Hello everyone! I’m still on vacation, and won’t be returning until tomorrow night, meaning that there won’t be many articles until Tuesday. However, I thought I’d provide the weekly What I Watched, What You Watched, just to give you all something to look at until my return. I only saw one new film, Colossal, and while I haven’t decided if I’ll review it yet, I want to say here that you should check it out. It’s a fun, smart take on alcoholism, using magical realism and science fiction to tell its story in a different way, and Anne Hathaway gives a great performance. Review or not, it’s worth checking out.
As my brother is a fan of music, and had been out of the state when it was making its big run, I took him on my sole trip to the theater before our vacation to see Baby Driver, making this my third go-round with Edgar Wright’s thrilling romp. I honestly think that’s one of the best films of the year, taking on so many tropes and writing in many redeeming factors for its few flaws. In fact, this third time made me question whether my “A” review was high enough back in June. In honor of this triumphant third viewing, I decided to finally complete Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy and watched The World’s End. I definitely appreciated what Wright was going for, found the concept fascinating and the ending hilarious, but as a whole I was a bit disappointed after the wonderful Hot Fuzz. It’s definitely the worst of the trilogy, but I’d still advise seeing it – it’s laugh out loud funny. Speaking of comedies, I continued a sports bend that I’m on with A League of Their Own, which I found to be a pleasant, often-funny comedy with a Murderers Row of comedic actresses. Seriously, every single one of them brings their A-game, to the point that the weakest link in the cast might be Tom Hanks. Think about that. And going along with sports, I finally saw Paul Newman’s supposed “piece d’résistance,” The Hustler. Personally, I didn’t love this movie the way many other critics do, but there’s no escaping how great these performances are, especially Newman and Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats.
Sadly, it couldn’t be all good news, as my brother insisted on vacation that we all watch the 2002 “comedy” The Master of Disguise. I have not seen The Master of Disguise since I was 8, but I remember thinking then, “Man, that movie was bad. I didn’t know movies could be bad. This is a learning experience for me.” After a second viewing, I realized my 8-year-old self was too kind. It’s a truly atrocious movie, easily one of the worst I have ever seen. Out of spite, I retaliated with The Wicker Man, although that’s not a fair trade-off. The Wicker Man is easily funnier than anything in The Master of Disguise, it just wasn’t intentional. Needing to cleanse my palette after those nightmares, I rewatched Se7en for the first time in several years. Man, does that film hold up. It’s really a great mystery, a great noir, and a great critique of modern society. Speaking of critiques of modern society, I also watched RoboCop in honor of its 30th anniversary (and in honor of this great article by Vince Mancini at Filmdrunk). I’d heard it was a bloody movie, and kind of cheesy, but what I didn’t realize was that this was not only the entire point, but that the satire in the film would be so strong. It’s a brilliant film, and a film that I think everyone can enjoy. Of course, after the darkness of those two films, I needed something light (or at least lighter than the rest), and I settled on Terms of Endearment. I didn’t love the film as much as I’d hoped, but it’s definitely a charming, lovely film, with a great script and a deceptively phenomenal score, and not only were the performances from Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, John Lithgow, and especially Jack Nicholson wonderful, but I would argue that the compromising, open relationship between MacLaine and Nicholson is a high bar for movie relationships (watch the way they respect each other’s boundaries, and while they push each other to leave their comfort zones, the respect each other enough to allow their partner to take their time). I honestly wish more relationships in film played out this way. Oh, and I caught about two-thirds of The Ring on television, and honestly, that’s a very efficient little horror film. It came close to removing the foul taste from my mouth left by this year’s sequel, which is easily going to make my worst of list in a few months.
However, I wanted to give one film a very special shout-out, as it was the best thing I watched this week across any medium. That film was Samsara, a wordless 2011 documentary exploring the beauties of this world, man’s relationship to it, and our spiritual connection to everything, religious or otherwise. Something of a guided meditation, the film is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, spiritually and physically. Every image presented is a cornucopia of color and natural beauty, wowing you in its miraculous nature, and it honestly cleanses your soul as you watch it. You can feel yourself become calmer, purified in the positive nature of faith, emotion, and beauty. I don’t know anyone of any religious belief, political belief, or general “ism” who would dislike it, as it avoids making any form of “statement” to simply focus on how beautiful this world is, what kind of wonders we have accomplished as a species, and where we can possibly go from here.
On top of film, I also got a chance to do a lot of reading while on vacation, specifically finishing The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth, arguably one of our greatest living writers. While I’ve struggled with Roth’s work in the past, this strangely personal and strikingly relevant narrative really captured my interest, and I was captivated for the entire 362 pages. If you’re looking for an interesting thought experiment, I would check it out. I’ve also started reading this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner The Underground Railroad, and it’s already haunting. I’ll have more on that as I make progress.
As my vacation spot has access to HBO, I managed to watch the most recent seasons of Silicon Valley and Veep for the first time in about three years, and honestly, it’s understandable why these two always pop up around Emmys time and on Best Of lists. These are two of the greatest comedies out right now, and are close, if not quite there, to reaching the upper echelon of television comedies. I also saw last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, and honestly, while others were impressed by it, I really wasn’t. The twist at the end featuring a certain reptilian friend didn’t wow me, although it’s nice to know they aren’t allowing things to become too stacked in one direction. Hopefully they land the season finale tonight. And of course, there’s Rick and Morty. I haven’t loved this season the way I’ve loved the past two, but I think they’ve finally found their groove, as the last two have been laugh-out-loud funny, and the image of that brother and sister still haunts me in my sleep, in the best possible way.
Aurally, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but Taylor Swift has released a new song. I have mixed feelings on Swift, as can be seen from this list that I wrote ranking her songs back in 2016, but man, this song is objectively terrible. The beat is kind of enjoyable, but muddled ideas, bad lines, the terrible delivery of “look what you made me do,” and the unforgivable offense of rhyming “drama” with “karma” ruin any chance it has of becoming an awkwardly bad masterpiece like “Shake It Off.” Oh, and someone on my Facebook feed posted that the song’s melody sounds identical to “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. Now, there is a zero percent chance that Swift stole or plagiarized that riff, but once you hear it, by God, there is no going back. Hopefully the rest of the album is better, because I’m not sure I can take this. On the brighter side of things, my favorite podcast How Did This Get Made? released one of their best episodes yet with a dissection of the 1987 disasterpiece The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. I have not seen that movie yet. I have heard it is the Holy Grail of Bad, turning even the most ardent cinephile against the craft altogether, and watching four of the funniest working comedians bond over what sounds like the worst pain they’ve ever endured makes me not only want to check it out, but to recommend the episode to all who will listen. This was a high-water mark for podcasting, and you need to listen when you get the chance.
That does it for this week! I hope you all had an enjoyable time while I was in the backwoods becoming one with nature and expanding my pop culture oeuvre. As mentioned, I’ll be back later this week with multiple articles, including my posting of the BBC’s 100 Greatest Comedies and my inevitable response. Until then, let me know in the comments what you think of the films that I’ve watched this week, and I’ll see you all very soon!