THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
CRAZY RICH ASIANS
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN!
MARY POPPINS RETURNS
SET IT UP
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE
TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE
Once upon a time, Bradley Cooper ‘let himself go’ but in a Hollywood way so he was all scruffy and drunk but still the handsomest man to ever pick up a gosh darn gee-tar in Amurka. But man he was drunk. A much beloved country star, he played large arenas full of people who couldn’t wait to hear his surprisingly decent, vocal-coach-deepened voice. One night Bradley, or, to use another first-name-last-name, Jackson, was so drunk that he went to a drag bar, where a very talented girl named Lady Gaga sang a very uncomfortable rendition of “La Vie en Rose” while John Laurens/Philip Schuyler befriended Jackson because famous musicians love making random friends in bars. Gaga’s performance was very awkward because she lies down and crawls on the bar, which is forking disgusting, like SO GROSS do you know what is on that bar, ugh it’s probably so sticky, and none of those men wash their hands after the bathroom and then they eat the peanuts from the shared bowl, ugh I’m gonna gag, but she sounded great and Jackson is like, “whoa. Whoa girl, whoa. Not only are you so brave for laying on this Petri dish of a bar, but you can sang. Ima make you sing this song you just wrote in a PARKING LOT that’s somehow the BEST SONG EVER at my next show in front of thousands of people and you are going to be a big star.” A big star is going to be born, DO YOU GET IT, he said to her in his drunken stupor.
So Jackson has his driver (who he knows because the driver used to work for the CIA and be amaaaazing fighting Arvin Sloane with his friend Jenny Garner who was randomly friends with Jackson even though she ended up forcing him to join witness protection like SO SAD ugh and the driver fell in love but then his love died because her father was obsessed with ancient magical artists like it’s all such an interesting mess but anyway that’s how Jackson found his former-CIA driver like pretty good gig you got going now, catering to an alcoholic I mean dreams don’t last forever I guess) pick Gaga up at her house, where she lives with ANDREW DICE CLAY, and Dice says to the driver DO YOU WANT TO HEAR A NURSERY RHYME and the driver’s like I JUST WANNA PLAY FOOTBALL JERRY, so Gaga, or Allie, because that’s a special enough name for a lead character in a big movie, sure, goes to Jackson’s concert and BELTS HER FORKING FACE OFF about how much she likes swimming or something and if that song doesn’t win ALL the awards this year, I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do - I’m gonna bitch and moan like an impotent jerk about it.
I mean honestly it’s the forking best. Let’s listen to it a dozen times before we move on.
But after Tim Blake’s opening act, the rest of the five fail to live up to his example. None of the rest is really funny, maybe because everyone and everything else is pretty dreary, whereas TBN had that perfect chipper attitude that lifted the material. The second one starts out promisingly, with Stephen Root dodging James Franco’s (we’re letting him in movies again? cool cool cool less than one year is definitely a long enough time to learn your lesson cool guys) bullets by wearing a suit of cooking pans, but then that story goes nowhere. It’s not suuuper fun to watch people hang from trees trying to keep their horse from moving otherwise they’d go full hang, kinda stressful, kinda stressful. The third story takes the whole shebang into the truly depressing category as we watch Liam Neeson, who is currently Having A Bad Problem With Racism, as he travels from small town to small town with the mean cousin from Harry Potter, the chubby boy who tortures Harry at home but here he’s lost all his baby fat AND all his limbs. Liam shows him off in these cold mountain towns as a great orator, reciting famous works for small crowds who are like ‘wow who knew you could talk so good with no arms or legs, hey, where’s your legs?’ and they share the measly profits and Liam has to feed the boy and it’s all pretty depressing but then it gets MUCH WORSE when Liam gets tired of this act and chooses a potentially more profitable one and since this boy would just be a drain on his resources and he has no ties to him he just straight gets rid of him and you’re like fuuuuuuck why am I watching this? Just remembering this story can make your heart sink as much as that stone Liam used to test the river’s depth before he MURDERED a DISABLED BOY. And you’re like oh I guess they used all the humor up already!
The fourth story is a little happier because it’s Tom Waits, yes that Tom Waits, as a grizzled gold prospector who finds the MOST beautiful place in America, all pristine creeks and green hills and deer and just untouched mountain beauty, and then he destroys it trying to find gold, but you’re like eh you’re Tom Waits, we’ll give you a pass this once. But then after all his hard work some young upstart tries to steal what’s his and you’re like noo and upstart is like yesss and Waits is like I NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS and things go as you’d expect and the earth is destroyed worse now. It’s probably the second best vignette of the six.
The fifth story is forking depressing again because poor Zoe Kazan cannot catch a g-d break, not that you expected her to because she’s on the freaking OREGON TRAIL and you just know either her oxen will die or she’ll get dysentery so you just wait for the bad thing to happen but she’s so sweet that you don’t want anything bad to happen and the Curly to her trail party is cute and likes her even though she looks like a sister wife and you want things to go nicely but they won’t. I mean first of all her brother dies which I guess he had coming because her brother was Jefferson Mays and if you know him you know he dies a lot, especially in Broadway shows where he should have won the Tony, I’m sorry NPH but he should have, because he played 7 or 8 different amazing characters in one musical and they all died by the hand of the guy who took Steven Pasquale’s Tony nom spot like ugh are you serious Steven should have won the Tony maybe but he didn’t even get nominated?? but anyway Zoe’s brother is always amazing and yeah his character sucked in this but like I said, then he dies. And Zoe has to Oregon Trail by herself but with a dog and NOBODY on this trip treats this dog with the dignity and respect he deserves and no one seems to even squee over it? so maybe they all deserved to die.
The last vignette had forking Tyne Daly and Brendan Gleeson and it was still utter tosh. Were they dead the whole time? do you only get to the afterlife after a long bumpy carriage ride with gross people? does anyone care? no.
BlacKkKlansman, in addition to torturing copy editors (not that we have those anymore), exists on the assumption that white supremacists and the KKK are bad, which is a novel approach to life today, and what’s more it says that not all cops are also white supremacists, which like, wow, wow guys. It was refreshing to live for a few hours in a cinematic world that agreed with this assumption and didn’t try to argue that there were good people on both sides. Racists are bad, especially the racists who want to kill minorities. I know, what a treat.
This film brings us to 1970s Colorado, bell-bottoms and all, back when I guess some cops tried to do good things instead of bad things, and a new hire in the Colorado Springs Police Department is eager to help his town and his country be best. Ron Stallworth, the newest detective, decides to take on the KKK for his first big project, which ya know, balls and everything. Funny thing though, he’s black, which they would frown upon, so his interaction with the local KKK chapter is strictly telephone-based, with Ron doing his best white man voice, lots of sharp r’s and nasal vowels. Adam Driver’s Flip Zimmerman, Not a Real Name, pretends to be Ron in person, going to actual KKK meetings and having to act like he also hates blacks and Jews, when in truth he doesn’t (former) and is one (latter). What fun hijinks will this situation get our friendly neighborhood cops into? What about when David Duke himself decides to pay a visit to Colorado Springs to get away from his redneck dad and his too-tall ginger girlfriend? Will the KKK grand wizard be sorted into Slytherin? Will he realize that Adam Driver doesn’t sound like Ron Stallworth at all? Or will Duke be too distracted thinking about how the ginger girlfriend became a criminal les bean and then the next girlfriend (the princess one) turned out to be a phone sex operator? More like girlfiends, am I right Dave?
I was nervous the entire time watching this movie that things were going to go terribly wrong for our heroes, as you’d expect. I was way more nervous than John David Washington’s Ron appeared to be, probably because he was like ‘my daddy’s Denzel everything’s gonna be cool.’ So he was fine but I was tense, waiting for the Nazi punks to beat up Flip because they see the Jew nose; waiting for the friendly neighborhood klansmen to kill Ron’s girlfriend because she dared, she dared, speak/be in public; waiting for Ron’s coworkers to shoot him because they are cops and he is black. But huzzah, none of that happened and instead of all the bad things I feared, the horrible white man’s car blows up and you’re like YES WHAT OH MAN! and the white lady goes to jail?? I didn’t see that coming and I must say I really enjoyed it. You know if she lived to see today she would have been all over Twitter for calling the cops on a black person shopping at the grocery store for ‘looking suspicious’ but instead of trending as #SupermarketSusie or whatever, she jailed! High five! Spike Lee held that tension so masterfully that you never felt safe enough to relax, and just when you think you can – at the end – he does the gut punch with real news footage of that asshole toilet baby president and the hero Heather Heyer and you realize, oh yeah I can’t relax, ever, until the USA stops with the fascism. But yay good movies! A lot of people think that using real footage of today as the epilogue was too heavy handed and those people are probably the ones who needed to see it. Also I didn’t know this was a true story because I went to public school in America and the only black person the government lets you learn about is Rosa Parks because all she did was speak up to a bus driver who probably didn’t get paid a lot and the U.S. gov hates poor people anyway.
Fast forward a few thousand years to the ‘90s and we are in Oakland whaaaat is Daveed around? and the latest Black Panther/King of Wakanda visits his brother and another dude and the brother’s kid is watching and the latest BP is like ‘bro, you stealing from us?’ and the brother is like ‘nah man’ and King is like ‘yeah yar bro’ and the friend is like ‘yeah he is king’ and the little boy is watching and you’re like, this is going to come back. But then we finally get to present day and we see Wakanda and it is AWESOME. It’s all shiny and space-age and it looks sooo clean. It’s what estate agents would describe as high-spec. The king from the ‘90s has died so it’s time for his son, T’Challa (a fantastic name to which the only suitable response is ‘holla’ said like Robin de Jesus in ‘In the Heights’), to become king and the next Black Panther because being a superhero is inherited just as bullshit monarchic titles are. So everyone is all excited for the coronation and they get his girlfriend Lupita Nyong’o, who is like a pretty badass spy and seems pretty superheroey in her own right and maybe deserves her own movie about all her badassery, out of a dangerous-looking mission and they tell his little sister who was in the biggest movies of 2018 to get her science all geared up and then his mom comes out and she’s freaking ANGELA BASSETT and everyone’s prettay, prettay excited but ya know still mourning. Oh and Forest Whitaker is the Overseer of the Weird Magic Plant, which I think is simply called the heart-shaped herb, like they don’t have a real name for it, and Forest does an excellent job taking care of the plant and is so good and loyal that he doesn’t even try it for himself to maybe fix that eye or something, he is so trustworthy but honestly let the man try it, he seems so nice.
The whole coronation ceremony of the king is on cliffs by the water and it looks so beautiful and it’s all going nicely until you realize THE DUMBEST part of this entire story – that literally anyone can challenge the ruler to the throne BY FIGHTING TO THE DEATH. There’s NO way a society that advanced and with trains that defy gravity would still be deciding who freaking rules the kingdom by a contest of might. I mean inheriting titles is dumb enough nonsense but adding to that a strength contest?? THERE IS NO WAY, nooooo wayyyyy the most advanced scientific society would let their entire future and well-being and everything be put in the hands of whoever is the strongest and most blood-thirsty. Man alive. Or not-alive, as it were.
If you get past that, it’s a very fun and awesome movie even though you see Michael B. Jordan come onscreen and you’re sooo excited and you’re all HEY MIKEY B and you’re pumped to see your best good friend but then he’s BAD! And you’re like MIKEY NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING! WHY YOU BAD? But he keeps being bad! Even though you yell at the screen and cry because you love him so and you can’t understand why he’s being so bad! Then you find out his name is Killmonger and you’re like, oh, oh okay maybe we’re on a break, and maybe it’s good they didn’t try to name that magic herb too. And the trains, my god the trains, they move so fast with none of that dragon noise that the London tubes create. Elon Musk saw this movie and was like ‘I can do that’ and so he tried to do it but only for Tesla owners who really like dangerously small tunnels and moving super slowly and it sucks that the b.s. he created is the closest thing we have to Wakandan technology.
Blindspotting is the brainchild of Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, who co-wrote and star. Daveed plays Colin, a man who served time in prison and is nearing the end of his year-long probation. You feel with every second in this movie the tension that he must have been drowning in – the expectation that something bad was going to happen to destroy his chance of freedom. He begins the story with just 3 days to get through without incident, 3 days till probation is lifted, but as a black man in Oakland, he is asking for police to fork him over just by existing. It doesn’t help that his best friend, Casal’s Miles, is the most volatile, violent man you’ve ever seen, and that just hanging around Miles is sure to bring unwanted drama Colin’s way. And it doesn’t help that Miles is white, so he’ll probably get away with whatever might go down while parties and police will blame Colin, a black man.
Colin seems like a really nice, even-tempered, thoughtful man, so early on you angrily assume he was probably unjustly sent to prison and you get more frustrated at the criminal justice system’s inherent racism. But brilliantly, the movie doesn’t deal in easy extremes for too long. They could have left it with Colin being some amazing guy who was treated wrongly, as some paradigm of good behavior who got dealt an unfair hand, but that would have made it too easy for audiences, especially white audiences, to feel that he deserves better because he’s ‘one of the good ones.’ The real challenge, and the real genius move of the movie, is to ask us to still feel that he deserves better even if he did bad shit. No one is perfect, and as we’ve seen with every bit of news coverage of every black man killed by police, any mistake the victim has ever made will be used to try to justify his murder. This film forces us to confront that racist bias and to still find the system and the fear Colin faces wrong and unfair even after we see that he deserved to go to prison, that he isn’t some perfect nice guy who never did anything wrong. He did do something wrong, he did deserve punishment, but that punishment shouldn’t include being fearful of his life every second that he’s out in the world just because of his skin color. What seems like a semi-straightforward look at racism turns into a complicated and sober portrayal of the lack of freedom that we’ve all helped sow in our society and the inherent bias in our analysis of it.
Although I was literally shaking the whole time, waiting for the other shoe to drop, it’s not all nerve-wracking tension. Well it is, but there are funny moments, like when the wonderful Tisha Campbell-Martin yells at Miles to get out of her salon and it turns into a hilarious mini-rant about suspense films. I hope I one day have the opportunity to scream about some ‘M SHAMAL NIGHT NONSENSE.’ There are tiny moments of respite, like seeing Miles’s family (Jasmine Cephas Jones and their adorable son). And more than that, there are brilliant moments that will tear you apart, like one particular moment with Miles’s family that will have you breathless and shaking with fear. And, above all, there are moments of genius like Daveed’s rap as he breaks down in the final scene. I know I raved on and on about ‘Shallow’ in the first review, and I sing that song nonstop in real life, but honestly, the best ‘song’of the year is this spoken word devastation of modern society that Daveed unleashes from the very core of his soul. This movie is on Obama’s list of his faves of the year, so be like Obama and see this and tell everyone you know about how amazing it is. THIS REVIEW ISN’T FUNNY BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.
Okay I’m done talking about teeth.
So Rami Malek, taking a break from hacking everything (p.s. I’m at least a season behind on Mr. Robot so no spoilsies (actually am I going to catch up? I might be over it)), is like I’m gonna be a superstar, so he joins this regular-seeming college band and is like ‘you need me I’m an amazing singer’ and he auditions for them in a parking lot (what’s with all the musical movies this year having critical moments in parking lots? should we forget everything we learned as children and start hanging out in them?) and they’re like, shit, yeah, you are, and we’re like omg he really was. He being, of course, Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen and best Live-Aid performer ever and all around superstar and master belter. But once he was just a lil boy named Farrokh with big bad teeth (okay now I’m done) living in England, trying to get his fam bam to support his dreams of being a rock star (I mean hard sell) but apparently without actually singing for them to prove to them a la Rita Louise Watson and Sheryl Lee Ralph that he could make it, so all he hears from his parents instead is SINGING DOES NOT PAY THE BILLS. SINGING DOES NOT PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE. But he joins that college band with Brian May (Friend to Animals and Haver of Big Hair) and John Deacon (sweet-looking squish nose face) and Roger Taylor (bad kid from Mighty Ducks 2) and they make amazing music pretty quickly and seem to be on the easy road to success. Yay for them!! Is that how easy it is to be a rock star? Why didn’t I do it?
But then the worst part of the movie happens: The head of EMI records is played by Mike Myers, and the movie immediately becomes tasteless kitsch. They could have made a movie about Queen and Freddie and called it Bohemian Rhapsody and NOT blatantly mentioned the head-banging scene in Wayne’s World. We all would have been fine. We all would still know and love that scene in Wayne’s World. But instead, they decided to crack through the confines of this film’s universe and try to have a laugh with the audience instead of retaining any semblance of professionalism or gravitas. Was it worth it? Was it worth it to laugh with us? YOU COULDN’T EVEN SEE US. And maybe it would have been fine if it was just that Mike Myers had a small role, and people who thought about it could have been like ‘ohhh that’s kind of clever, because of Wayne’s world,’ but instead of leaving it as something for us to figure out and either ignore or think is cute, they literally have his character say that this is not a song that kids in cars will bang their heads to. Are you KIDDING ME WITH THIS NONSENSE? WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS FUNNY? I CANNOT WITH THIS.
If you can get past this utterly cringeworthy casting and scene, then it’s an okay movie because of Rami Malek’s performance. Rami is very moving as Freddie through all his struggles as a gay man with AIDS who couldn’t forking trust ANYONE around him because they were all HORRIBLE people especially that asshole chauffeur from Downton Abbey like GO BACK TO IRELAND YOU JACKWAGON and stop using poor Freddie! Rami spends a lot of his time telling people to stop calling him a Paki boy before he figures out who the important people to keep in his life are, which naturally include his bandmates and his girlfriend-turned-best friend-turned-inheritor-of-his-property Mary Austin played by the person who is now his real girlfriend so that’s weird/cute/mostly weird after seeing this movie. But as much as I love Brian May for being an aforementioned Friend to Animals, he kept this movie from being as good as it could have been because he had editorial control. You cannot make a true, critical film about a real story when the characters in the story have forking editorial control. Just ask The Cher Show. So this movie is kind of like the nice version of everything and it makes the bandmates look hella great, obviously, because THEY HAD CONTROL, and then you realize that Bryan Singer, Pedo and Abuser, is making endless millions from its success and you’re like just gahhhhhhhh. Yes it ended up being a fine movie and it will make you want to watch Queen’s Live Aid performance the way The Disaster Artist made you want to watch The Room (well in a very different way) but it stinks that the success of this means that we will never get a better, truer, realer Freddie Mercury biopic.
What she isn’t right about is breaking the law, even though hers is a crime with no real victim. I mean I’m not saying I would ever forge documents or commit any sort of crime; I even think more things should be crimes, like smoking a cigarette anywhere near me. But when Lee decides to use her writing talent and wit to channel other, more famous, more deceased writers and sell their ‘original signed personal letters’ to rare book shops and collectors, it seems like the perfect crime. She’s making enough money to pay the rent on her shitty apartment, which is in NYC on 82nd Street but because this was 1991 it probably cost $200 or something infuriating. She can finally pay for medicine for her poor sick cat. (Animal lovers be warned: The cat dies. It is sad. Every movie should come with a warning about the pets.) She nails each individual writer’s voice and creates correspondence between friends that reveals a fun, intriguing bit of their personalities, like having Fanny Brice joke that she owes her newest grandson more inheritance so he can fix the nose she gave him. She’s adding creativity and joy into the world! These letters bring joy to the shop buyers! And then they bring joy to the collectors who buy them from the bookshop buyers and then they bring joy to the rich people who buy from the collectors who buy from the shops I mean Marie Kondo would be giddy about all this joy. And honestly, if it was never exposed that they were fakes, what’s the harm? It’s like, someone once told me that museums take famous paintings off of display for cleaning or security or whatever reason and replace them with a copy. I don’t know if this is true but if it was, who’s getting hurt? What if they did this with the Mona Lisa and there was a chance I never actually saw the Mona Lisa (although this would be quite extraordinary considering how many times I’ve been dragged to that damn Louvre (someone stole my sunglasses there and I am still upset)). But honestly, what’s the problem if I never know?
With Lee’s newfound creative outlet, she opens herself up enough to having a new friend, her first in a pretty long time from the looks of it. Richard E. Grant plays Jack, occasional coke dealer, probable vagrant, forever life of the party, who Lee once met at a stuffy book party when he got so drunk that he peed in the coat closet instead of the toilet, all over all these people’s fur coats. I am with them in deeming this a triumph; furs are disgusting. The friendship they forge while both struggling to sort out their shit is lovely, since they both clearly needed a friend to count on, but worrisome, since bonding amid criminal activity cannot end well. Grant is such a presence in this film, and with such star power, that it is mind-boggling that he’s not a bigger star, and that I know him best from Spiceworld. That’s on the movie industry, not me. I hope that after this he is in everything.
Anyway so I guess I was wrong about forging old letters being nbd because people cared that they paid lots of money for things that turned out to be fake so they do what white people tend to do and call the cops to complain about their little problems, and the FBI gets involved, which sucks for Lee but is great for people committing worse crimes, diverting the attention of the federales and all. I found the ending a little twee, when Lee realizes that she needs to improve her life by writing in her own voice, which leads her to write THIS STORY WE’RE WATCHING. That overly tidy wrap-up of the final 5 minutes felt too easy compared with the rest of the supremely efficient and compelling film. It’s kind of what I fear Jane the Virgin will end on, like OH DIP she was writing this! the story we’re watching! Feels like a cop-out. At least here it’s true.
But aside from my quibble with the portrayal of actual facts, this film is very fun to watch and it feels like a universal sort of story despite being about such a specific time in one person’s life. Nicole Holefcener’s screenplay moves along with ease and confidence, which is no surprise given that she’s one of the most consistent screenwriters of the old-school fashion and that she wrote this along with Jeff Whitty, Tony winner for Avenue Q. More than being about one sad, pathetic woman’s quest to make a quick buck, Lee’s story is really about two major, entirely discrete issues: 1. Her crippling loneliness, that she plays off as anger and hate towards everyone else, including eventually Jack, her only friend. 2. The difficulties of being a writer, which McCarthy portrays so convincingly. There’s a reason she commits this particular crime instead of finding literally any other way to make money. It’s a way for her to write without a chance of inviting personal critique, to hide behind other voices while still getting to create. And every time someone bought one of her works, it was validating her writing skills in a way that invited absolutely zero criticism. That’s a forking difficult kind of praise to voluntarily end when it doesn’t seem like anyone is getting hurt, and McCarthy made that clear without having to say a word about it. For a film about forgery, it’s impressively accurate.
So Crazy Rich Asians, probably one of my top 3 most rewatchable movies of the year (I’ve already watched Set It Up four times), is about this adorable Chinese-American gal named Constance Wu who is just the best and the cutest and apparently also the smartest because she is an economics professor even though she looks 20 yet is older than me because even though this is suuuper racist (I’m gonna share it anyway because it’s my favorite) it’s still fact.
Okay so Constance – I forget what her name was and have to google, hold please – Rachel! Of course! Rachel is dating this dreamy dreamboat named Nick and they are all in love and stuff but he is hiding the fact that he’s supes famous and supes rich but like so rich that they need a new word for it because rich is not enough to describe the money he is able to throw around. His fam bam is like Bezos level, okay, and he was HIDING it from her. Which like cute for a romcom and for movie drama but not cute in real life, NOT CUTE. If someone I thought I knew and loved sprung that lil tidbit on me I would flip the fork out and be like HOW DARE YOU NOT TELL ME ABOUT SUCH A HUGE PART OF YOUR LIFE AND YOUR FAMILY AND HOW DARE YOU GUYS AMASS THAT MUCH WEALTH AND NOT USE SO MUCH MORE OF IT TO DO GOOD THINGS DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO CAN’T AFFORD FOOD RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER FROM YOUR TOWNHOUSE IN NYC YOU COULD USE JUST A FRACTION OF YOUR FORTUNE TO SAVE THE GODDAMN WORLD OR AT LEAST ONE HOMELESS PERSON HOW VERY VERY DARE YOU ALSO BUY ME THE POWDER BLUE GOWN RACHEL WEARS TO THE WEDDING GODDAMMIT BECAUSE IT IS BEAUTIFUL! I’d say that. But since it’s a romcom Rachel finds out when she is in the aforementioned first class bed that probably had incredible pillows that you like just sink into, le sigh, so she couldn’t be mad. First of all she was too comfortable to be mad, and secondly where was she gonna go, Economy Plus? Girl she has tasted the good life and she ain’t never going back.
I went to Singapore a year ago and had the best time even though I couldn’t bring my spearmint Orbit with me, but I’ve never seen anything like the excess of luxury and wealth and overall gross/amazing overindulgence on display here. It’s fun to watch, yet a real argument for higher taxes for these jabronies. 70% is too low. Every bit of the movie was perfectly created. Amazing new faces to make into huge superstars? Check. Small role for Ken Jeong because he is best in small doses? Check. Casting amazing newcomer Awkwafina in the funniest role? Check. Michelle Yeoh? Crouching tiger hidden check. Amazing clothes? Check. Bachelor and bachelorette parties that are literally my nightmare with all the helicoptering to unknown locations and all the damn bitches being bitches and would have had me calling the cops even though ACAB? Check. I love this forking movie. And I am hoping so g-d hard that the sequels have Rachel being like ‘WAIT, Nick, hold your darn perfect face there just for a second – if you have enough money to waste on an entire synchronized swimming team to perform at our engagement party in a pool hotel without even a hesitation about how wasteful it is, maybe we should use all that cash for better purposes, like literally anything would be better, name something and I guarantee it’s less wasteful than that. Also send that blue gown to the person writing this.’
The only other thing about this movie that really bothers me, and I mean really bothers me so much that I FEEL RAGE AND FLAMES, FLAAAMES, ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE, is really a problem I have with the Screen Actors Guild and not so much this movie per se. As you know, the SAG Awards give their big award not to Best Picture but to the Best Ensemble of a movie, so all the main characters get nominated and get to win awards if their movie is the favorite that year. It’s a fun system but they keep the number of cast members relatively low to avoid the nonsense that would be the Best Ensemble Tony Award that people keep floating around but that is another story. Anyway, the list of nominated cast members for this year’s SAGs did NOT include: Rachel’s mother, who had one of the most important and emotional roles; the silly boy cousin who was HILARIOUS and in it a surprising amount; or the friends whose wedding it was – YET, it included Harry Shum, Jr. Like from Glee. Oh, are you saying ‘wait, I don’t remember seeing Harry Shum in this movie…?’ YEAH ME NEITHER. It’s because he WASN’T. He was in a scene after the credits but I had to pee and ALSO this WASN’T A GODDAMN SUPERHERO MOVIE SO WHO KNEW YOU HAD TO STAY FOR THE CREDITS CAN WE STOP INCLUDING PARTS OF MOVIES AFTER THE MOVIE HAS ENDED FUCKING HELL, anyway, Harry was in that 10 second scene in the credits and he DIDN’T SAY A WORD, just looked at Gemma Chan because she is the most beautiful person ever (I get that his role is crucial in the book sequels and obviously they were hinting at how he’ll be a major player in the sequels but that doesn’t affect this one!!!!) and HE GOT A SAG NOMINATION FOR IT. Yes I am actually screaming, it is so unfair to cousin Oliver and Rachel’s mom and the doctor who fucked up Jonah Hill and Emma Stone. See, SAG only lets actors be nominated if their name is listed alone in the opening credits. You know how sometimes you see lesser known names onscreen and they show them two at a time instead of like the bigger names that are shown alone? Well those names that get doubled up don’t get to be nominated because SAG has some forking stupid nonsense rules, and since Harry’s name was shown alone, he got in over people who were actually in the movie. THROW IT ALL OUT AND START OVER, HUMANS.
The Favourite tells of the court of Queen Anne, who ruled Great Britain after her sister Mary and Mary’s husband William of Orange (William & Mary you know those guys) reigned. William & Mary came to the throne due to the Glorious Revolution which is when English Parliamentarians and general non-Catholics were like overthrow the kiiiing plz, the king being James II, Mary’s (and Anne’s) father, which must have been suuuuuuper awkward at Thanksgiving. The overthrow came about because Jimmy Dos was Catholic and England was like ‘nooo me wants everyone to be prottttestant again I hates when people aren’t protttttestant’ so William & Mary were like make me a college and get us on that throne! and they fought her dad and Anne was just like ‘ok, let’s play cards’ and everything I guess worked out but man alive, what a forked up family. None of this is in the movie; I just recently took the Life in the UK test and spent so much time studying and like what good does it all do me now unless I share the knowledge at random moments.
So the movie is about Queen Anne’s turn on the throne and she was a lil bit peanut butter, but she had been through quite a lot in her sad life so it’s understood. Her long-time bestie, Sarah Churchill, has become the Duchess of Marlborough, and her Favourite, because she’s played by Rachel Weisz and ain’t nobody doesn’t love Rachel Weisz. She and Anne (Colman) seem to rully love each other and they have secret sexytimes (le gasp!) and play games where they pretend to be an old married couple. But then little upstart Abigail comes to the castle to work and she weasels her way into the Queen’s purview and quickly becomes Anne’s New Favourite because Abigail is played by Emma Stone and ain’t nobody doesn’t love Emma Stone. Abigail finds out about the sexytimes between Duchess and Queenie and sings ‘anything youuu can do I can do betterrrr’ and goes in for that bizness and starts to supplant Sarah as the Favourite see it’s all about who is the Queen’s Favourite in this and so there’s all this intrigue and backstabbing and I really thought someone would get actually stabbed but Yorgos was restrained this time around.
Fun fact, Sarah Churchill/Duchess of Marlborough and little upstart Abigail (not to be confused with little orphan Annie) were real people in the Queen’s life! didn’t know! That wasn’t covered on the test so I thought this was all fiction. But Anne really did have a supes close friendship with Sarah Churchill which really did turn sour due to political schemes and they really did continue their fight through letter-writing and stupid men in politics really did make jokes about Abigail and Anne being les beans. Great stuff!
The movie version of this story is quite entertaining, with wonderful performances from all three main ladies and their side men (side pieces), including Nicholas Hoult who I cannot believe is no longer 8. It is absolutely incredible to have a big movie centered around three great female roles, like that isn’t something that happens in movies considered ‘worthy’ so this is hella awesome. Olivia Colman rightly won the Golden Globe for Actress in a Comedy in this, and she is The Favourite (see what I did there) of some prognosticators for the Oscars after also winning at the BAFTAs. As for the film, it’s super weird but fun but good but weird but interesting but weird but fun. The first half is incredibly funny, mostly from nervous laughs but that still counts, with its dark comedy and ridiculous moments. The second half gets more dark and less comedy, which works well for the story but less for my enjoyment. Most of all, it’ll make you wonder why anyone would ever want to be royalty or even close to it, when there’s so much shit going down. Just get out of there, man alive. God and they all smell sooo bad. My favorite thing about this movie actually is that Bryan Safi, host of the Throwing Shade podcast, recommended it to his conservative aunt before he saw it because he assumed it was just a period piece with great actresses and then she saw it and it was full of lesbian sex and I am still laughing with him.
When down south, they will take their lead from the famous guide for how black people can survive down there, The Negro Motorist Green Book. I guess we are to assume that Doc’s record company used this book to plan all their lodging, because Viggo only opened the book maybe once, when they needed to stop somewhere unplanned. It’s still the right title for this film but you’d think they’d show it being used like at all. Going into the Deep South, full of active racism like beatings rather than the softer racism like how Tony threw out glasses that black workmen in his home drank from, means Tony and Doc are going to run into problems, most of which look like dirty white men with bad teeth who have had too much to drink. You know, the racism we know and accept as racism. And obviously our Tony, who starts the movie as a soft racist, is going to learn from Doc and they’re going to become best friends and racism WILL! BE! SOLVED!
In a fun reversal of roles that your Average Whites would expect, Tony is the one who is rough around the edges and needs to work on his elocution, while Doc Shirley is the highly educated and articulate of the pair. And the black man is gonna help the white man act more refined around polite society and the white man will teach the black man to relax and smile more, you look so pretty when you smile. I wonder if the real Doc and Tony had a long conversation where Doc said he actually never ate fried chicken before and Tony forced him to eat KFC! That’s really a scene that happened! Or if Tony, Former Racist, surprised everyone by being totally cool with Doc getting arrested for homosexual activities because he’s “worked in the clubs in New York and seen tings.” Or if Doc made Tony return a rock he stole from a roadside stand because Doc was of such upstanding moral character than even stealing a rock was unacceptable. Obviously this is all super over the top but like I said, Made For White People, so as a white person, I enjoyed the hell out of this while plainly seeing that liberties were taken.
While Mahershala Ali was great at pretending he was literally the best pianist I’ve ever seen or heard, I mean wow, the best part of Green Book is Viggo Mortensen’s Italian accent. I haven’t stopped laughing OR wanting all the food he ate, even the dishes that were ‘sawlty.’ I learned more Italian slang than I did living in Italy. I never knew mulignan (“mol-en-yan”), a racist slur, was derived from melanzane, the word for eggplant! I never even knew it was a racist slur! THAT’S RACIST. Every word out of Viggo’s mouth was another point in his Oscar Nom column and if I closed my eyes I would have sworn I was listening to my relatives talk about the bruhshoot. I mean yes I loved this movie because it was made for me, a white person who wants to feel good about herself and be reassured that she’s not racist, but also coming from an Italian-American family? a SOUTH PHILLY one? I had no chance. And even though it is so clearly a feel-good racism tale instead of an honest one, who’s to say it still isn’t worthwhile? It’s nice to have a feel-good story every once in a while! It’s nice to see a white man who was lightly racist become less so! It’s nice to be told that NOT all cops are bad! Escapism! And more than anything, it’s nice to see an Oscar nominee for Best Picture treat Italian cuisine with the respect it deserves. There’s more food shown in this movie, man alive, it made me so hungry that you know what I did literally immediately after I saw this?? I made baked ziti. And next on my to-do list is to fold up an entire pizza and eat it like a taco like Tony did. We all have so much to learn from him. Not about racism, no, not the real life version. But about food! You don’t agree with me?! VAFANAAAAB!
Since Beale Street was on Obama’s list of his favorite films this year, I had super high hopes for it. When the Oscar nominations came out I was like NO BEALE STREET FOR BEST PICTURE??? all over social media because I assumed that was a serious snub. I hadn’t even seen the damn thing yet, that’s how much I trust Obama. Now that I’ve seen it, I don’t really think it’s a snub. Beale Street is a nice, meditative movie that will upset you and frustrate you about the structural depths of racism in America, but it feels a little too Message and not enough Story. It’s not that the Message isn’t important – it’s vital – but this specific portrayal of it, of how entrenched racism is in the structures that make all the rules, isn’t given enough of a chance for connection.
Beale Street tells the story of two young black lovers in Harlem in the 1970s, Alonzo (Stephan James, new fave) and Tish (KiKi Layne, the tiniest bit lo po), and what happens to them and their families when Alonzo (or Fonny as they call him, which would make sense if his name was Alfonso as I initially assumed but it’s not) is falsely accused of a heinous crime. Tish finds out she’s pregnant after Fonny has already been arrested, and the urgency of the need to clear his name is palpable. But because of the broken system and the general ACABness of the country, there’s nothing anyone, not even their decent white male lawyer, can do about it. Honestly the corrupt shenanigans of the D.A. here made me angry with Kamala, and that’s not something I expected to come out of this film. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch this super nice man who makes Julia Roberts laugh go through this horrendous experience that becomes his new life. And that’s kind of all it is. The film starts off wonderfully: the early scene when both families come together is, like gum, perfection, especially because of Regina King and Colman Domingo (surprise treat!!) as Tish’s parents. The scene set a tone for what I thought was the coming mix of excitement and discord and satisfying conflict; I thought if the rest of this movie keeps up this well managed energy, I’m gonna keep ranting about its Best Picture snub. But after that dynamic, explosive scene, the rest of the movie was as static as possible. It became overly meditative and too quiet, and while yes, this showcased the beautiful cinematography and the brilliant score, it also got a lil boring. I wanted more of the dynamic families interacting. It’s amazing to give films room to breathe, but when you have such a depressing subject matter, the silence and lack of forward movement became a little too depressing. I also was bothered that the crime they chose that Fonny would be falsely accused of was rape. They made a point to state that no one thought the woman was lying about being raped, just that she got the wrong man, but with sooo much talk in the world about women lying about it or being mistaken about the details and sooo few who actually do or are, I was like Could We Maybe Not.
I expected to love Regina King’s performance, and I did, though there was too little of her. I mostly enjoyed the whole cast though, which had a Blindspotting-like level of treaty surprise with all the nice-to-see faces in tiny roles – Diego Luna with that cute little Nadal-like face as a waiter-friend of Fonny’s, Brian Tyree Henry (why is he always so good?) as a similarly falsely accused friend of Fonny’s, the aforementioned Domingo (erma), Dave Franco as a nice Jew (I saw the closeup on that yarmulke and started writing my angry letter about anti-Semitism to the filmmakers but then he was nice phew), Finn Wittrock as the lawyer. What a cast! What a semi let-down. Barry Jenkins has made another worthy, lovely looking, contemplative movie, but this one failed to fulfill its main story’s potential to become something more compelling and to leave you more moved than simply frustrated.
Juliet, Naked is about Rose Byrne but a version that is living a boring life in an English seaside town with her awful long-term boyfriend played by an unlikable-for-the-first-time-but-he’s-supposed-to-be Chris O’Dowd instead of my main man mmmmmBobby Cannavale. Chris O’Dowd’s character is obsessed, like obbbbsessssseduh, like say it how Tiya Sircar says it on ‘The Good Place’ okay, with this old rock star named Tucker Crowe, so much that he runs the main fan site devoted to him and has pictures and memorabilia all over his and Rose’s house. Rose can do so much better but she has gotten used to her little humdrum life, I guess, and puts up with this jackwagon and just works at a tiny seaside town museum with her sister. Then Chris uncovers an earlier version of Tucker’s most famous song, “Juliet”, but naked, get it, because it was like a raw demo? And Chris writes all over his website about how amazing it is and Rose is pretty annoyed with him so she comments anonymously that she didn’t think it was all that or a bag of chips. She gets an email from someone saying he agrees with her, and that it was nice to see someone on that site thinking clearly or whatever, and this random emailer says that he is Tucker Crowe, and she’s like sure yar, sure, and he’s like I am, yam, and I guess he proves it somehow and so they email each other for a while and they like each other and it’s cute. Chris O’Dowd cheats on Rose with Denise Gough, who is an amazing actress and in it for literally 4 seconds, which is some bullshit on top of the bullshit of Chris cheating on Rose since Rose is so much better than Chris and she should have already left him, ugh. She kicks him out and continues her email correspondence with his favorite rock star.
After a while, Tucker says that he is coming to England because one of his estranged kids (rock star life) is having a baby there so they decide to meet and it really is Tucker (Ethan Hawke) except older (like Ethan Hawke) and as soon as they meet he has a heart attack. Luckily, like how it’s best to get hit by an ambulance if you’re gonna get hit by something, Tucker has his heart attack when he’s already in a hospital, going to see his daughter. So he survives, but then we meet all his ex-wives and estranged kids who all came in case he was dying and they wanted to berate him one last time. I’m sure this guy did some pretty terrible things but didn’t they hear, he’s nice now, like Nathaniel, so watching the evil stepsister from Ever After and the rude staffer from Hugh Grant’s 10 Downing Street and all the shitty kids just scream at Ethan, who is incapacitated, was pretty horrible. They all are going to the bad place. Anyway Rose, the only nice person in his life, offers to let him recuperate in her sleepy little town in her house, which is amazing poetic justice for Chris when he finds out. So they spend all this nice time together and they are both nice to each other and everything is just nice, okay? The changes from the book make the movie so much better. I like that it’s more apparent that they get together at the end, and Rose (Annie maybe?) is kind of sucky in the book. Changes approved! The absolute best part of this movie was when Chris was showing some young girl all his Tucker memorabilia and she says “He’s so gorgeous” and Chris responds “thank you”, like people do about their dogs or kids but it’s a million times funnier when it’s a stranger he has no connection to. Loves it! Anyway cute sweet whatever movie.
If you can believe it, it starts with one of the funniest openings ever, so the drop into maudlin rubbish is even more upsetting. It begins with SAMUEL L. JACKSON narrating, and he directs the camera “Push in on her for a second. I said PUSH IN ON HER MUFUCKA!” It’s hysterical. Then he says “Will was 35 when he gave up on his unreliable narrator screenplay” – and cuts to Oscar Isaac, usually only in great stuff, writing on his laptop in a café. Cute opening, I thought. He’s writing a screenplay, and we can’t trust him, okay, interesting. We see a few more iterations of Oscar’s (I’m just gonna go with real names because can’t be arsed) screenplay as he tries to tell his story. Between his writing, his memories, and his therapist appointments (Annette Bening as his therapist), we try to piece together what actually happened to him, but there are so many little tidbits flying around that contradict each other. Soon, we figure out that his girlfriend, Olivia Wilde, has left him, and she’s about to have his baby. Horrid woman! We see flashbacks to college and their entire adorable love origin story. He confronts her in a restaurant and asks why she is doing this to him. We see different versions of their last morning together, when they get into stupid fights or when they are being sweet and loving. We see Annette Bening get hit by a bus. We see Will beg Olivia not to leave him. After a good amount of this, we finally are told what really happened – Olivia, not Annette, got hit by a bus and DIED. She didn’t leave him by breaking up with him; she freaking died at 9 months pregnant. THAT IS AWFUL. He has been telling himself the break-up story and talking to empty chairs in restaurants in order to deal with something that is less awful. It’s terribly upsetting. This all comes out during therapy, and we see the real bus accident happen and it’s forking awful and there’s a little Spanish boy on the back of the bus staring at Olivia’s body. Annette reminds Oscar that he has to get through this because the baby survived, he has a daughter he hasn’t met who is now six months old, and then HE KILLS HIMSELF IN FRONT OF ANNETTE BENING. Like how dare you get blood on her she was probably so well pressed.
This was like 10 minutes in. Don’t set up the whole unreliable narrator device and then show the whole true story and then DROP the whole unreliable narrator thing after 10 minutes! That could have been the whole movie. But then we get three more completely different movies, until we see at the end that they are not completely different, they are all tied together, which like in theory is nice but ughhhhh it’s soooooo contrived and overemotional and blahh. Do you want to hear the other movies that were in this movie?
After Oscar Isaac kills himself, we see Mandy Patinkin, yaaaaas Mandy, who plays Oscar’s father, take custody of the baby. It’s a girl and her name is Dylan because Olivia loved Bob Dylan. Dylan’s life is one tragedy after another, because I guess, like art, life isn’t easy. Her grandmother dies, and then her dog dies, and so she’s left growing up just with her grandfather, who yes is amazing and sweet and the best singer in the world but that’s pretty rough for a little girl. She becomes super rebellious and rude and grungy AND goth AND punk and is angry at the world, which is understandable. On her 21st birthday, she is sitting on a park bench crying and a guy comes up to her and asks if she’s okay.
The NEXT movie takes place in Spain! It’s a completely different movie! This giant box of a man falls in love with this nice girl and they get married and have a son and the father works for Antonio Banderas, I know right, Antonio. He’s a good actor in Spanish. He is a super nice boss and offers the guy raises and wants to keep promoting him but the guy, Javier, SUUUCKS. I guess he is too proud to accept any help? But like that’s not pride, it’s literally your job and your boss wants to promote or pay you, I just don’t understand Javier at all. He’s jealous that his family likes Antonio, but why wouldn’t they like someone who is nice to them and gets the kid presents and stuff? Javier is still THE FATHER. Javier decides to take his wife and son to NYC for vacation and they are riding on a city bus and the little boy, Rodrigo, is talking to the bus driver and he’s like 5 years old and cute so the bus driver gets distracted and then THEY HIT OLIVIA WILDE, I SHIT YOU NOT, HE’S THE BOY ON THE BACK OF THE BUS STARING AT HER. uhhhh boyyyyy.
When they get back to Spain, Rodrigo obviously needs all kinds of therapy that Antonio Banderas helps them pay for because he’s a nice man, but Javier feels like that’s an affront to his masculinity or something because he is the most fragile male in all of Spain, and he thinks his wife is falling for Antonio (she’s not) and he’s jealous that he can’t help his son like Antonio can and instead of dealing with his absolute bullshit and loving his son, he deserts his family. God he SUCKS. Antonio takes care of the wife and the boy but for some reason the wife still loves Javier and spends the rest of her life longing for him, even though Antonio is nice to her and so much better.
Then the boy grows up and goes to college in New York. We see him do well in school and he has a girlfriend who SUCKS kind of like his dad did, like one day they are having brunch and she tells him she’s pregnant and he is SHOOK obviously as you would be in college when in a casual relationship and he says okay I’m here for you &c &c and he is planning their future and what to do and this truly awful girl goes ‘APRIL FOOLS’ and THEY DON’T DO THAT IN RURAL SPAIN, YOU HORRIBLE TWAT and ALSO PSA pranks like that are supposed to be more fun for the mark otherwise you are JUST AN ASSHOLE, so Rodrigo is just like, what, and so upset and they break up which is great and he’s just like going on with his life and then that night he sees a girl crying on a park bench and it is FORKING DYLAN and HE’S THE GUY WHO ASKS IF SHE’S OKAY on her birthday and he is ALSO THE KID WHO SAW HER MOTHER DIE WHILE SHE WAS IN HER WOMB. I mean. Come on.
Obviously they fall in love and live happily ever after and you cry violently the entire movie but you also SCREAM AT EVERYONE.
I don’t think there is any theatre lover who makes fun of Mamma Mia! as much as I do. And yes the exclamation point is part of the official title which yes makes me roll my eyes even though that’s sounds like something I would create. The show is mocked more than any other, and the first movie was similarly ridiculous, especially when they asked people who weren’t good singers to sing. Whenever I talk about jukebox musicals, I will always mention Mamma Mia! And how bad it is.
Mamma Mia! 2 is THE BEST MOVIE EVERRRRRRR.
I watched this amazing nonsense on a plane and it was the happiest flight I’ve ever had. This is a very surprising turn of events, because I expected it to follow its predecessors as something I am eager to revile. No such luck, not even given that it stars someone I thought I hated, Lily James, but it turns out I was probably just mad at her Natasha for not singing in the BBC War & Peace miniseries. She’s great in this! What the fork! You know who else is great in this? CHER! CHER IS IN THIS AND SHE’S WONDERFUL. You know who is NOT great in this? MERYL STREEP, BECAUSE THEY KILLED HER OFF. I can’t believe they killed Meryl and it’s still the BEST MOVIE EVER.
2 Mamma 4 UR Mia picks up on Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) after her mother Donna (Meryl) has died for no good reason and left Sophie and Pierce Brosnan (Father #1) to run the hotel and be all sad together, which is so sad because Pierce really loved her, le sigh. Pierce is a really weird name, does no one ever think of that? Did someone say that on the set of Community and that’s why Chevy Chase revealed his true asshole self? Shame. Anyway so Sophie is heading a huge renovation of the hotel and they’re all gearing up for the grand opening. Obviously, Meryl’s best friends, Christine Baranski and Julie Waters, will come for it, as will Father #2 (Colin Firth) and Father #3 (a Skaarsgard). Remember how the first movie is about how Sophie doesn’t know who her father is so they all just decide that all 3 potential sperms will be considered her fathers? I forking hate Mamma Mia.
Sophie is having relationship troubles with Dominic Cooper, who she was about to marry in the first installment, so like good thing you guys decided to wait considering you were all of TWENTY and stupid. He’s busy working and she’s busy working and they sing songs about being apart and they sing songs about nonsense because Mamma Mia is about shoehorning in whatever ABBA songs they can and we all accept it and they literally created an entire musical genre that does this and it’s 99% of the time horrendous and yet we still allow it to happen because it’s so goddamn fun like this movie. Sophie is buoyed up by Pierce and Julie and Christine, the latter vulgar and horny as ever, as well as Andy Garcia who is now working at a little Greek hotel since he’s gotta do something after losing $160 million from the Bellagio vault.
Interspersed amid all these scenes of getting the hotel ready in the present, we see DONNA’S ORIGIN STORY AND IT IS BRILLIANT. Lily James plays young Meryl Streep, which is fine in this movie but I don’t want people in the industry to get ahead of themselves just yet, like she’s fine and I guess I like her now but let’s hold off on the real-life anointment just yet. We see how Donna came to Greece and decided to stay and, most importantly, how and when she met each of the three men who would later all claim paternity to Sophie. Yes we see the origins of all this biz! And it’s wonderful! I enjoyed all the three young men and Lily’s Young Donna is marvelous. She does well with the random ABBA songs and makes them fun and my god, the juxtaposition of her finding her footing in Greece with Sophie’s renovation and making the hotel hers is DEVASTATING. Yes I was sobbing for most of the movie. On a plane.
But the best part, the best best best part, is that they named Andy Garcia’s character Fernando. And why did they do this? Literally JUST so Cher, who plays Donna’s mother/Sophie’s grandmother, can sing the ABBA song Fernando. And you know what? I’m not even mad, because it was AMAZING. CHER IS AMAZING. And Cher singing Fernando is so spectacular that I don’t even care that they created an entire unnecessary character in this story just so she could have someone to sing this song to. I would say I DARE any future jukebox musical to be as good as this one but that makes it seem like I am condoning the making of any more of them.
I may have been more excited for MP2 than any other movie this whole year. Mary Poppins Classic is one of my favorite things OF ALL TIME, so a sequel with Lin-Manuel Miranda and songs by Shaiman & Whitman was like the best news ever for me. But man alive, I am so disappointed and LE SAD. MP2 was pretty boring, so boring that the person I saw it with fell asleep and I didn’t even care. It was 20-30 minutes too long (have we lost editors from journalism AND from moviemaking?). Worst of all, it didn’t have any of the magic that the original had in abundance.
Actually no, the worst thing of all is that none of the songs were actually any good. Mary Poppins has some of the best music ever written, so many amazing songs that have become beloved classics for like 100 years. Yet this one had not one that lived up to that standard. And that’s not typical of the songwriters, who wrote some of the best musical theatre song of the modern era, especially, like, all of ‘Hairspray’, which is flawless. Yet they just didn’t deliver here. There were no great songs, not one. The whole thing felt annoying and amateur and it was so sad because MP1 is all about heart and magic and MP2 had no heart and no magic.
MP2 takes place when Jane and Michael Banks are all grown up and apparently their magical nanny left them too soon because they’re both kind of bad at adulting. Well Jane is okayyy, she volunteers for social justice issues which is great but she doesn’t have much of a life otherwise. Michael is a real diddadoof, completely falling apart and you just want to grab him by the shoulders and shake some sense into him, like ‘I know your wife died and you have three sad children and it’s A LOT, but you need to get your shit together so your children don’t end up homeless, like that’s all on you buster.’ What happened to that goofy little boy who couldn’t snap? I usually like Ben Whishaw but he was lifeless here. Emily Mortimer’s Jane came off slightly better but still didn’t capture our hearts. And Lin-Manuel, bless him, is trying so hard to give this movie the heart it needs but has such crap to work with that his effort is uncomfortable. The only little flutter in my heart came when the real Jane Banks, Karen Dotrice, had a cameo as a lady asking for directions on Cherry Tree Lane. SHAME.
The three new little Banks kids are fine, I guess, but we don’t really care about them. Whereas Jane and Michael were misbehaving (in the English sense; like they weren’t cleaning up enough), these kids are just sad, so the whole point of Mary Poppins returning to help them out is specious. Yes, in the original and here, Mary is really there to help the father get his shit together, but the focus is more on the kids here and it is even more tenuous. Emily Blunt is great, probably the only great part, even though she is darker and meaner than Julie, without enough of a twinkle in her eye. But just the whole thing feels like they didn’t trust the material and kept adding more drama and distraction so maybe audiences wouldn’t notice. And true, they shouldn’t have trusted the material, but instead of throwing bells and whistles at it to distract us, they should have fixed the material. To use the Lin-Manuel connection, I heard him talk once about how an early producer interested in ‘In the Heights’ thought that Nina’s story needed more stakes. He didn’t believe that her doing poorly in college would have been enough of a catastrophe for her to return home feeling like a failure. He suggested that they also make her pregnant. Luckily, Lin knew that this jabronie was wrong and trusted his story and his characters to convey the right level of drama instead of forcing unnecessary extra shit onto them. Well it seems like that producer’s mindset was at play here. Not only is it a story about a family dealing with the loss of their mother, but it’s also about them losing their house?? And about their money being stolen by the bank??? And about an evil head of the bank who is stealing from like, all of London??? And then there’s also a super long cartoon segment where the kids get kidnapped by the cartoon animal versions of the bank guys??? HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE??? Cut some of this shit, we do not need all of it! It’s like they knew they didn’t have a good story and instead of writing one, they just threw in all the ideas everyone in the room had and hoped something would stick.
And I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Step #1 should have been to take a page out of the Mamma Mia 2 handbook and LOSE MERYL STREEP. Her entire role should have been cut, and could have been without affecting the story literally at all. Mary has a Russian cousin who fixes things?? We had to take a trip to her upside-down shop and hear a truly horrendous song about things being upside-down? Save it for Stranger Things, ladies. This whole subplot was a g-d mess. I can’t believe a movie with Meryl and Colin Firth and Angela Lansbury and the new Hermione from the stage version was so boring and lifeless. The only good scene was when Dick Van Dyke came back to save the day, as an old man head of the bank. Seeing him brought the little hint of magic this film requires, and was a reminder that the original is a perfect, timeless movie that we should have just watched instead.
Don’t get me wrong, Roma is not a gripping drama. It needs all of its lengthy running time because it is a slooooow burn to feel interesting. I didn’t care about any of the characters for the vast majority of the film, and I actively disliked most. I guess that’s how real life is? Some of the scenes had me literally screaming at the TV (yay for Oscar nominees on Netflix), like when there is a forking FOREST FIRE and all the rich drunk adults brought their children out to watch and they all just stand there drinking instead of trying to help. What the hell was that all about? I had such agita from that scene and others like it, where you are screaming at the characters for being incredibly stupid. Yes the father sucked but there really was dog shit EVERYWHERE in that driveway! Like what was that about! Clean it up! Or better yet, sometime take that poor dog for a walk! Why do people have dogs that they ignore?
And yet, with time, because the story is allowed to simply unfold, it starts to feel epic in its intense, seemingly accurate and realistic depiction of different classes and races in Mexico at this time. The black and white filming and the precise cinematography made each frame feel like a historic photograph. Yalitza Aparicio’s Cleo, a Mixtec housekeeper for a well-to-do Spanish family, doesn’t seem to do much Acting, but like every aspect of this film, her performance is more subtle than showy. She inhabits the role entirely. It’s not about much, but what is there is shown with care and precision. So what is it about? Cleo gets pregnant by an asshole who refuses to acknowledge her, and she turns to the crayballs wife of her employer for help, who is going through her own relationship struggles. The two women don’t become friends or anything warm and fuzzy, but they can trust the other, at least to understand how hard their lives are. The children love Cleo and she loves them. There’s some surprising violence, devastating sadness, and mostly an honest look at their lives separately and together. Basically it’s what Russell Brand did after Jonah Hill gave him his demo in Forgetting Sarah Marshall – they just carry on living their lives.
Really, Roma feels more like a book than a movie. It needs a lot of time to get you invested because, like a book, you need to live with the characters for a little bit before you care about what if anything happens. Filming it in black and white added to that affect, making it more removed from you than other films; it’s not going to reach out and grab you, it’s something you have to invest in to enjoy. Honestly, this is the worst movie to be shown on Netflix, because there is no other movie I saw this year that screams to be enjoyed in a theatre more. I watched at home, yes, but with phones off, lights off, to get as close to a theatrical experience as possible. It needs to be treated with that kind of respect in order for the watching experience to pay off at all. I completely understand why this movie isn’t resonating for a lot of people – like a book, it takes a while to get into it, and it’s not going to be for everyone. But if it clicks for you, it feels special.
Set It Up is a modern story, but it uses the traditional romcom formula, unencumbered by trying to be anything else. It’s a clean and simple boy meets girl story. Our heroes will meet, not get along but be thrown together by an external issue, and as they spend time together working on the issue, they’ll become friends, and then they’ll fall for each other in the end. This film checks all the boxes in an exuberant and fun way, letting it shine as lovely and entirely pleasant. It mixes the old-school romcom tricks in a way that feels clever and nice and not offensive. It’s just a NICE movie, okay?
It’s about how Lea Thompson’s daughter and John Glenn from Hidden Figures are young attractive people working in NYC for hooooorrible bosses, the kind that make them do all kinds of crap that no one should put up with, the kind that have them working past midnight most nights. The two assistants, Harper and Charlie, meet one late night in their skyscraper’s lobby as they scramble to find dinner for their bosses, two highly attractive people who have attained positions of supreme power and wealth without learning how to feed themselves or wear their own damn step-tracking watch. You’re like why don’t you freaking quit, you are both middle class white people who have other options, but their bosses are Lucy Liu and freaking Taye Diggs so you’re like oh dip I wouldn’t quit either yaboyyyyy. So Harper and Charlie meet and Charlie takes the food that Harper ordered for Lucy because Harper didn’t have cash for the delivery guy and like she is in NEW YORK CITY and could just go outside with the credit card she has in hand and buy something, anything, for her boss at the bodega that is surely still open, it’s NYC stuff is OPEN, instead of going back upstairs empty-handed, but she’s too blinded by how adorbbbbs Charlie is. No that’s not true, she doesn’t like him yet, but we do. She’s just tired, I guess.
So Charlie and Harper are antagonistic towards each other but in a cute fun way and they decide that their lives would be easier if their awful bosses had someone to distract them from work, like they need to get some. They hatch a plan! They’re going to set up Lucy and Taye with each other and hope that it works even though they know how much they suck. And when they are off gallivanting, Harper and Charlie will be given their lives back! Free time! Friends! Dates! Yankees! So fun!
Obviously the more time they spend together working on The Plan, the more they get to know each other and like each other since they are both The Best and it’s just the most fun movie ever. I love the whole supporting cast, even aside from Lucy and Taye who are pitch perfect here. Harper’s best friend and her new fiancé are great, and I love that the friend seems like an actual great friend, not just a plot device. Of course, my favorite thing is that Charlie’s roommate is Pete Davidson, playing a gay man whose version of putting a sock on the door is blasting Third Eye Blind into the hallway. Guys I don’t know why I love Pete Davidson but I really do. I think I identify too much with John Mulaney and since Mulaney feels the need to protect baby Pete I guess I do too. Anyway he’s great in this. And there are fun appearances by Jeff Hiller, who should be a bigger star, and Tituss Burgess, who is THE BEST but didn’t sing in this.
Like all great romcoms, Set It Up provides classic phrases and moments as it tells its story, like the whole ‘and yet…’ thing, where you can list all the reasons you can’t stand someone but despite all this, you still love them. But my favorite is the ‘over-dick-around-thing’, which is so true and I’m actually doing it right now. It’s that thing when you are super early for something, so to spend the time before you have to be somewhere you dick around and then you lose track of time and are going to late after all. So accurate! I feel this movie so hard. Anyway I recommend you watch it, I love it so.
I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.
Sorry to Bother You starts off well enough, with Lakeith Stanfield (so good always) getting a job as a telemarketer in a very shady company. On the advice of his coworker Danny Glover, Lakeith adopts a White Man voice for his telemarketing, and he immediately has better luck with his sales. (Hilarious, the white man voice is courtesy of David Cross.) The voice pays off and then some, and Lakeith does so well that there’s talk of him getting moved upstairs to the big leagues, with the Power Callers. You think, how big a league can you get in telemarketing? But still, the idea of him doing so well at work because he understands the need to pretend to be white is interesting and I was excited for the movie to explore all that that means, how in order to move ahead at work he had to become a pawn in this awful racist game, how if he wanted to get promoted he had to leave behind his friends and colleagues downstairs and forget all the injustice they suffer at the hands of this company. Interesting stuff!
Or it could have been. But then Lakeith goes upstairs, and the movie quickly loses its footing as it becomes, against all ads and promotions, an absurdist piece. Upstairs, the workers make ridiculous money and act like the 1%. Lakeith finds out that they are selling for WorryFree, the giant corporation that is effectively legalized slave labor. Even with this new development, the movie still could have been powerful and have a lot of important things to say, especially about modern corporate behavior and how the giant ones run our lives. The movie’s depiction of this corporation engaging in slave labor out in the open with no one batting an eye could have said so much about what we are allowing to happen today because it’s easier not to fight it, or because we don’t know how, or because we like what’s being sold. Especially when matched with the horrifying heights reality TV reaches in the movie’s universe, all of this could have been a cutting critique of our society, using its altogether wacky approach to vilify what we’ve let happen in our own absurdist times.
But then, like I said, they were turn people into horses. I get that it’s all about the reaches of corporate power and ownership over the general populace and all the evil we are allowing day by day, but HOT DAMN, they were turning people into horses. Not exactly what you said on the tin! I’m game for imaginative ways of conveying an important story and using weird humor to do so, but man, it lost me with the horse people.
I have to admit that I haven’t seen this one yet. I know it’s great but it was never playing at a good time, just never. But it’s on this list so that I can share what I imagine it’s about:
The only good thing about this movie is that Mark Ruffalo’s son is adorable and I’m happy that this introduced the world to him, but otherwise, meh. This is honestly the least I’ve ever had to say about a movie. About anything, really. DISAPPOINT.
Okay first we can talk about the rest of the movie. If you are prone to headaches or seizures, you cannot see this movie. This joint is JUMPIN’, I mean from a simple frame of interior White House it’ll go BANG FLASH to the Twin Towers falling and then interior Dick Cheney’s home and then BANG FLASH bombing in Afghanistan and it’s just like notttt worth it to have an epileptic fit induced from this movie. If you can get through all the bangin and flashin, the first two hours of Vice are actually pretty good, if good is defined as something that makes you die inside as you remember what is happening to the country and the world because of what these assholes onscreen did. The movie would have you believe that Dick is responsible for the nonsense happening today, because he put the ability to disregard checks and balances and any rational reading of the Constitution on the table. I don’t disagree. Doing a pretty literal impression of Dick is Christian Bale, befatsuited and talking/heavy breathing out the side of his mouth like some kind of Pedo Batman. This Dick, like the real one, is a malevolent force hell bent on destruction of whatever needs to be destroyed so long as he has power. When a young Dick, fresh off from two DUIs yet somehow landing a White House internship spot because straight white man, latches on to Steve Carrell’s Donald Rumsfeld and the two of them LAUGH (that word looks so wrong…omg how do you spell laugh that’s right, right? So weird guys) at the impending bombing of Cambodia because they are in the inner zone of power, you wonder why the international community hasn’t prosecuted these boneheads for war crimes yet or really what the fork karma is waiting for. Same for when he gives the go-ahead for all kinds of torture, or when he has a legal team devoted solely to arguing the unitary executive theory, or when he decides as soon as he’s brought into the safe room during 9/11 that this is a good opportunity and excuse for bombing Iraq, even though they had nothing to do with it, as the few smart people in the room mention but then shut up about because everyone is scared of the man who was actually president. What the hell, Condie! You gonna say anything?? Ugh it was very frustrating to relive all of this. The supporting cast makes it pretty interesting, especially Sam Rockwell (the man is a genius) as W, doing an interpretation and not just a flat-out impression. I enjoyed Amy Adams as Lynne, because Amy Adams is always amazing, but her Fox News hairstyles made me physically ill. Just like real life Lynne Cheney does! And their forking daughter Liz! What a fucker! I like Lily Rabe but dammit Liz SUCKS. Only decent person in the family seemed to be Mary, maybe because I love Alison Pill. It seemed nice when the family accepted her being gay but then of course the family that believes in nothing but power would quickly change their mind and their allegiance on that issue. What a BUNCH OF FUCKERS.
Thank goodness McKay used some of his talent for humor to make parts of this movie funny, because otherwise being told for hours how Cheney is a true monster would get old. I never thought seeing someone have repeated heart attacks would be so hilarious but it’s HILARIOUS, it just keeps happening to him! How is he still alive? What kind of deal with the devil did this fucker make? My favorite part of the movie, when I actually cackled, is after maybe barely an hour when he is approached by W. about being his VP, and the narrator says he decided not to, and he lived the rest of his life quietly in his mansion in the woods and fished and became a grandfather to many and stuff, and then THE CREDITS ROLL before the narrator says he was kidding. I loved that move. I also kind of dug the narrator, who seems like a random guy and you’re like did they just want Jesse Plemons in this for no reason? Is he the caliber of celebrity now where he is filling the role that Margot Robbie and Anthony Bourdain (RIP) played in The Big Short, just random celebs explaining shit? I thought it was weird but fine at first, but then when Jesse’s connection to Dick is revealed I was like WELL PLAYED, MCKAY. Even though it led to the most obvious ploy of the movie, when we see way too long shots of Dick’s heart surgery to show us his diseased heart. McKay didn’t need to hold the camera on his empty chest cavity during heart surgery to show us that he’s heartless like a goddamn monster (it was kind of on the nose, Adam).
This is super random but I noticed one detail during the movie that really, whoever was in charge of that tiny prop detail should be commended. At home in his bathroom, Dick uses Listerine while Lynne is talking to him. And it’s not just any Listerine – it’s the weird brassy yellow one, the OLD MAN kind. The kind that isn’t minty or anything just like yellow and it’s only for old men, I believe. It is PERFECT.
And then two things ruined the whole party, ADAM. One, the ending. Two, the FORKING SECOND ENDING. LISTEN TO ME, MOVIE PEOPLE: If you are not making a superhero movie that is part of a larger franchise where people expect little teasers about the next one to come in a post-credits scene, then FORKING STOP MAKING POST-CREDITS SCENES. My god ESPECIALLY if there is no sequel of any sort and you just don’t know how to quit while you’re ahead, ADAM. JESUS. Okay so the first ending has Dick break the fourth wall by talking to the audience about how he can feel our wrath directed at him but he dares us to admit that if he didn’t do all the shit he did then we’d be swimming in terrorism, how the actions we think are evil are really what saved us. First, the whole talking to the audience thing in order to defend himself was entirely inconsistent with the vibe of the rest of the movie. The whole gist was that Dick and Don and all their shithead bros didn’t believe in anything, just power. They made that very clear, like literally stating that out loud. So what kind of contradictory ending has Dick stating that he did things he believed in?? Adam were you watching your own movie? It made me extra mad because the arguments Dick was using to ‘prove’ to us that he was on the right side of events were NOT GOOD ARGUMENTS. In The Inheritance, the epic two-part play, there’s one scene where the republican billionaire is defending his support of the GOP, and it’s infuriating, but it is dramatically effective because he uses actually good arguments (the few there are), so while you disagree with him, he’s making it harder to just call him a stupid jackass because based on what he’s saying, he’s not. That’s good writing and provocative drama. Here, Dick is saying the STUPIDEST, most easily disproved arguments ever – you didn’t stop terrorism man, and your random focus on Zarqawi CREATED ISIS – so without even a second thought you’re like umm no, you’re a stupid jackass, NEXT. Doesn’t work Adam!!!
Then the second ending destroys the whole thing. In this post-credits fiasco, we return to a focus group we met earlier in the film. Before, they were saying how climate change sounds better than global warming, and how the war on terror seemed like a good idea. But now, the focus group was asked questions about Vice. About the movie we just saw and FORKING THOUGHT WAS OVER, ADAM. One man, dressed so we assume he’s a republican, complains that it was full of darn liberal bias!! Stupid fake news media! And then another man, a democrat looking sumbitch, explains that it was actually balanced. And then the republican calls him a libtard. I shit you not. And then they fight. And while they are fighting, the camera moves to two young women – two millennialsssss – who speak with vocal fry (how fucking dare they, AM I RIGHT ADAM, is that what you wanted us to think??) about how they wanted to see the new Fast & Furious movie.
I am screaming.
What the hell, Adam? The rest of the movie shows Dick and his cronies as despicable monsters, but then you flip the script at the end to mock the American public, your audience? Did you want us to walk away from this thinking that everything was our fault, not just the fault of the men who created the mess? Was your message that there’s good and bad people ON BOTH SIDES, ADAM?? Do you remember who last said that bullshit and what that was about, ADAM? And what about making fun of the girls, huh? Is it because millennials are the worrrrst, ADAM? Because that bullshit is TIRED. Were you saying that people weren’t paying enough attention to the government’s actions during this time, that they dared seek enjoyment from entertainment? Are you mad that people went to see silly movies during the Bush administration instead of protesting 24/7? Silly movies like, oh I don’t know, ANCHORMAN and STEPBROTHERS??? What is your FUCKING POINT, ADAM?
Seriously fork off with these post-credits scenes. I DON’T WANT TO SEE THEM EVER AGAIN, YOU HEAR ME STUDIOS?? DO YOU HEAR ME???
The Wife, based on the Meg Wolitzer novel but I didn’t know that until the end credits like literally had no idea and I thought I was well read but I guess I’m behind on my modern lit, takes the idea of ‘behind every great man stands a great woman’ and forking runs with it. Glenn is married to Jonathan Pryce, who has had a long career as a celebrated author after leaving musical theatre because he realized that a white Welshman playing a Vietnamese man was something he should distance himself from. Jonathan plays Joe Castleman, and you know since I’m bothering to use the character names that this was a movie I enjoyed. Glenn is His Wife, Joan Castleman, and it opens with the two of them asleep in the darkness and the whole beginning is a little too Amour, because it’s two old people and lots of mouth noises. But then the phone rings, even though we see that the alarm clock reads 6:20am and you’re like well someone better have died otherwise the person calling is going to get WRECKED for waking me up, yes even when watching a movie I am ready to take up arms against anyone who dared ruin the sleep of my character friends, you READY?? Luckily Joe and Joan and I are no longer angry or concerned when the caller happens to be the Nobel Prize committee, calling to congratulate Joe on winning the one for Literature and confirming that the people who vote for things and decide things aren’t the smartest ones out there because if they were they would have known how TIME ZONES WORK.
Joe is thrilled, of course, because his work has just attained the highest praise possible, but Joan is less so. She seems sort of bothered by the whole thing, and extra bothered that Joe keeps brushing off their son, who has given him a short story of his for critique. Why is Joan not thrilled? They’re getting a free fancy trip to Stockholm! I guess old people don’t necessarily love traveling especially to cold locales but don’t they also get a million dollars? I learned that from Friends. Be happy! Money please!
As they travel to Stockholm and participate in all the preliminary celebrations et al., the present day scenes are intercut with flashbacks to how Joe and Joan met. In true to form fashion for Joe’s amalgamation in my head canon as Most White Men, he was Joan’s professor in college and he was married with a kid yet openly flirted and then some with his student. Ughhhhh. Joan was a promising writer, and she seemed ready and able to take the literary world by storm. But then, ya know, it was the 1960s and no publishing house would take on a female writer. Women who write?! Are you crazy! Geddafuckouttaheeeere! But they would publish men, especially a Jewish man because Jews were ‘so hot right now’ at one pub, and so Joe became the household name in the literary world and a huge success, while Joan apparently stopped writing.
Or did sheeeee? I’m sure those of you who are astute and/or who try to figure out movies’ twists before you’re supposed to (ughhh you’re probably the kind of person who figured out the initial twist on The Good Place instead of JUST ENJOYING IT LIKE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO AND THEN BEING BLOWN AWAY BY THE MOST GENIUS BRILLIANT AMAZING TV SHOW EVER) had at least an inkling about what the truth behind their marriage was all about even before surprise guest Christian Slater did. Even so, it’s still a marvelous little mystery portrayed so precisely and well with all the flashbacks and with all of Glenn’s facial expressions, each one telling more nuanced stories than most movies can. And to top it all off, we learned what goes on when you win a Nobel Prize! Lots of bullshirt, apparently! Do they really wake you up in the early morn with a Swedish milkmaid candle brigade??? They just let themselves into your hotel room and all these blonde girls forking sing you awake while holding candles?? There’s no part of this I want so nobody forking NEAR me at any point better win this shit.
Okay folks, now that I've used up literally all the words in the English language and some I made up, it's your turn to chime in!