What I Watched This Week: 3 Feb 2019

NEW SHOWS
Crashing – “The Secret” (A-)
Another winner, even if I don’t buy into the hippie bullshit premise. Kat is such a positive force in Pete’s life that it’s been magical to watch.

True Detective – “If You Have Ghosts” (B)
An explosive opening and emotionally powerful closing, but in between it’s a lot of red herrings and plot filler.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “A Tale of Two Bandits” (B)
Even though Nicole Byer is wonderful as Trudy Judy, this feels like the least consequential, least special of the Pontiac Bandit episodes. But at least we have Dancing Amy..

CURRENT SHOWS
True Detective – “The Hour and the Day” (B+)
One disastrous scene (with Carmen Ejogo and Mamie Gummer, proving creator Nic Pizzolatto can’t write for one woman, let alone two) keeps this from being the show’s standout episode. Other than that, it’s a tremendous mastery of plot, emotion and tension.

This Is Us – “Songbird Road, Part 1” (B+)
The Jack stuff is pretty anti-climactic, but it serves the kids’ story better. Maybe Jack wasn’t actually perfect, but casting Griffin Dunne as the older Nick is.

BINGEING
Grace and Frankie – Season 5 (B+)
Another winning season, even if it ends with a grotesque “What If?” episode. This is one of my favorite shows that I’ll never put among the greats. It’s just TV comfort food.

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What I Watched This Week: 27 Jan 2019

NEW SHOWS
Crashing – “The Temple Gig” (A)
Another lovely start to the season. Pete finds new love at a clothing store, and they get to know each other (and each other’s bodies) over the course of one magical day. That he turns to her instead of religious guidance from a rabbi feels like a deeply personal choice, and gives it the perfect capper.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Four Movements” (A)
A lovely goodbye to the least essential member of the Nine-Nine, but a source of some of the biggest laughs. A sweet farewell for an un-sweet character.

CURRENT SHOWS
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Tattler” (B+)
An excellent reunion episode, with a somewhat organic exit ramp for Chelsea Perretti. The resolution also deepens the friendship between Jake and Gina, making the latter into a three-dimensional character.

The Good Place – “Pandemonium” (A) / season finale
The show’s most melancholy move yet. Its climax apes the end of Cinema Paradiso (and the Scrubs finale), which was all but guaranteed to make me cry. This season was a little more inconsistent than the past two, but its emotions were even richer than before.

OLD SHOWS
The Simpsons (Season 19) – “Any Given Sundance” (A-)
When I saw this 11 years ago, I laughed a lot. Having now been to Sundance (“Where Parker Posey meets parka-ed posers”), the parody is even more spot-on than I could have imagined.

BINGEING
Luther – Season 1 (B+)
Frequently preposterous, but always grounded by Idris Elba’s incredible performance. Goes in some absurd but profound places emotionally in the final two episodes.

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Streaming Picks: February 2019

FILMS
Top Picks
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot – Prime 2/8
The Sisters Brothers – Hulu 2/18
Velvet Buzzsaw – Netflix 2/1
High Flying Bird – Netflix 2/8
If you need more proof that Joaquin Phoenix is one of our most versatile actors, check out the first of his two films from 2018. (His best performance from last year, in You Were Never Really Here, is already on Prime.) The former is the biopic of quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan. The latter is the dark comedy Western co-starring John C. Reilly, in one of his best performances.

The two Netflix titles are among their most tantalizing offerings to date. The former is Dan Gilroy’s horror-comedy about art that comes to life to kill the likes of Billy Magnussen, Toni Collette and Jake Gyllenhaal. The latter is Steven Soderbergh’s latest iPhone-shot epic, a behind-the-scenes basketball drama written by Moonlight’s Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Recent Selections
Unforgettable – Prime 2/1
Pick of the Litter – Hulu 2/2
Dog Days – Hulu 2/4
Papillon – Prime 2/7
The Promise – Prime 2/8
All Square – Hulu 2/11
Little Women – Netflix 2/11
The Party – Hulu and Prime 2/17
What They Had – Prime 2/16
Death Wish – Hulu and Prime 2/23
Every Day – Hulu and Prime 2/25
The School – Hulu 2/25
Three Identical Strangers – Hulu 2/26
The Guilty – Hulu 2/28

Originals
Dear Ex – Netflix 2/1
Generation Wealth – Prime 2/1
El árbol de la sangre – Netflix 2/8
The Breaker Uppers – Netflix 2/15
Yucatan – Netflix 2/15
The Drug King – Netflix 2/21
Firebrand – Netflix 2/22
Paddleton – Netflix 2/22
Paris Is Us – Netflix 2/22
The Photographer of Mauthausen – Netflix 2/22

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What I Watched This Week: 20 Jan 2019

NEW SHOWS
Crashing – “Jaboukie” (A) / season premiere
Pete returns from the high of his campus tour, jazzed about a great young comedian (Jaboukie Young-White, playing a version of himself). But the title of the show becomes literal again, as Jaboukie immediately leap-frogs Pete, booking a semi-regular gig at the Comedy Cellar, while Pete kills but without any discernible POV.

True Detective – “The Big Never” (B+)
Stephen Dorff gets his big moment to shine, proving he’s very much the Woody to Season 1’s McConaughey. But the episode carried horrifying resonance, as a group of white fathers harass and beat a Native American man. What that was in his bag we have yet to find out, but it’s (mostly) clear their hate and fear is misguided.

BINGEING
Alias Grace (B+)
This Canadian adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel probably could have been four episodes instead of six, but I was transfixed by Sarah Gadon’s performance as the possible murderer. It was certainly nice to see Zachary Levi and David Cronenberg(!) pop up in supporting roles, but Gadon gave it her all, and it’s pretty appalling she wasn’t nominated for an Emmy this year. Mostly, I just wanted Mary Harron and Sarah Polley, who directed and wrote all six episodes respectively, to get more opportunities to make haunting, deeply felt projects. It shouldn’t just be up to Canadian TV.

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Reactions to the 2019 Oscar Nominations

Biggest Snubs (in order from most to least egregious)
1. First Reformed – Actor
The one to get angry about. Hawke, who’s been nominated as Supporting Actor twice, is giving the best performance of his career here. The film barely squeaked in for a much-deserved Original Screenplay nod, but if you had to honor the film in just one category, it’s here, especially in an otherwise meh field.

2. First Man – Picture, Directing, Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Original Score, Cinematography
It was a long shot for anything beyond technical categories, but my No. 2 film of the year just got shit on. No major nominations, plus baffling omissions for Justin Hurwitz’s incredible score and Linus Sandgren’s breathtaking cinematography. That both men just won two years ago for La La Land is especially disconcerting.

3. If Beale Street Could Talk – Picture, Directing, Cinematography
At least it survived a scare for Supporting Actress. Regina King seems poised to win her first (and hopefully not last) Oscar. But Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to 2016’s Best Picture winner was sadly ignored. Part of the blame lies at distributor Annapurna’s feet. Their intra-company chaos led to delays and a lack of budget for a proper awards push. The film deserved to top-line these awards, but snubbing James Laxton’s sumptuous cinematography is inexcusable.

4. Eighth Grade – Original Screenplay, Actress
With WGA and DGA nods for writer-director Bo Burnham and a Golden Globe nod for Elsie Fisher, it seemed like this insightful coming-of-age story would get some Oscar glory. But alas, the mostly old crop of voters didn’t go for this very Gen Z story. (Josh Hamilton would have been a nice surprise in an extremely stacked Supporting Actor race, too.)

5. Blindspotting and Sorry to Bother You – Original Screenplay
How do you look at two of the most provocative films about race this year and nominate fuckin’ Green Book?

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What I Watched This Week: 13 Jan 2019

NEW SHOWS
True Detective
“The Great War and Modern Memory” (B+) / season premiere
“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” (B+)
The show will never be as transporting as that first season was, when there wasn’t much on TV like it. Still, Mahershala Ali is tremendous, and the case is already more compelling and more focused than it was in its first season, with less pontificating about the nature of existence.

This Is Us – “The Last Seven Weeks” (B+)
A pretty amazing feat for a show to course-correct within its own episode. But I could feel the Big Three acting like assholes, only for them to realize what they weren’t talking to their partners about and figuring it out in time for a mostly happy ending for everyone.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Hitchcock & Scully” (A-)
The show’s most reliable background source of laughter gets a surprisingly rich and strange backstory. While I’m still not crazy about the overcrowded office/feud with the chief storyline, the show is as warm and in its groove as ever.

The Good Place – “Chidi Sees the Time-Knife” (B+)
Would have been a solid finale, but I’m excited to see how everything goes awry in next week’s aptly titled “Pandemonium.”

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Things I Wrote: Fall 2018

As per usual, I am terrible at updating and linking to the pieces I write. See those below:

REVIEWS
All About Nina (Fresh Fiction)
Bohemian Rhapsody (College Movie Review)
First Man (Central Track)
Galveston (Fresh Fiction)
Halloween (Central Track)
The Hate U Give (Central Track)
Liyana (College Movie Review)
Love, Gilda (Fresh Fiction)
Overlord (College Movie Review)
A Private War (College Movie Review)
A Simple Favor (College Movie Review)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (College Movie Review)
Unlovable (Fresh Fiction)
Vice (College Movie Review)
Welcome to Marwen (College Movie Review)

LISTS (for Central Track)
Best of 2018

ARTICLES (for Central Track)
Coming Attractions – September 2018
Coming Attractions – October 2018
Coming Attractions – November 2018
Coming Attractions – December 2018

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Final Oscar Picks 2019

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book
BEST PICTURE
Black Klansman
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

Dark Horse: Crazy Rich Asians
Long Shot: First Man
Total Shock: If Beale Street Could Talk

The skinny: This season has been wild, and not necessarily in a fun way. A Star Is Born seemed to have this all locked up. Then Green Book came along to win the People’s Choice Award at Toronto (a strong precursor for a nominee, if not a winner), endured some backlash, then won numerous prizes (including Best Picture – Comedy at both the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards), then had two really gross things from its director’s and writer’s past resurface. So if it’s not quite your front runner anymore, it’s still a contender because it’s the old guard’s favorite movie. Roma is certainly formidable, but had almost all its oxygen sucked up by Bird Box of all things. Still, a foreign language film has never won Best Picture, despite being nominated three times in the last 21 years. I don’t see anything expanding this beyond this field of eight. Crazy Rich Asians could pick up a courtesy nod. (It’s already gotten ensemble notices from SAG and PGA.) But that would likely be its only nomination, which doesn’t bode well. Early on, I thought we’d have another showdown between Barry Jenkins and Damien Chazelle, but that appears to be a pipe dream, despite both of them making exceptional films. It’s a toss-up as to whether either breaks through, though First Man has had a stronger campaign, and will be one of the most nominated films of the year, even without a Best Picture.

Alfonso Cuarón on the set of Roma
BEST DIRECTOR
Spike Lee, Black Klansman
Peter Farrelly, Green Book
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Adam McKay, Vice

Dark Horse: Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Long Shot: Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Total Shock: Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The skinny: Even as a fan of Kingpin, I would be shocked and appalled if one half of the Farrelly Brothers got nominated for this. He already has a DGA nom, and their slate never matches up perfectly with the Oscars. So if anyone takes him down, it would be Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek freak finally getting his due for his most accessible film. But don’t count out Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski either. He picked up a BAFTA nod even though Cold War wasn’t up for Best Picture. It would have been nice if they could have nominated another woman this year, but it’s not happening. Marielle Heller is the only one who has a shot, but Can You Ever Forgive Me? seems to have fallen back to its initial three nods.

Christian Bale in Vice
BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Dark Horse: John David Washington, Black Klansman
Long Shot: Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Total Shock: Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here or The Sisters Brothers or Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

The skinny: There’s plenty of great work this year, but this crop of nominees actually seems a little boring. A lot of people are already predicting Hawke misses here, but who would replace him, honestly? I like John David Washington, and he’s got a good body of work this year to go along with his star turn in Black Klansman (which I refuse to write as styled on the poster), but it doesn’t feel like his year yet. Willem Dafoe was just nominated last year, but even fewer people saw his Vincent Van Gogh biopic than did The Florida Project. And Joaquin Phoenix was excellent in three different films this year, but he’s not playing the “game,” so he won’t be honored.

Glenn Close in The Wife
BEST ACTRESS
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Dark Horse: Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns
Long Shot: Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Total Shock: Toni Collette, Hereditary

The skinny: As the Critics’ Choice Awards showed us with their tie, it really is down to Glenn Close and Lady Gaga. And while I have yet to see The Wife, an award for Glenn Close is long overdue. I’m, ahem, gaga for the rest of these women, but Close is a living legend, who’s been nominated six times before with nothing to show for it. Emily Blunt could take Aparicio’s spot, but I’m pretty confident Mary Poppins Returns will be relegated to technical categories. If there was any additional room, honoring newcomer Elsie Fisher would be great. But that only could have happened if A24 had upped their game, but they failed her and Toni Collette, who gave arguably her best performance ever in the terrifying Hereditary.

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What I Watched This Week: 6 Jan 2019

NEW SHOWS
76th Golden Globe Awards (C)
The very definition of a mixed bag. The show itself went on too long, but did have time for some great speeches (Christian Bale, Glenn Close) and some bad ones (Peter Farrelly). But mostly it’s marked by the baffling decision to name Green Book the best comedy of the year and Bohemian Rhapsody the best drama of the year. Seriously, what the hell?

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Honeymoon” (A) / season premiere
It’s been a very long seven months without our colleagues at the Nine-Nine. While the antics at the precinct were pretty pat, every scene at the tropical resort had me in stitches. It’s so good to have this crew back. Still, I’m not sure if we need to have a big season-long conflict either.

The Good Place – “The Book of Dougs” (A-)
Blowing everything up once more, our Soul Squad learns that part of the problem with the Good Place is they’re too nice, leading to a never-ending bureaucracy that doesn’t allow for swift action. But its big reveal of the reason behind the challenge of anyone getting into the Good Place is just brilliant, relevant writing. Luckily, we already know there will be more time to figure out our complicated world with a previously announced fourth season.

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2018 in Review: Box Office Report

SURE-FIRE HITS – The Kings of the Box Office
Black Panther ($700 million)
Avengers: Infinity War ($678.8 million)
Incredibles 2 ($608.5 million)
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ($416.7 million)

SURPRISE SUCCESSES – They got there through word-of-mouth or succeeded where others failed
A Quiet Place ($188 million)
*Crazy Rich Asians ($174 million)
Book Club ($68.5 million)
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? ($22.6 million)

CONSOLATION PRIZES – Didn’t do so hot here, but made up for it overseas
Ready Player One ($137 million) – made $445.2 million outside North America
Skyscraper ($67.7 million) – made $236.3 million outside North America
Tomb Raider ($57.4 million) – made $216.4 million outside North America
Detective Chinatown 2 ($1.9 million) – made $542 million outside North America

DISAPPOINTMENTS – Movies that should have done better
Solo: A Star Wars Story ($213.7 million) – all three previous entries were the biggest movies of their respective years; in fact, no previous Star Wars movie had ever finished worse than No. 3 for the year. This barely finished in the top 10.
*Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($156.7 million) – previous film made $234 million
Pacific Rim: Uprising ($59.5 million) – previous film made $101.8 million
Paddington 2 ($40.4 million) – previous film made $76.2 million

FLOPPIEST FLOPS – These cost a lot and didn’t come close to returning their investment
*The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ($54.5 million) – cost $120 million
The Predator ($51 million) – cost $88 million
*Mortal Engines ($14.8 million) – cost $100 million
*The Girl in the Spider’s Web ($14.8 million) – cost $43 million

LOW BUDGET VICTORIES – Low-cost, high-yield successes
*Halloween ($159.3 million) – cost $10 million
I Can Only Imagine ($83.4 million) – cost $7 million
Breaking In ($46.5 million) – cost $6 million
Truth or Dare ($41.2 million) – cost $3.5 million

SADDEST STATISTIC – Death Wish made more than Annihilation.

(all grosses through Dec. 31, 2018)
*still in release

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