And the Nominees Are 2018: Round 3

I didn’t get as much awards viewing done over the holidays as I usually do, but I made some progress. No new favorites in this bunch, but nothing too terrible either.

Girl’s Trip


I have a couple of confessions:

  1. I watched this in bed while dealing with a cold
  2. I think its time to admit that broad comedies aren’t really my thing. (Because I hate fun I guess, but generally because I am a Victorian grandmother.)

That being said, Tiffany Haddish, whose supporting performance has earned the nominations that led me to watch this, is really hilarious and charming.

The movie overall is fun fluff, and she’s by far the best part.


Darkest Hour

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This movie suffered for me because it came out the same year as DunkirkIt’s probably not fair, but it was really hard to watch a movie built around the Great Man theory of history of WWII when I still have Christopher Nolan’s images of those poor boys on the beaches all lines up waiting to die. I know Churchill’s historical importance is hard to overstate (and that I probably shouldn’t be basing all of my historical analysis on films) but it was just hard for me to find a rich, white man leaving his servants behind to deign to talk to some citizens in the subway that endearing.

That being said, Gary Oldman is, as always, a magnificent chameleon and he plays Churchill with an endearing childishness that belies his strength of character. Lily James is charming, and it was lovely to see Kristin Scott Thomas. More importantly to me this was a great reminder that Joe Wright is an excellent director, his movies have a beautiful, unique rhythm (most evident in his underrated Anna Karenina adaptation from a few years back) and this ticks long like a clock.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

In the latest rush of accusations Gary Oldman hasn’t been discussed much, but his ex wife accused him of domestic violence, and so I’ve practiced Filmanthropy with a donation to Safe Horizon.

The Shape of Water

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Let me start with the positive, this is visually stunning and wholly unique. Guillermo del Toro and his design team clearly thought through every detail of this world. And the performances are all well realized. Though I’ve liked all of these actors better in different roles. Except maybe Richard Jenkins, he’s particularly great here, but I think I just haven’t seen him in a lot of other substantial roles.

Anyway, I don’t know if this just suffered from inflated expectations, because so many film critics were waxing rhapsodic about this, but I just didn’t fall for it as hard as I wanted to.

At its heart its a fable, with easy to spot heroes and villains and not a lot of ambiguity. Which is fine of course, sometimes I love a fairy tale, but I feel like I couldn’t buy the central love story. Not because it’s between a human woman (Sally Hawkins) and a fish monster (Doug Jones), but because the movie just jumped from then meeting to them being in love, before it had even made it clear to me that they could communicate with each other.

Fantasy can be a tough sell for me, not because I can’t suspend disbelief, but because world building often tales the place of character development, and I think that sort of happened here.


You can read my poem about this film here.

Molly’s Game

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Jessica Chastain is a goddess and I would watch her read a menu.

Aaron Sorkin is a genius of a dialogue and I like the way he frames pretty much anything with gravitas.

Both of these statements are proven by the fact that his combination made me care about a woman who ran a high stakes poke game. This is a good movie, paced well and, for Sorkin script, surprisingly light on speechifying. I could have done with less voice over and armchair psychoanalysis. But, I liked the digs at the patriarchy and Idris Elba (despite the fact that his English accent bled through at moments of heightened emotion), is always fun to watch. Sorkin should direct again. Chastain should be in at least one awards movie a year. Oh, and the government should give Molly Bloom back her money.

P.S. If the Michael Cera character is based on who the internet tells me he is, then Tobey Maguire is a sociopath. Just FYI.


You can read my poem about this film here.



I’ve liked a lot of Writer/Director David Gordon Green‘s work. And I think Jake Gyllenhaal is always an interesting actor to watch, even when I don’t like the movie he’s in, but I was hesitant to see this movie when it came out in theaters to see this movie when it came out in theaters (and seemingly quickly left). I think I had conflated it in my head with the Mark Wahlberg-heroism-porn-looking movie called something like Boston Strong (note: It was actually called Patriots Day). But this is much more nuances and interesting than that.

A biopic of Jeff Bauman, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, who was famously photographed being rescued, this is almost an indictment of the idea of a movie like I assume that Wahlberg vehicle is. Bauman didn’t want to be a hero and wasn’t prepared to be a symbol and this movie is an honest portrayal of how fucked up it is that we demand that of the victims of tragedies.

Gyllenhaal gives a deeply lived in performance of a person in pain and he deserves the accolades he’s quietly getting. Tatiana Maslany is also great as his on-again-off-again love who finds herself unexpectedly playing caregiver. The ending takes kind of an abrupt turn into more straightforward biopic land, but it still made me cry, so…I guess I didn’t hate that.



Weekly Adventure: Mini-Break to Salem

The idea of witches has always been pretty fascinating to me. I’ve always loved reading Alice Hoffman novels, in high school I wore out my copy of The Probable Future, and I still return to her sprawling tales of New England women with complicated “gifts.” It’s no surprise that this was my favorite sign at the Women’s March in January:


Because so much of the moral panic of witch trials can be tied back to women who didn’t fit into the idea of what a woman should do. Which is why its surprising that I actually hadn’t been to Salem, MA until this past weekend. Well, this weekend I took the Megabus up to visit Hanna in Cambridge (well actually Somerville…) and we took the train out to see what Salem had to offer.

And…it was awesome! For a few reasons:

1. It’s a super cute little New England harbor town, which is a particular kind of charm I really enjoy.


2. The history, both of the witch trials and otherwise (it’s also Nathaniel Hawthorne’s hometown)



3. The witchy wonderfulness. There is so much camp, and so much earnest Wiccan stuff. It was just exactly what I wanted it to be, and it was also incredibly strange once I stopped to think about it. The actual historical trials were about the paranoid superstition of a group of people who were wrongly accused of witchcraft, which is obviously a tragedy. But now the town is forever associated with witchcraft, and is a Mecca of sorts for the Wiccan and neo-Pagan community. Which is cool in that it’s sort of the ultimate fuck you to the Puritan authorities, but it also leads to a strange tension where the town can’t decide if they believe if witches are real or not, which opens the uncomfortable question about the (obvious at least to me) innocence of those executed. This narrative is most confused at the Salem Witch Museum, which I wish I could describe to you but it is beyond my power. Please just go, it costs $12 but you will never experience anything quite like it….

Anyway, it was also just a great first real Spring weekend up here in the Northeast, and Hanna and I had a delightful time being silly through the streets:







I did not buy any, but I’m really regretting that now…

Weekly Adventure: Chill Thanksgiving Edition

I love Thanksgiving, complicated history aside, it’s a pressure free day where the point is to gather and eat a lot of food. This year lived up to my expectations completely.


During food prep, Mom and Charlie had important crossword duties to attend to


Dad made sure everything was safe for the rest of us to eat


While Phia and Charlie actually cooked everything for us


Nancy’s beautiful centerpiece (and the traditional scratch off tickets)


Negaro/Dennett Thanksgiving selfie (though I personally like last year’s better…

The next day, while recovering from our food comas my mom and I watched all of the new Gilmore Girls and I have a lot of feelings about it. (Some spoilers below the picture.)

Gilmore Girls

  1. I continue to disapprove of Logan. Strongly.
  2. Rory may actually be (read is probably) a bad person.
  3. Emily Gilmore can be cruel, but she is also incredibly strong. (And I love her attitude towards the D.A.R.)
  4. Luke Danes, and Jess Mariano, are the best. It’s that simple.

We took a break in the middle to go with Dad to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Which is pretty wonderful. (Full review to come in the case of awards nominations and/or sequel reviews.)

On Saturday, I got to meet up with some Chicago friends in town visiting family and lay round watching football.

Sunday, my parents drove my back to Queens and I was able to show them around the museum where I work, which was pretty special.


Mom in Noguchi’s garden


I don’t think they tried to match…

And now it’s my favorite time of year! Happy Holidays every one!


My neighborhood gets pretty into the season. In addition to these lights there are also speakers piping in (very loud) Christmas carols, which I’m sure will get old fast, but for now I find whimsical.


Songs My Commute Taught Me

As I come to the end of my first week living in Queens, walking to work (or taking the Q104), I’m starting to reflect on the last couple of months, the majority of which I spent on a train. It was, for the most part, a stressful existence (though my parents were Godsends who made it as smooth as it could be), and I was basically exhausted for the past two and half months straight.

But there were some pluses. I read a lot, book and articles, I got back to inbox zero, and I caught up on all my podcasts, which means I discovered a lot of new music. Here are 10 of my favorite songs (and the podcasts that featured them):

Good AS Hell – Lizzo 

TBTL Song of the Summer (feels like a million years ago at this point…)

Why iii Love the Moon – Phony Ppl 

One of Jamila Woods playlist picks on The Dinner Party Download

Joan Crawford – Blue Oyster Cult

From the Joan Crawford series on You Must Remember This 

When You Were Mine – Lake Street Dive (Prince Cover) 

They preformed this on Chris Thile’s debut show on A Prairie Home Companion (which I have a complicated relationship with. I have a love/exasperation relationship with founding host Garrison Keillor, and I think it’s carrying over to Thile’s show, but he keeps booking all my favorite bands…)

Back in the New York Groove – Ace Frehley 

Look, I don’t like KISS, but Luke was in New York on TBTL and this is just a really good soundtrack song for a commute to the city.

Andrew in Drag – The Magnetic Fields

Another TBTL pick, this time for the other co-host. His name is Andrew, I don’t believe he has ever done drag though…

Smile More – Deep Valley

This was the featured music on Filmspotting a couple of weeks ago, and I fell in love for reasons obvious to any one who has read this blog, followed me on Twitter, listened to my podcast, or met me…

Capricorn – Friends of the Bog 

OK, this one is a total cheat. My friend sent it to me the other day on Facebook, but I did listen for the first time while on my way to work, and I think its beautiful so…I’m including it.

Birmingham – Shovels and Rope 

One last TBTL pick.


The view from the train wasn’t too bad either

Things I Keep Meaning to Blog About

I’m still commuting to Queens from New Haven everyday, which, despite the looks of shocked pity on the faces of people whom I tell this to, is really not that bad.* It’s just long, and not really great for typing. (There are people that bring their laptops and type. I am not on their commuter level.) So, I’ve made notes and reminders for at least 5 posts in the last two weeks and just never gotten around to writing any of them. Instead of letting that backlog grow, here are 5 things I’ve meant to blog about recently:

  1. Andrew Bird at College Street Music Hall


New Haven is a small city, but because of Yale and it’s location along the route between Boston and NYC, it gets pretty good music sometimes. Case in point last Friday, my cousin Phia invited my parents and I to join her and her parents to see Andrew Bird. He was great ( of course) the whistling alone is mind blowing.

The one quibble I had with the night was that the sound mixing was a little off, at least for us in the balcony. There was a lot more bass than you expect from a violinist-singer-songwriter, but it really only bothered my Mom and my Aunt Nancy. (You can see their reactions on my Instagram.)


2. New Haven City Wide Open Studios

My parents’ house is near an old Armory building that is supposedly going to be a community center…but once a year the Open Studios program sets up a bunch of artists in there. It was pretty cool:





This was made of silverware!

3. This Is Us


I’m not breaking any ground here, but I really love this show. I see your think pieces about why it may be bad, but I don’t want to read them. This show makes me feel good. (Well it makes me cry, and then it makes me feel good.) Catharsis is an important function of art and this serves it up every week, accompanied by good (if at times overly earnest) writing, and excellent acting. I saw a video where Sterling K. Brown summed up how I feel both about this show and about the so-called “Golden Age of Television” we are living through right now. All of these prestige shows, even the comedies, take a pretty dark view of the world and humanity, This Is Us lets the light in and I like that.


Also, Milo Ventimiglia is in it…

4. In The Dark 

115db4-20160819-in-the-darkAnd now I’m going to undercut everything I just said about focusing on the light. This is a true crime podcast about the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling. It’s from APM, which also produces a few of my other favorite podcasts, so I’ve been hearing ads for this for awhile, and I wasn’t going to listen. Despite my love of Serial, I’m not really a true crime person, I get too invested and then too scared, but I kept hearing every day on my other shows how good this was so I sucked it up and started. And it’s amazing. It’s obviously upsetting, but it never feels voyeuristic. Host Madeleine Baran  is fantastic and measured. This isn’t a leering look at tragedy, it’s a compassionate investigation into what went wrong with the (large scale) attempts to solve this case. Seriously brilliant, I’m actually sad it’s almost over.

5. Billy Gilman on The Voice

OK, I can’t end on that. Here’s a clip of a former child country star singing Adele:

* This relatively positive attitude probably stems from the fact that if all goes to current plan I won’t be doing this much longer. 

An Adventure Filled Month

I just realized that it’s been a month since my last post! And what a month it has been: I graduated from UT, drove across the country in a minivan with my parents…and all of my furniture, read a lot of books hanging out at both my parents’ house in New Haven and our lake cottage in the (fictional sounding I know, but very charming) village of Higganum. (Hilariously, spell check wants me to change that to Michigan.) As usual when I have a crazy long hiatus, I’m not going to do a full play by play of my May. Instead…photos:


Going away party in ATX. One last round of probably too drunk for photos photo shoots at our hidden wine bar on Rainey.


Feeling official right before convocation with my parents (and the couple in the background who is in every single one of our pictures.) (And yes, I know I look like my mom.)


Post ceremony we met the Cassetta women to watch Joe (on the right here) and his crazy good blues band Matthew Robinson and the Jelly Kings at Antone’s


Day after graduation, rolling out, with tons of extra space

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This country is pretty I guess (I think this was Virginia, but honestly it all sort of runs together in my brain)


Words of wisdom from Amy Poehler


Connecticut is particularly pretty (but I may be a bit biased)


Salt always looks upset in pictures I take of him. But, he likes me, I swear


Parental planning session at the lake




More back porch reading


Oh, yeah…I live in New York now

A Month of Adventure: Winter Break

So, I’m back at the ACC desk for my first evening shift of the year after attending my first class of my last (ah!) semester at UT. I realized this morning while getting myself organized for the craziness that is about to start up again that I never wrote a blog update about anything I did on my winter break. And I did a lot. I crossed a quadrant of the country. (Quadrants are how we measure these things right? Sorry, inside joke.) And saw a lot of my favorite people (and missed some others). I’m not going to try to write a play by play of nearly a month long trip, so instead here are pictures, with minimal captions (mostly just to attribute art to its creator.)





I call this piece, “A Blur of Salt”




Care packages from Portland



Post-storm Paddock Lake, WI


in the North Shore room


Dancing in the New Year in my old neighborhood




The Field Museum of Natural History




From “The Greeks” exhibit at The Field Museum





From the “Dionysos Unmasked” exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago


“Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the Art Institute’s Modern Wing

(This is one of my favorite pieces of contemporary art of all time. You should Google it to find out why. Or even better go see it.) 




“Lifeboat” by Jeff Koons on view as part of the “Surrealism: The Conjured Life” exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art


Museum staff member in the “Run for President” installation by Kathryn Andrews also at the MCA


Entrance to the “Pop Art Design” exhibit (where photos weren’t allowed) at the MCA


Music for the New Year

Happy 2016 everyone! Sixteen has always been my lucky number so I have a good feeling about this year.

I’ve been on a bit of a whirlwind trip for the holidays, through Connecticut, Wisconsin, Chicago, (and a long drive through Pennsylvania) so I know I have some catch up blogging to do awards movie wise, but first here’s some music I’m loving right now/a few theme songs for 2016.

Out of the Woods – Taylor Swift

Perfect – One Direction 

I am sort of obsessed with the intertexuality between this and T. Swift’s “Style” video. (Yeah, I just used the term intertexuality to describe a One Direction video, don’t ever tell me my English degree didn’t lead to anything.)

The Boy in the Bubble – Paul Simon 

I Still Want a Little More – The Milk Carton Kids 

I Wanna Get Better – Bleachers 

I’m Alright – Jo Dee Messina 

Rattled – Traveling Wilburys 

Million Years Ago – Adele 

Because I’m sure I’ll need to cry at some point this year. And this song will help that.

Lost in My Mind – The Head and the Heart 

Country Road – James Taylor 

Because this lyric is one of my 2016 mantras:

2016 words

And the Nominees Are 2016: Round 2

Merry Christmas everyone! I’ve been enjoying loafing around my parents’ house for the past week, so other than a fun family outing to see Star Wars it’s been mostly a week of catching up with some things on streaming, (and filling in some new nominees from the Critics’ Choice nominees.



I’m a sucker for movies about The Movies and (as already discussed this awards season) I think it’s important in today’s, frankly terrifying, political climate to tell stories about what happens when we, as Americans, let our fear run things. So, I was basically the target audience for this biopic of Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), a screenwriter and Communist, who was blacklisted during the peak of the HUAC craziness. And, I liked it a lot. Cranston is amazing, at this point that almost goes without saying, but he does such a good job of evolving his performance over time and in reaction to what happens around him.

The supporting cast is also great. I was especially moved by Louis C.K. as Arlen Hird, a more radical member of the Hollywood Ten  (and a more tragic figure), and Michael Stuhlbarg as Edward G. Robinson, an actor who named names for the committee, something the movie handles very sensitively, which I wasn’t expecting. Also, Helen Mirren is deliciously evil as Hedda Hopper, a gossip columnist so over the top she looks like she just walked out of a Capitol scene in The Hunger Games, but she’s Helen Mirren so, of course, by the end even hopper felt like a full, complex (though flawed and fear driven) human.

This can be heavy handed and a bit preachy at times, but so could Trumbo himself.


Wolf Hall 


Another one we discussed on Method to the Madness , Wolf Hall is the epitome of great BBD (Boring British Drama). It’s a slow, lovely literary adaptation, covering the story of Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance) and the upheaval of Henry VIII (Damien Lewis)’s reign. I admit that this didn’t stick in my brai as much as other miniseries covering similar subject matter have in the past, but I stand by my last post in praising Rylance. I think he’s probably one of the best living actors today, and I’m glad he’s been getting more film and TV work lately.


Danny Collins


Some movies com and go without me even realizing it, even though I’m almost always at the movies or wishing I could be at the movies, and Danny Collins was one of those. But the HFPA will always nominate Al Pacino whenever they can so I got the chance to chat up with this quiet little gem.

The story is simple, Pacino plays a coke head lounge singer who started out as an idealistic folk musician, who receives a letter than John Lennon sent him when he was young. It acts as a wake up call, and Collins snaps out of his over the top party life and travels to New Jersey (much to the chagrin of his manager/best friend played by the always charming Christopher Plummer) to spend time with his estranged son (the always compelling Bobby Cannavale).

It gets dangerously close to schmaltzy at times, but it’s at its heart an interesting take on an addiction story. Danny never hits a true rock bottom, because his success insulate him against that, but his problem does hold him back from true happiness and connection. He’s a good guy, but he’s scares to be as open as that requires. It’s much better than I expected and available on Amazon Prime. Worth a watch.




Confession, I’ve never seen the original Rocky all the way through. I know the whole story, and have seen the sequel where he goes to Russia on TV a bunch of times as a kid. But, I like Michael B. Jordan, and heard interesting things about Sylvester Stallone‘s performance in this (and it got nominations) so I went. If the original Rocky is this kind of mix of inspirational and yet subtle than I think I can safely say that I love it. I saw a review of Creed somewhere that described it as essentially an extended sports montage, and while I don’t think that’s completely fair, I did feel actually uplifted throughout most of this and I hat boxing so that’s a accomplishment. Jordan does a good job of creating his own character and Tessa Thompson (whom I have loved since her days on Veronica Mars) is lovely as his love interest. But Stallone was the most interesting factor to me. He’s an old man in this, it looks like he can barely move in some scenes, and it was a unique take on franchise maintenance to have the central strongman hero, step into the shoes of the comic relief/emotional guide. Also, that score will never stop being epic.


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl



 Miró and I discussed this one on our Summer Movie Special. I saw it over the summer and don’t have my old notebook on vacation with me so I don’t have my full notes on what I thought of this. Basically I liked it a lot. I think it managed to avoid cheap sentimentality despite being about a girl with cancer, but also respects the fact that at a certain point you have to let sentiment in. Because otherwise we aren’t human. It’s also a lovely look at being a teenage film nerd, which I, of course, loved.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Look, you already know whether this movie is for you or not, but if it is its magical. The plot is essentially A New Hope redux, with the great addition of a kick ass heroine – Rey, played by the revelation Daisy Ridley. Just as I hoped, the action zips along, the music is stirring and the relationships feel real. There are a couple of moments of real pathos (they there Harrison Ford), but not so many that it feels like they’re trying too hard.

I had forgotten how funny this universe can be, and the one liners here were pretty great. Especially those delivered by John Boyega.

Minor spoilers ahead: 


I was also really happy to see that Poe (Oscar IsaacOscar Isaac) didn’t die at the beginning, because you can’t give me ten minutes of Oscar Isaac and then leave me with a jacket. I (maybe naively) have hope for Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)’s redemption. Can’t wait for episode 8.

And the Nominees Are 2016: Round 1

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…awards season! I’ve  seen a bunch of the SAG and Golden Globe nominees already, and have a pretty long break ahead of me to catch up on the rest.

Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

Love & Mercy 

love2band2bmercy2bposter Based on the trailer, and my knowledge of Brian Wilson’s mental illness I was really worried that this was going to be crushing, but it wasn’t. Paul Dano (Golden Globe nominee) and John Cusack were excellent at inhabiting Wilson’s fragile genius. And what’s great is that because of the strength and grace of Wilson’s second wife Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), you don’t leave feeling weighed down by the sadness of what Wilson had to endure. At least I didn’t, at least one person who I talked to found this overwhelmingly sad, which makes sense given that he had to deal with child abuse, mental illness, addiction, manipulation, and over medication. But the central love story left me with the feeling that the world is filled with more love and mercy that we often remember.

(Side note: I think “God Only Knows” is one of those songs that I’m convinced was transmitted by angels or aliens or something. It’s supernaturally good.)


The Martian


 If you listen to my podcast, then you know I had a lot of trouble with the excruciating level of technical detail in this book. (It suffers from what I refer to as Moby Dick syndrome –  just tell. me. the. damn. story.) But, that’s exactly what the movie does. (Though, conversely, there is one time jump in the movie that I think leaves out entirely too much detail…but now I’m just being a Goldilocks.)

This is a good old fashioned, feel-good adventure story, it’s basically Robinson Crusoe without the racism. And it pulls that off beautifully.

In a really great way the effects, though handled well, don’t even really matter, this is a movie about characters and even the bit players (oh hey there, Donald Glover) are awesome. But let’s be real, you’re gonna love or hate this based on Matt Damon and he delivers. The movie doesn’t drag for a second and that is because he makes you care about Mark Watney (even if he is a nerdy UChicago smartass.)

Side Note: I also found it refreshing that they didn’t shoehorn in a romance for him, single people have just as much motivation to survive as married ones, but Hollywood doesn’t usually tell their stories well.

ng8zspcv4wubkb28zeyy Spy

mv5bnji5otq0mdqxm15bml5banbnxkftztgwmzcwnjmynte-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_ I take notes throughout the year on movies that I think will get nominations so that I’ll remember my impressions when I come to write this first post of awards season, but the Hollywood Foreign Press threw me for a loop by nominating actual broad comedies in the Comedy/Musical categories this year. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is great, but I didn’t take notes on Spy, because I didn’t think I would be writing about it. Thankfully, Miró and I did talk about it on our Summer Movies episode of MttM, so I can direct you all there for more thoughts on it.   But I will say I love Melissa McCarthy, and she and Rose Byrne had wonderful comic chemistry. It was delightful to see Miranda Hart in a Hollywood movie, and Jason Statham is excellent at self-parody.




Now this one (also discussed in the above mentioned podcast episode) I could have sworn I took notes on, but they are nowhere to be found. Suffice to say, this movie is pretty great. And though I don’t always agree with everything Amy Schumer says/does, I love her unapologetic spirit and the mix of bawdiness and vulnerability in this movie is perfect. Judd Apatow basically makes movies about people that are stuck in extended adolescence that need to grow up. I love that with this movie they showed that is not a distinctly male experience. Also, Bill Hader, believable as a romantic lead. Who woulda thunk it?

Side Note: LeBron James, great as a sidekick.


 Steve Jobs 


Right up front – I love The Social NetworkI once got in a debate in my film criticism class senior year of college about why it definitely deserved to win Best Picture over The King’s Speech(I also had a couple of very tense conversations with very good friends about this subject. For the record, I like The King’s Speech.) So I wanted to love Steve Jobs, because Aaron Sorkin and technology and people walking through tight hallways discussing inventing the world I grew up in.

And…well…I think the acting was phenomenal. Michael Fassbender made me forget what the real Steve Jobs even looked like by completely inhabiting this brilliant asshole. Kate Winslet was wonderful as Joanna Hoffman, though she seemed to be Benjamin Buttoning in terms of her age and accent.The real standouts for me were Seth Rogen (as Steve Wozniak) and Jeff Daniels (as John Sculley) who both play people arguably better at their jobs than Jobs, but lacking in vision.

Although I know, from having been alive, the happy ending and living mythology that Jobs enjoyed in the 21st century the movie ends at the brink of that. And I found myself wondering more about the people Steve left in the wake of his ambition than the man himself. Though I really enjoyed the line Sorkin gives to him inn his rooftop scene of reconciliation with his daughter – “I was made badly.” Yes, it could be about a product, but despite his claims otherwise, in many ways Jobs was his own product. We talk about him like he was a genius, partly because he told us he was one. And he was really good at designing and selling a story.

This isn’t really about the movie, which is structurally interesting and emotionally complex, but I left with this nagging feeling in my gut. In the last product launch we’re shown clips of “Think Different” icons from MLK to Muhammad Ali, and it’s not a big leap to think that we’re supposed to put Jobs in that pantheon. But, genius he may have been, Jobs was selling us a product. He was a businessman not a revolutionary, and it makes my skin crawl a bit to see him treated as a prophet.




The voice of this novel is so distinct that I was very worried when I heard they were adapting it into a movie. But then I saw that they had cast Brie Larson as Ma & I was in. And, I was right. Watiching this movie (like reading the book) is like getting repeatedly punched in the stomach. And it manages to both, hang on to the child’s eye story (through the almost luminescent Jacob Tremblay) by never leaving Jack’s side, and give me a fuller picture of Ma’s struggle to both provide what her child needs (safety, warmth, and fun) and a means to escape her captivity.

Actually seeing Sean Bridgers as ‘Old Nick,’ was a startling experience for me. I had turned him into a monster in my head while reading the book, (Because, of course, he is one) but seeing how remarkably normal he looks was a chilling reminder that evil, even building a hostage cell in your backyard level evil, comes in packages that can deceive us. Because he is a human, a terrible one, but a human and that’s fucking scary. (Also refreshing, they didn’t need to show us the rape scenes to make it clear that it was traumatic and awful.) This was a visceral experience for me, I cried a lot, and my heart raced, but it was worth it.

To end on a happier note, because the movie is ultimately hopeful- Joan Allen and (new to me) Tom McCamus were like rays of (tired) sunshine in this.





OK, so this book is one of my all time favorites (written by my favorite living writer.) So, I was worried when this was being adapted, but then I saw the trailer, and it is amazing. Like, my mental image of Jim Farrell (Domnhall Gleeson) had brown hair, but other than that this basically exactly what I pictured.

And the movie itself, while obviously condensed, so perfectly captured the sweetness and melancholy of Eilis’s (Saorise Ronan) story of emigration from Ireland to Brooklyn in 1952. I’ve always loved this character because she feels like a real person that you don’t see often in books or movies. She’s careful without being boring and charming without being the life of the party. She’s something between a beauty queen and a wallflower, you know, like a real person.

Overall, the movie felt old fashioned, in a lovely way. Eilis meets her adorable love interest Tony (Emory Cohen) at a parish dance, but also in the way it is centered around an emotional story, which we don’t make big sweeping movies like this about that any more.

A family friend who we ran into at the theater called this a “woman’s movie” in a disparaging way. All I have to say to that is – it certainly is a movie about a woman, that takes the concerns of her life seriously and includes tragedy and love. And if that’s inherently dismissable to you, then I don’t know why you, then I don’t know why you’re reading this blog.




I was so worried during the first 15 minutes of this movie, it had been so built up for me, and at first it felt so…slow isn’t the right word. Quiet might be better. Or conventional, maybe. The acting was good and the story important, but I just didn’t think it could live up to the hype. And then it did.

It felt slow, because this story unfolded slowly (as a character remarks early on – “the Church thinks in centuries,” well this scandal worked in decades.)

Tom McCarthy (director and co-writer) makes the interesting choice of starting in the past (in 1976) with a snapshot of a priest walking out of a police precinct and lingering on the face of a desk sergeant realizing that this is how it works. The movie is really exceptional in that, despite being about a salacious scandal, it never stoops to tabloid cliché. Although the scenes depicting victims telling their stories are emotional gut punches they are straight forward and allowed to stand on their own without underscoring or other cinematic emotional manipulation.

And it also does a good job of making it clear that though blame for the abuse ultimately lies with the priests everyone else was turning a blind eye. The movie is really about the influence of the church in a city like Boston, but I also think it illustrates that people don’t want to believe this story could be true. Despite (or maybe because of) truly remarkable performances from the whole ensemble (particularly Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and my fellow Northwestern alum Brian d’Arcy James), this is a truly uncomfortable movie, even when you know what they are going to find watching the magnitude be uncovered is so sickening and heartbreaking. But it also feels important. Part of what the Spotlight team did was keep the story on the front page for over a year, and this movie will hopefully help do that again.


Bridge of Spies


I can’t lie, I wasn’t going to see this before Mark Rylance started getting nominated for it. I’m not sure why, I love Steven Spielberg, especially in combination with Tom Hanks, but the trailers for this just didn’t grab me. (And let’s be real that is a dumb movie title. I’ve seen this and liked it, and still ton’t think I want to see something called “Bridge of Spies.”)

Remember last year when I complained about how Unbroken felt old fashioned and propagandistic? Well so did this, but in a way I can totally get behind. It can be hard to be an informed liberal and still be proud to be an American, but stories like this (‘inspired by true events’) help me to remember how. As Hanks’s character James Donovan puts it, what makes us American is “the rulebook” (aka the Constitution) not any one race, religion, etc. and that means we use it (and the 4th Amendment protections it provides) for everyone even those who don’t believe in it/we don’t trust. Because no matter how scared we are, we can’t forget who we are, which seems depressingly relevant today.

Enough pontificating – Rylance is great as Hanks’s suspected Soviet spy client and the two of them have a great energy as scene partners. Overall, it’s a little over-grey toned at points, but visually interesting. And I appreciated that this shows espionage to be a lot of walking around and cryptic conversations rather than jumping out of places. It’s like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy without Le Carré’s crushing cynicism, because this is Spielberg after all.


A Very Murray Christmas


What a delightful little trifle (I’ve never used that phrase before I don’t think, but it really felt apt here.) It’s frankly hilarious to me that Bill Murray got a SAG nomination for this, not that he isn’t great, he is the quirky, mopey, lovable old mean drunk he’s convinced us all he is in the last 15 years or so, but this just doesn’t feel like something that would even get submitted to awards committees, but I’m glad it was because I watched it while baking cookies and it struck the perfect chord of cheer, melancholy and nostalgia.

There’s a great old-timey feel to the whole thing, and like all good classic variety specials it is carried by the cameos: Chris Rock and George Clooney are charming, Jason Schwartzman and Rashida Jones are adorable, Miley Cyrus is clothed and crazy talented. But my favorites have to be Jenny Lewis and Maya Rudolph.

While the dream sequence is great campy, fun, my favorite moment is this sing-a-long of a melancholy Christmas classic:

Side note: This is no tied with The Bling Ring for my favorite Sophia Coppola movie.

(This post was crazy long. If you made it this far – thank you!)