The Eagle Has Landed: A February Recap, Pt. 2

My favourite season? Probably…

I watched 16 features in February (plus 15 shorts) which is the most I’ve ever seen in a month. This was almost entirely Oscars-related, and this year was a personal record for me – I saw 28/37 nominated features and 15/15 shorts.

I am.. a little burnt out, but I still wanted to recap and rapid-fire-review the month.

These are only in the order that I watched them, not ranked.

BlacKkKlansman

I like to describe this as “such a MOVIE”. Like.. it has a little bit of everything, and all of those things are on point. It’s fantastic, and it’s my second favourite Best Picture nominee after The Favourite. Also, shout out to my local library for showing it for freeee. Having fun isn’t hard, y’all.

The Incredibles 2

Honestly, I didn’t have very many expectations for this, even though I really like the first one. I just thought it would be a handy one to knock off my list because it’s on Netflix. AND I LIKED IT A LOT. It also made me realize that The Incredibles exist in like, the 60s.. which I never knew before.

Vice

I did not love Vice. I really liked The Big Short, so I was expecting some similar ‘quirks’ but it almost felt like a parody of itself. The performances were good. Amy Adams is the best but what else is new. I dig the message it’s giving us in terms of relevance today, but I think it could have been better. Once I started thinking about Batman, I couldn’t stop (it’s the same voice, tell me I’m wrong).

Roma

A beautiful film, there’s no question. I’m so glad I waited for it to come back to the big screen. Yalitza is captivating and I am eager to see what else she will do. So much happens, which is all very moving, but I left feeling like there was no culmination. One article that I read suggested that there is a voice missing, and I agree.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Again, I thought.. meh, this is handy to watch because it’s on Netflix. I’m a Star Wars fan, but never got around to seeing it when it came out. Alden Ehrenreich really impressed me. Donald Glover always impresses me. I would say nothing extraordinary, but I enjoyed it. Rogue One was better.

Abducted in Plain Sight

My first non-nominee of the month, but I had no choice because this shit is fucking crazy. If you like true crime and also being utterly befuddled, 10/10 this is the ride for you.

Miss Representation

You know when you’re having one of those days and you just have to come home and watch a documentary about gender and systemic sexism? Big mood. Keeping in mind that it’s from 2011, it’s quite good.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Richard E. Grant said it best when he said that Melissa McCarthy treads the tightrope of heartbreak and hilarity, which is also true of the film as a whole. It was so feisty and smart as well. I really, really recommend watching it if you haven’t yet.

Mirai

Mirai was a delightful little surprise to me. I don’t have a lot of experience with Japanese animation but I was really taken with it. Very mesmerizing storytelling.

Minding the Gap

I can’t tell you how much I love this. For some reason I had a completely different idea in my head of what it was actually about, and then when I started it and they were skateboarding I was just completely swept away. You can find it on POV Docs on PBS here. It isn’t really about skateboarding so don’t let that turn you off! I’ve been watching a lot of interviews with the filmmaker Bing Liu, and the work he did and his vision is just incredible.

At Eternity’s Gate

I’m kicking myself for not seeing this in theatres. Beautiful cinematography. I liked Willem Dafoe, but his voice will forever remind me of Spider-Man, EVEN when he’s saying lovely things like this:

First Man

Space stuff gives me anxiety but it was well worth it for this. Better than La La Land in my opinion. Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy were amazing. THE SCORE!! Houston, we have a theremin. This is another one that I wish I had seen on the big screen.

Fun fact: I never knew that “the eagle has landed” was from the moon landing.

The Wife

From the very first scene, I knew I would love Glenn Close’s performance. Her facial expressions alone were so evocative. Something about stories being set in Stockholm is so appealing; it’s like it heightens every emotion and the vibe is so cold, in a great way. I bet the novel is amazing.

Cold War

The chemistry between Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig was everything. I didn’t find it very ‘romantic’ per se, but it was definitely a passionate story and I liked the dark humour as well. Beautifully shot, and I didn’t expect the ending at all.

First Reformed

I might have been slightly underwhelmed, but I did like it. I found some of the dialogue and delivery a bit unnatural, particularly between Toller and Mary. I’m not sure if that could have been intentional or not? I do love the amount of symbolism, and that the story lends itself so well to analysis. My personal interpretation of the ending is that he really did drop it, but she wasn’t actually there. I’d be curious to rewatch it.

Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson you SCOUNDREL. The world building – literally and figuratively – in this movie is bananas. I thought to myself multiple times: oh wait, is this animated, or stop motion? No yeah it’s anima- wait.. it’s stop motion?! The score, the humour, the heart, the wit. The puppies! When Atari calls Chief a good boy!!


Coming out the other side of the Oscars feels like waking up from a nap and not knowing who you are or what year it is.

Am I glad that this year in particular is over? You bet. Am I ready to do it all again starting right now? YOU BET.

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Short Through The Heart: A February Recap, Pt. 1

This post’s title is brought to you in part by Goofy.

Oscar crunch time is no joke, so for the sake of your sanity and mine, I decided it was probably for the best that I split my February recap into at least two parts.

First up is the shorties, and I’m so glad I got to see them all this year. For the past few years, my local ‘indie’ cinema has gotten all of the Animated and Live Action nominees. And while I’m sure this has always been the case, this year I also found all the Documentary Short Subjects to watch.

Something I love about short films is that they pack such a punch. I often find that even when I’m not jiving with it, either stylistically or tonally or whatever, I still feel an impact. And that was very much the case this year. I had my favourites but wow, what a crazy lineup in these categories.

These are in order from my most to least favourite within each category.

Short Film – Animated

One Small Step

I loved One Small Step so much. It reminded me a lot of 2012’s Paperman, even though they’re quite different. So dreamy. When she lands at the end and it flashes back to her little moon boots on her bed. STOP.

Weekends

The animation blew me away, especially the dream sequences (male figure on fire, riding the horse through town, floating down the stairs). I’ve also had Money For Nothing stuck in my head for 11 days straight, which I think must count for something.

Late Afternoon

Very powerful tug of war between hope and heartache. The way they used the animation to show Emily’s memories and her working through the past and present was remarkable.

Bao

Bao is cute as hell, even if it’s slightly alarming when the mom literally eats her baby bun. I know – it’s symbolic. Obviously this was delightful, what else do we expect from a Disney animated short.

Animal Behaviour

I hate to put a Canadian nominee at the bottom of the group, but that’s just the way it is. It was really, really funny. My theatre was lol-ing their heads off. It just didn’t really do much for me beyond that, unfortunately.

Short Film – Live Action

Madre (Mother)

Very refined and effective build of suspense. The end credits were incredibly cool (music and effects).

Marguerite

A very rich, heartbreaking story, told so modestly and sweetly. My favourite of the Canadian nominees.

Skin

Very heavy. I thought all the performances were great. I do think it’s fair to question the perspective – in that it seems to be focused on evoking sympathy for the white supremacists.

Fauve

I didn’t dislike Fauve, but it didn’t really come to fruition for me. I thought the two boys gave moving performances, but it didn’t resonate as a whole.

Detainment

I read a little about this before I saw it, so I knew the story, but man. I will say that the kids gave amazing performances. I’m generally a big fan of true crime adaptations, but this felt different to me. Maybe the approach was too direct? I’m not even sure. Let me know what you thought.

Documentary – Short Subject

Period. End of Sentence.

I had not heard of The Pad Project before. What an amazing nonprofit and an insightful documentary. Sadly I think this will be overlooked by male Academy voters.

End Game

Very sad, but oddly uplifting and comforting. Definitely gave me some anxiety (who doesn’t love hospitals and grappling with mortality!) but I thought it was portrayed delicately and showed a helpful and necessary point of view.

Lifeboat

A painfully close look at the world’s refugee crisis. I considered putting this lower in the list, because I found it very hard to watch and it gave me even more anxiety than End Game did.. but I don’t think it’s fair to use those parameters when it comes to documentaries. Another heavy hitter.

Black Sheep

I enjoyed the dramatization alongside the Cornelius’s narration of events. I do wish it would have followed his life further. How did his story progress? What is his life like now? I wanted more.

A Night at The Garden

Fascinating footage of a historical event.. but I feel a bit odd about something comprised entirely of archival footage being nominated for an Academy Award. That being said, there’s no denying its relevance today.


These were a lot. Can I interest you in a puppy video? This is one of my favourites:

Stay tuned for the rest of my February recap.

The Ballad of Supporting the Favourite Outlaw Shoplifters of the Solo-Verse: A January Recap

I did my best with that title, so yes I will accept your praise.

I’ve decided to dive back into blogging – somewhat. I feel like when it comes to movies, I’m always kind of writing essays about them in my head days after watching them, but then when I sit down to write something, I struggle. I know that it comes with practice and personalizing your own methods of writing and editing and fine tuning until your thoughts can occupy fully formed sentences.. but I’m starting here, to ease myself back in.

The other reason for this new game plan is: I want to keep better track of what and how many movies I’m watching.

(I also joined Letterboxd, hiii).

So here’s the gist: each month I’m going to keep a list of the movies I’m seeing, whether they are new or just new to me – if I’m seeing it for the first time, it’s going on the list. Then, when the month is over, I’ll do a post of mini-reviews, opinions, or rankings of the group. With me so far? Great.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

What a way to start my new year. I loved everything about Spider-Verse. Everything. It was visually stunning and likely one of the most uniquely animated movies I’ve ever seen. The characters have so much heart. The premise is interesting and fun. The casting is great. The music is great. I’m telling everyone I know to see this movie in theatres while they still can. If god grants us one good thing from this awards season, let it be Spider-Verse winning Best Animated Feature.

Support the Girls

I fell in love with the trailer for this movie as soon as I watched it, and in certain ways it delivered. It was a little slower than I would have liked, but Regina Hall single-handedly wins you over with her performance. I also love Haley Lu Richardson, who I believe is building quite the reputation as a scene-stealer. It might not have been a total home run for me, but I loved how real it was (especially for those of us who have worked a retail or hospitality job). The final scene speaks – or in this case, screams – louder than words.

The Favourite

The Favourite was exceptional. The performances are everything: the individual strength and combined chemistry of Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone was off the charts. I’ve always liked Emma Stone but haven’t been overly crazy about any of her films that I’ve seen, but this easily became my favourite (ha) role of hers. Initially, I wasn’t crazy about two things: the fish eye camera shots, and the ending. I’ve since come around on both. Also, bunnies!!

none of them die, I promise

Shoplifters

Shoplifters crept up on me. It belongs in that lovely category of films that burrow into your heart and brain so gently and so subtly that you don’t realize they are there until you get home and want to cry. IN THE BEST WAY. It was also the kind of movie where the performances are so stark that you forget you’re watching actors.

If Beale St. Could Talk

It would be fair to say that Beale St. is a work of art. I saw it described as “cinematic poetry”, and deservedly so. It’s captivating. I can’t get Colman Domingo’s laugh out of my head. Or Stephan James and KiKi Layne’s eyes. Or the scene where Tish tells Fonny’s family. I know there are a lot of contenders for reasons why the Academy Awards are such a hot mess this year – but truly it’s surprising that Beale St. and Barry Jenkins didn’t receive nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. This is the kind of movie that plants seeds.

Green Book

Speaking of reasons why the Academy Awards are a hot mess. Kiddingggg – but not really. I’ll start with the positive: Mahershala Ali is an actual angel and his performance was divine. I thought Viggo’s performance was also great. It was funny. However.. I personally can’t ignore or un-know the controversy and criticisms that have come out about Green Book since its release. It comes down to perspective, in terms of whose perspective is used to tell certain stories. We all know what this movie is trying to achieve, but doing it the wrong way ends up painfully diluting the whole message.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Also known as: Six Small Westerns for The Price of One.

My ranking:

  1. The Gal Who Got Rattled
  2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  3. All Gold Canyon
  4. Near Algodones
  5. Meal Ticket
  6. The Mortal Remains

Overall, I would say I really enjoyed it. I could have watched a full length movie of The Gal Who Got Rattled. I loved Zoe Kazan. The dog was so cute. I was into the marriage-for-convenience trope. The music in Ballad of Buster and All Gold Canyon was 💯. Scenery in the Top 4 was just nuts (over the summer I went to Colorado/Utah/Arizona/New Mexico on a little road trip, so I was drooling over those shots of places I had recently been – see below). And the “first time?” line in Near Algodones killed me.

Meal Ticket and The Mortal Remains I found a little dull. I liked what Meal Ticket was trying to do but I felt like.. it went on a little long, or something? I’m not sure. And then honestly The Mortal Remains I wasn’t into at all. I’ll admit by the end I wasn’t giving it my full, undivided attention.. but I didn’t get much out of that one.

I noticed some themes throughout (greed and death) but I hoped there would be something else woven through each story (like I thought maybe Buster would be in all of them in some way). I also think it would have benefitted the movie as a whole if it bookended with another ‘ballad’ of Buster Scruggs.

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Monument Valley (taken by me)

Outlaw King

Okay, so I watched this on a bit of a whim, and by whim I mean I saw a video of Chris Pine on YouTube and remembered how much I like him. It was.. fine. It had some really beautiful cinematography and some interesting shots. I like a castles/swords situation as much as the next guy, but something didn’t really click. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Florence Pugh were amazing. Chris Pine was good too, I just felt myself judging his accent harshly the entire time. I will say, I’ve never been more aware of horses dying in a movie.

Sweet Virginia

Ever find yourself overcome with love for a specific actor, so you frantically try to consume as much of their filmography as possible? This is what happened after I watched The Punisher S2 – I rewatched* Daredevil S2 and The Punisher S1, and then looked for more of Jon Bernthal’s movies to watch. To my delight, quite a few are on Netflix and Sweet Virginia had already been on my list. It was dark, but really pulled it off. I also think that with repeated viewings you could do a deep dive and so many different things out of it. Christopher Abbott and Jon Bernthal were well matched, and it was so pretty (filmed in Canada, holla).

*selectively skimmed

Free Solo

If you are afraid of heights, you should maybe sit this one out. I knew what I was about to see, but I hadn’t actually watched a trailer. It was easily one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen, but it was also packed with a lot of emotion, digging in to the psychology of fear, risk, and love. Very worthy of its Oscar nom.


Is this too long? Have I made a horrible mistake? Let’s find out together!

Step Right Up & Try My Buzzfeed Quiz!

As it turns out, anybody can sign up and publish content on Buzzfeed. I always assumed you had to work there or be a real writer or something in order to have your stuff published on Buzzfeed. To be fair, only the best of the best gets chosen by the editors to be promoted to the main areas of the site. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try making Buzzfeed lists or quizzes because hey, they are really fun and relatively easy to do.

Click here if you want to try my movie quotes quiz – but be warned, I didn’t make it easy. Many of my friends have already accused me of being downright vicious by not giving options, and instead making the quizzees guess blind. Look, they are just basically from my favourite movies, and I tried not to make them 100% impossible.. but who doesn’t love a challenge, am I right?

So give it a try! Let me know how you do 🤣

Escaping The Cinematic Universe: One Original Film At A Time

One reason why Baby Driver is a front-runner for must-see movie of the year, in my opinion, is the fact that it’s entirely original. You don’t need to conduct research or do any homework prior to seeing it. These kinds of movies are generally more audience friendly – I took my mother to see Baby Driver and she loved it. It’s the quintessential, heading-to-the-theatre, “what should we see tonight?” example of a fun and exciting movie watching experience. No prerequisites.

Do not confuse my opinion with a distaste for the ever-popular superhero movies. I’m as much a fan of the Marvel et al. cinematic universes as the next person. Logan, Wonder Woman and Spiderman: Homecoming were a few of my favourites movies this year. At any given point in time, a good portion of the movies I’m most excited to see in theatres are superhero centric. There’s always something missing, though. I can’t look to just anyone and share a moment of pure elation about how great Avengers: Infinity War is going to be… and that’s fine. There’s something special about a one and done spectacular film, though. In fact, I think we’re craving them, and our calls are being answered.

Three of the most talked about movies of the last few months have been original, brilliant, and better yet they’ve delivered on the hype. Okja, an emotional and powerful story of a girl and her super-pig vs. a corporation and their super greed. Baby Driver, a heart pounding, foot tapping, car chasing heist movie like you’ve never seen. Dunkirk, a larger than life war film that quietly forces you to the edge of your seat. There’s something to be said for the magnitude of excitement surrounding a film that:

  • looks utterly amazing
  • you don’t know anything about outside of trailers and press material.

So why is this? Are we simply tired of ordering high stakes with a side of men in capes? Maybe. Or maybe at the core we miss the simplicity of watching a good movie. I could be alone in this, but when I’m seeing the new Marvel movie, or speculating on new DC trailers, there’s something a little stressful about it. There’s so much information, so many announcements and spinoffs and remakes and rumours and crossovers. This is all wonderful and mesmerizing and I’m filled with respect for the super-humans that keep track of it all; but as a fan who’s also a completist AND completionist, it can be an overwhelming relationship to maintain.

At the end of the day, a great movie is a great movie. The best great movies, though, pull you in and spit you out with a smile on your face and leave you wanting more. They linger. Their superpower is their staying power and sometimes, that is enough.

Left Wanting More: Nocturnal Animals Review

 

I’d say my expectations for Nocturnal Animals were pretty high. I remember it getting a decent amount of hype when it came out and receiving some awards attention too (between Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTAs and SAG). I wouldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy it, but I felt a bit.. dissatisfied at the end. It left me wanting more.

 

The Good

So many elements of Nocturnal Animals were working in its favour. The cast was spectacular. Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams (especially), Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Isla Fisher (for what little screen time she had). All the characters were compelling and engaging. There was never a dull moment. The visuals and overall tone of the movie were excellent. My heart was racing, particularly during the initial highway encounter and abduction scene. The opening scene is quite unique and a little shocking, if you’ve seen the movie you’ll know why, and I found myself theorizing almost immediately about the rest of the movie; wondering what the significance was and what implications that scene could have for what was to follow. The bulk of the movie was very thrilling and enjoyable to watch.

The Bad

When a movie makes you theorize and gets your heart racing, it needs to deliver a satisfying resolution or gasp-worthy twists before heading into a big reveal. You could argue that Nocturnal Animals is more of a thinker, less about the shock value and more about the big picture parallels, but for me, I needed something more. Especially when the movie is carrying three narratives (which I liked and thought was done well), I was expecting a bigger “a-ha!” moment to pop up eventually.

The Ugly Bottom Line

Nocturnal Animals had a lot going for it but fell somewhat short. I appreciated the intellectual journey but hoped for a more exciting experience at the end of it all.


If you’ve seen Nocturnal Animals, let me know what you thought! You can leave a comment, or

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5 Reasons Why Baby Driver Is The Must-See Movie Of The Year (So Far)

I mentioned on Twitter that waiting to see Baby Driver was the most excited I had been about a non-superhero movie in a long time. I finally saw it this week (I even convinced my almost-60 year old mother to come along – she loved it, btw) and it didn’t disappoint me in the slightest. Coming out of the theatre, I was reeling; my mind was going a mile a minute. The way Baby Driver made me feel is the reason why I love going to the movies. I can’t promise this won’t have spoilers in it (please just stop what you’re doing and go see it, okay?) but I came up with 5 reasons why I think Baby Driver is the must-see movie of the year so far..

A True Standalone

When you hear the word “standalone”, your mind probably still jumps into superhero or monster mode – thinking about a movie where the characters and plot stand alone but are really part of a greater whole. If we look hard enough we can find amazing and original films and television shows that are brand spanking new, but so much of it isn’t. Reboot, remake, recycle. I love a cinematic universe as much as the next person, but Baby Driver was a breath of fresh and exciting air. Outside of trailers, you don’t know who Baby is before seeing this movie. There’s no homework or prerequisites or required reading before seeing Baby Driver and I think that worked in its favour. Of course there’s already buzz about a possible sequel, which would probably be great. There’s no doubt I could have spent a few more hours in the Baby Driver world, but I’m also completely fine with how it ended. It’s always a fine line between wanting more of a movie and risking being let down by a sequel. (Let the record state that if Edgar Wright is on board for number 2, then so am I).

Engaging Characters

I loved every character in this movie – even the ones you aren’t supposed to like at all. The top of the list for me, besides Baby, was Joseph, Baby’s deaf foster father who he cares for. I was very moved by their relationship and pleasantly surprised to see that storyline in the movie since it was not in the trailers. Baby himself was so compelling and a joy to watch throughout the entire movie. The chemistry between all the characters was strong and really translated into all the humour and tension you feel in the movie. I love the complexity of a well written and well performed bad guy. The kind you find yourself enjoying and kind of rooting for until they really get going on their own villainous journeys. Buddy, Jon Hamm’s character, is a great example. He’s funny, kind of charming and sticks up for Baby in the beginning. He kinda won me over. Of course when he decides that it’s Baby’s fault when everything goes wrong, then you remember that, yeah, he’s evil and crazy.

The Cast

One of the big reasons why Baby Driver was so good is the cast. With so many heavy hitters, there was never a dull moment in any scene. Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Eiza González all killed it; they were funny, crazy, scary and all manner of intense. Jon Bernthal, Flea and Lanny Joon were on par with the A-team, I just wish they had as much screen time. I really loved Lily James and Ansel Elgort as Baby and Deborah. Even though the love story was a bit unrealistic, it didn’t feel out of place with the tone of the film and Lily and Ansel’s combined performances made it work really well. I wasn’t too familiar with Ansel Elgort before, and I had heard some people say they didn’t care for him, but I think he was great as Baby and he probably gained a few new fans through this role.

Pseudo-Musical

Maybe the number one takeaway from Baby Driver is the soundtrack and how music is weaved into the movie. No one breaks into song, not really, anyways, so it’s hard to classify Baby Driver as a musical in my opinion, but I’ve rarely seen a movie use music like this. I read that Edgar Wright describes it as “soundtracking” your own life, which I found totally relatable. A really great song practically forces you to imagine a visual narrative that goes along with it. Surely I’m not the only one who directs music videos in my head? But honestly, the soundtrack is insane. I don’t remember the last movie I saw that ended up having a 30-track soundtrack. I’m dying to get my hands on a physical copy of it just so I can listen to it in my car. Then there’s the songs themselves, which were so expertly chosen and matched with characters and plot points. Let’s Go Away For A While. Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms). Nowhere To Run. Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up. BABY DRIVER. Okay, that last one was a no brainer, but still. I was also completely fine with the action being in sync with the music. A few people said it was a bit kitschy, and I wasn’t really sure how much Mickey Mousing I should expect going into the movie, but it wasn’t blatant or obnoxious to me.

Just Plain Fun

Like I said, the way I felt leaving the theatre after seeing Baby Driver is the reason why I love movies. Everything I’ve talked about so far combined so perfectly to make the movie just plain FUN. I was smiling, I felt energized, all I wanted to do was turn the radio up on the drive home. It made me want to buy a Subaru and learn stick shift. It made me want to put my headphones on and sing and dance down the street. I often gauge my movie ratings by whether or not I would rewatch something, and in this case, I would 100% rewatch Baby Driver. Go see it.


What did you think of Baby Driver?

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