What I Watched, What You Watched #11

I missed last week’s “What I Watched, What You Watched,” as I was visiting with family all day. I’ll be making it up now, though, because what a movie filled two weeks I’ve had. While this week was slower due to interviews and other commitments, last week was action packed, as there really isn’t much you can do while housesitting but watch TV and film. So, on top of films I’ve reviewed like Southside With You, Snowden, Blair Witch, and Liberty’s Secret, I managed to see multiple films, in theaters and at home.

I started the week with a little experiment, watching both the theatrical AND director’s cuts of Margaret by Kenneth Lonnergan, the film that almost ended his promising career. Honestly, it’s a pretty interesting experience. Considering I’ve always found the writing side of filmmaking to be the most important, I was onboard with the project, but quite frankly, if you don’t have the patience for a three hour film that tries to tackle grief, relationships, coming of age, 9/11, life in New York, morality and humanity all at the same time, it might not be the film for you. After that, I settled for the odd little Born to Be Blue. Not a terrible film by any means, and I’m 100% on board with Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker (he’s a talented dreamboat, that one), but I’m not personally a fan of films that try to “embody the free spirit of jazz in our editing.” It’s such a pretentious sentence, and I can’t stand it. In theaters, on top of those four films for review, I managed to finally get around to seeing Kubo and the Two Strings, which I really enjoyed, as it is very much akin to the Avatar: The Last Airbender series (even more so than the actual film adaptation of said series), as well as Florence Foster Jenkins. I rather enjoyed the film, although it did get a bit tedious as it went on, since it wants us to laugh at her atrocious singing while simultaneously scolding us for laughing at her singing. That being said, it’s written and directed pleasantly enough, Meryl Streep is a delight (a 20th Oscar nomination isn’t impossible here), and after three films in the course of two months, I’m finally convinced that I enjoy Hugh Grant as an actor. He’s an absolute treasure, and this film is no different.

Speaking of absolute treasures, Tina Fey had a dramedy out earlier this year titled Whisky Tango Foxtrot. I got around to seeing it, and the result: it’s fine. Nothing special, but it isn’t a bad movie by any means. I also watched The Kids Are All Right, which was a beautifully written, expertly acted film that I wanted to like more. The script has a beautiful habit of sounding natural, and the actors all have a very natural habit that you don’t usually see in film, but other than that, it’s a glorified Lifetime movie. But even so, damn can that Annette Bening and that Julianne Moore act.

However, if it sounds like I’m being too hard on good films, I’ve saved the best for last. There are two films I watched this week that absolutely floored me, which is impressive because both are considered “lighter fare.” The first was Love and Basketball, which would be a glorified Hallmark or ABC Family movie if it weren’t for the fact it tackles several issues and ideas in modern society without ever actually being about any of those issues. Of course, it helps when you’re romantic leads have chemistry like Omar Epps and especially Sanaa Lathan. The other absolute joy was That Thing You Do!, Tom Hanks’ directorial debut. That film works for two reasons: first, the film is just filled with likable people. Tom Everett Scott, Giovanni Ribisi, Charlize Theron and the film’s secret weapon Steve Zahn all help to make the film as entertaining as it is. However, perhaps even more so, Adam Schlesinger helped with the music. Schlesinger is the bassist for Fountains of Wayne (Stacy’s Mom has got it going on…), and he has devoted the past twenty years of his life to taking over the parody genre. I don’t mean that he writes spoofs the way Weird Al does. I mean he understands genres so well he can write a song that sounds so perfectly similar it could actually belong to that genre. He’s used that talent in Music and Lyrics (Google “Pop Goes My Heart” right now), he’s the musical director for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (which, when combined with Rachel Bloom’s lyrics, is a national treasure), but he’s probably never going to top “That Thing You Do!” It’s a perfect song.

As for television, I watched quite a bit this week. I’m still doing my recaps for South Park, Atlanta, and You’re the Worst, but with the return of regular television programming, I’ve had the chance to see a bunch of fall premieres. I saw a few minutes of the opening for This Is Us (which featured a brief glimpse of Milo Ventimiglia’s butt, thank the Lord), as well as a brief glimpse of the end, for the already-famous twist. I enjoyed what I saw, and I plan on watching a bit more on Hulu sometime this week. I also caught ABC’s Wednesday Night Family lineup. The Goldbergs remains a funny show, Speechless has some kinks to work out, but shows promise, Modern Family came back surprisingly strong considering this is the eighth season, and black-ish continues to prove itself as one of the best new shows on the block. Finally, my week wore down with Last Man Standing, a favorite of the family’s that had an absolutely horrendous opening (the show has improved since an atrocious first season, but still lacks the push it needs to become good, despite Tim Allen, Molly Ephraim and Kaitlyn Dever’s undeniable talent), and Girl Meets World, which had an odd episode, but remains excellent for its primary audience.

Other than some Saturday afternoon football, that finishes up this week. I hope to have reviews of Audrie and Daisy, The Magnificent Seven and The Hollars up before the week ends, and I’m planning on beginning Stranger Things, Easy and Mr. Robot in the near future. What about you? Watch anything good this past week? Anything you wanted to bring up last week but I let you down? Leave your answer in the comments!

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