Interview with Stephen Merchant – Fighting With My Family

Merchant

Stephen Merchant did not grow up watching wrestling. He didn’t start watching wrestling in his adult life either. In fact, his interests in wrestling were close to none. So how did he come about directing what seems one of the first biography wrestling movies?

Well, we can blame the Tooth Fairy for that.

That is where Merchant met Dwayne Johnson, formerly The Rock, a man larger than life it seems. Johnson first heard about Paige’s upbringing in a documentary about her household, The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family. He loved it, wanted it to be a feature film.

According to Merchant, he was contacted by Johnson with the idea to make the film. Merchant believes because he is potentially one of the few British directors/writers he knows. Below are some exerpts from our talk, including how he got into writing and directing at all, how that developed into directing Fighting With My Family, and various aspects of nerd culture in film.

Family

Stephen Merchant is SM, Gorgon Reviews is GR, and Other Interviewer is OI.

GR: “You said before you got your start writing reviews at a local paper, and they sent you to the movies that they didn’t know about or didn’t care. And that after you saw the movie Swingers, it sort of changed for you and inspired you to get into writing yourself, can you speak upon that?”

SM: “I don’t know if you’ve seen Swingers but it is Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, just like a real gang of friends. That was a movie about handsome guys dating in LA, trying to inspire to be actors, and I’m this geeky kid in Bristol, in England, and yet that felt like it could have been my friends. It was so specific, to LA, the way they spoke, all that stuff. And yet it felt completely relatable. The observations felt authentic and true and they rang true. And I just thought that it was really inspirational to me, ‘Oh maybe I can do this.’ So I did some student films at the university, and then got into comedy and the radio, always with that thought that if we got the right gang together we can do this ourselves.”

“And in a way that’s how The Office was made. ”

GR: “You got Ricky,”

SM: “Yeah we had a similar sensibility, just hunkered down, did it ourselves, BBC left us alone, they didn’t know what we were up to and away we went.”

OI: “I love that they hired you and let you both do it alone.”

SM:“That was the thing about having Ricky, because Ricky was…14 years older than me. He was in his mid-30’s and I was in my early 20s when we did The Office, so I had all this sort of youthful excitement, enthusiasm, and ambition, he had the kind of [attitude] like, ‘I don’t care, I’m not going to do a dance for these people,’ he had that confidence! Just to walk out of a meeting and go, “Alright guys, no no no, if you don’t want to do it this way, it’s fine, we will just go elsewhere,” and I’m like ‘what are you fucking doing, idiot!’ ”

“But at the same time I got this weird, sort of youthful arrogance, where I remember at a meeting where they said, ‘Why should we let you and Ricky direct it?’ and I said, ‘We might be the next Orson Welles!’” And in my mind it didn’t even sound crazy, none of us know! Well maybe, we’ve never done it! We might be! Who knows?”

merchant

OI:“How did you go about directing these bigger stars on what to say, and deliver the level of intensity needed?”

SM: “Well I first of all really encouraged improvisation and I wanted that going on. Vince is the master of that, it goes back to the fact for Swingers, (which was an amazing thrill for me) and I wanted that character to have humor because the guys she trained with for real are really tough, they put you through the mill, because wrestling fans are abusive. If they don’t like you, they will tear you to shreds. You have to be made of iron to survive. It seems to me that Vince needed to be someone that trash talked all the time, as a way of testing your metal. ”

“When Florence [Pugh] went out in front of the real wrestling fans to recreate that match-up, they were giving her shit. She said she was on the mat at one point, and there was like an eight year old boy just shouting, ‘You suck!’ to her and shes an actress, not even a real wrestler. And what do you do? You use it as fuel I guess.”

GR: “On that note, you’ve been to cons before due to some of your past work, you’re aware of certain people’s intensity in these subjects and video games. How do you think those type of fans compare to wrestling fans in terms of their passions?”

SM: “I think if the internet and twitter existed when I was 17 or 18 I’d have been one of those people. I remember being so angry when the original Tim Burton Batman came out because they made the Joker the person who killed Batman’s parents, like ‘No, that was Joe Chill, what are you talking about?’ And I was FURIOUS! Like If I could have tweeted Tim Burton, I would have been all, ‘Oh you asshole, how dare you!’ I would have been one of those guys. ”

“And as times have gone on, and I made movies and TV myself I understand that passion but I also understand that when you’re on this side of the fence, there’s no malice. I’ve had to make choices in this movie. The real story took place over four years, I can’t press even half of all that into a movie. They changed the WWE logo in the middle of her story, they changed the name of the NXT…like, I can’t put that in the movie. No one’s going to be able to follow what’s going on. So you know, you have to make choices, but I am sure there will some fans like, ‘Well that doesn’t make sense! That logo was different in 2010…’ Well okay you guys, you’re right, you got me. I’m going to fan jail. ”

“If you’re making a Batman movie, you’ve got what is it, 60 years of that character now? You can’t get every factor of him the same, you’ve just got to make choices, and that’s what I did.”

————-

Fighting With My Family is getting a wide release on February, November 22, and my review of the film can be read here.

Best Films of 2018

I don’t need a long introduction anymore, I have done a few of these already! I don’t even have a significant list of missing films to talk about, even better!

So you know the drill, here are some honorable mentions. Honorable what?

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Like every year, I had quite a few 4 out of 4’s to choose from. Top 15 lists are more exciting and besides, 10 is an arbitrary number. But what films couldn’t make the list? Things like Love, Simon, Widows, and Isle of Dogs. Officially only three honorable mentions, keeping it little this year.

There are no foreign films in the top this year, but that is because I only saw two major ones, and neither were 4 out of 4s for me. I also will say I didn’t get to see Beautiful Boy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, A Private War, Destroyer, At Eternity’s Gate, and Mirai.

And click on the title to get the original review of the movie!


15) American Animals

I always try to make sure there are a few weirder films in my top 15, and this year was harder than most. I didn’t think we had as many strong weird films, because there were so many great films. And this year, American Animals is probably my only real surprise.

American Animals is a film I expected nothing out of, and barely even watched it to review as it was an online screener. I had some time, sat down, and was floored by the story and its presentation of facts versus the real situation. It was done so creatively, and it makes the viewer think. What more could you want?

American Animals


14) RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has grown to fame over the last few years as being someone who is unmoving in her convictions and always willing to fight for the oppressed. But it turns out, she has been doing it her whole life, coming from hard beginnings, a law school that didn’t care about women, and over a decade of being unable to even join a law firm despite wild talent and smarts.

This is a story that we should be showing our daughters when encouraging them to be anything in the face of oppression. This is a story that hits all of the right notes and gives a powerful role model still doing as much to change the world as she can in her 90s.

Although RBG is here and amazing, and a must watch (more so than On The Basis Of Sex) it is not the best documentary of 2018.

RBG


13) If Beale Street Could Talk

In the making of the list, If Beale Street Could Talk was the last film I watched before deciding on the final block of 15. It is so fresh in my mind that I still haven’t wrote a regular review about it. I just knew I had to see it from its Spirit and other awards accolade, and needed to make up my own mind before it was on DVD.

And it is a powerful movie in a year of powerful film. It is about race, love, and family. Another portrait of how the black man is never given a fair shake at things, but putting it set further back when it was more common to see these injustices. It was a story we could relate to, while also focusing firmly on the characters involved and what they were going through during the events. I loved everything about this movie, and even more notable was the soundtrack. A nice collection of jazz to fully embrace the viewer in this setting.

if beale street could talk


12) Hearts Beat Loud

Hearts Beat Loud is one of those breath of fresh air movies. I went in seeing it and I didn’t even know I was seeing it, as it was a mystery screening. This is the perfect sequel to Sing Street, despite having nothing in common creatively from Sing Street.

It is just about a father. And a daughter. Trying to make some music before they have to separate and go on with their lives, in a scary world. Change is hard. But family bonds can last forever. And the feelings I felt with Hearts Beat Loud I hope I can experience again and again with every new viewing.

Hearts beat loud


11) Avengers: Infinity War

For those that hate superheroes, might want to skip the next three entries. Avengers: Infinity War is meant to be a cross over to end all cross overs. Well, the first Avengers was that ambitious goal, the second one was more of the same, but this one? This was like times three, so many more people, from parts across the galaxies, gotta team up and go after this bad guy.

And it was beautiful. It had the action scenes, humor, real struggles, and of course, the ending. The snap.

The only thing that takes away from it is knowing that the snap itself, which can make a grown nerd cry, is temporary and thus, a little bit meaningless. Once we see who is lost, and with the movies coming out, we know that it doesn’t fully matter. Only a little. And so it does feel like a bit of an annoying cliffhanger.

But what do I know? Maybe with the new one in 2019, it will elevate the first half even more.

avengers infinity war


10) Spider-man: Into The Spiderverse

In 2017, the animated movies were mostly shit. Deal with it, it is true. In 2018, we have a lot of duds as well, from our trusted companies. Must be playing it safe.

Spider-man: Into The Spiderverse is the opposite of playing it safe. Tons of main characters, a weird stylistic approach, meta humor, comedy, and strange aspects of the Spiderman lore to devote a whole film around on the first go. When it works, it really works. When it doesn’t, well, that doesn’t exist. It always works.

From start to finish this is the best Spider-man film in some time, and was almost nearly the best Superhero movie of the year, but instead will just be the best Animated film of the year.

spiderman into the spiderverse


9) Black Panther

Black Panther was the first superhero movie of 2018, coming out in February (you know, Black History Month) and felt like a breath of fresh air in the superhero world. It told a powerful story, with a memorable non-throwaway villain, and of course, a cast of characters celebrating cultures not normally celebrated on the big screen.

It was an early favorite of mine, and it became a tent pole to judge other super hero movies by. And at the end of the year, I still think it is on the top. I have to ding Avengers a little bit for having a plot that I know won’t fully matter in a year. But Black Panther is a secluded story that is important and will be the gift that keeps on giving for Marvel in a few years.

This is the best superhero movie of 2018.

black panther


8) Searching

When Searching came out, there were only a handful of examples of films that were done in this way. Basically, some horror ones, and like, a TV episode. The ideas were sound, and cool, but never were they fully great and up to the level people were hoping for.

Searching said no, let’s do it right. Let’s use the technology correctly so that there are no (or extremely few) technical issues. Let’s make it a thriller/mystery, so that the audience is on the edge of the screen with them. And let’s let John Cho do his thing and act like a worried dad.

And acting he did. A film was created. And an amazing experience was had. Take a ticket for this ride. This is the best “computer based” movie of 2018.

searching


7) Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

And then there was Rogers. Fred Rogers. The manliest gentleman ever to be on television. He had a vision in the 60s for TV that was heartfelt and not stupid, and he carried his passion with him for decades. In hard moments, he became the person to address the youth about hard times, and he always accepted the mantle when the time was right.

It is easy to see his passion through the archival footage, and coming from someone who never watched the show in his own youth, this is a documentary that will make you cry.

They got everything right about this documentary, making it the best documentary of 2018.

wont you be my neighbor


6) The Hate U Give

What can we say about The Hate U Give that wasn’t said by most people when it came out? Powerful, modern, topical, well acted, and of course, a family film. Or as family centric as a film on this topic can get, since most of the films that would deal with racial inequalities and problems will easily earn R ratings, despite being felt by people under 10 all the time.

I cannot wait to show my family this film, and it should be really soon after the posting of this article. It is easy to see all the different perspectives, and although not based on a real event, it is clearly a combination of similar events and a buildup to the natural conclusion. Shit getting real.

Also, I think Russell Hornsby should get an award for this movie.

the hate u give


5) Bodied

It is very hard to talk about Bodied and why it deserves to be on a best of the year list. It has no A-listers in it, it is relatively strange, and it is probably the first movie I have ever seen that had its premier on YouTube Red. And last, because it has been re-branded already.

But despite its strangest, it goes hard into the political, and PC nature of our changing environment. It deals with very hard topics, like race appropriation and culture vultures, while making the viewer uncomfortable and not sure who to root for. It is a sports movie in a sense, without a clear answer or best case scenario. It is a musical, more than anything else on this list, with the how much of the film is focused on rap battles (and seriously, it is most of it).

The last half hour had me spell bound, and I didn’t want it to end, while cringing all over the place at the same time. Making something like Bodied takes a lot of passion, and a lot of courage. And it is a movie that should be seen.

Bodied is the best musical of 2018. And its the best sports film…?

Bodied


4) Hereditary

From watching the trailers, early in the year, audiences should have expected something special from Hereditary. Well, audiences who weren’t expecting jump scares.

I didn’t see any of the trailers for Hereditary, but with the title, my mind went a lot of different places, and somehow it didn’t go anywhere I could ever expect. It was dark, and it got on every last of my nerves, and it is one of those movies I just could not bring myself to rewatch before making this list. Hell, its been out forever now, but I knew it just wouldn’t be the same as my first experience, and I don’t want to think less of it due to distractions.

I do want to think more about how Toni Collette nailed her role, and how she clearly gave the best Actress performance of her life, and of the year. The next two movies on this list feature four very strong actress performances, but this one is definitely on the tops. Completely unnerving.

Hereditary is the best horror film of 2018.

hereditary


3) Ben Is Back

My theme for most of these top films is great acting, as you have seen, and will seen, and few films have a better pairing than Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges in Ben Is Back. Not to diminish the other actors in it, who are also fine, but hot damn, these two are so fine, you couldn’t seen their individual grains with a scanning electron microscope.

That was fun to write, and Ben Is Back was not fun to watch. It was downright depressing. It was great critically, and to be amazed at how the two carried themselves and these characters. How we get to learn about so much history and weight bearing down on them to get them to this point. So much that they have to go on their journey as a way of maybe, finally, getting closure.

And despite it all, Ben Is Back isn’t even the best drama of the year. Although, this is the best drama if drama’s are not allowed to have humor.

ben is back


2) The Favourite

When it comes to Yorgos Lanthimos, every year I say I need to see his earlier work, and this year I might finally mean it. The Favourite is only his third movie I have seen, and it is by far MY favourite, and almost my favorite movie of 2018.

It has everything I could love in a movie: history, witty dialogue, comedy, amazing outfits/scenes, and an excellent cinematography that is going for something special in the movie. It is also led by three terrific actresses who showcase that they can be masters of their craft.

Goodness, I better see Dogtooth this year, or else…you know, 2020. The Favourite is the best comedy of 2018.

the favourite


1) Blindspotting

I don’t want to sound too preachy or too political (just kidding, lets do it), but this has been an amazing year for showcasing black talents and cinema, accurately representing the struggles they face in America in a variety of ways. We already talked about the subtle (and not so subtle) nature of it decades ago, and we talked about it on a more family friendly level. Hell, we almost talked about it on this list with the bizarre with Sorry To Bother You, but it just didn’t make my top.

And with Blindspotting we get to talk about it in a new way. About areas changing, gentrification, and perceptions of white and black men who can be very similar, and very different, yet perceived in completely different ways.

Our two leads are amazing, even if Casal is annoying, he is played to be that way. Diggs and Casal made this passion project after years of work, and it really shows, as this is the first time Diggs has gotten to showcase his talent since he was Jefferson in Hamilton.

Blindspotting is real, uncomfortable, and tells a strong message, with not a simple answer. I loved it, and want to show it to as many people as I can. This is the best movie of the year, and the Best Drama of the year. A few more raps and it could have been musical of the year.

blindspotting

Thanks for reading! If you disagree with part of this list, let me know. If there is something I missed, let me know (but I probably saw it and reviewed it on this very site!

And as always, I accept hate mail via the post office, email, or tweets.

Worst Films of 2017

This year has been harder than others to truly keep up my commitment to a year in shitty film.

Now, I was disappointed in a lot of films this year. A lot of films didn’t go as good as expected, but it took me a long time before I got enough 0 out of 4’s. I had my normal end of the year squeeze. That magical sweet spot time where I have to first watch the rest of the probably great movies, make a list of potential shit movies, watching them all before I get to the award movies I missed.

And in that list we have films that I still didn’t get to, and now just won’t. For example, I am so fucking done with Sharknado, it won’t be watched again by me, so no Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. It just isn’t even fun to write about. On a similar fifth in the series note, I honestly just refuse to watch Transformers: The Last Knight. That is 2.5 hours of my life, dealing with a franchise that has not improved in several films. I need time to do hobbies as well!

Other films I didn’t get around to, that might have been bad: A Bad Moms Christmas, 47 Meters Down, Rough Night, Snatched, Amityville: The Awakening, and Sleepless.


(DIS)HONORABLE MENTIONS

Instead of just choosing a few of the ones that didn’t make the list, here are all the other 0 out of 4 films for the year. They should be noted! These films include Unforgettable, The Shack, My Bakery in Brooklyn, A Dog’s Purpose, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, You Get Me, and of course, Cars 3.


15) The Boss Baby

Starting off this list with probably the only thing to be on my worst of the year list, and nominated for an Oscar. The Boss Baby wasn’t even nominated for an abstract technical award, like Suicide Squad was. It was nominated for BEST animated film.

And the only reason that is true is due to the fact that they changed the voting for animated films. Now everyone in the academy can vote for things, before nominations, in the animated category. So the biggest names will get nominated, and less awesome foreign flicks.

That is the only way to describe why The Boss Baby was nominated. Because it is straight animated trash, but not the worst animated film of the year.

Baby


14) The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature

Speaking of animated trash, we have a sequel next. The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature was so bad they delayed it over a year to add character to the list!

And guess what. Just like the first film, it is full of non funny jokes, piss poor animation, even pissier poorer plot, and an ending that will leave you scratching your head. This is a good ending? One that we are supposed to show kids? The fuck, animated movie people. The. Fuck.

Nuts


13) Wish Upon

Ah good, this list isn’t just animated films (although, roughly 1/3 of it is). 2017 was by in far one of the best ever years for the horror genre in recent memory. But don’t worry, not everything was a success.

Wish Upon takes the very overdone genre of “be careful what you wish for!” and turns it into a extremely tame horror film, with elements of the Final Destination franchise thrown in for lawls.

It doesn’t work. It feels stupid. And that is just because it IS stupid.

Wish


12) Fist Fight

Oh but what about the funny films? The ones that should make you laugh and be hopefully amusing enough to warrant a grin now and then on your face? Well, Fist Fight is not that that kind of movie.

I watched this movie with a blank face the entire time. It failed to elicit a single grin, a guffaw, or even mirthless chuckle.

It is about two dudes going to fight, one of them not wanting to fight, and eventually, a fight happens. Shrug emoji everyone. This is the WORST LIVE ACTION COMEDY film of 2017!

Fists


11) Kidnap

Almost to the top 10, but on a regular year, I could imagine this one actually have making it closer to the bottom. Kidnap was supposed to come out years ago, but delays in bankrupt companies made us wait.

And now that we have waited, we realize that Kidnap is a terrible thriller. It is ass. It is bad. It is The Call 2.

Halle Berry should be upset about this sort of film coming out, but I think she enjoys doing these movies. That is the only reason we would keep being at this point with her. This is the WORST THRILLER film of 2017.

Kidnap


10) Friend Request

Hooray, the top ten! Now we get another horror film, this one is not American made. I happened to be one of the few people in the world to enjoy the movie, Unfriended. It gave me social media scares!

Friend Request is a movie that tries to do a similar thing, but in a dumber way. We get to have angsty college students, death scenes you can barely understand due to poor lighting, and a message comparable to Walk Up not Walk Out.

I just…its so bad everyone. I can’t believe it even made it to theaters. This is the WORST HORROR film of 2017.

Friends


9) The Book of Henry

It is so hard to describe The Book of Henry. It starts off feeling like a family film, one that goes into some very dark and again, stupid, territory. I feel like stupid is the theme of this list.

This is a plot line featuring an absurdly smart individual, one that isn’t in anyway believable and is annoying throughout the film, especially after he dies. It deals with serious real topics, while shitting all over plausible things to do in these scenarios. It was frankly painful to make it through this film, that I thought would be good the first time I saw a trailer for it. Silly me.

Henry


8) Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter

There is no way you have heard about Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, but I don’t need to make sure films are well known to be on this list. I am not some goddamn Razzies publication.

This film I saw at a film festival, which was never going to be in theaters otherwise. It is a straight to DVD film by a guy who does a lot of these sorts of films. It relies on an attractive woman lead, pretending this movie deals with serious sci-fi elements. But it is poorly made, quickly put together, and something that can easily help you nap. I guess that is a positive.

Rogue


7) The Star

Oh good, the third animated film to make this list! I think the fact that The Star came out and was god awful (pun intended) is the only reason why The Shack didn’t make the list.

It is a retelling of Jesus’ birth, but from the point of view of animals, on their way to the manger, where he was born. It is a comedy film, I guess, and it is religious, of course, yet it is all around painful. It features the cringiest line in film this year, which I put in the full version of the review.

Normally superly religious movies that are really bad always make the list, but this year wasn’t a terrible year for religious movies. I mean, we got mother! Next year however…

star


6) Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is the last movie I have seen from 2017 to make this list. It is one I never wanted to watch, but also one I didn’t assume would be on this list. I honestly didn’t.

I just had no interest in what amounted to a whitewashing of a really fucking famous anime. Little did I know it would be as bad as it was. One of those hard to follow plots, attempting to go to a deep place while instead floundering in its CGI robotic horse shit.

Ghost in the Shell does nothing for the viewer. It doesn’t do anything, for anyone. The WORST SCI-FI film of 2017.

Ghost


5) The Only Living Boy In New York

The Only Living Boy In New York is so bad and pointless, that I didn’t review the film until months after I ended up watching it. Why months? Because it was so bad, I forgot I watched it. I accidentally saw the email inviting me to see it, remembered it, hated myself, and then wrote the review.

It was so forgettable, it almost didn’t make this list.

It stars a character who know one will like, dealing with issues that no one cares about. It is some individualized hipster dream movie. I can’t believe this one exists, either.

Boy


4) Fifty Shades Darker

Making fun of these films is almost unfair. They were not made to be good. They are a trashy product, based off a trashy product, that was based on a different set of trashy products.

Fifty Shades Darker is like the first film, but less BDSM, less plot, and more…boats. More goddamn boats.

This is the WORST ROMANCE FILM of 2017.

darker


3) The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower was a very hard review to write, because it was one of those films that just didn’t make any goddamn sense while I watched it. Poor Stephen King, having his life’s work reduced to a CGI fantasy fest film that is only partly based on his works. Something that just feels like two hours of setting up a universe that already was set up in book form, and failing badly.

This might be a good movie for those who have read the material, who can recognize the characters, and see the reasoning behind this. But instead, we get a movie that is CGI full and plot thin. What was this about? I dunno, guns and a mirror world.

This is the WORST FANTASY film of 2017.

Dark


2) Song to Song

Just like the Fifty Shades series, I wonder why I even watch movies made by Terrence Malick. I guess part of me assumes if I watch enough of them, I might finally understand one. I might get the dialogue heavy conversations that float over the actions of sometimes related characters. I might get the whimsical dream nature of these movies.

But until then, they belong on this list, and continue to confuse and confound me. Fuck. Just, stop using these great actors in these confusing films. And who knows what is coming after Song to Song, but I am not looking forward to it, because they are bad movies that just feel like torture to me.

This is the WORST DRAMA film of 2017.

Song


1) The Emoji Movie

I could just put a big picture of a shit emoji to explain this, and everyone would get it. I don’t want to waste any words on The Emoji Movie, which came and went like a fart in the night.

It is forgettable, it is not funny, it is a stamp on a year of bad animated movies. That is all I have to say.

The Emoji Movie is the WORST ANIMATED film of 2017.

Emoji

Thanks for reading! If you disagree with part of this list, let me know. If there is something I missed, let me know (but I probably saw it and reviewed it on this very site! Check out my thoughts). Overall totals put four animated films on this list, but it could have been more. We have a few horror, some thrillers, some comedies, and some super serious drama films. At least one romance, two science fiction, and above all, a lot of crap.

And as always, I accept hate mail via the post office, email, or tweets.

Best Films of 2017

I don’t need a long introduction anymore, I have done a few of these already! I don’t even have a significant list of missing films to talk about, even better!

So you know the drill, here are some honorable mentions. Honorable what?

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Like every year, I had quite a few 4 out of 4’s to choose from. Top 15 lists are more exciting and besides, 10 is an arbitrary number. But what films couldn’t make the list? Things like Beauty and the Beast, The Lost City of Z, The Post, Thelma, and The Chess Player and more.

This year I sucked at watching documentaries as well as foreign films. They will have a lot of missing components when the Oscar nominations happen. So I decided to not include any documentaries on the list, and the only foreign film was in English so you wouldn’t notice anyways.


15) Split

Split was the first 4 out of 4 I gave of the year, and the last film to make my list. Split was a surprise, as it was a big return to form for M. Night Shyamalan and more importantly it was a sign of how this year would be. Which is of course, a strong as fuck year on horror. I am excited about the sequel to this film and James McAvoy should be celebrated for the acting he pulled off in this movie.

Split


14) It Comes At Night

Speaking of Horror, It Comes At Night was a film that disappointed a lot of individuals due to its advertising campaign. I didn’t watch any trailers, so I didn’t come into the film with any expectations. What I got was a very simple film, dealing with dreadful themes and making me feel uneasy for quite a few days afterwards. It was well acted, beautifully shot, and a film that really makes you think.

It Comes At Night


13) The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman is the movie that I thought would be my favorite of 2017, from sometime early in 2016. Its a musical, it has actors I love, and it is about a fascinating subject. If you just realize that this is full of lies and in no way accurate of P.T. Barnum, it is a fun experience with catchy songs.

This is my favorite musical of 2017, although there is at least one other song higher that is musical in the other definition.

The Greatest Showman


12) Hostiles

Hostiles is the first film on this list that I haven’t had a review published for yet, because the studio wants it to be released closer to the January release date. But Hostiles was a slow, long, and powerful journey and experience. A lot happens on that journey, including great acting, good scenery, and a lot of redemption.

Hostiles


11) A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story is not a horror film, just a straight up Drama movie, although it does deal with some potentially frightening scenes. It is a very slow burn and it will turn a lot of people off due to strange it is. A powerful concept, with two talented leads, although one of the leads might no actually be under the sheet for most of the film, who the fuck knows.

This is a movie that will never make you look at pie the same way.

A Ghost Story


10) The Breadwinner

It took me until December to find an animated film I could really get behind and love when I finally saw The Breadwinner. This a year of disappointing animated films, and quite a few will make my worst of the year list. But The Breadwinner sails above them all, giving a powerful new story, from an underrepresented area in film and a little girl star. It is the type of film families should want to show their kids to encourage them to overcome their future struggles.

This is the best animated film of 2017, by a long shot.

The Breadwinner


9) Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

You know whats better than superheroes? Sometimes the story behind the superheroes! In this case Professor Marston & The Wonder Women is about three fascinating, real individuals, who did more than create a comic. They had academic lives, they made discoveries, inventions, experienced a lot sexually, and then made a comic. The more you know!

And no, the Wonder Woman film about the actual hero didn’t make the list, because it went “Full DC” in the conclusion. The end was so bad and hard to watch it put a dark stain on that film.

Prof Marston and the wonder women


8) Wind River

At this point in the list, it was so hard to rank these movies, and there are still 8 to go! Why is Wind River up here and not further? Fuck if I know. This could very well be my favorite movie of the year, and right now I just don’t remember a lot of it because it came out in the summer. Other films I was able to watch multiple times despite early releases.

That doesn’t change the fact that Wind River is incredible. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen are acting powerhouses, and this is a film that has the potential to change you.

Wind River


7) Get Out

Speaking of number ones, a lot of people will have Get Out on top and that makes sense. Have you not seen Get Out yet? Then fucking go do it. It came out really soon after Split, and these two movies were both genre bending, not full on horrors. Get Out has a better message, a better story, and really resonated with most of the viewers.

Get Out is an important film, and thus, the best “horror” film of 2017.

Get Out


6) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing,
Missouri

Another very topical film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is also a very topical film. Sweet sentence, I know. This film features very strong acting across multiple directions, and it is hard to know who is right or wrong. But we get violence, language, gross as fuck scenes, this is a movie about modern middle America for adults.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


5) The Shape of Water

Human. Fucking. Amphibian Man. Consensually.

This is the kind of film people might not have wanted when they said they wanted original films, but The Shape of Water is what they are getting. Brought to us by the mastermind of visuals and monsters, Guillermo del Toro. A love story that feels like it is traveling uncharted waters and with eccentric characters to boot.

The Shape of Water


4) I, Tonya

The last film I saw this year that had the potential to be on this list was I, Tonya, and it certainly blew me away. It started off a bit slow, and I was a bit weirded out with its quirkiness. But this tells a really powerful story (one that might not be true, but I am not judging truthiness) that turned a national punchline joke into an emotional story about overcoming abuse. Both physical and emotional. A film that builds and gets crazier and more unbelievable with each passing moment.

This would be the best Dark Comedy of 2017 for me. Or the best Dark Comedy. Mostly uncertain because I don’t know how to classify half of the films on this list, let alone the first one.

I, Tonya


3) Brawl in Cell Block 99

Probably the biggest surprise you will see on this list is Brawl in Cell Block 99. Some of you may just be asking what the hell is this film even? And that is fair. It is by the director who brought us Bone Tomahawk last year which had a lot of acclaim. This one is just more modern, more Vince Vaughn, and an incredible (frightening) ending that had me going for more than two hours. An incredible experience with probably Vaughn’s best performance. I could watch it again, but I am too afraid.

This is probably considered the best Action film of 2017. Depending on how you view the next film in this list.

Brawl in Cell Block 99


2) Baby Driver

In my middle of the year top 10 list, Baby Driver was number one. And usually my number one halfway through the year doesn’t crack the top five at the end, so this is already impressive that it only went down one spot. My second viewing wasn’t as powerful as the first, but this is still a fantastic film, with great acting, a great soundtrack, fun plot and characters. It also has Kevin Spacey, which is going to be one of the last things I talk about with him in it I guess.

Is this an action movie? A heist film? A comedy? A musical (because it is musical, at least…). Who knows! Let’s just say the best adventure film of 2017 and move on from that.

Baby Driver


1) Colossal

Surprise motherfuckers!

Seriously, none of you saw this coming. Hell, I barely saw it coming. I have never had a harder time determining a number one for a year ever. Usually I know well in advanced, or get swept up in some December hype. But a lot of the December releases just really didn’t sell themselves well to me, and the ones I over hyped I know are still not the best.

With Colossal, I feel like it is a natural progression from Split and Get Out earlier in the year. It is like, five genres rolled into one, building off of each other and creating an incredible experience overall. Even knowing how it ends and the twists, I still was captivated in my second viewing.

I think Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis give such great and at times subtle performances in this film. Hell, I am surprised it wasn’t praised more when it came out. I can understand no awards love, because yet, it is a very awkward film and uncomfortable by the end. Although not perfect, with some very strange plot points that don’t make a lot of sense, this is a film that I would recommend over and over again to such a variety of people. It is my number one film of the year, and right now, I am sticking to that.

Colossal

Thanks for reading! If you disagree with part of this list, let me know. If there is something I missed, let me know (but I probably saw it and reviewed it on this very site! Overall, only one animated film, 1 musical, and no super hero films. Shockingly the big news here is how many of these films were thriller or horror, which has the best year ever.

And for those haters who need to compare this list to others, yes I did see Molly’s Game, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Last Flag Flying, All The Money in the World, Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird and The Big Sick. Big films that people would expect to see on these lists. But hey, they didn’t make it. I didn’t put this warning at the top because it would have been spoilers, hah.

And as always, I accept hate mail via the post office, email, or tweets.

Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities

Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities is currently playing in Houston and tickets can be bought here.

If I were to say that me and Cirque Du Soleil go way back, that would be a bold faced lie. In my life I have gone to the circus, but the last time was probably around 1st grade. And it was a small one. So no circus that is all about the achievements of the human body like Cirque Du Soleil. Although, a year or two ago, I went to Sea World, and saw a sort of water gymnast animal thing that might have been close enough.

Needless to say, I was stoked at the opportunity to get to see my first CDS performance, titled Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities. The topic itself is fascinating to me, as I have been to a real “Cabinet of Curiosities” a few years ago.

The cabinets used to just be eccentric collections of stuff that people showed off, which helped evolve into the modern museum. But the title can still be used, especially if the stuff doesn’t have a real theme and is just a lot of weird and interesting figures.

So my first Cirque Du Soleil performance, technically my second circus, and technically my second cabinet of curiosities. Clearly I am over qualified to write about live spectacles.

CAst
It is like the cast of Little Nemo AND Finding Nemo collectively fucked a steam engine.

The before show was not reason enough to really show up too early, outside of getting better parking spots. They had a small event to showcase the opening of the tent, but it is not something worth breaking your back over to get there in time. But a good time for photos, souvenirs, and making sure you know where the pissers are.

The seating area was a bit smaller than I imagined as well, because damn it, I have a big imagination. Tightly packed chairs, not a lot of leg room or places for you to put your cups. But they are stadium seating with a few big walk ways so the performers can do pre show antics with the crowd. The start of the show is a bit of a start soft as well, with characters doing minor activities for a good 10 plus minutes while people get to their seats and finish their conversations.

The first real part of the show gives us a nice glimpse into their band and singer, setting the tone and sound for the rest of the show. The opening act then throws character after character onto the stage, to fill the viewer with a sense of wonder. Wondering what each person will end up doing, or if they are just a background character, of course. Technically they start the focus with banging on sticks and a juggler, which sounds like nothing new, but it feels like a grand party.

After that we get a series of weird and awesome tricks, displays, and athleticism. And weird shit! And honestly, it was all a blast.

I looked up official names, but my initial description names make me laugh more. We had a woman who just struggled so hard to ride a bike correctly, a group of contortionists who were freakishly erotic, while also reminding me of Beyonce and Hand Models. But the two top performances of the first half involved upside down mirror worlds and a guy standing on some shaky shit. Well, technically both of them should have involved standing on some shaky shit.

Fly
Why stand on shaky stuff, when you can fake fly?

While waiting in the bathroom line, I figured it would hard for the second half to be as entertaining as the first, but that is because I apparently used to be a dumb shit nostalgic fool.

Because the second half was so goddamn amazing. And that is whre the Finding Nemo elements come in, along with a little bit of Steve Zissou.

We get a giant net with trampoline level bounciness to drape the stage. And on that net is of course men in raincoats. What is that? No, they are actually strange fish men, and they got mad hops. I have never seen trampolining that precise, in terms of height, types of spins, and even the way they were able to stop was a sight to behold.

After that is some yo-yo tricks, some “Siamese twins” on ribbon ropes, some hand puppets, and then our striped strong dudes. Like some Popeye side character, they danced and jumped their way onto the stage.

This one I just needed to get a picture of for the review because I could not believe it. A big part of their choreography involved them putting their hands together, jumping on their hands and flinging them through the air. Again, words fail me, but the amount of height they got off of this maneuver just felt unbelievable. I wondered if you could photoshop live video in front of your face. It flowed so well and it sort of felt like looking at a classic video game double jump in real life.

Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities is worth the money to see. They put on a show, I smiled the entire night, and I want to see it again and again. There are people out there who can do amazing things, and you just gotta sometimes go underneath a tent to find them.

Megajump
They seriously have put Mario to shame.

4 out of 4.

Worst Films of 2016

Welcome back to another roaring year of shit film! I pride myself in looking for the worst of the worst, not just the best films. Someone has to watch the terrible movies, and it might as well be me.

As a note, I didn’t get to see everything last year. I never saw Bad Santa 2, Why Him?, Bridget Jones’s Baby, and Dead 7.


(DIS)HONORABLE MENTIONS

Not a great list. The Final Project was a small film no one saw (thankfully), The Boss was a film too many people saw, When The Bough Breaks wasn’t sexy enough for this list, and Sharknado 4 because I am fucking tired of writing about Sharknado movies.


15) The Sea of Trees

Hey I got a good idea. Let’s take a serious subject and make a serious movie about it. Let’s make it about suicide, depression, losing your loved ones, but maybe a little hope in there as well.

All of that does sound good. But The Sea of Trees turned its serious contender into a boring turd. It fits into the drama category but it suffocates the viewer with bad symbolism and a terrible plot. It is so bad that a horror film about the same place ended up better somehow.

TSoT


14) The Brother’s Grimsby

Look, I’m a guy that can handle crude humor. But crude humor can still help the plot, have a point, or at least also be a bit funny. In The Brother’s Grimsby, we are given several repulsive scenes with zero payout. A film that must have been created solely for the scenes in question with the plot coming maybe in third place.

Cohen can be a great actor and he can also be infuriating. What is sad is that this isn’t the only film he stars in on this list, but the other film he is the only great part in it.

TBG


13) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Some book to film adaptations are so bad they make you want to stop the movie halfway through and read the book again in protest. Or at least to remind yourself that the book is decent.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is amazing in that it is not only trrrible, but just like the book, you will find yourself wanting to stop both of them early on and just go back the original source material. This movie is a tad bit better than the book in that it at least flows nicely together, where the book features the worst cut and paste jobs in modern fiction writing.

PaPaZ


12) Nina

Nina Simone is an activist and musician who should be remembered. She did a lot for her community, her race, and for music. She was quite a character too. Unfortunately this movie will do nothing for people who know nothing about her. It will probably just turn them off to her legacy.

Thank you Netflix for releasing What Happened, Miss Simone? It is the only reason I know her. And it is the only thing you should watch about her as of right now.

Nina


11) Gods of Egypt

I cannot super hate Gods of Egypt. It is meant to be a campy movie and it definitely goes campy. But I can still be angry with how lame of a story it came up with. It is a film that looks horrible, has a dull plot, and wastes some occasionally good actors. We don’t have a lot of movies involving Egyptian mythology, which is rich and wonderfully diverse, so it is just a bit of a bigger pain when the only morsel we get in forever is just a big shiny piece of shit.

GoE


10) Meet The Blacks

Meet the Blacks is a movie no one saw and for good reason. It had little publicity, was barely in the theaters, and has one famous person attached.

But I had it go and see it because I was excited to see it. I generally like The Purge movies so a good parody with some different political angles can totally work. But this film doesn’t work. It isn’t funny. It is argument after argument. It is barely coherent. And I am the one person who saw it who probably felt disappointed as everyone else besides me knew it would suck.

MTB


9) God’s Not Dead 2

You know, if you had asked me in April where God’s Not Dead 2 would have landed I would have assumed in the top 3. I am as surprised as you that it is up here at 9! I even got to make a fake review of this film for an April Fool’s Day joke.

But in all honesty it is a bad movie that badly preaches to he choir. It makes bad guys out of nothing and exaggerates everything to 11. It is painful but at least it is easy to make fun of which is why I didn’t have it super low.

GND2


8) Ben-Hur

Speaking of religious films (This is technically the third on the list) Ben-Hur is probably the most sacrilegious. You know. Rebooting a masterpiece. Condensing an epic story down an hour an a half and trying to still make it coherent. Replacing well done scenes with CGI and extra action for the Millenials. And again, just shitting over one of the biggest films in cinema history for a quick buck.

I’m not against reboots. I’m against bad movies.

BH


7) Hillary’s America: The Secret History Of The Democratic Party

Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party is the only documentary to make my list, a sequel to the only documentary to make any of my worst lists before this (America: Imagine The World Without Her)!

The director has taken political agenda to the extreme and decided to switch around a few arguments and lie to drive his point home. It is as much about him as it is about he a Democratic Party. The reason it isn’t lower is because it would have done nothing to change the outcome of the election. The only people who saw it who don’t criticize movies for a living are the ones who would have already whole heartedly agreed with it.

HA


6) Knight of Cups

I don’t want to say I hate people but Terrence Malick comes close. I assume he starts shouting a movie with a specific plot in line, then he loses his notes and starts just shooting scenic shots. Later remembering the plot he adds some voice over that vaguely helps tell the story and boom. You too can make elitist filth.

I try really hard with every new film of his to have an open mind. But they are getting more and more out there he just leaves me scratching my head in wonder and resentment. Knight Of Cups is a giant shrug and a instantly forgettable.

KOC


5) Nine Lives

Finally the bottom of the bottom, with Nine Lives topping (bottoming?) most worst of the year lists.

This is a few famous people doing very little to get a paycheck. No one has their heart in it. Spacey for the most part just had to record some voice work. It is a 90s film that they tried to make 15 years too late and add nothing new to that terrible abandoned genre. Basically it is the worst film of 2016 about a cat.

NL


4) I’m Not Ashamed

Okay here is the thing. I’m Not Ashamed film you probably hadn’t heard about. But it is really fucked up. It is about Columbine. About a girl shot during the attack and her last year or so alive. It is a religious film and a teenage drama, but the acting is bad, they make a lot of assumptions about the shooters and other students at the school, most of it is most certainly a lie, and it is basically a disgrace to exploit a real national tragedy to make a film this bad. God’s Not Dead 2 had overacting and we could laugh at it. This film will just make you angry at how terrible and unethical the whole thing is.

It is the worst religious film of 2016 and it would have also been the worst Fantast film based on how much it warps the reality of the situation, but the next film on the list took that crown.

INa


3) Alice Through The Looking Glass

There isn’t enough space for me to truly rant about everything wrong with this film. I already did so quite well in my inial review of Alice Through The Looking Glass. By all means read it and let it fill you with hate.

The reason it wasn’t further down is because Cohen was actually great in this film and the only bright spot. But it is in fact the worst fantasy film of the year and should be bought up in droves just to bury in some New Mexico pit somewhere.

ATTLG


2) Norm of the North

Every year there is one animated film that slams itself to the terrible ground and refuses to get a leg up. Before it was Strange Magic. This year Norm of the North. And yes, both did come out in January.

Norm of the North barely has a plot. There is a rough story, but it seems to mostly get in the way of the piss and fart jokes. The animation is poor, the jokes are of the lowest quality, and nothing feels funny. I can’t actually remember a lot of the film anymore thankfully, I just do remember that my four year old turning to me to tell me it was a bad film in the theater.

NotN


1) Allegiant

I did not know this would be my number one film, despite watching it in March. If you read my review, I hated it, I hated it a lot, but really, I just assumed it would be somewhere in the middle.

So what changed? What made this film rise to become the cream of the shit? Well, the fallout is one reason. Yes, we are tired of books being split up, but there has never been a break up this terrible. Allegiant has literally KILLED the Divergent movie franchise. They aren’t able to finish the story and have to switch it to a TV movie/show situation, because Allegiant was so bad.

At least the first two films had a plot that was easy enough to follow. They had a lot of holes and confusing aspects, but I got it. Part three? It lets us out in to the world and spends most of the time wasting it and not answering questions. It has situations that don’t make sense, characters not acting like real entities, a waste of talent, a waste of time. And holy fuck, it killed a franchise.

All

Thanks for reading! If you disagree with part of this list, let me know. If there is something I missed, let me know (but I probably saw it and reviewed it on this very site! Check out my thoughts).

And as always, I accept hate mail via the post office, email, or tweets.

Best Films of 2016

I don’t need a long introduction anymore, I have done a few of these already! I don’t even have a significant list of missing films to talk about, even better!

So you know the drill, here are some honorable mentions. Honorable what?

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Straight up, I had a lot of 4 out of 4’s this year. But I can’t just list like 10 movies here like some jackass. So here are a few movie, The Conjuring 2, Hacksaw Ridge, Midnight Special, The Light Between Oceans, Captain America: Civil War, Lion and The Edge of Seventeen.

It should also be note that I didn’t put any documentaries on this list, it was too hard. But my favorite from 2016 include 13th, Nuts!, and Tickled. See, only… shit, that was ten movies.


15) The 9th Life of Louis Drax

There has to be some controversy in a top list and part of the reason to go to 15 is to have more weird shit in it. Which is why I wanted to put The 9th Life of Louis Drax up here, a movie where I might be the only one to really love. It is a dark film, about a serious subject. But it is also light from the point of the view of the kid. Finally, it has the best acting I have seen from Aaron Paul outside of Breaking Bad.

T9LoLD


14) Moonlight

Okay okay, here is a true story. I really liked Moonlight, I did! I just also watched it at a 10:30 screening, after an already long day, and maybe fell asleep a couple of times during it. A slow burner for sure, but what I saw and felt was pure. It probably should be higher, but I can only comment on what I saw, and for the most part, this is completely my fault. Hopefully sometime in the future I will see it again and might regret having it this “low”, but alas, I am the only person to blame.

ML


13) Moana

Moana has a lot going for it. Music by Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of the main reasons. The music is catchy and so well produced and layered (except for Shiny, fuck Shiny). He could probably win an Oscar from over half of the songs if it wasn’t such a strong music year.

The animation is wonderful, the story comes from an underrepresented part of the world, the lead is strong, The Rock makes everything better, and just, gah, it is so good.

Moana


12) Manchester By The Sea

Manchester By The Sea is another film that I am surprised landed just outside of my top 10. After watching it I was so overcome with emotion that it took me quite a long time to finally write the review. I was also overcome with emotion during the picture and sort of on the edge of my seat. Affleck gives one of his best performances, and we probably say that about him every year.

And of course, Manchester By The Sea probably has one of the most tragic scenes in film this year, including comparisons to Lion and Nocturnal Animals.

MBTS


11) Hunt For The Wilderpeople

I am a bit disappointed Hunt For The Wilderpeople didn’t finish in my top 10, but alas, blame Silence. Hunt is one of the few foreign films that made the list (because I didn’t watch a lot), and gave an incredible adventure story, set in New Zealand. Turns out the country is beautiful, they should set more adventure stories out there. Taika Waititi gives a hilarious story, big in nature, small in cast, about growing up and kicking ass.

HFTWP


10) Kubo and the Two String

I had to think long and hard about whether Kubo and The Two Strings was the best animated film of the year, or would that honor go to Moana. And as I type this, I was able to see Moana twice but never revisit Kubo, which makes me sad, but I still gave Kubo that honor. Kubo doesn’t have music, and has quite terrible names for its side characters, but it has a strong story and some of the best stop motion animation I have ever seen. The story is fully captivating, along with some good lessons and twists along the way. Laika continues to raise the bar with its film quality, and I frankly can’t imagine where they go from here.

This is the best animated film of 2016!

KATS


9) A Monster Calls

I was definitely skeptical going into A Monster Calls, with a Groot like being, a Horror sounding name, and a concept I couldn’t relate fully to. But I was quickly taken away by the imagination of the story, the many stories the monster told, and how well the kid, MacDougall, acted.

Even if you aren’t affected in real life by Cancer (yet), the overall themes of grief, of losing a loved one, of losing your mother, are still pretty universal. A Monster Calls is a hard film to swallow, but it is still worth giving it at least one watch.

AMC


8) Fences

Do you like strong acting? I said DO YOU LIKE STRONG ACTING, MOTHERFUCKER? Well, then watch the fuck out of Fences!

Washington has still got it, Davis and Henderson are treats as well. From the pages of the play to the screen, they make those words their bitches, giving meaning behind all of the lines and tell a quite tragic tale about an old timey family. I own the play, have seen it performed before (by shitty people, I admit) but this performance really takes the cake. They won Tony’s for this performance, so you can tell they really know their stuff.

fen


7) The Witch

The Witch is a film that came out extremely early in the year, one that I had my doubts about, but delivered on almost every level. The Witch is dedicated to its story and the director pulls no punches. The costumes are authentic, the dialogue is correct to the period, the actors all feel like a real family and it feels like the film is actually evil. There is scary and there is terrifying, The Witch is definitely in the latter.

Technically my favorite Horror film of 2016, but maybe not the scariest film of 2016.

tw


6) Silence

Fresh off the presses, I knew I couldn’t make this list until I saw Silence. Based on the director, the actors, the story, I just knew it would be a sham if it didn’t have the potential to be included. That’s right. The potential. I am not saying it was guaranteed, I was just saying there was a chance.

And damn it, I am glad I waited. It was fully immersive and more importantly it told a wonderful religious story that didn’t suck, didn’t grind anything into your face, and really just felt like something that is practically universal. Garfield is a great actor, its been true for years, and he had an amazing year.

Silence


5) Sing Street

If years were only six months long, Sing Street would be my favorite film of 2016. The music is amazing and the film is emotional. It isn’t just about a boy trying to impress a girl with a makeshift 80’s band. It is about family and brotherly bonds. It is about escaping your comfort zone and stepping up to authority. And yes, it is also about great music. I love Up, it is the best song, I don’t are what anyone says.

And it is a shame that I don’t get to call it my favorite musical of 2016.

SS


4) Swiss Army Man

Swiss Army Man the most original, most out there, and by golly, one of the most fun film of the year. And not only is it a delight to watch, it has a banging sound track. Montage is great, Radcliffe and Dano singing is great, it is just fully immersive and amazing.

There is nothing like Swiss Army Man and it will be a long time before something else as original comes along. My favorite comedy film of 2016.

SAM


3) Arrival

Arrival gets to be THE Sci-Fi movie of the year, not without a lot of pressure from Midnight Special. Sci-Fi films can mean a lot of things, but Arrival comes from an area of love, guilt, and surprise. It starts you off sad and crying, and the tears come even harder for the finale. A smart film, a great drama, and a wonderful performance by Amy Adams. I honestly cannot say more without giving it away.

Arrival


2) Nocturnal Animals

Speaking of Amy Adams, yes she stars in Nocturnal Animals as well. How does she do it?! Is she in the number 1 film also?! (Nope). Even though she is the lead, Nocturnal Animals is more than just one actors performance. The terrible ness of the story in the story, the beautiful shots, the revenge, the double revenge, the great supporting performances, the tension and the real fears.

I mentioned that The Witch was my favorite Horror film of the year, but not the scariest. Nocturnal Animals is a Drama/Thriller, and it is my favorite of those genres of the year and definitely the “scariest’ film of the year for me.

NA


1)La La Land

What can I say about La La Land that hasn’t been said by everyone else in the world at this point? Holy fuck, this is a great movie. After Whiplash, Damien Chazelle decided he was going to top it on almost all fronts. It is still jazz focused, but it is now a romance instead of a sort of Drama Thriller. We get to see scenes to remind us of musicals of old early on, with flashy colors, long shots, and big sets. But the film soon morphs into a more modern approach, with only a few songs, repeating riffs, less flash and more style. A wonderful combination of the past and the new in one big whirl of cinematic glory.

Shit, after I saw it, I went out and had to see it a second time with my wife. If it shows on IMAX in my area I will watch it a third time. I bought ticket for my school’s choir teacher and wife to go see it. That’s how much I love it. Go see La La Land and learn to love and think logically yourself too.

LLL

Thanks for reading! If you disagree with part of this list, let me know. If there is something I missed, let me know (but I probably saw it and reviewed it on this very site! Check out my thoughts). Overall, a few musicals, foreign films that speak English, two animated films, no super hero movies, and a lot of drama.

And as always, I accept hate mail via the post office, email, or tweets.

Michael Stocker, “Finding Dory” Animation Supervisor: Animation and Technology

Animation

When it comes to animation, Michael Stocker has seemingly done it all. His first animation role in a movie was with the 1994 classic The Lion King and from there he moved onto actual animation roles in Hercules, Tarzan, and The Emperor’s New Groove. After a few years, he found himself an animator working on purely 3D movies like The Incredibles and Cars.

When Toy Story 3 came around he was a directing animator and now, with Finding Dory, he is a Supervising Animator, leading the entire film along side David DeVan.

So when we got to sit down and chat with Stocker on the past, present, and future of animation, he had a lot of interesting things to say.

“The rules they used to animate Pinocchio, we all used to animate Dory,” Stocker said. Despite a change in technology, the same rules still apply to making an animated film, technology just makes things easier. “The difference is we are doing it in a computer, we are doing it in a 3D world.”

New technology comes with its pros and cons. “One thing that is easy [with a computer] is that when…fifty people animate Dory, it will still look like Dory. When fifty people draw Dory it will look like fifty different people drew Dory.”

The advancements in technology actually hurt them in a few ways since the release of Finding Nemo in 2003. He compared using new technology to opening a very old Word document on a newer computer: It wouldn’t understand the older data. “We had to go back and rebuild Dory, rebuild Marlin…The challenge was that people loved this world…We had to make sure that our new world matched that exactly.” Despite advancements in technology, they had to match the world aesthetic from 2003 and couldn’t upgrade every component.

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Newer technologies did make certain aspects of the film a bit easier to handle. Software they developed a few films back was used extensively in Finding Dory. When they were not sure how to animate or take a current scene they were able to take a pen and just draw freehand what they wanted into the scene. Instead of taking a day to animate it and maybe trashing the whole thing, they could visualize in less than a minute and match the animation to their drawings.

As for the future of animated film? “I’m not sure,” laughed Stocker. “Things are changing so fast.” What he did know is that the challenges in the future for Pixar will drive the technological improvements. It will be a movie by movie basis. He went on to note that with Cars 3 coming down the line, it had a similar issue with Finding Dory, where things had to be rebuilt while maintaining their previous aesthetic.

Stocker was very open about his past in animation and his role in the Finding Dory film. But more importantly, he said his favorite animal was the octopus, and thus was a big component of Hank the Septopus from the film, arguably the best part of the movie. Coming from a family obsessed with the octopus, both in sports and in our child’s nursery, I can say that he clearly is a man with the finest of tastes.

Screening Pass Giveaway – Sing Street

From the director of Once and Begin Again comes Sing Street!

If you are a Houston resident, you can click the link below to Gofobo to claim ADVANCED PASSES for

Wednesday, April 27th, at the Landmark River Oaks Theater.

Passes are limited, so get them quickly before they are all gone! It is in the bigger downstairs theater and it is impressive screen to watch a movie on if you have never been before!

http://www.gofobo.com/HOUGORGVIEW

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SING STREET takes us back to 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents’ relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, über-cool and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. There’s only one problem: he’s not part of a band…yet. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver what he’s promised – calling himself “Cosmo” and immersing himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the decade, he forms a band with a few lads, and the group pours their heart into writing lyrics and shooting videos. Inspired by writer/director John Carney’s (ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN) life and love for music, SING STREET shows us a world where music has the power to take us away from the turmoil of everyday life and transform us into something greater.

2016 Oscar Predictions

Last year, I made my 2015 Oscar Predictions public. I was excited to do the same thing this year, but I realized that predictions are boring. Maybe in a one on one conversation they can be cool, but they don’t tell the full story of the season, and at the end of the day you are just reading a list.

Now, I was excited like a lot of you Thursday morning to see the nominees and ready to refresh the official list website. Unfortunately the whole thing was overshadowed by the death of Alan Rickman. And you know what. That sucks. That sucks more than who or what was snubbed. That sucks more than any awards ceremony. So I won’t do normal predictions, I am going to make these my Oscar Hopes.

Sure, I could give real predictions. But that is really just repeating what every one else has said about the Oscars. If you want that, you could look here, here, or even here. If you wanted to know official odds and gamble on it, you could even do that.

So instead I am just going to deal with the categories I know a lot about. I will also list the order I hope the Oscar goes to, and damn it, I will talk about it after the fact. No boring list here. This is straight up strong opinion time.

Oscars

Supporting Actor
1) Tom Hardy in “The Revenant
2a) Mark Ruffalo in “Spotlight
2b) Christian Bale in “The Big Short
4) Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies
5) Sylvester Stallone in “Creed

Starting from the bottom up. I didn’t like Stallone in Creed and it made the film average for me. I just don’t see the hype. I really really hope he doesn’t win this. Rylance was the best part of Bridge of Spies, but the movie itself was average. I think I like Ruffalo a bit more than Bale, but they both were pretty dang good in their films. Neither hold a candle to how good I thought Hardy was. His accent, his character, his monologue. Fantastic acting from a man who had a lot of hits this year.

Supporting Actress

1a) Jennifer Jason Leigh in “The Hateful Eight
1b) Rooney Mara in “Carol
1c) Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl
1d) Kate Winslet in “Steve Jobs
10) Rachel McAdams in “Spotlight

This is the hardest category for me to talk about. Clearly there are four great choices here, and honestly I’d be happy with any of them. There is no hope for McAdams who was good, sure, but everyone else here was phenomenal.

I couldn’t even recognize Winslet in her role, but she was just as important to the plot as Fassbender. Vikander had the best year of any woman, giving a just as good performance in Ex Machina, while also in Burnt and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Mara was the best part of Carol to me, telling a lot through just her eyes and stares. And Leigh held up her own with a lot of dudes in her film, giving the second best performance after Walton Goggins. You cannot go wrong with any of these ladies and it is the most anticipated category to watch.

Oscars

Adapted Screenplay

1) The Big Short
2) Room
3) The Martian
4) Brooklyn
5) Carol

The real answer here is Steve Jobs but the Academy didn’t nominate it. Argh. Hell, the whole reason I am talking about this category is just to make that point. I don’t know much work the writers had to do to adapt their screenplays from the source material. I think Carol up here is a basic insult, since it needs to be in Best Director, the screenplay not being nearly as important to that movies success. But yeah. Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin. What the hell Academy. I know I said I wouldn’t bitch about snubs, but I really had to just get this one out, so I can never talk about it again.

Animated Feature

1) Inside Out
2) Anomalisa
3) Shaun the Sheep
Didn’t see – Boy and the World, When Marnie Was There (yet!)

The only surprising thing about this category is Boy and the World, which I think no one really knew about. Inside Out is the easy best animated picture of they year. It had emotions, emotions for the emotions, and emotions for my own self. Anomalisa made me feel in a different way, but wasn’t the type of film I would want to see again. Shaun the Sheep was good, but again, not great.

Oscars

Actor

1a) Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant
1b) Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs
2) Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl
3) Matt Damon in “The Martian

Didn’t See – Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo” (yet!)

I think this is the year. This is the year DiCaprio will win Best Actor. He has consistently put out great performances, but I never feel like he was robbed, because I usually liked the actual winner better. If DiCaprio doesn’t win in it, I would only want it to go to Fassbender, who also blew me away with his performance this year. Redmayne was good and transformative, but I don’t think he needs the award two years in a row. Damon was the perfect person for The Martian, but a lot of it was him just playing himself. I am sure Cranston is just fine in Trumbo, but definitely either DiCaprio or Fassbender.

Actress

1) Brie Larson in “Room
2) Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn
3) Cate Blanchett in “Carol
4) Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy

Didn’t See – Charlotte Rampling in “45 Years” (yet!)

Yes, Blanchett acted great in Carol, but I thought she was upstaged by Mara and Blanchett won it a couple years ago in an arguably better role. Lawrence was the best part of Joy and definitely was acting, but overall I don’t think the film deserved any nominations. Ronan was my favorite performance of the year when I saw it, incredibly subtle and she carried a very simple movie into something strangely amazing. But then I saw Room, where Larson acted her ass off. Room has an incredible plot and her character has a lot of demons, so she shows off all of her skills in this film. A great follow up after her film in Short Term 12.

Oscars

Picture

1) The Big Short
2) Room
3) The Revenant
4) Spotlight
5) The Martian
6) Mad Max: Fury Road
7) Brooklyn
8) Bridge of Spies

This is actually my most boring of listing categories. In reality, Spotlight is most likely going to win Best Picture with the smallest extra chance given to The Revenant due to the shear amount of nominations it has. And I also recently already made my Best Movies of 2015 List. Sure enough, 6 of these movies made the list, so I just put them in order of my favorites! Simple simple. Brooklyn and Bridge of Spies did not make my list though. Brooklyn I did like, Bridge of Spies was average. But hey, I guess they have to give some distinction to Spielberg. For reasons.

That’s all I have today folks! I will make sure to not make a real Oscar Predictions post, but instead focus my next few months on watching all of the films I haven’t yet seen. After that I will return to watching the worst of the worst for your entertainment.

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