Showing posts with label annual movie awards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label annual movie awards. Show all posts

6.10.2018

we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2017-18 edition

The list of movies I want to see gets longer and longer, as I watch more series and fewer films. Even so, the 2017-18 list is impressive.

First, the annual recap:
- Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
- my beverage of choice (2008-09)
- famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
- where I'd like to be (2010-11)
- vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
- Big Life Events in a year full of Big Life Changes (2012-13)
- cheese (I'm getting desperate!) (2013-14)
- types of travels (2014-15)
famous people who died plus famous people who died, part 2 (2015-16),
and last year: the picket line (2016-17).

This year, we go meta with movie awards organized by movies. (Thanks to Allan for the idea.) I've made no attempt to survey all the movies I've seen and find the perfect headliner. I just found films that, for me, represent the level of the award.



Annie Hall

Woody Allen's 1977 classic is one of my favourite movies of all time. Inventive, meandering, emotionally vivid, authentically romantic, funny, sad, and sweet, this movie is a masterpiece. If you haven't seen it in many years, you may have forgotten how great it is. If you haven't seen it at all, don't let the Woody factor stop you. It's just too good to miss.

Annie Hall is simply perfect, and these movies and series are as good as anything you'll see.

I Am Not Your Negro
-- This documentary, narrated with the words of James Baldwin's unfinished memoir, is a gripping, clear-eyed look at the persistence of racism. It will make you angry and sad, and you must see it.

I, Daniel Blake
-- Director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty somehow manage to outdo themselves again. Takes a look at what budget cuts and privatized public services look like to the people who rely on them. This film -- not a documentary -- has the rare quality of feeling like you're actually watching someone's life. Recent events in Ontario make this an urgent must-see.

Boardwalk Empire S4-6
-- We left this amazing period drama after S4, but I went back to finish it, and was so glad I did. Devastating, heartbreaking, brilliant.

Bojack Horseman S4
-- What started out as a show-biz send-up has deepened into a moving exploration of the source of our psychic pain and the search for recovery, love, and self. Season 4 was heartbreaking, intense, and yet still funny.

Deadwood
-- This western period piece joins The Wire at the pinnacle of best series ever. The writing and acting are off-the-charts good. Parents, be sure your kids are asleep, lest teachers come calling about your child's language.

Episodes S4, S5
-- This show managed to stay relevant, cutting, and hilarious without ever becoming zany or mawkish. We couldn't stop laughing. Such a treat.

Free State of Jones
-- We socialists like to say "another world is possible". The Free State of Jones was one such world. An exciting historical drama, based on a true story, of a group of people who seceded from the Confederacy.

Moonlight
-- A moving, haunting, heartbreaking, profoundly personal story of a man in search of himself. If you missed it, it's best seen without prior description.

O.J.: Made in America
-- This documentary series unpacks the saga of O.J. Simpson to reveal a nexus of racism, misogyny, celebrity, media, violence, and the justice system. All your questions are answered by way of context. ESPN's "30 for 30" continues to amaze.

Silicon Valley S1-5
-- This send-up of the tech industry stays consistently smart and funny season after hilarious season.

The Witness
-- Her murder became synonymous with apathy, studied and discussed for decades. But who was Kitty Genovese, and what actually happened to her? This extraordinary, revelatory documentary follows Genovese's brother on his obsessive quest to uncover the truth.




Down By Law

A decade after falling in love with Diane Keaton and Annie Hall, I fell in love with Down by Law (1986), Jim Jarmusch's quirky road-trip-comedy starring Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni. We saw it many times on VHS. It's a great film, but perhaps lacks just a little something that would make it a Category 5.

American Honey
-- America's forgotten youth, on a road trip of exploitation and adventure. Don't miss writer/director Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, a movie with a similar vibe set in a UK housing project. (American Honey reminded me of Fish Tank, before I realized they were related.)

Arctic Defenders
-- A powerful documentary about the radical Aboriginal movement that led to the creation of the Nunavut territory. The film reveals important Canadian history and lessons for people's movements.

Danny Says
-- Meet Danny Fields, midwife to generations of music. Fans of Lou Reed, the Ramones, the Stooges -- fans of rock -- must see this documentary. Funny, sharp, and infused with a profound love of music.

Edge of Seventeen
-- This insightful, heart-squeezing, coming-of-age story perfectly captures the feeling of being a teen, being adrift, and deciding to carry on. Amazing performance by Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson, among others.

Embrace
-- Taryn Brumfitt travels the world to learn how women feel about their bodies, and why we're all rejecting ourselves. Powerful and well done.

End of the F***ing World S1
-- A dark comedy-drama about two teenage misfits with fucked-up families. Brilliant first season, now we'll see if it can hang on.

Endeavour S4
-- Still one of the smartest, stylish, and well-written detective shows I've seen. I liked Morse, and I loved Lewis, but this Morse prequel blows them both away.

Jessica Jones S1
-- This might be the darkest, most disturbing show I've ever seen. A exploration of obsessive control and abuse. And somehow also funny.

Lion
-- A gripping story of survival and quest. I expected sentimentality à la Slumdog Millionaire but was surprised to find real humanity. Very nearly in the top category.

Longmire S5-7
-- This hybrid western-detective show grew deeper and stronger with every season. Gripping, moving, thought-provoking, and fun.

Manchester by the Sea
-- Human beings struggling to come to terms with their mistakes, trying to find forgiveness and redemption. Direct, unsentimental, and moving.

Master of None S2
-- The first season of Aziz Ansari's show was good and funny, but S2 blows it away. Funny, sweet, romantic, searching -- and a brilliant use of the flexibility of the ad-free streaming format. Very nearly in the top category. I may have to watch it again.

Off the Rails
-- An amazing documentary about an amazing and unusual man -- a locally famous New Yorker -- and ultimately, the blindness of the bureaucracy that crushes him.

The Americans S1-5
-- Never mind the plot holes, what this show lacks in credibility it more than compensates with excitement and insight into human motivation. Totally addictive.

The Dressmaker
-- Is living well really the best revenge? This funny-sad comedy-drama-revenge-fantasy doesn't think so.

The Good Place S1
-- A smart, insightful, surprising comedy. Plus Kristen Bell! I don't know how they'll pull off S2, but I look forward to finding out.

Wallander S4
-- This has been one of my favourite detective shows, but the final season took me by surprise. The show comes to a fittingly sad conclusion.




Nebraska

I had a lot of trouble coming up with a movie to represent the three-spot -- a solid but unspectacular movie that would be famous enough for readers to recognize. I combed through the middle award on past we movie to canada posts and eventually settled on Nebraska, a solid film about family, relationships, and redemption. As always, the movies in this category were good, I was always glad I saw them, but they didn't make me run out and tell everyone to see them.

Almost Adults
-- Two young women trying to remain close friends as their lives grow apart. A lovely, funny, sweet, insightful film.

AWOL
-- A small-town drama and love-story, and a good look at the reality of women who have with few options falling in love each other.

Barney Miller
-- From the comedy-before-bed category, this golden oldie from my youth held up remarkably well. Quiet, low-key humour punctuated by occasionally cringe-worthy sexism.

Boom Bust Boom
-- Through animation, puppetry, music, and humour, Terry Jones tries to explain why capitalism sucks. Worth seeing.

Bones S6-12
-- This show stayed so good for so long. I'd watch another six seasons if I could. Great characters, great detective work; totally bingeable.

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary
-- It doesn't matter if you know John Coltrane's music or whether you know anything about jazz at all. Coltrane was a towering genius and a beautiful soul; the story of his life and times is simply amazing. This wasn't a perfect film, but it's well worth your time.

Dheepan
-- An immigrant story of poverty and survival, and a crime thriller, perfectly interwoven. Excellent film.

Do I Sound Gay?
-- What is the origin of the stereotypical "gay accent"? A gay man explores that question, and ends up looking at internalized oppression. A very solid doc.

Get Out
-- I enjoyed this twist on old-school horror, but also found it massively over-rated. Plus I saw the supposedly shocking reveal coming all the way. Still good.

Ghostbusters
-- Fun!

Hidden Figures
-- After all the hype, I didn't expect to like this, but it was irresistible. I haven't read the book yet, but apparently the movie was very accurate. Amazing, powerful history.

Hinterland
-- A dark detective show set in Wales. Kind of a Wallander wannabe, but if you like dark detective shows, this is a good one.

Jessica Jones S2
-- After a spectacular S1, there was nowhere to go but down, but it's still a very good show, full of excitement and surprises, and sprinkled with humour.

Joe Cocker: Mad Dog with Soul
-- A look into the rise, fall, and redemption of a great soul singer. Not a great film, but it was interesting, and inspired me to re-listen to Cocker's early music.

Love and Friendship
-- Whit Stillman's take on Jane Austen. I'm not an Austen fan, nor a fan of English period pieces, but this was funny and fun.

Luke Cage S1
-- Funny, exciting, and totally entertaining, with some social commentary woven in. Shot in New York, for real, with a true NYC vibe. Looking forward to more.

Mike Tyson Mysteries
-- Come on, are you watching these yet? What are you waiting for, they're only 10 minutes long! Ridiculous, hilarious, occasionally brilliant.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things
-- A look at the living simply movement, through the lives of several people who are intentionally living with less. This movie would have been better if the filmmakers had explored their own privilege in making these choices. But still, this is a decent and thought-provoking film.

Paterson
-- Jim Jarmusch's fantasy of what a working-class artist's life could be like. The more I thought about this movie, the less I liked it. This review on the Roger Ebert site pinpoints my problems. But I did enjoy it, and as fantasies go, you could do worse.

Suits S7
-- Now that the show's central conflicts have been resolved, we're left with a soap opera. But it's an appealing soap opera.

Sherlock S4
-- This show has lost the crazy edge it once had, but is still so compelling. Except the final episode which we hated.

Star Trek Beyond
-- Funny, clever, and very entertaining. Good female characters, good Simon Pegg for a change, and of course, finally an LGBT character. And yes, I am watching (and very much enjoying) Star Trek Discovery.

The Bob Newhart Show
-- Another low-key comedy from my youth. I was amazed at how perfectly this held up. It was truly laugh-out-loud funny, until the final season, which totally sucked.

The Mystery of Sleep
-- A solid science documentary that shows you how little we know.

We Regret to Inform You
-- A Canadian documentary that takes an unsentimental and unvarnished look at what it means to be physically disabled, while having a "productive" mind, in our world. Thank you NFB!




Inside Llewyn Davis

You'll notice I've switched to poster images. I can't find one image from this movie or the next that doesn't make me sneer. Inside Llewyn Davis isn't the worst movie I've ever seen, but it might have been the most over-rated. These movies won't kill you, but I'm sure you have something better to do. You must.

A Bigger Splash
-- All style, little substance. A movie about rich, beautiful, self-absorbed people. The air of danger and intrigue mentioned by many critics failed to make it into my living room.

Café Society
-- This Woody Allen film had some nice moments, and was lovely to look at, but whoever thought Jesse Eisenberg could play the lead must have lost a bet. His atrocious performance ruins whatever movie might have been there.

Cameraperson
-- This review on RogerEbert.com says that if you can make it through the first 20 minutes, all will be revealed. I could not. All I can tell you is that Kirsten Johnson shot a lot of footage about a lot of interesting things over her career, then apparently threw together a bunch of scraps and called it a movie.

Chewing Gum
-- This started out very funny. And then, omg, run away. Good for a few episodes, though.

Complete Unknown
-- Multiple false identities, a secret past, and unexplained tensions -- I really wanted to like this movie. It fell flat.

Fences
-- I'm so disappointed to put this in category 2! We saw the original play on Broadway a long time ago, and I'm a huge fan of playwright August Wilson. Sadly, the movie adaptation was stiff, stilted, cliched, and forgettable.

Intelligence
-- This Canadian spy drama based in Vancouver has some good points, but in an era when there are so many great series, don't waste your time on this.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
-- How awful to put a Werner Herzog documentary in this category. It's as if Herzog didn't know what to look for or ask about. A meandering mess.

Los Punks: We Are All We Have
-- A documentary about the backyard punk rock scene of South-Central and East Los Angeles. I love the idea of this music, and I so wanted to love the film. In the end, the movie shows you that this scene exists, but little else.

Maggie's Plan
-- A Woody Allen-inspired romantic comedy set (of course) in New York City. Part screwball comedy, part existential crisis, occasionally funny, mostly annoying.

People Places Things
-- See "Maggie's Plan". Why do I keep trying to watch romantic comedies, knowing I'll almost always be disappointed? I guess the answer is in that almost.

Riverdale
-- This campy teen drama is absolutely awful. But I can't stop watching it!

The Lobster
-- A clever idea, but not much of a movie. I understand our world privileges couples and families, but I have hard time seeing single people as persecuted.




Love, Actually

I hate this movie because it sucks. So do these.

Fargo S1
-- This might be the worst crime-detective-mystery show I've ever seen.

Miles Ahead
-- A giant string of jazz cliches that captures nothing of Miles. Perhaps Don Cheadle -- who wrote, directed, co-produced, and starred in the film -- should stick to acting, or perhaps the subject was just too difficult. Either way, a must to avoid.

Straight Outta Compton
-- A tour through every rap biopic cliche in existence, with all the misogyny whitewashed away.

Weiner-Dog
-- ‎Todd Solondz uses a passive-faced dog as a device to mock people who are already caricatures. I've liked many of Solondz's movies, but couldn't sit through this one.

4.16.2017

we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2016-17 edition

I'm actually getting to the annual wmtc movie awards while the baseball season is still young -- a sign that I have a bit more time to myself, as our new local ticks along under the guidance of an awesome team.

First, the annual recap:
- Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
- my beverage of choice (2008-09)
- famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
- where I'd like to be (2010-11)
- vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
- Big Life Events in a year full of Big Life Changes (2012-13)
- cheese (I'm getting desperate!) (2013-14)
- types of travels (2014-15)
and last year I reprised famous people who died, plus there is famous people who died, part 2.
the picket line

This year's theme was a no-brainer for me. In late 2015 and through 2016, I piloted my union through contract negotiations and a strike. It was the first strike for the Mississauga Library Workers, and the first strike against the City of Mississauga!

We were out for three weeks -- and we won. Along with what the strike did for our members, it was a year of enormous personal growth for me. Leading bargaining and the strike used all my experience, all my skills, all my strengths, and all my weaknesses, seemingly putting them all to the test, every single day.

And so, this year's "we movie to canada" theme: the picket line.



The General Strike

Workers from all fields and industries, union and nonunion, waged and unwaged, students and teachers, factory workers and miners, writers and artists, joining together to demonstrate our strength by withholding our collective labour. In February 1919, workers shut down the city of Seattle; a few months later, workers in Winnipeg did the same in their city. Did you know that workers in India staged the largest general strikes in history, first in 2013, then in 2016? (Why was this the most under-reported story of the decade?)

The General Strike is what I most want to see, and these films were the best I saw over the past year.

Diary of a Teenage Girl
-- Brave, honest, and risk-taking, this film reveals an authentic teenage life that may shock some, but rings unerringly true. Drugs, sex, negligent parents, opportunistic adults -- it's all there, as Minnie begins to author her own life. Moving and brilliant.

Mustang
-- In Turkey, five sisters are being raised by their repressive, over-protective uncle. Each girl in turn finds accommodation or escape, in ways that are increasingly sad and tragic. But one girl will not be tamed. Gripping, tragic, triumphant.

Bojack Horseman S3
-- Loneliness, self-doubt, and existential dread, plus endless animal puns and laugh-out-loud comedy. I'm starting to think it's the animal version of The Larry Sanders Show, which means it's one of the best things ever on television.

The Revenant
-- A gripping story of survival, and an authentic-seeming portrayal of the harsh, violent world of the frontier. Sometimes hard to watch, but I was riveted.

Where to Invade Next
-- Michael Moore's latest starts out as comedy, then slowly descends into darkness, perhaps the darkest Moore has ever attempted. I quibble with Moore on a couple of political points, but no matter. This film is great.

13th
-- On my nonfiction reading list is The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Alexander is featured in this documentary version, as powerful and disturbing a film as you are likely to see. Don't miss it.




The "Mill Girls"

The "Mill Girl" strikes -- first in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1834 and 1836, then the more famous "Bread and Roses" strike in nearby Lawrence in 1912 -- are some of my most beloved moments in labour history and women's history. The fighting spirit of the mill girls lives on in every woman who organizes and fights back.

These were considerably smaller in scope than the general strikes, but they were important, and they have always captured my imagination. These films weren't quite the pinnacle, but they were excellent.

Janis: Little Girl Blue
-- Finally, a movie about Janis Joplin that digs deep and doesn't exploit. Her life was both triumphant and very sad. The image of the rich and famous woman still seeking the approval of her hometown bullies will stay with me a long time. Saddest of all, Janis was expanding her range and her repertoire when she died. An excellent biopic.

I Smile Back
-- Sarah Silverman's performance as a self-destructive, borderline personality is absolutely gripping. The film offers no "overcoming obstacles" balm and no easy answers -- indeed, no answers at all. Disturbing in all the right ways.

The Wire, S5
-- This was a bit of a come-down after the pinnacle of S4. Compared to other seasons, S5 was a tad didactic and obvious. But in the end, it was The Wire -- unmatched.

Jimmy's Hall
-- Just another understated, brilliant film from the Ken Loach / Paul Laverty team. The joy of solidarity, the bitterness of the institutional crushing of dissent, plus the beauty and music of Ireland.

Carol
-- Todd Haynes has made a wonderful adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's semi-autobiographical novel The Price of Salt. Nonconformity, discovery, love, stifling choices, and a gorgeous period piece. Simply beautiful.

Brooklyn
-- 1950s small-town Ireland and immigrant Brooklyn. A lyrical love story, a beautiful period piece, an understated melodrama -- entirely wonderful.

Longmire S5
-- This show just keeps getting better. Now it's detective mystery meets western meets women's liberation.

Suits S1-6
-- Great writing, great acting, and characters that grow in credible and interesting ways. Takes a bit of time to kick in, but rewards you many times over. (I have only one quibble: women in law firms -- whether partners, associates, or assistants -- do not dress like models. A little less cleavage would have increased realism.)

Enquiring Minds: The Untold Story of the Man Behind the National Enquirer
-- A fascinating biopic of two men you've probably never heard of: Genoroso Pope and Gene Pope, Jr., plus Ric Burns and New York City. Did I say fascinating?

How I Met Your Mother, S9
-- I ended up absolutely loving this show. Barney is the comedy version of Suits character Harvey Specter. I might just watch the whole thing again.

The Fall, S3
-- When Season 2 ended with our hero holding the bloody body of her nemesis, I had no idea how the producers would squeeze out another season. That just shows my total lack of imagination. Season 3 was twisty, shocking -- and great.

Get Smart
-- My current comedy-before-bed is this classic from my childhood. A send-up of James Bond meets Inspector Clouseau. Corny but hilarious. Great for future-famous and uncredited guest stars, too.





CUPE 1989 Mississauga Library Workers Strike

Just your everyday, ordinary library workers, kicking ass for the working class. The strike was worthwhile, and these films are worth seeing.

Look Who's Back
-- What would happen if Hitler never died, and was reanimated in our current world? This film teases out all the implications. Very clever and very thought-provoking.

The Way, Way Back
-- A solid, sweet, unsentimental coming of age story.

Tab Hunter Confidential
-- What was it like to be marketed as a leading man but gay and deeply closeted, in 1950s Hollywood? A solid social history embedded in a biopic.

Trumbo
-- The Hollywood blacklist and a writer determined to defy it. Excellent performances and a good period piece.

The Big Short
-- At first this movie seems to be glorifying the villains of the subprime banking crisis, but that's just a ploy to reel you in.

Irrational Man
-- This dark Woody Allen film has some problems, but it's thought-provoking and a great conversation piece.

Anomalisa
-- Charlie Kaufman, existential crisis, and stop-motion animation. While it often seems (to me) that Kaufman is strange for strange's sake, this ends up being very interesting, even more thought-provoking than the Woody Allen movie above.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream
-- I have no idea why Peter Bogdanovich thought a movie about Tom Petty needed four hours. We watched in one-hour installments, and I made it through two. I really like old Heartbreakers music, and Tom Petty was a maverick in many ways. A decent film, and two hours is plenty.

A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman
-- A fun romp through the history of Wallace and Grommet and various sheep.

Burnistoun
-- In our continuing search for good sketch comedy, we found this crazy Scottish show. Uneven but often really funny. We need subtitles!

Still Game
-- A raunchy, male, Scottish old-person show. Funny and poignant, and good for a few seasons.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
-- Scientology revealed. It is weirder and more horrifying than I ever imagined.

Finders Keepers
-- A man finds an old grill at an auction. Inside the grill: a human leg. This starts out as weird but comedic, but becomes an examination of class, drugs, lawsuits, and the illusion of celebrity. Really interesting.

Manson Family Vacation
-- A familiar movie trope -- the uptight, responsible adult and the immature, fuck-up sibling -- plus a road trip, with a Manson Family theme. A decent little film, and less predictable than one might expect.

Brooklyn 9-9, S3
-- Still really funny!

Morse
-- While recuperating after the strike, I watched the entire Morse series. It's slow-moving, but brilliant.

The Murdoch Mysteries, S10
-- Still watching! Still enjoying it.

Before the Flood
-- Leonardo DiCaprio's movie about climate change didn't go far enough for me, but it gets the word out in a solid way, even if the conclusions fall short.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
-- Completely crass, tasteless, and ridiculous, and usually very funny. The comparisons to Seinfeld are obvious, but this would be Jerry's crack-addicted, sex-offender distant cousin. I watched a few seasons before my US Netflix disappeared (again).

Bones, S1-5
-- After The Good Wife and Suits, this is my latest binge-watch. Good detective work, great characters, and has really deepened emotionally. Featuring great recurring roles for both Stephen Fry and Ryan O'Neal.

Marcella
-- A dark, twisty, sometimes confusing murder mystery, which owes a lot to Prime Suspect. Worth seeing if you're into that. Good for fans of The Fall, although nowhere near as good.

The Killing, S1
-- Parts of this were excellent, comparable to S1 of Broadchurch. But the plot holes, fercrissakes! Enjoyed one season but definitely not continuing.



Dear Valued Employee

So began a letter -- mid-strike -- from the library director to our members. Tone-deaf and clueless, it was a low point in labour relations!

The letter did contain a redeeming quality: it strengthened our solidarity. These movies are pretty awful, but they each contain some scrap of value.

American Hustle
-- This has all the markers of a film I should love, and I really wanted to love it. Instead, I found it stiff, bloated, and way too long, plus suffering from an intrusive soundtrack. It's better than a 2, but not quite a 3.

Everybody Wants Some!!
-- The long-awaited sequel to 1993's "Dazed and Confused" is really just a showcase of 1980 college "types".  There are some nice moments, but after all the hype, what a disappointment.

Breaking Bad
-- Everyone says this is a great series. I liked it at first, but quickly found it too non-believable, almost silly.

Ricki and the Flash
-- This was a perfectly serviceable redemption movie with some rock and roll thrown in. It has a great cast and avoids the worst of the many cliches inherent in the material. And then -- it falls off a cliff. The ending is so bad, so completely, cringingly awful, that it pulls the whole movie down the stupid hole with it. Absolutely, amazingly bad.

Born to be Blue
-- String together a bunch of jazz cliches, add Ethan Hawke. Hawke's presence saves this from the scrap heap.

Danny Collins
-- Not unlike Meryl Streep and Ethan Hawke in the two movies above, Al Pacino turns in a performance worth seeing. But yawn. Yet another movie where the main character is a self-centered boor, has been that way all his life and through 90% of the movie, then makes a miraculous transformation and is redeemed -- for no discernible reason.

The Tribe
-- Set in a home for deaf children, filmed with no dialogue or subtitles, this movie is dark, gripping, and very interesting -- for a while. Then it becomes impossible to figure out characters' motivations or what is going on. Cool idea, but it didn't work.

Green Room
-- We loved "Blue Ruin", this director's earlier film, so had high hopes for a taut, suspenseful thriller. Alas, this turned out to be a contrived locked-in-a-room-together horror flick.

The Martian
-- Shipwrecked sailor, forced to survive on ingenuity, guts, and humour -- a familiar tale translated into space. There were some nice moments, like when the whole world cheers together. But honestly, I was bored.

Twenty Feet from Stardom
-- This documentary about backup singers could have been great. There were a few fascinating glimpses into a world that is usually invisible. But so much of it is unfocused, meaningless, filler. There were some interesting tidbits, plus you get to hear an isolated track of Merry Clayton on "Gimme Shelter".

Star Trek: Voyager
-- This is the second time I've tried this series. The first time, I watched three episodes. This time I made it through eight. It's heavy on the nuts-and-bolts sci-fi, which I don't really like, and light on the emotional content, which I do. Well, I tried.




Precarious Work

There's nothing good about precarious work. These movies are a must to avoid.

Misconduct
-- Blackmail, corruption, bad writing, and bad acting.

This Must Be the Place
-- I really like Sean Penn, so I was completely surprised by his terrible performance in this movie. And yay, a character finds redemption and completely changes! For no reason! Yet again!

Entertainment
-- Only after seeing this movie did I learn that actor/comedian (?) Gregg Turkington has a stage persona called Neil Hamburger, and that this film was a vehicle for that unlikeable character. Maybe if you already know and understand the backstory, this film works? Assuming you are not interested in Turkington/Hamburger, it is just absolutely dreadful.

The Mindy Project, S3
-- I really liked S1 and S2, despite some clunkers. This was just unwatchable. Wow.

6.26.2016

we movie to canada 2015-16. this year there's a part 2.

From the I Have Too Much Going On, Systems Are Breaking Down department, this year's we move to canada awards omitted a big chunk of viewing. I was very surprised -- and a bit disturbed -- to discover this!

Leaving aside questions about my mental competence, I'm reviewing the omitted films and series here, and I'll also update the main post. I'm also using this as an opportunity to move some of my binge watching to the main categories.

In the Muhammad Ali category:

The Duke of Burgundy
-- This darkly erotic love story is kind of the anti- Blue Is the Warmest Colour: crackling with sexual tension, and not a bit of skin exposed. A tender love story about love that is not tender.

In the David Bowie category:

Angel
-- I was skeptical about this Buffy spinoff, but ended up liking it more than Buffy -- the characters are more varied, the interplay and overlap of good and evil is even more complex. It's also funnier. Great stuff, with huge thanks to my Facebook friends who recommended it.

Series Noire
-- This French-language series from Quebec begins as a clever self-referential comedy, then deepens to a wry, bittersweet comedy-drama. Like BoJack Horseman, How I Met Your Mother, and -- my favourite TV comedy of all time -- The Larry Sanders Show, thos comedy improved when it tapped into pain. Really worth watching.

In the Allen Toussaint / Maurice White / Merle Haggard category:

Longmire, Season 4
-- This detective-western hybrid is still going strong.

Badults, Season 1
-- If you're old enough to remember The Young Ones, this is an updated version of the slacker-dudes-on-their-own motif, featuring members of a comedy troupe called Pappy's. The first season is funny. Please stop there.

Burnistoun
-- Could it be we've discovered a replacement for Kids in the Hall? I doubt this Scottish sketch comedy show will sustain itself as long as KITH, but Season 1 was hilarious.

Mike Tyson Mysteries
-- Are you watching this? It's funny, bizarre, occasionally hilarious, and episodes are only 10 minutes long. If you're a fan of Robert Smigel, you'll want to check this out.

Columbo
-- I started re-watching this detective show from my youth half as a joke, then discovered it was brilliant. More specifically, Peter Falk was brilliant. Lieutenant Columbo must be one of the greatest television characters of all time. The show was an absolute pleasure.

In the Glenn Frey category:

Birdman
-- Apparently we're the only people who didn't like this movie. Please don't explain it to me. I understood it. I did not enjoy it.

W1A
-- This spoof starts out with great promise, then reveals it contains only one note, played over and over and over.

In the Antonin Scalia category:

Badults, Season 2
-- Stop after Season 1.


6.13.2016

we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2015-16 edition

I'm posting my annual movie awards later and later every year. I'm also watching fewer movies, because I'm watching more TV shows. When I come home on Friday or Saturday, exhausted and needing total downtime, sometimes even a movie is too much mental effort; binge-watching a series is somehow easier. So I end up with a ton of movies on the List, unwatched, year after year.

But no matter. Here's what I did watch, and what I thought.

First, the annual recap.
- Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
- my beverage of choice (2008-09)
- famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
- where I'd like to be (2010-11)
- vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
- Big Life Events in a year full of Big Life Changes (2012-13)
- cheese (I'm getting desperate!) (2013-14)
- and last year (2014-15) types of travels.

This year I've recycling a theme from a few years back. It was a bad year for the deaths of famous people, and it's only going to get worse, as a generation of musicians, actors, and thinkers that people in my age-range have worshipped have begun to leave us.




War resister, peace activist, athlete, orator, leader. Warrior for peace and justice. Proud Muslim. Few have sacrificed as much for peace as he did. Muhammad Ali was The Greatest, and so were these movies.

The Wire, Season 4
-- The absolute best viewing this past year wasn't a movie at all. Season Four of The Wire has more positive characters, more emotional investment, and a more profound impact than anything we've seen yet. The Wire is likely the best series ever aired, and this is its best season (so far). Exceptional.

Call Me Lucky
-- A hilarious, heartbreaking, inspiring movie about a man you've probably never heard of, featuring a lot of famous people who owe so much to him. My full review is here. I want everyone to see this movie.

Spotlight
-- A riveting drama and a fascinating history. A story that should never be forgotten, beautifully told. The DVD has interviews with the real Spotlight team.

Pride
-- Solidarity that made me weep with joy. A vision of the possible. Inspiration of the highest order.

Merchants of Doubt
-- An important, terrifying look into public manipulation, from Big Tobacco to climate change deniers. The must-see documentary of my movie season.

The Duke of Burgundy
-- This darkly erotic love story is kind of the anti- Blue Is the Warmest Colour: crackling with sexual tension, and not a bit of skin exposed. A tender love story about love that is not tender.




Brilliant, multi-talented, unique, influential, and gorgeous. There was only one David Bowie, and he influenced our culture in myriad ways. He did put out some clunkers and some mainstream fluff in his day. Like Bowie, these films are not perfect, but they are excellent.

Blue Ruin
-- A low-budget revenge thriller, as bloody as it is suspenseful. Riveting.

Far from the Madding Crowd
-- A lush, luminous adaptation of a great novel. I was skeptical, then found myself completely caught up in the characters and their tragic or triumphant lives.

The Search for General Tso
-- This documentary uses Ameican Chinese food as an avenue to explore identity, authenticity, and otherness. So well done.

Boardwalk Empire, Seasons 1-3
-- This high-quality historical fiction about boss politics in the Prohibition era ticks every box: gorgeous period setting, social significance, political intrigue, class war, and complex relationships. The first few seasons were stellar. After that, the great storylines faded away, and the plots became too repetitive. But these first three seasons, wow. Violence warnings, bigtime.

The Good Wife, Seasons 6 and 7
-- Rarely does a show stay great for seven full seasons. Writing, acting, storylines, politics -- all brilliant. I loved the ending, and am sad that it's over. Very nearly a Muhammad Ali.

Angel
-- I was skeptical about this Buffy spinoff, but ended up liking it more than Buffy -- the characters are more varied, the interplay and overlap of good and evil is even more complex. It's also funnier. Great stuff, with huge thanks to my Facebook friends who recommended it.

Series Noire
-- This French-language series from Quebec begins as a clever self-referential comedy, then deepens to a wry, bittersweet comedy-drama. Like BoJack Horseman, How I Met Your Mother, and -- my favourite TV comedy of all time -- The Larry Sanders Show, thos comedy improved when it tapped into pain. Really worth watching.



    The shocking deaths of David Bowie and Prince overshadowed the passing of many other musical artists. Allen Toussaint, Merle Haggard, and Maurice White all created original, important music. Each man took established genres and threw in elements of culture, diverse influences, and their unique visions to create something new, different, and beautiful. Their music was solid, good, and sometimes wonderful. So are these movies.

    Tangerine
    -- Part buddy road trip, part bedroom farce, funny, sad, and outrageous. Plus a trans actor plays a trans person. Plus it was shot on an iPhone. Not a perfect movie, but a really good one.

    The Overnighters
    -- A stark documentary that reveals a sad slice of the dead American dream. Bleak, compassionate, thought-provoking, surprising.

    BoJack Horseman, Season 2
    -- As often happens, this comedy improved when it found the pain beneath the laughs. The second BoJack season was often very sad, and also very good.

    Detectorists
    -- A gentle, good-natured comedy about some misfits, their subculture, and their attempts at connection. Lovely, and left me wanting more.

    Ex Machina
    -- Plot twists, suspense, and an absolute shocker of an ending. For an exploration of human-technology love, see Her. For a thriller that happens to feature some androids, see this.

    Force Majeure
    -- How do we behave in a crisis? What would you do if...? The answer to that question sets off a chain of events that remakes a family's life. A bit long and occasionally tedious, but thought-provoking and worth seeing.

    God's Pocket
    -- A strange comedy-drama romp, and a reminder of Philip Seymour Hoffman's quietly perfect talents.

    Holes
    -- I finally saw the film adaptation of one of my favourite junior novels. It almost does justice to the book, which is very high praise.

    How We Got to Now
    -- Steven Johnson's PBS series does a good job of making a science-history lecture visually entertaining. I've only seen two episodes, but plan on watching all six.

    Iris
    -- The Big Man of Documentaries meets the flamboyant Grand Dame of Fashion, when 87-year-old presents 93-year-old Iris Apfel. A film about free spirits and life as creation. Really fun.

    Keith Richards: Under the Influence
    -- The latest revision of Keith's biography. Diehard fans won't learn anything new, but it's Keith, so it's fun.

    Life Itself
    -- This tribute to Roger Ebert, the film critic and cultural icon, was... good. I wanted it to be better, but if you were a fan of Ebert's, you'll enjoy it.

    Magic in the Moonlight
    -- Solid Woody Allen. Won't change your life, but if you like Woody's comedies, this is one of them.

    Master of None
    -- Aziz Ansari tries to break out of the comic-turned-sitcom mold, and sometimes succeeds. Funny and interesting enough to watch another season.

    Pariah
    -- An African-American girl from a working-class, religious family, comes to terms with her sexuality and claims her identity. Even though the story has been told many times, when it's told well, it's touching and inspiring. A young filmmaker's very impressive debut.

    Sherlock Holmes (2009)
    -- A nice take on the Sherlock Holmes franchise. I found myself skipping through the action scenes to find the movie underneath, but it's fun and well done. Also a reminder that I just don't like action movies.

    The Clouds of Sils Maria
    -- In a film about actors and theatre, what's real and what's theatre shifts and bends and flips. This film is purposely disorienting and confusing, and strangely compelling.

    The Dark Matter of Love
    -- A cheery Midwestern family adopts older orphans from Russia, and learns that love and good intentions do not conquer all. This documentary follows their struggles, their perservanace, and their work with family therapists to try to get it right. Well done.

    The End of the Tour
    -- If you're not a writer or a fan of David Foster Wallace, I don't think this film adaptation of David Lipsky's Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself would be of much interest. But if you do fall into either of those categories, it's interesting and though-provoking. Jason Segal's portrayal of DFW is relevatory.

    The Great Train Robbery
    -- A funny, suspenseful, well written crime caper, told in a two-part series, first from the robbers' point of view, then from the police's. The first part is much more interesting than the second, but in general it's enjoyable. Lovely 1960s period piece, too.

    The Imitation Game
    -- This is not the first film about Alan Turing, the Enigma machine, and the homophobic persecution of Turing, but it's a very solid new take. Plus Benedict Cumberbatch. If you ever have the opportunity to watch Derek Jacobi as Turing, it's a very different portrayal, and also very good.

    Tiger Eyes
    -- Amazingly, this is the first Judy Blume novel to get a film adaptation. Directed by Lawrence Blume, the author's son, it's a simple and direct coming-of-age story. A tad melodramatic, but that's teenage life. Nicely done.

    Rectify, Seasons 1 and 2
    -- This series started out strong, but lost its way. Interesting, though, and worth seeing. We might try again at some point.

    Love & Mercy
    -- This biopic about Brian Wilson transcends the "troubled genius" mold. A good music film about struggle and redemption. The DVD extras include Brian and Melinda Wilson themselves.

    Badults, Season 1
    -- If you're old enough to remember The Young Ones, this is an updated version of the slacker-dudes-on-their-own motif, featuring members of a comedy troupe called Pappy's. The first season is funny. Please stop there.

    Burnistoun
    -- Could it be we've discovered a replacement for Kids in the Hall? I doubt this Scottish sketch comedy show will sustain itself as long as KITH, but Season 1 was hilarious.

    Mike Tyson Mysteries
    -- Are you watching this? It's funny, bizarre, occasionally hilarious, and episodes are only 10 minutes long. If you're a fan of Robert Smigel, you'll want to check this out.

    Columbo
    -- I started re-watching this detective show from my youth half as a joke, then discovered it was brilliant. More specifically, Peter Falk was brilliant. Lieutenant Columbo must be one of the greatest television characters of all time. The show was an absolute pleasure.




    Glenn Frey probably made some halfway decent music at some point. His career probably wasn't a total waste, but if I never heard another Eagles song again, that would be fine with me. These movies and shows don't completely suck, but they are generally failures.

    Garfunkle & Oates
    -- The female Flight of the Conchords is mildly amusing, but it only plays one note, and gets old fast.

    I Believe in Unicorns
    -- I wanted to like this teenage story of dangerous love, escape, and redemption. But I just couldn't buy any of it. Natalie Dyer's performance is excellent. Other than that, ugh.

    The Thread
    -- Online communities and their impact on mainstream news and public perception is a fascinating topic. I'd love to see a movie like this, but better. Halfway between Glenn Frey and Haggard-Toussaint-White.

    Last Weekend
    -- Family melodrama about incredibly privileged people and their relative self-awareness or lack thereof. The always brilliant Patricia Clarkson saves this from the scrap heap.

    Stephen Fry Live: More Fool Me
    -- Stephen Fry is a treasure. This live show is occasionally good, but mostly meh.

    Fruitvale Station
    -- A fictional dramatization of the last day of Oscar Grant, who was killed by police in the Bay Area. This is one of those movies that I'm glad exists, but isn't very good.

    God Bless the Child
    -- The camera follows a group of siblings left alone by their depressed mother, with minimal plot and seemingly no script. It was such an interesting concept, and I wanted to love it. But it was so boring!

    Levon Helm: Ain't in It for My Health
    -- I love The Band and I loved Levon Helm, so I found something to enjoy in this movie. Levon deserved a great film and this is not it.

    Manglehorn
    -- Al Pacino is a misanthrope, then presto-change-oh, he's redeemed. What a disappointment!

    No No: A Dockumentary
    -- Do you want to see this baseball film? No. No.

    Paper Towns
    -- If this makes you read more John Green, it has served some purpose. Otherwise, a must to avoid.

    Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation
    -- This movie has some nice views of La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, so it wasn't a total waste.

    Schitt's Creek
    -- This started out full of promise, but faded first. It should have been much funnier.

    Set Fire to the Stars
    -- The best part of this film about Dylan Thomas is the title. There are a couple of good moments that save it from the bottom of the barrel.

    Welcome to Me
    -- Kristen Wiig is good, but quirky just to be quirky is just silly.

    Seymour: An Introduction
    -- This movie about an inspiring teacher might be interesting to someone who already knew and cared about him. But when it comes to introducing Seymour Bernstein and getting me to care about him, it completely failed.

    Paul
    -- I'm starting to wonder if Simon Pegg will ever appear in a good movie again. This road-trip romp has a laugh or two, but wow, some serious dreck.

    Birdman
    -- Apparently we're the only people who didn't like this movie. Please don't explain it to me. I understood it. I did not enjoy it.

    W1A
    -- This spoof starts out with great promise, then reveals it contains only one note, played over and over and over.




    Antonin Scalia was a disgusting excuse for a human being and a dangerous US Supreme Court Justice. He should never be missed and these movies should not be watched.

    Skating to New York
    -- If you must see all things Canadian, don't say I didn't warn you.

    The Angriest Man in Brooklyn
    -- An angry, bitter man finds out he is about to die, and runs around trying to love everyone. Yikes.

    The Slap
    -- I don't need to like every character in order to like a movie, but when every single character is hideously unlikeable, I must run away.

    Computer Chess
    -- What the hell? This was several critics' pick for best indie film of the year. I found it unwatchable.

    Interstellar
    -- Lurching from one plot hole to the next, awash in melodrama and rickety devices, this movie is a complete mess. Once again I am reminded not to be fooled by hype.

    You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
    -- This film might be an insider joke that I'm not in on. I'm not really sure, as I only got through 20 minutes.

    Badults, Season 2
    -- Stop after Season 1.


    Also:

    Binge Watching:
    Angel (loved)
    Murdoch Mysteries S9 (still enjoying in spite of myself)
    Columbo S1-12 (a classic)

    Comedy Before Bed
    M*A*S*H
    How I Met Your Mother (currently on S8 of 9)

    5.17.2015

    we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2014-15 edition

    Thanks to everything-on-demand media, and no thanks to my schedule that doesn't permit me nearly enough time for baseball, Movie Season now runs all year, at least marginally. These annual awards now document the movies and TV series we've seen from Opening Day to Opening Day.

    To recap my silly rating systems:
    - Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
    - my beverage of choice (2008-09)
    - famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
    - where I'd like to be (2010-11)
    - vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
    - Big Life Events in a year full of Big Life Changes (2012-13),
    - and last year (2013-14), cheese!

    This year's ratings revolve around my favourite pastime, the moments I live for: travel. We can loosely call this theme types of holidays and vacations.



    I have always dreamed of traveling for an extended period of time - life on the road. My dream of extended travel probably dates back to reading Travels with Charley when I was 12. But ever since Allan and I traveled by RV in Alaska in 1996, my desire to pack up our family for life on wheels has captured my imagination, sometimes obsessively so.

    This is the best life I can dream of. And these are the best movies and series we saw this year.

    Boyhood
    -- This marvel of film making is utterly absorbing, a tour de force of directing and acting. Truly an experience.

    Blue is the Warmest Colour
    -- Another lengthy coming-of-age journey, and well worth the ride. Rarely do I feel directors have enough to say to justify lengthy films, but these first two have opened my eyes. Plus gorgeous, frank, and extended lesbian sex. (Naturally this led to a firestorm of criticism, but I disagree.)

    True Detective
    -- Creepy, scary, suspenseful, weird, excellent.

    Justified, final season
    -- In its sixth and final season, this show returned to greatness. At times the suspense was almost unbearable. Plus a perfect ending.

    Obvious Child
    -- Finally, a fictional movie depiction of abortion without apology, as a normal and positive need in a woman's life. The movie itself is a solid wmtc "3" - above average, very well done - but this film scores the highest honour for its politics.

    Citizenfour
    -- The documentary about Edward Snowden, one of the great heroes of our age, should be mandatory viewing.

    Show Me Love (Fucking Amal) (1998; re-watch #1)
    -- I fell in love with this film when it came out in 1998, and I was so pleased to love it just as much today. As beautiful a film about teenage life and love you'll ever see.




    I love to fly, because it means I'm going somewhere good - or maybe best of all, someplace new. Despite cramped quarters, the indignities of airport security, and everything else most people complain about, for me flying is a pleasure. Only one thing makes this kind of vacation imperfect: I miss my dogs. These films are ever so slightly less than perfect.

    Of Gods and Men
    -- When you're in the mood for something quiet and contemplative, this film is moving and very satisfying.

    Compliance
    -- This depiction of a real-life Stanford Prison Experiment is almost too disturbing to watch, and almost too shocking to be true. But it is true. And you should watch it.

    12 Years a Slave
    -- After all the hype, I didn't expect much from this. I was wrong. It is gripping, moving, and beautifully made.

    Howl
    -- Part period piece, part biopic, part poetry. I love all things Allen Ginsburg and this was no exception.

    Route Irish
    -- Ken Loach and Paul Laverty turn their keen gaze on the Iraq War, and its deadly legacy at home. Gripping and disturbing in all the right ways.

    Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?
    -- This totally engaging, entertaining doc examines art and authenticity from all angles. A joy to watch, and so well done.

    After Tiller
    -- An important film for everyone who cares about reproductive rights, and about justice. If you are inspired by moral courage, here you go.

    The Wire, Season 3
    -- Three seasons on, this great show keeps getting better. It's perfection.

    Finding Vivian Maier
    -- An obsession, a legacy, an enigma. As fine a documentary as you'll see. Really on the cusp between the RV and the plane travel.

    Broadchurch, Season 1
    -- A gripping, suspenseful murder mystery, with more than its share of complex characters, and full of compassion, humanity, and difficult truths. Absolutely excellent.

    Bill Cunningham New York
    -- A beautifully made film about a unique, obsessive genius, plus a view of New York you're unlikely to see anywhere else. A must-see.

    The Trials of Muhammad Ali
    -- This excellent documentary about the political life of the great Ali would be in the RV category but for one complaint. The filmmakers depict almost nothing of the political and social context of Ali's struggles; watching this, you would never know that an entire movement of Vietnam War resisters existed. Still an excellent film and a must-see for lovers of history and of peace.

    Oslo August 31st
    -- A day in the life of a man struggling with addiction. Quiet, dark, and moving.

    The Normal Heart
    -- Larry Kramer brings us to 1980s New York City, the birth of the AIDS crisis, and of the first organized response to it. Love, loss, rage, resistance, identity.

    Say Anything (1989) (1989; re-watch #2)
    -- This quirky, funny, sweet, authentic story of teenage love holds up perfectly. It was a great film then, and it's a great film now. Sadly, a scene that was once achingly beautiful is now a tired internet meme. That's not the movie's fault.




    On the road! It's not green but I love it. If our travel plans include a long road trip, I'm happy. If you see these films, you'll be glad you did.

    Stories We Tell
    -- This film by Canadian Sarah Polley unfolds and surprises, and raises interesting questions about the interplay of past and present. I got a little tired of the visuals - it almost works better as an audio documentary - but it was very well done.

    Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle
    -- This PBS doc looks at the dawn and evolution of the comic book hero. Terrific.

    The Guard
    -- Brendon Gleeson stars in this very dark, very Irish comedy by John Michael McDonagh. Not your usual cop-buddy movie. Really really good.

    Calvary
    -- Brendon Gleeson inhabits another film by John Michael McDonagh. This one is very nearly plane travel. It's an odd, moving film, and Gleeson's performance is off the charts.

    Maidentrip
    -- A documentary about a 14-year-old girl trying to sail around the world? Sign me up! I dare you not to fall in love with Laura Dekker, at least a little.

    Ida
    -- A quiet, sad redemption story. Very good.

    The Immigrant
    -- A vivid, melodramatic redemption story. Also very good.

    We Are the Best!
    -- Lukas Moodysson ("Show Me Love", above) directs this fun, smart film about a girl punk band.

    Her
    -- I expected a cliche about the hazards of over-reliance on technology. Instead I got a complex meditation on human relationships. Funny, sad, and profound. Great discussion fodder.

    Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'
    -- An examination of the book, the movie, its cultural context, and what we can know about Harper Lee. Won't knock your socks off, but an interesting view into the creation of one of the most enduring novels of all time.

    Gloria
    -- An older woman, on her own, making peace with herself and her alone-ness. Nice movie. Many points for non-beautified older-person sex.

    Smashed
    -- Addiction, recovery, and relationships. Often funny, not too heavy, very honest. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is amazing.

    Nebraska
    -- A nice film about family and redemption. Overrated, in my opinion, but still worth seeing.

    The Spectacular Now
    -- After reading this youth novel, I wondered how badly the movie would be botched. Surely no one will make a movie for teenagers with such a bleak, hopeless ending. But the film was good, and the ending, although considerably softened, was still ambiguous and realistic.

    Enough Said
    -- A second-time-around older person's romantic comedy. Good acting, some truly nice moments, and less hokey than I expected.

    Scott Pilgrim vs. the Word
    -- Total fun and entertainment.

    Star Trek Into Darkness
    -- I could have lived without the overt 9/11 references, but at least the message was about choosing peace over revenge. Fun and entertaining.

    The Rise and Fall of Penn Station (PBS American Experience)
    -- A solid documentary about the building of the first rail lines to Manhattan. Not really about Penn Station, the building that died so that others might live.

    District 9
    -- A little heavy-handed and obvious for my tastes, but a good sci-fi look at bigotry and xenophobia.

    It Might Get Loud
    -- A cynic might see this as a marketing ploy to capture three demographics. A more generous review might see an exploration of music and musicians across generations. I'm somewhere in between. Worth seeing and some great music.

    The Fall, Season 2
    -- Not the incredibly suspenseful and scary excitement of Season 1, but very good.

    The Best of Men
    -- This biopic of Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a pioneer of spinal cord injury treatment and rehabilitation, chronicles an important piece of disability (and veterans') history. A made-for-TV feel, but still worth seeing.

    Faded Gigolo
    -- John Turturro makes a Woody Allen film. Nice.

    Trance
    -- This Danny Boyle crime thriller is at times clunky and non-credible, but it's still suspenseful and fun to watch.

    West of Memphis
    -- A solid documentary about a modern-day witch hunt, and the banality of injustice.

    Hateship Loveship
    -- A small, quiet, lovely film that explores the complexities of human relationships. Sweet and romantic, but thoroughly unsentimental and unpredictable. Kristin Wiig turns in an amazing performance. The whole cast is excellent. Really worth seeing.

    The Importance of Being Earnest
    -- If you like Oscar Wilde, you'll enjoy this. If you don't, what is wrong with you?!

    The Ides of March
    -- Money, politics, scandal. It won't shock you (unless you live in a cave) but it's a decent movie. Plus PSH.

    The Search for Michael Rockefeller
    -- This doc about the search for the young, disappeared Rockefeller leaves you with more questions than answers. Worth a look.

    -- Heathers (1988; re-watch #3)
    I remembered how funny this was, but not how dark. Such a good movie.



    One word away from David Foster Wallace, here's a supposedly fun thing I'll never do. I can think of few things less appealing than taking a vacation on one of these things. But if I did, I'd probably find some redeeming value, like swimming in a nice pool, or a chance to read a lot. These films had some shred of saving quality that kept them from the scrap heap.

    The Golden Compass
    -- After reading the book, I thought I should see the movie. It was all right.

    Inside Llewyn Davis
    -- A passable period piece about a mediocre musician and the 1961 New York music scene. One of the most over-rated films I've ever seen.

    The Battered Bastards of Baseball
    -- This is a great story, and I really wanted to like the film, but the 20th time you hear someone say the same thing...

    Abandoned America
    -- A one-episode version of the "Forgotten Planet" documentary. Overheated narration with no context.

    Broadchurch, Season 2
    -- A huge disappointment! They should have stopped after Season 1.

    Laurence Anyways
    -- I want to support every trans story out there, but a bad film is a bad film. A confused mess.

    The Art of the Steal
    -- A crime and con caper about art thieves. Sounded great. Was not.

    But I'm a Cheerleader
    -- Maybe this was good when it came out in 1999. Won't kill you, but for satirical fun and gay romance, you can do much better than this.

    Blue Jasmine
    -- How sad to dislike a Woody Allen movie so much. Despite some very fine performances, this film was tedious and annoying.

    Silence of Love
    -- Perhaps much of this movie, about a man coming to terms with the loss of his wife, was lost in translation. It was a hodge-podge. A mess. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt by keeping it out of the bottom category.

    The Secret in their Eyes
    -- A failed attempt to make peace with the past, in a movie that started strong and ended with a splat.

    I'm So Excited
    -- How it pains me to put not one, but two films by Almodovar in the bottom categories! This lame attempt at campy fun is occasionally fun to look at. Otherwise it is dreadful.

    Fever Pitch (1997)
    -- Sports part good. Romance part bad.

    They Call It Myanmar
    -- You might glean some interesting facts and views of Burma/Myanmar from this bad documentary, but then again, you could clean out a closet and feel like you accomplished something.

    CBGB
    -- With Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal, this film had a lot of promise. Yet it was a tedious bore. Some nice-ish moments.

    A Fantastic Fear of Everything
    -- Sadly, the presence of Simon Pegg does not guarantee a good movie. One or two chuckles.

    The Interrupters
    -- This doc has great credentials: Steve James, who made "Hoop Dreams" and Alex Kotlowitz, who has chronicled inner-city America in books such as There Are No Children Here, make a movie about activists trying to staunch the violence in their community. Despite this and great reviews, I found little more than a series of cliches strung together without context.

    We Cause Scenes
    -- Maybe one day someone will make a good movie showing all the funny and clever things that Improv Everywhere does. Unfortunately, in this movie, Improv Everywhere tells you how great Improv Everywhere is.

    The Monuments Men
    -- So this is what star-studded, over-produced, manipulative, obvious Hollywood movies look like. Plus some artwork.

    Museum Hours
    -- Two people develop an unlikely friendship in Vienna. Boring, but with artwork.

    The Inbetweeners Movie
    -- Loved the show. Movie, no.

    The Princess Bride (1987; re-watch #4)
    -- It's kind of cool to see the origins of an internet meme, but other than that, I couldn't remember why everyone loves this movie. Saved from the bottom category by an all-star cast.




    Yes, that's right, I'd rather go on a commercial cruise than go camping. I love nature, but I need to sleep in a bed and take a hot shower in the morning. I hated camping even before I was too old to sleep on the ground. Camping sucks and so do these movies.

    The Skin I Live In
    -- Almodovar, how could you? Multiple rapes, torture, mustache-twirling villains, and completely non-credible plot twists. Absolutely awful.

    The Devil's Knot
    -- Do yourself a favour: see "West of Memphis," and skip this dreadful fictional version.

    Locke
    -- This was like a bad off-off-off-Broadway play. Luckily I could turn it off.

    Stranger by the Lake
    -- Once you know your lover is a serial killer, why do you continue to hook up with him? I sure as hell don't know. Close-up gay sex, full of penises, might rescue this for some people. But it's a really bad movie.

    * * * *

    This year's solo binge watching:
    Farscape (finishing from previous year)
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    Longmire
    The Good Wife (watching now)
    Murdoch Mysteries, more seasons

    This year's binge watching that didn't work:
    Doc Martin
    The Gilmore Girls

    Future potential binge watches:
    Angel
    Brothers and Sisters

    This year's comedies:
    Bewitched
    Parks and Recreation, more seasons
    The Vicar of Dibley (re-watch)
    The Mindy Project
    Bojack Horseman
    Brooklyn 9-9
    The Inbetweeners
    30 Rock (watching now)

    4.08.2014

    we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2013-14 edition

    It's time, once again, for the wmtc annual movie awards. To recap, my silly rating systems so far:
    - Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
    - my beverage of choice (2008-09)
    - famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
    - where I'd like to be (2010-11)
    - vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
    - and last year, Big Life Events in a personally momentous year.

    Now completely bereft of ideas but hopelessly locked into this system, I appealed for help on Facebook. Lucky for me, my friends are more creative than I am. Thank you to David H for this year's delicious theme: cheese!

    Here are the movies and series we saw from the end of the World Series (why yes! the Red Sox did win yet another championship, thank you for noticing!) until the beginning of the current baseball season. I try to see only movies I think I will like, so the list is - or should be - be top-heavy.



    Reblochon. So rich it's practically liquid, so pungent it can make your eyes tear, and so incredibly delicious, it is only savoured on the most special occasions. Movies of this calibre are rare.

    Beasts of the Southern Wild
    -- A community's resistance to the dominant culture, and the indomitable spirit of a small girl. Lyrical, powerful, gritty, and just a little bit magical, this film took me apart. Almost too beautiful to see again. My top movie of the season. Also the only non-documentary to reach the top category this year.

    Gasland
    -- I thought I knew about the dangers of fracking. I was wrong. Impeccably written and produced, and deeply frightening.

    Prohibition
    -- Ken Burns does it again. Longer review here. Shorter review: see it.

    The Square
    -- See the revolution in Egypt through the eyes of the people who made it happen, and who are making it happen still, today. A must-see for everyone who dreams of remaking the world.

    Hot Coffee
    -- Yet another way the corporatocracy is stripping us of our rights, with a giant assist from the corporate media. An important movie, extremely well done.



    Roquefort is bleu cheese on steroids. The good kind of steroids that make you creamier and more flavourful. You rarely see roquefort, and although it's not reblochon, it is of the (almost) highest quality. These movies were exceptional.

    The Angels' Share
    - A feel-good crime caper from Ken Loach and Paul Laverty. Funny, sweet, and just plain wonderful.

    5 Broken Cameras
    - Occupation and resistance by the people who are living it. Puts you right in the heart of the Palestinian struggle.

    The Central Park Five
    - An important documentary about justice, for victims of violence, and victims of the system. My thoughts here.

    War of the Worlds
    - Why did people go nuts over a radio broadcast? Is the whole thing an exaggerated urban legend, or were people just stupid in those days? This doc puts the incident in historical context. Fascinating.

    Wuthering Heights
    - This "Masterpiece" treatment from 2011 is, for me, the definitive adaptation. My full review is here.

    The Fall, Season 1
    - This five-episode mini-series about a series killer and the detective hunting him was riveting and incredibly scary. Somehow I'm not having nightmares about it. I can't understand how a second season is going to work, but the first was amazing.

    The Wire, Season 2
    - Looks like we're going to watch one season a year. Great writing, great acting, complex situations. Excellent.



    In Canada, it's "goat's cheese". In New York, it's simply chevre. In France, chevre is the animal that le fromage comes from. Whatever you call it, it's rich and delicious, not rare, but still a real treat. These movies are yummy films that are well worth seeing.

    Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll
    - An imperfect but solid documentary about an important and overlooked musical pioneer.

    Make Believe
    - Amazing young magicians. You'll want to strangle some parents but you'll love these amazing teenagers.

    The Hunger Games
    - Nowhere near as great as the book (of course), but a good movie.

    Shut Up Little Man! – An Audio Misadventure.
    - Starts out as a documentary about an odd subculture phenomenon, but ends up as an extended commentary on privilege. Thought-provoking, and in my view, not a comedy.

    The Gymnast
    - Standards are pretty low in the lesbian-love-story category, putting this decent but unremarkable movie in the goat cheese spot.

    Save the Date
    - Nice independent film about friendship and love. My issues would involve spoilers, so I'll just say good, with some problems.

    Cracks
    - Creepy girls' school power struggles. A suspenseful drama.

    Life of Pi
    - I didn't like this book, but it was a pretty good movie.

    Hugo
    - Martin Scorcese laboured to bring the wonderful The Invention of Hugo Cabret to life, and thus the movie is too long and too slow. But it's also beautiful, rich, magical, and worth seeing. I wrote about the book here.

    Episodes
    - A funny, smart comedy TV series about a TV series. Matt LeBlanc's character is the perfect combination of maddening and loveable (not unlike some Community characters).

    Sound of My Voice
    - Time travel, or a hoax, or both? A smart psychological thriller, marred by some plot holes, but worth seeing.

    Page Eight
    - This British political thriller, written by David Hare, is almost too subtle. But it boasts a great cast, terrific acting, and some nice twists.

    No
    - It's 1988 in Chile, and a historic plebiscite will decide whether the dictator Pinochet stays or goes. This is said to be the first instance of advertising playing a crucial role in political campaigns. I wanted more out of this film, but it was worth seeing.

    Dirty Wars
    - An important film, marred by nationalism. That's what I said here.

    Robot & Frank
    - In the future, we will all have robots to help us. Or to help us commit crimes. Or to take the place of family. A funny and unsentimental look at aging.

    Searching for Sugar Man
    - How could a musician be so popular and so unknown at the same time? And if you could be so popular elsewhere, why would you ever return to your mundane and struggling existence? This documentary didn't answer that latter question, but is very good nonetheless.

    Brooklyn Castle
    - Young chess masters from Brooklyn. This doc was too long and repetitious, but worth seeing.

    There But For Fortune
    - Biopic about the late, great musician Phil Ochs. The film had some problems (if a man is a raging alcoholic, perhaps let us know before it kills him?), but it's a solid doc and tribute to Ochs.

    Johnny Carson: King of Late Night
    - We're on a bit of a biopic craze, thanks to PBS's American Masters series. It's hard to fathom Carson's unique place in television history, but this doc does a good job.

    Mel Brooks: Make a Noise
    - Another American Masters about a very smart, very funny man.

    Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
    - One of my few regrets is not seeing Ricky Jay perform in New York. This is Jay's story and the story of his unusual profession and career choice. Really good, almost a roquefort.

    Serenity
    - I saw Firefly for the first time this year, so I didn't approach Serenity with the high expectations of a fan. It strikes all the right notes. A good time, but for me, not as good as the series.

    The Hour, Seasons 1 and 2
    - We're halfway through the second season of this BBC production. It's smart, exciting, well acted, and well written. Could almost be a roquefort, but the self-consciously stylish 1950s period setting gets a bit much for me.

    Justified, Season 5
    - With the current season, Justified has slipped into the middle category. It's still totally worth seeing, but without a great villain working opposite Raylan, it has lost a step.



    This stuff is not very good. You might be able to do something with it, like grill a halfway decent sandwich, or melt it over nachos. Not a complete waste of time, but then again, why not just eat something better. A surprising number of these - and some from the dead-last category - were on several critics' best-of lists.

    Upstream Color
    - A pretentious bore, and a Swiss-cheese of plot holes. This did generate an interesting conversation about how it could have been an exciting, credible film, and that saved it from the scrap heap.

    We Need To Talk About Kevin
    - How could a human being appear so completely different around different people, and if those people are his parents, wouldn't they ever all be together at the same time? And just why is Kevin so evil? The answer: he just is. Kevin is a bad seed. Nope, that doesn't work for me.

    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
    - Mildly amusing romantic comedy, predictable and transparently aiming for demographic appeal. The kind of movie you should see on a plane, when you're half paying attention.

    Hungry for Change
    - The basic premise of this movie is sound and undoubtedly true, but outlandish claims and product marketing blow it.

    Mary and Max
    - I'm a sucker for stop-motion animation and misfit stories, so I should have loved this. Yet I could barely watch. Might be worth a peek.

    The Master
    - A long, tedious journey to nowhere. Some good acting and a few random interesting insights. Totally skippable, but won't kill you to see it.

    Tabloid
    - It seems wrong to put Errol Morris in a Velveeta category, but this movie was a mess. There's an interesting story in here somewhere.

    Looking For Lenny
    - This biopic about Lenny Bruce was halfway to the goat cheese category, but not quite. If you've ever wondered what all the fuss is about Lenny Bruce, this will help answer it. Could have been much better, but was all right.

    56 Up
    - Maybe it's me. I've lost interest in these people's lives. I could have sworn that this series once had a political point-of-view. Now we just get a walk-through of what's new. You might be interested. I was not.

    Downton Abbey, Season 4
    - It feels wrong to put such a well-produced show in with crappy Velveetas. But now that Downton has lost all social and historic context, it's just Coronation Street with better clothes. As the Rolling Stones sang, I used to love it, but it's all over now.



    This crap is not cheese, and these movies are not worth seeing.

    The Deep Blue Sea
    - This 2011 remake of a 1952 film was boring, melodramatic, and unwatchable.

    Frances Ha
    - It's difficult to watch a movie about self-absorbed hipsters that you would hate in real life. The only good thing I can say about this movie: it's set in New York City.

    Butter
    - This film is like a refugee from the 1990s. What was once signature indie is now sad re-tread.

    A Beginner's Guide to Endings
    - A confused mess. Figure out what movie you're making, then try again.

    Love Actually
    - Wow this is bad, and sexist beyond belief. My thoughts here.

    Pain & Gain
    - Well, what did we expect from Michael Bay. I thought it would be funny and exciting. Instead, it was overblown dreck.

    A Band Called Death
    - This is supposed to be about an early proto-punk rock band made up of three black guys from Detroit. Instead, it's the life histories of some people who you don't care about.

    * * * *

    I've expanded this year's post to include all my TV watching. Since dumping cable and switching to streaming on Roku, I watch a lot more TV shows, so why not include them here?

    TV falls into three distinct categories for me. One, high quality series that I've been including in my movie awards for the past few years. (Those are included above.) Two, binge-viewing that I watch almost exclusively alone, for downtime relaxation. And three, comedies before sleep. I'm difficult about comedy, so these can sometimes be tough to find.

    I am always in the market for more of these titles, so if you have any to recommend... please do.

    Binge Viewing That Worked:
    The Bletchley Circle
    Luther
    Wallander (UK version)
    Endeavour
    Firefly
    Star Trek: TOS (Not first time, but first time through whole series end-to-end)
    Star Trek: TNG (First time through, loved it)
    Murdoch Mysteries
    Inspector Lewis (love!)
    Farscape (watching now)

    Binge Viewing That Didn't Work (tried and gave up on):
    Cracker
    Vera
    Star Trek: Enterprise
    Star Trek: Voyager
    House of Cards (UK)

    Past Binge Viewing (already saw and love):
    Xena: The Warrior Princess (I'm a huge fan)
    The Chris Isaak Show
    Monk
    Inspector Lewis (my favourite detective show)
    Jackson Brodie mysteries

    Future Potential Binges:
    Buffy The Vampire Slayer (I'll watch it one day!)
    The Good Wife
    Boss
    Longmire

    Comedy before sleep:
    Current: Community
    Recent Past: Parks & Recreation

    Past and complete:
    The Office (US only)
    Malcolm in the Middle (greatest sitcom ever)
    Futurama, until the comeback season
    King of the Hill (early seasons only)
    Family Guy (early seasons only)
    The Simpsons (off and on and completely out of order)