2018 Live Highlights Playlist (pt. 13)

Previous parts: ONETWOTHREEFOURFIVESIXSEVENEIGHTNINETENELEVEN TWELVE

Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift

I know I said last week that I don’t love this song, but I do really, really love Taylor Swift and so her whole setlist is on the playlist.

Don’t Swallow The Cap – The National

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Ryland – I’m With Her

I Could Use a Love Song – Maren Morris

No Children – The Mountain Goats

All These Things I’ve Done – The Killers

I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar – Fleet Foxes

Rainbow – Kacey Musgraves

Holiday – Olivia Chaney

Ready For You – HAIM

As always you can see the whole list (including T. Swift’s whole set) on Apple Music here. And this week’s non-streaming bonus song is:

Life In The Fast Lane – Niall Horan covering The Eagles

And the Nominees Are 2019: Round 2

We got 2 batches of new nominations this week, so even though I was only able to watch one movie, I have a few updates from things I saw in the past.

Sorry To Bother You

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This movie is fucking insane. There is no other apt way to describe it. It’s bonkers but great, or I think it’s great. I don’t know. But I do know I’ve never seen anything like it before. Ther premise explained best by the trailer:

is bonkers enough, but that’s only the starting point for writer-director Boots Riley. I can’t describe where it goes from there except to say that you aren’t expecting it. Trust me, whatever your expectations are they aren’t what happened.

Despite this craziness this movie isn’t a mess, and a lot of that is down to the really superb cast. Lakeith Stanfield is a necessary calm center, supported well by Tessa Thompson (and her earrings) and Danny Glover. I was most surprised by Armie Hammer who does a spectacular self-sacrifice of hyper-capitalist-white-male-entitlement that this movie is worth seeing for him alone. (and it actually gave me nightmares, so that’s saying a lot!)

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Wildlife

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This movie is shot like a vintage postcard. Grainy and warm and beautiful. For a first time director Paul Dano (who also co-wrote the script with his partner and my favorite Zoe Kazan) has a wonderful eye for framing and light and allows his camera to linger on a close up for long enough for his actors to communicate everything with a look. And they are great actors. Jake Gyllenhaal uses his sad-manic energy to lovely effect as a young disaffected father in 1950s Montana and Carey Mulligan is heartbreaking as his wife. But she is given an unenviable task of making character choices that don’t quite make sense seem believable and though she’s wonderful, I’m not quite sure it gets there.

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Mid90s

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As we were walking out of this my boyfriend referred to it as “a feat of brevity” and at 85 minutes it certainly is. Considering the way it zips along from the young protagonist’s home to a skate shop to various open spaces he and his friends use as parks, it’s kind of amazing how much of an emotional punch writer-director Jonah Hill manages to pack in. But I pretty much always feel punched by stories about children in danger and Sunny Suljic is so tiny he seems so vulnerable to me even as his eyes light up at the idea of danger.

But this isn’t really a movie about trauma. Or maybe that’s exactly what it is, but it’s about how young men in the ooze of toxic masculinity deal (or, more accurately, tend to not deal) with their pain.

It’s also a wonderfully drawn look at an era and a subculture. I was particularly impressed with the way Hill captured the very specific language these guys use and the clothes they wear. (I felt this particularly with Lucas Hedges‘s asshole older brother character, every shirt in his closet seemed perfect to me.

Apparently Hill found his actors by casting skaters and he really lucked out with these guys, yes their skating is great, but their vulnerability in front of a camera was really impressive.

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Widows

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I so wanted to love this movie. It’s got so many things I love – Colin Farrell! Chicago! Those two things should be enough, but also: Feminism! Cute dog! Viola Davis! A heist!

But, it never rose above being “well made” for me. There are moments and shots that did (particularly a long shot of a car bringing Farrell’s would be Daley Jr. from the rough neighborhood he wants to represent to the gated mansion he bought just inside the ward line as he and his love/aide talk candidly).

In fact, the parts of this movie that are about local Chicago politics were cynical and dark and compelling and I liked them a lot (and I swear it’s not just because I love Colin Farrell so much.)

But – this is supposed to a be a heist movie, and I’m sorry if this is reductive, but aren’t heists supposed to be fun? Like, yes, I get that these women aren’t adrenaline junkies who do this for the rush, but couldn’t you have made the point about their desperation while also giving us a training montage? But of course the couldn’t, because they already had enough plot for 3 movies, so they had to zip along to the job.

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The Favourite

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I’ve never seen a Yorgos Lanthimos movie before, even just the descriptions of his previous work were unsettling enough for me to stay away, so I was confused to see his name attached to a seemingly straightforward (if quirky) period piece. This possible mismatch of director and subject matter plagued the whole movie for me.

OK, plagued is too dramatic, the movie is good, particularly the central performances and, of course, the art direction and costume design are all superb. And in some ways Lanthimos’s iconoclasm serves this movie well. The inversion of gender stereotypes raises, interesting questions about the nature of sex and power and the crassness and sexual frankness are refreshing. Obviously courtesans didn’t speak like the BBC censors would have us think, but at a certain point I couldn’t help but think that he was being strange for the sake of it rather than to serve his story. Why so many shots with a fisheye lens? Why were those men throwing tomatoes a naked bewigged man? What’s the point other than confusion?


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Best Picture Baking Project: Dances With Wolves

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Look at me actually doing this two months in a row! Maybe it’ll only take me twenty years to finish the list! I made what the internet tells me is a traditional Lakota dessert, which was almost absurdly easy to make. But first, the movie!

Had I seen this one before?

Yes, at least twice, once as a kid and then as an assignment in my film criticism class in college. On that viewing I had to restart it multiple times because I kept falling asleep.

Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

  1. It was better than I remembered, visually especially. Kevin Costner clearly loves the Western landscape and he wants the audience to see why. (It’s still too long though.)

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2. Kevin, the voice over? Why? The words you’re saying are often good, but as a director, you must know that your strength as an actor is not using words expressively. Did you really listen to this and think, “Yeah, that conveys emotion.”

It’s easy to make fun of Kevin Costner (and we did while watching this) but he has a good physical presence, so it’s confusing how that disappears when he talks.

3. The racial politics of this are…confusing. Like, I know it got praised at the time as a revisionist Western that treats the Lakota (Sioux) people as full human beings. And it does that, and it’s particularly cool that Costner has them speak speak in their own language rather than weirdly accented English. But, the Lakota’s enemies the Pawnee are still pretty stereotypically “savage” and they are portrayed as more painted and “other” than the Lakota. Also I know they need her to be a translator, but it’s a little weird that there is a white woman available for him to fall in love with in a tribe of Indigenous people.

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win? 

Awakenings – I’ve never seen it and honestly don’t know much about it. But I love Penny Marshall.

Ghost – I love this movie, watched it many times, it’s a pulpy gem, but I’m genuinely surprised it was up for Best Picture.

Goodfellas – A classic and rightfully so, and the fact that it lost best editing to Dances is a travesty.

The Godfather: Part III – Wait, I thought its pretty well acknowledged this is bad?

Dances with Wolves is better than I remembered but I think it’s fair to say this should have been Goodfellas’s year.

Bechdel Test pass?

Nope. Two women talk at one point, but its just about Kevin.

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Also, how did she get such great 80s body in her hair out on the frontier?)

I wanted to make a Lakota dessert to go along with this, and google led me to this site. I’m sure the topping I made is far from authentic, but it was delicious!

Wojapi

Ingredients

  • 2 cups frozen cherries (Note: the recipe calls for “chokecherries, but I don’t know what they are)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp constarch

Directions 

  1. In a sauce pan mix berries, sugar and 1/4 cup water
  2. Bring to a boil
  3. Stir cornstarch into 1/4 cup cold water until it has no lumps
  4. While berry mixture is boiling slowly add cornstarch water
  5. Stir gently until combined
  6. Simmer for 2 minutes on low heat
  7. Remove from heat
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes

 

2018 Live Highlights Playlist (pt. 12)

Previous parts: ONETWOTHREEFOURFIVESIXSEVENEIGHTNINETENELEVEN

Call It What You Want – Taylor Swift

This was the first performance from the Reputation era that I really fell in love with (“Look What You Made Me Do” is not my fave song). So, I’m glad I could find a video, even if it strangely cropped.

Second Wind- Maren Morris

Cheerleader – St. Vincent

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Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National 

“I still owe money to the money to the money I owe” is one of my favorite lyrics of all time.

Still Life – I’m With Her 

Kiwi – Harry Styles 

Sinking Sands – Sunflower Bean 

Somebody Told Me – The Killers 

Bad Idea – Katharine McPhee and Eric Bergen 

(Obviously this sounded better in the acoustics of a theater, but I really love the score from this show, and McPhee was SO GOOD in the title role.)

Mirrors – Niall Horan 

Funnily, this means we have the closing encore songs from both of the former members of One Direction I’ve seen play live this year on the list this week.

As always, you can listen to the whole list on Apple Music here. And this week’s not available to stream is:

Sacré Coeur – Niall Connolly

And the Nominees Are 2019: Round 1

Happy Awards Season everyone! The Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced the Golden Globe nominations this morning, which longtime readers will know, is the official beginning of my favorite time of the year!

I have a lot of homework to do already (and we have 4 more sets of nominations still to come!), but I’ve made some progress. Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

Black Panther

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I didn’t make notes for this after I saw it, which was dumb. I think I saw it in the midst of last awards season, or right after maybe, so I just wasn’t thinking about 2019 awards yet. But, it’s really good. I see a few Marvel movies a year (certainly not all of them), and this is easily the most discussion worthy I’ve ever seen. Ryan Coogler, plays within the rules of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and does his part to set the stage for the omnibus Infinity War while also crafting a compelling story with a distinctive style.

The cast is all great, and unlike a lot of Marvel movies, it has a compelling villain (played by the really wonderful Michael B. Jordan) with motivations which, while still very flawed and wrong, are understandable. (Usually Marvel villains thought process tends to read to me as “Give me power now, I don’t need a reason now.”) Anyway, I should probably watch this again.

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You can read my poem for this movie here.

Eighth Grade

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I have some questions for Bo Burnham, who somehow went from making piano-comedy specials I fell asleep to on Netflix to writing and directing the most emotionally true take on young adolescence I’ve ever seen. Mainly my questions boil down to – how did you know? How did you know with such heartbreaking detail what it’s like to be a 13 year old girl? How the pressures of peers and culture translate into pressure put on yourself (in the heart achingly relatable image of handwritten goal lists that include things like “get a boyfriend -> how to ‘be sexy'” and Post-Its on projecting confidence peeling off of bathroom mirrors)?

“Eighth grade is the worst,” an older friend tells Kayla (the astoundingly great Elsie Fisher) says at one point, and I’ve never met an American woman who wouldn’t agree. Burnham lets that fact be the central drama in his story, doesn’t invent a conflict that plays louder or more cinematically. He’s created a beautiful portrait of how hard it is to grapple with life, and I’m so grateful for it.

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Crazy Rich Asians

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Representation matters, and the historical importance of this movie (and its nominations) is sadly needed. And it is a really fun, over the top, romantic comedy, and we don’t get enough of those any more. But, um, I didn’t write notes, because I think it’s all very beautiful and pretty silly. But it’s fun! You should see it!

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BlacKkKlansman

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I may have waited a bit too long to write my notes about this one, but it’s hard because I didn’t feel like I could be coherent about it, even the day after seeing it (when I usually write my thoughts) because this movie is a lot to process.

I guess I’ll start by saying it’s great. And the pairing of filmmaker and content can’t get much more perfect than Spike Lee with the true story of a Black man that went undercover to take down the KKK. There are certain sequences in this that are gorgeous filmmaking on a purely aesthetic level. (I’m thinking particularly of the shots of the audiences’ faces during Kwame Ture – Corey Hawkins – speech at the Black Student Union.) The acting was all pretty great. John David Washington has a quiet strength that served the repressed Ron Stallworth well, but not to be all this SNL sketch about it, my favorite performance was from Adam Driver as the Jewish officer that plays Ron’s face to the Klan. The movie requires a really complex layer cake of a performance from him and he delivers.

Looking back at this I can’t figure out why I’m not gushing about this movie. It does an excellent job of displaying both the ridiculousness and dangerous nature of white supremacy and how we as a country got to the Donald Trump, Charlottesville era, and I was floored by the last 5 minutes, which included one of the best moments of editing I have ever seen on film (where the Klansman’s torches become the Charlotteville tiki torches) but something is keeping me from saying I love this.

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A Star Is Born

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Look, this movie was going to have to be a disaster for me to not love it. I mean, I was singing along with the trailer after seeing it twice, but it exceeded even my high expectations. It could have just been a ably made remake, showcasing Lady Gaga and that would have been worthy of awards attention, but Bradley Cooper is nothing is not an overachiever. And he made a truly great movie. And yes, Lady Gaga is a genius here, and always, but he is so heartbreakingly great here too. And the supporting characters, especially Sam Elliott and Andrew Dice Clay (?!?) as the bystanders to the showbiz tragedy, are all so well drawn that the melodrama never slips into farce.

Also, the music is all great, I’m listening to the soundtrack for the 3rd time as I write these notes the day after seeing it last night. This matters because it grounds their story in real talent and art.

I could gush for a long while, but instead, I’ll just quote Tim’s Facebook post as we walked out of the theater, “It is that good.”

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The Old Man & The Gun

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David Lowery is one of my favorite filmmakers, I love the grainy, warmly lit worlds he creates for us. Casey Affleck is a supremely talented man who plays exhaustion better than anyone. (I know, I know – I paid my filmanthropy – see below.) Sissy Spacek is a luminous national treasure, but this movie belongs to Robert Redford. Apparently it is his swan song as an actor, and it feels consciously created with that in mind.

Redford plays Forrest Tucker, a man who robbed banks and escaped from prison as a vocation. The people he robbed describe him as a gentleman who was clearly happy to do what he loved. Obviously, this is a part Redford has played before and there are nods throughout to his roguish filmography, and don’t we all sort of think of Redford as a charming cad getting away with something? But we love him anyway, and this movie is a treatise on why. I highly recommend it.

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I know Casey Affleck has a troubling history with sexual misconduct, but, unlike many other famous men with similar pasts, he has paid restitution, gone to rehab, and publicly acknowledged wrongdoing. Maybe not in the exact way we would like to hear, but as far as we know, in a way in keeping with his victim’s wishes. I think this is a good model of restorative justice in a #MeToo world. If you want to join me in supporting this, consider donating money to Time’s Up.

 Beautiful Boy

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I’m struggling with my reaction to this movie. I went into it expecting it to be hard to watch, and it was at times, and to be emotionally wrecked, and I cried, but something about it left me cold. The two central performances, Steve Carell as Dave Sheff and Timothée Chalamet as his addict son are both strong and I’m sure Chalamet will get a lot of awards attention for the physicality and vulnerability of his performance, but this movie is really Carell’s and maybe that’s why I felt at a remove from its potential emotional heft.

David Sheff is a writer and he approached his son’s recovery the way he knew how, with love for sure, but also with research, but it’s very hard to dramatize research effectively. (I think maybe Spotlight is the only recent film that pulled it off.) Even a cameo from my eternal talent crush Timothy Hutton can’t make looking at brain scans as compelling as Chalamet’s face crumpling with pain. So, I guess my problem is primarily one of emphasis, this is Carell’s movie and I wish it wasn’t.

(Side note: Maura Tierney, whom I will love forever because she was Abby on “ER” and childhood obsessions never die is very good as a not at all wicked stepmother.)

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First Man

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I saw this in IMAX, which usually just gives me a headache (and it did here too), but the space flight sequences were really worth seeing on such a large screen. And I felt the jostling and panic on a visceral level. It also wasn’t a bad scale to look at Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy move their beautiful, talented faces. This is a sadder movie than I was expecting, taking on the personal tragedies of Neil Armstrong’s life and the very lethal toll of the Apollo space program.

Not to feed trolls, but I can kind of understand why right wing nationals hate this film. They do, of course, show the American flag on the moon, saying they don’t is absurd, and they certainly don’t take credit away from these fundamentally American men, who did a really brave, astounding thing. But, they also don’t just tell us the myth of American supremacy triumphant that is taught about the moon landing in schools. This was an expensive (both in money and lives) Cold War project that was not universally supported at the time and may not have been an unqualified good.

By focusing on Neil Armstrong, who, as portrayed here, was a fundamentally decent man, motivated more by math than glory, writer Josh Singer and director Damien Chazelle have made a personal rather than patriotic movie, and frankly that’s much more interesting to me.

Also, Claire Foy is fantastic and thank you to Singer for not only passing the Bechdel test in this very male environment, but giving her motivations beyond telling her husband not to go do “the brave thing.” She has a lovely, decent American pragmatism here that I just about fell in love with.

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Boy Erased

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I’m announcing it here: Lucas Hedges has achieved official Talent Crush status (he joins Saoirse Ronan, Jack O’Connell, Colin Farrell, and Timothy Hutton in this strange, hard to explain honor.) He can do so much without saying a word. In this movie, which follows him into the depressing world of gay conversion “therapy,” gives him so much space to careen from vulnerability to anger to strength back to broken and I was captivated by his face with every shift.

Nicole Kidman, as his flamboyantly Southern mother, is as fantastic as she always is. The rest of the supporting cast (with the notable exception of Britton Sear as a fellow “patient” truly tortured by the process and Joe Alwyn and Théodore Pellerin as the boys who catch Hedges’s attention for worse and better respectively) are unfortunately not given a ton to do. Joel Edgerton (who also wrote and directed), as the leader of the program, could have been a compelling villain, or even a tragic figure, but instead lopes around carrying a football, vaguely menacing. Even more of a missed opportunity, Russell Crowe, Hedges’s pastor father’s motivations are hand waved off as “beliefs” never articulated. He’s given one good scene at the end, but it feels hard to connect to given the void he had been up to that point.

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Bohemian Rhapsody

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This is mostly a paint-by-numbers musician biopic, complete with dark spiral into decadence and triumphant return to the stage. Thankfully, the musicians involved ae Queen, so the soundtrack is fantastic. The casting director for this deserves some sort of honorary Oscar, because Rami Malek is great but more remarkably the supporting cast all look so incredibly like the real life people they are portraying its almost distracting. Also, they can act.

I could rattle on here about the controversy regarding Freddie’s sexuality, and the way it is portrayed here, but in the end, it’s a PG-13 mainstream movie with a male, bisexual lead character who is more than just his sex life, and that matters. But, the best parts of this movie are recreations, and while I don’t want to explicitly not recommend this, I will let you know that Queen’s Live Aid set is available on YouTube, and it’s exhilarating.

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The original director of this film, Bryan Singer, is pretty much evil. With his alleged crimes in mind, I donated my filmanthropy money to RAINN. Click here to join me.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? 

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This is a great movie. I want to, in honor of Lee Israel, the biographer-turned-forger played by Melissa McCarthy, think of some Dorothy Parker-esque quip to begin this blurb, but it’s not coming to me. But, I found this delightfully caustic yet humane. McCarthy is wonderful as the sad-sack inverse of the constant ball of upbeat energy we’ve come to know and love her for. But her performance doesn’t play as an Oscar-grab, it just feels painfully real. Same goes for Richard E. Grant as her drinking buddy turned accomplice. This is a crime movie with little danger, no chases, but high emotional stakes, and I loved it.

Also, it has strong female and queer representation without giving a thought to traditional likability, and thank you Marielle Heller for that.

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