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 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)

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. 


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. 


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.


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?! 


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:

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:
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.


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 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 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.



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.


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. 


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. 


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.

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. 


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:

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:

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:

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 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:

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? 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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.


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:

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Best movies of the decade (2010s) - Part 1 - #20 to #11

Here's part 1 of my list #20 to #11 - best movies of the past decade. #11 to 1 should be up next week. Without further ado, let's get on with it...

Honorable mentions:
The World’s End, Flipped, The Raid: Redemption, Birdman, Life in a Day, The Impossible, A separation, Blade Runner 2049, How to Start an Orgy in a Small town, Lone Survivor, Interstellar, La La Land, Maggie's Plan

20.   Mom and Dad

I'm sure it goes through all parents' minds. They love their children and would do anything for them, but sometimes they kinda want to murder their kids too. And from that sentiment is a horror/comedy, about a curse that makes all parents want to murder their kids, and NOBODY could have possibly been more well casted as a dad trying to murder his kids than Nicolas Cage. Sometimes when Nic Cage can turn his batshit insane acting up to 11, there is simply nothing better in cinema, and not only is this movie absolutely fucking hilarious, its brutal violence is kind of delightful, and it's simply the most fun horror movie of the decade. Honorable shout out to another great horror/comedy YOU'RE NEXT which is also fucking hilarious, but I give the edge to Mom and Dad.

19. Cold Weather

Ah, the mumblecore movies. It's all about being realistic and capturing authenticity of life and the way people really talk, with much more focus on character development and relationships, but this subgenre often results in movies that are devoid of an actual plot.

Cold Weather is the answer to that. Low budget mumblecore meets Sherlock Holmes; easily my pick for my favorite detective movie of the decade. Warning, this movie will test a lot of people's patience as the first 40 mins go at a very leisure pace, as the movie depicts the mundane lives these characters live and a protagonist who's brilliant, but kind of wasting away his life. Once the mystery begins, a mumblecore style mystery is actually really refreshing different and so rich with comedy. I just loved this brother sister team detective team and not enough movies focus on sibling relationships. When it's time for the movie's climax, it results in one of the most suspenseful chase scenes without any big budget special effects (though a soundtrack reminiscent of Punch Drunk Love definitely does help); all it took was for us to really know, follow and fall in love with these characters and then the intensity and suspense is palpable. I love this movie and it's been quite an influence on the current script I'm working on.


18. Mei Ren Yu (The Mermaid)

I think this is the funniest movie to ever come out of China, so if anyone disagrees, please point me in the direction of a funnier movie. I've seen quite a lot of Stephen Chow as an actor and director, and this is his best. I'd maybe kinda describe it as Avatar with hilarious cheesy effects meets Monty Python. There's so much creativity and energy to the comedy, whether it's physical comedy, absurdness, intentionally preposterous plot points, or that scene when the billionaire walks into a police station to report that he'd been kidnapped by mermaids; I knew it would be funny, but I wasn't expecting one of the single funniest scenes in the history of comedy. I think any aspiring comedy directors need to study this film about how to think outside the box when it comes to directing comedy.

17. The Secret In their Eyes (The 2010 Argentina version, please do not mistaken this as a review of the god awful Hollywood remake with Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor)

What starts off as a murder mystery turns into one of the most powerful dramas. While this movie is definitely famous for its breathtakingly amazing one take in the soccer stadium (while a bit of a deux ex machina, I'll forgive it for how fucking amazing of a shot it was), it has probably the most powerful ending of any film this past decade that will stick with you for a long time. Instead of being a standard catch a killer crime thriller, this movie is more concerned about its characters, and exploring the power of love (the good and the bad), obsession, our inescapable passions, regret, the chances we should have taken in life, and about being prisoners of our past. Please watch this one and DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME WITH THE GOD AWFUL HOLLYWOOD REMAKE!


16. Unfriended

This is a rare movie where I will say, the best way to watch it is on your laptop, with headphones, by yourself in a darkened room. A horror movie that completely takes place on a skype chat seemed like a risky approach that could have ended disastrously. I think what we ended up getting is not only one of the most creative horror films in many years, but I think the best pure horror film of the decade; the Skype approach is actually successful in making things more tense and suspenseful. Once the movie really gets going, it doesn't give you a single minute to relax. I can't name one thing the movie could have done better with its approach. From its shocking opening to the character reveals at the end, it's great to get a horror movie that actually has a point to make about cyber bulling, about the way we treat each other, and puts into question what truly makes a good person.


15. Whiplash

What a decade for director Damien Chazelle! Whiplash, La La Land and First Man could be the most impressive resume of the decade. But, it is Whiplash that makes my list. While this definitely felt like Full Metal Jacket applied to music school, I take Whiplash any day over Full Metal Jacket.

It's fitting that a movie about an absolutely obsessive pursuit of greatness just grabs you by the balls and never lets go. Absolutely fucking intense from beginning to end, almost every Hollywood action movie failed to raise my pulse and grip me the way Whiplash did. While Miles Teller is great, I rank JK Simmons's work here as maybe one of the top 5 best performances of the past decade and one of the funniest performances too (Okay. I love myself some politically incorrect humor).

14. Zoom

The #1 movie to come out of Canada this past decade. It's kind of cool that I discovered this movie by accident. I came home, turned on the TV and it just happened to be on TMN and I don't know what it was about this movie that caught my attention, but once I started watching, I was glued. I have since seen it twice.

Maybe best described as a combination of Inception, Waking Life, Stranger Than Fiction, and Young People Fucking? An ensemble film juggling 3 stories, and the way the stories connect is quite a meta-mindfuck. It's the best case of high brow meets low brow; an arthouse film mixing different styles of filmmaking with its different stories with the most raunchy low brow sense of humour imaginable. Zoom is unlike anything else out there, it feels very Canadian and the movie is just so much fucking fun, and it may make your brain hurt a little bit trying to put all the pieces together.


13. Coco

Easily the most powerful movie to come out of Pixar this past decade. What started as a seemingly mediocre movie turned to something profound with it a big plot point, of how characters in the land of the dead disappear when the last person that remembers them dies and there's no more memory of them on Earth. Damn. Now Pixar has its fair share of tear jerking moments, from Andy giving his toys away to the opening 6 minutes of UP, but none of them compare to that final moment with Miguel and his grandma. There are movies that make you cry, and then there's Coco where I had to sit through the entire end credits (long credits might I add), because I couldn't stop.

For people that lost someone really close to them, I don't know yet if Coco is good as a therapeutic movie, or if would just utterly gut them. I'm curious for someone to weigh in on this. 

12. The Big Sick

I'm a huge fan of Judd Apatow and what he's done to the romantic comedy whether he's directing or producing. The Big Sick however is the best movie to come out of the Apatow school of romcoms. It's the first Apatow production worthy of an Oscar; hilarious, but its dramatic material is stronger than its comedy.

It's almost an injustice to just call it a romcom. It's also a wonderful friendship movie, a hospital drama, and an interesting exploration of culture clashes between the older traditional generation of a Pakistani family vs. the younger, Westernized generation, and it seamlessly juggles all these stories with hilarity and authenticity. While the chemistry is electric between Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, as she falls into a medically induced coma and her parents show up, the friendship he strikes up with her parents is the most memorable aspect of the movie, not only providing some of the best comedy, but the most touching moments. Kumail has phenomenal comedic chemistry with Ray Ramano and Holly Hunter.

I actually went into the movie having no idea it was based on a true story, written by the couple that lived the experience. It must have been the most horrible time of their lives, but sometimes the most painful life experiences can make for the best stories. 

11. The Death of Dick Long

This movie wins for the twist of the 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. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Top 10 best movies of 2018

Wow. And to think that one year from now I'll be writing a top 10 best movies of the decade. Boy has time flown by. But, let's look at now. 2018 is in the bag, and looking at my top 10, pretty good fucking year! When I get around to writing best of the decade, my pick for #1 this year may have very high spot on that list.

What a fucking year for Nicolas Cage!

Although no documentaries made my top 10, this was a remarkably good year for documentaries and I'll write a little bit more about some of the best that I saw.

And it was also a great year for trippy as fuck movies.

First off:

Honorable mentions:
A Spy Gone North, Searching, The Hate U Give, Fahrenheit 11/9, Antman and the Wasp, Upgrade, Three Identical Strangers, Mom and Dad, First Man, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Clovehitch Killer

10. Clara ****1/2

I saw 4 space movies at TIFF this year, and while I quite enjoyed First Man, the best space movie goes to Canada. It's also shocking to learn that the screenwriter of this movie was only 18 when he first wrote the script. No 18 year old should be this smart, god damnit! This movie juggles many things, but it all forms into a cohesive whole: a fascinating as fuck science fiction about a lonely man's obsession to find life on other planets (and the science about how he goes about searching is fascinating as for the lack of better words...fascinating as fuck), a drama about dealing with tragedy, a love story about the girl that enters his life and helps him on his search, and also manages to be philosophical and for a low budget Canadian film, it has shockingly great space visuals. If there's a slight weakness, some of Clara's dialogue is fucking cheesy (the character Clara, not the movie as a whole), but Akash Sherman was really young when he wrote this, and I'm sure his dialogue will improve with his future movies.

Last year, Coco was the one movie that had me balling my eyes out through-out the entire end credits. This year, it's Clara. The final shot of this movie is the single best ending of any movie this year, and Patrick J. Adams puts on one of the best performances of the year. Akash Sherman might be the most exciting person to look out for in Canadian cinema.


9. Welcome to Marwen ****1/2

This is the #1 movie that rottentomatoes got very wrong, and to think I almost listened to them and skipped out on this movie. Regardless of whether this movie took creative liberties with the true story of Mark Hogancamp (I'm guessing that's a big criticism of people who loved the documentary), this is one of the most visually stunning movies of the year. When it comes to fantasy dramas about characters that escape into a fantasy world to shield themselves from the pains of reality, no movies transitions and jumps from fantasy to reality and back more seemlessly and with more style than this one and that's fucking difficult for a movie that has to transition between live action and stop motion animation with dolls for fuck's sakes! That is impressive! I know this won't get a best picture nod, but at least give it best visual effects!

The action scenes involving the dolls are way fucking better than you'd expect. The drama about a guy dealing with PTSD and how he needs this fictional fantasy world to deal with the unbearable pain of the worst hate crime anyone can experience is so well done, and I think an Oscar worthy performance by Steve Carrell. His pain is real, and the friendships he has with the women in his life (and appear in his fantasy world of Marwen) have so much charm and heart. Perhaps the female characters aren't the most 3 dimensional, but their interactions are always fun and there's something different and funny about each friendship.

Despite the sad subject matter, this is an uplifting movie. Some of life's greatest pain makes for the best art and that's exactly what Mark Hogencamp did. It's an inspirational story about overcoming adversity and although the dramatic courtroom speech is one of Hollywood's oldest cliches, damn I couldn't hold those tears back!


8. Green Book ****1/2

On paper, this looked like such formulaic, cliched Oscar bait. I had zero interest in it, but then it won the audience choice award at TIFF. Since its wide release, reviews haven't been quite as glowing. Yes, it is another movie where the black guy is the supporting character, there to make the white guy learn the error of his ways. In the movie's defense, the screenwriter is the son of Tony Lip, so obviously he'll be able to write a far more 3 dimensional character of his dad than Don Shirley who he probably met, but didn't know all that well. I appreciate though that in a movie dealing with racism in the deep south, they chose a comedic roadtrip approach which is actually kind of refreshing.

To me, Green Book was simply the bromance of the year and shockingly one of the funniest movies of the year. It's an absolute joy to see the growth of a friendship between real life characters Tony Lip and Don Shirley and the comedic chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali is among the best I've seen this year. Once the two of them hit the road, there's not one dull moment. I'm trying to think back to other roadtrip movies that came out this past decade; I'm hard pressed to think of one I liked better than Green Book.

7. Annihilation ****1/2

What a follow up to Ex Machina by Alex Garland. First he makes a very smart mind fuck of a movie about artificial intelligence and now he tackles DNA with a bigger budget, even more mindfuckery and giving zero fucks about pleasing the mainstream Hollywood crowd. 

This is one insane mindfuck of a movie; an absolute trip.  At times brutally violent, horrifying, abstract, at times stunningly beautiful, and so creative with what it does with the small piece of land where evolution works in a very different way and where the DNA of any life form can mix with any other. Especially for those people bored with the absolute mediocrity of Ridley Scott's recent Alien movies, this is the breath of fresh air we're looking for. 


6. Blindspotting ****1/2

I feel like this is the best movie of 2018 that captures the voice of the Black Lives Matter movement (though The Hate U Give is also an excellent movie and a good companion piece to this one). When you have people angry about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, this is the movie they have to watch to understand the outrage.  

It could be all gloomy, but I love how Blindspotting weaves its message around a very entertaining buddy comedy about a black man who’s on parole and the friendship with his trouble making criminal White friend, quite possibly the last person he should be hanging out with if he wants to stay out of trouble.  Despite addressing gentrification, the movie even gets some good laughs out of black neighborhoods being taken over by Hipsters, ie: a burger joint that serves vegan burgers…you have to actually ask for a beef burger if you want one.

The film is directed with a lot of creativity and I applaud the director for some huge risks. The climax is probably the most talked about scene as it has been very divisive. I understand the people who didn't like it, but I applaud the director for thinking way outside the box and going for broke. Blindspotting to me is the Do the Right Thing of the 2000s. 


5. Mandy ****1/2

I think there needs to be no discussion of Oscar race for best actor. It's simple. Nicolas Cage in MANDY. It just may be Nic Cage's most batshit insane performance which is saying a lot, seeing how MOM AND DAD came out the same year (also a great movie), and let's not forget the Cage's being on crack, seeing dancing dead bodies and pulling guns on old ladies performance in Port of Call: New Orleans. But his work in Mandy tops them all, and when Cage is on his A game, taking performance up to 11, there's simply nothing better. 

Mandy is one hell of a batshit insane, trippy as fuck, avante garde, super interesting color palette gorgeously shot, violent as fuck with each death getting more and more fucked up revenge film. This is a beautifully directed film and extremely stylish, even mixing in animations at times. But back to Nicolas Cage...

When it comes to great performances, no acting this year tops the one scene of Nic Cage after he's just escaped from his captors, bruised and bloodied; he's in a lot of physical pain, but he just saw his wife get murdered by a cult. He pours alcohol on his wounds, chugs down the hard liquor and screams in unbearable pain. No performance made me feel a character's pain quite like this scene and no actor could have pulled this off like Nicolas Cage.


4. Thoroughbreds ****1/2 

If you have a fucked up, twisted sense of humour like me, dark comedies don’t get much better than this.  This is one hell of a twisted coming of age/friendship movie. It has easily the best comedic dialogue writing of the year.  Olivia Cooke who had been seemingly typecasted as a sweet girl suffering from a disease pulls a complete 180, playing a girl who is incapable of experiencing any emotions. The fact that there's absolutely no Oscar talk of her performance shows that the Oscars are still very inside the box and won't embrace anything that out there. It's a shame. 

Let's not forget Anya Taylor-Joy who seems like the normal girl, but there is some dark shit going on in her mind too.  The two of them have phenomenal chemistry and it’s the most memorable relationship of any movie this year. It never tries to be sentimental.  Its tone is dark, cynical and bad ass from beginning to end, and I never knew where the story would take me.  Might I add, it's very interesting the way this movie is shot. 


3. Eighth Grade ****1/2

I had expressed jealousy of Akash Sherman's intelligence for Clara, but multiply that jealousy by 11 when it comes to Bo Burnham. No 18 year old should have been coming up with stand-up comedy as brilliant as his.  No 27 year old making his directorial debut should be able to make a movie as flawless as this.  I expected a good movie with perhaps structural problems, self indulgence or attempts to be too quirky, but none of those issues arised.  I have almost nothing to criticize about this movie whatsoever.  What the fuck?!  His first crack at a feature film is better than most people's experienced directors' best work. 
Eighth Grade is wonderful.  Heartbreaking, authentic, low key and funny movie, where the humour feels so natural where many indy directors try too hard to be quirky.  Everything about it feels so accurate and realistic about the lives of eighth graders today, in this social media controlled life. Elsie Fisher has rightfully been in the discussion for an Oscar nomination, but let's not forget a best supporting actor nod for Josh Hamilton playing one of the most likable dads ever in a movie; trying his best to be a good single dad, but at times clueless. Boy does he shine in that campfire scene. 

I agree with a friend of mine that this is the movie LADY BIRD tried to be. I will also add, I think a far better coming of age movie than BOYHOOD, and I'll even add that it captured the heart and teenage insight of one of my favorite novels - The Perks of Being a Wallflower better than that actual movie adaptation of that book. But that you're a great filmmaker, please don't quit your stand-up comedy.  You can do both! 


2. Paddington 2 ****1/2

To get the first question out of the way, no I wasn't stoned when I saw this movie, but I will be when I re-visit it. I should also add that this is the #1 rated movie on rottentomatoes. A true definition of a family movie, where adults will get just as much out of the movie as the kids. 

I thought Paddington 1 was an over-rated, generic comedy.  This may be one of the best sequels of all time, absolutely superior to its predecessor in every way imaginable. It's like the complete opposite of the Mary Poopins Sequel. Some people may say I was really harsh for calling Mary Poppins Returns a piece of shit, but Paddington 2 is how you properly do a magical, delightful family film that improves upon its predecessor. 

One thing that must be stressed…this is a good fucking comedy, with some very creative physical comedy that we don’t see enough of these days. Paddington's brutal honesty, his inability to know that sometimes honesty can be hurtful also leads to some great comedy. Despite how many times Paddington fucks up, he’s so well-intentioned, and has such a heart, you can’t help but love him. Hugh Grant does his funniest work in years, playing a super narcissistic, master of disguise burglar, and in my opinion the best villain of 2018.    

The majority of Hollywood movies have feel good endings, but very few movies left me in such a euphorically uplifted mood like this one. On my list of all time greatest feel good movies, Paddington 2 is definitely up there. 


1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse *****

I'm not a comic book nerd. I still think there's waaaay too many super hero movies and I'm tired of seeing the same super heroes rebooted over and over again. Imagine my shock that once again, a Marvel super hero movie has once again topped my list (last time was Doctor Strange). But hey, I like to be entertained, and when a movie has me tripping the fuck out and saying, "Hoooooly fucking shit!!" repeatedly through-out the entire movie, absolutely dazzled by a movie's energetic, colorful and fresh comic book style of animation, there's nothing better. I don't know how this movie will translate to a TV screen, but seeing it in theatres in Dbox 3-D is a unique movie going experience like no other. It's such an immersive experience, a true escape into this absolutely bonkers universe. 

An absolute trip could have been enough, but the movie also happens to come with a great script. Very creative story, a really fun range of Spider-characters from various parallel universes, and really good character relationships with great humour and gravitas not only between Miles and his dad, but a wonderful teacher/student relationship with Miles and Peter Parker.  

And Nicolas fucking Cage once again absolutely kills it, easily the funniest voice acting in years, playing Noir Spider-Man. Spider-Verse is fucking hilarious, from physical comedy to awkwardness to really witty dialogue. It never tries too hard to get its laughs. The over-rated Deadpool 2 could really learn from Spider-Verse about writing clever meta humour.

As I've said before, I typically prefer Indy films, but when a mainstream blockbuster gets a big budget with an extremely creative vision, nothing is better. This movie is an experience. I can't think of too many things more fun than sitting through this movie...ON WEED! 

Other notable awards:

Actor of the year:
Nicolas Cage

Not only did he have the performance of the year in Mandy, but one of the funniest performances ever in a horror movie in Mom and Dad, and if there was an Oscar for best voice actor in an animated movie, he easily takes it for his hilarious work playing Spider-man Noir in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. 

Trippiest movie of the year:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Very worthy runners up:
Ant-Man and the Wasp, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Mandy, Annihilation

Best Use of 3-D:
Tie: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Antman & the Wasp
Runner up: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best ending:

Best Cinematography:
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Runner up: Mandy

Best Actor and Best Actress:
Nicolas Cage in Mandy (runners up: Patrick J. Adams in Clara, Ryan Gosling in First Man)
Olivia Cooke in Thoroughbreds (runners-up: Amandla Stenberg in The Hate U Give, Elise Fisher in Eighth Grade)

Best villain:
Hugh Grant in Paddington 2 

Best super-hero movie:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Runners up: The criminally under-rated Teen Titans Go!: To the Movies, Ant-man &the Wasp

Best Animated movie:
Okay, this is a no brainer. I don't even need to say it.
If the Oscars give best animated film to Pixar's Mediocres 2, they have officially lost all credibility. Though a runner up worth mentioning is: Teen Titans Go! to the movies. This was my pick for best animated movie in a year of weak animated movies until Spider-verse came along. 

Best Foreign Language Film:
A Spy Gone North (South Korea)
It's the most captivating spy movie in years.

Runners up: Husband Material (absolutely delightful Bollywood movie), Shadow (China)

Best horror:
Mom & Dad
(Nic Cage wins maybe one of the funniest performances ever in a horror movie)


Damn good year for documentaries. To name a few: 
Three Identical Strangers is intriguing, thought provoking and more and more fucked up as it goes along. 

Screwball which I saw at TIFF...who knew a baseball documentary could be so fascinating, hilarious and stranger than fiction, in its exploration of the doping scandal involving A-Rod and the all the morons involved including the MLB themselves. 

Shirkers, it's on Netflix, folks. Most mystery documentaries are about murder or disapperance; how about a mysterious filmmaking teacher who befriends his students, makes a movie with them, then disappears. And then it turns out he's done this to many people? This movie explores one of the strangest real life villains and it's really fascinating.

Minding the about a filmmaker using the medium of a documentary as therapy; as a form of exploring his pain and the pain of his friends growing up with abusive parents and the psychological scars it leaves on them. In the midst of it all, they have skateboarding as their outlet and the skating is really well shot.

Won't you be my Neighbor?: Not as good as the docs I listed above, but still very touching and interesting insight into a TV personality who truly had a great heart and truly wanted to make the world a better place with his show. I'm glad that the show Kidding came out the same year. Let's hope Mr. Rogers didn't have any of Jeff Pickles's demons though. 

But...if I had to pick a favourite...

I'm going with Fahrenheit 11/9, far better than its predecessor. Simply put, I think it's the most important documentary to come out this year. It presents everything that's fucked up about our political climate today, but has inspirational moments, showing the young people, their energy and ambition and ability to change the world around them. It's a call to everyone that this is what's fucked with the world, now go out and do something about it!