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Oscar thoughts and my favorites of 2019

The Oscars are this Sunday. This is my traditional pre-Oscars post, and also my best of 2019 post. So there will be a high volume of opinions, recommendations and review links in this one.

Once again I saw all the best picture nominees. They were all things I had already seen or was planning to see, so they didn’t broaden my horizons at all. No homework necessary. I reviewed all of them:

FORD V FERRARI
THE IRISHMAN
JOJO RABBIT
JOKER
LITTLE WOMEN
MARRIAGE STORY
1917
ONCE UPON A TIME …IN HOLLYWOOD
PARASITE

I think this is a better than average batch, with almost none that could be considered “Oscar bait.” Many years there’s a nominee I hate (VICE, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY) or I think is way too mediocre and bland to belong in there (DARKEST HOUR), and sometimes most people disagree with me and those end up winning (ARGO, SPOTLIGHT, THE KING’S SPEECH). This year there are enough truly great ones that I have a hard time ranking them (maybe something like ONCE UPON A TIME …IN HOLLYWOOD, PARASITE, JOJO RABBIT, LITTLE WOMEN, THE IRISHMAN and MARRIAGE STORY for the top slots), and the only one I kind of dislike (JOKER) is at least a well-made and unusual movie.

I predicted months ago that ONCE UPON A TIME… would win, for the following reasons:

1. It’s the movie I’ve heard the most people from a variety of backgrounds and age groups talk excitedly about.
2. It’s about the film industry and Hollywood, and you know how they love that shit.
3. It’s also a period piece, they love that shit too. Nostalgia and what not. The ‘60s, even!
4. It’s a well received and less divisive than usual movie from a great director who has never won the top awards and may only have one more opportunity if he really retires soon.

But things don’t seem to be going in that direction. Conventional wisdom points toward 1917. Its qualifications seem to me purely technical. It strikes me that THE REVENANT was a recent, better version of the immersive-long-take-historical-drama type movie, and it didn’t win. Although I liked 1917 I will be a little disappointed if it wins, because while best picture is rarely the best movie of the year it does often point toward what is going on in the world at the time or what the film industry considers important. To me it doesn’t seem like this one does much new artistically or in its statements about war, and I don’t see anything about it that applies specifically to the state of war today.

PARASITE

PARASITE is the choice that would say the most about the world of 2020, both because of its class themes and because it’s new for a South Korean film to have such impact internationally. I may be naive, but I see dark horse potential there. It’s the movie that most shares criteria #1 with ONCE UPON A TIME, but I initially discounted that because a foreign language film has never won best picture before. The reason I’m starting to think it’s possible is because it won the top prizes from the editor’s guild and the actor’s guild. Imagine that – Hollywood actors chose this ensemble over the incredible one playing Hollywood actors. That says something.

My friend Kevin Clarke from the podcast The Suspense Is Killing Us has theorized that the perfectly fine and unobjectionable FORD V FERRARI could actually win by being, like, everybody’s third choice. It would be weird and undeserving but I think the theory is sound and I have heard zero other people say that so I want to put it on the record for him here.

Some people who know this stuff better than me seem to consider JOKER at least a little bit of a contender. Its inclusion here is a mystery to me because it’s not great or mediocre, not universally acclaimed but definitely not something that should appeal to the infamous older voters, because it’s an ugly, fucked up movie. About a comic book character. I hope it doesn’t win, but if it does that will at least say something in a meta way about the world today. If you accept it as a sincere statement about discontent, apparently the only way we have to express that today is by remixing similar statements from the ’70s into the format of corporate owned comic book characters. That’s something.

I’m not very invested in who wins most of the categories, and haven’t seen quite a few of the nominated performances. I don’t have a problem with Joaquin Phoenix’s probable win for best actor, though it’s weird that there will be two people that won Oscars for playing versions of the Joker (and neither of them were Jack Nicholson!) He does do something unique with the role and has been giving very good, heartfelt speeches as he’s collected the other awards.

Something always bothered me about Renee Zelweger back in the day when she would collect all those awards and pretend to be so shocked every time. But maybe that was unfair, and I think she was doing Weinstein movies, so who knows what hell she was going through. Anyway, I watched JUDY last night and I don’t got a problem with her winning. It’s better than I thought it would be and her performance has a hamminess that’s appropriate to who she’s playing. But I reserve the right to laugh about her current don’t mind me I’m just a down home cowgirl, y’all, just like I always was, remember? shtick.

Brad Pitt seems to be the favorite to win supporting actor, which I like just because he’s so fuckin cool as Cliff Booth. But I kinda think Joe Pesci deserves it more for his uncharacteristically calm performance in THE IRISHMAN.

I guess Laura Dern is the favorite for supporting actress? I’d love to see it go to Scarlett Johansson – her whole role in JOJO RABBIT is incredible, but in particular the scene where her character performs a scene playing two different characters. Florence Pugh would also be very worthy for LITTLE WOMEN (even if MIDSOMMAR is my favorite performance I’ve seen by her this year). Way back I was sure that Margot Robbie would get it, but not for the one she was nominated for (BOMBSHELL). I still haven’t seen that or RICHARD JEWELL.

For costume design I’m rooting for Cliff Booth’s yellow Hawaiian shirt. I wish DOLEMITE IS MY NAME had at least been nominated for this, so that we’d hear the word “Dolemite” said at the Oscars. For directing I’m rooting for not Todd Phillips. I think editing will go to PARASITE, but I wouldn’t mind THE IRISHMAN as a fuck you to people who hate long movies. Did you know they renamed best foreign film as “international feature film”? That would be funny if PARASITE didn’t win that. All bets would be off.

I think THE LION KING is far and away the most deserving in the visual effects category, so it will go to AVENGERS: ENDGAME.

In the screenplay categories I just hope it’s not JOKER, on account of my belief that “what if, instead of a diabolical super-villain whose permanent clown-like appearance from a chemical accident inspires him to commit elaborate crimes with comical props and gimmicks, he’s just a sad lonely guy who murders a couple people and sometimes wears clown makeup?” is not good adaptation. I think PARASITE will win original screenplay and people will say “How do you know? Do you read Korean?” Of course it could also go to QT or even Rian Johnson.

Sometimes original screenplay goes to movies too hip for best picture (PULP FICTION, FARGO, LOST IN TRANSLATION, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, DJANGO UNCHAINED, HER, GET OUT) but the past decade also gave it to best picture winners GREEN BOOK, SPOTLIGHT, BIRDMAN and THE KING’S SPEECH, so it’s hard to predict.

Anyway, everybody have fun if you partake. For themed foods I recommend IRISHMAN grape-juice-dipped-bread as an appetizer. ONCE UPON A TIME …IN HOLLYWOOD margaritas, macaroni and raccoon flavored dog food for dinner. PARASITE peach cobbler for dessert.


Now to discuss MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2019

The Oscars did pretty good. I think ONCE UPON A TIME …IN HOLLYWOOD and PARASITE might be at the top for me, but the non-best-picture-nominee that’s definitely in the conversation is JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM. Being a continuation of an already great series is the only thing to really disqualify it. But it was the most viscerally thrilling action movie I saw. It has that huge shootout with attack dogs. It has John Wick getting kicked in the head by a horse. It has a good cover band version of the motorcycle sword fight from THE VILLAINESS. It has a snowball fight with knives instead of snow.

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM

A runner up that is not a sequel is DOLEMITE IS MY NAME. I probly qualify as a Rudy Ray Moore superfan, since I own a box set, saw him live twice and have an autographed Dolemite backscratcher right next to my desk here, so it was cool to see this biopic with uninitiated people who found it just as warm and hilarious and inspiring as I did. We were lucky enough to see it in the theater. but you can see it right now if you have Netflix.

SHADOW

Another one I’ve continued thinking about throughout the year is Zhang Yimou’s SHADOW. It’s a Chinese palace intrigue movie with a gorgeous almost-black-and-white look, some stunning martial arts sequences and a whole lot of layers of meaning to chew on. Very distinct even among Yimou’s body of work.

I’ll get the other obvious ones out of the way here. Taika Waititi’s JOJO RABBIT was my biggest cry of the year. Maybe you read my review the other day. I didn’t necessarily think a Wes-Andersony comedy about a kid realizing he doesn’t belong in the Hitler Youth was gonna be my thing, but it was.

Noah Baumbach’s MARRIAGE STORY is also outstanding. I’m not usually gonna like a straight forward relationship drama as much as I did that one. I could say something similar for LITTLE WOMEN. I did not know I was a Little Woman man. You learn something new every day.

Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN is fuckin great, of course. I especially like “the boring part” at the end where you learn what the movie is about and why it’s different from previous gangster movies. UNCUT GEMS is a really intense one that stuck with me. That guy sure did make a mess for himself.


FAVORITE HORROR

I have to consider this a good horror year, because there are three movies that I’m sure I will remember as great:

3. MIDSOMMAR continues HEREDITARY writer/director Ari Aster’s unique style that some people think is boring and pretentious even though to me it’s highly entertaining and darkly humorous.

2. I personally think Jordan Peele’s US is even better than his debut GET OUT. It has as much going on under the surface but is more effective, stylish and imaginative on the straight-up-horror-movie level. And Lupita Nyong’o was in the #1 slot for “best lead performance” on my Muriels ballot this year.

DOCTOR SLEEP

1. I recently saw DOCTOR SLEEP again (this time in the 3-hour director’s cut) and liked it even better. I think Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose the Hat is just an incredible villain – evil enough to kill children, but interesting to watch as she struggles to keep the faith of her dying tribe. And I love her relationship with Zahn McLarnon’s Crow Daddy, who gently convinces her when he thinks she’s being too reckless.

Other notable horror: I liked the straight-forwardness of Alexandre Aja’s gators-in-a-hurricane movie CRAWL. I kind of liked Rob Zombie’s 3 FROM HELL even if it’s no DEVIL’S REJECTS. Another interesting much-later-sequel-that-most-people-didn’t-notice was DARLIN’, in which Pollyanna McIntosh writes, directs and returns as her character from Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN (which I have decided is my favorite horror movie of the 2010s). I enjoyed two straight to streaming titles: the simple castaway vs. monster movie SWEETHEART and the twisty, messed up violinist adventure THE PERFECTION. And although I claim not to be big on horror comedies I did like READY OR NOT (with the outstanding Samara Weaving).

FAVORITE MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES NOT INCLUDING SHADOW

2. I’m glad I finally caught on to Vietnamese star Veronica Ngo in FURIE. It’s a pretty traditional badass-rescuing-kidnapped-daughter story, but I like that sort of thing, and I was really impressed by her combination of martial arts skill and genuine acting chops. She made it much more emotionally effective than most other people would’ve.

MASTER Z: IP MAN LEGACY

1. You would think the best would be IP MAN 4: THE FINALE, with Donnie Yen’s Ip Man taking on Scott Adkins. I enjoyed that, but my favorite is Yuen Woo Ping’s MASTER Z: IP MAN LEGACY, with Max Zhang’s character from IP MAN 3 taking on Dave Bautista. Some of the melodrama about parenting is not the best but it’s so full of energetic fights with great choreography coming out of character and emphasizing their varying physiques. Michelle Yeoh is in it, and when she starts fighting – and gets a sword! – I hope you all stand up and put your hand over your heart. Tony Jaa also makes a small, memorable appearance that made me hope he’d have his own IP MAN LEGACY movie.

FAVORITE DTV/LIMITED RELEASE ACTION

Undoubtedly director/sometimes-writer Jesse V. Johnson is the reigning king of DTV action. He had three movies this year, all good:

3. THE MERCENARY starring his longtime collaborator Dominiquie Vandenberg as a mercenary who is betrayed, left for dead, and healed at a small church, where he changes his philosophy.

2. TRIPLE THREAT somehow stars Tony Jaa, Tiger Chen and Iko Uwais, going up against Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White, with Celina Jade and a special appearance by Jeeja Yanin. And all of those people have done better movies but god damn if it isn’t fun to see them meet up in an international co-production and fight in various combos. I need to watch that one again.

AVENGEMENT

1. AVENGEMENT might be my favorite partly because somehow it ended up playing at The Beacon here in Seattle so my second viewing was on the big screen. This is Johnson doing a British gangster movie with Adkins in a grimy, transformative role. Tightly written, more nuanced than necessary, grim but sometimes funny, good shit.

New category: FAVORITE STRAIGHT-TO-NETFLIX ACTION

I’m sure there are plenty I missed (no, I haven’t watched 6 UNDERGROUND yet), but there are actually several actiony movies that went straight to Netflix that I enjoyed. Credit where credit is due.

5. THE HARD WAY is like an early 2000s DTV but for some reason there’s no DVD release. It’s kind of cheesy and shoddily put together but it’s powered by the swagger of Michael Jai White with some good lines and flying kicks. (The rest of the movies in this category are bigger budget movies that could’ve been released theatrically.)

4. POINT BLANK is directed by Joe Lynch (EVERLY) and it’s a remake of the French movie by the same name. He’s going for a ’70s Friedkin vibe and it’s not quite that gritty, but it benefits from the teaming of Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo, plus a great supporting performance by Marcia Gay Harden of all people.

3. CLOSE is an inspired-by-a-real-person one with Noomi Rapace playing a bodyguard for an heiress who’s a high risk for kidnapping. I was hoping this would catch on and become a series but I guess I’ll just have to catch up with all the other Noomi Rapace movies.

2. POLAR is Jonas Akerlund’s comic book adaptation with Mads Mikkelsen as a retired assassin. It’s very JOHN WICK alternating with a spastic SMOKIN’ ACES kind of vibe with colorful assassins and a villain played by Matt Lucas who I described in my review as “Paul Williams with a sword and yellow nail polish.”

TRIPLE FRONTIER

1. Man, I don’t know how TRIPLE FRONTIER didn’t catch on. Mercenaries doing a heist that goes south in much the way of a foreign occupation, slowly getting further and further off mission, and abandoning their values along the way. Excellent chemistry among the team and great performances including a regretful Ben Affleck and a movie-stealing Pedro Pascal (now better known as Mando).

FAVORITE GLOOMY, SERIOUS REVENGE MOVIES

2. I would be more into A VIGILANTE if it turned into a full-on action movie, but I was still impressed by Olivia Wilde’s performance as a victim of domestic abuse who trains herself up into sort of a The Punisher who helps other women screw over the men who abuse them. I mainly know her as a computer lady from TRON LEGACY so I didn’t know she was that good.

THE NIGHTINGALE

1. THE NIGHTINGALE is Australian director Jennifer Kent’s long-awaited followup to THE BABADOOK. I saw it very early when it played SIFF, but it has stuck with me. It’s honestly like TRUE GRIT meets I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE with a whole lot of anger about misogyny, racism and colonialism. Seems to be too heavy for many people, but I think it’s very good.

BETTER THAN EXPECTED

Okay, I was kind of hyped for ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL because it was a long-awaited James Cameron production, but the look of the first trailer nearly scared me off. I really enjoyed this one other than the abrupt ending, which won’t be a problem if they make another one.

The tone of HELLBOY seems wrong, too jokey, too electric-guitar, it’s much cheaper looking than the Del Toro movies and his makeup is way uglier, but also this was a funny movie with lots of cool monsters, crazy folklore and Milla Jovovich having a hell of a time playin a wicked sorceress. I gotta admit I mostly dug it.


MOVIES I LIKED QUITE A BIT BUT DIDN’T REVIEW FOR SOME REASON

BOOKSMART is directed by the aforementioned Olivia Wilde and yes, it’s pretty much a girl version of SUPERBAD, but I love that mix of raucous humor and warm-hearted friendship. And I like this premise of the overachieving good girls tryin to let loose. Points for having a Warren 2020 bumpersticker way ahead of schedule.

TOY STORY 4 gives Bo Peep a chance to shine (and have legs!), has a funny Canadian-Evel-Knievel character played by Keanu Reeves, some very creepy old timey dolls and impressive detail in its dusty world behind the shelves of an antique shop. But what’s amazing is that it actually took the character of Woody to a place that convinced me TOY STORY 3 wasn’t a perfect ending after all and this is actually a better one.

I’ve been all in on Awkwafina since seeing her in OCEAN’S 8 and then looking up her videos (below is my favorite, and I didn’t even notice her THE BROWN BUNNY t-shirt until like the sixth time I watched it) but it’s great to see how winning she is in THE FAREWELL, a more serious and emotional (and also bi-lingual) movie.

And finally…

THE OUTLAWVERN.COM YEAR-OF-MOVIE-REVIEWS YEAR-IN-REVIEW REVUE

This year I decided to apply for a local critics’ group, but I got rejected because of a requirement that within 12 months you have reviewed 48 movies within 7 days of theatrical release in Seattle or premiere on streaming or cable (but not DVD). So here are some statistics to measure how bad I failed at criticism this year: according to my count, I wrote 198 full length movie reviews (not including columns, freelance articles and TV reviews), only 86 of those were recent movies and I think only 29 of those would be considered eligible toward the 48. So I’m only about 60% critic. But I’m not bitter. Do I seem bitter?

MY BEST PIECES OF 2019:

I like my DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE review where I struggle with the conflict between my love for S. Craig Zahler’s filmmaking and my disgust with what seem to be their politics. Somehow it didn’t stop me from getting a column on Rebeller.

I fucked up a little by forgetting THE ADDAMS FAMILY and PRINCE VALIANT, but otherwise I’m very proud of my Polygon list ranking “all” the comic book movies of the ‘90s.

I thought reviewing the interesting-but-way-too-long sequel I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE DE JA VU was worthwhile. I put some sweat into the RISE OF SKYWALKER review.

I’m still proud of how the first line of my SHADOW review is a corny joke that then ties into the end of the review and my entire interpretation of the movie. I would like to win an award for that, thanks.

And I’m glad I finally watched WING CHUN, TAI CHI MASTER, PENITENTIARY III and POSSESSION.

REVIEW SERIES:

The IRON EAGLE saga, Steve Wang Week (starting with GUYVER) and then Mark Dacascos Week (starting with KICKBOXER 5: THE REDEMPTION), The Films of John Liu (starting with AVENGING NINJA), the STREET FIGHTER series, the THUNDER WARRIOR trilogy.

HIGHLANDER

And of course my biggest Outlawvern Special Presentation this year was HIGHLANDERLAND, starting with HIGHLANDER, although The Last Summer of ‘80s Action (starting with RED SCORPION, building up to BATMAN and ROAD HOUSE and concluding with KICKBOXER) was also really fun to write.

If you’re on a long flight or something and need even more shit to read check out my 20th Outlawversary Excellencefest, a retrospective of my 20 years so far reviewing movies online. Jesus christ man what the fuck.

Thanks friends!

This entry was posted on Friday, February 7th, 2020 at 7:32 am and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

74 Responses to “Oscar thoughts and my favorites of 2019”

  1. If I saw ten movies I loved in 2019, I’ve forgotten six of them. On the other hand, there is serious competition for a top ten list of movies whose mere existence pisses me off. This isn’t that different from every other year, but it seems most people seem pretty happy with the year’s crop, which makes me feel like even more of an angry fringe loner who is the reason we can’t have nice things. So I’m gonna do you all a favor and stay out of the discussion so you guys can talk about your boring dramas about depression or whatever in peace.

    I hope you all appreciate the sacrifice I’m making here.

  2. Don’t be bitter, Vern. I’d rather read 60% of your striving for excellence than twice as much of anyone else.

    As to your local critics group, with all due respect to them, and in a spirit of not wishing to increase the disharmony in the world, fuck ’em.

  3. Hey! Where the hell are all the singing CATS!?!?

  4. And I’m still recommending DETECTIVE DEE: THE FOUR HEAVENLY KINGS as my personal favourite of 2019. I don’t think it’s one of those dramas about depression Mr. M was fretting about, but it does have an eyeball demon. Does that count?

    Tsui Hark is 70 next weekend. I, for one, plan to celebrate that.

  5. I don’t think enough has been said about Halle Berry and her dogs in John Wick 3. I’d totally watch that spin off movie.

    I’m now a huge Max Zhang guy. He’s super handsome and also has excellent martial arts ability.

    Believe it or not, I do appreciate you Majestyk.

  6. I think the last time I watched the Oscars was the year that AMERICAN BEAUTY won and that was because people in my house were watching it. Looking at those nominees I see why I never even look in the direction of the Academy Awards. I only saw 3 of those (I’m sure you can guess which ones) and the only other one that interests me at all is FORD v FERRARI. Everything else is just not for me with all due respect to those of you who like any of it. Poor DOLEMITE IS MY NAME though. I was sure it would get some awards love in the end which would’ve gotten more eyes on it. Then again it is the oscars…

  7. Broddie, do you think American Beauty or Crash are the most hated of all the Best Picture winners?

  8. I know nothing about Awkwafina except her stage name was inspired by bottled water but she really rocked it as ??? in JUMANJI 3 which I’m sure Vern will never ever review. If you’re a fan though peep the youtube clips for yourself one day. She took The Rock to acting school.

  9. From personal experience Sternshein I’d say CRASH. A lot of people I know still love AMERICAN BEAUTY myself included. While most others (majority being black or hispanic like myself) found CRASH to be off base, misinformed and even at points condescending. Personally I thought it was alright but that movie definitely has not been remembered well. At least within my social circles (which is mostly black or hispanic) anyway.

  10. I think AMERICAN BEAUTY is exactly the boring drama about depression Mr. M was warning us about.

    And yeah, I’d watch a movie with Halle Berry and them dogs. But there are so many characters in the Wickiverse that I’d happily follow through a movie.

    Sternshein, I’m with you on Max Zhang, but if you get a chance to see his latest release THE INVINCIBLE DRAGON, don’t. Really! It’s been sitting around since 2017, presumably while they tried to make it watchable. It has the dullest fight in a derailing tram you could never wish for, and a much foreshadowed final fight on bungee ropes is an incoherent mess of green screen and cgi. UFC legend Anderson Silva, clearly someone with some real fighting chops, never manages to look like someone who isn’t trying to remember his choreography and not hurt the star. Biggest disappointment of 2019.

  11. I didn’t like The Brink much either.

  12. BORG9 – Was FOUR HEAVENLY KINGS a 2019 release here? I thought I was a year late on that, otherwise it would’ve topped the martial arts category.

  13. Speaking of the Wickverse whatever happened to that continental TV show?

  14. What are your thoughts on the Netflix/Oscar controversy, Vern?

    I don’t have Netflix and probably won’t in the near future (There are too many old movies i’ve yet to catch yet). Still i regret not being able to see ROMA, THE IRISHMAN and WU ASSASSINS.

  15. I really haven’t seen many new movies last year or this year. I even missed JOHN WICK 3 (but it just popped up on Amazon Prime over here). I have zero horses in the Oscar race this time. The only movie I rooted for was DOLEMITE IS MY NAME and of course that didn’t happen. Still gonna watch it like I do every year, if there isn’t something that makes want to watch live: I record it and then skip the next day through all the commercials. It’s actually a pretty short-ish show then.

  16. Broddie, a few weeks ago I read that they are still doing it, but it won’t come out before the 4th movie.

  17. Felix – what’s the controversy? They got two best picture nominations this year. They just need to give them theatrical releases to be eligible, as it should be. And the good news is that Criterion is about to release ROMA on disc, with THE IRISHMAN, MARRIAGE STORY and a few others in the near future. (Sadly no DOLEMITE IS MY NAME so far.)

  18. I haven’t seen any of Awkwafina’s movies. I’ve just recently heard her name.

    But holy shit, she’s AMAZING. I’ve just spent the last hour watching her music videos on Youtube. Thanks, Vern.

  19. I really enjoyed AMERICAN BEAUTY at the time and again whenever it was first on DVD, but I’m not sure how it would hold up now in general, and with Kevin Spacey. I’ve not tried to watch a Spacey joint since his whole metoo deal, but now I feel like there is a bit of a retroactive creep vibe cast over his work — not just in the obvious sense of the allegations, but the mixture with his slinky, lilting nonverbal screen presence. It’s hard not to feel extra creepy undertones whenever I see him. I think I could still enjoy a film like USUAL SUSPECTS where he’s supposed to be a creep, but I’m not so sure about AMERICAN BEAUTY.

    Anyway, I a lot of good stuff this year, though I’ve only seen a few of these. HOLLYWOOD, PARASITE, MIDSOMMAR, and UNCUT GEMS were some favorites. What I loved about each of these films is the emotional depth of vulnerable, hurting people trying to cope with psychological obstacles and personal demons, as well as the subtle ways we use, degrade, and disregard others, including those whom we’ve depended upon and shared the greatest intimacies.

    IRISHMAN was good on the big screen and had some of that going, but I did feel its length. I enjoyed the latest MCU entries, which were competent and rousing experiences with an extremely short mental half-life. I know I felt some feels about some of the (probably temporary) goodbyes at the time time, but nothing that really sticks to the ribs.

    JOKER and DOCTOR SLEEP and STAR WARS IX were marginal thumbs-ups experiences for me. All interesting and worth the price of admission and made me feel some things and wrestle with the some thoughts, just not a spectacularly or consistently as the aforementioned. Compared to DOCTOR SLEEP, I think JOKER was bolder and mostly achieved a level of tonal consistency, save for maybe that final pre-credits moment. It was too self-consciously bleak and affected for me, though. DOCTOR SLEEP had really good performances and the True Knot/steam concept was great, but in my view it tried to do too much by bringing the Overlook back into it and doing so in a way that tried to marry the Mick Garris and the Stanley Kubrick sensibilities as far as the Overlook climax. That fell really flat.

    US, I liked the ideas and the iconography and the performances and pretty much everything about the first act. But I think that tonally it jumped off the rails in the second act with the stuff at Elisabeth Moss’s home and started to sag at that point, and then they went too far trying to proto-explain what was giving with the tethered. I will say that the imagery archetypal ideas are awesome and that keeps firing on all cylinders throughout, and I really enjoyed the final scene.

    I tried DOLEMITE and was having some trouble getting into it, even though I want to like it. Eddie Murphy’s performance started out feeling kind of distractingly hammy and gimmicky just on its own terms, but unlike Vern, I’m not a Rudy Ray Moore head, so, I don’t have as good of a reference point on that or as much as an a priori investment in the mythos or the liner notes. So, I’m coming in with more of a blank slate. I like the cast and the energy so much, though, that I want to like it and give it another try.

    MARRIAGE STORY sounds great but heavy. I’m not sure I’m ready to go in there right now, just in terms of some things hitting close to home, but maybe. Could be therapeutic, and I’m certainly here for Driver and Johansen.

    Great piece, as always!

  20. CJ – Thanks for the info bud. I was wondering if it had gotten cancelled cause it was originally slated for some time last year. I suppose it makes sense considering the ending of PARABELLUM. I guess they want to pick it up after whatever resolution comes to that hotel personnel subplot in part 4 and not make it a prequel series or something.

    Skani – I haven’t watched it since around 2005. I’m usually pretty good at separating the artist from the art but considering his character in it and all the fuck shit he was involved with in real life I could see how nowadays it could feel really slimey rewatching him in that role.

    As far as DOLEMITE goes I loved it because it had a lot of heart. I too have yet to see DOLEMITE. My introduction to the legend was his appearance on Big Daddy Kane’s 3rd album.

    Then shortly after that the blatant Dolemite reference on Method Man’s Tical album via the I Get My Thing In Action track. So I did feel an obligation as a lifelong hip hop head to see he source that inspired a lot of my own inspirations.

    Also as a lifelong outsider it always brings a smile to my face to see social misfits pull together and beat the odds.

    Man I really have to watch DOCTOR SLEEP. Between Vern’s high praise and the community’s consensus that there is a lot to enjoy in it I think I picked the wrong Stephen King adaptation to watch at the cinema last fall.

  21. I know it’s still a while till the Emmys, but if the finale of THE GOOD PLACE won’t win every possible award, I might riot. Although that episode terrified me on an existential level and kinda ruined the show for me to the point where I will most likely never rewatch or even recommend it. But dammit, that was one of televisions greatest hours!

  22. I have a weird relationship with that show. I loved the first season and thought the big twist at the end of it was great. But that twist (and its accompanying soft reboot of the show’s premise) also made me not want to watch anymore. It just seemed like a lot of work, and that’s not what I want out of sitcoms, which I think of as comfort food. So I never went back. Just never felt like making the commitment.

  23. I won’t pretend that the show was a complete homerun. Like most serials, the show worked best before they shook up the status quo, plus season 3 made the mistake of being too slapsticky in a context that doesn’t allow it (trying to be vague for spoilery reasons here), plus the middle stretch of season 4 felt A LOT like the writers were just stalling, but generally I think it’s worth sitting through, although I don’t wanna recommend it, because of how much that absolutely god damn brillant finale frustrated me.

  24. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the season I saw and a whole lot right, but that season finale gave the impression that the show was going to be dealing with endless secrets and twists and switchbacks and “Forget Everything You Thought You Knew”s (FEYTYKs) and that isn’t really what I signed up for. I’ve always meant to finish it up but it seemed like an awful lot of drama. And now the only streaming service I still have is Shudder so I missed my window.

  25. Terrified you? I fear death but this show managed to make me feel a little better about it..

  26. Mr M, it’s not really like that. Every season has a slightly different concept, but it’s not really a big twist driven show after season 1.

    Sternsheim: BIG FAT MOTHERFORKIN GOOD PLACE SPOILER, SO YOU BETTER STOP READING NOW

    I don’t know, I already called bullshit the episode before when they introduced “The door”, because I simply don’t buy into that “If you get everything you want, it will make you unhappy” philosophy*, but basically the idea that someone will be so satisfied that they just decide to stop existing, horrifies my in a million different ways, although they did a good job to actually make it look like a happy ending.

    *Although as a guy who rarely gets what he wants I might be biased.

  27. I find all depictions of the afterlife terrifying. There’s nothing scarier than eternity. I’ll take non-existence over forever every time. Like wakes and other funeral rights, the afterlife seems designed to comfort the living. I doubt the dead give a shit either way.

  28. Depends on the existence you are stuck in for all eternity, I guess.

  29. It’s just not worth the risk. I’d rather blink out of existence in an instant than be stuck in an eternal state of being from which there can be no escape. Sure, I might be missing out on heaven or valhalla or my 19 virgins or whatever, but it’s not like I’ll know it, will I? That’s the nice thing about non-existence. It’s not your problem anymore.

  30. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 8th, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    Fully agree with Mr. M. It’s the same for me with the idea of reincarnation – fucking terrifying. You go through all this once and you finally earn your rest, and then you have to go back and fucking do it again?! Non-existence is a way more soothing thought.

  31. To be frank I’m not too big on sitcoms unless the characters are pieces of shit like in It’s Always Sunny or Curb Your Enthusiasm. I gave the pilot for The Good Place a chance cause of Ted Danson and didn’t really find it all that great.

    However in all my years postingpeople here I can’t think of Mr. M really bigging up any TV show let alone a sitcom so that actually speaks volumes. Plus I trust the judgement of pretty much everyone in this community overall. I guess it’s time to give it another shot. Hopefully NBC On Demand has it but I do have a Hulu sub through my spotify so I’ll look there as well if anything.

  32. I think I’m just mostly terrified of being done before I’m ready being done. Everybody deals with death differently.

  33. I have always liked Good Place a lot, but I’m really struggling to finish the final season. All the character dynamics which made the show fun are now pretty much gone. Central characters have changed so much that they are only shadows of what made them interesting in the first place. Particularly in comedy TV, you can’t take away core characteristics and conflicts, because the show just falls apart then.

    The whole thing has become dull for me.

  34. You’re good, Vern: apparently DDTFHK was a July 2018 release. I didn’t catch it until the following February, after its pre-Christmas DVD release. And I feel like I’ve been talking about it ever since.

  35. Tuuka, I know what you mean, but I guess that’s inevitable in a show about people who successfully try to change. At least my man Jason aka the douchebag with a childlike heart of gold aka one of the greatest characters who graced our screens in recent history stays himself till the end and gets the wonderful good bye he deserves.

  36. Well tonight is the night where the people who spent all year saying awards shows don’t matter throw the biggest hissy fits over their favorite movie not winning an award they supposedly don’t care about.

  37. Either that or they keep reminding us all day that they won’t watch the show.

  38. …and they’ll use #oscars to make sure everybody knows it.

  39. We all expect Larry Cohen to be left out of the IN MEMORIAM tonight, right? I mean, those fuckers forgot or didn’t give a shit about Dick Miller. There is no way they honor King Cohen.

  40. They didn’t have Larry Cohen. They didn’t have many genre people on because they usually don’t. We should be used to this by now.

    I have a couple of questions.
    1. Renee Zelwegger?
    2. Feels like we got a Best Picture winner that people will actually be talking about in the future in a positive way.

  41. Sorry to be a downer but as a Buddhist, we believe that non-existence has to be earned.

    So, if our belief system is in any way correct, looks like back for at least one more spin of the wheel unfortunately as I’ve made such a hash of this cycle.

    But never mind that because GOOD LORD DID YOU SEE WHAT PARASITE JUST PULLED OFF AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS???

  42. Can You Hear Me Now? by Donald McMichael from the inspiring motion picture THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE was the most egregious Oscar snub of 2020

  43. I know this isn’t THE GOOD PLACE discussion thread or anything, but I did find it to be an extremely satisfying finale for myself. I sympathize with some of the criticisms around apparent wheel-spinning in season 4, but I think those problems don’t outweigh how much I appreciated a comedy (and for me at least, I got pretty much at least one huge laugh per episode) that really grappled with what it means to try and be a better person. I found that very refreshing in a comedy landscape that by and large mines laughs from people being as comedically terrible as possible. The level of difficulty in terms of pulling off a comedy about being good seems much higher to me, and I think they mostly succeeded. TV comedy of the decade IMO.

  44. In case someone doesn’t know, Parasite won best picture, director and screenplay.

    Joaquin won best actor. Brad won best supporting. I don’t think many people care who won best female categories this time. Not being a chauvinist, but neither win excited me much.

    This is probably going to be one those rare years where it’s hard do complain about the winners.

  45. Fuck. Somehow my computer auto-corrected my username. Vern, can you please fix my name in the above post? Thanks.

  46. Well deserved. Cliff Booth became an instant legend in my eyes as soon as the movie was over. Top 3 Tarantino character in my eyes and Phoenix’s work was the best part of that movie.

  47. Parasite is lucky that Detective Dee: TFHK was a 2018 release.

  48. PS: While Brad Pitt is cool and handsome, he lacks a DRAGON TAMING MACE. Therefore, he too has reaped the rewards of Detective Dee’s release date.

  49. I wonder if this will change the landscape towards foreign language movies. I live in Finland, in here we learn to watch subtitled TV and movies from the age of seven. It’s very easy, when you are conditioned to it. American and British TV are a crucial elements of culture in here. (Many Americans might not realize how big British TV is in many European countries. And they do very high quality stuff. BBC is awesome).

    My guess is that this will give a good nudge to the right direction. But there is still a lot of work to do.

  50. No argument on that here.

    Although, when last I heard, PARASITE had made about 160-times more than DETECTIVE DEE: TFHK at the US box office. So never mind all the prizes for PARASITE, what we really need as its lasting legacy is wider releases for Asian movies. But wasn’t CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON gonna fix all that?

  51. Crouching Tiger was before streaming. Plus even though it was Asian language, it was still a kung fu movie when kung fu was really hot. I’m sure if the Weinsteins didn’t implode Parasite would have been in more theatres.

  52. Yeah, but if the Weinsteins had been handling PARASITE they’d’ve tried to shave 20 minutes off the run time, rescore with hip hop, and change the name to KILL CLASS.

    But I take your point.

    Here in the UK there’s already talk of a touring Bong Joon-Ho retrospective, including SNOWPIERCER which only previously had festival screenings. There absolutely has to be an audience for that on a big screen.

  53. Well… Crouching Tiger is what convinced the Weinsteins to buy Tsui Hark a CG studio so he could make Legends of Zu (Which they then chopped in half and didn’t release until five years later straight to video). So in a roundabout way, it did get Detective Dee: TFHK made…

  54. for those of us that watch Japanese, Chinese, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian movies all the time, this discussion in the media on how PARASITE will change peoples watching habits seems really stupid.

  55. Thanks, jojo. Somehow that is weirdly comforting.

    Pegsman, to be sure, but if it can change distribution habits, I say let them talk. I’m just not sure it will.

  56. Watching subtitled movies is not mainstream in most countries, including USA. That’s why they use dubbing, all around the world.

  57. And even when dubbing is used, mainstream prefers local films and American films. And Americans barely watch any movies besides American movies.

  58. Most Americans hate to read truth be told. I know many people who slept on a lot of great cinema because they hate subtitles. I don’t see that really changing anytime soon. After a couple of days of reflection I think PARASITE’s win will end up being more of an outlier than the new standard.

  59. I think it will be an outlier…but at the same time, as younger people infiltrate the Academy, times are changing. A movie like Get Out would have NEVER been nominated for anything back in the day. So, who knows for sure?

  60. I don’t really know what the question is, but it looks like the answer is – again: Americans.

  61. As someone who has never turned down a film on the basis of it being subtitled (and, barring maybe animated films, will always choose sub over dub) I will say that the barrier they pose to an audience is a little more complicated than the all too common (thankfully not regurgitated here) “rubes don’t wanna read” hypothesis. Film is a visual medium; having to focus so much of our attention on the bottom 8th of the screen is far from ideal. In an ideal world dubbing would work, but it just doesn’t, at least English language dubs. Maybe the approach is the thing; in some European countries dubs are watched enthusiastically and the voice actors sometimes even attain a degree of celebrity themselves. Then again is it that a result of them seeing so many dubbed films from an early age, whereas in US/UK it’s an exception (and many people were probably introduced to the concept through parody)

  62. People are prone to say that English-speaking audiences won’t accept dubbed movies, and there certainly is some snobbery around dubbed versus subtitled movies. Probably someone saw a Shaw Brothers movie one time and thought it was funny how they talked while failing to notice the genius of the production.

    But the Dollars trilogy was filmed with US, Italian and Spanish actors all speaking their own lines in their own languages and the lines being dubbed as necessary. And I have yet to meet the English-speaker who will complain that they can’t watch A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS because they need to hear Gian Maria Volontè’s Italian to fully appreciate the movie.

  63. In Goldfinger, Gert Frobe spoke all his lines in rapid-fire German. You can’t even tell! Whoever dubbed him had a great voice and unless you’re a lip-reader, nothing appears strange visually either. Personally, I dislike subtitles because it forces you to whipsaw your gaze from the bottom of the screen to the part of the screen where the action is taking place. I inevitably miss visual information or subtitle information, leading to a frustrating viewing.

  64. In Italy, and China for that matter, they have always done the sound and dubbing afterwards. Even in their own language. So it’s easy for them to do an extra English soundtrack with Lee Van Cleef or George Lazenby or whoever. Dubbing done long afterwards with a voice actor almost always misses both the personality and style of the star on the screen.

  65. Watched VFW last night. It hit all my siege movie sweet spots and it’s super gory and Stephen Lang and William Sadler are great in it.

  66. I don’t think China and Italy do that anymore, it’s a silly system. I remember when HK started working with more on location sound and it was HORRIBLE. They hadn’t figured out where to put a mic, or when you need to loop sometimes…like when it’s raining and you can hear the freaking rain machines.

    Pegsman, dubbing works well enough when done in the own language…Hollywood does that all the time. That’s just looping. But yeah, having voice actors dub someone else never works, and the real problem is the mismatch of voice to lips. It just makes everything stupid. Think of all the fun we used to make of movies even like the first Godzilla cause of the looping…but you watch it with the proper voices and suddenly that movie clicks and works for real, not just in a silly way.

  67. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 15th, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    Sternshein – VFW is out? I had my eye on that since seeing the trailer, good to know it delivers!

  68. VOD and some theaters

  69. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 16th, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    Holy shit, VFW is fantastic. The last years there’s been plenty of this type of low budget gory throwback grindhouse style stuff with a synthwave soundtrack, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it executed this well, nor with a cast this great. I loved it!

  70. Got to see VFW on the big screen last night and HO-LEE cats, kids, do not sleep on this one. It’s exactly what Gaul above is saying and more. And the cast of old pros are absolutely bringing it. It is an absolute, 100% beers & buds movie. Just a ton of fun for the entirety of the runtime.

  71. I think I want to own it which I almost never say.

  72. sorry in advance for hijacking this thread for a rant, and i don’t mean to burst anyones’ parade or piss on anyones’ balloons or nuthin, but just to maybe provide a counter assessment of VFW i thought it was pretty much a complete and total disaster from start to finish outside of the undeniably badass cast.

    it is much more a homage to/pastiche of an actual movie in the vein of PLANET TERROR (although not quite as heightened and insufferable as that) than an actual film itself. i didn’t like fucking GREEN ROOM either but, at least as far as these “motherfuckers trapped in (A) menaced by (B)” type joints go, that had some stakes and a sense of escalation and a few twists and “oh shit!” moments and mostly tolerable dialogue and characters that were written to somewhat resemble actual human beings and the movie had some degree of its own unique cinematic style etc.

    the “style” of VFW is “bathe everything in red and blue and when any actual fighting or practical make up effects are employed just wobble the camera and cut on seemingly arbitrary beats and shots for seemingly arbitrary reasons so that it isn’t quite as obvious that we don’t actually know how to stage this shit and most of the gore in the movie (aside from a couple of kinda passable money shots) actually happens off screen or out of frame or out of focus or is just someone beside the camera spraying a blood hose at some thug.”

    speaking of which, these have to be some of the most generic and unmemorable faceless 80s thugs in one of these bullshit throwbacks so far. none of them have any interesting or unique looks or mannerisms or characteristics about them. actually one is a tall bald guy i guess, and i think i remember another one wearing a mask at some point? as for the two main asshole baddies, literally the only thing i remember about them at all is that one of them doesn’t zip their jacket up and the other one does. outside of that, and their gender, they are completely interchangeable.

    on top of that the entire thing just has this insufferable, repetitious cadence to it where (SPOILERS) random wave of bad guys starts yelling and running and attacking the bar all together and all of a sudden for no discernible reason, the good guys inside fight them off, some of the bad guys die, one of the good guys dies, the current wave of bad guys is subdued, there is some downtime where the characters have mind numbing exchanges that you will not give a shit about i assure you, and then the next wave of bad guys appears and starts yelling and running and attacking and the whole miserable carousel cranks listlessly forward all over again.

    so, the gore sucks, the action is laughable, the story isn’t compelling or energetically/interestingly told, the bad guys are absolutely fucking dire, the synth score is beyond generic and dull, the whole thing is rote and predictable and stale and the dialogue is several notches below a first draft level and that’s if i’m being generous.

    so, really, all you’re left with is an amazing cast doing their best to bring an awful script to life and, for the first 15 minutes or so, the movie is able to sort of clumsily guide itself towards the nearest toilet, drunk on the charisma of its stars, before collapsing and shitting itself to death immediately upon the first action beat being struck.

    stoked that people are digging it but also kind of shocked and confused by the fact as well. hope everyone else digs it too but just temper your expectations a little bit would maybe be my recommendation because it took me four attempts just to get through the fucking thing and i never want to see it again.

    (ps i am in no way suggesting it is as bad as CUCK i.e the worst film of 2019 yes even worse than BRAID and that was my attempt to steer the thread back towards 2019 joints again sorry)

  73. The gore sucks?

    The only complaint I have about the film is that it’s dark. I had to turn up my brightness on my TV to see what was going on. So it’s not a perfect movie.

    Also, I recognize that it’s almost literally impossible for me not to like a siege movie. They just always work for me.

    So to sum up I didn’t feel the way you felt but I 100% can understand why you didn’t jive with it. Your criticisms are valid for you.

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