2019 in Review: The Best Shows – Honorable Mentions

It was even harder to craft a top 10 than usual, and that left a lot of shows in that next tier. So once again, I’ve expanded my honorable mentions to 14 episodes of shows that didn’t make the cut, and one unexpectedly brilliant anniversary special.

Laura Dern and Meryl Streep in Big Little Lies
Big Little Lies – “Kill Me”
I felt alone on my island in not only liking Season 2 of Big Little Lies, but also in thinking it was in some ways superior to the original limited series. Adding Meryl Streep was really the only reason to do this, and she was absolutely brilliant as the mother of the recently deceased Perry. She connived and manipulated her way to get what she wanted, and almost succeeded. Her pettiness made it feel like more than just Rich People Problems.

Jack Quaid and Erin Moriarty in The Boys
The Boys – “You Found Me”
It was an abundance of riches that we got not one, not two, but three excellent superhero shows in one year. Amazon Prime’s irreverent, ultra-violent satire occasionally had to work for it to feel substantial, but it got there in the back half of its season when things got more sinister, thanks to evil schemes and disturbing psychosexual relationship of Madeline Stilwell (Elisabeth Shue) and Homelander (Antony Starr). In the finale, the full horrors of the military-industrial-superhero complex are revealed, along with a shocking twist for Butcher (a delightful Karl Urban).

Andre Braugher, Andy Samberg and Karan Soni in Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Honeypot”
That this sitcom slipped out of my Top 10 should be no indication that it’s lost a step in its move to NBC. There was just that much competition. The highlight of the sixth season’s precinct vs. commissioner arc was this absolutely hysterical episode in which it’s revealed that Holt’s new assistant is actually a spy sent to seduce him in order to embarrass the precinct.

John Mulaney and Pete Holmes in Crashing
Crashing – “Mulaney”
The season finale served as an unintentional series finale, but it was fitting too. Pete was still trying to find his big break, but he nailed his big shot opening for John Mulaney (playing a delightfully repellent version of himself), overshadowing his hero in the process. We’ll never know if Pete the character ascended the heights of the stand-up circuit, but he ended right where he needed to be, and back with Ali (Jamie Lee).

Olivia Colman in The Crown
The Crown – “Aberfan”
In the first season of the show with an entirely new cast, The Crown felt a little inconsistent. But there were plenty of highs of course, with this devastating dramatization of the Aberfan mining disaster right up there with the series’ finest hours. Olivia Colman was terrific as usual, nailing the Queen’s dilemma of wanting to show sympathy for the victims without drawing attention to herself.

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale – “Mayday”
Let’s get to a spoiler right away: There is absolutely no way June is actually dead. Dying, maybe. But she’s not dead. But this finale served as a fitting tribute to her character, or at least what her character represents at her best. In saving as many stolen Gilead children as possible, she did for others what she couldn’t do for her own daughter. That may have been worth going full Walter White.

Gwendoline Christie in Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones – “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
Truly, this season was not very good, even if I liked some of the moments most people hated (namely, the arrogant, megalomaniacal Khaleesi torching King’s Landing for not immediately bowing to her). But with some perspective, I’ve come to agree with the consensus that the best episode was the second, the calm before the storm. Even someone like me who’s not a major fan was moved by Brienne’s knighting and the tender and sometimes funny moments our compromised heroes shared before facing down the Night King.

Rob McEllhenney and Charlie Day in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “A Woman’s Right to Chop”
One of the show’s great third-rail episodes, touching on a controversial topic in an irreverent way that only the Gang can pull off. Using a hair salon as a stand-in for an abortion clinic, the show charged head-first into a still-sensitive issue, while also sending Charlie and Mac on a quest for a dog abortion. Like its previous takes on gun ownership and racism, it comes to an expected conclusion in a creative way.

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2019 in Review: The Best Shows

Trying to stem the tide of new and returning shows is impossible. There will always be so many shows that I wanted to watch but didn’t have the time for. So here are my top 10, with an expanded Honorable Mentions and Comedy section coming soon.

Dan Stevens in Legion
10. Legion (FX)
After a messy and bloated Season 2, Noah Hawley’s excellent X-Men adjacent story righted the ship to end its run. The show was as trippy as ever, including an entire episode dedicated to a retelling of the Big Bad Wolf legend. Yet the focus remained on an undeniable truth: You can’t change the past, no matter how hard you try.
Standout episodes: “Chapter 20,” “Chapter 22,” “Chapter 27”

The cast of Veep
9. Veep (HBO)
A stellar end to one of the most deeply cynical shows to ever air, the last season made sure to remind us how deeply awful each of its characters are. And with such a deep bench of incredible comedians, that took some doing. Only this show would include a line like, “Hit me up on Venmo if you wanna go halvsies on the abortion.”
Standout episodes: “Pledge,” “Super Tuesday,” “Veep”

Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll
8. Russian Doll (Netflix)
Airing in February, this feels like it ran a lifetime ago. But this razor-sharp series from Leslye Headland, Amy Poehler and its fiery creative force Natasha Lyonne will be remembered for a long time. Reveling in a less luxurious part of New York, it brought us completely into the headspace of its deeply messed-up protagonist. It’s also one of the few Netflix shows to use the binge model to its advantage.
Standout episodes: “Superiority Complex,” “The Way Out, “Ariadne”

The cast of The Good Place
7. The Good Place (NBC)
Every time in the later seasons when it seems like the show has lost its way, it reveals where it’s going and all our second-guessing turns out to be wrong. There’s no denying that its current fourth season is its weakest, but it’s still deeper, warmer and funnier than almost any show on TV.
Standout episodes: “Pandemonium,” “Help Is Other People,” “The Answer”

Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany in Mindhunter
6. Mindhunter (Netflix)
While the first season – which I finally caught this year – was solid and creepy, it went up a level in Season 2. Holt McCallany cemented his status as the best weary middle-aged guy on television, giving way to a deep reservoir of emotion as he learned his own son was involved in a murder. And then to close out the season, Carl Franklin took over, giving us a four-hour look into the hunt for the Atlanta Monster, never neglecting the grassroots activism it took for the FBI to even pay attention, the distrust of local law enforcement, and the anticlimactic feeling when the main suspect was caught.
Standout episodes: “Episode 2,” “Episode 4,” “Episode 9”

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What I Watched This Week: 29 Dec 2019

BINGEING
The Man in the High Castle – Season 4 (A- average)
After three mostly successful but inessential seasons, the show saved its best for last. Showing the true cost of both fascism and trying to resist it, this was riveting, timely television. The very last shot is a bit frustrating, ending on ambiguity for its own sake, but overall it was enthralling.

OLD SHOWS & SPECIALS
Deadwood: The Movie (B)
A bit underwhelming, even if the beatdown of George Hurst is cathartic and that final shot is beautiful.

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Streaming Picks: January 2020

Since the three services I highlight dwarf any other service (including Disney+) in terms of subscribers, I’m going to keep focusing on those three for now.

FILMS
Top Picks
The Master – Netflix 1/14
The Bellboy – Prime and Hulu 1/1
Midsommar – Prime 1/3
Ari Aster’s follow-up to Hereditary is quite upsetting, though it’s a little more predictable in where it heads. Even so, it’s worth seeing for that incredible Florence Pugh performance. The Master is my pick for Paul Thomas Anderson’s best movie of the decade (with some serious competition). But if you want something lighter, I recommend The Bellboy, Jerry Lewis’s best solo outing.

Recent Selections
Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins – Hulu 1/2
10 Minutes Gone – Prime 1/5
The Art of Self Defense – Hulu 1/6
American Dreamer – Prime 1/8
Midnight Sun – Prime 1/8
The Wedding Year – Prime 1/10
Honeyland – Hulu 1/20
The Prodigy – Prime and Hulu 1/23
Brian Banks – Hulu 1/27
Luce – Hulu 1/27
Fighting with My Family – Prime and Hulu 1/30

Originals
Ghost Stories – Netflix 1/1
Thieves of the Wood – Netflix 1/2
Troop Zero – Prime 1/17
Tyler Perry’s A Fall from Grace – Netflix 1/17
Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak – Netflix 1/22
The Ghost Bride – Netflix 1/23
Night on Earth – Netflix 1/29
Luna Nera – Netflix 1/31

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2010s in Review: The Best Movie Moments

Of the hundreds of movies I watched this decade, these moments were the ones that I remember the most.

22 Jump StreetSlam poetry

AnnihilationBear attack

Baby DriverOpening chase

The Big SickThe 9/11 joke

BlindspottingGarage confrontation

Call Me by Your NameFather and son

Captain America: Civil WarAirport showdown

Captain America: The Winter SoldierFury attacked

Captain PhillipsState of shock

ClimaxOpening dance number

Crazy Stupid LoveMakeover montage

Deadpool 2First mission

Deepwater HorizonThe explosion

DriveOpening drive

Flight“I had two glasses of wine.”

Get OutThe Sunken Place

Gone GirlThe Cool Girl monologue

The Grand Budapest Hotel“What’s the meaning of this shit?!”

Hail, Caesar!“Would that it were so simple.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2Snape’s story

The Hateful EightDingus

Incredibles 2Runaway train

Inside Llewyn DavisThe audition

Inside OutBye bye, Bing Bong

The IntouchablesName that tune

Iron Man 3The Mandarin revealed

La La LandWhat could have been

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2010s in Review: The Best Movies, Part 3

This is Part 3 of a three-part series. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Even with making a Top 50, there were still a lot of movies I loved but didn’t quite make the cut. And even though I watched more movies than ever before, there were still plenty I never got around to. So here are 50 honorable mentions and 15 (or so) movies that appeared on many best-of lists that I never saw.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
50/50 (2011, Jonathan Levine)
The Big Sick (2017, Michael Showalter)
Black Panther (2018, Ryan Coogler)
Blue Like Jazz (2012, Steve Taylor)
Burning (2018, Lee Chang-dong)
The Cabin in the Woods (2012, Drew Goddard)
Calvary (2014, John Michael McDonagh)
Captain Phillips (2013, Paul Greengrass)
Christine (2016, Antonio Campos)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014, Matt Reeves)
The Death of Stalin (2018, Armando Iannucci)
Edge of Tomorrow (2014, Doug Liman)
Eighth Grade (2018, Bo Burnham)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010, Banksy)
The Florida Project (2017, Sean Baker)
A Ghost Story (2017, David Lowery)
Holy Motors (2012, Leos Carax)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013, Francis Lawrence)
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck)
Jackass 3D (2010, Jeff Tremaine)
Jackie (2016, Pablo Larraín)
Killing Them Softly (2012, Andrew Dominik)
Lady Bird (2017, Greta Gerwig)
Leave No Trace (2018, Debra Granik)
The LEGO Movie (2014, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)
Life Itself (2014, Steve James)
Logan (2017, James Mangold)
Long Day’s Journey into Night (2019, Bi Gan)
Manchester by the Sea (2016, Kenneth Lonergan)
Mandy (2018, Panos Cosmatos)
Melancholia (2011, Lars Von Trier)
Moneyball (2011, Bennett Miller)
Mudbound (2017, Dee Rees)
The Nice Guys (2016, Shane Black)
Once upon a Time in Hollywood (2019, Quentin Tarantino)
The Revenant (2015, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu)
Room (2015, Lenny Abrahamson)
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012, Lorene Scafaria)
The Shape of Water (2017, Guillermo del Toro)
Short Term 12 (2013, Destin Daniel Cretton)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, Rian Johnson)
Steve Jobs (2015, Danny Boyle)
Take Shelter (2011, Jeff Nichols)
Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013, Cullen Hoback)
A Touch of Sin (2013, Jia Zhangke)
True Grit (2010, Joel & Ethan Coen)
Under the Skin (2014, Jonathan Glazer)
Upstream Color (2013, Shane Carruth)
What We Do in the Shadows (2014, Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi)
Young Adult (2011, Jason Reitman)

Acclaimed Movies I Wanted to Watch But Never Got Around To
The Act of Killing/The Look of Silence (2012/2014, Joshua Oppenheimer)
Amour (2012, Michael Haneke)
Blue Valentine (2010, Derek Cianfrance)
Columbus (2017, Kogonada)
Creed (2015, Ryan Coogler)
The Duke of Burgundy (2014, Peter Strickland)
The Hunt (2013, Thomas Vinterberg)
The Immigrant (2013, James Gray)
Margaret (2011, Kenneth Lonergan)
Spring Breakers (2012, Harmony Korine)
Stories We Tell (2011, Sarah Polley)
Tangerine (2015, Sean Baker)
This Is Not a Film (2011, Jafar Panahi)
Toni Erdmann (2016, Maren Ade)
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011, Lynne Ramsey)

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2010s in Review: The Best Movies, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a three-part series. Read Part 1 here.

Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, George Miller)
Still jaw-dropping years later, this is gold standard for action movies. And if you want to read more into it, there’s plenty below the surface. If not, there’s always the most insane stunts ever committed to film in the modern era.

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story
Marriage Story (2019, Noah Baumbach)
In severing ties with the person you once loved, it’s always messier, harder and more painful than expected. But in Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece, it’s funnier, too. I pray I never know just how accurate this experience is.
Further Viewing: Frances Ha (2013), While We’re Young (2015), The Meyerowitz Stories (2017)

Matt Damon in The Martian
The Martian (2015, Ridley Scott)
One of the most purely entertaining movies of the decade, and sadly already starting to feel like part of a bygone era. Studios today are unlikely to spend this much money on a movie that’s not adapted from a comic book. Matt Damon is absolutely terrific as Mark Watney, a botanist stranded on Mars, waiting for rescue. But the international effort to bring him home is equally gripping and inspiring.
Further Viewing: Prometheus (2012), Alien: Covenant (2017)

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
The Master (2012, Paul Thomas Anderson)
It was nearly impossible to pick which of Anderson’s three incredible films would make this list, but I have to go with the one that went through the most changes. I was initially floored by it, then my admiration dimmed. But a recent rewatch confirmed the script is great, actually. I already knew how legendary the performances were, but the film is often hilarious and heartbreaking, sometimes in the same scene. It’s not really about cults, but about two self-destructive men who can’t resist each other.
Further Viewing: Inherent Vice (2014), Phantom Thread (2017)

The subjects of Minding the Gap
Minding the Gap (2018, Bing Liu)
One of the most radically empathetic films I’ve ever seen, Bing Liu turns his camera on a group of young skateboarders in Rockford, Illinois, one of many towns left behind during the last recession. Following them as they try to break free from cycles of poverty, abuse and neglect, the film becomes even more powerful when Bing addresses his own demons.

Henry Cavill, Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson in Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018, Christopher McQuarrie)
Somewhere along the way, Mission: Impossible became our most reliable franchise. Tom Cruise’s singular desire to keep upping the ante every outing has found just the right director/enabler in Christopher McQuarrie, who took the series to new heights (literally) in the best entry to date.
Further Viewing: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in Moonlight
Moonlight (2016, Barry Jenkins)
An experience I still have yet to forget, Moonlight was a peek inside a world unfamiliar to me yet incredibly moving all the same. With three amazing actors playing Chiron at different stages in his life, we get a brief but effective glimpse at a man trying to hide his real self from the world, and the people who help him get to a place where he’s comfortable with his true identity. The rare time the year’s best film actually won Best Picture.
Further Viewing: If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year
A Most Violent Year (2014, J.C. Chandor)
Criminally ignored by audiences and many major awards-giving bodies, J.C. Chandor’s period piece is one of the most damning pieces of anti-capitalist art of the 21st Century (at least from an American). Oscar Isaac attempts to run his heating oil business completely above board, but is constantly dragged into dirtier and dirtier dealings by his wife (Jessica Chastain at her most intense), his competitors and even the D.A. investigating him (David Oyelowo). The American Dream is a lie. The only way to really succeed in business is to cheat.

Jennifer Lawrence in mother!
mother! (2017, Darren Aronofsky)
Perhaps the most divisive movie of the decade, mother! is fascinating precisely because its allegory is so open-ended. Is it a retelling of the Creation story, with Javier Bardem as God and Jennifer Lawrence as the world he gave us? That’s the one I choose to believe. Is it an autobiographical story about the pressures of living with an artist who’s praised as a genius? It might be. Is it just a home-invasion thriller with a truly disturbing twist? Sure. Why not? Whatever it is, I haven’t seen anything quite like it.
Further Viewing: Black Swan (2010)

The cast of Parasite
Parasite (2019, Bong Joon-ho)
The rare film to sustain months of hype and then surpass every bit of positivity it earned along the way. Bong’s pitch-black comedy is specific to South Korea, but every bit universal as the economy has divided us into two classes: the ultra-rich and everybody else.
Further Viewing: Snowpiercer (2013)

Christian Zehrfeld and Nina Hoss in Phoenix
Phoenix (2015, Christian Petzold)
Just when you thought you’d seen every possible World War II story, Christian Petzold comes along with this haunting adaptation about identity and betrayal. Nina Hoss is legendary as Nelly, a concentration camp survivor who returns to Berlin and reunites with her husband (Ronald Zehrfeld), who thinks the disfigured Nelly could pass as his late ex-wife, and claim the inheritance she’s owed.
Further Viewing: Transit (2019)

Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant in Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019, Céline Sciamma)
Most of you won’t be able to see this until next decade, but this absolutely breathtaking romance will burn its way into your memory. Marianne (Noémie Merlant) arrives at a remote manor to complete the portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), with neither of them aware just how much the next few weeks will mean for them.
Further Viewing: Girlhood (2014)

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2010s in Review: The Best Movies, Part 1

It’s no exaggeration to say I watched more movies this decade than in the previous two combined, so settling on this list was pretty grueling. But I narrowed it down to 50 movies that meant a lot to me. That means some more challenging efforts narrowly missed the cut, but these had the biggest impact.

Annette Bening and Lucas Jade Zumann in 20th Century Women
20th Century Women (2016, Mike Mills)
A movie that feels like the past and present happening all at once, Mike Mills’ quietly radical vision of a modern American family at a crossroads is an enchanting story of the joys and disappointments of life.
Further Viewing: Beginners (2011)

Dean Charles Chapman and George Mackay in 1917
1917 (2019, Sam Mendes)
Enthralling and devastating from first frame to last, Sam Mendes’ brutal World War I adventure is more than just a gimmick. Roger Deakins’ breathtaking cinematography gives it an edge, but there’s a genuine emotional component as well.
Further Viewing: Skyfall (2012)

Domnhall Gleason and Bill Nighy in About Time
About Time (2013, Richard Curtis)
The best romantic comedy of the decade, Richard Curtis’ final film as a director is brimming with life, featuring Domhnall Gleeson in his breakout role and one of many great turns from Rachel McAdams. But it wouldn’t be Curtis project without some serious tugging on your heartstrings, and I can’t help but tear up every time I watch it.

The cast of Annihilation
Annihilation (2018, Alex Garland)
A brilliant adaptation of Jeff VanDerMeer’s essentially unfilmable sci-fi novel, this is much more a story about mankind’s self-destructive nature. Yet it still has one of the most terrifying scenes of any movie this decade.
Further Viewing: Ex Machina (2015)

apollo11
Apollo 11 (2019, Todd Douglas Miller)
A true feat of craftsmanship, this stellar documentary condenses tens of thousands of hours of raw footage from NASA into a tidy, inspiring testament to mankind’s scientific achievement.

Amy Adams in Arrival
Arrival (2016, Denis Villeneuve)
The best of the many brainy sci-fi films we got this decade, its themes have only gotten more resonant, as an inability to communicate will all but ensure our destruction. Many films used Max Richter’s beautiful, haunting “On the Nature of Daylight,” but no film used it more powerfully.
Further Viewing: Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015), Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs in Blindspotting
Blindspotting (2018, Carlos López Estrada)
This razor-sharp debut from its main trio didn’t leave any issue unchecked as it barreled through them with righteous fury. Racism, police brutality, mass incarceration, gentrification, sexism and prejudice all get addressed with in turn. But did I mention how entertaining and funny this movie is? It walks a tonal tightrope, then does it blindfolded just to make sure you were paying attention.

Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Lorelai Linklater in Boyhood
Boyhood (2014, Richard Linklater)
Aside from the master Martin Scorsese, I’m not sure any director had a better decade than Linklater. Almost any of his other movies could have made this list – the delightful true-crime story of Bernie, the brutal yet hopeful trilogy capper Before Midnight, the ultimate hang-out movie Wants Some, and the powerful anti-war dramedy Last Flag Flying – all are wildly different examples of a director in the zone. But I have to go with his most astonishing directorial achievement: Boyhood, which took 14 years to film, a couple weeks at a time. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are tremendous as his divorced parents, but young Ellar Coltrane had to be phenomenal to hold it together, and he was.
Further Viewing: Bernie (2012), Before Midnight (2013), Everybody Wants Some (2016), Last Flag Flying (2017)

Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer in Call Me by Your Name
Call Me by Your Name (2017, Luca Guadagnino)
An intoxicating portrayal of a summer fling that forever changes at least one half of the couple. It’s beautiful of course, but its final stretch – including that incredible monologue from Michael Stuhlbarg and the stunning last shot – gives the film its power.
Further Viewing: Suspiria (2018)

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in Carol
Carol (2015, Todd Haynes)
And speaking of lush films about brief love affairs, it’s hard to think of a more bittersweet Christmas movie than this grand Patricia Highsmith adaptation. It’s hard to think of any living human being who wouldn’t be immediately enraptured with Cate Blanchett’s titular object of affection. Rooney Mara gives her best performance to date as the Therese, the “girl flung out of space” and into Carol’s orbit. But Phyllis Nagy’s script refuses to turn the men in these women’s lives into easy villains. And unlike decades of queer romances on page and screen, offers a glimpse of hope.
Further Viewing: Dark Waters (2019)

William Shimmel and Juliette Binoche in Certified Copy
Certified Copy (2011, Abbas Kiarostami)
Who are this pair? Are they old flames? Longtime friends? Mere strangers? The lines blur together in this gorgeous travelogue, as they walk and talk around an Italian village. A shining example of the journey being more important than the destination.

Ben Whishaw in Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas (2012, Tom Tykwer & the Wachowskis)
Yes, this movie has a gigantic flaw, but that failure is more interesting than many merely adequate films. In using the same cast for every role, Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis run into some limitations. (For one, Tom Hanks is not convincing in the slightest as a British gangster.) And that’s before we get into the complicated nature of having the likes of Hugh Grant play an indigenous person and Jim Sturgess playing a man of Korean descent. But taken as a whole, this is an astonishing, ambitious movie about good and evil throughout time, and the power of kindness against greed.

Ryan Gosling in Drive
Drive (2011, Nicolas Winding Refn)
Even though it’s been mocked endlessly and Refn has yet to live up to the promise of this film, there still hasn’t been anything quite as cool on our movie screens ever since. Gosling is in Apex Stoic Mode as the Driver, drawn to protect his neighbor (Carey Mulligan) after a heist gone wrong. Albert Brooks is tremendous as the heavy, and the film’s style remains second to none.

Tom Hardy in Dunkirk
Dunkirk (2017, Christopher Nolan)
A feat of editing as much as directing, Nolan’s World War II triptych is harrowing and inspiring. It’s a rousing war movie that never relies on jingoism, focusing on the ordinary men who answered the call of duty.
Further Viewing: Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014)

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What I Watched This Week: 22 Dec 2019

NEW SHOWS
Saturday Night Live – “Eddie Murphy/Lizzo” (A-)
The best episode in a long time, with Murphy bringing back a bunch of classic characters, but really blowing the doors off in sketches where he’s not reliving the past. Plus, any time someone is mean to Colin & Michael, it’s good, especially when it’s Gumby.

John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch (A-)
Essentially a less anarchic Wonder Showzen, but that’s not a bad thing. A kids’ show filtered through John Mulaney’s weird mind, it’s a total delight.

BINGEING
Mindhunter – Season 2 (A- average)
Even better in its second season, which complicates its characters’ mission with the baffling bureaucracy they must face. Its final four episodes (directed by Carl Franklin) focus on the hunt for the Atlanta Monster, and the season ends with a feeling that even if they caught their man, there won’t be any real sense of justice for anyone.

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What I Watched This Week: 15 Dec 2019

NEW SHOWS
Watchmen – “See How They Fly” (A-) / season finale
An incredibly satisfying finale that of course can’t answer every possible question we have. Damon Lindelof stuck the landing on one of the best seasons of television ever. I want more, but this would also be the greatest flex in history to end it here. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”

BINGEING
Mindhunter – Season 1 (A- average)
Its Fincher-directed episodes are shockingly its weakest, but they establish the formal rigor and intensity for telling such a dark story but with characters we care about. Its relative unknowns playing the “sequence killers” (they don’t arrive at the term serial killers until Season 2) are uniformly brilliant, especially Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper, the Co-Ed Killer.

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