10 Post-Apocalyptic Movies You Should Watch While Quarantined

Welcome to the end of times! Humanity has had a good ride, right? I mean if you forget centuries of enslavement of other humans, the poisoning of the planet to the point of turning Earth into one spicy meatball, and just teency-weency bit of genocide here and there, humanity has been pretty ok. At least a solid C- student.

Anyway, we are all doomed and there is no reason to have hope. COVID-19, aka the Coronavirus, is either a virus constructed by the Illuminati to thin out the weaklings from humanity or it is actually the Earth’s immune system attemping to expunge the virus that is humanity from every corner of this lonely blue rock floating in the void.

While the collapse of society is indisputably an inevitable conclusion, movies have been preparing us for this very situation for decades! These tales are all potential visions of the very near future so arm yourselves with knowledge! Use your time in isolated quarantine to learn what to expect when the confines of social practices crumble and a new world order takes over.


“Children of Men” (2005)

If this looks familiar, “Children of Men” just recently made an appearance on the Top 10 Films of the 2000s list. More importantly, this film will totally prepare you for what to expect if humanity becomes infertile and the end of intelligent life is just around the corner!

“I Am Legend” (2007)

What if you find yourself the lone survivor of our lovely contagion, which somehow turned all infected peoples into a sort of vampire-zombie? “I Am Legend” will tell you exactly what to do! First off, find yourself a dog and arm yourself. After that, just use the alternate ending to this film.

“Soylent Green” (1973)

What if all of humanity’s resources are depleted and you find yourself part of the survivors who’s oly food source is a mysterious green substance? You should probably eat it all without asking any questions. I bet it’s delicious.

“12 Monkeys” (1995)

Well, what if the virus spread to the point where humanity’s last hope is to send you back in time to stop the outbreak before it happens? Mid-90s Bruce Willis can confirm that you’ll be locked in an insane asylum, but at least you’ll get a front-row seat to witnessing Brad Pitt earning his first Oscar nomination!

“Snowpiercer” (2014)

But what if humanity can only survive on an air-tight train that circles the globe for 18 years, powered by a perpetual motion engine that is worshiped like a deity, but also installs a horrific classist society? Definitely eat everything you can without asking any questions. I bet it’s all delicious. Bong Joon Ho tells us your best bet is finding Song Kang Ho because he seems pretty chill!

“Mad Max Franchise” (1979 – 2015)

How about if the world is a giant desert and everything becomes punk rock and hardcore? You better pimp your ride IMMEDIATELY! Things are about to get wild, dangerous and a little kinky, too…

“28 Days Later…” (2002)

What if you find yourself awakening in an empty hospital after an undetermined amount of time only to find that the city you find yourself in is completely abandoned? “28 Days Later…” is the film that will walk you through what to do, especially if you’re British!

“The Book of Eli” (2010)

What if humanity’s last hope is organized religion? You can stop laughing now. I am just saying, maybe it is a possibility. If you find yourself in possession of the last known Bible and you also happen to be a nomadic badass, this film has all of your answers!

“The Ωmega Man” (1971)

How about if you find yourself in a situation similar to “I Am Legend” but you can’t digest its message unless it is presented in the most 70s way imaginable? That’s an incredibly specific situation but rest easy because “The Ωmega Man” is exactly the film needed to fill that niche! We are covering all angles here.

“Zombieland” (2008)

This one might be the most helpful yet because it quite literally has a rulebook for you to follow! Just keep away from Bill Murray and everything will be alright.


I hope you find this list useful. At the very least, use this to pass the time while everything else goes to Hell! Godspeed to you all and stay safe. I’ll see you all in a few months out on Fury Road!

The Invisible Man (2020) – Movie Review

Loosely based on the 1897 novella of the same name by H. G. Wells and a pseudo-remake of the 1933 science-fiction thriller, “The Invisible Man” is a horror vehicle helmed by Leigh Whannell, the legendary creator of “Saw” of “Insidious”. However, if you are more like me and had no idea about this film’s connections to other stories, and all you had to go on was a trailer that you feared maybe revealed too much information, “The Invisible Man” is a suspenseful and well-earned thriller that is expertly paced and acted and turns a potentially unbelievable premise into a psychological torture session that is easily connected with.

My history with the horror/thriller genre is relatively thin compared to that of other genres. It is only in the past few years that I have taken up films in this genre and began to learn what makes an effective horror story. Like all avenues of storytelling, there are certain common pitfalls stories of this genre must be wary of, lest they stray into the realm of cheap, unearned reactions at the expense of coherent movie elements. Going into the theater, I was anticipating a jarring and physical horror that was reliant on jump-scares and sudden bursts of sound to punctuate the film, only to be pleasantly surprised by the disciplined and ambitious approach used in incorporating sound and visuals in the storytelling.

The most important factor in the success of this film is Elizabeth Moss. She is the fulcrum in which the film could potentially shift from believable to outlandish. Her character, Cecilia, endures the brutal realities of an abusive relationship as well as the psychological tortures of an unseen entity. She is responsible for portraying the effects of those traumas, often in scenes without the presence of anyone else on-screen with her, and she does a tremendous job. With a lesser effort, this role could easily have suffered from overacting and removed any sense of realism from the film.

Likewise, the direction of this film is commendable. Whannell expertly makes use of techniques that capitalize on a lack of sound and visuals to suggest the presence of danger. Scenes have their suspense built from what cannot be observed, and shots of empty silent rooms work to establish an omnipresent feeling of paranoia throughout the film. With my initial concerns in mind, I was very pleased that “The Invisible Man” did not rely on loud noises and jump scares to make its presence known. While they may appear in an isolated moment or two, it is never overplayed and the suspense is almost always earned.

When you combine the performance of Moss with these techniques, this film becomes a deeper, psychological experience. The story that plays out presents more mental torture than it does a physical one. When the Invisible Man harms, it is always more profound when the physical victim is someone other than Cecilia. They could have spent the entire film beating her into submission by pantomiming physical recoil, but instead look to present her as a victim with fleeting sanity and credibility, to the point where she becomes an unreliable observer of her own life.

There are not many flaws in this movie, but among them is that it does require a certain level of suspension of disbelief for some of the events to transpire, at least in a logistical sense. There are some elements of science-fiction that characters capitalize on to allow some of their actions to be possible, and within the world and rules that have been established, they mostly work. However, the more you ponder just how certain characters know what they do or got to where they are at certain points of the film, the more you will come to understand that the film requires the viewer to accept that things just are the way they are and these “leaps” in logic are probably just too tedious to explain while remaining entertaining. By no means are these series of leaps a fatality to the film, and it is very possible to enjoy the movie without ever thinking of them.

Unfortunately, I imagine “The Invisible Man” will follow suit to many of the well-made female-led horror films of the last few years, such as “Us” and “Hereditary”, as films that might go forgotten later in their year when more “conventional” films begin to dilute the waters. I am not quite sure this one is up to the same standard as those, but there are elements of this film that warrant attention and it is my hope that this eventually evolves into a cult classic. This movie is an intense experience and definitely succeeds in communicating the stress of its story to its viewers.

I would give “The Invisible Man” a very respectable 8.7 out of 10

Starring: Elizabeth Moss, Aldis Hoge, Storm Reid, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman
Directed by: Leigh Whannell
Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 4 Minutes

10 Problems with the Writing of the Star Wars Sequels

If there is one piece of common knowledge about myself that is in the public sphere, it is that I fancy myself a fan of the Star Wars franchise. But, it is no secret that I am not a fan of the new Star Wars trilogy. However, I often feel that objective criticism gets drowned out by loud complaints of illogical crowds on the internet. About a year ago, I wrote a roughly 17-page paper on the failures of the sequel trilogy, but in hindsight, I think that was overkill. First of all, the trilogy hadn’t even been completed yet and I already put a knife in it. That was not fair. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it was way too long. No one wanted to read it! It was one of the first things I had written for the blog and I have learned a lot since then. I would like to revisit that premise with a renewed vision.

With the addition of new material to consider, I feel my original opinion has been reinforced, but with new perspective. I am well aware of the perception of confirmation bias so I hope to present my case in an as close to an objective manner as possible. I think if you are going to make a point in an argument, you must remain objective and mustn’t let emotional attachment sway your logic. So, in this post, I will present 10 problems with the writing in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. I will define the term problem as a (1) flaw with the structure of the plot that results in consequences that did not need to exist, (2) inconsistencies within the established story, and/or (3) illogical or incomplete plot threads. I will not be addressing anything in a comparative sense to any other aspect of the franchise, as that would only show my personal preference and not a true problem. Furthermore, this is not a list of things I do not like, as that is not a criterion for objective discussion. We are all allowed to like different things!


Snoke and The First Order

Supreme Leader Snoke was introduced in “The Force Awakens” as a new shadowy threat to the galaxy. A dark side wielder with no association to the Sith, Disney paraded him around as a great mystery to be solved with goals and origins outside of what we thought we knew about Star Wars. This was a lie. Snoke is killed off roughly halfway through “The Last Jedi” without ever explaining who he was, where did he come from, what he wanted from Kylo, or even what his goals for the First Order were. He just existed. This is an example of very poor creativity, but even according to my own rules, it is not defined as one of my problems. Of course, the real problem with this is that the writers introduced threads that did not lead anywhere causing the conflicts and philosophies that surrounded the character to be nullified. This problem was attempted to be reconciled (poorly) but that eventually led to a new problem…

Palpatine and The Final Order

See the source image

This is a pseudo-continuation of the previous problem, as they are essentially symbiotic. When Snoke was killed off, the writers scrambled to introduce a threat that could be greater than Snoke so that Kylo Ren and Rey would be forced to team up for victory. This led them to go crawling back to the very dead, most definitely deceased Emperor Shev Palpatine. Immediately, two major problems arise from this action: this nullifies the Prophecy of the Chosen One and means that the Rebels actually didn’t accomplish anything in the Original Trilogy. Vader apparently never killed the Emperor. The saga, that always had been about the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker’s life, no longer features the redemption that drives his whole character. The Emperor and the Empire never died and Anakin sacrificing himself because of the love he felt for his son was meaningless! Forget the fact that the writers removed all tact and nuance from his character, and forget the fact that the only reason he is still alive is a vague callback to a line from the Prequels about the Dark Side. Those are bad, but not problems. This reduces the meaning of the 6 films that this franchise is based on!

And, how could I not talk about that Palpatine’s plan in this film is illogical? He announced that Snoke was somehow his creation, meaning he essentially controlled The First Order. But, upon arriving at Exegol, Palpatine reveals he has an entire fleet of planet-destroying warships, and troops that staff them called The Final Order. What was he ever trying to accomplish with The First Order in the first place if The Final Order existed and he controlled both? This renders the previous 2 films, in addition to the 6 before that, as nothing more than flashy backstory for this moment, as even those conflicts were never important. Plus, he now wants Rey to kill him so he can take over her body or something (?). I am not even sure, to be honest. Whatever it was intended to be, it ends in him becoming a classic Marvel CGI sky-beam that is inexplicably defeated by Rey having a second lightsaber and saying that she is “All of the Jedi”…. What?!?!

Finn and Rose’s adventure in “The Last Jedi”

Finn and Rose have zero impact on this film. I don’t mean this hyperbolically, either. I mean if you simply remove them and their actions from this movie, nothing about the conclusion or how any events transpire change. Follow this: The Resistance flees from The First Order in a slow-speed chase until they run out of gas until Poe and Maz Kanata send Rose and Finn to Canto Bight to find a codebreaker that can help them sneak onto The First Order cruiser and disable their tracking so the Resistance can get away. Simple enough. Well, they do not find their codebreaker, but find someone else. They sneak onto the cruiser and get betrayed by their new friend without succeeding in their mission. Meanwhile, the Resistance fleet was able to escape on their own and destroy the cruiser they are on, all while freeing Rose and Finn and allowing them to meet up with the Resistance fleet immediately afterward. If they stayed on the ship, to begin with, and never left, they’d still have ended up in the same place with the same people in the same situation. Their actions have zero impact on anything and it fills roughly 1/3 of the film’s runtime. And then the writers make Rose do the single most illogical maneuver yet: stop Finn from saving the Resistance. Finn was about to make a heroic sacrifice and complete an character arc that would have given some credence to his time with Rose, but instead, Rose, a character who was adamant about defeating the First Order from the beginning, puts all of the remaining members of the Resistance in immediate mortal danger, including herself and Finn, who she was trying to save!

Leia’s full training as a Jedi

See the source image

This is an example of J.J. Abrams tripping over his own feet as he panics to course-correct after Rian Johnson drove over a cliff. “The Last Jedi” showed Leia performing one of the most over-the-top Force feats in all of Star Wars after she is sucked out into the vacuum of space for a few minutes due to the bridge of her command ship being destroyed with her on it. After floating in the cold emptiness for some time, she magically regains consciousness and Force-flies her way back to the ship where she survives with only a minor case of being tired. Then, the film concludes with Luke sacrificing himself so the Resistance can escape, leaving Rey with little over a few days’ worths of training and zero remaining Jedi to help her grow to a reasonable level. J.J. tries to remedy this by explaining that Leia was secretly trained as a Jedi by Luke sometime after “Return of the Jedi” but before Ben Solo was born. Leia has been a known force-sensitive since the 1980s, so that’s not the problem. The problem is that we were already given an explanation of what Leia was doing in between the trilogies, and being a Jedi, specifically, was not that. We were told she chose not to be a Jedi so she could focus on building the New Republic and later the Resistance. But even if we look past the inconsistent storytelling, how is it that this was never once mentioned by Leia or anyone else before “The Rise of Skywalker”? When everyone spent the previous 2 films searching for THE LAST JEDI, nobody thought to mention how Leia was a fully-trained Jedi of supposedly equal strength as Luke AND SHE WAS IN THE SAME ROOM AS YOU?  

Kylo Ren’s inconsistent and unclear goals

Ben Solo/Kylo Ren is touted by some fans as the deepest character in Star Wars, and even suggest that Adam Driver’s portrayal is what George Lucas was aiming for with Anakin in the prequels. In fact, one of the few aspects of the trilogy that I will vocally support is that Driver is more emotionally ranged than Hayden Christiansen. But the character of Kylo Ren is very inconsistent with his intentions. He is introduced as a warrior of the Dark Side in the first scenes of the trilogy, and we only get slight glimpses into why he chose that path for the remaining parts of the series. We were given bits like “he’s got too much of Vader in him”, to him being a “Vader fanatic”, to “Han and Leia were absent parents”, to the eventual explanation that Luke sensed him having a bad dream and then he stood over his sleeping nephew with an ignited lightsaber threatening to kill him in cold blood. Understandably, he is pissed off at his family and even embraced the Dark Side as a means of vengeance, but one thing we have never understood is what his goals were when he aligned with The First Order. Was it simply power? It seems lazy enough of an explanation. But what of his calls to “Let the past go. Kill it if you have to”? In “The Last Jedi”, he is more than just an angry boy. He asks Rey to help him start anew. He is an anarchist… at least until Rey rejects him and he immediately takes up the mantel of Supreme Leader of the First Order. And wasn’t he obsessed with fulfilling Darth Vader’s legacy (recreating the past) and collecting all those relics before that moment? . It is so hard to keep track of what he is trying to achieve at any given point. The easiest way to follow his ever-shifting ideologies is to observe the condition of his helmet. After he destroys it to symbolize his independence in “The Last Jedi”, he quite literally undoes his character development by putting it back together piece-by-piece, serving as one of the least subtle visual metaphors I have ever witnessed. All we know for sure is that he is conflicted and that is used as a shield to hide a character that can’t figure out what he wants but sure as hell wants whatever it is!

Admiral Holdo’s Evacuation Plan

See the source image

The “Holdo Maneuver” has been essentially explained away into being a fluke that can never happen again, so I won’t be talking about it here. What I will say is that Admiral Holdo is not a good leader and her plan is illogical. This is not some crazy theory by some kid on YouTube either, this is just a fact within the story itself and it makes no sense as to why it would ever be executed the way it was. When the First Order is waiting for the 3 Resistance ships to run out of gas, Poe demands to know what course of action Holdo plans to take to ensure their survival. Instead of informing anyone in the fleet what she had in mind, she simply chose to patronize Poe for being brash. Sure, Poe was very reckless in the past but this is hardly the time or the place for that conversation considering everyone is near moments from death and he simply wished to know what they were going to do. Her refusal to communicate with anyone, let alone other top military personnel stationed on her vessel in moments of emergency, led to an attempted mutiny that split the remaining forces of the Resistance against themselves, all while 2 of the 3 cruisers were shot out of the sky. After Poe is subdued by Leia, it is revealed that Holdo had always planned on using the escape pods to escape undetected to a nearby planet. Why would she not make this information available to anyone? The entirety of her plan was put at risk because she didn’t communicate. Similar to Finn and Rose’s meaningless adventure, Poe’s mutiny did not need to happen. What’s worse is that it doesn’t seem Poe has learned his lesson by “The Rise of Skywalker” as his single character trait is still being reckless.

Abandoning General Hux as a serious character

I was a really big fan of General Hux in “The Force Awakens”. He had a very interesting power dichotomy with Kylo Ren as they vied to be Supreme Leader Snoke’s favorite. Hux was always destined to lose to Ren eventually but he was still able to shine with an underappreciated Nazi-inspired speech before the initial firing of Starkiller Base. He even ended that film on top, having successfully placed the blame on Ren for The First Order’s defeat to the Resistance. However, once the opening crawl for “The Last Jedi” finished on-screen, Hux’s characteristics changed abruptly. He went from being a cunning rival to Ren and a feared military tactician to nothing more than a punching bag for cheap attempts at comedy. The major problem is that “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” have no gap in time in between them for this sudden change to develop. He went from being a “Schindler’s List” Nazi to a “Hogan’s Heroes” (Google it if you’re too young to know the show) Nazi in a matter of minutes. How does one go from delivering a booming edict to commemorate upcoming genocide to being pranked by a series of “yo-mama” jokes in essentially a couple of hours? From that point on, he became so non-threatening that they had to kill him off and introduce General Pryde in “The Rise of Skywalker” just so The First Order could retain even the slightest perception of being serious and threatening.

Killing all of the Jedi (again)       

See the source image

The most pivotal moment in the canon of Star Wars is “Order 66”, which is when the then-Chancellor Palpatine ordered all of the clone soldiers of the Republic to turn on the Jedi and kill them. This marked the beginning of what is known as “The Jedi Purge” where the followers of the order were nearly hunted to extinction, with a select few individuals surviving for a time. It is the moment that sets up the Dark Times and allows the reign of the Empire to exist relatively uncontested for almost 2 decades. After Luke defeats the Emperor on the Death Star II over Endor, he starts a Jedi Academy where he begins training a new generation of Jedi, until the Academy is destroyed by the Knights of Ren and all of the new Jedi are killed, except for Luke (and Leia). This essentially is the 2nd canonical Purge. “But if it was fine before why is it a problem now?” you might be asking. The problem is not really relevant within the films but rather Star Wars canon as a whole. On the side, several other survivors of the First Jedi Purge have become extremely relevant characters with many of their exploits playing pivotal roles in major plot lines. These characters are believed to have survived the totality of the Empire and gone on to be part of the future of Star Wars, even in stories that might not yet be written. But with the introduction of a 2nd Jedi Purge, their survival of the Empire no longer means anything, as they will inevitably be killed off by the Knights of Ren. I am sure there are ways to write around this incident and allow those select survivors to continue on their path unobstructed by inevitable defeat, but for now, it seems the likes of Cal Kestis, Ezra Bridger, Ahsoka Tano, and Baby Yoda* are doomed to perish in Luke’s Jedi Temple. And, as for all of the Jedi we have not yet been introduced to, their stories have ended before they even began.

*I do believe they will give these characters a different path, but my point is that at the moment, all surviving Jedi are still going to die and rooting for their success in the interim seems less meaningful.

Reliance on filling in the blanks retroactively

Who remembers the line “A good question for another time” in “The Force Awakens”? Maz says this to Han when he asks her how she came into the possession of the supposedly lost lightsaber of Luke and Anakin. The line is innocent enough but it reveals a key problem in this trilogy: details being filled in by supplementary materials. At best, we as the viewers are forced to suspend our disbelief in some capacity to allow that lightsaber to be in her possession. If you were curious, that story is being revealed in a comic book series. What of Captain Phasma? She was presented as a badass warrior and a rival to Finn in the films, but she received barely over 4 minutes of total screen time in the entire series before her death in “The Last Jedi”. But don’t worry, you can purchase a hardcover novel about her to tell you why she would have been interesting in the films. And the Knights of Ren? They do little in the entire trilogy except stand ominously in a circle and be killed by some version Ben Solo. But, once again, have no fear! Their backstory and history with Ben Solo are explored in a comic book series! There are situations, characters, and entities that are supposedly important pieces to the plots of these movies, and yet, other than their physical presence in the films, the films ignore them. What’s most insulting is that to get the information, you usually need to purchase material that is more expensive than a movie ticket.

It is unclear if anyone in the Galaxy cares

In a classically cynical ending, “The Last Jedi” concludes with Leia’s personal distress call to the Galaxy going totally ignored by everyone. It seems that all of the favors and good graces she had racked up throughout her life were not enough to convince a single person in the Galaxy to help save her and her Resistance from total annihilation. People suck. Fast forward to the conclusion of “The Rise of Skywalker”, roughly 1 year later. The Resistance sends out a similar distress call, this time without Leia, and quite literally everyone shows up! What changed? Did everyone just really hate Leia? Was Lando that much better of a recruiter to the cause? And how did he assemble an army at the planet of Exegol? That planet was not charted up until a few moments before this people’s militia arrived. Everyone must’ve been on the edge of their seat waiting for that call to action. I understand that there needed to be an army present for the final climactic duel of the entire saga, but it is very unclear if or why anyone cares. Even after the conclusion of the trilogy, we have only seen with our eyes a single planet under First Order occupation, and it was unceremoniously destroyed like a fly on a windshield. As far as we know, The First Order isn’t bothering anybody other than the Resistance. For as meaningless as the Canto Bight was to the plot of “The Last Jedi”, the one thing it did show us was that a planet had a functioning society that operated on the outside of The First Order and even coexisted in economic harmony with it. The impact of the conflict as a whole was poorly explored and inconsistent in every single film of the trilogy.


And those are 10 Problems with the Writing in the Star Wars Sequels. I could make a whole other list to focus on more opinion-based takes, such as missed-opportunities and criticisms of creativity, but I feel like that could be a little too much negativity for one sitting. As always, I want to remind everyone that I love Star Wars, and being critical isn’t meant to be malicious. I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Do you think these problems are a fatal flaw in the storytelling process or do you not consider these problems at all? Do you have a different take on any arguments that I made or do you have an argument to make for a point that I omitted? Let’s discuss!

Shut Up Zach! Presents: The Best of the Decade – The 2000s

2000 – 2009

After doing my previous “Best of the Decade” list for the 2010s, I was inspired to give other decades their due. The 2000s is the only other decade that I have been alive for its entirety, even if only turned 5 in 2000. I had to do a decent amount of research to fill in some gaps of my memories, but I am confident in my selections.


FILMS

What I love about the 2000s is the eclectic pallet of films that were created. Genres like Animation, Science-Fiction, and Comedy, among others, flourished in this era where we were given some of the best of those offerings to date.

Honorable Mentions:

A Knight’s Tale (2001)
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2000)
Almost Famous (2000)
Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
Avatar (2009)
Battle Royale (2000)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Casino Royale (2006)
Cast Away (2000)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Collateral (2004)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Donnie Darko (2001)
Elf (2003)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Finding Nemo (2003)
Gladiator (2000)
Gran Torino (2008)
Idiocracy (2006)
Iron Man (2008)
Juno (2007)
Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003)
Kill Bill: Vol 2 (2004)
Mean Girls (2004)
Memento (2000)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Minority Report (2004)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Precious (2009)
Remember the Titans (2000)
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Serenity (2005)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Shrek (2001)
Step Brothers (2008)
Team America: World Police (2004)
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
The Hurt Locker (2008)
The Incredibles (2004)
The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
The Prestige (2006)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Training Day (2001)
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Up (2009)
Walk the Line (2005)
Zodiac (2007)


10th Place
“District 9” (2009)

9th Place
“No Country For Old Men” (2007)

8th Place
“WALL-E” (2008)

7th Place
“Children of Men” (2006)

6th Place
“Lost in Translation” (2003)

5th Place
“V for Vendetta” (2005)

4th Place
“Inglourious Basterds” (2009)

3rd Place
“Spirited Away” (2001)

2nd Place
“The Departed” (2005)

Winner – Best Film of the Decade
“The Dark Knight” (2008)


DIRECTORS

I find it amazing that the 2000s were a more ripe environment for female director to thrive than most of the 2010s. It still was not a friendly terrain but a few managed to earn Oscar glory for their work which is notable. As a whole, it seems even the best directors were likely to produce at least one stinker over the years, which is a nice reminder that nobody is perfect. I always judge quality over quantity, but in some cases quantity helps.

Honorable Mentions:

Danny Boyle
Darren Aronofsky
David Fincher
David Lynch
Jason Reitman
Michael Mann
Paul Thomas Anderson 
Peter Jackson
Ridley Scott
Ron Howard
Wes Anderson 


10th Place
Kathryn Bigelow – “The Weight of Water”, “K-19: The Widowmaker”, “The Hurt Locker”

9th Place
Steven Soderbergh – “Erin Brockovich” , “Traffic” , “Ocean’s Eleven” , “Full Frontal” , “Solaris” , “Ocean’s Twelve” , “Bubble” , “The Good German” , “Ocean’s Thirteen” , “Che: Part I” , “Che: Part II” , “The Girlfriend Experience” , “The Informant!”

8th Place
Ang Lee – “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” , “Hulk” , “Brokeback Mountain” , “Lust, Caution” , “Taking Woodstock”

7th place
Sofia Coppola – “Lost In Translation” , “Marie Antionette”

6th Place
Christopher Nolan – “Memento” , “Insomnia” , “Batman Begins” , “The Prestige” , “The Dark Knight”

5th Place
Quentin Tarantino – “Kill Bill: Vol 1” , “Kill Bill: Vol 2” , “Death Proof” , “Inglourious Basterds”

4th Place
Steven Spielberg – “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” , “Minority Report” , “Catch Me If You Can” , “The Terminal” , “War of the Worlds” , “Munich” , “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

3rd Place
Clint Eastwood – “Space Cowboys” , “Blood Work” , “Mystic River” , “Million Dollar Baby” , “Flags of Our Fathers” , “Letters From Iwo Jima” , “Challenging” , “Gran Torino” , “Invictus”

2nd Place
Joel and Ethan Coen – “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” , “The Man Who Wasn’t There” , “Intolerable Cruelty” , “The Ladykillers” , “No Country For Old Men” , “Burn After Reading” , “A Serious Man”

Winner – Best Director of the Decade
Martin Scorsese – “Gangs of New York” , “The Aviator” , “The Departed”


ACTRESSES

There were some truly outstanding actresses in the 2000s that have compiled resumes full of notable performances. Having said that, I was really caught off-guard that I had a true runaway winner. I will say, it doesn’t seem like any of these actresses were short on work, as seemingly everyone racked up 15+ feature films over a 10 year span, so I only listed the films that were noteworthy to not overwhelm you.

Honorable Mentions

Amy Adams
Angelina Jolie
Ellen Page
Frances McDormand
Halle Berry
Judi Dench
Julia Roberts
Kate Beckinsale
Marion Cotillard
Natalie Portman
Penelope Cruz
Reese Witherspoon
Scarlett Johansson
Salma Hayek
Sandra Bullock
Uma Thurman
Viola Davis


10th Place
Michelle Williams – 18 films including: “Me Without You” , “The United States of Leland” , “The Station Agent” , “Imaginary Heroes” , “Brokeback Mountain” , “I’m Not There” , “Wendy and Lucy” , “Synecdoche, New York”

Image result for michelle williams 2005

9th Place
Naomi Watts – 21 films including: “Mulholland Drive” , “The Ring” , “21 Grams” , “The Assassination of Richard Nixon” , “Stay” , “King Kong” , “Inland Empire” , “The Painted Veil” , “Eastern Promises” , “Mother and Child”

Image result for naomi watts

8th Place
Julianne Moore – 22 films including: “Hannibal” , “The Hours” , “Far From Heaven” , “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” , “Children of Men” , “I’m Not There” , “A Single Man”

Image result for julianne moore

7th Place
Charlize Theron – 21 films including: “Men of Honor” , “Monster” , “The Italian Job” , “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” , “North Country” , “In the Valley of Elah” , “The Road”

Image result for charlize theron 2003

6th Place
Renée Zellweger – 19 films including: “Bridget Jones’s Diary” , “White Oleander” , “Chicago” , “Cold Mountain” , “Cinderella Man” , “Miss Potter”

Image result for renee zellweger

5th Place
Meryl Streep – 19 films including: “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” , “The Hours” , “Adaptation” , “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” , “The Devil Wears Prada” , “Doubt” , “Mamma Mia” , “Julia and Julia” , “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

Image result for meryl streep

4th Place
Nicole Kidman – 19 films including: “Moulin Rouge!” , “The Others” , “The Hours” , “Dogville” , “Cold Mountain” , “Birth” , “Happy Feet” , “Australia”

Image result for nicole kidman 2000

3rd Place
Tilda Swinton – 21 films including: “Possible Worlds” , “Vanilla Sky” , “Adaptation” , “Constantine” , “Broken Flowers” , “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” , “The Man From London” , “Michael Clayton” , “Julia” , “Burn After Reading” , “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” , “I Am Love”

Image result for tilda swinton 2008

2nd Place
Kate Winslet – 14 films including: “Quills” , “Iris” , “The Life of David Gale” , “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” , “Finding Neverland” , “Little Children” , “The Holiday” , “The Reader” , “Revolutionary Road”

Image result for kate winslet

Winner – Best Actress of the Decade
Cate Blanchett – 23 films including: “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” , “Heaven” , “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” , “Coffee and Cigarettes” , “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” , “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” , “The Aviator” , “Babel” , “Notes on a Scandal” , “I’m Not There” , “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” , “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Image result for cate blanchett

ACTORS

Before I started, I did not really have a clear idea who would make it to the top of the list. A few times, I was genuinely surprised when I had to leave some off. Like the actresses, most of these actors starred in a large number of films (though not nearly as much) so I only listed the significant ones. Quality will always reign supreme over quantity (e.i. 10th place) but having a large quantity of quality is how you win.

Honorable Mentions:

Adrian Brody
Benicio Del Toro
Bill Murray
Brad Pitt
Christian Bale
Christoph Waltz
Denzel Washington
Don Cheadle
Ethan Hawke
Forest Whitaker
Hugo Weaving
Ian McKellen
Javier Bardem
Jim Carrey
Johnny Depp
Michael Caine
Morgan Freeman
Ralph Finnes
Vigo Mortensen
Will Ferrell
Will Smith
Willem Dafoe


10th Place
Daniel Day-Lewis – 4 films including: “Gangs of New York” , “There Will Be Blood”

Image result for daniel day lewis

9th Place
Tom Cruise – 10 films including: “Mission Impossible: II” , “Vanilla Sky” , “Minority Report” , “The Last Samurai” , “Collateral” , “Mission Impossible: III” , “Tropic Thunder” , “Valkyrie “

Image result for tom cruise

8th Place
Jamie Foxx – 13 films including: “Ali” , “Collateral” , “Ray” , “Jarhead” , “Dreamgirls” , “The Soloist” , “The Kingdom” , “Law Abiding Citizen”

See the source image

7th Place
Sean Penn – 13 films including: “Before Night Falls” , “I am Sam” , “Mystic River” , “21 grams” , “The Assassination of Richard Nixon” , “Milk”

Image result for sean penn

6th Place
Russell Crowe – 10 films including: “Gladiator” , “A Beautiful Mind” , “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” , “Cinderella Man” , A Good Year” , “3:10 to Yuma” , “Body of Lies” , “State of Play”

Image result for russell crowe

5th Place
Heath Ledger – 14 films including: “The Patriot” , “A Knight’s Tale” , “Monster’s Ball” , “Lords of Dogtown” , “Brokeback Mountain” , “Candy” , “I’m Not There” , “The Dark Knight” , “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”

Image result for heath ledger

4th Place
Leonardo DiCaprio – 9 films including: “Gangs of New York” , “Catch Me If You Can” , “The Aviator” , “The Departed” , “Blood Diamond” , “Body of Lies” , “Revolutionary Road”

Image result for leonardo dicaprio

3rd Place
Matt Damon – 24 films including: “Finding Forrester” , “Ocean’s Eleven” , “Spirit: The Stallion of Cimarron” , “The Bourne Identity” , “The Bourne Supremacy” , “Ocean’s Twelve” , “Syriana” , “The Departed” , “Ocean’s Thirteen” , “The Bourne Ultimatum” , “Ponyo” , “Invictus”

Image result for matt damon

2nd Place
George Clooney – 21 films including: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” , “The Perfect Storm” , “Ocean’s Eleven” , “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” , “Solaris” , “Ocean’s Twelve” , “Good Night, and Good Luck” , “Syriana” , “Ocean’s Thirteen” , “Michael Clayton” , “Burn After Reading” , “Up in the Air” , “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

Image result for george clooney

Winner – Best Actor of the Decade
Philip Seymour Hoffman – 20 films including: “Almost Famous” , “Love Liza” , “Punch-Drunk Love” , “Red Dragon” , “25th Hour” , “Owning Mahowny” , “Cold Mountain” , “Along Came Polly” , “Capote” , “Mission Impossible: III” , “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” , “Charlie Wilson’s War” , “Synecdoche, New York” , “Doubt” , “Mary and Max” , “Pirate Radio”

Image result for philip seymour hoffman

PERFORMANCES

The 2000s may have arguably produced the most truly legendary acting performances of any decade in cinema history. I was expecting this to be difficult to narrow down but I was wholly unprepared for the difficulty of the task before me. I have a different champion than I expected and I could have easily switched around the order or even swapped in several other performances.

Honorable Mentions:

Amy Adams – Junebug
Ben Stiller – Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Benicio Del Toro – Traffic
Björk – Dancer in the Dark
Christian Bale – American Psycho
Denzel Washington – Training Day
Djimon Hounsou – Blood Diamond
Don Cheadle – Hotel Rwanda
Ellen Page – Juno
Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland
George Clooney – Syriana
Halle Berry – Monster’s Ball
Hillary Swank – Million Dollar Baby
Hugo Weaving – V for Vendetta
Jack Nicholson – The Departed
Jamie Foxx – Ray
Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls
Johnny Depp – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Departed
Marion Cotillard  – La vie en Rose
Matt Damon – The Bourne Identity
Meryl Streep – The Devil Wears Prada
Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler
Natalie Portman – V for Vendetta
Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Capote
Reese Witherspoon – Legally Blonde
Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man
Russell Crowe – Gladiator
Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat
Scarlett Johansson – Lost in Translation
Sean Penn – Milk
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton
Tim Robbins – Mystic River
Tom Cruise – Collateral
Tom Hanks – Castaway
Uma Thurman – Kill Bill Series
Will Ferrell – Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy


10th Place
Kate Winslet – “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)

9th Place
Naomi Watts – “Mulholland Drive” (2001)

8th Place
Cate Blanchett – “The Aviator” (2004)

7th Place
Christoph Waltz – “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)

6th Place
Javier Bardem – “No Country for Old Men” (2007)

5th Place
Ellen Burstyn – “Requiem for a Dream” (2000)

4th Place
Mo’Nique – “Precious” (2009)

3rd Place
Charlize Theron – “Monster” (2003)

2nd Place
Heath Ledger – “The Dark Knight” (2008)

Winner – Best Performance of the Decade
Daniel Day-Lewis – “There Will Be Blood” (2007)


And there we have it! The winners and losers from the 2nd ever Shut Up Zach! Best of the Decades Awards! This is a fun exercise for me. I really enjoy revisiting eras of film that may have not always been on forefront of discussions or that may have slipped into the background over the years. It is also really interesting to see how films changed over the course of time! I hope to continue to do this for other decades going forward!

Downhill (2020) – Movie Review

“And I looked, and behold, pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him.” Yay, for I have now stared into the vast ether of the universe and for the first time, I truly comprehended just how alone we all are. The folly of man is knowing we have the ability without ever contemplating if we have the moral right to do so. Find comfort in your loved ones and make peace with your God, for I have found purpose, once again. This purpose: a cleansing. To rid humanity of the worst of our creations in a storm of nuclear hellfire straight from the bowels of a dying star. If you find yourself wondering what could possibly draw such ire, look no further than the profound insult to life everywhere that is the movie “Downhill”.

On President’s Day, my mother wanted to spend her day off seeing a “light-hearted comedy” with her loving son. Naively, I suggested we see “Downhill” because I thought that a film starring Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus would at least be worth a few decent laughs. What a fool I was… It was never my intention to review this film since it was supposed to be mindless fun while I spent time with my mother, but “Downhill” wandered onto the tracks as the train was coming through and, I, as the errant locomotive, will make it pay dearly for its lack of vision.

In what can only be generously described as the plot of this blight, Pete (Will Ferrell) and Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) are a married couple on a ski vacation in the Alps, when there is an avalanche and Pete runs to protect his phone rather than his family. The rest of the film is about 80 minutes of unspoken hatred for life, marriage, family, and getting older. I now see that nothing matters. Even if love is genuine, those you love will let you down when you need them most, they will not learn from their mistakes, and you will be trapped in a failing relationship that will always be more than you deserve but less than you want. Not exactly the “light-hearted comedy” we were searching for.

The corrupted sense of nihilism aside, there are absolutely no redeeming moments of this film. Zero. Zip. Zilch. This film was physically painful to endure from the very first moment of them awkwardly trying to take a family photo all the way until those end credits mercifully released us from our chains. I cannot recall any real attempt at humor or catharsis for anyone viewing to latch onto and try to get behind. You can’t laugh or smile or even learn from the characters’ mistakes. There is just nothing positive to take away from this experience. I wish there were some examples of events that I could discuss but none exist. It is just a feature-length film of complaints with no resolution. It is a slow and painful death.

If I was not with my mother, I would have walked out of the theater, got in my car, and just drive as far away from the theater as humanly possible. I take this film’s existence as personal insult, so here are some things I would rather do than ever have to see this movie again: get a colonoscopy with poorly sanitized medical equipment; pass 3 kidney stones; eat a pinecone; step on all my collection of LEGO Star Wars ships with my bare feet; cheer for the Patriots for one down in an NFL game. And those are just the few examples I could think of while I furiously thwack at my keyboard with a barrage of misplaced rage. This film is a commodity of nefarious intent. It is my professional evaluation that this film is the cause of all the wars in the world and why we will be forced to aimlessly wander in the darkness of the void until our waning days.

This movie earns a 1.0 out of 10. May the next life be more merciful to it than I was.

Directed by: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Zach Woods, Zoe Chao
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 26 Minutes

Birds of Prey (2020) – Movie Review

The 2010s were concluded with a year of some of the comic book genre’s strongest showings in film. To no one’s surprise, Marvel kept up their torrid pace by putting out multiple films that eclipsed a billion at the box office, including “Avengers: Endgame” which became the highest-grossing film of all-time. But what is unexpected, is that DC objectively had successes that rivaled their adversaries. “Joker” became a cultural phenomenon that resulted in it becoming the highest-grossing rated-R film of all-time and earning actor Joaquin Phoenix an Academy Award. Now that we have entered a new year, the inevitable step onto new grounds has begun and DC is the first of the two studios to make their move.

“Harley Quin: Birds of Prey” is a pseudo-sequel to the underwhelming “Suicide Squad” film of 2016. Of what few strengths its predecessor had, the casting of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn had been met with universal praise and it is no secret that this film’s existence is an attempt to separate her from much of the pulp of that failure. In a cynically comedic way, one can almost see DC surgically removing Harley Quinn from everything fans hated about her previous appearance to salvage the character from the wreckage. And while you can make a compelling argument that they succeed by the end of the film to present Harley and the Birds of Prey as entities that can stand on their own, the film’s meandering around the specter of the Joker ultimately shows that they came up short in their goal. They acknowledge that Harley is moving on from Mr. J, and yet, the choice to, once again, not allow her to face-off against him as an adversary renders her “emancipation” little more than an acknowledgment of their problem without ever dealing with it. There is a Jared Leto-sized elephant in the room that has not yet been taken care of.

But that being said, I do not hold this singular film responsible for the greater politics of DC comics. “Birds of Prey” wishes to be treated as a singular body of work worthy of judgment separate from the failure that preceded it, and rightfully it should be. The legacy of this film will be the moment that Harley Quinn became a capable leading character and a continuation of the trend of female-led comic book films in the mainstream. Director Cathy Yan has created a movie that is consistently entertaining with great performances by everyone involved, even if the plot is fairly safe and forgettable.

The story begins with Harley breaking up with the Joker off-screen and having to deal with the consequences of losing the protection that being his girlfriend provided her with. Harley, a well-known sociopath, has made her fair share of enemies over the years that now see open season on getting their long-awaited revenge on her. One individual is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), a flamboyant crime lord and nightclub-owner who is after a diamond, that is stolen by a child pickpocket (Ella Jay Basco). And while Sionis wants Harley to die, Harley offers to recover the diamond for Sionis in exchange for protection. He agrees but also puts a bounty on the child to increase Harley’s chances of failing. From there, we follow Harley as she violently kidnaps and befriends the child, and eventually teams up with Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Detective Montoya (Rosie Perez) to protect the child and fight back against Sionis and his goons, in a less-than-subtle visual representation of Harley declaring that she does not need to be anybody’s underling.

The strength of this film is the acting. Margot Robbie delivers a performance as Harley Quinn that, in my opinion, puts her in the conversation along with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, as the only perfectly casted comic book characters. While she has a long way to go to match their legendary runs, she fits the character in the same fasion. Robbie is perfectly zany, violent, and very funny. She seems to operate with an innocence that happily ignores reality to the point where the world seemingly bends to her warped will. I found it most enjoyable when she seamlessly dishes out her psychological expertise while still maintaining her silly personality.  She looks the part and backs it up in every aspect. Robbie is Harley. Perhaps the only other person on the planet who could give this role as much as she would be Harley’s voice actor, Tara Strong, who has been voicing her since the character’s creation in 1992 in “Batman: The Animated Series”.

The supporting cast pulls their weight too. As the main antagonist, Ewan McGregor is very enjoyable. He plays his role well, but again, the idea of the Joker plays such a large role in this film that the character of Roman Sionis feels like a cheap substitute. McGregor gives Sionis many manic ticks and traits that are comparable to what you might expect from the Joker, including slicing faces off, inappropriate laughing, and loud, charismatic public outbursts. It is all done very well, but we all know what it really wanted to be. The remaining members of the Birds of Prey are excellent but in limited screen time. Black Canary and Huntress are given quick bursts of exposition dumps to provide a semblance of backstories, but we aren’t given enough time to witness them grow as we do with Harley. It is a shame because Smollett-Bell is a stoic badass that captivates in every action sequence she is in, and Winstead is really funny presenting herself as incredibly awkward and a highly-lethal killer. I would have gladly traded in Rosie Perez’s storyline for more time with those two.

I find the journey of this film in the real world to be odd. It already faced the task of openly ignoring the franchise’s most successful character, one that has yielded an Oscar to the actor that portrayed him for the 2nd time and make a compelling story for a character that was specifically designed to be a duo with him. That is difficult enough on its own before you consider that it is the first major comic book film to have a majority female-led ensemble. These circumstances are maybe responsible for the initial box-office shortcomings that have been reported. However, like many female-led projects in the era of social media, this film faced online troll campaigns to sabotage the reception, which undoubtedly played some role in the financial returns. The studio seems to have believed that it was a nomenclature issue so the original title of “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” was changed a single week into its theatrical run, a fairly unprecedented maneuver. Comparatively, I believe this film is funnier than “SHAZAM!”, and all-around better than “Aquaman”. If those two films were financially successful, “Birds of Prey” is more than deserving.

I give “Birds of Prey” an 8.0 out of 10

Directed by: Cathy Yan
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 49 Minutes

Shut Up Zach! Presents: The Zachademy Awards! – Winners



















Biggest Winners

“The Lighthouse” – 3 Wins for Best Picture , Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Cinematography

“1917” – 3 Wins for Best Editing , Best Sound Editing , Best Sound Mixing

“The Farewell” – 2 Wins for Best Director , Best Actress in a Supporting Role

“Little Women” – 2 Wins for Best Adapted Screenplay , Best Costume Design

“Us” – 2 Wins for Best Actress in a Leading Role , Best Original Score

Biggets Loser

“The Irishman” – 0 Wins of 7 nominations

Biggest Snubs

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Awkwafina – “The Farewell”

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Adam Driver – “Marriage Story”

Best Director: Bong Joon Ho – “Parasite”

Best Original Score: Hildur Guðnadóttir – “Joker”

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins – “1917”

Best Original Screenplay: Robert Eggers and Max Eggers – “The Lighthouse”

2020 Oscar Predictions

Today is the day! I am already on record that I disagree with a large portion of the nominees this year, so this is more of a reluctant task than in years past. I cannot grasp how we have had a year in film as strong as the one we had and yet we continue to haver nominees and potential winners that floundering in the abyss of cliché and mediocrity. But we can only play the hand we are dealt. These are my predictions for who will come out victorious in tonight’s Academy Awards.


BEST ORIGNAL SCREENPLAY

The Nominees are…

Rian Johnson – “Knives Out”
Noah Baumbach – “Marriage Story”
Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns – “1917”
Quentin Tarantino – “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin-Won – “Parasite”

The best script of the year is that of “Parasite” and I think the Academy will rightfully award the film. Tarantino has a history of making this category interesting as no one can write a script quite like him, but I would consider this a longshot this year.

Who should win: “Parasite”

Who will win: “Parasite”


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Nominees are…

Steven Zaillian – “The Irishman”
Taika Waititi – “Jojo Rabbit”
Todd Philips and Scott Silver – “Joker”
Greta Gerwig – “Little Women”
Anthony McCarten – “The Two Popes”

I do not think this category has a runaway favorite which always makes it more intriguing. I think it would be justice if the Academy awarded this Oscar to Greta Gerwig in light of her not receiving a Directing nomination, but it is just asking for disappointment to hope for that. What’s more is that Timothée Chalamet, the male lead in “Little Women”, is one of the presenters for this award and things just line up too perfectly for Gerwig that I am suspicious. She should win but expect Timothée to begrudgingly give Taika a hug instead.

Who should win: “Little Women”

Who will win: “Jojo Rabbit”


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (Music)

The Nominees are..

Hildur Guðnadóttir –“Joker”
Alexandre Desplat – “Little Women”
Randy Newman – “Marriage Story”
Thomas Newman – “1917”
John Williams – “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

There are some incredible feats in this category. Randy and Thomas have made sure that the Newman household owns a plurality of the nominees, and John Williams is up for this particular award for an absolutely mind-melting 52nd time. But Hildur Guðnadóttir is going to win this year which will be a treat to watch as someone will have to pronounce her name on live TV and that will be some top quality entertainment in itself!

Who should win: “Joker”

Who will win: “Joker”


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Nominees are…

Rodrigo Prieto – “The Irishman”
Lawrence Sher – “Joker”
Jarin Blaschke – “The Lighthouse”
Rodger Deakins – “1917”
Robert Richardson – “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”

I am cheering as hard as humanly possible for Jarin Blaschke to win this award. “The Lighthouse” was my favorite film of the year and this is the only category it was nominated in, so it has my complete support. Truthfully, Jarin deserves to win here but I know the Academy will give it to Rodger Deakins. It is not that “1917” was not impressively shot, but I consider it more of an editing feat than a cinematographic one. Having said that, the odds overwhelmingly favor “The Deak” so I am just hoping for a miracle here.

Who should win: “The Lighthouse”

Who will win: “1917”


BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

The Nominees are…

Kathy Bates – “Richard Jewell”
Laura Dern – “Marriage Story”
Scarlett Johansson – “Jojo Rabbit”
Florence Pugh – “Little Women”
Margot Robbie – “Bombshell”

There are many snubs in this category, but this is not the place to rant about that. Florence Pugh stole a nomination here and she should be elated that she will always be referred to as “Academy Award Nominee Florence Pugh”. The remaining 4 actresses all make compelling cases to win but it seems Laura Dern is on pace to win this one. Watch out for Scarlett Johansson though, as she managed to pull off the very rare “double nomination”. Jamie Foxx pulled this feat off in 2005 and won 1 of the 2 Oscars he was up for, so you never know what sort of sway this had in voting.

Who should win: Laura Dern

Who will win: Laura Dern


BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

The Nominees are…

Tom Hanks – “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Anthony Hopkins – “The Two Popes”
Al Pacino – “The Irishman”
Joe Pesci – “The Irishman”
Brad Pitt – “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”

I can’t believe the Academy is making me do this. This category hosts what is perhaps the most egregiously incorrect group of nominees all night, but I will do what must be done. Brad Pitt is going to win this because… well because he always wins. Whenever he goes up against this crowd and Willem Dafoe is not among the nominees (please do not get me started), Pitt goes home with a trophy. Tonight will be no different and that is fine. I can live with it because of the 5 nominees, I only believe he and Pesci were really among the top 5 of the year.

Who should win: Joe Pesci

Who will win: Brad Pitt


BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

The Nominees are…

Cynthia Erivo – “Harriet”
Scarlett Johansson – “Marriage Story”
Saoirse Ronan – “Little Women”
Charlize Theorn – “Bombshell”
Renée Zellweger – “Judy”

I know I said that supporting actor was the category that was most egregiously incorrect, but damn does this one come in a close second place. The Academy nominated two actresses based on the role and not the performance and while I see that many people disagree with me, I stand firmly in my position that Renée Zellweger simply met expectations in “Judy” and was doing nothing more than hitting every mark of the “How to win an Oscar” checklist. It was a glorified impression in an aimless movie, but I cannot fight this battle anymore. Despite my protests, she is going to win. She has won virtually every award leading up to this and I do not see the Academy being the bold on to break the trend. Johansson and Ronan are far more deserving in my opinion.

Who should win: Saoirse Ronan

Who will win:  Renée Zellweger


BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

The Nominees are…

Antonio Banderas – “Pain and Glory”
Leonardo DiCaprio – “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
Adam Driver – “Marriage Story”
Joaquin Phoenix – “Joker”
Jonathan Pryce – “The Two Popes”

I am more comfortable with this group than I am with any of the other acting categories and I STILL can see a major mistake. I want to make specific mention that I admire the Academy for including Antonio Banderas who was not really someone on my radar but deserves the recognition that comes with a nomination. However, unless the Academy decides to take a poorly thought out protest stance against violence (for whatever reason they think this is the time to do so), Joaquin Phoenix will win his much overdue Oscar.

Who should win: Joaquin Phoenix

Who will win: Joaquin Phoenix


BEST DIRECTOR

The Nominees are…

Martin Scorsese – “The Irishman”
Todd Philips – “Joker”
Sam Mendes – “1917”
Quentin Tarantino – “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
Bong Joon-Ho – “Parasite”

I get that this was an exceptionally crowded year at the top, and while this group isn’t totally unjustified, I find it difficult to rationalize not including the likes of Greta Gerwig or Lulu Wang here. Of the nominees we are given, Bong Joon-Ho is who I am rooting for. He is an adorable human being and created a profound and thrilling piece of cinema that transcends culture and language barriers. What he has achieved is all the more impressive considering the uphill battle that he faced by his geographical and cultural circumstances. However, this can be seen as a toss-up between him and Sam Mendes. Mendes’s work on “1917” is very impressive and fits much more comfortably into the mold of what the Academy likes to see. I expect them to think Bong Joon-Ho should just feel honored to be nominated.  

Who should win: Bong Joon-Ho

Who will win: Sam Mendes


BEST PICTURE

The Nominees are…

“Ford v Ferrari”
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Joker”
“Little Women”
“Marriage Story”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
“Parasite”

Let’s be real here, “Ford v Ferrari” is outclassed here and is just thrilled to have stolen a nomination. Of the remaining 8 films, 6 of them should only be considered “dark horses” at best, despite being tremendous films. I rated “Jojo Rabbit” the lowest score out of the group but I respect the opinions of those who enjoyed the film. In the end, it will come down to “1917” vs “Parasite”. Both are tremendous films, but it would mean so much more to the filmmaking community, at large, if “Parasite”, a foreign language film, won the award. I thought “Roma”, a Mexican film, deserved this last year, but ultimately, the Academy gave it to “The Green Book”, a by-the-numbers historical drama about racism, instead. It’s hard to say if the Academy has changed their ways…

Who should win: “Parasite”

Who will win: “1917”


Other Categories

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

“Klaus”
“Missing Link”
“How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
“Toy Story 4”
“I Lost My Body”

Bet against Pixar at your own Peril.

Winner: “Toy Story 4”

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

“Corpus Christi” – Poland
“Honeyland” – North Macedonia
“Les Miserables” – France
“Pain and Glory” – Spain
“Parasite” – South Korea

“Parasite” might damn near win everything so this is just a formality.

Winner: “Parasite”

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Feature)

“American Factory”
“The Cave”
“The Edge of Democracy”
“For Sama”
“Honeyland”

These never make sense to me. Just bet the odds and follow the trends.

Winner: “American Factory”

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Short)

“In the Absence”
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”
“Life Overtakes Me”
“St. Louis Superman”
“Walk Run Cha-Cha”

Let’s be real, you haven’t seen any of these.

Winner: “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Joker”
“Little Women”
“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”

The Academy loses their minds over period pieces and for once they might actually be right about it.

Winner: “Little Women”

BEST FILM EDITING

“Ford v Ferrari”
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Joker”
“Parasite”

An actual toss-up, so when in doubt, bet on the better overall film.

Winner: “Parasite”

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“Bombshell”
“Joker”
“Judy”
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”
“1917”

I’d like to see “Joker win this but it’s going to “Bombshell”.

Winner: “Bombshell”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” – “Toy Story 4”
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – “Rocketman”
“I’m Standing with You” – “Breakthrough”
“Into the Unkown” – “Frozen II”
“Stand Up” – Harriet”

The last time a film whoes only nomination was in this category lost to a film that was nominated in multiple categories was in 2002.

Winner: “Rocketman”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
“Parasite”

Tough call but the odds favor Tarantino’s film here. It is also the film that I would perosnally vote for, if that is worth anything.

Winner: “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”

BEST SHORT FILM (Animated)

“Dcera (Daughter)”
“Hair Love”
“Kitbull”
“Memorable”
“Sister”

“Hair Love” is a safe bet.

Winner: “Hair Love”

SHORT FILM (Live Action)

“Brotherhood”
“Nefta Football Club”
“The Neighbor’s Window”
“Saria”
“A Sister”

There is no true favorite in this category but “Brotherhood” sounds like a film that wins these things.

Winner: “Brotherhood”

BEST SOUND EDITING

“Ford v Ferrari”
“Joker”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

“Ford v Ferrari” might try to sneak in here but this is for “1917” to win.

Winner: “1917”

BEST SOUND MIXING

“Ad Astra”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Joker”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”

“1917” was an electric factory with its use of sound. It should win.

Winner: “1917”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

“Avengers: Endgame”
“The Irishman”
“The Lion King”
“1917”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Visual Effects includes practical effects, not just CGI despite what some of you may think.

Winner: “1917”


And those are my predictions! If I am wrong, just know that I am trying to predict how other people will think, not who actually deserves to win. I will watch tonight with an adult beverage readily available to help filter out the nonsense that is surley to come. The one prediction I am certain of is that the show will go on too damn long (*Jeb Bush voice* please clap). I will also be releasing my Zachademy Awards tonight to bring justice to the world so please look out for that!

At what point should we be concerned about the “Kenobi” Disney+ series?

Like most things in the world nowadays, the Star Wars fandom is incredibly polarized. The sequel trilogy has yielded “mixed” reactions and depending on who you ask, “The Force Awakens”, “The Last Jedi”, and “The Rise of Skywalker” are either the best things that have ever happened to Star Wars or some of humanity’s most awful crimes. And the two anthology films haven’t faired much better (I personally love “Rogue One”), garnering a reputation as being mostly unnecessary.

Luckily, not all has been lost. A beacon of light has pierced the fog of tumult, and its name is ‘Baby Yoda’ (I know that actually isn’t his name). Things have been looking up though since we have found common ground with the Disney+ series “The Mandolorian” and mutual excitement for the long-awaited conclusion to the animated series “The Clone Wars”. Even the video game side of the franchise had been hit-or-miss untill the release of “Jedi: Fallen Order” to unviersal praise in the past 2 months. And then we were told that Ewan McGregor will reprise his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi for his own Disney+ show and we were really cooking!

But, if you thought things felt a little too good to be true then I admire your cynicism because you were right! I was just waiting for something to go wrong and in the immortal words of Dexter Jettster, “well, wadda ya know?!” The last week or so have brought us potentially dire reports about the “Kenobi” series. It all began on January 18th, a rumor circulated on the internet that the entire series has been cancelled. This rumor gained so much traction that Ewan had to publicly reject the rumors as false. But where there is smoke, there is often fire…

After this second report on January 23rd, I had become officially worried. One of my loudest criticisms of Disney-helmed Star Wars is that they often appear as though they act before they have a plan for their actions, and this fits like a glove into the recent history of Disney’s issues. Having one of their future projects so closely resemble their most current that they have to delay and totally rewrite scripts seems like a pretty obvious sign that their was no communication between creative teams and no oversight by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy during the development stages, and possibly that there was never a thought-out plan to begin with. Luckily, Ewan, once again, drops in to say “Hello there” and save the day.

I can’t say for sure why these rumors are so persistent but the 2 constants throughout this saga are that Ewan really wants to do this and that Deborah Chow is still slated to be the director. For what that is worth, those are reasons to believe as long as the series exists, it will be good. But I am not sure anybody on the outside can be sure what exactly it is that we will be getting and flares are up everywhere, signaling problems that we have seen before. It is an objective fact that more of the Disney-era Star Wars live-action productions have had considerable production issues than those that have not. But before we divulge into full-on fear of anarchy, is there any way this panic can soothed?

If the reports saying that the series has been cut from 6 episodes down to 4 end up being true, the potential arises that this project could possibly be more successful as an anthology film than a limited 4-part series. Assume that every episode of a potential series is between 30 minutes to an hour long, that means we would be looking at a potential 2-4 hour story. How many individual storylines could you fit in a series that small, all while still wrapping it up neatly? And what if they really do need to rewrite the entire premise of the series? Would it make more sense to just condense the project into a single feature film to potentially make the story less messy? If the right people are involved they are provided adequate leadership, this could be an option.

While the sample size is incredibly limited, Star Wars has almost been perfect with their record of creating successful television shows. I cannot speak for the show “Star Wars Resistance” (because I haven’t cared enough to watch), but “The Clone Wars”, “Rebels”, and “The Mandolorian” have all added fresh stories, tones and perspectives to the Star Wars mythos that have been welcomed additions. If this track record is anything to go by, “Kenobi” might fare better through this medium than it would as feature film, which as we know, tend to ignite miniature civil wars every 2 years.

Of course, these are just the fevered panicked responses of a madman reading too many internet rumors. I suppose it is equally as likely that everything is under control, the scripts are fine, and production is still on schedule. But one can’t help but get a really bad feeling about this. As if the Force keeps granting us a premonition of the future and we all know how those always turn out…

See the source image

Kathleen Kennedy, above all, has to right this ship before it crashes. It is her responsibility and she already has too many blemishes on her record as leader of the franchise. Directing criticisms towards her is fair, regardless if you are a fan of her tenure or not. She is in charge and there is great public doubt circulating around one of the most anticipated projects of the franchise, and there are no mulligans on this. She must prove that she has a firm grasp on the totality of the franchise and display the leadership necessary to execute a project that should almost assuredly be beloved by fans. If this version of Lucasfilm is not capable of a success here, then I suggest new leadership is needed. I will call for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Vallorum Kennedy’s leadership.


But, I digress from stiring up unrest. I think we are all excited to see Ewan reprise his role as Obi-Wan, but none of us want this opportunity to be wasted on a poor story or production problems. I trust Deborah Chow to create a polished final product but this is concerning. If guidence is needed, there are plenty of comics and novels already written about Obi-Wan’s time as a recluse that should serve as source material to help guide the process along (which is frustratingly something that Kennedy insists does not exist). There is no reason that this project doesn’t end up being successful so here is hoping that Disney can get out of its own way.

What is it that you would want to see out of “Kenobi”? Are you concerned at all? Am I just fanning the flames or am I doing a service by warning that the end is near? Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts!

1917 (2019) – Movie Review

Films about war occupy a very special niche in our culture. For generations, soldiers subjected to military service have seen the worst of humanity while their own lives were sacrificed at the behest of governments dictating world conflicts with virtually no regard for the people sent to fight for them. It is through the medium of film that we have most effectively displayed the stories spawned out of our lowest points, and these recollections and adaptations serve a purpose in shaping our attitudes towards violence, world conflicts, and the people who serve going forward. Though the library of films in western culture documenting military conflicts are vast, those that give attention to the tragedies of the First World War are few and far between (because the United States wasn’t the hero so Hollywood doesn’t find it as important), which makes “1917” a welcomed perspective to add to the annals of films of the genre.

“1917” follows Lance Corporals Blake (Dean Charles-Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) on a mission to deliver a message across enemy lines to their allies in the 2nd Battalion and call off their impending attack that will result in the deaths of roughly 1600 soldiers, including Blake’s brother. In the vein of Dunkirk in that the entire premise is essentially survival from the first moment of the film. Similarly, it is not a character-driven plot, such as those like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Apocalypse Now”, though not totally devoid of that element. Consigning the feelings of stress and impending demise of the soldiers takes priority over them sharing of their backstory, making the viewer feel as though they are a third soldier on the mission.

The way the film is constructed, it relies heavily on the cinematography of Roger Deakins to set the tone of the story. It produces the illusion that the entirety of the film is comprised of just two takes, as there are only one distinct and noticeable transition in-between scenes. This is an accomplishment for a few reasons, not least of which is that it is very difficult to pull off. In recent memory, only one other film ever attempted a feat of this magnitude, that being “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” back in 2014, which was also rightfully praised for its achievement. However, in this instance, the lack of cuts adds to the subliminal tension of the viewer as we are never truly given a chance to catch our breaths, and almost experience the stress of the plot along with the characters. I should also note that the cinematographic accomplishment could not be achieved without the skilled editing work of Lee Smith.

While Deakins’ work with the camera certainly warrants praise, I found myself being critical of how the opening sequence was filmed. This particular cut only lasts a few minutes, but I found it very strenuous to view, especially when the moment was supposed to convey a “calm before the storm” sensation. It is here that Deakins uses a tracking shot (which is a tactic he uses throughout the film to make it feel as though we are moving alongside the soldiers) to accompany the soldiers moving through their own base camp’s trenches to reach their General for assignment. However, the camera was not stabilized, likely due to the difficult terrain it needed to traverse in the scene, and the result was the tracking movements conflicting with the natural shaking of the camera. I found this scene a bit disorienting but my friends who I was with did not seem to notice, so perhaps I am being too critical.

That one issue aside, the technical aspects of this film are truly astounding and are the elements that help this film differentiate itself. There are scenes at night lit by exploding flares that help induce more feelings of panic as well as some visually stunning imagery. The totality of the sounds in the film is expertly mixed. A tremendous amount of praise should be awarded to Thomas Newman for an enchanting musical score that is both tense and surprisingly catchy, as well as the mixing of explosives that punctuate the violent nature of what is being displayed. Multiple scenes made me jump from my seat because of the puissant use of sound.

Under the direction of Sam Mendes, “1917” is both story and spectacle. What he created with this film should not be taken lightly. The actors have to convey a majority of their feelings and expressions with their actions and have a relatively minimal dialogue to fall back too. They must rely on the other elements of the production to maximize their performance and to be able to do that requires a leader with a clear vision behind the camera. It is the ability to get the most out of all of the moving parts that comprise of the whole is what is so remarkable. The final result is war drama that is enthralling and powerful, and undoubtedly one of the finest films of 2019.

I give “1917” a 9.3 out of 10

Starring: Dean Charles-Chapman, George MacKay, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Duburcq
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 59 Minutes

%d bloggers like this: