When Harry Met Sally (1989) – Movie Review

Very seldom do I stray into the realm of romantic comedies. I have nothing against them, but as a red-bearded human being with an awkward disposition and little hopes of ever attracting a mate, despite how handsome my mother claims I am, I just find the stories to exist on the periphery of my reality. It feels disingenuous to offer my thoughts on situations that are out of my area of knowledgeability, yet, after an emphatic recommendation from a trusted source that, in retrospect could just be one of the many voices in my head, I have decided to sell out my principals and force-feed you my opinions on one anyways! Open up because here comes the airplane!

“When Harry Met Sally” is a film that has existed since the late 80s, and to date, is the oldest film that I have chosen to give a full review to. Before I watched it yesterday, my only impression of this movie was just the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene where Sally loudly fakes an orgasm in a diner to prove just to prove a point to Harry. And while that moment is legendary, for a film to still have legs 30 years after its release, it has to present more than just a story with just one scene that could easily get lost among the myriad of other films of the genre. And what makes this film last the test of time is because it is a film that asks a question that I am sure we have all had to entertain at one point or another: Can men and women really be actual friends? Go ahead and ask all of your friends, and I am sure you will hear a multitude of reasonings for why or why not.

Allow me to be pretentious for a moment. Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” and while I am about 63% sure she was not referring to filmmaking when she said that, I believe the message is transferable to film as well. Romantic comedies that discuss specific people in a relationship or two people that met at a New Year’s Eve party are a dime a dozen. Films like that are so narrowly focused on their tale that there is nothing beyond the film to think about. “When Harry Met Sally” is about an idea that is relatable to almost every person and that each person watching can have a slightly different take on due to their own experiences.

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal play the title characters, and aside from their respective best friends, Marie (Carrie Fisher) and Jess (Bruno Kirby), essentially no one else in the film says or does anything. The reason this works is that the dialogue is so poignant and crisp between each character as they present their own ever-growing philosophy on love. Sally, on the surface, is a positive person, but after watching the totality of her character, I would say she is more of a cautious optimist type, perhaps using her positivity as a defense mechanism about her own insecurity about finding the right person. Harry is a cynical man who thinks he has life and love figured out from the moment he is introduced as a new college graduate. He has all these rules about men and women and how they are all looking for one thing, despite what they might actually tell each other. As they mature, they meet each other again at varying points in their respective love lives and a unique relationship develops that tests Harry’s thesis that men and women cannot be friends because one will always be thinking about sex with the other.

Having such an intimate story with so few characters means the film relies heavily on the chemistry between actors to sell believable relationships. Sally and Harry are genuine from start to finish. They have conflicting personalities when they first meet and as a result, they actually do not like each other for a few years. With their changing experiences and heartbreaks, they both soften towards each other and develop a real friendship that is realistic, understanding that they actually have far more in common than their younger selves would let themselves realize. It is the ever-changing nature of their dynamic that gives the film its life.

As the story presents itself as a social experiment of sorts, it is only natural that we as an audience perform the same action as a thought experiment. How many of us genuinely have friends of the opposite sex that we look for companionship from and sex is never a factor? From experience, I have several but I also vicariously see that many of my friends have difficulty doing the same. I can only conclude that this is the case because we are all different, and despite what a young Harry is so sure he knows, not everyone seeks the same things out of every relationship. But, to his credit, he was right about communication and honesty is key when establishing relationships of that nature, and too often we are either not honest with each other or ourselves about what we are looking for. However, this is just my take on the matter, and I am willing to bet that your own experiences will give you an altered view on the question, just as Harry and Sally have different ways of looking at it at different stages of their own lives.

If you are not a fan of Romantic Comedies, this next part is for you. I will not pretend that everyone who watches this movie will love it, but I do believe that everyone who watches it should acknowledge its quality. It is a genre film that may not be widely appealing to everyone, and that is ok. Having tastes that differ from one another does not mean that a movie that appeals to someone else but not you is a bad film. You may not like a vegetable but that does not make them bad food. As a narrative and a discussion of an idea, the film does its job well, and undoubtedly has its charm, even if it is not meant for you.

I give “When Harry Met Sally” a thoughtful 8.6 out of 10

Directed by: Rob Reiner
Starring: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 35 Minutes

Django Unchained (2012) – Movie Review

A question I am sure everyone has asked themselves at least once in their life is “What do you get when you mix slavery, violence, and an effeminate yet sinister southern charmer as a villain?”. It is a perfectly reasonable question, so don’t act like it hasn’t crossed your mind before. Well, the answer is obviously the abomination unto the Lord that is “Wild Wild West”. In retrospect, the fact that this combination was actually a rather risky proposition for film studios is just an incredible testament to how bad of a film that was. Enter Quentin Tarantino and one of the most prolific ensemble casts imaginable, and all of the sudden we move from whatever Will Smith tried to do in 1999 to arguably the best modern Western of this century… Just as the prophecy foretold!

Tarantino films are always stylized and “Django” is no exception. Similar to the “Kill Bill” films, “Django Unchained” resembles a comic book or graphic novel. The film delivers the typical Tarantino-style bloodshed, intricate dialogue, and most notably an eclectic soundtrack of absolute bangers. From the opening credits, we hear a riveting theme song for Jamie Foxx’s Django, playing, complete with colorful text and emphatic whip-cracking that seemingly punctuate each verse, like a “Pow!” panel. The music adds so much personality to a film already bursting at the seams with dynamism.

What makes this film exceptional is not necessarily the messaging behind the story, but the unique characters and how they are depicted. Django, as a character, in comic book fashion, follows the typical path of comic book hero: forged by a tragic origin and fostered by an older mentor, all to overcome an antagonist that is antithetical to everything he represents. And while the route Django takes resembles many of the tropes that we are familiar with, his personality and style are all his own, resulting in a character that is far deeper than the film’s violent, revenge-driven premise would suggest.

He begins as a former slave fully embracing the idea of being paid to enact vengeance against white people, but when he is forced to present himself as a black slaver and an expert on Mandingo slave fighting, Django becomes an evil he never thought he would sink to in order to be the hero that Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) needs him to be. He is wholly not heroic, often berating slaves and claiming to be “worse than any of these white boys”. Nevertheless, he commits to being a monster in order to be what the situation calls for, fully embracing the fabled “One in 10,000” designation that Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) bestows upon him. Django’s cerebral quality is what allows him to be so lethal with his gun, and the juxtaposition of his beginnings in the film to his conclusion display his capabilities as a chameleon, and skills beyond simple violence. In fact, it is his brain, not his gun, that is the ultimate reason for his triumph in the end.

The story is about Django and his journey, but Christoph Waltz’s Dr. King Shultz and DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie provide much of the flare along the way. It seems that many of the elements of Shultz as a character were written the way it was to incorporate Waltz into the film. You know the saying “They were born for this role”? Well, this role was likely born for him. The fact that he is a German character seemed like an unnecessary addition if not to just fully utilize Waltz’s unique language skills and make the white character more likable considering the era the story takes place within. I have no issue with Tarantino creating a role specifically for an actor, especially since Waltz won an Oscar in his film “Inglourious Basterds” a few years prior, but I should note that it does feel mildly forced, even if the final product is exceptional. Having said that, Shultz is a charming, albeit violent hero that often provides some of the cheekier moments with his exceptional wit. And his being German allows for a much more personal connection to form between him, Django, and Broomhilda. Waltz in the role is without question one of the most essential elements of making the film as revered as it is. And as Django’s gets a personal theme song can easily get stuck in your head, as it has with mine, Shultz also receives this treatment, which further solidifying the duo’s certified badassery.

Monsieur Calvin Candie is a lot of fun as a fictional antagonist. I am aware that there were many slave owners in history who resemble him and the violent racial atrocities he gleefully commits and my admiration for him as a character is not an endorsement of his or their actions. But as a fictional character, he has more charisma than any person on the face of the planet and draws all eyes to him like a magnet. For this role, DiCaprio strays into the unchartered waters of both a villain and a supporting character, in what is a rather unusual move for him, especially at this junction in his career. But, despite not being in his comfort zone, he absolutely thrives as the grandiose plantation owner, delivering superb monologues and displays of flamboyant pageantry worthy of regale in the annals of cinema history.

The only character who I feel like was underutilized was Broomhilda. Kerry Washington is a very talented actress but she is seemingly used as nothing more than a prop or a plot point to motivate Django and Shultz.  In the brief instances of screen time she receives, she speaks dialogue in German and undergoes brutal torture, showcasing the potential to be a character of real depth and charisma. But alas, not enough time is given to her personally and she is delegated to throwing on a stoic face while every other (male) character exchanges bombastic edicts and white-hot lead. It would have been more satisfying to see her be a part of the ultimate resolution of the film, displaying some act of chemistry with Django himself, especially after she was freed, instead of just being an admiring onlooker and damsel in distress. Perhaps cut out some of Django’s and Shultz’s early work together to make time for this since Broomhilda is so important to the narrative.

Although “Django Unchained” is a simpler, more linear narrative than some of Tarantino’s other works, it is still a masterclass in filmmaking and storytelling. Like anything in life, it is objectively not perfect, but having room for improvement is just a badge we all must carry, and if that is really the sharpest criticism I can offer, then we can sleep easy tonight. If you are not a fan of violence or profanity in excess, then I can understand why you might feel drawn to his films, but there is no denying that he creates films that are uniquely his own. It is the personality of this film that separates it from other films of the genre. It cannot be replicated or counterfeited, and that is the legacy of this film.

I give “Django Unchained” a bounty of 9.0 out of 10

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 45 Minutes

Midsommar (2019) – Movie Review

I hope everyone is prepared for a good old-fashioned rant because the juices are flowing and we are rolling downhill. I just got out of the theater where I viewed “Midsommar”, a film that was marketed beautifully. I was convinced that this would be some mind-melting, artistic, philosophical horror spectacular. Even the great Jordan Peele, director and writer of modern horror classics “Get Out” and “Us”, hailed it as one of the best horror films he has ever seen. Needless to say, I was situated comfortably aboard this film’s hype train. Yet, here I am, violently thrashing against my keyboard, spewing the excrement that seeps from my brain into your eyeholes. There is a fire burning within me so strong that it could only be forged in the nuclear furnaces of betrayal. Why has it come to this? What could possibly compel me to feel things? Why?

This film is BORING! There, I said it. No amount of “well it got good reviews” tomfoolery will ever convince me otherwise. The runtime of this film is 2 hours and 21 minutes but I swear I entered the theater 3 weeks ago. In all my years of watching films, I doubt I have ever encountered a film that consistently stays at a pace this slow and still has the testicular fortitude to market itself as a suspenseful horror film. Sometimes a film will be so ambitious that it throws everything at you at once, and you could easily be overwhelmed. This is the polar opposite of that experience. This film is so ambitious that it doesn’t do anything ever and the horror and suspense elements that they advertise are derived solely from audiences’ expectations that something will happen eventually.

Do you want to know what the film is about? Of course, you do, you sheep. The film is about drugs, sustained awkward silences, and brightly lit, perfectly symmetrical landscape shots. It looks really good, and if there is any positive to be drawn here is that its cinematography is top-notch. But other than how it looks, they really only talk about the most loveless relationship ever portrayed in film, the occasional drug use, and just how odd Sweden is. I was expecting a deeper concept to be explored or even touched on in some capacity, but alas, it seems I asked for too much.

Don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying the Swedish cult isn’t weird, unsettling, or even sinister, because that would be a lie. Aesthetically, they check off every single box. But aside from maybe 2-3 instances, most of their horror is present only because we are given zero exposition of the rituals we are witnessing, and an outlandish culture is just alien to us. They do cross a line, which is promised in the trailers, so don’t think I am saying they are all smoke and mirrors, but the threatening aspect of their festivals is really only explored at the very end, despite the ominous tone trying to convince you that it is happening throughout the film. Even the “Cliff scene”, which is the first act of horror in the film and takes place a cool hour or so into the runtime, is still explained as a willing cultural tradition and viewed as just a barbaric way of celebrating life. Even most of the main characters seem to shake it off as just a weird way of doing things, sickening though it may be.

That brings me to my next point: all the characters suck. Christian (Jack Reynor) is the epitome of unlikable. He steals his friend’s thesis and tries to blame the theft of a cultural artifact on him. He also seemingly hates Dani (Florence Pugh), his girlfriend of 4 years, but keeps stringing her along. He even forgets her birthday. Dani’s lone trait is that she is sad a lot and knows that everybody else knows she is sad. Her family dies in the first few minutes in possibly the single most inconsequential deaths in cinema history. The purpose of that moment is just to send her to Sweden with the group of guys that seemingly hate her. Yeah, she is still sad throughout because of it, but it never contributes to any action she undertakes and is treated as more of a fun-fact about her life. The only character I found remotely entertaining was the eyebrows kid from “We are the Millers” (Will Poulter). He has one descriptive feature and that is he has a penis and will use it. That is right! He is horny and pees on a tree. Utterly brilliant.

“Midsommar” just feels pretentious. It masquerades about as this deeply intelligent thriller, relying on its bombastic visuals to create a compelling narrative with stakes, and in doing so, totally forgets to tell a worthy story. With a total lack of compelling characters or exposition, everything is dependent on just how creeped out we feel by observing a foreign culture, which would work so much better if (A) they did threatening acts more frequently, (B) the boring relationship dynamics are totally ignored, and (C) the victims are even remotely sympathetic or relatable.

I am truly baffled by the positive response to the film at this point, but I hope that some of you actually end up liking it and can share with me why you feel that way. I will warn any casual viewer of movies that you will absolutely be bored watching this movie. Some of you may appreciate the technical achievements that are certainly noteworthy, but I highly doubt people will actually be entertained throughout the film.

I give “Midsommar” a disappointing 4.5 out of 10

Directed by: Ari Aster
Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomberg, Will Poulter, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe
Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 27 Minutes

MCU Phase-by-Phase Recap

Now that Marvel has put a nice ribbon on Phase 3 of their Cinematic Leviathan, I thought it would be prudent to go back and relive all the highs and lows of the journey that brought us here. We have grown so much from our humble beginnings crawling out of that cave with Tony. Now we look back at how difficult it was for Iron Man to learn to fly with laughter while we flash our time travel watches that Tony invented in one day after one single trial. And maybe, just maybe, we have learned a little something about ourselves along the way.

PHASE 1:

In the beginning, the Lord gave us our core Avengers… and it was good. This was a simple time. A time without Disney or Spider-Man. I know it is hard to remember now, but this was the time before the MCU was a safe bet. Oh, how the times have changed.

High Point – Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man is where it all began. It came out the same year as “The Dark Knight” and somehow managed to standout. Considering how difficult it seems to be to consistently make solid origin films, this shouldn’t go unrecognized. “The Avengers” is also a noteworthy addition but without “Iron Man”, we would have nothing!

Low Point – The Incredible Hulk (2008)

You know it is a low point when the lead actor doesn’t return and they never make another Hulk movie again. How many of you remember any other character’s name besides Bruce Banner without giving the old Google machine a visit? Marvel is trying its very best to pretend this film never happened, which is fine because most of us forget about it anyway.

Underrated Film – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

It is really not great. Stacked up against the entire franchise’s library, it is in the lower tiers. But the Red Skull is a very interesting villain that somehow still exists currently at the end of Phase 3, and we are introduced to our first Infinity Stone. Also, beating the shit out of Nazis is always a positive thing to be celebrated. Phase 1 is pretty bottom-heavy but this one is the most ok of the bunch.

Best Villain – Loki (“Thor” and “The Avengers”)

Loki is the MCU’s first reoccurring villain and certainly the first one that has become a true fan-favorite. With a mix of charming British pipes, luscious flowing locks, and a dubious smirk that will make you melt, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is an MCU character that has undergone multiple arcs and is as important to the franchise as any of the core Avengers.

Best Moment – “I am Iron Man” (Iron Man)

This moment was so impactful that it ended up being recreated for the singular climax for the entire Infinity Saga. It started it all and it ended it all. Nothing more needs to be said.

PHASE 2:

Now we are up to the middle child. This is the one no one loves because it is not the classics that make us feel safe from the ever-changing world, and it is not the modern, most ambitious group. It is a sad in-between to find yourself in but there are some real diamonds in the rough here. Let’s take the time to fully appreciate what Phase 2 has to offer.

High Point – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) / Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Yeah, I know it is lazy to have a tie but this is my world and I make the rules. “The Winter Soldier” is just an incredibly solid spy/thriller that is one of the finest films in the entire franchise. “Guardians of the Galaxy” was such an unexpected surprise, blending science fiction, comedy, and adventure in such a perfect way. Both of these films deserve to be mentioned here.

Low Point – Thor: The Dark World (2013)

This will forever be known as the film where Natalie Portman phoned it in, but this goes beyond that. I saw this one once and then never felt the need to revisit it ever again. It is a boring blob of dull grays and browns with one of the least interesting villains the human mind could conceive of. I don’t think I have ever met a person who thinks this film is a positive entry in the franchise.

Underrated Film – Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

It feels sacrilegious to say an Avengers film is underrated but here we are. “Age of Ultron” is definitely the runt of the Avengers litter, and because of that, fans sometimes think it is a bad film. But it is a competently made film with lasting consequences in the franchise and a charismatic villain to go with it. Maybe it is not the best ever, but it is far from a bad film.

Best Villain – Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

After looking at the pool to choose from, I realize Phase 2 is lacking in quality villains. Ultron is actually really fun to watch, and James Spader does not get enough credit for giving a hive-minded android a personality. Bucky could be here but he is really part of HYDRA and they have become irrelevant in recent films so that’s a no-go from me.

Best Moment – The Dance Off (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Tell me I am wrong. The best moment of Phase 2 is easily when Ronan: The Accuser was defeated by the power of 80s dancing. I really shouldn’t need to defend this because it is so obviously correct.

PHASE 3:

This is where Marvel really puts it all together and kicks it into high gear. Phase 3 is the largest phase in the franchise and the one that delivers the most consistent quality. The truest testament to it is that this is where the MCU leapfrogged Star Wars in the all-time rankings. “Which rankings?” you might be asking yourself. My rankings, of course. Those are the only ones that matter.

High Point – Avengers: Infinity War (2018) / Avengers: Endgame (2019)

This one doesn’t feel as cheap as the last tie because this is basically Part I and Part II to the same story; the Infinity Saga. These films have the most consequences that Marvel has ever put in their films. They were willing to push boundaries that they were afraid of earlier on and created possibly the greatest cinematic experience ever.  

Low Point – None

Fight me. There are no bad films in Phase 3. Look at all of them and tell me I am wrong. If you say “Ant-Man and the Wasp” then you clearly have not seen it and I simply do not respect you as a person. Even at its lowest, Phase 3 is still in the good-great range, and I will not slander a movie that is quality just to have an answer to this question.

Underrated Film – Doctor Strange (2016)

Again, none of the films are bad so ipso-facto they are all good, and it seems disingenuous to say that any of them are underrated. But “Doctor Strange” is trippy and for that, I put it on here. The visuals in this film can explode a lesser person’s mind. The character Doctor Strange is among the most powerful introduced in the entire franchise and having Benedict Cumberbatch is something I will not take for granted.  

Best Villain – Thanos (Avengers: Infinity War / Avengers: Endgame)

I mean, duh… Thanos went from a random comic book villain to a legitimate cultural icon. He destroyed half of all life and actually won. This is no contest to the farthest extent. I should mention that Dormamu, Ego, and Hela are also crazy powerful and if any of them teamed up even one time, there isn’t an army of superheroes who could do anything about it. Killmonger and Zemo were good, intimate villains too, but you’re out of your damn mind if you think anybody but Thanos takes this.

Best Moment – The Snaps (Avengers: Infinity War / Avengers: Endgame)

The moment that Thanos instantaneously wiped out half of all life in the universe then got away might have been the singular biggest gut-punch in any superhero film. We would have to wait over a year, and over 5 years of in-universe time, to see how a loss of this magnitude could ever be redeemed. Little did we know that it would permanently cost the lives of Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff. When Professor Hulk reversed the snap to undo the decimation and Tony used the Infinity Stones to defeat Thanos, it was the ultimate victory for our heroes that we spent over 10 years growing with. Their sacrifice is their legacy, and it is one that will likely never be topped.


So now you have heard my mighty opinions, but I would love to hear yours! What were your highlights and lowlights of each of Marvel’s Phases? Did I miss anything significant to you? Let’s discuss!

Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019) – Movie Review

At long last, Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now complete, and what a doozie that was! After “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” blew our tiny little minds, “Spider-Man: Far from Home” is here to essentially serve as an epilogue to the most ambitious chapter this franchise has produced so far. Consider it to be the punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. Early-viewing feedback of “Far from Home” would have you believe that somehow this film has exceeded the quality of “Endgame” and I want to extinguish that flame immediately. “Far from Home” is a quality film within the mythos, but “Endgame” was a force of nature. Let us not waste time and energy facing those two against each other. What is important is that this film is very entertaining, with great characters and a unique, charismatic villain.

To start, I should admit that I have a major gripe with this film’s marketing. They began advertising its release with actual footage from the movie months before “Avengers: Endgame” was released in theaters, which is a problem when two of the most prominent characters shown in the trailers were currently snapped out of existence. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to realize that Peter Parker and Nick Furry were going to return after “Endgame” somehow but I really wish that Marvel and Disney would have at least played along with its own charade and humored us with the possibility that Thanos’s snap might have been permanent. Apologists will say that it was common knowledge that those characters were going to survive but I simply wish that there was no physical evidence of that before we saw exactly how it happened in a separate film. Obvious or not, it does detract from the viewing experience in some capacity. But alas, what is done is done.

On a more positive note, Tom Holland, once again proves that he was perhaps born to play Peter Parker by delivering a performance that is so close to the source material, you would be excused if you believed he is just a living incarnation of a comic book. His mannerisms and chemistry with every character, especially with Zendaya’s MJ, are exactly what you would hope for from a socially awkward nerd who is coping with the balance between doing the right thing and trying to live a life of his own. His arc is about growth and maturity. He is trying to live up to the expectations of his late mentor, Tony Stark, while understanding that doesn’t mean he isn’t allowed to fail, just as long as he learns from his mistakes to better himself. I would have preferred the writing to have a greater focus on the responsibility aspect of his character, however. It seemed throughout the film, characters wanted to tell Peter than he needs to be 100% committed to his role as a hero even at the expense of his own social life, but no one really musters up the words, and so you feel like it was a lesson he ignored in favor of simple growth. Perhaps this will be addressed in future installments.

An issue for debate that I noticed is fairly common amongst fans is that Peter’s growth in the MCU is different than that of the comic books and the other movie iterations we have seen in the 21st century. This Peter has a similar personality but he has close friends who he allows in on his secret, whereas Sam Raimi’s version was forced to isolate himself and sacrifice his personal life in order to fully commit to being the hero he knew he needed to be. Some may argue that the MCU is not true to the character of Spider-Man because he is so well supported by others, but to that I just note how this is a different version of the character. Just because all the versions are portraying the same character does not mean the character has to be the same for all versions. This Peter makes sense within the context of his environment and I hope people who have an issue with it can grow to accept these differences, rather than pout. And for the life of me, I cannot understand why everyone would want to see the exact same thing we have already seen multiple times in favor of a different take.

As for Jake Gyllenhaal, he has always been unfairly criticized by me throughout his career. I have no idea why he always faces my scorn, especially since most of his films are actually pretty good, but he has found himself on the wrong end of my sword for years now. After seeing him play Mysterio, I think I have finally let down my walls and allowed myself to love him. He was incredibly charismatic, portraying a very unique character, that despite a so-obvious-it-hurts turn to the dark side and cliché motivations for doing so, he might be the reason this film will stand out amongst the metric tons of Spider-Man movies we have the past few decades. The visuals in this film are also noteworthy. Because Mysterio is so prominent in the story, the use of special effects and trippy mind games are essential to making the character work. There are multiple sequences where the special effects are so effective that you feel lost in the chaos of it all with Peter. Come award season, I would not be surprised if this film takes home a gold statue for its work in this area.

I personally believe that the most impactful aspect of this film would be the two credit scenes, which establish Spider-Man’s trajectory into the upcoming Phase 4, as well as a total change in the status quo for other main characters. The film itself is a good story, but it is these two extra scenes that hit the hardest. No spoilers, but I promise your mouths will be left agape as you try to process what just happened so quickly and how you will have to wait about a year for the MCU to make another film to receive any answers.

Compared to the early feedback you might have heard on Twitter, anything less than a 10 out of 10 might feel like a disappointment, but it is not the film’s fault that it was overhyped. It is actually a very fun film that serves its purpose in the grand scheme very well. The action is thrilling, the comedy is plentiful, and the story portrays a different sort of threat that we have not yet seen in a franchise that now exceeds 20 films before it. I personally still believe “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “Spider-Man 2” (2004) are better films than this, but “Far from Home” is just below their tier of Spider-Man films, and there is no shame in that.

I would give “Spider-Man: Far from Home” a reasonable 8.2 out of 10.

Directed by: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, Jon Favreau
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 Hours and 9 Minutes

5 Things I Would Put in My Star Wars

I feel like I have not created any content recently that was truly interactive. This page is still young and most of you guys seem a bit shy about commenting or interacting, so I suppose it is about time I begin to address the matter. I almost didn’t make a post today but at around 3pm, this idea hit me so I am going to run with it. Consider yourselves blessed. Well, as it was, I was doing a little reading up on how to develop this site and it occurred to me that I should be more personal with my posts. I know sometimes I ramble on or write like I am trying to impress your average 9th Grade English Lit teacher, so I hope this one feels more personable.

Star Wars. I love it. Everyone who knows anything about me knows I love it. By pure coincidence, I happen to be wearing a Star Wars T-shirt as I write this. I also say that no one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans, and it is no secret that I have been fairly critical of plenty of the recent Star Wars projects pioneered by Disney. But I am tired of being so critical and I want to be totally constructive for a change. So, instead of saying where I believe Star Wars has gone wrong in the past, I made this list to discuss what I would add to Star Wars, if I were the one creating it, to make it better!

I would really like to get some interaction on this post, so after you give it a read, why not respond with your own personal thoughts about this. Anyway, I have bored you enough with this introduction so let us begin.


A Villain motivated by something other than power or conquering the galaxy

I don’t mean simplifying it to something as general, like being motivated by money or having them be bullied as a child and now they are nuts. Revenge is a played-out concept, especially in blockbuster films. I want something creative and genuine. I get that rage and greed are easy ideas to express to large audiences, but I have never understood the idea that audiences can’t handle ideas that rise above the lowest common denominator. The most popular films always have something that makes them stand above the herd. Why not explore a primary antagonist that has something else in mind besides being the ruler of everything everywhere? Maybe I am naïve but I am fairly sure there are more than one or two ways to be a threat or opposition.

New planets

And for the love of everything sacred, stop with the desert worlds! I saw a picture on Instagram a few weeks ago that showed that Star Wars live-action movies, including the upcoming Rise of Skywalker, will feature 6 or 7 different desert planets. Honestly, that is absurd. This is not exclusively Disney’s fault either since Tatooine and Geonosis already existed before they took over, but they haven’t helped with the additions of Jakku, Jeddah, Savareen, and Pasaana just since 2015. I really just wish for better world-building so I have new places to go when I daydream. Disney has been fairly decent at this, although it seems their main objective every film is to recreate the “magic” of the Mos Eisley cantina with practical aliens and sets. Let us be creative. There is near limitless possibilities of worlds, cultures, aliens to create. My Star Wars will not be constrained by the familiar and won’t be afraid to make a planet with CGI!

Give the Force some nuance

I am talking about actually exploring the philosophical differences between the light and the dark, beyond just anger and compassion. This is a concept that has plenty of legs in most of the expansive materials in Star Wars, both old and new, but for some reason, we have not gotten a real good look at what each side stands for beyond a few buzzwords like “power”, and “darkness”. Allow the dark to be a champion of individuality. Make it more than just about being powerful because there is more to it. Let there be a bad guy who wants what is best for other people. Let us discuss how the Jedi teach you not to love, or how they actually take Force-sensitive children from their parents. And maybe discuss the fact that just because one side is wrong about an issue doesn’t mean the other side is right. When the Force was first conceived by George Lucas, it was supposed to be simple. But after more than 30 years, it is time to grow up.

Expand the lore and history

Remember the awe we all felt the first time Obi-Wan explained what the Jedi and Force are “Before the Dark Times… Before the Empire”? How about when Luke made reference to The Clone Wars (Something that was totally offscreen until 2002) in the 1977 Original? The universe of Star Wars seemed so vast and unexplored. There were mysteries yet to be unraveled and worlds with stories that had already been told. Let’s bring this back! So far, the only canonical events of Star Wars take place within 60 years or so, with only a few mentions of any event that took place prior to The Phantom Menace in the timeline. I want to talk about the ancient Jedi and Sith. Learn about the events that shaped the Galaxy into what it is at the time of the stories we’ve come to know and love.

A goddamned Jedi War

WHY HASN’T THIS HAPPENED YET? I don’t care if it is Jedi vs Sith, Sith vs Sith, or Jedi vs Jedi, or some other group.  Let us finally have our large-scale battle between multiple Force users in live-action. Give us that hardcore lightsaber-on-lightsaber action. We have the budget and technology to make something of this scale a reality. I am tired of these stupid one-on-one fights between amateurs! I thought this was the Major Leagues?! Or maybe, at the very least, have a Star Wars version of John Wick and have one man systematically dismantle an entire army. Either is good for me.


Well, what does everybody else think? Do you agree with my thoughts or is there something else that you would really like to see in Star Wars? Please comment on your thoughts and I’d love to discuss them with you!

Toy Story 4 (2019) – Movie Review

EMOTIONS! Yes, Pixar is back on their bullshit again, and you better believe you will cry or you will die trying. “Toy Story 4”, or what I have dubbed “Toy Story IV: The Quest for Peace”, is the fourth time Pixar has hit us with this story about the life of toys, a journey of self-realization, and their struggle to come to grips with their place in a world that considers them lifeless husks of plastic, all while ignoring the fact that iPads exist and kids now have electronics to have imaginations for them. But instead of giving fan favorites Jessie and Buzz much to do, this story is about Woody (Tom Hanks), the homicidal control-freak from the original, and his sole responsibility of keeping Forky (Tony Hale) from committing suicide by constantly jumping out of moving vehicles. You know, a kids’ movie.

Forky is a toy made by Bonnie in the first day of kindergarten out of someone else’s chewed gum and used spork. Through the power of a child’s wondrous imagination, life is breathed into his inanimate corpse and he rises into the world of the living only to discover that his life is suffering because he rightly believes himself to be disposable trash. I actually found him hilarious as a character. His constant craving for death and is nativity are ripe for a brilliant wit that spawns plenty of laughs throughout the film. But his presence raises a bevy of questions that can melt your brain, primarily: if Forky is only alive because he is considered a toy, then can’t anything and everything be alive as well? He is literally living garbage. Just draw a face on a gun and now we have a problem. And what about toys of the adult variety? I bet they’ve seen some shit… Thanks for that Pixar.

Maybe I have taken too deep of a dive into the implications of the film and the philosophical impact it would have on our reality. I have been known to treat whimsical subjects a bit too seriously from time to time. But I do not see how a question can be raised and I am not expected to create a “Beautiful Mind” conspiracy theory board of newspaper cutouts and string. Frankly, I think it is Pixar’s fault to assume that lunatics like me would not take the time to explore these questions. But anyway, I digress…

Like Forky, there are several other new characters that command most of the screen time. Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) continues the franchise’s trend of antagonists that have an unfair existence and sympathetic motivations. Bunny and Ducky give us some great Key & Peele banter, especially when they are interacting with Buzz. But the greatest new character is Duke Caboom: Canada’s Greatest Stuntman, played by the breathtaking Keanu Reeves. He is just such a ridiculous character, simultaneously going through traumatic episodes of PTSD and Canadian patriotism. His encouraging motto of “Yes I Canada!” should be put on the Canadian dollar bill.

When it comes down to it, these films are really about Woody first and foremost, and a major focal point of the film is Woody’s relationship with Bo Peep (Annie Potts). This is a dynamic that has been teased since the original film but now it has become a central focus. Bo has grown vastly more independent since the early days of the franchise and she shepherds Woody along this journey. While the idea of two toys sharing a mutual romantic interest in one another is certainly progressive, I found Bo’s mentorship to Woody to be way more impactful. She is the catalyst that helps his character grow and fosters a major change in the status quo.

“Toy Story 4” is a quality film that delivers on humor and emotions, and will be enjoyed by children and adults. Having said that, I felt that mildly underwhelmed at times, likely as a result of fatigue from the franchise. There is nothing specifically I can point to that makes this movie lesser or greater than any of its predecessors, and if you are one who does not feel any drag from seeing yet another “Toy Story” movie, then more power to you. It is another good, solid movie in a franchise that consistently delivers a quality product.

I give “Toy Story 4” a solid yet familiar 8.5 out of 10

Directed by: Josh Cooley
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Christina Hendricks, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves
Rated: G
Runtime: 1 Hour and 40 Minutes

Tropic Thunder (2008) – Movie Review

I am usually not a fan of the antics of Ben Stiller. Aside from the “Dodgeball” most of Stiller’s films are insufferable. A friend of mine once described the unreasonably popular “Meet the Fockers” series as just 3 separate 2-hour installments of Ben Stiller suffering, and despite my best efforts, I have yet to come up with a more accurate means of representing them on my own. I just do not have the required constitution to endure more forced awkward situations deriving from the fact that his name is Gaylord and Robert DeNiro doesn’t like him for being meek. His brand of comedy is usually difficult to get through, but like everything in life, there are always exceptions to the rules.

“Tropic Thunder” is a film that, to me, breaks the mold. I find it often gets lost among the many comedic hits of the mid-2000s, such as “Step Brothers”, “Wedding Crashers”, and “Anchorman”, and this is likely due to the fact that it bears minimal resemblance to those other films aside from the possession of humor. It is a high budget affair with more special effects and mainstream star power in its cast than a typical comedic picture. Those films are pure comedies with plots that are jokes within themselves, whereas “Tropic Thunder”, by contrast, is actually a work of satire, with legitimate commentary on the film industry itself. “Tropic Thunder” is the story about the filming of a movie, called “Tropic Thunder”, which goes terribly wrong.

This movie plays on many tropes of Hollywood, including the over-saturation of war movies, action stars trying to prove they are talented by trying and failing to succeed in dramatic roles, and of course, how the entire industry is fueled by greed and cocaine. The film utilizes hyper-absurdity to make commentary on just how ridiculous the self-important culture of Hollywood really is. Whether it be Matthew McConaughey’s agent literally going to the ends of the Earth to have the studio fulfill his clients contractual demand for a TiVo, or Brandon T. Jackson’s Alpa Chino only doing the film to advertise his new energy drink, every character has such a narrow view of what matters, yet will do absolutely anything to achieve their goals. Tom Cruise’s Les Grossman is a testament to that. He is a ruthless producer who is willing to sell out the life of his stars in order to collect insurance money, and amazingly enough, he is not even the outrageous human being in the film. While I am on the subject, I should give special recognition to Cruise for his performance. It is only a minor role but it is among the funniest I have ever seen.

The most extreme take we bear witness to is Robert Downey Jr., who plays Kirk Lazarus, a psychopathic method actor who has the art of winning critical allocates down to a science. Kirk is a blonde Australian, but undergoes a skin pigmentation transplant to play a black character in “Tropic Thunder”, thus causing Robert Downey Jr. to be in blackface for a majority of his time on screen. His role and performance are met with controversy because of the blackface, and if this is a deal-breaker for you, I understand. If you have a problem with an actor in blackface, I bet you must also have a problem with an actor playing a Nazi or a villain of any type. It should not matter if there is nuance to the performance or if the message is that a person like that should be viewed with scorn. No film should depict bad acts ever. It is wholly unacceptable!

Yes, blackface is racist. That much is a given. Bad things are bad. It does not make an ounce of logical sense to hold it against an actor for performing the heinous acts of a character. After all, it is only acting. This coincides with the issue of censorship and allowing the freedom to explore different avenues of discussion. Similar to offensive jokes that utilize shock humor, Robert Downey Jr.’s role hits with the same sort of force. Your morality, no matter how widely accepted it is, should not be the threshold for what is acceptable in speech. Similarly, it is not an endorsement of the action itself to laugh at something that is beyond the scope of behaviors society deems acceptable. Do not get stuck on the fact that the joke is too offensive that you miss the punchline, because you may find that the joke itself is actually advocating for exactly the type of decency you think is missing in the first place. And even if it is not, instead of censoring the speech, simply do not engage with it.

If you choose to dissect the decision, you will find that his character is purposefully being outrageous to prove a point. Actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and Christian Bale, who so fully immerse themselves in roles and delve into “the process”, become empty sacks with no real person occupying their bodies, only the roles they play. They reek of pretentiousness, are ignorant to who they might be offending, and are often unaware of just how out of touch with humanity they really are despite always being rewarded for being so. This role provides poignant commentary on a legitimate real-world phenomenon and fully basks in the satirical nature of the film.

Frankly, “Tropic Thunder” is really funny. Comedy films sole reason for existing is to entertain the masses, and on that front, this film emphatically delivers. The jokes consistently land and there are a number of moments where you might tear up from the humor. It is just a bonus that there is a message to absorb as well. If you want to turn your mind off and laugh at a crazy story, you will enjoy this movie. Just shut up and laugh.

I give “Tropic Thunder” an underappreciated 8.8 out of 10

Directed by: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Brandon T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, Nick Nolte, Danny McBride, Bill Hader
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 47 Minutes Z

10 Guaranteed Future Oscar Winners

Here is a life lesson for all the young and impressionable kids out there: Things are only worth doing if you get rewarded for them. It is basic logic. Why would you do anything that doesn’t offer you something in return? That’s just an inefficient use of your time and energy. And everyone knows the two most precious commodities in life are possessions and other people’s opinions of you. Frankly, nothing else comes close to the dopamine boost you get from some stranger validating your own existence by acknowledging that you are wheat amongst the chaff. It is very important to know that without the approval of other people; you are a loser.

For an actor, winning an Oscar satisfies all of Maslow’s pyramid of needs forever. What could be better than a valuable possession that tells the world that you are important? Nothing, that’s what! Oscars are more valuable than life itself. You may be thinking “Oh Zach, that is not true. My children’s love is the most valuable thing to me”, and quite honestly, your insincere thoughts disgust me. Everyone can have kids but only gods who walk amongst us mortals win Oscars! Try getting into a fancy restaurant without a reservation by saying “But garçon, I love my children! What do you mean there is not a table for me?”. Enjoy being a starving nobody, loser. But you flash a gold statue at them and suddenly you’re the second coming of Christ.

There are plenty of talented performers who deserve to take home the gold and have yet to be recognized, and that is just a travesty. There may be nothing in this universe that saddens me more than when the elites of society are not treated as prestigiously as they should be. Can you think of any graver miscarriage of justice than that? They are the Fancy Feast of people. With this in mind, I had the idea to make a list of 10 performers who I 100% guarantee will win an Oscar someday. Go ahead and disagree with my picks. You can’t prove this won’t happen.

This list will be a little different than my previous Top 10 Lists. Instead of counting down 10-1, this will be composed of two separate Top 5 Lists: one for actors and one for actresses. They do not compete directly against each other in the award race, so it does not seem fair to make them compete head-to-head here. To qualify for this list, a performer has had to have accumulated ZERO Oscar nominations as of 2019 because there really is no skill in predicting that Amy Adams and her 6 nominations will eventually get a win. That is a layup and I am taking nothing but half court shots! Zeros to heroes ONLY!

Actors

A quick note about actors: Nicholas Cage is an Oscar-winner so if that happened, no pick is too outrageous to be true. But even I do not have the audacity to take a shot in the dark that wild. My honorable mentions are Mads Mikkelsen, Donald Glover, Idris Elba, Domhnall Gleeson, and Peter Dinklage.

5. Oscar Isaac

Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis in “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013)

Do you really think it is a coincidence that the first performer I listed is named Oscar? You are out here playing checkers (No, not the burgers), and I am over here playing 8-dimensional scrabble in ancient Mesopotamian Cuneiform. You are all just rats trapped in a maze of my design. Oscar, the person, will win an Oscar, the trophy, at some point in the near future. He is handsome as Hell, has leading-man charisma and the range to play characters on all ends of the morality spectrum. Isaac has anchored major blockbuster franchises like “Star Wars” and “X-Men”, as well as thought provoking Science Fiction films, like “Annihilation” and “Ex Machina”. He already has shown that he has musical talents in “Inside Llewyn Davis” where he managed to get a Golden Globe nomination, which is like the Kids Choice Awards of movie honors. The talent is there and he already has considerable name recognition in the industry, which really helps me feel confident in this prediction. Taking his relatively young age huge appeal, it is only a matter of time before the right role comes around for him to capitalize on and bring home that sweet, sweet gold trophy.

4. Daniel Brühl

Daniel Brühl as Fredrick Zoller in “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)

Brühl is an actor I feel most people can recognize by face but have no idea what his name is. That may be due to the fact that his full name is Daniel César Martín Brühl González, and that is a fairly unusual mix of flavors, to say the least. The German-Spanish actor is actually the inspiration behind me making this list after I watched him as Fredrick Zoller in “Inglourious Basterds” because he was just that impressive. Marvel fans might recognize him as Zemo from “Captain America: Civil War”, where is one of the few villains to actually succeed with their plan. Daniel is fluent in English, French, Spanish, and German which by itself should be worth some recognition. Being able to speak multiple languages only adds to the possibilities of roles that he is able to play, and seeing as though the Academy loves WWII films, there will always be a market for charismatic actors to play Nazis. In fact, there may be no actor more equipped to handle stories from that era in Europe. He has also delivered well-received performances in many projects over the past decade or so, including Golden Globe nominations for “Rush” and “The Alienist”. The more research I do into Brühl’s resume, the more I am actually shocked he hasn’t already won an Oscar. He has got the talent and the ability to fill an impressive number of niches that I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins multiple Oscars in his lifetime.

3. David Tennant

David Tennant as Killgrave in “Jessica Jones” (2015)

British nerds everywhere, rejoice! The 10th and best incarnation of the Doctor (I shouldn’t need to say this but I will: From Doctor Who) makes this list for many reasons, some of which are me being a bold visionary of the future, and others are me just being an observant human being. The obvious reasons he is here is because he is an extraordinary actor who knows how to tackle a variety of roles. He is Scottish, and like most British actors, he is a master of dialects and can be a chameleon of sorts, playing people from all over the world. Honestly, the only reason he has not broken into the mainstream for the film industry yet is that he seems to be very dedicated to television, where he has been a consistent superstar for many years now. My bold prediction is that I believe the Oscars will eventually add a few competitive categories as they eventually catch up to modern filmmaking practices, and one of those categories will be Best Performance by a Voice Actor. Tennant has quite the filmography of voice acting gigs on TV and film, and his talent for creating new unique dialects is among the best ever. He began his career as a Shakespearean stage actor, so I have no doubts he could also win for a live-action role, but his prowess in voice acting just provides so many opportunities to win that Oscar gold in the future.

2. Cillian Murphy

Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby in “Peaky Blinders” (2013)

Did you know that Cillian Murphy was almost Batman? If it wasn’t for Christian Bale, the man who I so bravely claimed is the best film actor in the game now, Cillian might have already been a household name. This is another case of an actor who is more recognizable by face than he is by name, but he is great in almost every project he participates in. The reason I put the Irish actor on this list is that many of the best filmmakers in the business love him. Murphy has appeared in 5 Christopher Nolan films, as well as Danny Boyle and Ron Howard pictures, among many other successful projects. Since 2013, he has also been the lead actor on the critically acclaimed television series “Peaky Blinders”. These are directors that consistently create award-worthy projects and his proximity to them will be an important factor in landing a role that will garner Oscar attention. With his undeniable ability, it seems inevitable that Cillian will get the hardware someone of his capability deserves.

1. Ewan McGregor

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” (2005)

I need to say this: It is an ABOMINATION that Obi-Wan Kenobi has never even sniffed an Oscar nomination. I mean that actually isn’t 100% accurate since Alec Guinness was nominated for an Oscar for playing Obi-Wan in the original Star Wars, but the younger, far more charming Obi-Wan has never been nominated, and that is just unacceptable! Ewan is just an amazing human being and he deserves the world. He can sing, has mastered multiple accents, and somehow made the writing of the George Lucas Star Wars Prequels sound charismatic and sincere. Considering he has been a well-known commodity for a long time now, it is surprising that he has not scored that one role to catapult him to the Oscar podium yet, but that just means he is an easy pick for me on this list. He has everything going for him, including the fact that he has begun directing films as well, so I see nothing but an overstocked trophy case for him in his future.

Actresses

Marissa Tomei won an Oscar for “My Cousin Vinny” so miracles have been known to occur. I think my picks are more reasonable than that. My honorable mentions are Scarlett Johansson (Yup, she has never been nominated), Morena Baccarin, Emma Watson, Rose Byrne, Karen Gillan, and Gabrielle Union.

5. Auli’I Cravalho

Auli’l Cravalho performing “How Far I’ll Go” at the 2017 Oscars

Auli’l Cravalho convinced me of this prediction from the first moment she took the stage at the 2017 Oscars as a 17-year-old, where she performed “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s “Moana” and single-handedly made every lesser talent in the world crap their pants in unison. When I was 17, I was so awkward that everyone just accepted my floppy head of curly red hair as an accessory to my stupid personality. Meanwhile, Auli’l lights the world ablaze with some of the greatest live singing I have ever heard at the most watched Hollywood event on national television. Anyone who can rise to the occasion as she did is a literal force of nature and will simply take an Oscar one day. Her acting career is still young so she does not have the largest filmography yet, but she has already starred in a major Disney animated feature and a role in the TV drama “Rise”. Considering how brief her career has been to this point, it is apparent that her talent is easily recognized by casting directors and I expect her to have an incredible career ahead of her.

4. Millie Bobby Brown

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in “Stranger Things” (2016)

Millie Bobby Brown is only 15 years old and already has earned 2 Emmy nominations. That alone should justify this spot for her but I’ll give you more because I am just generous like that. Since securing the role of Eleven in the amazing Netflix show “Stranger Things”, she has experienced a sort of meteoric rise to superstardom that has made her a household name and a highly sought-after commodity in Hollywood. According to her IMDb biography, which should be considered the gospel, she got into acting when she was bored and a top scout said: “she has instincts you cannot teach”. Essentially, she is just hardwired to be an actor and a damn good one at that. It is common knowledge that I love actors who master multiple dialects, and she was so convincing as Eleven from Hawkings, Indiana, that my tiny mind shattered to pieces when I heard her speak in her natural British tones. It takes many actors decades to master accents and she has it down to a science as a teenager. It only added to my confidence in her when I saw a video of her singing an Amy Winehouse song on the internet a few weeks ago, and I felt so inadequate as a human being. She is just grossly talented and is proof that we are all not created equally.

3. Christina Hendricks

Christina Hendricks as Joan in “Mad Men” (2007)

Christina Hendricks is one of the most underutilized talents in Hollywood today. It baffles me how she does not have a bigger presence in film than she does, but she seems to be more focused on television for the moment. First off, she is a redhead and us gingers must look out for each other. I first saw Hendricks on the science-fiction western “Firefly”, where she played a multifaced thief, who, despite only appearing in two episodes, had so many layers to her that no one really knows what her name is. She gained even more notoriety in “Mad Men” where she played Joan, the often-sexualized femme fatale secretary and partner, who displayed ambition, cunning, and vulnerability in a very layered character who experiences the world in a unique way. For her troubles, she was nominated for 6 consecutive Emmys. Hendricks has now moved into a lot of voice acting roles in movies and television, including spots on “Rick and Morty” and “Toy Story 4”. She has displayed a sort of gravitas to her, that one either has or does not, to go along with wit and the willingness to try different roles that makes her perfect for this list. Frankly, I see her fitting like a glove into the female lead of a Coen Brothers dark comedy, and now that I type that out, I will be really disappointed if that doesn’t happen soon.

2. Gina Rodriguez

Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva in “Jane the Virgin” (2014)

If you have read my review of Annihilation, and I know you all have, you might remember how I said that Gina Rodriguez delivered one of the better performances in the film. She had such an intensity to her that stemmed from paranoia, and her actions were the most human of everyone. At the time, I had not really heard much about Rodriguez, but I was very impressed, to say the least. Now that I have done some research, I can see that I might be a little late to the party. It seems many sources on the glorious interwebs also consider her to be one of the most prominent rising stars in the industry. She has won a Golden Globe for her leading role in the television series “Jane the Virgin”, a show currently boasting an astounding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. She has been widely praised for taking a character and premise that could be too outrageous to be believable and making her a grounded human with real charm within a telenovela soap opera. And so, while I may have only recently discovered her, it seems as though Hollywood is well aware of her presence and is eager to see what else she can do. The combination of her undeniable talent and the apparent abundance of opportunity in front of her makes me feel like an Oscar in her future is simply an inevitability.

1. Robin Wright

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in “House of Cards” (2013)

Robin Wright has been an established actress in Hollywood for decades now, and it is surprising that she has not gotten an Oscar nomination yet. And despite her being more seasoned than most of the Actresses on this list, I still have the most faith that she will win an Oscar one day, and I make that decision solely based on her performance in “House of Cards”. As Claire Underwood, she won a Golden Globe and was nominated 3 times in 5 seasons of the show’s run. She was ruthless and calculating, and everything you could have ever wanted in a compelling political character. The reason I use this as the basis of my prediction is that there will definitely be a Hillary Clinton biopic created in the near future, and Robin is the perfect choice for the role. Claire was loosely based off of Clinton and Wright has shown that not only does she have what it takes to handle a character that is so ambitious yet under constant fire, she is the best woman for the job. Major political and historical figures are always poised to get the Oscars’ attention and in today’s political climate, the one who scores that role might as well get the trophy when they sign their contract.

Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Movie Review

“Inglourious Basterds” has been a personal favorite movie of mine since my parents finally decided I was old enough to watch a rated R film when I got to high school. Please do not judge me for the fact that I was a sheltered child, and instead, judge yourselves because your parents clearly do not love you as mine love me. But despite my parents’ best efforts to contain me, it was a major step in my own character development when I was exposed to Quentin Tarantino and his Nazi-killing vision of history, and since that time, I have become the needlessly nihilistic bastard you have grown to tolerate. A truer character arc, I have yet to see.

This film has been widely revered for the past decade because it holds the reputation as the movie where “Hitler gets what he has coming to him and the good guys kill a bunch of Nazis”. While that is unequivocally a factual description of the events in the film, there is so much more to “Inglourious Basterds” than fetishized Nazi exterminations. I try to avoid speaking in hyperbole and superlatives where possible, especially regarding statements that cannot be confirmed by a quantitative measure, but I am feeling awfully rambunctious after re-watching the film. Dare I say, “Inglourious Basterds” has the most competently written script I have seen in a film to date.

The first element, and perhaps the simplest, that the script succeeds with is the plot. The story is divided up into 5 chapters, all taking place in Nazi-occupied France in the 1940s. Chapters 1 and 3 are centered around Shosanna “Emmanuelle Mimieux” Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), a French Jew who escapes execution at the hands of S.S. Col. Hans “The Jew Hunter” Landa (Christoph Walz) to go on to operate a French cinema under an alias, and host the premiere of a major Nazi propaganda film that is to be attended by Hitler, himself. Chapters 2 and 4 follow a US special forces unit of Jewish soldiers, led by Lt. Aldo “The Apache” Raine (Brad Pitt) with the singular goal of kicking Nazi ass and taking Nazi scalps. Chapter 5 is the culmination of both stories into a climactic finish.

What makes this such an important and difficult task for the Tarantino to undertake is that there is always the possibility of losing focus by shifting who the story is about so frequently. Yet, despite the constant fluctuations, the film remains steady, with each chapter providing equally compelling stakes and interesting events. If Shosanna’s story was less interesting than the Basterds’ escapades and vice versa, then the film would have suffered a sort of letdown every other chapter. That balance that the script achieves is an unheralded aspect that is often overlooked in favor of the flashier qualities of the film and is just as consequential in making “Inglourious Basterds” a complete film.

The element that most took me by surprise upon my most recent viewing is the dialogue. As I previously mentioned, the film is known for all the Nazi killing but I was very much caught off guard by the incredible volume of dialogue in the film. Most of the narrative is conversational, with relatively minimal violence in comparison. In general, the rule I have for films is that I would rather the story be shown to me than told to me, which often results in films that are saturated with dialogue to be viewed as lesser specimens than that of their more silent counterparts. But that is only if the dialogue is expositional, and this film does not commit that sin. Instead, the conversations’ purposes are the execution of information, and it is performed excellently.

Despite this being an American film, most of the script is written in German and French. Now, I do not think I need to explain to anyone in America that most of us do not have a strong grasp of the English language. Generally speaking, I do not have faith in the intelligence of our society and if anyone else has come up through the public school system or visited the internet recently, chances are you may share my feelings. So, to have an American writer, not only master dialogue in English but to also write equally skillfully in foreign languages, is just short of a superhuman feat in my opinion.

S.S. Col. Hans Landa best encapsulates Tarantino’s penchant for writing dialogue and Christoph Waltz’s acting prowess. As a conversationalist, he is second to none in cinema. He uses charm and wit to mask his sinister intent, all while speaking an astonishing four different languages fluently. He is in control of every single interaction, not due to a violent appearance or anything of the sort, but because he has an acute sense of the anxiety of those sitting across from him. At his whim, he is able to capitalize on insecurities and lies by teasing certain matters and utilizing awkward social graces to drag out conversations. It is really an art how there is never a single word uttered by this man that you do not believe he is at least 5 steps ahead of you.

What I most love about this film is that it is really about propaganda, and if any of you read my “V for Vendetta” review (Check that out, by the way), you’d know I have a sentiment for political propaganda that sometimes borders on the disturbing. The most obvious example is “Nation’s Pride”, the Nazi war film starring and about the exploits of Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl). This storyline is what draws every loose end of the narrative together. The film gets all the high-ranking Nazis and the Basterds into Shosanna’s cinema. The film is being hailed as the greatest piece of pro-Nazi media and is beloved by Hitler for the strength and power of Nazis in war. Its purpose is to rally the spirits of the German people and spread the idea of German dominance.

With regards to “Nation’s Pride”, there is no secret of its purpose within the context of the narrative, but it serves another purpose too. Before I discuss what that purpose is, I am going to propose a question: If the ‘bad guys’ of the war were considered to be the Americans, what sort of propaganda film do you think our leaders would show to express American dominance? I bet it would be a film that shows Jewish American heroes bashing Nazis’ heads in with baseball bats and shooting Hitler in the face while wearing a snazzy white tuxedo. I bet that film would star a handsome American actor, like let’s just say Brad Pitt, as the lead. And, I bet that the most important thing the audience takes away from that film after seeing it is just how America kicked Nazi ass. I hope you were able to arrive at the destination I was leading you towards but there is no shame if you still need some help. Tarantino created a propaganda film about propaganda film, and the effectiveness of his intent is only exacerbated by the fact that almost no one who watches it is aware of it.

Landa is a character that is also very aware of the effect of propaganda. He understands that perception is essentially the truth and is able to see through the lies to understand fact and separate it from reality. He is the best character at utilizing this to his own advantage, often exclaiming how he loves rumors and going on long-winded monologues about how we perceive the world. A prime example is his speech in the early moments of the film where he addresses how a squirrel and a rat are essentially the same but our perception of the two is what differs. And there are two lines he utters in the waning scenes that fully express his command of the subject matter. When he captures Lt. Raine, he tells him that “Your mission – some would call it a terrorist plot – is still a go”. And when he is willing to sell out his higher-ups for a better deal for himself, he says “What shall the history books read”. Landa knows that history is written by the victors, and thusly knows that it can be altered to fit whatever narrative is convenient. Who is to say that WWII did not play out exactly like this and the facts have been embellished in our textbooks? It probably is not the case but I can assure you, our perception of history is altered by our perspective of the events. Landa is willing to sell out for the history books to view him as a hero.

You may have noticed that when I first mentioned individual characters, I provided their aliases as well, and the reason I did that is that their aliases are propaganda too. Lt. Raine, as brutal as he is, is not an Apache (Which, in this instance, is a racist term used to describe him as a barbaric and lawless man from America). Even though Shosanna goes by the name Emmanuelle and masquerades as a non-Jew, she is still Shosanna, the Jew. Landa maybe called “The Jew Hunter” but he views his job as more of just a task rather than a ravenous hunt. And, of course, Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), nicknamed “The Bear Jew” though big and brutal, is not an actual golem. But with all of these characters, it is important to note that the perception of them is as impactful as who they actually are. Their reputations drive action and fear and cause events to transpire differently than if they were just the person underneath the alias. They have all managed to manipulate reality by changing perception. Like Lt. Raine says, “If it were up to me, you’d never take that [Nazi] uniform off until the day you die”, and that is because he does not like the idea of bad people changing the perception of them through misinformation. I guess some things really can only be solved by carving a Swastika into the forehead of Nazis.

Whether or not you choose to breakdown the intent of the film with the same rigor I did is your own decision. Most viewers do not consider all of the factors and are still mesmerized by great acting, well-timed brutality, and an expertly executed story. I often have a difficult time picking out which of Tarantino’s masterpieces is his true magnum opus, but “Inglourious Basterds” deserves to be in that conversation.

I would give “Inglourious Basterds” an emphatic 9.3 out of 10

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Fassbender, Daniel Brühl, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, B.J. Novak
Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 33 Minutes

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