Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Top 10 best movies of 2021

When it comes to raw, hard hitting, devastating dramas, 2021 may have been the best year for movies in a long long time. My top 3 are all dramas, easily earning a 5 star rating from me.  There've been previous years I hadn't seen a single 5 star movie, therefore I can't complain when this year gives me three. My top three movies may not be easy to sit through, but I really think that by the end...after all the tears are shed, you'll be glad you sat through it. They all tell beautiful stories about fighting through the worst pain that life could possibly throw at you, and the friendships and human connections that keep us going. 

On the other hand, 2021 was not the greatest year when it comes to blockbusters and escapist entertainment in general. I made many trips to the theatre and found myself in those cool Dbox seats for a lot of them...sadly, none of those movies made my list. Enough of my pointless talk, let's get to the list.

Honorable mentions: 

In the Same Breath, Titane, The Harder They Fall, Raya and the Last Dragon, One Night in Miami, Eternals, Sleepless, Dune, The Last Duel


10. Zola ****

It truly is a strange time we're living in when the source material for one of the best movies of the year is not a book, but a stripper's twitter thread. How much is true vs. how much she may have fabricated, I don't know, but it's one of the most intense movies of last year, and what feels like the most authentic movie about the world of sex work. This is the first feature film directed by Janicza Bravo; it's such a stylishly shot and edited movie, and who knows how good she'll get moving forward? If a small part of me felt let down by the ending, it's maybe just because I could have spent 3 hours with these characters.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24KbaKlCDDI

9 TIE: In the Earth **** and Prisoners of the Ghostland ****

I can almost give the same review to both movies as they are both easily the most, "what the fuck did I just watch?" (but not in a bad way at all) movies, but also the trippiest, batshit crazy, visually stunning fever dreams. In both cases, I won't pretend that I understood everything or deciphered all the symbolism and metaphors, but I had so much fun going along with the ride. Both movies are fucking hilarious and boy do both movies get some great sick comedy out of how much our protagonists suffer. Nic Cage's performance stands out the most of the two movies as he gives the exact over the top batshit crazy Nic Cage performance we all love from him, but the entire cast of In the Earth are also fantastic. These two would be a great double bill after you've blazed some really good shit.

Trailers:

In the Earth:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1EeY5lvIcg

Prisoners of the Ghostland:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeIfnDc0jvA

7. Night Books ****

Just a quick note...the opening 10 minutes of this movie are fucking awful. Stick with it. It gets a whole lot better after. Alright...

Perhaps my love of this movie is a bit of a bias due to being a writer, but a horror movie about writer's block? Fucking love it! In my case, laziness is easily winning the battle over my writer's block...it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if a witch kidnapped me and said that I better get the fuck back to writing, or she'll kill me. Kristin Ritter is maybe my favorite villain of the year. Hilarious when she shits all over the writing of the protagonist; on the other hand, ominous as fuck when you piss her off.

I saw a few critics compare this to Coraline and I agree. It's a kids horror movie, but I can see it being too intense for kids. I found this more suspenseful than most R rated horror movies this year. Especially those fucking spiders. Jesus. 

Most of all, I think the movie delivers a wonderful message to kids. The horror in this movie isn't just about writer's block, it's...imagine people throw away their true passions in life and who they truly are just for the sake of fitting in and being popular? Imagine the horror of that. 

I think it's a great message for kids...if they're not shitting their pants. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQO16k5Vdow

6. I Care A lot ****

Has there been any actress in the history of film who's better at playing a stone cold sociopath than Rosamund Pike? The fact that she makes it look so easy and can seemingly play this role in her sleep makes me think...maybe there's a tad bit of sociopathy in her? Who knows?

Although this movie has no likable protagonist and it was immoral sociopath vs. immoral sociopath, and hell, some people may be cheering for the Russian gangster over her.

I thought this movie was a lot of fun and so much more entertaining than your average big budget blockbuster! Sometimes it's more fun to have a morally deplorable protagonist. It makes for a great dark comedy. Most people will say Gone Girl is Rosamund Pike's best work, but I think she's better here.

5. The Climb ****1/2

What a unique comedy this is. It's kind of like an arthouse version of Step Brothers (sometimes as silly, but much funnier), with the filmmaking aesthetic of Children of Men or 1917, with the script formula of Boyhood. The opening scene of the movie may be one of the most impressive one takes I've ever seen.

It's a rare laugh your ass off while marveling at the absolutely stunning one takes of the movie (every scene is a one take). If there's something that maybe hindered this movie's chance of making it higher in my list, it did kind of lack an emotional connection to the main characters. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr4MKhV5QVw

4. Riders of Justice ****1/2

After Denmark had won an Oscar for ANOTHER ROUND, they just may win another one with this movie. Simply put, it's the best revenge movie ever made.
The trailer makes it look like a standard revenge action movie, but it's far smarter and far more ambitious than any every other movie in this subgenre. While it has its super violent action scenes, it's also a drama about grief, a buddy comedy with a fucked up sense of humor, a philosophical dive into randomness, coincidence, the butterfly effect, and of course the act of revenge itself.

The friendships in the movie are beautiful and everyone is so flawed and scarred. The screenplay is so hard to predict and and oh the irony. Revenge action movies are fun, but this is the kind of movie that the genre has needed for a long time. This is like TAKEN with a PHD.

3. Mass *****

Talk about a drama that will stay with you well after its runtime. Just to set up the premise, here's a one location movie that very well could have been a stage play. It's a meeting of four people; the parents of a kid who was tragically killed in a school shooting meet with the parents of the school shooter. 

I love the awkward beginning; the church workers trying to figure out a good place to put the table and tissue box. "Do have enough food for them?" "Trust me, they're not going to touch the food." . Hell, even the small talk between the parents is awkward as fuck as the audience knows that once all that shit is out of the way, it's going to get intense as fuck, and it truly does. 

It's truly captivating once it gets going and it never lets go. I found myself hanging on every word, and felt the complex mix of emotions from both parents, experiencing a different kind of pain, and resentment. It's raw, uncompromising, poignant, but by the end, cathartic. The solution to it all is kind of beautiful, and as tough as it may be sit through, I almost felt a sense of relief that they all felt at the end.

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU56Ns1nXsE 

2. Language Lessons *****

This is definitely 2021's biggest tear jerker. I did not expect the movie to hit me as early as it did, and once it does, it doesn't let go. I had to pause this movie on multiple occasions, take a short break then get back to it. With that said though, I think it's such a fitting movie for the pandemic. The world has done an awful lot of grieving over this fucked up time we live in, but what's the best way to get through grief? Friendships and human connection, and that's what this movie is all about.

I wasn't all that excited to get into a movie that's about a long distance friendship that's almost entirely video chats, but they are so creative with how they pull it off. I hope I don't make this sound like it's a misery porn movie. There's a lot of good comedy, and the chemistry is so good between these two unlikely friends who maybe never would have become friends if the tragedy had never hit. I think it's ultimately how you feel at the end, and I think I watched one of the most beautiful friendships in the history of cinema unfold. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWga6ES5znU

1. Our Friend *****

Just like the #2 movie, here's another beautiful movie about friendship and human connection to get through the worst shit that life can throw your away. When I saw this in February, I kind of knew it would be my #1 pick at the end of the year. I later on went to read the Esquire article that the movie was based on and pleasantly surprised to see how little bullshit the movie made up.

This is the best drama ever made about cancer. While it depicts the details we've seen a lot, such as a mother/wife coming to terms with her death, trying to find a delicate way to break the news to her kids, the suffering and dissolution of her being, the husband/father who's in over his head, trying his best to be a good husband and dad, but silently drowning in his sorrows...we've seen this before. Ultimately the story is about Dane, the friend who really had no obligation to do what he did. He initially offered to stay for a few weeks to help the family out; the few weeks lasted until the bitter end. If he hadn't stuck around, who knows how much worse things would have been for that family?

There was no casting choice that possibly could have been better than Jason Segel to play Dane. It almost feels like the role was written for him, taking into account his sense of humor, charm and likability. I think it's easily the best performance of the year. Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson are also great (it almost feels like Affleck can play this kind of dramatic role in his sleep), but this movie belongs to Segel. Despite all the tears you're likely to shed, it's still very entertaining and funny throughout.

I'm tired of this outdated way of evaluating people's worth in society, which is looking solely at people's jobs and how much money they make. In this aspect, Dane can be seen as a loser. He seems to have no direction and works a shitty retail job. On the other hand, when his friends need his help, he is the most selfless person imaginable. I wish this movie can be shown to everyone, because this is what truly makes a great person. If there were more Danes out there, the world would be a much better place. To take a direct quote from the real life Matt Teague's article:

"It was a routine death in every sense. It was ordinary. Common. The only remarkable element was Dane. I had married into this situation, but how had he gotten here? Love is not a big-enough word. He stood and faced the reality of death for my sake. He is my friend."


Some other awards:

Best documentary: In the Same Breath

Best action scene: The bus scene in Shang-Chi

Best performance: Jason Segel (Our Friend)

Best Chemistry: Mark Duplass and Natalie Morales (Language Lessons)

Best Villain: Kristin Ritter as The Witch (Nightbooks)

Best visual effects: Eternals

Best cinematography: Prisoners of the Ghostland

Trippiest movie: Tie: Prisoners of the Ghostland and In the Earth

Best ending: Language Lessons

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Top 10 best movies of 2020

2020 may have been a shitty year in a myriad number of ways, but when it comes to movies...it was pretty damn good. I've got two 5 star movies in this year's top 10, and there were so many surprising obscure discoveries this year. There's a chance you haven't heard of a lot of movies on my list and that's a good thing. I hope you discover some new shit. 

Best Short film of 2020: 

2020 (a parody of 1917)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skgcruZichc

Definitely the best covid movie there is. It's a bit of a parody of 1917, using the single long take style, but the mission...get toilet paper. Everything that was batshit crazy about 2020 all captured in this comedy adventure in a slim 18 minute runtime, while managing to brilliantly reference 1917. Just like 1917, it's extremely well shot on a tiny budget (though too bad they couldn't do the camera in the water shot, but I imagine they didn't have the budget for that).

This movie should be the calling card of these filmmakers. If they can make THIS with a tiny budget, imagine what they can do with a hundred thousand dollars. A million. I'll be looking out for these guys. For now, they made the best short film I saw in 2020. 

AND NOW...The top 10 best movies of 2020 Extravaganza list! 

Honorable mentions: Banana Split, #Alive, Soul, Freaks, Birds of Prey: The Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, The Social Dilemma, Let Them All Talk, Relic, South Park's Pandemic Special

Thought I'd use the word extravaganza, a nod to the writers group I'm in, we call: The Fuck Robert Mckee Writer's group Extravaganza. Though on a resume, I go with our alternate name: Do the Write Thing. 

10. Big Time Adolescence ****

I went into this movie with zero familiarity with Pete Davidson and was pleasantly surprised to say...when it comes to crass, raunchy comedy, played way over the top, Pete Davidson has fucking nailed it. I'd be happy to see him play this character in every movie he's in, the way that Danny McBride kinda plays the same character in everything, but fuck it, he's great at it. 

And for those of you that have seen KING OF STATEN ISLAND and not Big Time Adolescence, get this movie immediately. I was so excited for a Judd Apatow - Pete Davidson collaboration, and his comedy just felt...neutered in comparison to Big Time Adolescence. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3PcDo4YcnY&t

9. Kajillionaire ****

I agree with the person who said that KAJILLIONAIRE is like America's answer to PARASITE and SHOPLIFTERS. Though if I had to pick a favorite of those 3, my pick goes to Kajillionaire. It's Miranda July, so it's definitely odd, awkward as fuck, has a quirky sense of humor that doesn't always work and has some very uncomfortable moments. At times I was on board, and at times, I wasn't sure, but it was always interesting.
But...I thought back to Robert Mckee's secret advice he gave Charlie Kaufman in ADAPTATION, "I'll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit."

That's the ending of Kajillionaire. When people ask what are the best feel good endings of all time, Kajillionaire just might be in that conversation, and the movie builds up to its ending so well. Kajillionaire lingered in my mind for a long time after I watched it, and the more I think about the movie, the more things I appreciate. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-19tBHrZwOM&t

8. Palm Springs ****

It's another movie that follows the groundhog day formula, and you know what?  It's one of the best attempts at it (Edge of Tomorrow still reigns supreme). It's a romcom mish mashed with a science fiction, with a few very creative tweaks, making it a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to solve. If someone was like, "You wanna watch that Andy Samberg movie?", I'll probably react with a, "Uhh...what else do you have?" But he is shockingly good and so charismatic. Then you have Cristin Milioti, who I've never heard of, but I'll definitely seek out more of her stuff after this. Their chemistry is electric as fuck. 

Romcoms often get a bad rap, but there's so much untapped potential if writers can just think outside the box, mix it with other genres, and find unique ways to have a love spawn out of a crazy necessity and yeah...two strangers who find each other due to being stuck in a time loop is pretty damn creative, and it's easily the best romcom of the year.

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpBLtXduh_k

7. Love and Monsters ****

This movie gets my FUCK COVID FOR DEPRIVING US OF SEEING THIS MOVIE IN IMAX award. Come on Cinesphere! Once we're all vax'd by Moderna or those Viagra guys, bring this movie to the Cinesphere!

What a fun concept for a post-apocalyptical movie and when it comes to giant creature features, this is really fucking creative; a strange radiation that causes animals of all kinds to grow to gigantic sizes. The attack of the giant frog is one of the most fun set pieces of the year.

And the characters...they're really fucking good and same with the relationships between them. There's just something so likable about every friendship that happens out of necessity; survivors that happened to find each other, after all their loved ones were killed. This movie even has a scene where in the midst of all the madness, our protagonist goes into an empty house and encounters a super high tech robot, who's owners are long gone. The AI is happy to encounter a human being. Then they bond and have such a deep connection with each other and it is such a beautiful moment and I appreciate blockbusters that have scenes such as this one. It puts just as much focus on the humanity as it does the cool CGI.

It's my pick for the blockbuster of 2020. Try to watch it on a big screen. My friend watched it on her phone. I gave her shit for that. What the fuck?! 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-19tBHrZwOM&t

6. Marona's Fantastic Tale ****1/2

I know that many people will pick SOUL as the best animated movie of 2020, but my pick goes to the very abstractly animated, existential dog movie from France. They're not trying to entertain kids; made obvious by starting the movie with a dog getting hit by a car and coming to the realization that he's going to die. His life then flashes before his eyes and we get to see his life story. They tell a grounded, realistic life story about an average dog, his birth and separation from his family, the joy and pain that he faced in life, his existential views on life, happiness, his relationships with humans, and his musings about humanity. Name another dog movie that goes this deep into a dog's psyche. 

"For a dog, happiness is different than it is for humans. We want things to stay exactly the same, where humans always want something new. You have a comfy bed, but humans always want what they don't have. They call it dreaming. I call it not knowing how to be happy." Quite profound.

To top it all off, the animations in this movie are so abstract and always beautiful to look at. In other words, it's the trippiest movie of the year and the best damn dog movie ever made. I think it'll stay that way for the rest of time. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DweZRx-h588&t

5. My Octopus Teacher ****1/2

What a great accidental discovery. I turn on Netflix, not being sure what to watch. The movie that they had advertised on the main screen was The Octopus Teacher. Without hesitating, I hit play, knowing nothing about the movie. So, I love getting stoned and watching nature documentaries. The Octopus Teacher is the most unique one I've ever seen.

For starters, the octopus is the trippiest, most alien like animal on the planet. It starts off like a pretty standard nature documentary. Besides my going, "Wooaaah" at the crazy ass shape shifting, color changing, adaptive abilities of the octopus, it also has some of the most intense chase scenes of the year, where the octopus is the prey, fleeing, shape shifting and constantly outsmarting a hungry shark.

But, the heart of the story is the friendship that forms between the octopus and the documentary filmmaker. It's the most unusual friendship I've seen in a movie and it sounds silly, but god damn, this movie really tugged at my heart strings.


4. Come to Daddy ****1/2 Why didn't I see this movie at the Toronto After Dark Film Fest? And why wasn't this the closing movie of the festival? This would have been so much fun in a huge crowd, but don't get me wrong...still an awesome movie to watch at home. I say, if you're going to make a horror/comedy, go all the way with it. The more fucked up it is, the darker its sense of humor, the better. This movie goes all the fucking way, with maybe the most absurdly sick sense of humor of any horror movie. "Who was that man?" "His name is Jethro. He's my best friend." "Then why's he stabbing you with poo pens and chaining you up in the basement?" That line will make sense if you've seen it. Another thing I want to get at...Elijah Wood is the most perfect actor for this role, as a protagonist who's found himself in this really strangely horrific situation and has to learn how to go from being a timid boy to a killer.

Here's why Elijah Wood is perfect. You see, he played Frodo in the LOTR trilogy, who's arguably the most useless, absolute pussy of a protagonist maybe in the history of cinema (Sam is the real fucking hero, carrying Frodo's deadweight everywhere), and he never fucking redeems himself ever in the movie. So it's fitting to see Elijah Wood in this movie, where he starts off as a bit of a Frodo, but when that moment where he turns...that may be the best character arc. I think I both laughed and screamed in pain. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PITkX6Ymqo&t
3. Why Don't you just Die ****1/2
This has been described as a Russian Tarantino which I suppose is quite accurate, except I think it's easily better than any Tarantino movie of the past decade. I can't say I was super excited to watch this, but then I hit play and it opened with quite possibly the best fight scene in the history of cinema. In fact, the fight scene is now on youtube; maybe this will sell you on the movie:


It's darkly funny at times, and a good story that unveils like a puzzle, piecing together everything that happened. Like Tarantino movies, this one jumps back and forth in time and gives every character their own backstory leading into the big climax. It makes no attempts at being overly convoluted which I appreciate. It's simple to follow the chronology of events that lead up to the big climax and there are some very interesting reveals along the way.

I was so absorbed in the movie that I almost didn't notice that 95% of the movie is all in one location. Just a friendly reminder that you often don't need a massive budget to make something great. Sometimes you just need creativity, outside the box thinking and fresh blood behind the camera. Why Don't you Just Die just may be the most aesthetically pleasing movie of the year, with such a unique, vibrant, energetic style of directing (I know it'll never happen, but if it were up to me, this would win the oscar for best cinematography). I think this movie may be more sadistically violent than what we've seen from Tarantino.

2. Spontaneous *****

2020 what a fucking year. SPONTANEOUS, a movie about a curse/virus in a highschool that randomly causes people's bodies to explode (or pop like a zit as the main character describes), is absolutely the perfect metaphor for the pandemic. I should preface this by saying that Spontaneous was shot before Covid, but it's hard not to think of Covid while watching this.

If I was given a premise like this, I would have written a very campy, gory, horror comedy catered to a midnight madness audience. Kudos to the filmmakers for thinking way more outside the box. Spontaneous really pulls off quite the balancing act of genres and tone. It's a bloody horror, a dark comedy, a romance with phenomenal chemistry between Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer, and shockingly it manages to be the most tear jerking drama and coming of age story. To steal a quote from Addison Wylie's facebook, "it sports a really considerate alleGORY (eh?) about how teenagers try to comprehend sudden confusion and fear around inexplicable devastations and tragedies.

alleGORY. Sometimes the most obvious puns are the ones that escape us. It really is an accomplishment that Spontaneous just combines so many genres and yet the movie never suffers from tone whiplash. I can't think of a single drama this year that emotionally gutted me like Spontaneous...and it's a movie about exploding bodies. If I could pick only one movie to represent the year that was 2020, Spontaneous is it.

Trailer:

1. The Wave ***** When I saw this movie in January, there was no doubt in my mind it would be #1, and here we are today. I have seen The Wave 3 times this year, and I get a slightly different experience each time. So yeah, I picked a really trippy movie as my #1, and I suppose it seems typical of me, since I gave my #1 spot to Into the Spider-verse in 2018 and Doctor Strange in 2016. Well shit. Now I see a 2 year pattern of trippy movies topping my list. Well in that case, I better save some shrooms for whatever is my #1 pick for 2022. Moving on, look I didn't just pick it for being trippy as fuck. This is probably the funniest movie of the year, and it's not your typical drug humor. For the most part, saying that "tripping is fun" is an understatement. Probably 95% of my trips have been splendid, marvelously good times. But every once in a while you get that one bad trip, perhaps from the edible that had way too much weed and a bad trip is truly one of life's shittiest experiences. #firstworldproblems. Ask me to re-live my worst hangover vs. worst trip, I'll take my hangover any day. So with that said, I don't think any movie made me feel a protagonist's pain like this one as he trips on some unknown fictional hallucigenic...to which, great, they can be creative, make up their own hallucinations and their own rules, and maybe even throw time travel manipulation in there too. Yeah, our protagonist is a soulless prick for getting rich via finding loopholes to deny people their life insurance coverage, but that's part of the journey. He goes through a spiritual journey, like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol...on a shitload of LSD laced with salvia, because why the fuck not? It's a beautiful movie to look at. And as a thriller, it's such a visceral experience. As I mentioned, the movie is so good at making you feel everything the protagonist is feeling, and a huge reason for that is Justin Long's performance. I always thought he was a totally mediocre actor, until I saw this. This is the best performance ever in a drug comedy. Donald Faison...I kept saying to myself, "Is that the guy from Clueless? Where the fuck has he been?" He is fucking great too! The single best scene of the year...the big board room scene. Our protagonist is about to deliver a presentation to the board of directors, that'll make a shitload of money for his insurance firm (but screw over a grieving family), and this is the presentation that'll make or break his career. He thinks his trip is over, but holy fuck is he dead wrong. I was excited as the scene started, but nothing prepares you for the batshit insanity that ensues. It is one of the greatest scenes in the history of cinema...talk about tripping metaphors. The experience of sitting through this movie is so thrilling, energetic and had me at the edge of my seat more effectively than any thriller this year, with a small pinch of mind fuckery. We've seen many drug movies and stoner comedies, but none of them are like the The Wave. Fuck Tenet. The Wave is the mind bender of the year, and feels like it's 2 hours shorter than Tenet.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsi2-3lgcds&t

OTHER NOTABLE AWARDS:

Trippiest movie: Marona's Fantastic Tale
(honorable mentions: The Wave, Soul)

Best cinematography: Why Don't You Just Die!

Best scene: The boardroom scene in The Wave

Best Ending: Kajillionaire

Honorable mention: 
Relic (truly the most haunting, fucked up ending images I can ever remember to a horror movie, but kind of beautiful when you think about it)

Best Villain: Jethro in Come to Daddy (gotta give it to the poo pen stabber)

Best Performance: I'll give this one a tie. Justin Long in The Wave, and Katherine Langford in Spontaneous

Best Documentary: My Octopus Teacher

Best Nothing happens, but still a captivating movie: Let Them All Talk

Best Foreign language film: Marona's Fantastic Tale

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Top 10 best movies of the first 2/3s of 2020

 This is definitely the strangest year to be doing this list. Despite the lack of movie theatres, I think 2020 still has delivered a strong list of movies; this year, there's definitely more obscure picks than usual, but by no means is that a complaint. And my pick for #1 just may be one of my favorite movies ever. 

Honorable mentions: 

Lake Michigan Monster, Guns Akimbo, Have a Nice Trip

10. The Half of It **** (Netflix)
While the trailer didn’t excite me all that much, from the first minute of the movie, I was glued to the screen.  It works as a romance, a friendship movie, a coming of age story, and 3 characters you just fall in love with by the end.

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-yhF7IScUE

9. Birds of Preyand the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn ****

It’s too bad this performed so poorly at the box office.  While at times the movie’s humor was not quite as clever as the writers would like to think, it’s a lot of fun and the best action movie of 2020 so far.  The action scenes are very stylistically shot and the hand to hand combat is so well choreographed.  It’s a turn your brain off and have fuckloads of fun movie.

8. Banana Split ****
While I seriously doubt that I'm the target market for this, this movie was just too damn charming to resist. It's a female friendship movie disguised as a romcom, and it's just absolutely delightful from beginning to end. This is a case where I feel the actors transcended the humor written into the script. Having two sisters scream, "You suck my dick!" "No, you suck my dick!" repeatedly at each other at the dinner table isn't exactly the most high brow stuff, but the actors made the scene work. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNS176v2bsI&t

7. Big Time Adolescence ****

I went into this movie with zero familiarity with Pete Davidson and was pleasantly surprised to say that he was absolutely fucking hilarious and knocked this role out of the park. I think he brings something unique to the raunchy coming of age teen comedy. He goes a little over the top, but for him it works. 
I can see him playing this type of character over and over the way Danny Mcbridge sort of plays the same character every time, but it never feels stale.

Shortly after this movie came Judd Apatow's King of Staten Island. Pete Davidson's performance in comparison was toned down and a subdued Davidson just doesn't work nearly as well. If you watched Staten Island your reaction was, "It was okay", watch Big Time Adolescence. It's fuckloads funnier and I'm disappointed to say that as a huge Apatow fan. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3PcDo4YcnY&t

6. Freaks **** (on netflix)
It really is best to go into this movie knowing nothing. Unfortunately the trailer gives way too much away and part of the fun of watching this movie is trying to decipher exactly what kind of movie it is, what genre, what kind of fucked up dystopian setting does the protagonist find herself in and which characters can the protagonist trust? 

It's a jigsaw puzzle of a movie. I had absolutely no clue where the movie was headed, and I loved the way the movie slowly unraveled all the missing information - piece by piece. It started off a bit slow, but by the end, boy did this movie grab me the balls and not let go until the credits rolled.

Trailer:
Nah, the trailer gives too much away. Just watch the movie.

5. Palm Springs ****

We've seen The Groundhog Day premise done a fair amount, but Palm Springs has a fresh spin on it and I think it's one of the best attempts at the formula (only movie I'd rate higher in this is Edge of Tomorrow). Calling it just a romcom would be selling it short, as it's also a bit of a mystery and science fiction with some very interesting twists...but it is easily the best romcom of 2020. Find me a movie couple in recent memory that has chemistry more electric than Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpBLtXduh_k

4. Marona's Fantastic Tale ****
We've seen so many mediocre dog movies from Hollywood that all follow the same formula. Leave it to France to make an abstractly animated existential dog movie; an attempt to realistically depict a dog's thoughts about life, death, their relationships with humans
and the things about us that make them scratch their heads.

"For dog, happiness is different than it is for humans. We want things to stay exactly the same, where humans always want something new. You have a comfy bed, but humans always want what they don't have. They call it dreaming. I call it not knowing how to be happy." Quite profound. To top it all off, the animations of this movie are trippy as fuck! I'd call it the trippiest movie of 2020 if it wasn't for my #1 pick. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DweZRx-h588&t

3. Come to Daddy ****1/2
Why didn't I see this movie at the Toronto After Dark Film Fest? And why wasn't this the closing movie of the festival? This would have been so much fun in a huge crowd, but don't get me wrong...still an awesome movie to watch at home.

I don't expect to see a better horror movie in 2020, though it's ultimately the movie's comedy that seals the deal for me. I've seen a lot of funny horrors, but none with a sense of humor as utterly absurd as this one (and very much on purpose).

"Who was that man?" "His name is Jetrho. He's my best friend." "Then why's he stabbing you with poo pens and chaining you up in the basement?"

If you've seen the movie, you'll know what I'm getting at. Elijah Wood is fantastic. For those of you that got frustrated with Lord of the Rings and how much of a whiney, useless pussy Frodo was from beginning to end, this movie absolutely makes up for it. Elijah Wood starts off as a pussy, but his character arc is beautifully done and when that key moment happens when he has to adapt and turn ruthless or die, that moment legit had me screaming and laughing in pain. After this fucking pandemic is over, I hope I get another chance to see this in a big crowd. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PITkX6Ymqo&t

2. Why Don't you just Die ****1/2

This has been described as a Russian Tarantino which I suppose is quite accurate, except I think it's easily better than any Tarantino movie of the past decade. I can't say I was super excited to watch this, but then I hit play and it opened with quite possibly the best fight scene in the history of cinema. I was hooked.

It has such a unique, vibrant, energetic style of directing (it deserves a fucking oscar for cinematography), and it may be more sadistically violent than what we've seen from Tarantino. It's darkly funny at times, and a good story that unveils like a puzzle, piecing together everything that happened. Like Tarantino movies, this one jumps back and forth in time and gives every character their own backstory leading into the big climax. It's simple and effective and the movie does not try to be over convoluted with it. It works.

I was so absorbed that I almost didn't notice that 95% of the movie is all in one location. Yet another example of how low budgets often lead to the best creativity. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4u4cqCNDw0

1. The Wave *****

When the year is over, I'll say with 99.9% certainty that no movie will top this. I may have even placed this in my top 3 in my best movies of the past decade list had it come out in 2019.

It's easily the best drug trip movie ever made. The trip is so artfully done, trippy as fuck, absolutely fucking hilarious with the comedy coming out so naturally from the clusterfuck of a mess the protagonist finds himself in, and even basks in those little moments of social awkwardness of life.

I've never thought much of Justin Long as an actor, but holy fuck does he knock this role out of the park as a guy in over his head, over the worst drug trip imaginable. Another special mention goes to Donald Faison...I was like...is that the guy from CLUELESS? I've seen nothing of him, but he sure makes a great comeback as a best friend who's loyalty really is something.

Besides being trippy as fuck and hilarious, it's a gripping, tense as fuck thriller. I'm still not sure I 100% comprehend the whole plot as they do introduce a bit of a twilight zone-ish element to it, but I'll be happy to watch it over and over again to fully get it all. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsi2-3lgcds&t

Monday, April 6, 2020

Top 10 best movies of 2019

yeah yeah, I'm super late. But, I've done this tradition for a long time, and I ain't about to break tradition. I figure, better late than never. Even if just a few people read this, if I can get even one pair of eyes on some of these movies, I think I'm good.

Unlike my best of the decade list, I'm going to aim to keep these thoughts super short, maybe with the exception of #1. Here we go:

Honorable mentions:
Brightburn, 1917, Parasite, The Two Popes, Alita: Battle Angel, Knives Out, Toy Story 4, Missing Link, Spiderman: Far From Home

 10. Fighting with my Family ****
Never thought I'd see the day a WWE film makes it on my list. Yeah I guess I'm biased being a huge wrestling fan, and yes its structure is cliched, but god damn it, I had a huge smile on my face from beginning to end, and with lots of laughs. Utterly delightful, Paige's family - holy fuck! I'd watch a reality show of them. And easily the funniest work from Vince Vaughan in ages. 

9. Paddleton (on Netflix) ****
This movie demands patience. It is very leisurely paced, but when the credits roll, this movie really sticks with you. It may be depressing as fuck as it's about coming to terms with death, but an absolutely beautiful male friendship at the centre of this, with quite a unique moral conundrum. I picture myself in the shoes of Ray Ramano's character...could I do that for a best friend? 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rs9YpUktrWw

8. Polar ****
Many people loved John wick 3, but I think Polar takes the cake for the best brutally violent action movie of the year. Fuck the rottentomatoes critics. This movie was so much fucking fun, great action scenes, Mads Mikkelsen needs to be given more opportunities as an action star, and their meta joke referencing John Wick may be the funniest gag of any movie this year. Sequels please!! 

7. Marriage Story ****
Noah Baumbach directed a divorce dark comedy gem in The Squid in the Whale back in 2005, though if something stopped that movie from greatness, it's not a movie I connected with emotionally. Then he made a bunch of movies that never measured up to Squid and the Whale's sorta greatness; same flaw, couldn't connect emotionally, but often, couldn't give two fucks about the characters. Then there's Marriage Story, I think it's his best movie, and finally a Baumbach movie where I could feel the characters' pain even if they live very privileged lives, and maybe even shed a few tears with them. It's Baumbach's most Hollywood movie, and in this case, that's a good thing. 

6. The Irishman ****
I think it's Scorsese's best movie since Goodfellas. Is the 3.5 hour runtime justified? Yeah, kinda. Maybe could have been a tad bit shorter, but I was never bored. In fact, I would argue that Irishman ramps up the tension and suspense to a higher degree than any other Scorsese movie I can think of. While I originally thought Irishman suffered from Return of the King-itis, another review put it in perspective. The long ending is actually a fitting end to all Scorsese gangster movies, and this should be Scorsese's sendoff to gangster movies for good. 

5. Dolemite Is My Name ****1/2
So many people live such different lives, yet 90% of Hollywood biopics feel the need to follow the same formula of alcoholism, depression, strained relationship with parents and drug addiction. Dolemite is such a breath of fresh air. It's the most delightful, feel good, inspirational movie of the year; I love an inspirational story about a struggling comedian who finds his voice and just wants to spread his brand of fucked up humour, and super violent, organ ripping kung fu fighting to the silver screen. Eddie Murphy gives such a high energy, hilarious performance reminding us of just how fucking good he is when he isn't taking shitty PG rated roles. And what a character! 

I also think Da'Vine Joy Randolph deserved an Oscar nomination. While Eddie Murphy is the main star, she gets the single most touching moment of the movie. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws1YIKsuTjQ

4. The Art of Self Defense ****1/2

A great martial arts dark comedy double bill would be The Foot Fist Way followed by The Art of Self Defense. I love how little the trailer gives away. This was a movie where when I started it, I had no clue fucking clue where the movie was going nor did I care to try to predict it. I just went along for the ride. While it's not as laugh out loud funny as Foot Fist Way, its plot and structure is sure as hell far more fucked up and unconventional than Foot Fist Way. 

Self Defense has a pitch black dark sense of humour, and a great satire on toxic masculinity. Jesse Eisenberg was robbed of an Oscar nomination. I think this is his best work, that plays to his super awkward guy schtick better than any of his other roles, and his character transformation is fantastic. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Bms6Hba-3A

3. Shadow ****1/2

Zhang Yimou is known for giving film nerds metaphorical orgasms with some of the most beautiful colour palettes in the history of cinema (ie: House of Flying Daggers, Hero). When Shadow hit TIFF, a movie of muted colours, almost black and white I'm like...what the fuck? Why are you muting your greatest strength, motherfucker?! With that said, Shadow still manages to be one of the most stunningly beautifully shot movies of last year, with its Chinese ink-brush painting style. Shadow is full of mystery, with a very intriguing plot, plenty of twists, and while it may take a while to get to the epic battle scenes, when they come...HOLY FUCKING SHIT!! No Hollywood action movie of last year even came close. Flying Daggers is still my favorite of Zhang Yimou, but I think I'll place this 2nd. 

Trailer:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGetemRDuVY

2. The Farewell ****1/2

...Based on a true story actual lie...that's refreshing.
This movie almost takes an opposite approach of Joy Luck Club, a movie that most critics loved, but I think was a completely over-rated emotionally manipulative, schmaltzy as fuck melodrama that had the subtly and tact of a soap opera. The Farewell takes on a very depressing subject matter; a grandmother dying of cancer, but her family in China chooses not to tell her, and make up a fake reason to go to China and see her one more time before she dies. 

You can see where most average filmmakers will turn this into an overly emotional manipulative drama, but credit to the screenwriter and director for taking a surprisingly light hearted, comedic, and uplifting approach to such a grim subject matter, while also exploring culture clashes between the east and the west, and the justification for lying to a cancer patient. I loved spending time with these families, and all their funny little idiosyncrasies and dynamics. They understand that you don't need to force feed tears to the audience. We just need to spend time with these characters and the tears will come naturally. More dramas need to study The Farewell. 

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RofpAjqwMa8


1. The Death of Dick Long *****
When it came to #1, it was really no contest. When I saw this movie, I knew it was going to get my #1 spot. This movie doesn't just win for the twist of the year, it's the twist of the fucking decade.
This is a movie barely anyone has seen, but the #1 movie I'm dying to see people's reactions for. I almost wish there were hidden cams for audience reactions. Nothing will prepare you for a dark comedy like this one.

When you watch the trailer, it looks like a FARGO type movie. A mysterious death, with his friends trying to cover it up. I know this formula, and I thought I knew the kind of crime thriller I was in for, and I'm glad to say I was completely wrong. Dick Long is such a refreshingly original film. For one, I think it may have the best ensemble cast of unknown actors. Every single performance is so fucking good. Its depiction of small town life in Alabama where everyone knows each other feels authentic. I have so much respect for this movie because it's fucking hilarious, yet the movie never once feels like it's trying to be funny. All the comedy feels like completely natural reactions to the shitstorm the characters find themselves in, and the hilarious stupid ways they try to cover up their crimes. But hey, I can laugh at these characters, but if I found myself in a situation where I had to cover up a crime, would I be any smarter? I don't know.

Especially if you're tired of the same old shit and want something different, watch this. It's one I'm so eager to discuss and know how you reacted to it and know just how much your jaw dropped.

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGBe8xsWGlo

My secondary awards:

Trippiest movie & best use of 3-D:
Spider-man: Far From Home

Best Ending:
The Farewell

Honorable mention: Little Women.
To credit Tom Bown for this observation, I love the way that Greta Gerwig pulls a Charlie Kaufman on the book's ending.

Best Ensemble cast:
The Death of Dick Long

Best Twist:
No brainer, Dick Long. I'm genuinely intrigued at how everyone will react to the twist.

Best Horror:
Brightburn

Best actor:
Jesse Eisenberg in Art of Self Defense

Best actress:
I was originally gonna go with Awkwafina in Farewell, or Saoirse Ronan in Little Women, but... no.

Virginia Newcomb - Death of Dick Long.

How do you prepare for a role like that?!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The best movies of the past decade (2010s) - Part 2 - The top 10

Before we get to the top 10, I want to start with the best short film of the decade...

Best short film: 
Inside No. 9 - The 12 Days of Christine (season 2, episode 2)

Technically this is a show and not a movie, but every episode of this show really can work as a self contained movie. This is a masterful drama, where you see a one day snapshot of 12 years of Christine's life, through all her triumphs, happy moments and optimism to her crushing disappointments, tragedies, and things in life that didn't pan out the way she hoped.

And that ending...fuck. Look, it may not be the most original twist, but here's my thing on twists. There's a difference between a twist that's all, "ha I tricked you!" vs. how it makes you feel. And no twist gutted me emotionally like this one. And while many twists don't quite stand up to scrutiny postmortem, this twist ending makes you think back to the episode, and absolutely everything holds up under scrutiny; in fact, it strengthens the entire episode.

Okay, now on to the top 10...

10. Tangled

Never did I imagine that an animated movie based on the age old fairy tale of Rapunzel of all characters, would one day end up on my best movies of the decade list, but here we are. It came out the same year as Toy Story 3, and when I wrote my top 10 list, I had Toy Story 3 ranked higher. Since then, I've maybe re-visited Toy Story 3 one more time; Tangled I've re-visited a good 5, 6 more times. If I'm flipping through channels and Tangled is on, I gotta watch that shit till the end. It's simply one of the most entertaining, delightful, beautifully animated movies and I think it's criminally under-rated when it comes to its comedy writing. Even its musical numbers don't get enough appreciation, from the delightfully hilarious "I've Got a dream" to "I see the light" which may one of the most scenes ever.

Rapunzel is the most charming, lovable, hilariously neurotic protagonist of any Disney movie. The evil godmother is a wicked villain and hilarious in the way she passively aggressively puts Rapunzel down. You have to love lines like, "How'd you find me?" "Oh, I just listened for the sound of complete and utter betrayal and followed it." Flynn is so full of witty one liners, and I absolutely bought into the romance between Rapunzel and Flynn.

When Flynn gets brought back to life, his first line of dialogue...that is inspired comedy writing that most Disney writers would never think up. Tangled is probably the #1 best case of a movie with mediocre source material that transcends it every way imaginable.

9. Temple Grandin

90% of the time, biopics are just meh for me. Despite how different so many people's lives were, they all often tend to feel exactly the same and go through the same formulaic beats. Going into a biopic about a woman I had never heard of before...then reading a synopsis on how Temple was an autistic woman who revolutionized slaughterhouses to be more humane for animals...can't say that excited me much. But, HBO makes good movies, it got good reviews, so I gave it a chance.

As you can see, this is my #1 highest rated biopic of the decade. It's so refreshingly original compared to almost every mainstream biopic. No movie out there explains autism in a more informative, fascinating, visually interesting way than Temple Grandin, with a style of directing that puts you in the head of an autistic person, to see the world the way they see it. Hell, even slaughterhouse efficiency and the reason why cows moo was fucking interesting. The struggles that Temple went through, seeing both sides of how autism was both a massive hindrance, but also a gift was wonderful. What I also love is the focus on her mother, a woman who had very little knowledge of autism at a time that no one really got it, and the tough choices she had to make for her daughter.

Now we know a lot more about autism, and Temple and her mom really are to thank for the wealth of knowledge. The movie's happy ending may be among the best of the decade, and absolutely well earned.

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpkN0JdXRpM

8. The Voices

Marjane Satrapi directed Persepolis, an autobiographical story about herself - a rebellious girl growing up in the Islamic revolution in Iran in the 1970s and how a rebel like herself had to escape such an oppressive society ruled by fundamentalists. She then went on to direct The Voices which just might be the most fucked up, deranged, darkly hilarious serial killer movie ever made. Kudos to her for going from Persepolis to this. It's like..."Now that I got my life story out of the way, here's the batshit crazy ass stories I really want to tell!"

I'm not exaggerating when I say that The Voices makes the show Dexter look like a Disney show. Ryan Reynolds gives easily his best career best performance as a psychotic man who really is trying his best to live a normal life, but when he's off his meds, all bets are off. You have never seen a human - pets friendship like a psychopath off his meds with his cat who's the evil, scolding character and his dog who's the dumb and loyal optimist. Hell, even conversations with decapitated heads isn't off the table. The Voices is definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but for those of you who really love the darkest, most fucked up gallows humour, there is no other movie like The Voices. Leave it to a woman to make the craziest serial killer movie of all time. On another note: this film also has the best musical number of the decade; the fucking audacity of this movie!

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hQpV9Q0A7E

7. Short Term 12

Maybe the rawest, emotionally gut punching, but in a completely realistic, non-sentimental un-Hollywood drama. There's a lot of tears to be shed, and it all feels so real. While it's a work of fiction, it feels so authentic. Brie Larson gives the best performance of her career (she won an Oscar for Room, but I still think this one is better), and re-watching the trailer, I didn't realize that Rami Malek and Lakeith Stanfield were in this movie, but who knows if Short Term 12 was their launching pad?

I have no clue what it would be like living in a group home, but for this movie, you experience it all, and you feel everyone's pain. And then you learn about the past of the couple running the group home, and your heart aches for them too. But in all its rawness, Short Term 12 still manages to end on an uplifting note. They've been through a lot, but maybe life has a lot of promise for their future. Love, compassion and people in your life who truly give a fuck can go a long way.

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhS6tvSb0UQ

6. Leaves of Grass

Leaves of Grass accomplishes a lot. It manages to explore classical philosophy while poking fun at the pretentious of academia, a Coen Brothers-esque crime thriller with a wickedly dark sense of humour, but better than any Coen Brothers' crime thriller, and my pick for the best stoner comedy. Just thinking about the plot and the master plan that is pulled off and I have to applaud the audacity of the plan. Crime thrillers where characters fuck up their plan up badly has made for some comedy, but I challenge you to find a fuck up that's funnier than one pulled by Edward Norton and Tim Blake Nelson in Leaves of Grass. Right, I haven't even gotten to Edward Norton playing twins, and the best example of one actor playing two roles just behind Nicolas Cage in Adaptation. He completely disappears into the twin brothers: both the highly accomplished philosophy professor who lives a very structured life vs. the hedonistic hillbilly pot grower who runs "The Taj Mahal of hydroponics", but also creates a storm of chaos for himself and everyone around him.

A special mention to I think one of the most under-rated actors: Tim Blake Nelson. He loves playing dumb hillbillies and he's amazing at it and he even has such a redneck name...but the dude also wrote, directed and produced this movie. Here he plays yet another hillbilly, in a funny, but also thoughtful, nuanced performance. Despite all the violence he's involved in, you just can't help but love the guy by the end of the film.

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpgLWZn5XgQ

5. Doctor Strange

This movie has fallen a bit down the chart from before. I will admit to being very stoned when I saw Doctor Strange in Imax 3D and declared it one of my favorite movies of all time. A few re-watches later (still stoned), it's not quite as good as the first time, but...this movie still fucking rules!

I imagine this conversation in my head with the studio and the director: "Alright, here's a giant fuckload of money. Now deliver something absolutely fucking epic, blow people's minds and make them trippy crazy balls too."

When action scenes are done with such creativity, there's nothing better. Inception teased at having a city fold onto itself, but then did nothing with that. Doctor Strange said...fuck it, if Inception, couldn't do shit with it, we're gonna take that and go absolutely balls to the wall. Then as action scenes follows action scene, it feels like they're trying to top the last scene, and you just never know what you're gonna get. People's souls fighting in a hospital? Why the fuck not? And Rachael McAdams pulls off a masterful comedic performances in that scene. "And how do we top the stuff we did before? How about a giant battle scene where time moves backwards." While some films are guilty of putting their best shit too early in the movie and the rest of the movie suffering, Doctor Strange just gets better and better as it goes along.

Yes, the script has its fair share of bad writing. Some of its drama is poorly written (though Rachael Mcadams is so fucking good with her mediocre dialogue), but when the writing is good, it's really fucking good.

So Doctor Strange reads a forbidden book with super powerful, dangerous sorcerer spells. He casts a spell, then the librarian and his teacher catch him in the act and scold him:

Mordo: "Tampering with continum probabilities is forbidden"
Doctor Strange: "I was just doing what it said in the book"
Wong: "What did the book say about the dangers of performing that ritual?"
Doctor Strange: "I don't know. I haven't gotten to that part yet."
Mordo: "Temporal manipulations can create branches in time. Unstable dimensional openings. Spatial paradoxes! Time loops! You want to get stuck re-living the same day over and over forever or never having existed at all?!"
Doctor Strange: "...They should have put the warnings before the spell"

Come on! That dialogue is absurdly delightful and hilarious!

4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

If I had to pick the best theatrical experience of the past decade; a movie that you absolutely fucking missed out on by not going to the theatres, it's Into the Spider-Verse in Dbox 3d (the chairs that move and vibrate according to what's going on in the movie). Okay fine, yes, I was very stoned, but that was the most fun, entertaining, tripping the fuck out ride of an experience. On top of that, an extremely creative script, and just absolutely on the point comedy writing.

Miles Morales and Peter Parker would have such great comedic chemistry. Nicolas Cage playing Spider-Man Noir... please make a fucking Spider-Man Noir movie and cast Nic Cage, god damn it! Hell, Spider-Ham would be great too. This movie has so much fun with the spider-verse characters, the awkward teenage stuff with Miles is hilarious, the relationship with his dad has surprising dramatic depth, hell, Miles relationship with Peter Parker and the way it ends up changing Peter's outlook on his own life is so well done.

Into the Spider-Verse has such a grand, epic plot that's so refreshingly different than any other spider-man movie or superhero movies in general. I wish Into the Spider-Verse could be brought back to Dbox theatres. I've yet to watch it on a regular TV, but I'm sure it'll still be great. While its trippy visuals are a huge part of its appeal, the script is every bit as good.

3. The Grey

This is the best example ever of a mis-marketed movie. The trailers made it look like a Liam Neeson karate kicking wolves in the face survival movie from Joe Carnahan, the director of the god awful A-Team. To say I had low expectations for this was an understatement, but great trick by the marketing team to tease a big dumb Hollywood movie and actually deliver an intense, powerful, existential, thought provoking, and poetic movie about coming to terms with death, and what truly matters in life. To quote Wael Khairy's review, "The Grey explores man's most frightening questions, the reason we're on this planet, if there's an afterlife or if 'dead is dead'. What makes this film so scary to me aren't the wolves, but the fact that it encapsulates so much of what we fear as human beings, our fear of heights, flights, drowning or dying alone."

Liam Neeson's performance in The Grey easily stands out to me as the best performance of the decade and the biggest robbery in the history of the Oscars. From the beginning of the movie when he's given up on life and attempts suicide to the moment he talks a dying man through his death to the moment that he yells at God (which could have gone so unintentionally hilariously bad), this movie is full of such powerful moments that have never left my memory, and I can't think of any actor that could have done it better than Neeson.

I also have to point out how refreshingly different this is from your standard survival movies. One of the biggest cliches is the giant douchebag character. We've seen enough survival movies to know how he'll fuck with other people's shit, selfishly cost people their lives and meet a horrible fate as karma for being a douchebag. The Grey decides to tease the audience with this character, but the arc that he goes through is so beautifully written.

On top of all that profound shit, it's an entertaining, thrilling survival movie. The entertainment factor is just the icing on the cake of one of the most surprisingly powerful dramas of the decade. 

2. Before Midnight

In 1995, Richard Linklater released a very unconventional romantic comedy titled Before Sunrise, a romance that had almost no structure, very little conflict, and simply followed two strangers who meet on a train, and spend the day in Venice together before they have to part ways. I imagine that any producer, agent or screenwriting teachers would have told Richard Linklater this film will bore the audience to tears. But, audiences just fell in love with these two characters falling in love, the chemistry was electric, their conversations were interesting as fuck, and it just felt magical. Then spawned into the best trilogy in the history of cinema. A rare trilogy where each installment gets better and better.

With that said that brings us to Before Midnight, which takes place 18 years after their initial meet cute moment on the train. Before Sunrise perhaps had more interesting philosophical conversations than the sequel Before Sunset, but I'd say Before Sunset was a more complete, emotional movie with more at stake; once all the pleasantries were exchanged, we learned that their lives were kind of fucked up from that one magical night and things were not okay.

Before Midnight really is the best of both predecessors. Linklater, Delpy and Hawke were very profound, intelligent people 18 years ago, but they've only gotten deeper, more mature, and more intelligent with age, and the screenplay truly shows that. It has the most interesting conversations (the lunch scene is maybe the best dialogue scene of any of the trilogy, and that old lady's speech about "just passing through"...just wow), and Before Midnight has the most at stake. Their honeymoon period is way the fuck back in the past, and now we see all the cracks and complications that come with time. As much as I loved watching the characters fall in love, their half hour long argument scene truly is something else. It's not easy to sit through, it's uncomfortable, and emotionally gutting, but find me a better argument scene in any other movie. This is maybe why the big argument in Marriage Story was kinda meh for me.

I know some people who loved watching this couple fall in love were not quite as keen on seeing how sour things got, but it's realistic. It's life.

1. It's Such a Beautiful Day

My pick for #1 not only had by far the smallest budget, but probably seen by the least amount of people. I want so badly for more and more people to discover this gem. A 60 minute stick figure animated movie is not only the best movie of the past decade, but one of my favorite movies ever. A screenplay that is wildly eccentric, an animation style that is at times bare bones and at other times absolutely fucking bonkers, original, stylistic, and brilliant at conveying the fucked up shit going on in its protagonist's head. Don Herdzfeldt clearly follows no rule book in this movie.

At the beginning, Bill is the most basic stick figure drawing. By the end, I feel like I went on a journey with Bill, felt his pain, his disappointments in life, the banal moments that he realizes has consumed so much of his life, his struggle with mental illness, coming to terms with his mortality, and the beauty he discovers about the world around him as his end comes closer and closer. I hope I don't make this sound like a grim as fuck movie; it's also fucking hilarious.

It's Such a Beautiful Day not only has a wonderfully dark sense of humour, but the comedy writing is just so quirky and eccentric. The way it can go from high brow to low brow so seamlessly is wonderfully done. It captures the every day socially awkward moments of life in a funnier way than any other movie. As the movie goes back through Bill's family tree to kind of explain the people that preceded him that explain the way he is...that's some funny ass shit.

It's Such a Beautiful Day manages to be extraordinary in telling a story of an otherwise ordinary man. In a brief 60 minute runtime, I felt like I went on a life journey with Bill, and I felt like I went on a spiritual journey. Absolutely amazing to pull off this kind of depth once again...with fucking stick figures is astonishing. This movie takes #1 by a landslide.

This is not an easy movie to find, but here's a vimeo link to watch it. Rent it. Buy it. This dude deserves to make more money.

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/itssuchabeautifulday


And that is all folks. I hope you enjoyed the read, and I hope you take some of my recommendations.