.

3. SPOILER ALERT there is an adorable puppy! The puppy dies! YOUR GIRLFRIEND HATES THIS MOVIE AND YOU AND HOW COULD ANYONE EVER

4. You can feel the producers of John Wick back-patting themselves thinking they made a hip, stylish film. They are easily impressed.

5. Dated typography & wall-to-wall shitty techno actually makes JOHN WICK feel cheap & super-90s. IDK maybe that’s cool now

6. Anyhow, there IS fun to be had. But if you’re in the “JOHN WICK is an overlooked gem” camp, YOU’RE easily impressed.

7. *BONUS* JOHN WICK tweet: Marilyn Manson sucks.