I Was Nominated for a Sunshine Blogger Award (a long time ago)


So over eight (!) months ago, Lindsay Acland nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award.  Lindsay was one of my first followers and my first commenter, and her interest in what I was writing gave me huge boost of confidence as my blog was just starting. In other words, I am a total jerk for taking this long to respond. Hopefully my previous post explained some of the reasons behind the delay, but nonetheless I still feel bad. Not sure if I’m too late to give any relevant answers, but here they are anyway.

Again, if you’re unfamiliar with the Sunshine Blogger Award, it’s a way to recognize fellow bloggers you enjoy and also find out a little more about them in the form of 11 somewhat random questions. Lindsay sent me her questions, and now I’m answering them and sending my questions to 11 bloggers I enjoy.

First, Lindsay’s questions:

1. If you could make any actor/actress/filmmaker/writer just disappear to continue their reign of terror in another dimension, who would it be?

Is it too redundant to say Zack Snyder at this point? I’m also not a huge Leonardo DiCaprio fan, and feel like more interesting actors could play most of his roles.

2. Is there a city where you would really love to set your own film/book, and what would it be about?

Venice is my favorite city I’ve ever been to, and I’d like to do a Game of Thrones-style show about life there during the Turkish Wars.

3. Have you ever visited a city/country because it was featured in a film or book?

Not necessarily, but I did read about the Aran Islands in a National Geographic when I was 17 and eventually make it there at age 31.  Slight digression: on the same trip to Ireland, however, I met some girls who went to a very specific (and very cool) bar in Dublin because it was in the decidedly uncool movie P.S. I Love You. Needless to say, they were weird.

4. Were there any TV shows/movies/books that you lived and breathed when you were a child/teen?

I was super into Robotech. Every attempt I’ve made to reengage with the series has resulted in embarrassment I ever liked it so much though.

5. Is it better to make a classic, respected novel into a movie, or better to adapt a poor novel and try to improve it?

I think no matter what the source is, the writer and director need to find their own voices. Prisoner of Azkaban was my least favorite Harry Potter book and by far the best movie of the entire series, and it’s all because Cuaron didn’t treat the source like holy writ.

6. Is there a movie you liked better than the book?

Jurassic Park the movie is so superior to Jurassic Park the book that it’s not even close. I think Gone Girl the movie is somehow darker than the book, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.

7. Are there any actors/actresses/writers/directors that you feel are vastly underrated?

I think Brad Pitt is underrated as a comedic actor. I prefer him immensely in weird supporting roles like Burn Before Reading compared to big screen mush like Allied.

8. How do you feel about all the sequels/reboots etc? Still love ’em or bored?

Bored out of my mind with them because so few do anything different with the source material. Like I said in my answer to question 5, there’s nothing sacred about anything. That said, it still has to be a good movie (case in point, Ghostbusters).

9. Do you have any favourite books or websites that helped you learn about blogging/writing/film criticism?

The Dissolve, as I have essentially rethought my approach to this blog based on its rise and fall.

10. Are there any films/books on your shelf still begging to be read?

The list of films I need to see is basically endless. A random selection includes Midnight Special, The Age of Innocence, In the Mood for Love, Sorcerer, Do the Right Thing, and Jodorowksy’s Dune. Sometimes I wish I were Steven Soderbergh.

11. Who (is) are your favourite film directors/novelists (of all time)?

Favorite director is Spielberg, hands down. It shouldn’t be so cool to hate on him.  See Patrick (H) Willems’ video essay about how his background in horror allowed him to perfectly pace the T Rex attack in Jurassic Park.

Now, my nominees:

1. In the Mood for Films

Lamees’ blog features great reviews and some striking stills highlighting great cinematography.  And when faced with the choice, we also both picked Baby Driver over Dunkirk.

2. Understanding Illusions

A great site that features shorter posts but expanded podcast episodes about each topic.  Definitely the direction I’d like to take my site.

3. A Mouthful of Celluloid

Zachary has some great opinions about what makes some movies work better than others, and we both found the same exchange in The Force Awakens especially eye-rolling.

4. Rewrite Cinema

This site takes what I try to do with my “script doctor” posts to the next level.  I’m still not ready to unpack what I didn’t like about the Star Wars prequels, but we can agree that Spiderman 2 is THE BEST superhero movie made to date.

5. Shaun’s Reviews

Solid reviews from someone who also thought Dunkirk was a bit of an emotional puzzle and Logan was the best superhero movie since The Dark Knight.

6. Cineguise

Georgia has some great in depth pieces, and like me she felt that Suicide Squad was a missed opportunity more than anything else.

7. Film Noird

When I first started my blog, I tried to limit my reviews (as opposed to my longer pieces) to 300 words or less; I rarely achieved it.  Gary routinely accomplishes what I failed to do, but I have to disagree with him that ANYTHING in Mad Max: Fury Road was overkill.

8. DAJAWR Review

Reviews that cover everything (including a lot of Games of Thrones spoilers – be warned), but also some posts on great action scenes.

9. Exploring Cinema

Akash has some great thoughts on Rogue One and has just started a Christopher Nolan retrospective I’m looking forward to.  Like him, I also think House of Cards changed from a mediocre but interesting show to a bad show.

10. Hacking Cinema

Christine shares both my lack of formal film education and love for cheesy 80s movies (I had forgotten how awesome the soundtrack to LadyHawke is).  And who can argue with a Coen Brothers retrospective?

11. Title Roll Reviews

These guys have some great pieces on Looper and Blade Runner, both of which have got me really excited about non-franchise sci-fi again.

Finally, my questions:

1. What franchise stayed fresh (or is still fresh) for the majority of its run?

2. What movies do you wish had been long form television a la True Detective and vice versa? (Mine is a little non-traditional: I think Crazy Stupid Love would have worked much better as a 10 episode mini-series. There would have been more time to develop the characters, and reveals like Nana = Hannah would have made perfect cliffhangers.)

3. What should have won Best Picture last year?

4. Favorite science fiction film?

5. What is the best super hero movie ever made? Or has it not been made yet?

6. What do you like or not like about horror movies?

7. Last movie that made you cry?

8. Go-to movie snacks? (For me, popcorn and a Coke are required, Sour Patch Kids are optional, and Snow Caps can be substituted for Sour Patch Kids under certain circumstances).

9. Do you like theaters with “fancy” features – reclining leather seats, food service, alcohol – or are you a traditionalist? (For me, the perfect setup was realized in the late 90s with stadium seating – anything else is overkill.)

10. Favorite action sequence? (I think you all know mine . . .)

11. What is your opinion of movie musicals, either classic (Singing’ in the Rain) or modern (La La Land)?


On Taking Things Seriously

Those of you who are (or perhaps were eight months ago) regular readers probably noticed that I haven’t posted anything in over half a year. Why is a bit of a long story, and first I’ll need to give you a little background.

I started this blog in 2015 after thinking about starting it for the previous three years. Unfortunately, nobody read it. In the entire year of 2015 I had 169 views, and at least half of those were me not logged in to WordPress and not realizing that I was being counted.

In 2016, however, I made the decision to “take this seriously.” And I was really happy with the results. While my readership is definitely small potatoes, doubling my yearly total in one month in 2016 made me feel like someone (or, somewhat more precisely, 338 someones) cared what I thought about movies. But even though the blog was modestly more popular, it started to become less of a pleasure, and I found myself churning out thoughts on every movie I’d seen (another part of my decision to “take this seriously”) rather than the longer, more in-depth pieces I enjoyed writing and you apparently enjoyed reading more. So when I got busy at work and embarked on an international move, the blog was the first thing to go.

I told myself I’d come back to it, but I wanted to make sure I knew what I was coming back to. In the past eight months, I’ve spent a lot of downtime on trains and airplanes reading The Dissolve and listening to its podcast. (Both are excellent, by the way, as is their descendant, The Next Picture Show.  But reading what happened to these people – all better writers than I am who know more about film than I do – was humbling.  Any thoughts I had about becoming a part-time film critic or freelancer evaporated.

But one thing I noticed was that The Dissolve’s deep dives were both my favorite features and the thing most lamented in the various eulogies. So I think Monday Morning Movie Quarterback – still a terrible name – will actually start living up to its name . . . moreso (to quote Lisa Simpson).  I’d like to write more articles on how Suicide Squad could have been some great Marvel counter-programming, or why Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action movie I’ve seen in years.  While these posts take more time to write, I hope they’re worth the wait.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is still fun 25 years later

alex winters keanu reeves bill and teds excellent adventure

When I was kid, we had a birthday tradition specific to a family that liked to watch movies: the birthday boy (or girl) got to pick the movie that night. My wife and I reintroduced this tradition – at least for me – after we got married. In the past years we’ve watched classics like Aliens, films I wanted to give another chance like Temple of Doom (still didn’t like it, by the way), and some that I wanted to see again as an adult like E.T. This year’s film, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, is none of those. I’d call it a guilty pleasure, but after watching it again I now consider it just a pleasure.
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By not deciding what kind of Star Wars film it wants to be, Rogue One stumbles

rogue one

When The Force Awakens came out last year, a lot of people complained about how derivative it was of A New Hope. While I didn’t think the film was perfect, that wasn’t one of my complaints. So my anticipation for Rogue One, which is not only a “stand alone” story but also one that, in the words of its own director Gareth Edwards, represents a shift from the tone of the rest of the series, was pretty high.  Finally, a Star Wars prequel/sequel that could stand on its own. Rogue One makes a good effort, and it really succeeds on the visual front. But in almost every other way, I found it inferior to The Force Awakens.

Continue reading “By not deciding what kind of Star Wars film it wants to be, Rogue One stumbles”

Hell or High Water has a message and it’s not afraid to let you know

hell or high water

I’d been looking forward to Hell or High Water hitting iTunes since it came out – it got great reviews, and my in-laws actually went to the theater to see it. (These are the same in-laws who laughed their way through The Witch, though, so I’m not sure how well our tastes align these days.) Hell or High Water doesn’t disappoint in that it’s a solid crime drama. If anything, it’s a little too solid.

Continue reading “Hell or High Water has a message and it’s not afraid to let you know”

Hitchcock makes a great popcorn flick with North by Northwest

cary grant roger thornhill eva marie saint eve kendall north by northwest

Due to a very long story, my family spent the last few weeks in a series of short term rentals. One of them had possibly the most eclectic collection of DVDs I’ve seen in a while. No-brainers like Finding Nemo and The Hunger Games sat next to Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book (which sadly we never made it to).

So I’ll go ahead and cop to this embarrassing mistake – the original post referred to Verhoeven’s film as Little Black Book.  Thanks to Nuwan Sen for the very diplomatic correction in the comments below.

But the owners had a large Hitchcock collection and thus my wife and I finally got a chance to see one of his most celebrated films: North by Northwest. Having seen a fair amount of Hitchcock, I was a little surprised to find this one pretty light hearted, albeit still impeccably made.

Continue reading “Hitchcock makes a great popcorn flick with North by Northwest

Frozen probably deserves a place among the Disney renaissance classics

frozen anna kristen bell

As mentioned before, in my teenage years I thought about being an animator. This dream, unlikely as it was, was largely a byproduct of the so-called Disney renaissance, the string of animated hits from The Little Mermaid to The Lion King that marked the studio’s return to prominence after some lean years. I stuck with it long after the renaissance had faded, finally giving up after seeing Tarzan. That long sabbatical (and the fact that my daughter was far too young for the juggernaut that is Frozen until now) allowed me to approach this with more objectivity. And what struck me the most about Frozen is how much it has in common with its more distinguished predecessors.

Continue reading Frozen probably deserves a place among the Disney renaissance classics”