Shut Up Zach! Presents: The 2020 Zachademy Awards – Nominations

Best Picture

“Avengers: Endgame”
“Joker”
“Marriage Story”
“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
“Parasite”
“The Farewell”
“The Irishman”
“The Lighthouse”
“Us”
“1917”

Best Director

Bong Joon Ho – “Parasite”
Lulu Wang – “The Farewell”
Quentin Tarantino – “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
Robert Eggers – “The Lighthouse”
Sam Mendes – “1917”

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Ana de Armas – “Knives Out”
Awkwafina – “The Farewell”
Lupita Nyong’o – “Us”
Saoirse Ronan – “Little Women”
Scarlett Johansson – “Marriage Story

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Adam Driver – “Marriage Story”
Adam Sandler – “Uncut Gems”
Joaquin Phoenix – “Joker”
Leonardo DiCaprio – “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
Robert De Niro – “The Irishman”

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Jennifer Lopez – “Hustlers”
Kathy Bates – “Richard Jewell”
Margot Robbie – “Bombshell”
Park So-Dam – “Parasite”
Shuzhen Zhou – “The Farewell”

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Brad Pitt – “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
Joe Pesci – “The Irishman”
Robert Downey Jr. – “Avengers: Endgame”
Song Kang-Ho – “Parasite”
Willem Dafoe – “The Lighthouse”

Best Original Screenplay

“Marriage Story” – Noah Baumbach
“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” – Quentin Tarantino
“Parasite” – Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin-Wan
“The Farewell” – Lulu Wang
“The Lighthouse” – Robert Eggers and Max Eggers

Best Adapted Screenplay

“Hustlers” – Lorene Scafaria
“Jojo Rabbit” – Taika Waititi
“Joker” – Todd Phillips and Scott Silver
“Little Women” – Greta Gerwig
“The Irishman” – Steven Zaillian

Best Cinematography

“Ad Astra” – Hoyte van Hoytema
“Joker” – Lawrence Sher
“Parasite” – Hong Kyung-Pyo
“The Lighthouse” – Jarin Blaschke
“1917″ – Roger Deakins

Best Original Score

“Avengers: Endgame” – Alan Silvestri
“Joker” – Hildur Guðnadóttir
“The Lighthouse” – Mark Korven
“Us” – Michael Abels
“1917” – Thomas Newman

Best Editing

“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” – Fred Raskin
“Parasite” – Yang Jin-Mo
“The Irishman” – Thelma Schoonmaker
“The Lighthouse” – Louise Ford
“1917” – Lee Smith

Best Visual Effects

“Ad Astra”
“Avengers: Endgame”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
“The Irishman”
“1917”

Best Production Design

“Ad Astra” – Kevin Thompson
“Joker” – Mark Friedberg
“Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood” – Barbara Ling
“The Irishman” – Bob Shaw
“1917” – Dennis Gassner

Best Costume Design

“Dolemite is My Name” – Ruth E. Carter
“Joker” – Mark Bridges
“Little Women” – Jacqueline Durran
“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” – Arianne Philips
“Rocketman” – Julian Day

Best Hair and Makeup

“Bombshell”
“Dolemite is My Name”
“Joker”
“Little Women”
“Rocketman”

Best Sound Editing

“Ad Astra”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“The Lighthouse”
“Us”
“1917”

Best Sound Mixing

“Ad Astra”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Joker”
“Rocketman”
“1917”

Best Animated Feature

“Dragon Ball Super: Broly”
“Frozen 2”
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
“Missing Link”
“Toy Story 4”

Shut Up Zach! Presents: Bests of the Decade! The 2010s

2010 – 2019… What a ride!

Where were you a decade ago? I was 14 years old and just ending the 8th grade, and for some inexplicable reason, I was optimistic about the future. I was an innocent, little, pale red-headed kid who was scared of his own shadow and didn’t even realize it. The world was so different from what it is now. 2010 might as well be ions ago!

The decade is in its waning moments so it is time to celebrate the very best it has offered us in the world of movies! The 2010’s brought us plenty of classic films that spurred living legends right in front of our eyes. We have been so lucky to have so many worthy films that have graced our screens and provided us hours of entertainment, conversation, and enjoyment, so in my mind we are all winners (Classic Millennial handing out participation trophies). The most difficult task I have undertaken since I began this site is narrowing down these superlative lists, but in doing so, I have gone back and relived so many moments that meant so much to me.


FILMS

I am going to be on some thin ice with a lot of you once you take a gander at my honorable mentions list. It is totally feasible that someone’s entire Top 10 List is comprised of only films that I relegated to honorable mentions limbo. Please don’t hate me, but I also know this won’t be the last time on this post that I will have to make a tough call you won’t agree with.

Honorable Mentions:

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Black Swan
Coco
Deadpool
Django Unchained
Dunkirk
Ex Machina
Frozen
Get Out
John Wick
Joker
Lady Bird
Mad Max: Fury Road
Moana
Moneyball
Moonlight
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
Parasite
Roma
Skyfall
Ted
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Irishman
The Master
The Revenant
The Shape of Water
Whiplash


10th Place
“Annihilation” (2018)

9th Place
“Inside Out” (2015)

8th Place
“Arrival” (2016)

7th Place
“Interstellar” (2014)

6th Place
“Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)

5th Place
“Us” (2019)

4th Place
“BlacKkKlansman” (2018)

3rd Place
“The Lighthouse” (2019)

2nd Place
“Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) and “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)*

*I am counting this as one continuous film. Try and stop me.

Winner – Best Film of the Decade
“Inception” (2010)


DIRECTORS

This is interesting because most of the most successful directors of the decade have rarely directed more than 2 films. This means that a lot of younger directors who got their start in the latter half of the decade have a path to placing on this list! It is also quality over quantity! This category could also use a hearty dose of diversity so here’s hoping this is the last decade with a gender imbalance like this. There are a few honorable mention that I cannot believe did not place, but like Harry Styles says, it’s a sign of the times.

Honorable Mentions:

Adam McKay
Ava DuVernay
Bong Joon Ho
Damien Chazelle
David Fincher
Ethan Coen
Greta Gerwig
Guillermo del Toro
Joel Coen
Kathryn Bigelow
Martin Scorsese
Sam Mendes
Steven Spielberg
Wes Anderson


10th Place
Barry Jenkins – “Moonlight” (2016) , “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018)

9th Place
Robert Eggers – “The VVitch” (2015) , “The Lighthouse” (2019)

8th Place
Jordan Peele – “Get Out” (2017) , “Us” (2019)

7th Place
Alex Garland – “Ex Machina” (2014) , “Annihilation” (2018)

6th Place
Quentin Tarantino – “Django Unchained” (2012) , “The Hateful Eight” (2015) , “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” (2019)

5th Place
Alfonso Cuarón – “Gravity” (2013) , “Roma” (2018)

4th Place
Paul Thomas Anderson – “The Master” (2012) , “Inherent Vice” (2014) , “Phantom Thread” (2017)

3rd Place
Denis Villeneuve – “Incendies” (2010) , “Prisoners” (2013) , “Enemy” (2013) , “Sicario” (2015) , “Arrival” (2016) , “Blade Runner 2049” (2017)

2nd Place
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – “Biutiful” (2010) , “”Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” (2014) , “The Revenant” (2015)

Winner – Best Director of the Decade
Christopher Nolan – “Inception” (2010) , “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) , “Interstellar” (2014) , “Dunkirk” (2017)


ACTRESS

I am using this opportunity to right a major wrong. I feel very confidently that I got this list down perfectly but the actress at the top doesn’t seem to get the recognition she deserves. Here is hoping being named the Best Actress of the Decade will makeup for all of those Oscar snubs!

Honorable Mentions:

Alicia Vikander
Brie Larson
Cate Blanchett
Charlize Theron
Constance Wu
Emily Blunt
Emma Watson
Felicity Jones
Frances McDormand
Jessica Chastain
Julianne Moore
Melisa McCarthy
Olivia Coleman
Rachel Weisz
Rooney Mara
Sandra Bullock
Scarlett Johansson


10th Place
Octavia Spencer – “The Help” (2011) , “Hidden Figures” (2016) , “The Shape of Water” (2017)

9th Place
Natalie Portman – “Black Swan” (2010) , “No Strings Attached” (2011) , “Jackie” (2016) , Annihilation (2016)

8th Place
Viola Davis – “The Help” (2011) , “Prisoners” (2013) , “Suicide Squad” (2016) , “Fences” (2016) , “Widows” (2018)

7th Place
Saoirse Ronan – “Hanna” (2011) , “Brooklyn” (2015) , “Lady Bird” (2017) , “Mary Queen of Scots” (2018) , “Little Women” (2019)

6th Place
Jennifer Lawrence – “Winter’s Bone” (2010) , “The Hunger Games” (2012) , “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) , “American Hustle” (2013) , “Joy” (2015) , “Mother!” (2017)

5th Place
Emma Stone – “Easy A” (2010) , “Crazy, Stupid Love” (2011) , “The Amazing Spider-man” (2012) , “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” (2014) , “La La Land” (2016) , “The Favourite” (2018)

4th Place
Lupita Nyong’o – “12 Years a Slave” (2013) , “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), “Queen of Katwe” (2016) , “Us” (2019) , “Little Monsters” (2019)

3rd Place
Margot Robbie – “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) , “I, Tonya” (2017) , “Mary Queen of Scots” (2018) , “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” (2019) , “Bombshell” (2019)

2nd Place
Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady” (2011) , “August: Osage County” (2013) , “Into the Woods” (2014) , “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016) , “The Post” (2017) , “Little Women” (2019)

Winner – Best Actress of the Decade
Amy Adams – “The Fighter” (2010) , “The Master” (2012) , “Her” (2013) , “American Hustle” (2013) , “Arrival” (2016) , “Vice” (2018)


ACTOR

A lot of actors made a late decade push to separate themselves. It was a bloodbath out here just trying to narrow it down to 10 actors to place but what’s done is done. Although all of the actors I’ll mention have done great work this decade, the 10 that have placed deserve to be propped up above the rest.

Honorable Mentions:

Adam Driver
Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Kaluuya
Denzel Washington
Gary Oldman
Hugh Jackman
Idris Elba
Jake Gyllenhaal
Mark Ruffalo
Matt Damon
Matthew McConaughey
Michael Fassbender
Ryan Reynolds
Timothée Chalamet
Tom Hardy
Viggo Mortensen


10th Place
Brad Pitt – “Moneyball” (2011) , “The Tree of Life” (2011) , “World War Z” (2013) , “12 Years a Slave” (2013) , “Fury” (2014) , “The Big Short” (2015) , “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” (2019) , “Ad Astra” (2019)

9th Place
Sam Rockwell – “Iron Man 2” (2010) , “Seven Psychopaths” (2012) , “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017) , “Vice” (2018) , “Jojo Rabbit” (2019) , “Richard Jewell” (2019)

8th Place
Mahershala Ali – “Free State of Jones” (2016) , “Moonlight” (2016) , “Hidden Figures” (2016) , “Green Book” (2018) , “Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) , “Alita: Battle Angel” (2019)

7th Place
Bradley Cooper – “Limitless” (2011) , “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) , “American Hustle” (2014) , “American Sniper” (2015) , “A Star is Born” (2018)

6th Place
Robert Downey Jr. – “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (2010 – 2019) , “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” (2011) , “The Judge” (2014)

5th Place
Josh Brolin – “True Grit” (2010) , “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” (2014) , “Inherent Vice” (2014) , “Sicario” (2015) , “Hail, Caesar!” (2016) , “Avengers: Infinty War” (2018) , “Deadpool 2” (2018) , “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” (2018) , “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

4th Place
Willem Dafoe – “John Wick” (2014) , “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014) , “The Florida Project” (2017) , “Aquaman” (2018) , “At Eternity’s Gate” (2018) , “The Lighthouse” (2019) , “Motherless Brooklyn” (2019)

3rd Place
Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master” (2012) , “Her” (2013) , “Inherent Vice” (2014) , “You Were Never Really Here” (2017) , “Joker” (2019)

2nd Place
Christian Bale – “The Fighter” (2010) , “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) , “American Hustle” (2013) , “The Big Short” (2015) , “Vice” (2018) , “Ford v Ferrari” (2019)

Winner – Best Actor of the Decade
Leonardo DiCaprio – “Shutter Island” (2010) , “Inception” (2010) , “Django Unchained” (2012) , “The Great Gatsby” (2013) , “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) , “The Revenant” (2015) , “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” (2019)


PERFORMANCE

Honorable Mentions:

Adam Driver – “Marriage Story”
Amy Adams – “Arrival”
Awkwafina – “The Farewell”
Brad Pitt – “Moneyball”
Bradley Cooper – “American Sniper”
Brie Larson – “Room”
Cate Blanchett – “Blue Jasmine”
Charlize Theron – “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Christian Bale – “The Fighter”
Daniel Kaluuya – “Get Out”
Emma Stone – “La La Land”
Ethan Hawke – “First Reformed”
Hugh Jackman – “Logan”
Idris Elba – “Beasts of No Nation”
Jake Gyllenhaal – “Nightcrawler”
James McAvoy – “Split”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Jamie Foxx – “Django Unchained”
J.K. Simmons – “Whiplash”
Jonah Hill – “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Josh Brolin – “Avengers: Infinity War”
Lady Gaga – “A Star Is Born”
Lupita Nyong’o – “Us”
Matt Damon – “The Martian”
Mahershala Ali – “Moonlight”
Margot Robbie – “I, Tonya”
Matthew McConaughey – “Dallas Buyers Club”
Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady”
Michael B. Jordan – “Creed”
Oscar Isaac – “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Phillip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”
Robert Downey Jr. – “Avengers: Endgame”
Ryan Reynolds – “Deadpool”
Sandra Bullock – “Gravity”
Saoirse Ronan – “Lady Bird”
Scarlett Johansson – “Marriage Story”
Timothée Chalamet – “Call Me by Your Name”
Tom Hardy – “The Dark Knight Rises”
Toni Collette – “Hereditary”
Viola Davis – “Fences”
Yalitza Aparicio – “Roma”


10th Place
Sally Hawkins – “The Shape of Water”

9th Place
Michael Keaton – “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

8th Place
Anya Taylor-Joy – “The VVitch”

7th Place
John David Washington – “BlacKkKlansman”

6th Place
Joaquin Phoenix – “Joker”

5th Place
Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”

4th Place
Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Revenant”

3rd Place
Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”

2nd Place
Alicia Vikander – “Ex Machina”

Winner: Best Acting Performance of the Decade
Willem Dafoe – “The Lighthouse”


And there we have it! Congratulations to all the winners of the inaugural Shut Up Zach! Best of the Decade Awards! I am sure many, if not all of them have worked their entire careers in the desperate hope to achieve this sort of recognition for their craft. All it takes to achieve your dreams is a little elbow grease and a “Can-Do” attitude! To all the losers who did not place as high as they could have hoped, fear not! There are surely more accolades on the horizon and that means another chance to impress the only critic you’ve ever respected. ‘Twas a hell of a decade and everyone should be proud of themselves for being a part of it, even if it was something as simple as paying for a movie ticket!

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – Movie Review

**********SPOILER WARNING! DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPECIFC DETAILS OF THIS MOVIE REVEALED TO YOU**************

*Dramatically inhales* Yikes. What a mess. “The Rise of Skywalker” has finally arrived and mercifully brought an end to this aimless trilogy that Disney has created. I really must apologize upfront to anyone who has enjoyed this trilogy because I will be harsh here. It is not my intention to ruin something you have found joy in, but I cannot in good conscience ease up on this film simply because it is “Star Wars”. This film is so HEAVILY flawed that even people who enjoyed it that I have spoken too cannot ignore most of them.

I think that J.J. Abrams is overrated as a filmmaker, and his inability as a storyteller is very much on display with this movie. This plot is so erratic it is almost stressful. The first 45 minutes of runtime are so packed with exposition and random jumps from unrelated story threads that you struggle to keep up with what is happening and who it is happening to. I guess the best way I could describe the plot is like everybody has one item on a shopping list and they all know exactly where they need to go to get that item. There is no mystery or reveals in any of these quests, just simple retrieval or one minor obstacle that will delay the characters for a few minutes. I’ll compare this to the first retrieval mission in “A New Hope” when Ben, Luke, Han, and Chewie are on their way to Alderaan only to find that it was obliterated by the Empire. Instead of just jumping from one location to the next, we are introduced to the mystery of the Death Star and a changing of plans to escape and rescue of Leia. The change in the status quo is simply better than being so predictable.

The real goal of this film seems to be giving the finger to Rian Johnson. I will be the first guy to sign up for the ‘I hated “The Last Jedi”’ fan club, but I have never seen a movie so hellbent on spitting in the face of its predecessor since…”The Last Jedi”. Having a trilogy that is more at war with itself than it is within its story is a problem, regardless of which spectrum of the fanbase you find yourself on. J.J. does everything in his power to retcon anything remotely controversial in “The Last Jedi” back to the shadow realm. Rey? She’s not a nobody; she’s a Palpatine (we’ll get back to this). Kylo’s helmet? Quite literally reassembled piece-by-piece in the opening scenes. Lightsabers? We don’t throw those carelessly; they should be treated with dignity. Using ships at lightspeed to kamikaze bigger ships? 1 in a million shot that could never happen again. Hux as comic relief? Murder him in cold blood because we all hate him now. Rose is someone we should care about? Nope. Have her do nothing and try to hide her on all the promotional material. Leia flying through space with no explanation? Oh, I guess she was always a fully trained Jedi all along. The film undoes so much of the previous one that you might not even need to watch it anymore.

The result of this is that this movie tries to be both the second and third films in the trilogy. In more than one way, “The Rise of Skywalker” feels more like a direct sequel to “The Force Awakens” than it does to “The Last Jedi”. In an effort to undo and cram so much story into this movie, the pacing of the film is ludicrous. Almost nothing is effectively set up and there is no emotional investment into anything we see on screen. Similarly, the introduction of a new Force power that heals fatal wounds takes away any believability of danger to the main cast. I don’t find the ability in itself to be a problem, but the way it is used within the film and the total lack of any recoil from its use nullifies any consequences of the conflicts. There are even two specific moments when we are supposed to believe characters we are told to root for die horribly, only for those characters to be alive a scene or two later with basically no attempt to explain how they survived.

I also need to talk about the return of the original saga’s villain, Emperor Palpatine. *Rubs forehead, squints eyes, and sighs in defeat* I hated every second of him in this film, and that pains me to say because he is one of my favorite characters from the original saga. He does not belong at all. The previous two films in the trilogy have provided NOTHING to suggest that Palpatine was the real villain all along. His presence was nothing more than the aftermath of what his empire had done, but his character was assuredly deceased and gone. When “The Last Jedi” killed off Snoke, Disney and J.J. Abrams panicked and forced him into this movie. His revival isn’t even given the most minimal of explanations, which is ridiculous considering just how gratuitous the rest of the script is with dishing out exposition. I have never been surer that Disney did not have this trilogy planned out beforehand than I am now that I have seen how they attempted to end it.

The Emperor is back and we just need to deal with it. His plan? Have Rey kill him and then give her his invincible army that he was hiding from the rest of the Galaxy(?). Just how big is this army? Big enough that it completely nullifies the existence of The First Order (while still somehow being easy enough to defeat in their first battle). But don’t worry, Snoke was really Palpatine’s puppet the whole time so The First Order was controlled by Palpatine. Oh, and every Star Destroyer can blow up a planet too. So, what was the purpose of The First Order if this new army of infinite Death Stars was the real plan all along? Unclear. If even the slightest bit of critical thinking is applied to any of the events that transpire in this film, and consequentially the films that precede it, everything falls apart.

And now that we know Rey is a Palpatine, I should say that this was the right decision all along. BUT, like everything in this movie, it was executed so poorly. They try to set up this dyad in the Force where Kylo, the grandson of Anakin, and Rey, the granddaughter of Palpatine, are two halves of one Force entity, and I like this premise. There is a lot of potential in this idea that could have been a real strength to tout about this film, but it is way too rushed. Rey’s lineage should have been revealed correctly in the second film of the trilogy so its impact could develop. Rey had spent the entire trilogy being a pure, unadulterated altruist, who was so steadfast in her protagonist ways she outright rejected every single plea to a contrary way of thinking. Then she is told that her bloodline is that of Palpatine and she suddenly flips to being this character that has always been struggling with her dark side. If this information was given in the previous film, she could be haunted by the possibility of what she was for a while. The fear could be what drives her to consider the dark side and when she releases her force lightning for the first time, it would be a much more believable moment of her potential decent.

I do not have issues with her prowess in the Force or any of her new abilities. To the film’s credit, the passage of time leading up to the start of the movie and the implied year or so of intense training that she had done with Leia is enough for me. Is it flawless? I think you know my answer, but considering an explanation is given at all, I cannot complain. I have far more of a problem with Palpatine’s new abilities, which besides ultimately resembling one of those generic early-Marvel CGI sky-beams, is such a jump from the point we had seen him last. Perhaps he was always holding back before but then you just have to wonder how he was ever defeated at all.

My final major gripe with this film is that the dialogue is atrocious. Like George Lucas infamously before him, J.J. displays an almost remarkable inability to write realistic and compelling dialogue. Every line is just so on-the-nose it becomes cringe-worthy. Palpatine and Rey suffer from this the most, especially when they share their soon-to-be-infamous “I am all the Sith-I am all the Jedi” scene at the conclusion of the film. But sophomorically written dialogue by Maz, Hux, and Lando amongst others is just littered throughout the film. If you are not one of this film’s five main characters, your character’s only job is to spew exposition in the most direct way possible.

And so, we have finally hobbled all the way to the finish line. This has been a sad venture for me, as both a fan of “Star Wars” but also as a fan of movies in general. I do not know what this trilogy of films was about. From a storytelling perspective, all three films are unnecessary. There was a lot of potential in the seeds of “The Force Awakens” but it devolved into a conflicting jumble of competing half-baked ideas that culminated in digging up an enemy that was already cleanly defeated before these films came to be. I hope this serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when filmmakers take shortcuts with the material they borrow, attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and thinking it is impossible to write bad “Star Wars” stories. Disney had taken the property for granted, and it is not that they decided to go the fan service route or the Rian Johnson “Burn everything down and replace it with itself but newer” method. It is that they never knew what they wanted to do other than make money movies. I hope there is a renewed focus on quality storytelling and Disney develops more thought-out plans in the future. It may never be perfect or appeal to everyone, but it is inexcusable to have a trilogy as aimless as this one.

I know it does not seem like it, but I surprisingly left the theater mildly happy with this film. Maybe it is because I spent the entire runtime whispering to my groaning friend in the seat next to me “It’s not as bad as the last one” or I was just so mesmerized by the special effects. If you are willing to not think about ANYTHING you are watching and just watch shiny things explode and people doing backflips and shooting each other with lasers and such, you can be entertained. J.J. throws an absurd amount of content into this movie and it is bound to appeal to people who think bigger is always better. Unfortunately, the more time this movie sits with you, the worse it gets. The flaws cannot hide forever no matter how deep you bury your head in the sand. Some moments are enjoyable just like some are in all the “Star Wars” films, but not nearly enough to keep it afloat. I hope you find moments buried under the rubble that appeal to you because I am sure that some exist and I love when people enjoy “Star Wars”. And while I could probably go on beating the dead horse, I hope there are people out there who will scavenge the wreckage of this film for positives to enjoy.

I give “The Rise of Skywalker” an admittedly artificially passable score of 6.0 out of 10. It really doesn’t deserve this but it will ultimately just be remembered as bad “Star Wars” which is still acceptable by most people’s standards.

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Ian McDiarmid, Mark Hamill, Lupita Nyong’o, Richard E. Grant, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 Hours and 21 Minutes

Marriage Story (2019) – Movie Review

Seeing as I am a 24-year-old that is a solid 6 out of 10 with the maturity of a 4th grader and the financial wherewithal you would assume a movie blogger would have, it should come as no surprise that I have never been married (Hit me up, ladies!). I have been blessed to witness my parents’ in a loving marriage for my entire life, but that is the extent of my knowledge of civil unions. So, while it may be foreign to me, marriage is one of the world’s most common institutions, and the story of the decay of a family through a divorce is a story that so many people can empathize with.

Noah Baumbach creates an amazing experience with this film. He begins by giving both Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) about 3 minutes each to describe the reasons and qualities that made them fall in love with each other over a montage of them pantomiming happiness. But after these opening moments, we are bombarded with heartbreak until the very closing moments of the film. We are quickly built up to appreciate why they love each other and are given about 2 hours to watch something we understand was genuine crumble before our eyes. It is a relatable tragedy that consigns its characters’ pathos exceptionally onto its audience.

It should not take the keenest eye to notice that the film is driven almost entirely by dialogue. Every competent script requires dialogue to function, but when all events on screen are conversations rather than actions, there is risk associated with that decision. The pacing could potentially become an issue as things happen much less frequently and you may see two characters in a room simply talking about the same subject for extended periods. “Marriage Story” turns this potential pitfall into one of its strengths, as it will captivate while juxtaposing itself with the knowledge that it is fighting an uphill battle.

The writing is noteworthy, but I can’t help but wonder if the film would thrive the same way if not for Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver delivering career-defining performances. The casting for the leads is reasonably the biggest draw to the film, and they each perform theatrically yet never straying into over-the-top melodrama. Scarlett’s Nicole is a woman trying to capture the agency she felt she surrendered in her marriage and Adam’s Charlie is a man who needs to grow in maturity and learn to see situations beyond his own perspective. He has sympathy but not empathy. You know that they truly do care for each other while simultaneously not being good for each other. Both characters undergo palpable character arcs that communicate vividly just how life-changing an experience that divorce is, punctuated by an argument that serves as a climactic catharsis of their respective experiences.

I did enjoy the supporting cast as well, although their impact pales in comparison to that of the leads. Alan Alda stands out as the sympathetic divorce lawyer who is seemingly Charlie’s only ally in the entire film. He provides heart and feels like a much-needed shoulder to cry on for the few scenes he is on-screen. Similarly, Laura Dern is Nicole’s lawyer, and while she is openly supportive of her, you can’t help but feel that she could easily flip the switch to being cut-throat at any minute. It is difficult to determine if she is antagonizing Charlie or simply helping Nicole.

I am sure this film will hit differently for everyone who sees it. I have made my relationship with the material know, but all of our experiences are unique. Perhaps you can relate to your own experiences. Maybe you have seen someone you care for dealing with divorce. One thing I can promise is that we all have someone in our life we care about, and “Marriage Story” forces us to confront the idea that things will not always be perfect with that person and the reality of learning to adapt to how life would change as a result.

While the quality is undeniable, I doubt anybody will genuinely enjoy their time watching the movie. An honest assessment of this movie is that “Marriage Story” is not truly a piece of entertainment. It feels more like being forced to eat vegetables as a kid. It is not easy to be faced with powerful emotions, especially ones of heartache. It is hard work but, in the end, it is good for you. I recommend you give this film a watch at least one time because it’s as simple as streaming it on Netflix and you are most assuredly going to see the names associated with it during award season.

I give “Marriage Story” a 9.0 out of 10

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Alan Alda
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 16 minutes

Knives Out (2019) – Movie Review

“Knives Out” is the latest film from director Rian Johnson, the suspect director of the notoriously divisive “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. Considering he is a man of outstanding character, it is strickingly odd that his presence is considered as controversial as it is, but thus is the nature of ‘Star Wars’ fandom. Whether you love him, hate him, blame him, champion him, or anything in between, his newest film is a blank slate and a new chance to create a compelling story for audiences to enjoy. With this film, he’s assembled a deep ensemble cast of talent for a classic “Who done it?” murder mystery!

As is the nature of the mystery genre, you are supposed to go into the theater not knowing things. So, this review might seem a bit bare in comparison to others to avoid spoiling anything. The story has been touted as a unique and clever twist on the classic mystery formula, but does it deliver on that promise? Well, it is definitely a fun film, but I am not sure it is as smart as it thinks it is. That is not to say that it is bad or poorly written in anyway, just not a groundbreaking concept. But that is ok! Not everything needs to be a prophetic revisioning of reality for it to be an entertaining movie.

As I mentioned, “Knives Out” is comprised of an incredibly deep cast of actors who all have moments to let their natural charm shine through. And yet, despite what the marketing department might have you believe, there is a defined lead in this film and it is not Daniel Craig or Chris Evans. No, it is Ana de Armas’s Marta, who amazingly is hardly present in any of the film’s pre-release materials. But do not let her noticeable absence from trailers and posters alarm you. She delivers one of the finest, most enjoyable performances from a lead actress I have seen all year. In fact, her presence in this film solidifies her as a talent to keep an eye on in the future.

The supporting players all are enjoyable, but rather one-note. For the most part, they are each given a scene or two to flex their acting muscles by employing a quirk or oddity. At first, they all seem fun but you soon realize that is the extent of the individuality of most of the characters. Occasionally, maybe someone breaks the mold, but they are all mostly the same underneath that first layer. Daniel Craig gets the most freedom in the film and it is a joy to watch him solve things in an over-the-top southern accent. He is charming and provides most of the film’s humor.

As far as the story goes, I probably should avoid saying too much. However, I will say that Rian Johnson’s strength in writing is when he focuses on the main story. “The Last Jedi” was at its strongest when it focused on Rey and Kylo Ren, and it lacked focus when it strayed into subplots and political messaging. The same seems to be the case with “Knives Out” as the parts that are centered around Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig and the murder are very entertaining and engaging. Unfortunately, he ventures once again into subplots that do not go anywhere and political ideas that are discussed in some of the most surface-level cliché dialogue that almost seemingly is executed under a talking-point checklist. Similar to the addition of the war-profiteering and animal cruelty messages from “The Last Jedi”, Rian adds politics into this film with the nuance and tact of a Twitter comment section. Even if you agree with the message he is trying to push, you can’t help but feel agitated by the simplistic understanding of his arguments. A good message argued poorly does no one any favors.

Considering the poor taste I had in my mouth from his last project, I enjoyed “Knives Out” more than I was prepared to. It is the type of film you should watch with a group of friends in a real casual setting. The mystery is challenging enough to attract your attention but not too challenging that you couldn’t still converse throughout it. You will have a good time watching it, but “Clue” is still the reigning heavyweight champion of the murder-mystery genre.

I give “Knives Out” a decent 8.0 out of 10

Starring: Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Jaime Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 Hours and 10 Minutes

Ford v Ferrari (2019) – Movie Review

They had it! It was right there! And some poorly thought-out last-minute decision that goes completely against everything that was set up before it swoops in and snatches defeat straight out of the jaws of victory! I was not prepared to say this here, but these are trying times and not everything goes as expected. As tragic and hyperbolic as it sounds, I will declare “Ford v Ferrari” to be the victim of the single most profound unforced error that I have witnessed in a film this year.

I will be honest, going into my viewing, I had only mild expectations for the film. I honestly hated the title because it sounded like an elementary school show that 1st-grade students put on for their parents to show that they mastered Venn diagrams. Also, the idea that I am somehow supposed to sympathize with Ford as the likable underdog instead of the anti-Semitic corporate juggernaut was beyond me, but my dad, who I saw the movie with, is a big ‘car guy’ so it seemed like a great opportunity for that classic father-son bonding time society eats up. Plus, I love Christian Bale, Matt Damon, and director James Mangold, so I’d give it a shot! And I ended up loving it!

I was so pleasantly surprised by “Ford v Ferrari” that I was just about to give it a 9.0 out of 10 (which would have qualified it to get a Best Picture Nomination on my ballot)! Bale and Damon were tremendous! They radiated charisma and understanding of their characters. Every moment with both of them was a treat. But I had always assumed that much would be the case. What caught me most off guard was just how self-aware the film was. Mangold never tries to make Ford the good guys. Other than our leads and John Bernthal’s Lee Iaccoca, everyone associated with Ford is portrayed as a snobby corporate-type that doesn’t deserve to win, specifically Josh Lucas’s Leo Beebe. I even realized that the title was purposefully misleading and clever. The story is really about Damon’s Carroll Shelby and Bale’s Ken Miles v the corporate executives at Ford, and the movie won me over! Until…

…Until that ending came in like a clean sweep to the nads. I will qualify this by saying that I understand that “true stories” need to follow facts to an extent. Typically, films will stay loyal to the big events and be flexible with the smaller details, so I have no objection to how the race ended. That was really how it happened, so if that bothers me, I should take it up with history, not the filmmakers. Hell, the film actually creates a fairly satisfying ending despite a frustrating result. At this point, the story is complete. Our characters have grown from their experiences and their tasks have been completed over 2+ hours of screen time. It was over! Roll the credits!

I apologize if this comes off as a spoiler but I HAVE to discuss this. After Josh Lucas’s character spends the entire film actively hating Bale’s character, he pulls a dirty trick in the final race at the detriment to Bale. That part is seemingly a true event. But then the film has the audacity to kill Bale in the next scene! Why?! The story is over! You are already asking the audience to be the bigger person by taking a moral victory instead of an actual victory, which is difficult enough but HOW DARE YOU tack on his tragic death to a story that did not need it?! I left the theater IRATE!

Killing Bale serves zero purpose to the story. He may have actually died that way, but in the context of this story, it provides no sense of closure or growth. All we get is just two meaningless scenes of Matt Damon crying, possibly to make his case for an Oscar more compelling (?), which wasn’t even necessary. You couldn’t even throw in a quick scene where Josh Lucas’s character gets what he has coming to him? Nope! He just gets away with it and our likable protagonist dies in a fiery explosion right in front of his son, immediately after getting what he earned stolen right out from under him.

I hold Mangold, who wrote and directed the film, responsible for this. He is a terrific filmmaker and he made a terrific film, but that ending was the equivalent to a football player having a breakaway to the endzone then dropping the ball before he crosses the line. It simply did not need to be this way. Simply cut the last 15 minutes from the film and you have yourself a real winner. But those closing moments are so poisonous to the film as a whole that it ultimately ruins the experience, and this bitter taste in my mouth will forever be the feeling I associate with the film.

I ultimately will give “Ford v Ferrari” an 8.0 out of 10. Most of the film is great and that much shouldn’t be overlooked.

Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, John Bernthal, Josh Lucas, Caitriona Balfe
Directed by: James Mangold
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 Hours and 23 Minutes

The Irishman (2019) – Movie Review

Unfortunately, I do not live in a city important enough to have “The Irishman” playing in an actual theater, so much to the dismay of director Martin Scorsese, I was forced to stream the film on Netflix… at home (Insert ominous music and thunderclaps here)! Inarguably, my actions are an affront to the almighty, but alas, sacrifices had to be made, and thusly, I trekked on to see Scorsese’s new creation in suboptimal conditions. And, since I was not able to see “The Irishman” in theaters, the film was viewed by many before I was able to do so myself when it was available to be streamed last week. Oh, forgive me for my insidious indiscretions!

One would be forgiven if they believed “The Irishman” was going to be the second coming of “Goodfellas” since all promotional materials pointed towards a high-octane ultra-violent thriller in the same vein. While the similarities on the surface are undeniable, “The Irishman” is a far more introspective take on the genre. The film explores politics, personal relationships, conscience, purpose, and consequences. This is not 3 hours of adrenaline and hedonism but a contemplative take on violence and the impact of one’s actions.

Martin Scorsese is one of cinema’s most talented filmmakers, and while he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can make fantastic films of all genres, he returns to his roots with “The Irishman”. The story is a crime drama about notorious Philadelphia mafia hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) as he works his way up the ranks and eventually into the service of legendary Union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), as well as the unsolved mystery of Hoffa’s murder. As Sheeran forms strong relationships with Hoffa and crime boss Russell ‘Russ’ Bufalino (Joe Pesci), he continues to push his family farther away.

De Niro’s Frank is the movie’s main character, yet the way the film is structured, the three main actors each effectively dictate sections of the narrative. While the story is always about Frank, told from his perspective, Russ is in control of the first third, Jimmy the second, and Frank the final third. Frank, as an underling/bodyguard, is always controlled at the behest of the more powerful figure he is with, and it isn’t until the main plot is over that we really see him become his own man instead of the soldier everyone expected him to be.

The final act, which is more of an epilogue to the story of Frank, Russ, and Jimmy, is arguably the strongest. You could make the case that the film could have cut the last half hour or so and it would still have been a complete narrative, but these moments provide genuine insight and heart. I will not discuss the specifics to avoid spoiling the ending, but we are given a glimpse of what happens after the fact that is rarely ever explored in films. At this point, the plot is concluded and the characters are just left to deal with the fallout of what they have done. It is the ending that completes the vision of Scorsese and differentiates the film from many of its predecessors.

Much has been made about the use of technology to de-age the actors since the main cast plays these characters over the duration of multiple decades. I can safely say that with the exception of one brawl scene in the first act, the illusion used to make these actors seem younger is practically flawless. The technique is mostly used on De Niro and sparingly on others. The single exception I mentioned is startling in contrast, but it is not because the technology failed, rather the natural difficulty associated with making a 76 year-old-man physically move like a man in his 40s.

The trio of De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino deliver tremendous performances. Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa is vintage with his deep, raspy inflection painted all over flamboyant and charismatic speeches. Scorsese said he thinks it is a shame that people today no longer remember who Jimmy Hoffa was, and Pacino’s performance certainly does the man justice. De Niro is much more somber and understated. He is burdened with a larger responsibility than the rest of his co-stars. While the intensity he is known to bring to his roles (as well as that face he always makes. You know the one I mean) is present, he displays a balance of heartlessness and sympathy which culminates in a thoughtful and complex character.

But even with the praise rewarded to both of them, Joe Pesci’s performance is my personal favorite. Although he is effectively retired from acting, there is no evidence of any rust by delivering a performance that goes against the grain. Russ is not the typical loud, over-the-top role that won him the Oscar in “Goodfellas”, but a restrained, calculated leader with influence. You fear him, but not because he is unpredictable, rather unshakable. You respect the dynamic power he possesses while simultaneously fearing it. What I find even more moving are the very subtle ways he expresses affection and humanity, which occasionally shines through the cold façade he puts up.

The supporting cast also pulls their weight. Specifically, I find it to be a treat to see Ray Romano play Joe Pesci’s cousin in a production of this quality. If you grew up on the actor’s sitcom like I have, it is just so easy to root for him. Anna Paquin plays an adult version of Frank’s daughter Peggy, and while she isn’t heavy on dialogue, her very presence communicates more meaning than you can find in entire films. And throughout the story, we are also introduced to gallery of colorful mafia figures that the film immediately discloses how and when they met their demise. It is a running gag that seems like a dose of dark humor but in reality, helps punctuate the eventual realization we are supposed to make.

Despite the obvious quality, it is unclear to me if “The Irishman” will have the same legs as some of Scorsese’s other works. The runtime is a big factor that certainly handicaps the film’s re-watchability, as well as the more serious and thought provoking aspects. But I am completely comfortable admitting that I could be misreading audiences. It is unfair to compare it to films that have had decades to build up a legacy and following, so only time will tell if this will achieve the same impact. But, if the conversation surrounding a film upon its public release is whether or not it can maintain its praise for decades like “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull”, “Casino”, or “Goodfellas”, I’d say that film is pretty, pretty good. “The Irishman” did not end up being the film I expected it to be, but I think it might be better in the long-run because of that.

I give “The Irishman” a 9.4 out of 10

Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Rated: R
Runtime: 3 Hours and 28 Minutes (Damn!)

Harriet (2019) – Movie Review

From the beginning of my time reviewing films, I have made my opinions on the biopic genre very well known. While the likes of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Rocketman”, amongst others, garnering praise from many critics, they struck me as cliché and unfocused. I would go as far as to describe those films as well acted, loosely connected series of events devoid of an actual plot or story. With few exceptions, the genre has become a simple vehicle for actors to do an impression of a famous person and try to win an Oscar. The trend these films represented was so disheartening that I almost gave up on the genre as a whole after viewing “Judy”. However, Harriet Tubman is too important of a hero of human history to have her story be prejudged by the failures of others.

It is my pleasure to reveal that “Harriet” does, in fact, have an actual narrative. The film follows Harriet (referred to as ‘Minty’ while in bondage) as she first escapes slavery by her lonesome to the Free State of Pennsylvania, and then her heroic missions to free slaves with the help of the legendary Underground Railroad. There are a real focus and sense of organization of events, where everything ultimately plays out with purpose, and it is because of this that I believe “Harriet” is the most complete and competently-made biopic of the year.

In the lead role, Cynthia Erivo delivers a mostly subdued performance full of quiet authority. Although there are a few moments where she is asked to drift into the cliché for the sake of telling the people around her not to “tell her what she can’t do”, the majority of her screen time is not plagued by that poor direction. But the difficulty of the task presented to her is one of considerable pressure due to the importance of her character. Harriet Tubman is idolized for her heroic and selfless actions of courage to give freedom to those who have been subjected to humanity’s most wicked deeds. This is not an easy role to fill. Audiences want her to succeed because Harriet deserves Erivo’s best and I believe she reached her goal.

The supporting cast does a fairly decent job as well. While no one delivers a truly show-stopping performance, Leslie Odom Jr. Janelle Monáe, and Vondie Curtis-Hall all play their roles with charisma and poise. I wish they received some more screen time, especially Curtis-Hall’s Reverend Green. I would have liked to have seen how his black reverend in the south who preaches to slaves that the gospel teaches them to love their masters, yet helps them escape under the cloak of night, deals with the consequences of Harriet’s actions, specifically the changing dynamics with the slaves and slavers that result from it. I believe this would have elevated him beyond just a forgotten side-character, and while I suppose the same could be said about most other side characters, I personally would find this avenue most interesting.

An element the film chooses to focus heavily on Harriet’s ‘spells’, which are hallucinogenic visions she had been storied to frequently have. When she was young, she suffered head trauma that the film says began to trigger these episodes which appear to be seizures. Harriet describes them as messages from God, showing her glimpses of the future. Harriet’s faith is a major force in her life, so it is fitting that the film addresses its importance to her, however it is used as such a convenient plot device that just solves most of the obstacles in front of her. It is unclear how often or when these ‘spells’ really happened, so it just comes off as repetitive when the narrative is constantly moved along by a deus ex machina.

What is most unfortunate is that despite being soundly-made, well-acted, and based on exceptional source material, “Harriet” still feels lacking in impact. This is history’s strongest black female hero who quite literally receives prophetic visions, and yet, it feels mostly underwhelming. Perhaps it is because there is no real message to the story other than the usual “Strength comes from within” or “Slavery is bad”, or maybe it is the completely forgettable (and apparently not even real) villain of Gideon Brodess (Joe Alwyn). You will leave the theater thinking the film is decent, but in a few days, you will move on. I believe “Harriet” is just another casualty of the biopic genre. It is certainly a step in the right direction for storytelling purposes, but the reliance on the expected continues to dull historical stories that deserve better.

I give “Harriet” an acceptable 7.0 out of 10

Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe, Clarke Peters, Joe Alwyn, Vondie Curtis-Hall
Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 Hours and 5 Minutes

I disagree with Martin Scorsese and Alan Moore—But are they still right?

A few weeks ago, legendary filmmaker, Martin Scorsese was in the news for being critical of Marvel films. The headlines read “Scorsese says ‘Marvel isn’t cinema'”, which prompted many on the internet, myself included, to read the comments, then respectfully disagreed. The topic was fodder for quoted tweet comebacks calling him an out of touch old man to go viral all over social media, but I tried not to give it too much attention. While I never had direct knowledge of his stance on the genre, I had always assumed they wouldn’t appeal to a person with his experience making movies. To me, it was a non-story. I had fully planned on letting the topic die out without much resistance from me. That is until a 3-year-old interview with Alan Moore with Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo began to surface.

In the interview, Moore revealed many specific criticisms of his of comic book culture. Alan Moore, for those of you who are not familiar with his work, is the author and creator of some of the most revered comic books ever published, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and my personal favorite comic book, Batman: The Killing Joke. There are few sources in the world who are a more relevant authority of comic books. The full quote is linked in the tweet below.

After reading his comments, I was compelled to revisit Scorsese’s New York Times Op-Ed on the matter. What was once something I had just considered background noise now emerges as a legitimate conversation worth having. Now we have one of the highest authorities on filmmaking and one of the highest authorities on comic books both coming out, separately, offering powerful criticisms. To be clear, I still disagree with both of them on the conclusions they have reached. I do not believe superhero culture is an embarrassment nor that it is not cinema. HOWEVER, each one presents valid points that house considerable merit.

What I appreciate most about these criticism is just how well thought-out they clearly are. As I said, both of these men are the heights of their respective profession, and in regards to their particular angles, they have provided considerably thought out reasonings for their positions.

Let us begin with Scorsese’s remarks. He believes his remarks were taken out of context and overblown to get ‘clicks’ online, which if we are being honest, is 100% what happened. Having said that, the reporting of his remarks do generally describe his conclusions accurately. He calls Marvel “theme park attractions” because they are more corporate projects designed to mass produce films that bring in revenue. The copy-and-paste nature of many of Marvel’s films is an undeniable quality of the franchise that has been the subject of plenty of scrutiny in the past. In fact, I find myself fully agreeing with him when he says “They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.”

Moore, on the other hand, seems more hostile. In the past, he has been outspoken about how he is displeased with how his works have been adapted to the big screen to the point where he has refused all royalties and credit for their production. I happen to be a big fan of the film “V for Vendetta”, but it is his right to be critical of how someone else represents his vision. Being critical may not be a new phenomenon, however his points dig deep. In particular, the comment that these films still propagate the fantasy of a dominant white race and the cultural stagnation resulting from their portrayal immediately left an impression with me. Although I sincerely doubt that the intentions of these modern filmmakers are that malicious, I cannot help but feel that there is still a noticeable amount of truth to what he says.

Think about the typical “poster boy” for each of the major franchises: Captain America and Superman. Both are usually portrayed as the perfect beings fighting some lesser being by using a self-righteous set of values. These characters are designed as propaganda for a superior race would be designed. And the more they are portrayed as “perfect”, the more that image of perfection is propagated. Again, I do not agree with the conclusion he reaches, but I do understand his reasoning.

More importantly, he is correct with regards to diversity in the genre. At the time of the interview, 2017, the only true big screen superhero portrayal was Wesley Snipes’ “Blade” trilogy. Studios’ failure to stray from the lowest common denominator in favor of a more realistic representation of the variety of backgrounds these characters was a highly debated and criticized element of the genre. Thankfully, since these comments were made, there has been strides of progress in the name of representation. “Black Panther” became a cultural phenomenon, Anthony Mackie is the new Captain America, “Captain Marvel”, and “Wonder Woman” proved that female lead comic book films can be both critically and commercially successful. These are good first steps but the trend must continue because we still have along way to go.

But the common theme that they both describe is that filmmakers do not have the ability to, whether it be because they choose not to or are not permitted to, stand up to corporate interests in the name of creativity or messaging. Both of them acknowledge that there are some exceptions to this rule, but more often than not, the constraints placed on the creative process truly limit the scope and depth of the stories we are given. And this is the pitfall the genre must be wary of. It is a real problem that can be legitimized by a few false steps. The more predictability, uniformity, and simplicity are financially rewarded, the quicker the decay of the genre will be. As Scorsese said, these films are the most popular films of their era, and their impact on the entirety of film extends beyond the boundaries of their individual runtimes. If telling quality stories are the goal of these studios, it is in the best interest of the genre to be experimental with their and actively strive to tell their stories in new ways.

They present their arguments and we must question if it is fair to say that the current state of comic book films isn’t cinema? Or that the older audience for these films is a sort of self-imposed maturation-stagnation in order to avoid facing the modern world and its problems? Or if the growing influence of the comic book genre is to the determent of other genres of film? On these fronts, I wholeheartedly believe they are misguided.

With regards to Scorsese, I think he is too rigid with his definition of cinema to only reflect his own personal experiences. To his credit, he does acknowledge how the definition is always changing when something new comes along and challenges preconceived notions. He mentions the works of Alfred Hitchcock used to have a similar element of being more of an event when they were released, and now they are some of the most beloved works of cinema in history. I can acknowledge his gripe with the general limitations put in place by a genre who’s primary purpose is to turn a profit, but I fully believe there is more than one way to create entertainment. And let us not pretend like the film industry is in any state of disarray. Ambitious studios such as A24 have given young, bright filmmakers the platform and opportunity to create big films to much success. Even as he opposes the formulaic distribution of comic book films, he should acknowledge the growing opportunities for creative filmmaking that are developing simultaneously.

As far as Moore goes, this feels like classic curmudgeon talk. I do not want to come off as dismissive, and I hope I have proven that I have given his words the appropriate amount of understanding. But who is he to dictate what people find enjoyable? Just because comic books were designed as an outlet for a younger audience does not mean it has no business appealing to adults. And to act like people, especially adults do not actively seek avenues of escapism as means of recreation seems disingenuous and even naïve. My cynical nature understands his perspective, but perhaps he should have more faith in the public to understand that this is fiction and can be better and grow with society, even if it is a bit behind the curve.

If you see the comments of these two men for what they are, you understand that they both possess a great deal of love for what they are criticizing. Moore may not really love those films, but the stories, he clearly holds them dearly. He does not want “good enough” for them, he wants the best they can be and won’t settle for anything less. Scorsese is pleading for the continued growth of film. He sees a potential issue and is speaking out against it, as anyone of us would do if we felt it was right. They are protective parents, which can sometimes let their good intentions be corrupted without realizing it. Agree or disagree with what they say, that is your purgative. We all just want society entertainment to be the best they can be.

I think it is possible to be right about somethings and wrong about others. It is my personal opinion that remakes are more dangerous to the entirety of films than franchises. When projects such as “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” gross over a billion dollars by presenting the exact same story with just a different coat of paint, then you should begin to fear for the integrity of storytelling. But it is still not my or anyone else’s place to tell someone what is acceptable for them to watch or find entertaining. I am willing to bet that their will be an unforeseen trend in the future that will push the boundaries of what we know and it will be met with a similar resistance from the old guard. Both sides of this debate should keep an open mind and hopefully film will evolve in the strongest way possible.

#ReleaseTheSnyderCut trends on Twitter to remind us that “Justice League” was a thing

Let me set the mood for you all. It is a brisk, overcast mid-November Floridian Sunday at an atypically mild magic hour. You’ve had two cups of much-needed coffee in the past hour and you are sitting on the couch in sweatpants, watching the late afternoon NFL games and playing the new Pokémon game on your Nintendo Switch. You are just a day and a half removed from watching the first two episodes of the glorious new show “The Mandalorian” on someone else’s Disney+ account and you just ordered a hefty chicken parmigiana for dinner. Things are pretty nice.

Too nice… Something is clearly afoot.

Enter Twitter, where only good, healthy topics are discussed in a civil forum. #ReleaseTheSnyderCut has seemingly caught cultural fire and is trending on social media. The hashtag is in reference to director of the 2017 critical and financial catastrophe known as “Justice League”, Zack Snyder, who supposedly has a cut of the film that has not been released to the public. As of writing this post, the hashtag has roughly 750K tweets, including one from every one of the main cast and Snyder himself, which is significant enough for me to take notice and release an audible groan followed by a rant to tell those kids to get off my lawn.

For reference, the reason that there is a 2nd version of the film is Zack Snyder is not the only credited director on “Justice League”. Snyder suffered an incredibly unfortunate tragedy when his daughter took her own life at age 20 during post-production. Understandably, he decided to walk away from the film before it was finished to be with his family. Joss Whedon, director of the first two “Avengers” films for Marvel, was hired to oversee the rest of post-production and film new scenes that he both wrote and directed. Obviously, this was a horrible situation for the Snyder family, and when I go on my rant here, I do not intent any offence with regards to the real-life trajedy.

But I mean, really guys? Do you really want to do this? Is this really a hill you want to die on? That Zack Snyder, of all people, has a cut of the film that will somehow redeem “Justice League”? I’ll give you that the bar is impossibly low right now, and the odds of whatever cut he’s sitting on being better than the dumpster fire we’ve seen are probably fairly high. But stop it. No one is legitimately buying that this unseen version is so good that it actually redeems the film. We have all seen “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”. I am quite confident the Snyder cut does not have anything remotely worth our time in it. And, if the director’s cut of that film is anything to go by, we might be in store for a 3 1/2 hour journey. Unless your name is Martin Scorsese, you have ZERO business making a film that long.

“Justice League” came out almost 2 years ago at this point, and we have had more than enough quality comic book films in the interim to fill the void. The reality is, we have all moved on. If you think it is impressive that 750,000 people were tweeting about it, just remember that our country alone has about 400,000,000 people. Not that it matters, but that is only 0.19% of the US, assuming that all of those Tweets came from the US, which isn’t the case. If we generously estimate that everyone of those people will buy a ticket at $20 a piece to see this version, that’s still only $15 million. In the world of big-budget blockbusters, that’s petty cash. To put it in perspective, the film lost the studios an estimated $60 million upon initial release WORLDWIDE. So, congratulations! The internet made me do basic math and still no one is interested in reliving this mess of a movie.

And the executives at DC Comics and Warner Bros. say there is absolutely no chance of them releasing the Snyder cut, which is an unexpectedly intelligent stance for them to take. The DCEU sucks and they know it. Other than “Wonder Woman” and “SHAZAM!”, the remaining films from the series contain such a foul, pungent odor that is nothing more than an insult to life everywhere (Don’t lie about “Aquaman”. It was ok at best). But things have started to look up for DC now that “Joker” will be the first Rated-R movie to ever gross $1 Billion, and the promise of “Birds of Prey” and “Wonder Woman 1984” offers plenty of encouragement. What possible force on Earth could compel them to want to relive one of their most embarrassing failures in recent history? Because Ben Affleck decided to take the time to tweet even though he strong-armed his way out of his contract to play Batman after THIS movie embarrassed him that much? Let me know how that one turns out.

The DCEU is dead. Bury it.
The DCEU is dead. Bury it.
%d bloggers like this: