I’ll make it quick. It’s too hot to read today.

I did have to think about this one a little bit, because the notion of a film changing my life seemed preposterous at first. I know film buffs out there might scoff at that, and I did say something just yesterday about Christoph Waltz’s performance in Inglourious Basterds changing my life, but that was just hyperbole. The truth is, would my life have turned out any differently if I hadn’t seen Jurassic Park?

I’m probably over-analyzing, as usual, because I think the person that came up with this is probably talking about perspective more than anything. Of course, there are movies that made me look at movies differently, naturally Schindler’s List made me think more deeply about The Holocaust. But for a movie to change my life is a big ask because I don’t normally watch a movie with that expectation. I usually just want some popcorn. And as I’ve said before, most movies I saw as a kid greatly impacted my life because I saw them a million times, and I didn’t have much else going on at the time. It would have been hard for a movie to not greatly impact my life.

But I thought a little more and suddenly, the answer was obvious. There was only one movie that truly inspired me to make changes in my life, and it was a documentary, of course.

An Inconvenient Truth

If you haven’t seen Al Gore’s documentary on the coming environmental apocalypse, well, I can only assume that it’s because you don’t like horror movies. Seriously, if you watch this movie and at least don’t decide to change how you recycle, then you are a mongrel. It was released in 2006, and things have obviously not gotten any better. This is the hottest June on record, people. Al wasn’t making this movie because he was mad he didn’t become President in 2000. The shit is hitting the fan. And if you saw the follow-up, An Inconvenient Sequel, you know that the Trump Administration not only failed to act, but actually set us back a few years. I mean, Northern California is burning, Florida is sinking, and we are just coming out of a plague. What’s next? Locusts?

I’m not going to get preachy here and tell you to write your local Congressperson, because that never works. It has to be a cultural change. Yes, my life was changed by this movie, but I already cared about the environment, which is why I saw it opening weekend in the first place (Plus, a portion of my ticket money went to an environmental charity if you saw it the first week. It was the last I could do.) But there was still a lot I didn’t know, and I’ll never be able to close Pandora’s Box now.

It’s been 15 years, and it’s only gotten worse. We need to do better, because the disasters aren’t just happening more often, they’re getting worse. The polar ice caps aren’t melting a little bit every day. They’re melting a little bit one day, then a little bit more the next day, then a little bit more the day after that, and so on. And nobody cares.

So, if you want to give a lick about one of the 30 movies that I’m going to talk about this month, make it this one. And you might as well buy the book, while you’re at it. We got one shot at this whole planet thing, so let’s not blow it.

Ugh. Day 19. I’m starting to feel like those writers who do stuff like eat fast food for 30 days straight just to see what it will do their system, and give them something to write about. I’m doing this for society!

So, my favorite director. This is definitely an interesting one, because that has changed a lot over the course of the last, oh, 30 years or so. I went through at least two Steven Spielberg phases in that time, an Oliver Stone phase after I saw Natural Born Killers, a Christopher Nolan phase after his Batman movies, obviously a Sam Raimi phase, a Tim Burton phase, and even a Joel Schumacher phase before he killed that with Batman and Robin. But those were just phases. Other than watching Ed Wood for a recent podcast, I can’t remember the last time I sat down to watch a movie that was directed by any of those people. It doesn’t mean I don’t like their movies, but I just don’t really follow around directors like I used to.

Except one. One director that I usually buy a ticket to see the movie opening weekend based solely on the director’s name. And he apparently only has one movie left; Quentin Tarantino. 

Of course, I did lambaste his most recent movie way back on Day 3, but overall, I still consider him my favorite director. Not only does he have a very particular style, a genre-hopping slate of films under his belt, and dialogue that is incredibly distinctive, he even gave birth to a generation of copycats/wannabes back in the 90’s after Pulp Fiction. I know this because I wanted to be one of those copycats. I was basically a wannabe wannabe. 

None of those people, including myself, could ever measure up, and none of them made a movie as good as Tarantino’s (Sorry 2 Days in the Valley or Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels, and other movies with 2 in the title , I guess.) None of them had the style, the knowledge of film history to draw from and the passion to go all the way. Most of them just wanted to do something for the shock value because they thought, “Well, that gimp scene was really shocking! I can do something like that!” But if you don’t have a story and characters to prop it up, it’s really not all that shocking at all because nobody cares.

Of course, it’s not just because I enjoy his movies that Tarantino is my favorite director. It’s also that I came of age with his movies. I had seen Reservoir Dogs and True Romance (which he wrote), and enjoyed them, but I was a young film student at Emerson College when Pulp Fiction burst on the scene, and I was hooked from there. That was 1994, 27 years ago as I write this. Obviously, a lot has changed, for me personally and the world, in general. But his movies have remained consistent (well, except Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but I’ll get over it.) He’s like a college drinking buddy that you stay in touch with even though the only thing you really have in common was drinking in college, but that’s enough, because the times were that good. And when Pulp Fiction came out, all of my fellow film students felt the same way. And then freaking Forrest Gump won Best Picture. I mean, Jesus.

But I actually don’t want to write about Pulp Fiction today. I could because I still love it, but really, I feel like everyone has done that already, and it’s not actually my favorite Tarantino movie. No, that honor goes to Inglourious Basterds.

Looking back, I can’t believe that this movie came out in 2009, because to me, it is still incredibly fresh. So many movies are a product of the era they are made in, even if they are a period piece like this one. But you could make Inglourious Basterds today, or you have made it in 1975 and it would have the same impact. The only thing that would date it would be the actors, who are all tremendous, of course.

I’m not a Hollywood insider or anything, so I don’t know if Tarantino has just gotten really good at pulling great performances out of his actors, or if the actors are just so excited because they have such great stuff to work with, or both, but in this movie, everyone is amazing. Even Mike Myers’ weird cameo is played well. And Brad Pitt, who is a very good performer, but often ends up playing himself, gets to chew the scenery here and I love it. His accent is somehow ridiculous and spot-on at the same time. (“We’re in the business of killin’ Nat-zees, and business is boomin’”) Also, I don’t know about anybody else, but this is the first time I ever saw Christoph Waltz in anything, and I think my life was changed for the better. The scene where Shosanna is sitting across from him, knowing he murdered her whole family, and they are getting ready to eat dessert, and he tells her to, “Attendez la creme.” has got to be one of my favorite movie moments of all time. It’s so simple, but it’s so well done that it seems like more. And when she finally does take a bite, with la creme, her eye-brows go up just a little bit, indicating to me that even though this guy is a Nazi scumbag who murdered my family, he’s right about how good the dessert is. He then puts his cigarette out in it before he leaves, just to show that he’s still a scumbag.

He does get his comeuppance, though, but he is not shot to death like so many other Tarantino villains. No, Pitt and BJ Novak (the two surviving Basterds) do to him what they did to every other Nazi they caught: carve a swastika into their forehead so that even when the war is over, people will still know they were Nazis. After Pitt has done his work, the final shot of the movie is him and Novak, smiling down at Waltz from his point-of-view, and Pitt says, “I think this just might be my masterpiece.” My brother posited a theory, which I agree with, that Pitt is standing in for Tarantino himself, looking out at us, telling his audience that this is his masterpiece. And I agree with that, too. 

There’s a lot more going on in this movie; the tavern shootout, Daniel Bruhl’s German solder turned actor, Shosanna’s revenge, but do i have to get into all of it? It’s a great film and if you haven’t seen it, well, what the Hell?

Ok. More to come tomorrow. In the meantime, check out the ol’ linktree for more Dursin. 

Why didn’t I skip weekends? Never did anyone say anything about this being 30 days in a row.

Anyway…

This one is pretty easy, though, because almost everything in this or any other blog I’ve written has at least some mention of Oscar-winner and Captain Marvel actress Brie Larson. So, it would be really silly of me to pick anyone else for today’s post. I mean, I’ll see anything with Tom hardy, but it’s still no contest.

But which Brie Larson movie to pick? I’ve already written a lot about Marvel and superhero movies, so I should go with something else. And as anyone who has read some of my stuff already knows, I don’t like all of her movies (Go back and read my post The Crap-tacular Now if you want to see how I feel about that one, if you couldn’t tell by the title.)

I do need to say that I have pretty much written about every Brie Larson movie already, so this will be another cut-and-paste job, but I went with a very underrated one, so it should still be fun. Enjoy it and come back tomorrow for my favorite director. And check out my linktree if you’re interested, and I hope you are. Without any further adieu, Brie Larson’s movie from October 2018 (Side note on that: This was before we thought Armie Hammer was insane, but I didn’t want to edit it too much. Just know that I have since changed my stance on him):

Free Fire

I’ll talk a lot more about Captain Marvel as we move along, but this is about movies that Brie Larson has already made. Now, I’ve ragged on a few of her movies in my previous posts, but because I’m feeling such good vibes from the trailer, I decided to cover what is, to date, my favorite Brie Larson movie, Free Fire.

A lot of people probably have never even heard of this movie, and if I weren’t scouring the globe for Brie Larson movies, I maybe wouldn’t have, either. And that would be unfortunate, because it’s a totally fun, awesome movie, one that I would have loved in college during my “Tarantino is God” phase, and totally worth your time (Seriously, it’s available free with Prime now, and I when is say “worth your time,” I mean it because it’s exactly 91 minutes, and 60 of them are one, long gunfight.)

Larson herself had just come from filming Room, for which she would win critical acclaim and an Oscar, but at the time, she was just making a fun action movie alongside Armie Hammer and Cillian Murphy. In fact, it was likely for the best that it happened that way, because the fame that came from her performance in Room could have possibly changed the vibe that this movie had going on, and that would have sucked, because the vibe that Free Fire had going on was that of a shoot-’em-up, gonzo, late-70’s blood bath. No CGI monsters smashing buildings or giants sky-lasers. Just people shooting each other and crawling around on the ground, wounded. And the great part is, when these people get shot, they feel it, and they scream in pain, and the people that shoot them even sometimes feel a little bad.

As a brief aside, can I just say that I am finding Armie Hammer to actually be quite an accomplished actor? I had honestly never heard of him before that horrible Lone Ranger debacle, but this dude has some chops. I love that he plays his handsomeness for comedy more often than not, where a lot of handsome Hollywood actors play their handsomeness for handsomeness.

The quick rundown of the story, such as it is, goes like this; in 1978 Boston, Larson’s Justine is helping to broker a deal between criminals for some rifles. So, of course, when you get a bunch of stupid criminals and some guns and put them together in an enclosed space, hilarity will ensue. As Larson puts it, Free Fire is simply “an action movie making fun of action movies.” That’s pretty good, but I don’t see it as “making fun,” as much as paying tribute to them, and making one that’s actually quite simple, and very good. There is of course some subtlety in the performances, of course, especially Hammer’s sweet-talking, sharp-dressed kingpin, and Sharlto Copley’s stupidly fake-smooth Vernon, and there’s some nods to the political unrest in Northern Ireland (hence the guns), but even if I didn’t see the opening minutes and had no idea who anyone was, I would have enjoyed this movie immensely.

Also, I know this may seem biased, but Larson happens to be playing the most intelligent character in the movie. She is the only female, and definitely stands out among the leisure suits and bad facial hair, but she there is also an edge to her that just isn’t seen in a lot of action movies from previous generations (She even has a great moment, while pointing her gun at one of her rivals: “We can’t all be nice girls.”) There were saucy female characters, to be sure, and there were hordes of Marion Ravenwood-esque women who could hold their own with the male bad guys, but also in the end had to be rescued by their leading men. Justine needs no rescuing, and in fact, has one up on all of them, and plainly states as much when she responds to one of the dimwit crooks when he asks if she’s F.B.I.: “I’m I.I.F.M.,” which stands for In It For Myself. I mean, Marion Ravenwood was definitely in it for the money (at least at first), but even she wasn’t savvy enough to put one over on both Indiana Jones and Rene Belloq.

I would like to say that I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone, but that’s really not an issue here. I guess I won’t tell you who, if anyone, gets away, but let me just say a bunch of people get shot, all of them more than once, there’s a lot of jokes and quips, Armie Hammer smokes a lot of weed, the filmmakers make great use of John Denver on the soundtrack, and assuming they have a pulse, the audience goes home happy. But don’t let the lack of plot twists and turns get you down, because, as I said earlier, there are great characters and performances in here. They are done so well, in fact, that even though they are all criminals, you kind of want them to make it. But you know that never really happens in these movies. Just enjoy them while they’re there, because it’s pretty unlikely you’ll see a Free Fire II: Guns Blazin’ anytime soon.

In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t post my favorite gif, one that I’ve used before in this blog, but now I can give it some context because it’s from this movie, and it pretty much tells you what the movie is all about. When Vernon sees Justine for the first time in awhile, he remarks that she is lovely, but also that she’s put on a bit of weight, and hopes that no one has “put a bun in her oven.” Justine’s reply, and the only appropriate one in this or any other era:

So, yeah, see Free Fire.

Man…

I don’t always like to go with the easy pick with this Challenge. I try to go with something a little different. But since it’s later on Saturday and I have been drinking, there’s really no other I can pick for my favorite film sequel than the Empire Strikes Back.

Younger readers (if there are any) should remember that for most of my life, this was the second Star Wars movie out of three. And if you ask a lot of people from my generation, it is probably their favorite (although a lot of people may pick A New Hope, which for most of my life was referred to as Star Wars.) It’s pretty amazing to think that a three-movie franchise that started in 1977 ended just a couple years ago, and is maybe still going on if you throw in the Disney + shows. So, is this even a sequel when ten movies came after it? and can I make the not-so controversial statement that most of the recent ones were so bad that I’d like to just pretend that it ended with Return of the Jedi? And how does Rogue One fit in as a prequel?

More importantly, who cares? Empire Strikes Back is still my favorite Star Wars movie, and for a good chunk of my life was my favorite movie, period. I remember seeing it many times in theaters with my parents, grandparents and basically any adult who would take me. I had a whole bunch of the toys, including Boba Fett’s Slave-1, which was one of my favorite toys of all-time, but has apparently become a problematic name. But it’s still a cool ship.

I love Harrison Ford’s performance. I love the AT-AT’s and the battle of Hoth. I love the asteroid field scene, the lightsaber duel, what a bad-ass Darth Vader is, and yes, even the ending. It’s one of the only Star Wars movies where the bad guys don’t look like total idiots. In fact, they are pretty dominant the whole movie until R2-D2 helps the rebels barely squeak by at the end. That’s how to make a movie with a really down ending somehow seem like everything turned out okay and get you to come back for the next one. It’s pretty basic Screenwriting 101. And did I mention At-At’s?

I don;t really need to go on, do I? It’s really the only film sequel I could have picked as my favorite. Not only is it one of my favorite movies in general, but what the Hell is a sequel these days, anyway? 

And also, AT-AT’s.

Come back… in a few hours, I guess. And Linktree!

Sixteen days straight is a long time. Honestly, I wish I had discovered this during COVID when I had way more time. This is starting to feel like Groundhog’s Day.

So, I had a little trouble thinking of a film that is personal to me. I mean, I’m 45 years old, and I have probably forgotten more movies than most people have seen. I generally don’t look at them like things to get personal about. They’re just constructs, really. Stories, real or imagined, that someone had in their head and thought, “This will make a good movie.” Why make it personal, unless I was the person with that idea in my head?

I was an extra in a couple movies – you can clearly see me pretending to talk to the guy next to me in a crowd scene in Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters, but I can’t imagine a more impersonal thing than being an extra.I mean, it’s easy money, but I remember the day I filmed that scene, sweating in the August heat in period tweed clothes while going in and out of a Harvard lecture hall, pretending to get ready to watch a debate. After about 12 hours of that, they let us go home, but wanted us to come back the next day, and bring a friend because they were going to be short on extras for that scene. Not only did I not tell a friend, but I didn’t even go back the next day, so I guess they were even shorter. Yes, I was getting paid to sit around, but my time was more valuable than whatever they were paying, as was sleeping in.

So, not so personal. I could have picked a movie like Clerks or something like that, and then just cut and pasted my recent post about it on my sub-stack, but even though my goal in life at one time was to make a movie, and I kind of made a couple, it doesn’t seem that personal all these years later. Just another movie I used to watch a lot when I was 18.

But don’t worry. I did come up with a movie that is personal to me, so strap in for the story of me and:

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The funny thing is, I don’t recall the first time I even saw it, but I’m sure I rented it from my local video store and thought it was pretty hilarious. Even back then, I appreciated Donald and Daffy Duck sharing the screen together, and how cool it was to have animated and real characters interacting, and Jessica, well… Everyone appreciates Jessica. I remember years later, at a comic convention, one of the dealers showing my friends and I pictures of her that were drawn for a French porno magazine to promote the movie, saying, “It’s fine. She’s only a ‘toon.” Man, I think I was around 15 at the time, and she was more than that to me.

Years after that, I was at another convention, and I saw a table that had one lone older gentleman standing behind it, with a collection of books and some memoribilia related to Roger Rabbit. Since there was no one else talking to this man, I approached and struck up a conversation. He introduced himself as Gary Wolf, creator of Roger, and writer of the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit, on which the film was based. At the time, I actually didn’t even know it was based on a book. I had always enjoyed the movie, but Gary told me that, since he retained the rights to the character, Roger merch was pretty rare. It is what became known in some circles as The Wolf Clause, where the creator retains all rights to his character and the movie studio can’t do anything to it. To my knowledge, it’s pretty rare.

Gary told me a few stories that day, and I marvelled at how this man could take his love of old cartoons and make a career out of it. He had written a couple other Rager Rabbit books (because he could), and was now doing the convention circuit. I bought a signed copy of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? that sits on my shelf to this day.

Fast-forward many more years, and I am now living in Brookline, MA, and I am a regular at the famed Coolidge Corner Theater. My future wife and I attend a screening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and I probably regaled her with that same story about The Wolf Clause. Nearby, I see a man in a very official-looking Roger Rabbit jacket that looks like something that you would only own if you worked on the movie. I turn to her and whisper, “Geez, that guy must be a pretty big fan.” Moments later, the theater manager, who is giving a brief presentation before the movie, introduces him as Gary Wolf, creator of Roger Rabbit and fellow Brookline resident. Small world.

A couple years after that, as host of a podcast, my friends and I are asked to help out moderating panels at a local convention, and I see Gary Wolf is doing a panel. So I naturally request that one, and then inquire if Gary would like to be on the podcast. He agreed, and it’s still one of my favorite episodes, even though we had no idea what we were doing when it came to audio quality back then (and we kinda still don’t know a lot.) The convention panel was also a lot of fun, and we even had Gary on the podcast a second time, at his request! I even saw him out to lunch once, and he remembered me!

In telling all these stories, it’s really strange that this movie kept popping up at these various stages of my life (Well, maybe not when you consider that we live in the same city. I don’t know), but truthfully, what makes this movie personal to me is that I associate it with a person. I can never watch it without thinking of Gary. I mean, I once met Ray Park at a convention, but I don’t watch The Phantom Menace and associate it with him because he was Datrth Maul (In fact, I don’t really watch Phantom Menace at all. It stinks.) But because Gary is such a funny, lovely man, who realizes that he has brought joy to millions but still just keeps writing books because he likes to, he talks to dopes like me on podcasts because he likes to, and he likes that he stuck to his guns and still owns Roger Rabbit. 

I kind of think someone should take his story and say, “This would make a good movie.”


Ok, back tomorrow for my favorite film sequel. Linktree!

Halfway home!

How fitting for the halfway post, a movie that makes me happy, because I’m definitely happy to be halfway to 30. I know it’s not hard to pick movies, but finding the time is the real pain.

But I’m not going to be mad today. Once again, I am going to a movie theater tonight to see a new movie (F9, if anyone was curious), so I was thinking of writing about that. It doesn’t even matter what the movie is, although I’m sure all the explosions and cars and John Cena’s wooden acting will bring me tons of joy. What really matters is that after almost a year and a half of not being able to go to a movie theater, or out at all for some of it, we are able to go out and enjoy movie theater popcorn, and ridiculously large sodas, and watch a movie in a large dark room with other people, who may or may not have their phone out.

That’s really the point, I suppose. As a childless adult who married someone who shares similar tastes in movies, I almost never get dragged to a movie that I don’t want to see. In fact, I can’t remember the last time it happened. So, most of the time, the movie that makes me happy is the one I am watching at that moment.

“But, Dursin, you always complain about movies. This whole blog is almost exclusively devoted to movies you don’t like.” Yeah, and it’s great. I do complain about a lot of movies, because I have high expectations for them, but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy on some level while I’m seeing them. Some of my favorite movie-going experiences were going to see really dumb movies. I remember seeing Charlie Sheen’s The Arrival with some friends, laughing my ass off while it was going on, and my friend John turning to me near the climax and whispering, “I think this movie deserves a standing ovation at the end.” This is a pet peeve of mine, because it’s not a play. The actors can’t hear you clapping. John knew my feelings and realized that if it is going to be done, it should be done ironically. So, as the credits rolled and the lights came up, John and I stood and clapped, and a stranger across the theater did it too! It was truly one of the highlights of the 90’s for me.

Ok, I’m kind of stretching the premise, because obviously not every movie makes me happy. In fact, a lot of them don’t. And the real point of today’s prompt is not to try and claim that I love movies. It is to present the opposite of yesterday’s downer one, a movie that makes me depressed. So, if I have to pick one, it should be an awesome one, and in this movie, literally everything is awesome.

The LEGO Movie

Of course, I love LEGOS. They’re fun and creative and cute and all that. But how do you make a whole movie of computer-animated ones? I had no idea when I saw it what to expect, and that’s maybe the first step towards making me happy: no expectations.

But the real reason this movie makes me happy is the way it slowly reveals what is actually happening here. When the characters do things like use the “Sword of exact-0,” and you see that it is an exacto knife, or when you finally see that “The Kragle,” which is the Maguffin of the movie, is actually an old tube of Krazy Glue where some of the letters have been rubbed off, you start to think, “wait a minute, this is a kid playing.” And when it was revealed that it is a kid playing with his Dad’s immense LEGO collection, and his Dad, who is played by Will Farrell, is actually the bad guy of his adventure, because his Dad didn’t think of LEGOS as toys and didn’t want him playing, well, my brain exploded in happiness.

Here’s a big reveal that no one was curious about: I loved playing with toys. I loved going to toy stores to get new ones. I loved playing with my old ones. I loved them probably long past the age when it was socially acceptable. G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Transformers, freakin’ Battle Beasts, it didn’t matter. And I rarely played what the toys were actually for. My G.I. Joe guys were usually a kind of A-Team-like band of heroes that were on the run from the law but still doing good deeds. I don’t know why. It just seemed cooler back then. And that’s basically what the kid in the LEGO movie is doing. He’s not using any of that stuff for what it was meant for. Sure, Batman hanging out with Metal Beard, the cyborg pirate makes no sense, but it’s pretty cool when you’re ten. There was a time in my life when I looked back and thought I was kind of a weird kid for not playing, y’know, G.I. Joe with my G.I. Joe toys. LEGO Movie kind of retroactively made me realize that other kinds were probably doing it, too, and even if I was a weird kid, who cares?

The LEGO Movie makes me happy because it made me remember those days when I would come home from school, go down into our basement, dump out my toy box, and just play with whatever came out. Or it made me remember waking up really early on a Saturday morning when no one else in my house could even fathom about being awake and playing with action figures while watching Saturday morning cartoons. My family took one trip to Disney when I was in kindergarten, and a pretty low-key vacation every summer to Cape Cod to sit on the beach, but I didn’t need anything else. I had a few toys and a lot of imagination. Oh, and you know I would bring my toys to the beach every year.

So, it’s not a movie I saw as a kid that makes me happy now because of the nostalgia factor (See my Transformers: The Movie post from a few days ago for that). This is a movie that I saw as an adult that somehow makes me feel the same thing, which makes it even cooler because, yes, they still make movies like that. When I asked my wife what movie she thought I should pick for today’s post, she suggested a movie I would watch when I feel grumpy and it would make me happy. I don’t know if The LEGO Movie applies there. I think it’s more that it makes me happy knowing that it exists.  


Thanks, LEGO Movie, ode to my childhood, and a lot of kids’ childhoods, for always being there. 

Just made it in today…

This one isn’t necessarily a challenge because there aren’t depressing movies to pick from. There’s tons of them. The problem is that I don’t really want to write a lot about them. Call me crazy, but I kind of like being entertained by movies, not not saddened. I mean, I can appreciate a well-made depressing movie, like Schindler’s List or something,  but I prefer something like JoJo Rabbit, a hilarious movie with some heavy themes (His mom… Oh, man.), but overall, it doesn’t make me want to jump off a bridge after seeing it.

I also HATE HATE HATE when movies really try to tug at your heartstrings. Something like Million Dollar Baby, which was basically Clint Eastwood and Hillary Swank making an incredibly boring, pointless movie just to try to win another Oscar. Other than “Women can box, too” why should I care about this story?

I was going to write about Requiem for a Dream, because when I think about depressing movies, that is the first one that pops into my head. But I saw it in theaters when it came out, and I was young and wanted to feel things, and I haven’t seen it since and have no desire to watch it or even think about it ever again. I’m annoyed that this challenge brought it back into my brain. Although, that refrigerator scene is pretty crazy.

I’m actually going with Into the Wild, which depressed me, but probably not for the same reasons it depressed a lot of other people. If you haven’t seen it, well, don’t bother, but here’s the skinny. Emile Hirsch, plays Christopher McCandless, a really smart kid who does a really dumb thing: after graduating from college, he takes his $24,000 life savings and donates it to charity because he wants to hitchhike to Alaska and live off the land. I’m not sure if I’m remembering this correctly, but I think he also burned everything in his wallet.

The tagline says that, on the journey, he “encounters a series of characters that shape his life.” That’s a nice thought, but… SPOILER WARNING, don’t read on if you want to see the movie someday

Seriously, don’t read if you don’t want to know how it ends.

Screw it. It came out in 2007, and the book came out in 1997. Chris dies, possibly from eating some poison berries  possibly from eating potato seeds which can be poisonous. Or possibly from something else, but definitely from being an idiot. From analyzing his skeleton, they think he weighed about sixty pounds at the time of his death, so it could have been a lot of things. He did have some food from an animal that he had killed, but he didn’t have any way to preserve it since he didn’t have a freezer because he gave $24,000 away and burned the rest of his money, so it went bad before he could finish it. According to his journals, he had decided that this living off the land crap was no fun and wanted to make his way back to civilization after a couple months, but the summer melt-off had caused the river to rise so he couldn’t cross the way he came, so he was trapped. Of course, since he also didn’t have a decent map he didn’t know that there was a way across if he had gone a half-mile further. But he turned around to live in his van. Well, die in it, basically. 

So, yeah, depressing. And how can the people he met shape his life when he dies horribly mere months after reaching his goal? Was there some message about life after death that I missed?

This is where my reasons for it being depressing may differ from the norm. I’m not really depressed because the kid dies at the end. I actually recall thinking, “That dickhead deserved it!” I know that’s harsh, but I feel how I feel. I get that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his heroes, Jack London and John Muir, but, Jesus, keep an emergency fund, something. As someone who never really had much money, the idea that this child literally burned what he had to go live in the woods is what depressed me. Also, working in a University for almost twenty years, I knew a lot of really smart young people who had ideas about the world that were a little different, and all I could think when I’d listen to them talk was, “You’ll figure it out.” Hopefully, none of them ended up like Christopher McCandless.

Maybe what really depresses me about this movie is that I wish I could look past the actual logic and say, “Wow, poor kid. He followed his dream, and it killed him, but at least he went for it.”  But I can’t. I just have a very low tolerance for pretension, and this kid was about as pretentious as you can get.  I kind of wish I could see it as a fun adventure that had an unfortunate consequence, but I can’t. It never should have gotten to that point (Well, ok, he shouldn’t have started the dumb journey in the first place), but if he had done a little more research, saved a little money in case of emergency, and, I don’t know, bought a map, he would maybe have survived long enough to make it back home and tell his parents that he was sorry for being an idiot.

I never read the book this movie is based on, but I have no doubt that it’s better, and probably makes the kid seem less annoying because they can delve deeper into his character. But watching this movie did depress me. It depressed me to know that there are dummies like this in the world. You want to live off the land, go for it. Are you tired of other people? I can totally respect that, so go live in the woods. But be smart about it. Do it the Captain Fantastic way.

Maybe that will be tomorrow’s movie…

Anyway, I’m tired. Go to my linktree. There’s a sale going on at Teepublic so everything is 35% off, if you want to check out the stuff in my storefront. Then come back tomorrow. Stay safe.

Lucky 13. Still going.

This one will be interesting. In a way, a lot of movies put me in deep thoughts. Deep thoughts itself is a funny term, because it always reminds me of the Saturday Night Live skits:

You could say that I over-think a lot of movies, or maybe just about all of them. Sometimes movies are just money grabs, sometimes there are contractual reasons to make a movie, or sponsorship obligations to fulfill, or some leftover money in the wallet, or a director will make one movie for a studio so that they will turn around and give that director money to make one they want. Sometimes, a movie is just a movie.

But I still like to think about them. I mean, most movies cost millions of dollars and have hundreds of people working on them. When there’s that much money and manpower involved, how can people decide to make a movie with the same attitude that I might have when I decide to have pizza for dinner? There has to be passion involved. And if someone is putting passion into making a movie, it’s at least worth my over-analysis. If it’s really bad, then it’s not worth a lot of my time. But years ago, I was a reader for a small studio, and I would be given scripts to read and write “coverage” for (“Coverage” being the insider Hollywood term for “a synopsis.”). I read lot of bad scripts, and passed on almost every one, but even the really bad ones were written by someone like me who had a dream to be a screenwriter, and that person wrote it, got it in the hands of an agent, and the agent believed enough in it to get it to the studio.. who gave it to a dumb intern like me who would pass on it, but still, it was better than I was doing.

Having said all that, there are movies that are designed to make you think. This list on IMDB is actually pretty thought-provoking in itself. Next to movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Memento, you have Office Space and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I guess what provokes thoughts in one person doesn’t provoke anything to others. Although I did consider reposting my Office Space rant from a few years ago and calling it a day, but how many times can I keep doing that? (Incidentally, here it is.)

Life of Pi was one that got me thinking a lot, though, so I’m going to go with that. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s the kid trapped on the lifeboat with the tiger, directed by Ang Lee. The thing is, there’s a lot of build-up before he ends up on that lifeboat, as the story is told in flashback, and we learn that Pi, the kid in question, had an interesting childhood where he basically “taste-tested” a bunch of religions, and then takes what he wants from all of them. Through that experience, he learns about stories and adventures.

But how did he end up on the boat with the tiger? Well, his father owned a zoo, which was home to this tiger, mistakenly named “Richard Parker,” due to a mix-up when he was delivered. While traveling from their home in India to Canada by ship to sell the zoo and all the animals, Pi’s ship is sunk by a freak storm. Pi is able to make it on a lifeboat, along with a zebra, orangutan and hyena, and we later learn, Richard Parker, but the rest of his family and the animals all go down with the ship. There is also some guilt because the storm came in the middle of the night, but PI wanted to go up on the deck and witness God’s power, so he started opening doors, and that’s when it all went to shit.

On the lifeboat, the hyena kills the zebra and orangutan, and has his sights set on Pi, when Richard Parker comes out of nowhere and kills the hyena. Pi swims for safety, but is in the middle of the ocean. But through his reading and learning, he is eventually able to effectively teach Richard Parker that they can co-exist. The movie ends when the lifeboat floats to shore. Pi slumps onto the beach, while Richard Parker walks into the jungle, never to be seen again. While Pi is recovering in the hospital, insurance agents come to question him, not believing his story. He tells them a different story, replacing the orangutan, zebra and hyena with his mother, a sailor and the ship’s cook. The results are eerily similar. In this story, PI kills the cook/hyena, substituting himself for the tiger. The adult Pi, who is telling the story to a writer who wants to turn his life into a book, asks him which story the writer prefers, and the writer responds, “The one with the tiger. That’s the better story.”

That’s what this movie is all about, in my book. It doesn’t matter, as Adult Pi points out, which one is true because his family dies in both of them, but he survives. If you want to believe that he did it by killing the cook, who had killed his mother, and chopping up his remains for fish bait, that’s cool, but I don’t want to see that movie. I like this movie.

There’s so much more going on, as well. The weird island they land on that is not on any maps of the ocean. The storm that comes and almost does the lifeboat in and scares the beejesus out of Richard Parker, prompting Pi to scream to the heavens, “Why are you torturing him?” The crazy glow-y fish that swim around the lifeboat at night. The fact that when Richard Parker leaves him on the beach, without looking back or acknowledging him, Pi weeps uncontrollably, because they had survived this whole ordeal together, and he just walked away.

Pi takes in the bioluminescent wonders of the sea.

It’s all amazing, and great filmmaking by Ang Lee. But, like I said, I like to think about movies, and with this one, it’s the story that gets me thinking.

Thanks for reading. Some back tomorrow for more fun and excitement.

Not even halfway through. Why couldn’t this have been like the 12 Days of Christmas?

Oh, well.

For Day 12, we’re going with the opposite of yesterday, a film a I hate from my favorite genre. I do like the use of the word “hate” in this prompt. Some people may find that strong, like there are movies that they don’t enjoy or that they have some problems with, or it just isn’t their thing, but they don’t hate them. I do. I hate a lot of movies. I can definitely find at least one in every genre, even my favorite. The real question is, what is my favourite genre?

Well, if you were here for Day 10, you would know that I wrote extensively about the concept of the Superhero film, and how happy I was that it was a thing in the first place. So, could I simply turn around a couple days later and say that my favorite genre is actually gangster movies? Well, yeah, I could do anything, but really, it would be weird.

Actually, throughout my life, I have liked various kinds of movies. Comedy, action, Sci-Fi, Horror (Well, mostly the Evil Dead movies), so I never really pigeon-holed myself into one style. There were good and bad movies everywhere. There’s millions of bad comedies, sci-fi and action movies out there. How would I narrow it down to one? (Although, my wife rightly pointed out that This is 40 would be a good choice if I went with Comedy. Man, what a stinker.)

But, now that there are enough Superhero movies that it can be considered a genre, and even sub-genres within that genre, since Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man definitely have to be considered comedies, and it can definitely be argued that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a Spy Thriller, I’m going with that.

Sadly, despite my love of comics, there are some bad movies based on comics out there, and unfortunately, most of them are being made by one company. I think anyone familiar with me, and the Superhero genre, knows what company I’m referring to, and it doesn’t have a mouse as the mascot.

I’m sorry Warner Brothers. You made some great Batman movies, a couple great Superman films back in the day, but the recent wave of DC Extended Universe movies do try me.

It’s not because I’m a Marvel man at heart, or that the Marvel movies had cooler soundtracks or better actors. Mostly, the storytelling is just rough. But I would love to have a debate with someone that is there were no MCU, would the DCEU be universally accepted as a collection of really good Superhero movies? Who knows? But when you consider most of the recent ones (I’m basically talking about Man of Steel to the present), you have to question some of their creative choices.

The thing that I find most interesting in my conversations with people about this subject is that they sometimes seem to feel bad for the DC movies, as if this multi-million dollar studio is some kind of little engine that could trying to battle against the evil Disney Empire. They’ll say things like, “Well, Wonder Woman was good,” which yes, it was. It was a good movie that represented the character well, and women and young girls everywhere should be happy that this is a hero that they can look to as a symbol of what can be. But that’s just one movie. Why do you defend a whole franchise based on that? It’s like someone saying that the Star Wars Disney-made sequel trilogy sucked, and you defend them by saying, “Well, Empire Strikes Back was really good.”

Before I continue, I know that production issues and studio interference plagued many of the DC movies, and obviously Zack Snyder’s personal tragedy derailed a lot of his plans for Justice League, and I’m glad that he got to make the movie that he wanted with The Snyder Cut, but unfortunately, I have to judge these things based on what I saw on the screen, and it was mostly… not my thing.

Here’s what I’ll say; I can almost give Man of Steel a pass because, even though it’s not my Superman, and I don’t love the movie, I actually gave the filmmakers credit for trying something new (This guy is an alien who has landed on this planet and can basically do anything. How would we really react to that?) Christopher Reeves was my Superman, and it would have been really hard to do something different and not raise these comparisons. In twenty years, if they try to remake Iron Man with a different actor and play it totally and play it totally dark, people are going to shake their collective fists at the sky. I bet they’ll try it anyway, though.

But the follow-up, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, that one I have a lot of issues with, and that’s the one I’m picking for today’s film.

I’m not even going to say too many bad things about it, because I did that already five years ago. I’ll just say Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor is awful, the way they shoe-horned in the rest of the Justice league to build up to that movie was ham-fisted, and do I have to say anything about how silly I found it that the thing that brings Superman and Batman together is that their mothers were both named Martha?

On the bright side, I thought Affleck was a surprisingly great Batman, and his character had very believable motivation to go after Superman (This guy could kill us all if he has a bad day. If you want to read a cool comic based on that very idea, check out Mark Waid’s Irredeemable.) But the fact that he forgets all about it because Superman had a mother named “Martha” is what really burns my beak. That, and the fact that it’s Batman V. Superman V. Lex Luthor V. Doomsday V. Those Guys Who Kidnap Lois V. Public Perception of Superman V. Disney, really just makes this a tough one to swallow. And unfortunately, it put the entire DCEU franchise in a bad place, one that they have yet to recover from.

I’ve said enough, but come back tomorrow for more, if you dare. And check out the ol’ linktree if you haven’t had enough of me yet.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there. Especially to you, Bob. I know you’ll never read this, but the universe knows I said it here.

Don’t worry. I called him.

Welcome to Day 11, over one-third into the 30 days. If you’ve made it this far, hopefully you’ll stick with it. Hopefully I will, too.

So, I’m stalling because this one is kind of hard. A film I like from my least favorite genre is hard because, of course, my least favorite genre is torture porn, or snuff films, or something like that, but that doesn’t really work, because I’ve never actually seen anything from those genres, so I wouldn’t have anything to write about. I could Google one and call it a day, but that would be cheating. So, I will pick a real movie from a real genre. And I hope this won’t offend anyone, but my least favorite genre?

Musicals.

I know they’re popular, and sometimes fun, and creative, and La-La Land was an Oscar winner, but on the whole, I just can’t get into them. I know I’m not the first person to say this, but the whole people just inexplicably singing just doesn’t work for me. And I’m not saying this out of turn, because years ago I dated a self-proclaimed “Rent-Rat,” which was a cutesy name for fans of the musical Rent, a movie/show that I may have a chance to work in before this challenge is over, because I have some feelings on that one, by God.

Anyway, throughout that relationship, I took some for the team and saw more musicals than I can remember, and I would usually justify it to my friends by telling them that I made her see Attack of the Clones, even though it was a seriously one-sided argument. The horrible ending of that relationship is not why I dislike musicals, though. I just don’t like them. But, I must like at least one movie from that genre, right?

Well, it kind of depends on what you consider a musical. Weird, I know, but when I Googled it to make sure I do like at least one musical movie, and looked at lists of the greatest musicals of all-time, I saw things like The Muppet Movie, or Yesterday, or Blinded by the Light, which are movies I really liked, but I’m not sure I would consider them musicals (Am I wrong about this? Is it even up to interpretation?) If any movie with a few songs in it is a musical, maybe this isn’t as hard as I thought. Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about what a musical is:

Musical film is a film genre in which songs by the characters are interwoven into the narrative, sometimes accompanied by dancing. The songs usually advance the plot or develop the film’s characters, but in some cases, they serve merely as breaks in the storyline, often as elaborate “production numbers.”

That’s pretty open-ended, and I could just throw The Blues Brothers, or Little Shop of Horrors out there and call it a day, but instead I’m going to pick a movie that I really love and call it a musical.

Head

I love this movie. I have seen it many, many times. I even once interviewed Mickey Dolenz about it to help celebrate the 50th anniversary a few years ago. I still don’t understand a lot of it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the creativity, the story-telling, and the balls that went into the making of it. Think about it, the Monkees had a TV show about a band who got into zany adventures. They had a successful formula, and the girls loved them. There was the criticism that they weren’t a real band, which they weren’t and never said they were, but they could have ignored all that and made a movie that was basically a longer version of an episode of the show, and cashed the checks.

These guys decided to take the criticisms and make a movie that was basically a satire of all that. It’s still the band-members getting into somewhat zany adventures, but it’s definitely not as accessible as an episode of the show, and the audience expressed their disappointment (and bewilderment, maybe) with their wallet, as the film bombed at the box office. But it’s still an excellent movie, made well, with a great soundtrack, and one that makes you think. And I’m going to quote the great Jim Starlin in a recent interview conducted by my pal Claynferno, “If you’re not trying to get your audience to think, you might as well be writing Tom and Jerry.”

So, if you’re bored one night and want to do a little thinking, check out Head, and prepare to be wowed. Maybe have some weed first. Before you do that, check out my linktree and then come back tomorrow.