What’s New on the Site
Christopher’s Top 10(-ish) of 2016 by Christopher Cho – A quick rundown of some of the best films of last year. See which films you may have missed, many streaming now.
The Eyes of My Mother Review by Clint Westbrook – Clint’s review of The Eyes of My Mother unpacks the hypnotic horror from Director Nicolas Pesce’s debut film.
What We’ve Been Watching
La La Land – I finally got around to seeing this much-anticipated film! Was it worth it? The answer is a resounding “Mostly”! Although the music is fantastic, the leads are effortless in their charm and impressive in their talent, and the direction and ambition is on par with previous efforts of Director Damien Chazelle, there were still a couple things that kept this from being my favorite film of 2016. First, and most unfairly, is that this film might have been over-hyped. It’s true, it’s possible, and it’s completely not a fault of the film itself, but going in to any film you carry baggage and expectations from the outside word and sometimes films just never quite reach those expectations. Other nitpicks regard the plot. Characters are given whatever it is they dream without much effort, despite the film’s main thrust being about the cost of dreaming. And there is a surprising lack of music in this musical during the middle third of the film. Despite these minor complaints, I did enjoy La La Land, and there are transcendent moments within, unfortunately some of its flaws prevent the film from quite reaching the heights it could have.
Neal Brennan: 3 Mics – The latest comedy special from Chappelle Show co-creator, Neal Brennan, on Netflix takes on an interesting premise: 3 microphones set up on stage, each with their own unique use. The first is for quick one-liner jokes, living on their own, funny without context. The second, is for long-form storytelling, not even necessarily funny, in fact many time very serious, sometimes somber, but always honest. The third microphone is for your more standard stand-up, long-form jokes, stories setting up punchlines, a combination of the other two. What results is a brilliant experiment in comedy. The show intermingles styles, oscillating between stand-up, one-man show, and live twitter feed. It’s definitely worth checking out and is a breeze at just around an hour.
The Good Place – The latest series from co-creator of Parks and Rec and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s, Michael Schur, is about a woman who has awoken to find that she is in the afterlife. What follows is an always funny look at what makes a person “good” and whether or not a person can change. It’s a comedy that sometimes has more in common with Lost than standard sitcoms, but blends to two well and makes for an enjoyable watch.
Sherlock: Season 4 – This show has been great, and it says a lot when it can still make “middling” worth your time. Sherlock came back in a solid way and descended into craziness with shocks, twists, turns, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Spider-Man impression (yup, he walks up a wall) but never seemed to turn too ridiculous, instead the characters staying grounded in what they have been since the beginning (though Sherlock himself is approaching Flanderization). The show is still worth watching and while this may be the final season I think they have one more good one left in them, I hope it comes back in 2019.
Moonlight – I felt awkward. Seriously, I’ve never sat through something like this. There are a lot of films that give you glimpses into the feelings that surround growing up, becoming a whole and complete person, but while most tend to be able to get passed that awkwardness and be able to make you connect this film just made you uncomfortable. The level of intimacy you feel in these scenes is not for public eyes, this is your darker and deeper moments put on display and that is what makes it so mesmerizing. By the end you should be weak at the knees from how hard this hits, and that’s a great thing when a film can do that to you.
Titanic – It’s time to admit it – we all sort of love this movie. I, too, was annoyed at how much everyone swooned over DiCaprio in 1997 and, like many of you, felt no confusing feelings about the skinny young blonde with his blue eyes. But we’ve had twenty years to get used to this and get passed it and I will stand here now, declaring for all that this is a fantastic movie. The score hasn’t aged well, both lead performers have done much better in subsequent years, and the CGI is dated. None of that matters, though, when the lights go out and you get caught up in this ridiculous, on-the-nose love story aboard a doomed ship. It’s humanity’s hubris hidden behind an adorable love story and, since we’re confessing things, it’s the real reason most people my age are attracted to redheads (admit it). I got the opportunity to see this in a theatre for the first time this week and it really reminded me of how far everyone in it has come, how far the director had come when he shot it (seriously, those underwater robot scenes are so reminiscent of Aliens opening scene that it was impossible to ignore), and what it did for us as film fans.
What We’ve Been Reading
Christopher’s Reading List:
The Vision : Little Worse than a Beast – by Tom King and Michael Walsh
Tom King’s Vision is unlike anything else being put out by Marvel. Little Worse than a Beast concludes King’s run on the character, tying up the storylines in this short 12 issue run in which Vision is hired on as a White House liaison to the Avengers. This sets up a strange suburban drama, as Vision creates a family and settles down in a home and blend in as much as a fuchsia colored android can. This leads to action more in line with American Beauty than The Avengers, as King is able to explore more grounded topics like marriage and responsibility, despite the fantastic prisms we see them through.
Born a Crime – by Trevor Noah
Born a Crime is the autobiographical collection of short stories by current Daily Show host, Trevor Noah. These stories follow Noah’s upbringing in South Africa during the end of Apartheid. Despite the heavy backdrop, Noah is able to tell these stories in hysterical, heartfelt, ways. All while recounting things he learned growing up regarding language, race, and class.
Clint’s Reading List:
The Exorcist – by William Peter Blatty
Did you know William Peter Blatty was more comedic than freaky? This is the novel most know him from, but he was actually more into writing comedy. The fact that this novel happened feels like a fluke and still managed to change a genre is astounding. Blatty died last week, and in a fit of nostalgia and sentiment I ordered an old copy of the novel. I dove in almost the instant I got it out of the package and it brought everything roaring back. A fantastically creepy novel that gets ahold of you and never lets go.
Seven Lessons on Physics – by Carlo Rovelli
Carlo Rovelli has taken it upon himself to write a brief, 100 page book that explains physics in terms we can easily understand. The great news is that it’s awesome. From the introduction, where he tells you exactly what you’re getting into, all the way through his chapters on particles and black hole heat we get everything we need to start learning about the world of not only practical application physics but theoretical physics (aka the “fun” physics). An awesome read and probably my favorite thing that I’ve come across in awhile.
It was the Best of Sentences, It was the Worst of Sentences – by June Casagrande
June Casagrande has put together a snarky little guide for crafting better words and it’s a lot of fun. Everyone tries to buy writing guides, everyone wants to know what will help them be a better writer, and everyone recommends On Writing by Stephen King. This is a different animal. Learning to be creative is one thing but learning how to express it gets so much more complicated. Casagrande has given us a fun way to learn how to craft your draft, and it’s great.
Children of the New World: Stories – by Alexander Weinstein
Ever wish there was just so much more of Black Mirror? Well, there sort of is. You know, if you’re willing to read it instead of watch it. This collection of stories by Alexander Weinstein is all in a similar vein, the way that technology and its applications can control or warp our lives. What he has done here is give us a wider view than we could get in a 3-6 hour season, instead letting us branch out. He goes weird, with Buddhism fusing itself to the skeleton of brain surgery or children who grow up without leaving the house, and even goes touching in places.