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!

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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The Fundamentals of Caring

 

I had been scrolling by this title on Netflix for a while.. it had been on my list but for any number of silly reasons I wasn’t ready to make the plunge. When I finally did, I wished that I hadn’t waited so long to watch it. I’m usually quite impressed by Netflix originals, and The Fundamentals of Caring was no exception.The Fundamentals

Paul Rudd plays Ben, a former writer who takes a caregiving course and is applying for his first job – caring for 18 year old Trevor, played by Craig Roberts. Trevor has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and a strict daily routine. Trevor is cynical and anxious and fascinated by odd roadside attractions he sees on the news. Ben convinces Trevor and his mother, Elsa (Jennifer Ehle), to let him take Trevor on a road trip to see some of these attractions in person. Along the way, they meet Dot, played by Selena Gomez, who is hitchhiking her way to Denver but agrees to tag along with Ben and Trevor to see the world’s biggest pit – their main destination. The group also meets Peaches (Megan Ferguson), a pregnant woman going to live with her mother while her husband is on his second tour with the military. Road trip shenanigans ensue – by the end of the movie I was not only satisfied and emotional but mentally planning 100 road trips I wanted to take immediately.

The Caring

I really, really, REALLY liked this movie. Paul Rudd is just wonderful at all times and I would probably watch anything if he were in it. Craig Roberts was also amazing, and the chemistry that he and Paul Rudd had together as Ben and Trevor was fantastic. Selena Gomez impressed me as well. Oddly enough, the only other movie with Craig Roberts in it that I’ve seen is Neighbors, and the only movie I’ve seen Selena Gomez in is Neighbors 2… but don’t worry, The Fundamentals of Caring is light years ahead of those. I didn’t want to give too much of the plot away, but obviously each character has their own personal issues that they’re dealing with and that they’re sort of forced to face head on while on the road trip. This trope is in no way new. There are tons of “finding myself on a road trip” movies, but somehow this one felt different and it never lost me along the way. I found it refreshing to watch a movie where two male characters bond but that wasn’t a raunchy bromance-comedy (not that there’s anything wrong with those). It was also nice that each character got their own journey. Nothing about the movie felt unnecessary or extra. I could definitely rewatch this, probably a few times, and I’ve already been recommending it to people.


If you’ve seen this movie, leave me a comment and let me know what you thought!

 

 

Maudie

If there’s a movie out there that will convince you that you need to live in an isolated one-bedroom house on the Eastern edge of Canada, it’s Maudie. Whether you’re Canadian or not, or an art lover or not, Maudie is a beautiful and emotional journey worth taking.

I knew quite a bit about Maud Lewis before seeing the movie. Two years ago, I travelled to Halifax to visit my cousin who, at the time, was attending Dalhousie University. One of our stops during my stay was the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where there is an ongoing exhibit dedicated to Maud.

Maud was born to the Dowley family of rural Nova Scotia in 1903 and suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. At a young age, Maud’s mother taught her how to paint and together they would paint Christmas cards for family and neighbours. Following the deaths of her parents in 1935 and 1937, Maud went to live with her aunt in Digby, Nova Scotia. Maud was a determined and stubborn person, wanting to prove she could be independent despite her physical limitations. Maud met a local fish peddler called Everett Lewis after he posted an ad for a housekeeper; she moved in to the now famously decorated tiny house and the couple married in 1938. Maud’s condition worsened but she kept painting – selling cards and paintings for as little as $2.50. Maud’s work would receive heightened attention in 1965, when she and Everett were the subjects of a nationally broadcasted CBC segment, and the subjects of an article in the Toronto Star. Maud passed away in 1970. While alive, none of Maud’s paintings sold for more than $10.00. Today she is one of Canada’s most well-known folk artists.

You can watch the CBC segment here.

Maudie paid tribute beautifully to Maud’s life and her art. It was simple but stunning, and slow but powerful, not unlike Maud. It’s fairly commonly accepted that Everett Lewis was not the best guy. Sure, he may have loved Maud and she may have loved him too, but he was miserable and stingy and controlling.  Everett was killed in 1979 when a burglar attempted to rob the house – he was known to keep Maud’s money hidden on their property. They touched briefly on some of his flaws in the movie, but I couldn’t help feel like they skirted around some of the facts. Ethan Hawke’s performance was very compelling, but Sally Hawkins blew me away with her portrayal of Maud. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hawkins gets Oscar attention for her performance – she and the movie did Maud justice.

I can’t stress enough, first of all, to see this movie if you have the chance, but secondly to visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia if you ever find yourself in Halifax. It has the largest collection of Maud’s original paintings and even Maud and Everett’s house which has been restored and is an actual part of the exhibit (that’s how small it is). I had never heard of Maud Lewis before going there, but it was mesmerizing and captivating. Maudie made me feel the same way.

Why ‘Get Out’ Deserves All The Attention It’s Getting

Note: if you haven’t seen Get Out yet and are trying to avoid spoilers, you probably shouldn’t be reading this!


I don’t usually mess with thrillers or the horror genre in general. I’m picky when it comes to scary movies, because I know myself and yes, I’m a bit of a baby. I’ll put myself through the ordeal only when I’m sure it will be worth it. When I first heard of Get Out, I knew I wanted to prepare myself and see it but that ultimately it would be worth it. It didn’t let me down. In fact, let me make a comprehensive list of what I loved about it:

everything

A Movie The World Needed

Movies that tackle racism aren’t new, but very few look, sound and make you feel like Get Out does. I haven’t stopped thinking about all the symbolism and significance since I saw it. I was stunned and uncomfortable and blown away and I wanted to read everything I could about it. After a significant period of time on Reddit, I realized something: a lot of people who didn’t like the movie also didn’t seem to get it – which is fine, because that’s kind of the point. How many times did Rose assure us that her parents weren’t racist? If you’ve ever heard someone say “I’m not racist, but…” and then proceed to say something racist, maybe you understand the point I’m trying to make. The story evolves quickly and you realize there’s more happening than brainwashing people into slavery – just in case you weren’t thoroughly disturbed already. Without spoiling everything about the movie, I will say that it’s a powerful metaphor for how minorities are marginalized, controlled and appropriated. A lot of important conversations are happening because of Get Out‘s success.

The Elements of An Instant Classic

Let me reiterate: my exposure to the horror genre is lacking, but from the opening scene of Get Out I could tell that it would live up to the hype. I personally love the term ‘instant classic’. It implies that a movie (or TV show, or book) has done many or all things very well and has made a cultural impact very quickly. Get Out checks all the boxes for me. And the performances were excellent. Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in the lead roles were especially good. It had everything that I, a baby, need and want in a scary movie. It’s not a movie that tries too hard, and for me it didn’t have to. Between the font used in the title sequence to the setting and the soundtrack, I was hooked. It had a few jump scares but they weren’t obnoxious or aggressive. The twists were twisty enough to make my eyes widen but not so complicated that I couldn’t follow the events as they unfolded. I like a movie that gives me clues along the way but still surprises me when we get there. There’s also no question that I would watch it a second or third time at least, and notice something new each time. You can’t fake that.

The ultimate trait of a classic: blue block lettering in the title sequence.

Skip this next chunk if you want to avoid specific spoilers! 

Highlight Reel

In no particular order, here’s a breakdown of my favourite moments from the movie:

  • When Andre is talking on the phone in the opening scene, he says the word ‘suburb’ very differently from the way he speaks normally, which was a cool way to foreshadow his character’s future.
  • The music. I can’t get over it. 1: the creepy song playing when Andre is taken (aptly called “Run, Rabbit, Run”). 2: the choppy strings used in the unsettling track “Prologue” that lead into the main title, which you’d swear was a blues song until the choir singing in Swahili kicks in. 3: the main title song fades and gives way to “Redbone” by Childish Gambino, wrapping up the most eclectic 6.5 minute opening to a movie maybe ever.
  • Rod. I find Rod and Chris very interesting. Chris is not your typical horror movie character – he’s observant and intuitive and resilient – you trust the choices he makes. Rod is like the embodiment of everything you’ve ever yelled at a horror movie character because you couldn’t believe how stupid they were. Also he was hilarious.
  • Meeting Logan for the first time was a turning point. Even though you know something’s going on, seeing Logan gives the audience a better idea, especially when Andre breaks through and yells at Chris to get out.
  • I love the moment when Rose drops the facade. The entire movie I was thinking no matter what’s going on, I hope Rose isn’t involved, because I liked her. That bubble bursts pretty quickly when Chris finds the box of photos in the closet. When Rose comes down the stairs and puts her hair up, it’s like you’re seeing an entirely different person.
  • I get chills just thinking about “you were one of my favourites”.
  • In the video Chris is forced to watch in the basement, the grandfather says that if they’re lucky they’ll “enjoy being part of the family” and your gut drops when you realize he means it literally.
  • Chris putting his hands up at the end when the police car approaches was very powerful imagery.
  • A moment of horror movie justice when Rose died in a way similar to Chris’s mother. Be careful what you wish for?

Rookie (Director) of The Year

If you knew who Jordan Peele was before Get Out, you’ll know he’s primarily a comedian/actor, known for his sketch comedy and his show Key & Peele. He’s acted in some movies before, but Get Out marks his directorial debut. Not bad, eh? Instead of going on and on about him myself, I highly, highly recommend checking out his episode of the Nerdist podcast, Episode 855, as well as Episode 873 which is extended audio from host Chris Hardwick’s talk show on AMC when Jordan appeared as the guest. Each of them are relatively spoiler free but they go into a lot of detail discussing themes of the movie as well as speaking more broadly on racism, and Jordan’s career as a comedian.


What Did You Think?

Leave a reply and let me know what you thought about the movie! Did you see the alternate ending??