30 Before 30: The Recap

Last year, I had just turned 29, and I was realizing how much my film education was sorely lacking. Sure, I’ve probably seen far more films than many of my friends will ever see, even if I stopped seeing movies altogether. But the real classics, or at least efforts from the filmmakers who really changed cinema, were a real blindspot for me. So while I couldn’t get through some directors with vast filmographies, I at least saw what many people would say is their best or most representative work. I also made sure a third of the slots were reserved for female directors, since I’m not committed enough to do #52filmsbywomen, let alone devoted to see an older film every week anyway. I was a week late in finishing this project, but I’m glad I did. Below, I break down the films I saw by tiers. Almost everything was good, and a few films were truly great. I won’t rank them all from top to bottom, but John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence would be at the top, while Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless would be at the bottom. That might seem like blasphemy, but that’s my take.

woman_under_the_influence-rowlands

BEST OF THE BEST
(Federico Fellini, 1963)
The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)
All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)
Hard Boiled (John Woo, 1992)
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)

TRULY EXCELLENT
13th (Ava DuVernay, 2016)
Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)
The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1983)
Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair, 2001)
The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993)
The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999)

ENJOYED BUT DIDN’T WHOLEHEARTEDLY LOVE
Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991)
Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995)
Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 1997)
Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010)
My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971)
The Red Shoes (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1928)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987)

DISAPPOINTING, GIVEN HOW MUCH I HAD BEEN HYPED UP
Blow-up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)
Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987)

By the numbers:
1929 – oldest film (Man with a Movie Camera)
2016 – most recent film (13th)
68 minutes – shortest film (Man with a Movie Camera)
155 minutes – longest film (A Woman Under the Influence)
1 – Best Picture nominee (The Piano)

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What I Watched This Week: 8 Apr 2018

NEW SHOWS
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Puzzle Master” (B+)
A solid “normal” episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, with Jake and Amy collaborating on their last case before she gets promoted to sergeant. We also get a rare Holt-Gina pairing, which leads to great, deadpan burns. Also, was not expecting Alison Tolman as the antagonist for this final stretch of episodes, but I’m definitely here for it.

Silicon Valley – “Chief Operating Officer” (A-)
A whirlwind episode, with Dinesh drunkenly leaking information to his new roommate, a resulting lawsuit, a new deal, and a search for a new COO that ends in one of the show’s few heartwarming moments.

Barry – “Make the Unsafe Choice” (A-)
While I’m less interested in the continuing machinations of Chechen organized crime, Barry prepping to do Mamet is a dream come true, and Sally’s sad audition gave her some real depth.

Legion – “Chapter 10” (B+)
Stylishly explores Farouk’s shadowy (pun intended) plans, while once again forcing David to unravel, not knowing who he can trust, even himself. There’s potential for this to get repetitive, but so far so good.

The Americans – “Urban Transport Planning” (B+)
Philip channels his best Don Draper as mounting bills have him teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Elizabeth and Paige deal with the aftermath of the former’s disastrous meeting with the general. But really this episode is about two fracturing marriages that may be too late to save.

A.P. Bio – “Durbin Crashes” (B+)
Patton Oswalt gives his best performance on this show to date, suffering the wrath of his insane wife (Angela Kirsey) for daring to watch a popular show after she forbade him from it, then holing up at Jack’s place. It’s quite funny, and doesn’t feature any unnecessary B-plotting, but then kind of just ends. Hopefully there’s more to the arc for the rest of the season.

Atlanta – “Champagne Papi” (A-)
An excellent Van-centric episode that’s essentially Waiting for Drake, who we knew wasn’t going to show up. This is exactly the kind of episode that makes Atlanta great, where any night out has a ton of potential, but mostly to go wrong.

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What I Watched This Week: 1 Apr 2018

NEW SHOWS
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Box” (A+)
The best episode the show has ever done. Masterfully stages an interrogation of a murder suspect (Sterling K. Brown, who has locked up this year’s Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy) for the entire 22 minutes. It’s so beautifully done, with perfect delivery from all three principal actors, that you don’t even miss the rest of the squad.

Silicon Valley – “Reorientation” (B+)
Richard finally finds some inspiration, which of course doesn’t get him anywhere. Top-notch Guilfoyle-Dinesh bickering and another appearance from Andy Daly keep this season moving in the right direction.

Barry – “Use It” (B+)
I was already in the tank for this show, but Bill Hader wondering about the comedic potential of a scene from Doubt sealed the deal. A fleet episode that left me wanting more, this sets up the rest of the season but still manages to take its time.

Legion – “Chapter 9” (A-) / season premiere
Throws even the most attentive viewers into the narrative deep end, starting with David’s rescue, then circling and zig-zagging back to reveal what happened in the year since the events of last season’s finale. It’s as stylish as ever, even if this premiere feels a mile wide and an inch deep. Still, there’s absolutely nothing like it on the air, so I’m more than willing to simply be dazzled for an hour each week.

The Americans – “Tchaikovsky” (A)
Professional turmoil affects both Philip and Elizabeth, but only one ends with them being held at gunpoint. One of the most devastating endings this show has ever produced.

A.P. Bio – “Rosemary’s Boyfriend” (A)
Another incredible, darkly funny episode. Michael Gross is wonderful as the lover of Jack’s now-dead mother, the health-class baby subplot is creepy with a horrifying but cathartic end and the not-dating-janitors C-plot sidesteps cruelty by making it about petty revenge.

Atlanta – “Teddy Perkins” (A-)
So, I’m still not sure how I feel about this episode. It’s extremely well-executed and the weirdest thing this show has ever done, but it also feels like just a detour. You might have said that about “Barbershop,” but that at least felt relevant to Alfred’s character. This is just another weird story for Darius, that doesn’t add anything to him (despite Lakeith Stanfield crushing it as usual).

CURRENT SHOWS
A.P. Bio – “We Don’t Party” (A-)
Arguably the best episode of the season thus far, with Jack meeting his immature match in Chase, the doctor boyfriend of Meredith (the luminous Collette Wolfe), the nurse he’s pining for. It’s a magnificent display of childishness. Meanwhile, the class gets drunk (or in Victor’s case, fake drunk) and grows closer. Plus, the reveal of a hunky party guest who’s into “toes clothes.”

Atlanta – “Barbershop” (B+)
Brian Tyree Henry’s finest hour yet on the show, as Atlanta proves once again it can do anything. The entire episode is devoted to Paper Boi’s ongoing efforts to look fresh for his photoshoot, and the obstacles his con artist barber puts in his way. It’s magnificent and the funniest episode of the season thus far.

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Things I Wrote: February and March 2018

So I failed to keep up with this two months in a row, so here’s a refresher on my published works for February and March.

REVIEWS
Entanglement – Fresh Fiction
The Party – Fresh Fiction
Gringo – College Movie Review
A Wrinkle in Time – College Movie Review
Love, Simon – College Movie Review
Pacific Rim: Uprising – College Movie Review
Isle of Dogs – College Movie Review
Ready Player One – College Movie Review

ARTICLES
Coming Attractions (February) – Central Track
Coming Attractions (March) – Central Track

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What I Watched This Week: 25 Mar 2018

NEW SHOWS
The Simpsons – “Three Scenes (Plus a Tag) from a Marriage” (B+)
Another relationship ret-con episode, but one that isn’t trying to go for dramatics or pathos. It’s just a well-executed, very funny exercise in keeping things semi-fresh. Bonus points for actually getting J.K. Simmons as Marge’s J. Jonah Jameson-like editor.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Negotiation” (A-)
Any Doug Judy episode is going to get high marks from me anyway, but this one is exceedingly clever, even if we all know Doug Judy will always be the scorpion to Jake’s frog. Plus, there’s karaoke of 4 Non-Blondes, Hitchcock acting professional and Boyle going all Gordon Ramsey on Amy and Gina.

Silicon Valley – “Grow Fast or Die Slow” (B+) / season premiere
Deftly maneuvers into Pied Piper’s “successful period” by showing just how unprepared Richard is for it. (We already knew how good Dinesh and Guilfoyle were at wasting time.) It also finds a worthy adversary in the creator of Sliceline, who loses his awful (but funded) company in a hostile takeover by Richard.

Barry – “Make Your Mark” (A-) / series premiere
One of the better pilots in recent years. It knows exactly what it is, yet has seemingly unlimited potential to turn into something even better. Both Bill Hader (who also shows off his directing chops) and Henry Winkler are excellent.

The Americans – “Dead Hand” (A-) / season premiere
Jumps forward in time without losing much. That opening montage is one of the best things the show has ever done. Beautifully sets up the new reality we’re in while also raising the stakes pretty much immediately. Sad to see this show end.

BINGEING
Collateral (B+ average)
As much as I want shows to have shorter runs, this four-episode British import actually could have used two more hours to flesh out its characters more and make its many strands tie together better. And while there are no plans for a sequel, I would absolutely watch more seasons of Kip Glasby (Carey Mulligan, who should absolutely be remembered come Emmy time) solving crimes with empathy.

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Streaming Picks: April 2018

FILMS
Top Picks
50/50 – Hulu 4/1
Mystery Team – Amazon 4/1
The Florida Project – Amazon 4/1 (Academy Award nominee)
Call me indecisive, but I just couldn’t pick between all these films, which I adore for different reasons. 50/50 is the underrated 2011 dramedy about a young writer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) diagnosed with cancer. Mystery Team is the wild, hilarious Encyclopedia Brown-esque adventure from Derrick Comedy, which featured pre-fame Donald Glover and Bobby Moynihan. Few comedies from the last decade are this quotable. And The Florida Project is the latest from master filmmaker and empathizer Sean Baker. Willem Dafoe should have won his first Oscar for his performance as the caretaker of a transient motel near Orlando, but his rare nice guy role is just one of many wonderful things about this great film.

Recent Selections
So B. It – Hulu 4/4
Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall – Netflix 4/5
Despicable Me 3 – Netflix 4/5
Dina – Hulu 4/5
Ram Dass: Going Home – Netflix 4/6
Take My Nose… Please! – Hulu 4/9
Augie – Hulu 4/11
Dealt – Hulu 4/14
The Relationtrip – Hulu 4/16
Tragedy Girls – Hulu 4/18
Loving Vincent – Hulu 4/19 (Academy Award nominee)
Bill Nye: Science Guy – Netflix 4/25
Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death – Hulu 4/26
Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie – Hulu 4/27
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene – Hulu 4/28
Permanent – Hulu 4/29
A Thousand Junkies – Hulu 4/30

Originals
6 Balloons – Netflix 4/6
Amateur – Netflix 4/6
Orbiter 9 – Netflix 4/6
The 4th Company – Netflix 4/6
Pickpockets – Netflix 4/12
Come Sunday – Netflix 4/13
I Am Not an Easy Man – Netflix 4/13
Dude – Netflix 4/20
Kodachrome – Netflix 4/20
Mercury 13 – Netflix 4/20
Psychokinesis – Netflix 4/25
Bobby Kennedy for President – Netflix 4/27
Candy Jar – Netflix 4/27
The Week Of – Netflix 4/27

NEW SHOWS & SPECIALS
Top Pick
The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 2) – Hulu 4/25
Your current Emmy champ for drama series had a bumpy first season, but started and finished strong. The second season opens up a lot of possibilities, especially for seeing the world beyond Gilead.

Originals
Wakfu (Season 3) – Netflix 4/1
The Crossing – Hulu 4/3
National Treasure: Kiri – Hulu 4/4
Bosch (Season 4) – Amazon 4/4
Fastest Car (Season 1) – Netflix 4/6
Money Heist (Part 2) – Netflix 4/6
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman: JAY Z – Netflix 4/6
The Boss Baby: Back in Business (Season 1) – Netflix 4/6
Troy: Fall of a City (Season 1) – Netflix 4/6
AMO (Season 1) – Netflix 4/9
Chef’s Table: Pastry – Netflix 4/13
Lost in Space (Season 1) – Netflix 4/13
The Magic School Bus Rides Again (Season 2) – Netflix 4/13
The Chalet (Season 1) – Netflix 4/17
Charité (Season 1) – Netflix 4/19
Aggretsuko (Season 1) – Netflix 4/20
Dope (Season 2) – Netflix 4/20
Spy Kids: Mission Critical (Season 1) – Netflix 4/20
The Letdown (Season 1) – Netflix 4/21
3% (Season 2) – Netflix 4/27
The New Legends of Monkey (Season 1) – Netflix 4/27

OLD SHOWS
Merlin (Seasons 1-5) – Amazon 4/1
La Piloto (Season 1) – Netflix 4/2
The Missing (Season 2) – Amazon 4/2
Black Sails (Season 4) – Hulu 4/2
Preacher (Season 2) – Hulu 4/10
Red Rock (Season 3) – Amazon 4/23
Call the Midwife: Christmas Special 2017 – Netflix 4/24
Vikings (Season 5) – Hulu and Amazon 4/24
Jane the Virgin (Season 4) – Netflix 4/27
The Carmichael Show (Season 3) – Hulu 4/30

COMEDY SPECIALS
Top Pick
The Honeymoon Stand-Up Special – Netflix 4/17
Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher got married in 2015. But instead of celebrating like mostly newlyweds, they went on tour and did stand-up together. This series of specials highlights their routines and relationship advice.

Other Specials
Fary Is the New Black – Netflix 4/3
Todo lo que sería Lucas Lauriente – Netflix 4/6
Greg Davies: You Magnificent Beast – Netflix 4/10
Kevin James: Never Don’t Give Up – Netflix 4/24
Seth Rogen’s Hilarity for Charity – Netflix TBD

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What I Watched This Week: 18 Mar 2018

NEW SHOWS
Saturday Night Live – “Bill Hader/Arcade Fire” (B+)
A couple sketches whiffed on the promise of their premise, but Hader is so good in all of them. Like much of the cast, I was in stitches pretty much the entire time.

The Simpsons – “Homer Is Where the Art Isn’t” (B)
No one in 2018 needed a parody of the forgotten ’70s caper Banacek, but it’s well-executed and Bill Hader does exceptional guest work as the insurance investigator trying to determine who stole a Joan Miró painting beloved by Homer.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Safe House” (B+)
The show wraps up its last big plotline (which doesn’t seem good for its long-term prospects, even if it did get its highest ratings of the season) in hilarious fashion, with Jake and Kevin kept in a safe house while the FBI and the Nine-Nine try to bring down Seamus Murphy.

A.P. Bio – “Selling Out” (B+)
A very funny if sleight episode that ends exactly where you expect it to, but has some of the season’s biggest laughs getting there.

Atlanta – “Helen” (B-)
Had a tough time with this one, which is frequently harsh where the show usually has a lighter touch. Plus, Earn, whom we sympathize with throughout most of the series, is just a straight-up dick the entire episode, making it hard to find a center.

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What I Watched This Week: 11 Mar 2018

NEW SHOWS
Saturday Night Live – “Sterling K. Brown/James Bay” (B+)
Just two years ago, he was killing it among other well-established actors in The People v. O.J. Simpson. Now, the man has two Emmys and is giving it his all on SNL. While the sketches weren’t all winners, Brown proved he’s got real comedic chops even beyond his corny dad jokes on This Is Us. But my favorite recurring characters are now officially Eric and Donald Trump, Jr.

This Is Us – “The Wedding” (A-) / season finale
Gives us both an extreme bit of fan service and an ominous flash-forward. While this season’s been an improvement on the first, I don’t know if this will ever become a truly great show. But it’s definitely got me sucked in for another season, and has proven this could run forever (or at least until the cast agrees to stop).

A.P. Bio – “Freakin’ Enamored” (B)
Still endlessly charming, even if it’s overstuffed. I hope the show gets another season to figure out the right balance.

Atlanta – “Money Bag Shawty” (B+)
Pardon me if this brings up some bad vibes, but this episode brought to mind another show that serves as the best comparison: Louis CK’s elastic dramedy Louie. At least in this episode, there’s a continual feeling that no matter what good thing may happen to Earn (and by extension, Paper Boi and Darius), the other shoe is waiting to drop in a surreal way. Even if they all end up successful, assholes are still going to see them like Jay-Z in “The Story of O.J.” or Kanye West in “All Falls Down.”

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What I Watched This Week: 4 Mar 2018

NEW SHOWS
Crashing – “Roast Battle” (A-) / season finale
I knew exactly where it was going from the jump, yet it was still devastating when it got there. I hope Jamie Lee returns in Season 3, because she was incredible. But this is and always has been Pete’s journey, and while he came out of his shell a little bit, he’s still got a lot of growing up to do. This was also the funniest episode of the season, with a ton of great jokes during the actual battles, especially Pete’s clean jabs (“I’ll go first. Unlike the women here, I’m OK with you following me.”)

This Is Us – “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life” (A)
I was already rolling my eyes when I saw the title of this episode. But that all melted away when I saw this brilliantly executed, devastating hour that revealed how Deja ended up sleeping in a car with her mom. It’s a heart-wrenching episode that gives a lot more depth to her mother and shows just how easy it can be to slip into homelessness even when you’re trying to do the right thing.

A.P. Bio – “Dating Toledoans” (B+)
Another winning, heart-warming episode that shows Jack is finally warming up to the people around him, however lame they might be.

Atlanta – “Sportin’ Waves” (B+)
Every scene in the show can is fraught with both the Robbin’ Season of this season’s subtitle, but also the casual and explicit racism the characters face on a regular basis, whether in a meeting with a white marketing executive trying to be hip, to the interview Tracy attends. We know that Tracy is a fraudulent thief who would probably be a terrible employee, but his super-white boss doesn’t. That doesn’t also mean this episode isn’t also hilarious.

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What I Watched This Week: 25 Feb 2018

NEW SHOWS
Crashing – “NACA” (A)
In just 30 minutes, it pulls off the extreme difficulty of making really bad jokes be really funny, as well as staging just an incredible fight between Pete and Ali about not just their relationship, but about whether degrading your art for success is worth it. And it all ends with a series of Matthew McConaughey impressions.

This Is Us – “Vegas, Baby” (C)
A bit of much-needed levity, but many of the fights its characters have during what’s supposed to be a fun getaway rang hollow for me.

Waco – “Day 51” (A) / series finale
The tragic ending we all knew was coming. Dozens of people were murdered by the government. While the show didn’t as deeply explore its themes of the terrifying militarization of law enforcement, it still made its point. The performances were strong, even when the writing and direction wasn’t as stellar.

A.P. Bio – “Overachieving Virgins” (B+)
A mini-Election tribute is the basis of this solid episode that manages to be extremely funny, while being a little less adult in nature than the previous episodes. The pyramid scheme subplot is relatable, but could have been grafted onto any episode.

Atlanta – “Alligator Man” (A) / season premiere
What a joy it is to have this show back, and not just because I spotted two locations in my neighborhood – the Mrs. Winners and the Checkers – where Hiro Murai filmed. The show can still be anything it wants, as a side trip to the house of Earn’s uncle (played wonderfully by Katt Williams) turns into a standoff with police, complete with Schrödinger’s alligator.

CURRENT SHOWS
Waco – “Stalling for Time” (A-)
The best episode since the premiere, as the standoff drags on for weeks. It also ends with the most wonderfully ridiculous moment of the year.

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