Movies Watched in 2019 Part 2: Three Amigos and Bibi Andersson Edition


This is a continuation of notes on movies I’m watching this year.  In this batch of films, I thought I’d do ten with a three amigos theme, based on the Mexican directors who have won five of the last six best directing Academy Awards. They worked often with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, so I thought I’d catch at least five of his films. There was a lot of coverage of the work of actress Bibi Andersson after she passed away, so I figured I’d see five of her films, which would overlap with an effort to catch five Swedish flicks.

Movie #51/ New Movie #36/ 2000s Movie #2/ Anime Film #1: The Girl Who Jumped Through Time
This was a fun combination of anime coming of age comedy and sci-fi as a high school student makes her life better through time-travel, but slowly realizes the consequences for others.
Movie #52/ New Movie #37/ 1980s Movie #4/ Anime Film #2: Mobile Suit Patlabor
The 1980s mech film does a decent job setting up a world in which Gundam-style mech are used for more mundane purposes like construction, with a relatively by the books police investigation into a possible effort by a madman to control the robots for the wrong purposes.
Movie #53/ New Movie #38/ 2000s Movie #3/ Swedish Film #1: Songs From The Second Floor

I got interested in Roy Anderrson’s “Living” trilogy when a film list declared it was the best example of film production design ever. That’s probably a stretch, but this series of interconnected shorts has a surreal and bleak deadpan quality to it, that is definitely worth checking out.

Movie #54/  2000s Movie #4: The Producers
Some aspects of the Broadway adaptation do pale in comparison to the 1960s original, especially when Matthew Broderick’s Leo Bloom is compared to Gene Wilder’s original. This version is a bit duller, but does have some stuff to recommend it, especially Gary Beach reprising his Tony-winning take on the hapless director looped into the madness.

You the living

Movie #55/ New Movie #39/ 2000s Movie #5/ Swedish Film #2: You, The Living
Roy Andersson’s follow-up interesting, but a step down. Dry and bleak, but without the shock of the new of seeing this technique for the first time in Songs From the Second Floor, and with a slightly less satisfying focus on recurring characters. Your mileage may vary.

Movie #56/ 1980s Movie #5/ New Movie #40/ Three Amigos Film #1: Three Amigos
The Three Amigos is a decent send-up of Hollywood Westerns, with solid gags and camaraderie between Chase, Short and Martin.

Movie #57/ New Movie #40/ 2019 Movie #5/ Seen In Theaters #7: Avengers Endgame
Like Infinity War, it’s an odd film to measure since it isn’t mainly consumed as one movie, but as the culmination of a decade-long saga spanning over twenty movies. It does provide a satisfying conclusion to one of the most ambitious film projects ever, so it definitely deserves credit there. The central story is pretty decent, with the heroes dealing with the aftermath of a villain’s victory, but much of the appeal is in the fitting endings for some of the best film heroes ever.

Movie #58/ 2018 Movie #5: Into the Spider-Verse
Watching it again it definitely holds up on a lot of levels. Miles Morales has a great central arc, as a kid dealing with a lot of stuff who finds himself part of the Spider-Man legacy. Spider-characters from different universes are introduced seemlessly, and the animation is stunning. The Oscar for Best Animated film, and the general consensus that it was an obvious no-brainer, are well-deserved.

Movie #59/ New Movie #41/ 2000s Movie #6/ Finnish Film #2: Sauna
It’s got a solid concept, as two Finnish brothers work as cartographers mapping out the Russian/ Finnish border in the aftermath of a peace settlement. Some shady stuff occurs before they meet up with Russians at a strange villain where an eerie presence awaits. It’s not perfect, but it does get an extra point for remaining undeniably creepy.


Movie #60/ 1960s Movie #11/ New Film #42/ Bibi Andersson Film #1: Duel at Diablo
An interesting effort just before the New Hollywood arrived in a Western that acknowledges that the Native Americans had legitimate grievances, features Sydney Poitier as a cynical former soldier turned mercenary, and Bergman collaborator Bibi Andersson as an Apache abductee who thinks they might be better than the regular Americans.

Movie #61/  2010s Movie #2 : Warrior
An underdog sports movie on steroids in the sense that it isn’t a set-up to one battle. It’s an underdog in a tournament where he has to tackle numerous tough guys, where the fight against the sport’s most powerful figure isn’t even the last one. Solid cast with Hardy, Edgerton and Nick Nolte as a deeply flawed mentor.
Movie #62/ 1950s Movie #5: Mister Roberts
This John Ford Navy dramedy has a hell of a cast and uses it well; James Cagney as a strict ambitious admiral, Jack Lemmon (winning an Oscar) as a slacker ensign, William Powell as the elder statesman ship doctor, and Henry Fonda as an executive officer who wants to be where the action is. It’s generally enjoyable take on the monotony of war, and a power struggle that ensues.
Movie #63/  2000s Movie #7/ Three Amigos Film #2/ New Film #43/ Spanish Language Film #1: Amores Perros
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s debut film certainly doesn’t feel like a first film; an above-average Pulp Fiction knock-off maybe. It tells three intersecting stories in Mexico City, connected by characters’ doomed love of dogs and a car accident. There’s potential for think-pieces in the question about whether it’s more unsettling to watch dogfighting scenes than violence against humans.

Movie #64/  2010s Movie #3/ Three Amigos Film #3/ Emmanuel Lubezki Film #1: Gravity
If you have the opportunity to watch it in 3D in a theater it may be a 10/10, because the spectacle is incredible. On a DVD on a regular TV, it’s a decent survival story, with an excellent performance by Sandra Bullock as a desperate scientist not all that sure she has anything to go back to.

Movie #65/  2010s Movie #4/ Three Amigos Film #4/ Emmanuel Lubezki Film #2: Birdman
This film highlights several of Iñárritu’s skills as a director: He gets several great performances in one narrative with such regularity it’s easy to overlook (this film has three nominated performances; The Revenant had two; 21 Grams had two more; all were well-deserved.) He tackles familiar and unfamiliar locations with power and confidence (He is not a creature of Broadway or 1990s Hollywood.) He raises questions and conflicts that aren’t fully resolved (Burton’s Hollywood has-been VS the authenticity of Norton’s critical darling; the daughter wanting to be more modern and media-savvy.) And he uses gimmicks in interesting ways, with this film coming across as an unbroken shot.

Movie #66/  1990s Movie #2/ Three Amigos Film #5/ New Film #44/ Spanish Language Film #/ Emmanuel Lubezki Film #3: Sólo con Tu Pareja/ Love In The Time of Hysteria

Cuaron’s debut about a likable cad tricked into believing he has AIDs is funny and goes into some dark places. The cast is pretty decent, even if there are some likely inevitable issues with tonal consistency.

Movie #67/ 1950s Movie #6/ Criterion Edition #11/ Swedish Film #3/ Bibi Andersson Film #2: Wild Strawberries
Tremendous look at a man’s soul. Probably the best of the subgenre of people looking back at their life.

Movie #68/  2000s Movie #8/ Emmanuel Lubezki Film #4/ Criterion Edition #12 : The New World (Theatrical Edition)
I probably enjoyed the Extended Edition a little more, but the theatrical edition gives a satisfying sense of a mythic story that will be relevant centuries later as it’s happening.


Movie #69/  New Film #45/ 1990s Movie #3/ Three Amigos Film #6/ Spanish Language/ Criterion Edition #13: Cronos
Del Toro’s debut shows his confidence as a young director, telling what could be a horror story as more of a fable, as an old shopkeeper gains immortality, and realizes the cost. The extras in the Criterion Edition highlight just how much work has gone on behind the scenes (IE- He knows details about the characters’ families that aren’t expressed in these 90 minutes.)
Movie #70/  2010s Movie #5/  Emmanuel Lubezki Film #5 : Tree of Life
It takes a while to realize what this Malick film is about, and someone else might have a different impression. It’s a very different coming of age story, often beautiful and dreamlike, and at some points quite cosmic.
Movie #71/ New Movie #46/ 1920s Movie #3/ Criterion Edition #14: The Love Parade
Lubitsch’s comedy s arguably the first standard Hollywood musical, so some of the rough edges in sound quality are understandable, and well made up by the star power of a young Maurice Chevalier, and the film debut of Jeanette MacDonald. It collapses a bit in the second half, when it shifts into a different and less satisfying story with a 1920s take on gender equality.
Movie #72/ New Film #47/  2000s Movie #9/ Three Amigos Film #7: 21 Grams
It’s described as a crime story, although there are mainly two criminal acts; a hit and run that connects the three main characters, and a later effort at revenge. There are powerhouse performances by Penn, Watts and Benicio Del Toro, all put through the wringer and highlighting their range.
Movie #73/  2000s Movie #9/ Three Amigos Film #8: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Easily one of the most effective superhero sequels and a significant improvement over the original. It’s very successful at world-building, at showing a universe of strange wonders, and combining that with an interesting arc for Hellboy as he tries to find his place in a world that sees him as a monster.
Movie #74/ 1950s Movie #7/ New Film #48/ Criterion Edition #15/ Swedish Film #4/ Bibi Andersson Film #3: The Magician
This Bergman film is a strange take on performance and the importance of art in the conflict between a magician and a professional skeptic. It’s sometimes avant-garde and sometimes very classical.
Movie #75/  2000s Movie #10/ Three Amigos Film #9:  Blade II
Del Toro’s first superhero adaptation puts the vampire hunter in the uncomfortable position of having to ally himself with the enemies, a common enough move for superhero sequels, but one that works pretty well given how nasty the new bad guy is, and the conflicts between the vampire society. Visually stunning.
Movie #76/ 1970s Movie #9/ New Film #/ Bibi Andersson Film #: I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
This seems to be a bit of a cross between One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, It’s a Wonderful Life and Spellbound, as a teenager struggles with mental illness and the sense that others just don’t understand her. It’s sometimes depicted sensitively enough, although often a bit amateurish, as producer Roger Corman isn’t the right fit for the nuance and subtlety required.
6/10Speedy carousel
Movie #77/ New Movie #48/ 1920s- Silent Movie #4/ Criterion Edition #16: Speedy
This Harold Lloyd romantic comedy is worth checking out for some genius set pieces, and for the depiction of New York City a century ago (often filmed on location.)
Movie #78/ 1960s Movie #12/ Criterion Edition #17/ Swedish Film #5/ Bibi Andersson Film #5: Persona
The contest of wills between a mute actress and a young nurse is a powerful film about secrets laid bare, with fascinating avant-garde techniques and but a straightforward and accessible story.
Movie #79/  New Movie #49/ 1990s Movie #4: The Yards
It’s never quite clear whether this was set in the late 90s when it was filmed or in the mid-1980s when a pivotal scandal occurred. A bit of a pale imitation of The Godfather and On The Waterfront, although the casting is excellent with Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron as the younger generation, and Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burnstyn and James Caan as the parents.
Movie #80/  2010s Movie #6/ Three Amigos Film #10 : The Shape of Water
A lot of different things come together very successfully in this film. It is a decent fable of a romance between a complex mute woman and a Universal Horror movie monster. It’s a Golden Age of Hollywood type science fiction film from the point of view of people who weren’t the protagonists in those movies. It’s easily one of the best-looking science fiction films ever, with solid arcs for a variety of characters. It should not have won Best Picture over Dunkirk, but it is an excellent carefully-considered film.
Avengers Endgame

Round-Up (From These Films)
Best Film I’ve Never Seen Before… Avengers: Endgame

Best Three Amigos Film…  The Shape of Water
Best Emmanuel Lubezki Film…Tree of Life
Best Swedish Film… Persona
Best Bibi Anderrson Film… Persona
Best Film Overall…Persona
Posted in Film | Leave a comment

The Medieval As Genre


The Western is probably one of the best settings in film, due to the storytelling opportunities of a lawless land, the cinematic wide open spaces, and the iconography. It’s become one of the few settings that has become its own genre, and I’ve come to appreciate the ways the same should be true of the medieval era, which has its own trappings (kings and queens, knights and dragons, the Church as a rival power or source of wisdom) and a consistent history of successful adaptation.

Technically the actual Medieval era ended in the 15th Century, but a wider designation in film could include the Renaissance, essentially covering the period before we had democracy and guns. These are the foundation for western understanding: the dark ages, a bad time for progress and being alive, but an interesting time for dramatic purposes.

This would be a genre that would include the second-highest grossing movie of 2017 (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast remake), a trilogy of top ten grossing films in 2012-2014 (The Hobbit), several successful animated franchises (Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon), And that’s before we get to the Lord of the Rings films, and Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood (oddly enough, the #2 film of 1991.)

If Medievals was a genre, its top five would be competitive with the top five of westerns, due to the flexibility in realistic and fantasy settings. Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev is a great exploration of art and faith in a harsh setting. Disney’s Snow White is one of the most important movies ever made, as an early animated hit, but iconic. This could be rounded out with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, and possibly the best silent movie ever made The Passion of Joan of Arc.

lord of the rings.jpg

You could make the case that this should be a shared genre with the rest of the middle ages, including the samurai era. There are some similarities, with a code of honor in a largely lawless society where people fight with swords. My general sense is that samurai films would be a distinct entity, but I can understand the argument. It seems as distinct from the medieval era as the “sword and sandals” epics which cover Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome (although that’s more of a category than a genre.)

As a genre, the medieval has the advantage of work from the best writer who ever lived, since there will always be film adaptations of Shakespeare, and we’ve seen quite a few good ones: Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet and Richard III, Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, Orson Welles’ Chimes of Midnight, and Polanski’s Macbeth. More are coming.


Other notable medievals would be The Adventures of Robin Hood (which is also adapted quite often) and various films about royal intrigue, like Beckett and The Lion in Winter, or A Man For All Seasons. You’ve also got Braveheart and the Kingdom of Heaven (the extended cut is quite good.)

It’s hardly limited to English language films, as it includes the Czech classic Marketa Lazerova, Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky, the Finnish drama Pathfinder, the Soviet adaptation of King Lear, and more. Rainer Sarnet’s November is set in the 19th Century, but it’s pretty much a medieval, partly due to the remove of the characters in the Estonian setting.

There are some comedies in this setting, with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or the musical The Court Jester. There were so many Disney films in this period, that there’s a popular series (Shrek) essentially parodying them.)

There has been much rich material from the silent era, with the St Bartholmew’s Day Massacre chapter of Intolerance, Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen, Murnau’s Faust, the history of witches in Häxan, and Lon Chaney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.


We’ve started seeing more of it in TV, thanks to Game of Thrones and Vikings. There will surely be the inevitable Game of Thrones spinoffs, as well as a lot of other shows trying to imitate their success.

This is a genre that has always been around, and has slowly built an impressive filmography. But we do seem to be seeing more of it now. It could be that it’s speaking to the current era with the focus on ignorance and tough choices.

The dividing lines can be difficult to settle. There is arguably a change with the arrival of guns, and the spread of colonialism (I suppose you could argue there’s a colonial genre as well, although there are less movies about that) which leads to different priorities for everyone involved. The gothic has been considered a different era.

These films do often fall in other categories, like Fantasy, or Period Romance. But why not have lists of the best medieval films, or Netflix codes?




Posted in Film, Literature, Pop-Culture Trends, Television | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

California is Unusual

There is an underappreciated reason for the arguments about the electoral college: California is so unusual in how partisan it is.
If California were not part of the United States, Trump would have won 58,501,018 votes, which is roughly 47.74% of the popular vote, and Hillary Clinton would have won 57,099,726, or roughly 46.61% of the popular vote. There would be no controversy about the mismatch. George W Bush would have won the popular vote in the 2000 election with 45,888,573 votes to Gores 45,138,694, although the state hadn’t swung as much to the left, then.
If California were slightly liberal, as liberal as the popular vote for the United States, that would have meant 4,219,326 votes for HRC, and 4,035,496 votes for Trump. So the popular vote for the nation would be 62,536,514 for Trump, and 61,319,052
for Hillary, still a Trump win.
Hillary’s margin in California was her greatest in any state in the continental US (the only larger margins were in Hawaii, and Washington DC.) If California were as liberal as Oregon, Trump would beat Hillary in the popular vote narrowly (64,542,377 VS 64,296,806.) You’d have to get California to match more liberal states for a win. If California were as liberal as Delaware, Hillary would win narrowly (64,525,309 VS 64,314,053.) If California were as liberal as Illinois, Hillary would beat Trump in the popular vote by over a million votes (64,928,676 to 63,910,588) but not nearly three million.
The point of this exercise isn’t to argue that California is somehow illegitimate, or to attack the electoral college. There’s an obvious argument that because California is so large and likely to go for the Democratic nominee, it would have been foolish for the Republicans to spend any effort on the state, which helped Hillary run up the numbers. If the popular vote mattered, the Clinton campaign would have spent more time in urban Texas and big southern cities, while Trump would have more rallies in Orange County and Upstate New York, which might have helped in the 2018 midterms.
However, there are some implications. A large chunk of the country could feel out of place. There may be a loss of national cohesion.
Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Movies Watched in 2019 Part 1: Lots of Oscars Rabbit Hole Edition


As I did last year, I figured I’d keep records of films I watch, along with some sub-goals for each entry. This time I’m making the entries longer, to have more ambitious sub-goals. With the Academy Awards coming out, it seems worthwhile to have goals inspired by that. So I opted for ten films which competed against one another for academy awards, five films that won best picture, five films that won best actor, five films that won for best actress. William Goldman passed away recently, so it’s a good chance to catch five William Goldman films. With Goldman and Oscars, five Dustin Hoffman films seem doable (there’s meant to be some overlap). Hugh Griffith was an actor who had been in a few best picture winners I hadn’t seen, so I figured on five films with him.  I meant to do five Czech films last year. I’ve been considering the idea of the medieval as a category akin to the Western, so five films from that category. The ASC Top 100 was an interesting list, so I wanted five films from that series. And five films by Michael Curtiz, to get a sense of his filmography outside of Casablanca. I ended up watching five cold war films, and five theatrical adaptations.

As was the case last year I’ve got an annual goal of ten films per decade, with 18 films from last year, and 19 films from 2019.

Movie #1/ 1960s Movie #1/ New Movie #1/ Hugh Griffith Film #1: How to Steal a Million
This comedy got me down two rabbit holes: William Wyler—a director I’m not very familiar with who made three Best Picture winners—and Hugh Griffith, an Oscar winning actor who was in three Best Picture films, one by Wyler. It’s a charming comedy with Peter O’Toole as a gentleman thief and Audrey Hepburn as the daughter of an art forger who needs a statue stolen before it is discovered to be fake. It’s solid enough, and the mechanics of the theft are decent, although it is a bit generic.

Movie #2/ 1940s Movie #1/ New Movie #2/ Ealing Comedy Film #: Whisky Galore
This had a good hook for a comedy, as a Scottish town has gone dry due to war rationing just as a ship with thousands of crates of whisky is caught on their shore, and it’s realized pretty well. The characterizations are solid, and the efforts to evade the authorities are a lot of fun.

Movie #3/ 1980s Movie #1/ William Goldman Film #1/ Medieval Film #1/ Criterion Edition #1: The Princess Bride
This might just be Goldman’s masterpiece, one of the most fun movies ever. The casting in the small moments is exceptional. The story has some solid twists. And the bookends of Falk’s grandfather reading to a sick grandson are great. Very rewatchable.

Movie #4/  Infamous Criminals #1/ 1960s Movie #2: Bonnie and Clyde
The cast is astounding, earning the five Oscar nominations (This doesn’t count Gene Wilder’s amazing debut in a brief role as a hostage.) It’s a very New Hollywood take on criminals from the depression, exploring their neuroses, celebrating how they stand up to authority, and building to the realization that they may not have long to live. I’m a bit surprised this wasn’t in the American Society of Cinematographers Top 100, since Burnett Guffey had a well deserved Oscar. It’s a beautiful film, using the Western landscapes and Depression era imagery well.

butch cassidy sundance trio

Movie #5/ 1960s Movie #3/ William Goldman Film #2/ ASC Top 100 #1/ Competition #1A: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Goldman’s other masterpiece may be the best written of the outlaw films. Robert Redford and Paul Newman have legendary buddy chemistry; Elizabeth Ross is great as the girlfriend of one aware that she could have been happy with the other. The film has some astounding set pieces. The extended chase scene with the super posse, a group of the top law enforcement agents in the world, earns it a spot in the ASC Top 100, as cinematographer Conrad Hall adds gravitas to a group of five distant men. The little moments work, but the structure is great, starting with early adventures that lead the outlaws to realize they need to shake things up, and then having that all go to hell.

Movie #6/ 1950s Movie #1/ New Movie #3/ Best Actor Winner #1/ Best Picture Film #1/ Hugh Griffith Film #2/ Academy’s Favorite Directors #2/  ASC Top 100 #2: Ben-Hur
Due to the length and unusual structure, I don’t think this would be made as a film today. It would either be split, or it would be a big-budget HBO/ Netflix series. It works as an epic tale of revenge set in the background of one of the most important events of all time. The climactic chariot race is exceptional, but the film is interested in what revenge costs Charlton Heston’s Judah Ben Hur, devoting the last forty minutes to his quest for grace and meaning. It might be a better film now with modern tech, so that you could pick which elements to rewatch, depending on if you’re in the mood for the revenge quest or the coda.

Movie #7/ 1970s Movie #1/ Czech Film #1/ Medieval Film #2/ Criterion Edition #2: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
The Czech avant-garde film is one of the weirdest I’ve seen, with a dream logic on a teenager’s experiences with monsters, evil clergy and a dark decision by her grandmother. It’s a brief (75 minutes) film that blends genres (fantasy, horror, medieval period, possibly soft-core porn) to tell a very subjective coming of age story.

Movie #8/ 1970s Movie #2 / New Movie #4/ Best Actor Winner #2: The Good-Bye Girl
Neil Simon’s romantic comedy is a clever take on the opposites attract trope, although they don’t hook up until about twenty minutes to go. Dreyfuss is excellent as a quirky actor, putting up with an unexpectedly weird home life and a director who has some terrible ideas for Richard III. Marsha Mason is a good counterbalance as a single mom who doesn’t have time for the BS. Quinn Cummings plays the cute kid well. It’s funny, and builds to a satisfying conclusion.

Movie #9/ 1970s Movie #3/ New Movie #5/ William Goldman Film #3/ Dustin Hoffman Film #1/ Competition #2A: Marathon Man
Dustin Hoffman is a great lead for this kind of thriller, adding desperation and realism to the wrong man role. Laurence Olivier is one of the great screen villains as a cautious Nazi coming to the US to get his hands on stolen diamonds. It doesn’t always gel together very well, but there is the dental interrogation as a highlight.

Movie #10/ 2018 Movie #1 / New Movie #6/ Competition #3A/ Seen In Theaters #1: Roma
From the reviews, I knew it would be beautiful and that it was worth seeing in theaters for the sound mixing alone (it is an astounding communal experience) but I was a bit worried that this neorealistic take on the year in the life of a maid would be boring at ties. It’s satisfying, with astounding and complex performances. At the center is a family and employees who love one another (with one glaring exception) but could often be better to one another. A highlight is an astounding set piece combines a childbirth with a 1970s army massacre, but it builds to it well, and deals with the aftermath impressively.


Movie #11/ New Movie #7/ 1930s Movie #1/ Michael Curtiz Film #1/ Competition #4A: Captain Blood
The early sound classic is decent but flawed. The structure is very episodic, so it takes a while to get going, with Errol Flynn’s Captain Blood upsetting the royal family, getting enslaved, and impressing someone powerful and wealthy before he’s able to escape, and we’re able to see his fortunes as a pirate, albeit a relatively tame one. It’s not a bad film by any means, just not the best of its type.

Movie #12/ New Movie #8/ 2019 Movie #1/ Theatrical Release #2: Split
This was an interesting mess. I’m probably more inclined to appreciate it as a wannabe writer who likes comic books, so even the parts that don’t work are pretty interesting.

Movie #13/ 1970s Movie #4/ William Goldman Film #4/ Dustin Hoffman Film #2/ ASC Top 100 #3/ Competition #2B: All the President’s Men
The most legendary film about reporters really comes across more as a buddy cop film, as two stylistically different rookies (Hoffman as the chain-smoking wild card, Redford as the by the book rookie) try to figure out a conspiracy. It’s beautifully shot in ways that convey their increasingly rational paranoia, and the scope of what it is they hope to accomplish.

Movie #14/ 1930s Movie #2/ Michael Curtiz Film #2: The Adventures of Robin Hood
Following the success of Captain Blood, Michael Curtiz came back with Errol Flynn as another nobleman who becomes an outlaw leader after an evil king usurps control of England, with Basil Rathbone again as a rival swordsman, and Olivia Haviland again as a love interest with relatives in power. This time it’s significantly better, so it’s worth looking at why. It might be a combination of the setting, and the consistent sense of fun.

Movie #15/ New Movie #8/ 2018 Movie #2/ Polish Film #1/ Competition #4B/ Seen In Theaters #2/ Cold War Film #1: Cold War
The nomination for Best Foreign Language film was a forgone conclusion, but the nomination for Best Director was a pleasant surprise. The cinematography is gorgeous, and it’s great take on love in an inhospitable environment (communist Poland) for two people who would have struggled in the best of circumstances.


Movie #16/ New Movie# 9/ 1960s Movie #4/ Czech Film #2/ Cold War Film #2: Fireman’s Ball
Milos Forman’s farce about everything going wrong at a small celebration in the Soviet-Era Czech Republic works as a condemnation of its time, and as an expose of the pettiness of small-time public servants. My mom stopped watching the film halfway through since it reminded her too much of Soviet Estonia.

Movie #17/ Silent Film #1/ New Movie #10/ African-American Director #1: Within Our Gates
This is worth checking out as an artifact of the types of stories an African-American director wanted to tell in the silent era, generations before the modern civil rights movement. The film has struggles, as the quality of some surviving footage is quite questionable, the narrative takes some odd turns (it’s quite episodic with key characters dropped and new plot threads suddenly introduced) and the cheap production is obvious at times. Beyond the historical significance, is legitimately powerful at times, especially in the depiction of a lynching.

Movie #18/ 1960s Movie #5/ New Movie #11/ Hugh Griffith Film #3/ Best Picture Film #2/ Theatrical Adaptation #1: Oliver!
Hugh Griffith’s role is a brief few minutes as a magistrate in one scene, which is an odd choice for an Oscar winner. This take on Oliver Twist has some legitimately great songs, and solid performances, particularly Ron Moody’s sympathetic Fagin, and Carol Reed’s hoodlum.

Movie #19/ 1970s Movie #6/ New Movie #12/ Hugh Griffith Film #4/ Theatrical Adaptation #2: Luther
This is part of the American Film Theater’s adaptation of thirteen major plays from the mid-twentieth century. Stacy Keach gets across the intensity and northern-ness of this particular version of Martin Luther, in a story that is fair to the three sides: Luther and the protestants noting the hypocrisy of the church, the Catholics arguing for the hierarchy, and the peasants who think more extreme measures are necessary to fix their earthly problems.

Movie #20/ New Movie# 13/ Criterion Collection #3/ 1960s Movie #6/ Czech Film #3/ Cold War Film #3: Return of the Prodigal Son
An interesting work from the Czech new wave, collected in Criterion’s Eclipse series, this drama takes a look at post-World War 2 alienation and difficulty understanding one another, kinda like The Graduate in the slightly madder than usual setting of Eastern Bloc era Czechoslovakia.

Movie #21/ New Film #14/ 1950s Movie #2/ Criterion Edition #4/ Theatrical Adaptation #3: Othello (1952)
The extras on the Criterion Edition are worth checking out, and could elevate this to an 8/10. Otherwise, Welles’ version of Othello is an interesting mess, often beautifully shot (For God’s sake, it’s Welles) but put together rather weirdly. His lack of care about ADR dubbing shows and is distracting.


Movie #22/ New Film #15/ 1960s Movie #7/ Best Actress Oscar #1/ Theatrical Adaptation #4:: The Miracle Worker
The confrontations between Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan are more violent than I expected, but it gets across the multiple difficulties of communicating with someone who is crafty but handicapped, especially when her family just wants the child to be more compliant.

Movie #23/ 1990s Movie #1/ William Goldman Film #5/ Best Actress Winner #2: Misery
Kathy Bates makes the most of the role of crazed fan Annie Wilkes in a masterpiece of escalation.

Movie #24/ Silent Movie #2/ The ASC Top 100 #4: Sunrise
This might be the most beautiful American silent film, depicting the differences between city life and the country. The characters are broad, but the emotions seem real, in a piece that starts out one way (a cheating husband is convinced by his mistress to kill his wife for insurance money) but goes in a different direction when he can’t go through with it.

Movie #25/ 2018 Movie #3 / New Movie #16: Vox Lux
This take on school shootings, terrorism, celebrity pop culture, teen pregnancy, and a host of other issues disappeared from theaters/ Oscar consideration without much notice, but is clever enough in terms of topics addressed, and twisting revelations that it could be a cult hit.

Movie #26/ New Film #17/ 1960s Movie #8/ Hugh Griffith Film #5/ Criterion Edition #6/ Best Picture Film #3: Tom Jones
A fun adaptation of a literary classic about a young man, raised well but of poor birth, who just finds women falling in love with him. Albert Finney might be the best passive lead of any film. It has four acting nominations, and even one that isn’t entirely deserved (Diana Silento’s raunchier girlfriend is probably not one of the five best of the year) could have gone to another (Joan Greenwood as the main love interest.)

Film Helsinki 570

Movie #27/ New Film #18/ 2000s Movie #1/ Documentary #1/ Finnish Film #1/ Seen In Theaters #3: Helsinki Forever
This was shown in the Anthology Film archive as part of a series of city symphonies, which I checked out due to Estonia’s connections to Finland. It’s quite good as a look at the different areas of the city, and how that has been depicted in its pop culture. It’s a well-made video essay that keeps it up for 70+ minutes.

Movie #28/ New Movie# 19/ 1960s Movie #9/ Czech Film #4/ Medieval Films #3: Valley of the Bees
I am convinced that the people involved with Game of Thrones have seen František Vláčil’s films and that Medieval Czechoslovakia is essentially the North. It’s a simpler version of themes from Marketa Lazarova, but worthwhile in its own right as an exploration of religious meaning, and the questions of loyalty and compromise.

Movie #29/ 1930s Movie #3/ Criterion Edition #7/ Best Picture Winner #4/ Best Actor Winner #3/ Best Actress Winner #3: It Happened One Night
This is just one of the most satisfying films ever. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert have astounding chemistry in a film that has an excellent take on its era, and some of the best screwball sequences ever. This time around, I had an appreciation for all the side characters.

Movie #30/ New Movie #20/ 2019 Movie #2/ Seen In Theaters #4: Battle Angel Alita
This sci-fi film is an interesting mess. The world is well-built, and they establish the mysteries pretty well. The central romance takes some interesting turns. The bad guys are a bit unsatisfying, especially since much of it is setting up a sequel. But it’s solid.

Movie #31/ New Movie# 21/ Criterion Collection #8/ 1960s Movie #10/ Czech Film #5/ Cold War Film #4: Loves of a Blonde
An interesting companion to Fireman’s Ball, with much of the same cast, and some similar themes about bureaucrats trying and failing in their efforts to bring joy to the public, while focusing on a young woman’s poorly conceived reunion with a former boyfriend.


Movie #32/ New Movie #22/ 1930s Movie #4/ Michael Curtiz Film #3: Doctor X
This is a strange artifact of a particular time in film, as sound is a few years in its infancy, the dark house horror is giving way to something else, and they’re trying a new form of coloring; the two-color technicolor, which didn’t last very long but contributes to a creepy dream-like mood.

Movie #33/ 1950s Movie #3/ Japanese Film #1/ Criterion Edition #9/ ASC Top 100 #5/ Medieval Film #4: The Seven Samurai
This may just be the most perfect concept for a movie ever; a story that has much to say about Japan’s feudal era, but that can be (and has been) translated into other genres. Seven warriors of disparate abilities and attitudes band together to protect a town of peasants from bandits. This opens up the possibility for all types of conflicts and secrets, and that’s just what Kurosawa provides, along with beautiful cinematography. Toshiro Mifune is a standout as the group’s wild-card, but all the samurai have their moments, as do the villagers. According to Watchmojo, it counts as a medieval film.

Movie #34/ 2010s Movie #1: Dunkirk
Watching it again, I am convinced that it was the best movie of the last five years, and that it was an injustice that The Shape of Water beat it for Best Picture. It is also likely Nolan’s masterpiece, and one of the great recent accomplishments in film editing.

Movie #35/ New Movie #23/ 2018 Movie #4: Black Mirror- Bandersnatch
This was an interesting experiment, and something that can only be done in streaming video, an exploration of the different ways a character can go, although a bit hindered by story branches that change the past in ways that don’t seem to play fair. The connection between the young programmer’s work and the viewer’s choices makes for satisfying commentary.

Movie #36/ New Movie #24/ 2019 Movie #3/ Seen In Theaters #5: Captain Marvel
This is probably one of the weaker Marvel Cinematic Universe films, which highlights the overall strength of the series. The narrative is a bit overly complicated, with planted memories and a lot of tonal shifts. High points for supporting performances by Annette Benning and Ben Mendelsohn, who initially starts out as the generic villain but then becomes something more.


Movie #37/ New Film #25/ 1970s Movie #7/ Dustin Hoffman Film #3/ Best Actor Winner #4/ Best Picture Winner #5: Kramer VS Kramer
Very solid family drama that toes a delicate line when tackling a difficult issue of the breakdown of a family, elevated by Meryl Streep giving tremendous depth to the ex-wife in what may her best performance ever, and one of the best supporting performances ever.

Movie #38/ New Film #26/ 1940s Movie #2/ Competition #5A: Spellbound
Might be the most notable Hitchcock film I hadn’t seen before. A curiosity on multiple levels, dealing with the topics of psychoanalysis (not as respected now) and the difficulties of a woman’s professional life in the 1940s, with performances by Ingrid Bergman at her peak, Gregory Peck at his peck (four Academy Award nominations in five years, and a lead role in a Best Picture winner; still weird to see him when he’s young), the sole Academy Award nomination of the legendary Russian actor Michael Chekhov (nephew of Anton) and dream sequences designed by Salvador Dali.

Movie #39/ New Film #27/ 1940s Movie #3/ Best Actress Oscar #4/ Michael Curtiz Film #4/ Competition #5B: Mildred Pierce
An interesting companion with Spellbound due to the focus on the difficulty women have in establishing professional lives. Much has been written about how this is the perfect Joan Crawford role, as her family life collapses while she gains professional success. Excellent noir framing by Michael Curtiz.

Movie #40/ 1950s Movie #4/ Criterion Collection #10/ Competition #1B: Some Like It Hot
It remains one of the funniest movies ever. This time around I was focusing on Jack Lemmon’s initial lusting after Marilyn Monroe (for obvious reasons) and the shift to helping out Tony Curtis/ romancing a wealthy Floridian, and how the poor guy may have just cracked under the strain.

Movie #41/ New Movie# 28/ 1980s Movie #2/ Medieval Films #5: The Name of the Rose
This murder mystery in a medieval library allows for a different type of detective with Sean Connery’s academic priest, and Christian Slater’s novice makes for a solid audience surrogate, as they uncover a conspiracy and the corruption in a monastery. Beautiful sets (especially the library’s labyrinth) and some interesting explorations of theology and truth, although compromised.

Movie #42/ New Movie #29/ 1930s Movie #5/ Michael Curtiz Film #5: The Mystery of the Wax Museum
Superior to Curtiz’s other two-color Technicolor horror (and demonstrating a pattern of his work being better the second time he tries something) with the wax museum as a compelling location, and the villain interesting enough to justify remakes.


Movie #43/ New Movie #30/ 1940s Movie #4/ Criterion Collection #11: Detour
The Criterion restoration of the B-movie highlights a noir that is in some ways so typical of the genre as to be generic (a man in a car with a fedora and a femme fatale, fog-filled streets, stormy nights, the illusions of Hollywood) but made unique with a lead who is more of a sad-sack than most (his top competition might be Scarlet Street’s Edmund G Robinson) and a femme fatale who is bitter, desperate and not making the best decisions. It slides from generic to defining at times.

Movie #44/ New Movie #31/ 1930s Movie #6/ German Film #1/ Seen In Theaters #6: The Steel Animal
I caught this in the Anthology Film Archives with my train buff father, and it wasn’t what I anticipated. I expected some kind of Man with a Movie Camera style-documentary on a famed German train line, although it’s more of a straight narrative, one seemingly influenced by Soviet realism. It’s often visually striking, but weird to figure out; an educated engineer quickly accepted by the workmen he’s paired with as he tells the stories of the tragedies that led to the success of locomotives (the individual stories aren’t the best-told). The director was locked up in an asylum by Goebbels allegedly for failing to be triumphant enough, but the way it’s almost a love story between the lead and one of the workmen could’ve been a factor in that as well.

Movie #45/ 1970s Movie #8/ New Movie #32/ Dustin Hoffman Film #4/ Theatrical Adaptation #5: Lenny 
It’s weird to see Dustin Hoffman in a black and white movie. The Lenny Bruce biopic captures the different sides of the man; the innovative comedian trying to get past the constraints of his trade, the loving family man, the guy who gives into his worst impulses- cheating on his wife with a nurse he meets after a serious car accident, and a strident crusader whose financial ills are largely his own damn fault.


Movie #46/ New Movie #33/ 2019 Movie #4/ Seen in Theaters #7: Us
This works pretty well as a straightforward horror film with a dual performance by Lupita Nyongo, and a largely new mythology. There is also tremendous metaphorical depth in the enemies of the film- “The Tethered” that makes this a movie worth discussing, and analyzing for what it’s saying about privilege, and the nature of reality.

Movie #47/ 2010s Movie #1/ Best Actress Winner #5: Silver Linings Playbook
It has the structure of an old-fashioned romantic comedy, but is built on 21st Century understandings of mental health and medication. Jennifer Lawrence elevates the role of the woman inexplicably in love with the male lead, selling her outrage at his hypocrisy and self-regard. The rest of the cast is excellent, with De Niro’s flawed and troubled father as a highlight.

Movie #48/ 1980s Movie #3/ New Movie #34/ Dustin Hoffman Film #5/ Cold War Film #5: Ishtar
I came into this aware of the film’s reputation as both being one of the most notorious flops of all time, and developing a more nuanced reputation later. For a movie so expensive the big set pieces seem uncinematic, even when there’s a gun fight with helicopters. It isn’t great, but there are some funny scenes, especially in the music of the inept songwriting duo.

Movie #49/ 2010s Movie #1/ Cold War Film #6: The Death of Stalin
I’m enjoying this film even more the second time around. It might be one of the best of the decade. The cast is uniformly excellent, selling a variety of roles: Buscemi’s scheming Khrushchev, Jason Issac’s ultra alpha male Field Marshall Zhukov, Michael Palin’s floundering and hesitant Molotov, Andrea Riseborough’s logically hysterical Svetlana Stalin, Olga Kurylenko’s noble music legend, and Jeffrey Tambor’s incompetent Malenkov. It works as a dark comedy, a power struggle, and an examination of ideas.

Movie #50/ New Movie #35/ 1930s Movie #7/ Best Actor Winner #5/ Competition #5B: The Informer
John Ford’s first of four best directing wins is for a beautifully shot expressionistic drama about a momentous night in the life of an IRA lunkhead, driven by poverty to inform on his best friend. There’s a lot of mid-30s overacting, and the metaphors aren’t exactly subtle, but Victor McLaglen works as the desperate and quick to anger antihero.

And the round-up

Best Best Picture winner… It Happened One Night
Best 1960s film…Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (I suppose I rank it higher than Bonnie and Clyde)
Best theatrical adaptation: The Miracle Worker
Best Dustin Hoffman film: Kramer VS. Kramer
Best ASC Top 100: The Seven Samurai
Best Hugh Griffin film: Ben-Hur
Best Michael Curtiz film: The Adventures of Robin Hood
Best Czech film: Fireman’s Ball
Best William Goldman film: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Best “Medieval”…. The Seven Samurai
Best Best Actor Winner…It Happened One Night
Best Best Actress Winner…It Happened One Night
Best Cold War Film…The Death of Stalin
Worst Film…Ishtar
Best Film I Haven’t Seen Before…Kramer VS Kramer
Best Overall film…Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidBest Best Actress Winner…It Happened One Night
Best Film I Haven’t Seen Before…Kramer VS Kramer
Best Overall film…It Happened One Night (although I could very easily pick Seven Samurai, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or Dunkirk)

Posted in Film | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Running Mates For Bernie Sanders

Klobuchar Sanders

Bernie Sanders will be 79 when the next presidential term begins, so the question of his running mate will be especially important. If the guy who is currently usually polling in second place wins the nomination for a party that he’s technically not a part of, what’s his best bet for Veep? But it seems he’ll have a weirder time picking than most.

The Democratic party’s emphasis on diversity probably means that it couldn’t be a white guy. His age would mean that it should be someone ready to be President on Day One, so it should be someone with experience. He’d probably want someone who can unify the party without being so establishment that it hurts his brand (the counterargument is that Trump went with the most establishment pick possible with Pence, and that worked out fine for him.)

Speculation from his fans seems to be centered on people who aren’t politically realistic (granted, a self-declared Socialist is a strong contender for a major party nomination.) A medium post includes Tulsi Gabbard, Paul Jean Swearingen, Nina Turner, Elizabeth Warren. These selections seem unlikely. A Senator from Vermont probably won’t pick a running mate from New England. Gabbard has upset many Democrats with perceived friendliness towards dictators at a time when the party sees this as a shortcoming of the Trump administration. Swearingen is an activist who lost a Senate primary. Nina Turner is a favorite of Bernie supporters, as a woman of color who advocates for his positions, but a former state senator who lost her one race for statewide office (secretary of state) by a two to one margin isn’t going to be on a presidential ticket. Other names I’ve seen include Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator likely running for Senate, and Ayanna Pressley, a first term Congresswoman from Boston.

If Tallahasee mayor Andrew Gillum had performed half a point better in the Florida gubernatorial election, he’d be the obvious running mate for Sanders: a younger black man from a different part of the country with a campaign-friendly family and relevant experience outside of Washington, who had gotten broad support from the primary, including from Sanders’ Our Revolution PAC.

I’ve come up with six potential running mates for Bernie Sanders.

Former HUD Secretary/ San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro: His run seems primed to elevate him as a potential running mate for the other white candidates. He adds youth and geographic diversity, and has Washington connections from his stint in the Obama administration, while he has also been able to avoid controversial congressional votes. He has disavowed PAC money in his presidential bid, which allows him to avoid controversies in that category.

Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois: She adds diversity, military credibility and midwestern appeal, with an inspirational story about joining the Obama administration and Congress after being the first American female double amputee from the Iraq war.  She considers herself unaffiliated/ deist, so she may not be the best choice for the running mate of a Jewish presidential candidate in a majority Christian country.

Harris Sanders

Senator Kamala Harris of California: She is likely to be a top-tier presidential candidate, so there is potential for a unity ticket. Her background as a major prosecutor can be helpful in an administration promising to go after the real bad guys, and as a Senator who ran for President, she’ll have high name recognition and be familiar with national issues. This is a dicey point, but Harris just recently got married, and doesn’t have any kids of her own, so it might hurt her as a potential running mate for Sanders, whose only child was born out of wedlock.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota: If she’s able to avoid damaging her reputation in the presidential bid, Kloubchar is a strong potential running mate for Sanders and other potential presidential nominees. She has her own record as a prosecutor, and has won three terms by impressive numbers in a swing state in a politically important region. The staff stories are the biggest problem.

Congresswoman Lucy McBath of Georgia: She just got elected to Congress by defeating Karen Handel. She’s a gun control advocate whose teenage son was murdered in a gas station altercation. This is a powerful story. Perceived inexperience will be a major problem, but there is also the possibility that Trump and other Republicans will be baited into saying something very stupid.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan: She comes from a big swing state, has a biography that gives her a different political understanding (state legislator turned Governor) and doesn’t have any Washington baggage. The big questions are how she does as Governor in the next year, and whether she’ll be familiar enough with national issues to be an effective campaign surrogate.

This may all be a moot point if Sanders fizzles in the primary, but it is an unusual potential situation that it is worth speculating.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Wrong With Green Book?


One of the most interesting aspects of the latest Oscar race has been the arguments about Green Book. There seem to be three categories. Film twitter seems largely opposed to the film. There’s the sense that the critics are split on its artistic merits, when that’s not entirely true. It’s 80 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, which isn’t great but suggests that for every critic who bitched about it, four liked it. Audiences love it as evident by the cinemascore.

Jaya Saxena of GQ listed some of the criticisms, and much of it is BS. Viggo Mortensen caused an early controversy when he used the N-word in the context of noting that it is despicable. There were some unfortunate tweets and acts by director Peter Farrelley in the past, although that has nothing to do with the artistic merit of the film. The family of Doc Shirley claims the character’s relationship with them was different than the depiction in the film, but they don’t have much support from others who knew him, and the writer of the film had interviews with the man. The views on the family touch on bigger questions on Green Book: one of authenticity, and the sense that a story was changed to create a white savior narrative.

Mark Harris wrote one of the early pieces that set the critical discussion: “Who Was the Green Book For”? He observed that the box office was weak. The official link refers to the movie as a flop.

Two weeks ago, the movie arrived. The crowds did not. Following a disappointing opening on 25 screens, Green Book expanded to 1,000 for Thanksgiving weekend and finished a somewhat wan ninth. According to IndieWire box-office analyst Tom Brueggemann, its cumulative gross of under $8 million makes it “a work in progress, with a struggle ahead.” That struggle may offer a lesson that after 50 years, a particular kind of movie about black and white America has, at long last, run its course.

He then added that other films have made Green Book redundant.

What Green Book may not know is who it’s for. The portion of the white moviegoing audience that needs to be handled with this much care and flattery is getting smaller every year, and the nonwhite audience, at this point, seems justifiably wary of buying a version of someone else’s fantasy that it has been sold many, many times before; besides, it has other options. Underlying the bet that Green Book would be a crowd-pleaser is a long-outdated presupposition about the composition of the crowd — a belief that racism can only be explained to white audiences via a white character, and a concurrent belief that those white audiences are pivotal to the success of any movie. But they’re not. This weekend, two movies directed by black men, Creed II and Widows, made the top ten and handily outgrossed Green Book. While that’s not a common occurrence, it’s no longer a headline-worthy exception — and in a year that also includes Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, and (shortly) Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk, moviegoers in search of black characters no longer need to look over the shoulder of a white director or co-star in order to find them. One might look at these movies as among the first to belong to a post–Get Out era, in which audiences want their views of race in America served up with slyness and/or dystopic skepticism rather than inspirational teachable moments. But even a historical drama by a white director that trafficked in exactly those moments, 2016’s Hidden Figures, did so by centering three women of color without a white character to explain “them” to a presumed white “us” (or, worse, explain them to themselves). It grossed $169 million in the U.S., a figure Green Book is unlikely to come anywhere near.

At this point, Green Book made $139 million worldwide, so the suggestion that in addition to lacking artistic merit, it failed to connect to audiences doesn’t quite work.

Folks I know have really liked it, which provides a different perspective on who it’s for. It might not connect with film twitter, but it connected with my parents, my godfather, my brothers and my best friend, an Indian-American med student. There is an arrogance in suggesting that Tony’s story isn’t worth telling, and that America should already be on-board with the left-wing critics when it comes to deeper appreciation for social ills.


Conservative film critic Sonny Bunch considers the film fine, but unimaginative. He wonders if the backlash was due to heightened expectations about how well it’ll do at the box office.

The presumptive crowning of “Green Book” as an end-of-year front-runner — its championing by Oscar watchers like Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells and Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone; the National Board of Review choosing it as best picture of the year — rankles. In a year with envelope-pushing films like “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Roma” and “BlacKkKlansman” and “Sorry to Bother You,” one needn’t be a radical (lord knows I’m not) to feel some kinship with the generation of critics who rejected efforts by the New York Times’s Bosley Crowther to snuff out “Bonnie and Clyde” in favor of more respectable fare.

One wonders if 2018’s crop of films isn’t set to be a replay of 1968’s Oscar ceremony, one that pits a faded genre’s final champion against a new breed of prestige pictures. As pleasantly entertaining and easygoing as it is, if “Green Book” is the best, most interesting, most thought-provoking movie you’ve seen this year, I have to wonder how many films you’ve watched.

This may have changed with Roma as the obvious frontrunner. I like the Green Book, and I wouldn’t want it to win that race (I’d also be happier if Black Panther won.) But this debate doesn’t seem to be about whether a three star film gets more credit than it deserves. There is a sense that some people just don’t want this type of film to exist any more.

Two late night shows have done parodies of white savior movies.

The reason for the focus on Tony is relatively simple. One of the writers is the son of Tony Vallelonga, so he’s going to emphasize his father’s growth. And while Doc Shirley has an arc, Tony had more growing to do.

It seems that people want a different type of movie about Doc Shirley, a musician who was a very interesting man. And there’s no reason they can’t get it. If someone can come up with a good screenplay, the financial success of this film and the likely Oscar for Mahershala Ali increase the chances it’ll happen. Black Panther, Widows, Blackkklansman, The Hate You Give, and If Beale Street Could Talk all show that Hollywood is willing to support the type of films critics want to see. Green Book isn’t taking anything away from it.

There is value to this story. It is messier than Driving Miss Daisy, acknowledging Shirley as accomplished, while showing what makes him unique. If nothing else, it has increased awareness of his music.

It also takes artistic license in the depiction of Juri Taht, a member of the Don Shirley Trio as Russian rather then Estonian, but that’s a different story.

Posted in Criticism, Eesti, Film, Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Worst Review Ever


My cat did not care for a particular brand of cat food that I got from my aunt whose cats didn’t care for it either, and she got it from a neighbor who seemed to have had the same issue.

Looking online for information about this brand of cat food, I found the worst reviews I’ve ever seen for any product ever. The least talented musicians, writers and moviemakers can be confident that no review will mention that—because of their productanimals are now in hospice care.

I do not want to write everything that has gone on in the past yr – from vets recommending euthanasia for 2 perfectly healthy cats 2 months before Freedom was introduced. The cats refused to eat the second bag. I did not know why. Well – they were suffering inflammation and more and after it was shortly thereafter they began to be diagnosed with one illness after another. Euthanasia recommended many times. I am sure it was the food. Both were 2 healthy cats. Different ages. Eating only FREEDOM for 2 months. The CATS knew it was causing problems and refused to eat it – but would eat others instead. However – it was too late – damage was already brewing inside them. I have given up a yr of my life – can’t work – to save their life. As the vets have different advice. I am now going with just hospice. Trying to keep cats out of pain. IBD, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism. The list goes on… And 2 perfectly healthy cats 2 months before.

If anything, reviews are worse now than before.

**DO NOT BUY THIS FOOD FOR YOUR PET!** Since the unexpected and untimely death of my cat this past Wednesday, I have now found 3 other people in my personal life who also lost their pet after switching to Blue Buffalo. They are owned by a Chinese company that has no animal laws or regulations or safeties! They are not even a cruelty-free company and they sell pet food! My sweet Lucy was completely healthy and happy and normal Tuesday morning. I gave her Blue Buffalo starting Sunday evening. I got home Tuesday evening from work around 7-7:30 and she was not well. Was hoping it was just a hairball. She was gone by 10:15 the next morning. She died in pain. She was drooling and had a completely blank look in her eyes. She was no longer Lucy. She was dying right in front of me. She got pancreatitis caused by this horrible food!!!

This is something to keep in mind whenever you get feedback. It can always be worse.

Posted in Criticism, Funny | Tagged , | 1 Comment