Billy and Topher from We Watched a Thing get up bright and early in Australia to talk about the 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky masterpiece Solaris. We wax philosophical about time, space, memory and wedding hangovers. We also get into all of the obstacles Tarkovsky had to hurdle in order to create this film, and whether that’s what made him the groundbreaking artist he was. If you’re into Alex Garland’s new movie Annihilation, make sure to listen! Continue reading “Episode 25 – Solaris”
(written by Charlie Wallace)
10. Brigsby Bear
Spot number 10 was the hardest to fill. By the time you get to the end of this list, you’ll notice quite a few surprising omissions. But Brigsby Bear is a film that left me so warm and fuzzy that I simply couldn’t imagine leaving it out. Saturday Night Live‘s Kyle Mooney plays James, a man who’s childhood has been dominated by a children’s television show that almost no one else has seen (for reasons best left secret for anyone intending to see the movie). When James sets off to shoot a movie based on that TV show, Brigsby Bear has endless opportunities to be mean or pessimistic. But it never is. Brigsby Bear shows us that real passion can bring out the goodness in people and even form new communities, and that’s an irresistible message these days. And oh yeah, and Mark Hamill is pretty good in this too.
The city of Columbus is only the tenth largest city in Indiana, but is also a bastion of 20th century modern architecture. The movie Columbus is about two young people who have met there by chance, one attending to his sick father (John Cho) and one who has lived there her entire life (Haley Lu Richardson). The laid-back ease of their first meeting hints that there won’t be any overwrought romantic entanglements or melodrama, but with cinematography like this you’ll be glad that’s the case. It’s almost hard to believe that this was the first feature film for Kogonada, who until now may have been best known for his online videos breaking down the visual aesthetic of famous directors. Each scene showcases the breathtaking design of the buildings of Columbus, with the ultimate effect of letting us know that wonder and inspiration can be found in new experiences or the familiar, we just have to look around for it.
8. Princess Cyd
Princess Cyd tells the story of a young woman who spends two weeks of her summer vacation in Chicago with her aunt, a well-respected local author. Their relationship is simultaneously endearing and awkward (at first), and as with any adult and teenager, we know they are eventually going to butt heads. But that predictability is punctured by a handful of unexpected emotional moments that make us rethink what we’ve come to expect from these two.
There’s one particular monologue delivered by actor Jessie Pinnick in a kitchen halfway through the film. She states that we shouldn’t pretend to know what makes other people truly happy, and it feels like she’s chastising us and young Cyd simultaneously. I’d say it’s the monologue of the year. And yes, I loved Michael Stuhlbarg in Call Me By Your Name; this one is even better.
I must also credit the movie for refusing to label the main character’s sexuality, or to pass judgement on her. She’s simply allowed to be with who she wants, without undue conflict or crisis.
7. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
On a recent episode of The Gobeski/Wallace Report, I had the opportunity to rank all the Star Wars films. I rated this as my second favorite – lower than The Empire Strikes Back, but HIGHER than A New Hope. Needless to say, I got a bit of flak for it. Let me lay out a better explanation than I had at that time.
I have no idea when I first watched the original trilogy. There is no time in my conscious existence where I didn’t know every twist and turn of that story line. Of course Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Yes, we all know the Leia is Luke’s sister. Besides a few expendable characters, everyone gets out OK and the universe is saved; no big deal. That’s not the fault of those films, but just a consequence of the time I grew up and the ubiquity of Star Wars in the life of a young, nerdy kid.
1999 was the first opportunity for something new and the prequels were… well… the prequels. In retrospect there’s a lot to to like, but even now I can see that the magic just wasn’t there. And besides, the finale was predetermined.
The Force Awakens was entertaining as hell, but the only thing surprising about it was that it was so good. Fans no longer had to be either apologists nor haters (though some still are by choice). And that’s what we needed, it was enough. But it wasn’t new.
And then Luke ditches the light saber.
In one single moment, Rian Johnson opened up a universe of possibility. I didn’t know whether the old hero would come to the rescue. I didn’t know if the Rebel ships would outrun the New Order. I didn’t know whether Rey would give in to the temptation of the Dark Side. And I didn’t know if the main characters would get out of this one alive.
Of course, most of the outcomes were what we might have expected in any other Star Wars film. But feeling like the rug could be ripped out from under you at any moment is exactly what Star Wars needs. I desperately hope that the next film in the trilogy builds on what The Last Jedi has established.
So for all the fanboys out there who don’t like where “their” Star Wars universe is headed, might I suggest you “let the past die”? By the way, that’s the biggest stunt Johnson pulled here – he made me, if only briefly, feel the pull of the Dark Side.
6. A Ghost Story
I had to apologize to my wife. She has a major aversion to food eating noises, particularly silverware scraping the teeth. And I had known about the pie eating scene before we started.
Less than a minute in into Rooney Mara’s marathon dessert binge, my wife had to leave the room. At about two minutes, she asked why I didn’t call for her when it was over. “I’ll let you know,” I assured her. There were still two and a half minutes left.
Pastry aside, A Ghost Story has to be admired simply because it isn’t the afraid to take its time, and that is a very long time indeed. Eons, all of human existence. An intimate love story is dwarfed by the infinite expanse of time, which collapses on itself and brings us back to just those two people again. And the soundtrack! It’s at once haunting, expansive and deeply human. In other words, perfectly suited to the film.
And yeah, it has Casey Affleck walking around with a bed sheet over his head for the majority of the film. I suggest you get over it quickly, because somehow it just works.
5. The Florida Project
The Florida Project manages to capture the beauty of childhood and the despair and ugliness of adulthood simultaneously. Set in a group of motels outside Disney World in Orlando, Florida, there’s ample opportunity for the children in this movie to experience the joys of being young. They aren’t yet aware of the dim future that awaits them in poverty.
It shows children in a way that you almost never see – acting like real children. These kids are believable and never seem like they are working off a script, which makes the movie all the more effective. 7-year-old Brooklynn Prince’s delivers a standout performance in one of the most heart-wrenching scenes I’ve seen in years.
The biggest complaint I usually hear about The Florida Project is that people that people hate the child’s mother, played by Bria Vinaite. We’re shown a portrait of a woman who straddles the line between caring mother and criminal with debilitating behavioral problems. She constantly makes terrible decisions that put herself and her daughter at risk of being separated, or worse. But it’s exactly this refusal to sugar-coat her behavior that makes this movie outstanding. The director, Sean Baker, is more interested in telling a story about REAL characters than fully sympathetic ones.
4. Get Out
As a white man, what can I say about this film that won’t make me the target of a sly Bradley Whitford meme? Probably nothing, so I’ll just bite the bullet: Get Out is the best horror film of the decade, and maybe the century so far. The sense of unease established in the first scene never abates until the credits roll.
Great performances abound, not only from powerhouse Daniel Kaluuya and ringers like Whitford and Catherine Keener, but also Atlanta star Lakeith Stanfield (above), Betty Gabriel and perhaps the only respite in a perpetually tense film, the hilarious Lil Rel Howery.
Possibly the greatest compliment I can give is that I DREAD watching Get Out again. Director/writer Jordan Peele holds a mirror to white America, and it’s deeply uncomfortable to see what’s staring back. More than any other movie of 2017, this one is required watching.
3. Lady Bird
It may surprise you to know that I’m not an adolescent girl attending a Catholic high school. Even so, Lady Bird felt just like my OWN experience. More specifically, it felt like I was recalling my MEMORIES of being in high school. Director/writer Greta Gerwig has managed to make something very specific yet deeply personal and relatable.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Lady Bird is a by-the-numbers coming-of-age tale. It breezes through 2002 and 2003 and before you know it, we’ve seen the entire senior year of Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson. That the seams don’t show in a movie that has as MANY scenes as it does is a wonder and a true directorial feat. When that vision and competence is anchored by stellar performances by the mother/daughter team of Soirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, you’ve got something truly remarkable. I can, and do, recommend this to EVERYONE.
2. Blade Runner 2049
On paper, I was vehemently opposed to this movie. Why base a new film on a moody, cerebral sci-fi classic? Isn’t the ambiguity of the original so pivotal to its success that a sequel would actually DETRACT from it? After Roy Batty’s stellar monologue, what more is there to say? Will Harrison Ford show up, and if he does will he just be cranky that he’s back here’s again?
But Denis Villaneuve knew better than I did. In his third collaboration with celebrated cinematographer Roger Deakins, he’s created something that would be a wonder to behold without any sound whatsoever, from the dust-ravaged opulance of Las Vegas, to a mechanical junkyard that appears like vast piles of human bones, to the recreation of the gloomy, rain soaked L.A. streets from the original. But seeing this in silence would also be travesty, because the sound production and looming score are just as integral to the film as anything else (this was a Zimmer/Wallfisch collaboration, and not Vangelis as in the original film). And though Harrison Ford isn’t in the majority of the film, he turns in one of the better performances of his career, possibly because the director here was actually, you know, giving him direction.
And the movie does a great job of expanding on the themes of the original. Every bit of dialogue, every scene, and every musical cue asks what it means to be human in the age of artificial intelligence but doesn’t insult the audience with a definitive answer.
It’s just unfortunate that it didn’t translate to box office success. Between this and the unusual distribution/poor performance of Annihilation, it’s not clear that philosophical science fiction is something Hollywood will bet on anytime soon.
(On a somewhat related note, here’s a link to the Gobeski/Wallace Report episode where I talk about my worst movie theater experience ever, story starts at 34:00. Don’t worry, it was it was during by second viewing of the movie.)
1. Phantom Thread
I guess it’s not a huge revelation that my favorite film of 2017 was delivered by Paul Thomas Anderson. It’s doubtful that any director today is so in tune with his craft. Every moment, every piece of set design, and every line of every scene feels perfectly in place.
Every scene has a surprise, and it’s startling how often it’s not delivered by Daniel Day-Lewis. Sometimes it’s the stunning dresses created by “The House of Woodcock”. Other times the alternately entrancing and brooding Johnny Greenwood score. Most notably it’s a short declaration or subtle glance from actress Vicky Krieps. Phantom Thread‘s story and themes hinge on having a female lead who is can hold focus around DDL, and she extends beyond that; she quite frequently steals entire scenes from him. That she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for her performance is at once frustrating and entirely predictable.
But the most incredible thing about this movie is how funny it is. In fact, I say without any hesitation that it’s the funniest movie of the year. I’ve never been so upset that my wife hasn’t watched a movie. There are so many delicious passive aggressive quotes that I cannot use without getting blank stares:
“The tea is going out. The interruption is staying right here with me.”
“I cannot start my day with a confrontation. I simply have no time for confrontations.”
“Are you a secret agent? Are you here to kill me? Do you have a gun?”
Everyone in the theater was dead silent, except for two older women who sat next to me who made comments to each other and giggled the whole time. I didn’t mind; I’m glad someone else got it too.
Honorable Mention: Dunkirk
I won’t expound much here, but while this was an amazing movie, I did NOT have a chance to see it in the theater. In fact, I had a reasonably large IMAX theater nearby where I could have caught this in all its 70 mm glory. But I didn’t. I watched it at home on my TV, and so I have trouble even coming up with an appropriate rating for a movie that truly needs to be seen on the big screen. I have a sneaking suspicion it would have floated toward the top of my list, but oh well. C’est la vie.
Co-host of the podcasts Adam Sandler Please Stop and Mistakes Were Made Robert Bacon joins us to reminisce about the 1993 Disney film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993). Despite some misgivings we all find it IMPOSSIBLE to not like this film. We talk animal actors, and HUMAN actors! Plus, we develop several sequels and spin-offs we’d like to see made. Continue reading “Episode 24 – Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey”
We continue our abbreviated 2018 Academy Award Best Picture series with The Shape of Water, joined by our guests from our first two episodes, Adam and Ally. We try to interpret the meaning behind the character’s behavior, the creature design and the color scheme, but it appears that Guillermo del Toro has already told the whole world all of these things already. We break down all the Academy Award nominated performances. And we ask ourselves the important questions such as “What does it take to establish emotional intelligence?” and “What’s the worst thing you can encase in Jell-O”? Continue reading “Episode 23 – The Shape of Water”
In honor of the 2018 Oscar nominations, we hit the theater to watch the multiply nominated coming-of-age tale Lady Bird (2017). We recount how the film reflects our own high school experience, how Greta Gerwig manages to stuff so much into such a small run time, and why Laurie Metcalf is the best ever. We do stop short of singing Dave Matthews Band lyrics, but just barely. Continue reading “Episode 22 – Lady Bird”
We’re back from our holiday hiatus, and Charlie has brought his mom, Marcy Wallace on the show to talk about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Turns out it’s easy to get caught up in the details if you’re re-watching this one. But in between Jessica and Charlie’s plot quibbles, we get Marcy’s opinion on whether this holds up as an action/adventure flick today. Choose wisely, sit back, and take a listen (ha, GET IT?).
The younger hand/arm of Henry Jones Sr. is played by Alex Hyde-White, who plays Reed Richards in the storied 1994 movie The Fantastic Four. Which I know, because I had to watch it for the Merry Marvel Movie March our sister podcast is doing. Check that out here!
The Monkey King is apparently a mythological Chinese figure, whose integration into the script might have been slightly less hilarious than we thought when we recorded this.
I quickly began to wonder whether there would have been suitable torch alternatives when this movie took place. Wikipedia has the answer, as always! Indy was indeed being reckless.
Marcy forgot to mention that the “smile for the camera” moments of the movie really reminded her of Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood. This isn’t too surprising actually, since Indiana Jones draws a lot of inspiration from 1930’s matinee serials and movies of that period.
Notes regarding Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, from our EP:
- “Poorly received” is probably not quite right. Overall, critics and fans still seem positive about it, and the main drawback seems to be its failure to live up to its predecessor.
- Adam thinks it has the best soundtrack.
- Adam thinks Short Round was at least better than Shia LaBeouf.
- Willie Scott is the name of the character everyone loves to hate.
Also, The Goonies is technically directed by Richard Donner, although Spielberg had his hands all over it so it doesn’t undermine anything we say.
Adam’s main problem with the choice of Grail is that technically the cup didn’t belong to Jesus at all. It’s not like the Last Supper took place at Jesus’s house, so there’s no reason to think it would have anything to do with him being a carpenter. Guess Indy just got lucky!
From the moment we first see the tank, to when we realize Indy has NOT fallen over the cliff, about 16 minutes has elapsed. Quite a bit of the film!
Indy murders a lot of people in this one, but he’s not alone. I won’t spoil the actual body count for you, but here’s the video proof!
Movies We Reference:
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Odd Thomas (2013)
Lost in Translation (2003)
Local Hero (1983)
Eric Mackie joins us to visit the 1984 John Hughes film Sixteen Candles for the first time. He’s a little surprised to find it’s not quite like the other John Hughes movies he’s familiar with. Jessica finds the good parts in this movie, but Charlie seems unable to look past the parts of the movie that haven’t “aged well”. But we all agree that the kid brother should have gotten his own movie.
When reviewing the episode, EP Adam mentioned that I seemed angry the whole time. I kinda was. Certain scenes reminded me very much of current events and I think that comes through a bit in my faint praise. I probably didn’t give this movie a fair shake on its non-offensive points, but I will point out that I’m not alone in this. If I can find the TV edit Jessica talks about maybe I’ll give it another chance.
Here’s the article by David Blum which coined the term “Brat Pack”, and answers some questions we didn’t quite know the answers to while recording. Surprisingly included in The Pack: Nicolas Cage!
Also found this cringe-worthy moment where an interviewer tries to get Gedde Watanabe to do his Sixteen Candles lines in the accent, complete with inverted screen for when he’s hanging upside down from the bed. I don’t envy Mr. Watanabe, I’m pretty sure he gets asked to do this all the time.
Things We Reference:
“Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap
“I Can’t Go On” by Bayside
This week Jessica is in the hot seat, since she had never seen the 1975 summer blockbuster Jaws, with special contributor Kara Hulce. We talk about whether the slower pacing of the film works, if the animatronics hold up, and we get a little confused about who the shark ate and when. Boy, that shark sure does eat a lot of people…
This article says John Williams had scored 25 Spielberg films as of its publish date (2012). So there’s more now, you can do the math yourself. I say my guess of 25 was pretty darn good. Although, the upcoming Ready, Player One is notable in that John Williams will NOT score it.
Finding Nemo theory confirmed (well, as much as a wiki confirms anything…)
Not a lot of additional material for you this week, except that Adam also thought it was weird that Jaws was considered a horror film. By the same token, couldn’t Jurassic Park be considered horror?? Just think about THAT for a minute.
And here’s your exploding whale, about 2 minutes in.
Movies We Reference:
Your hosts welcome Doug Gobeski to the studio to dig deep on Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014). It won the Oscar for Best Picture, and was co-written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu. So why doesn’t it get traction with half the user reviews on the internet? And what does the movie have to say about art vs entertainment? And, dare I ask, what do we talk about when we talk about love??
We get through the entire episode without mentioning the name of the director/co-writer of the film, Alejandro González Iñárritu. That’s probably because we spent time beforehand practicing and discussing how to pronounce his name, and then just forgot! We regret the omission.
Adam points out that Best Picture doesn’t mean much to him. I’m not sure I fully buy that, but I think we can all agree that Crash (2004) is a horrible movie and if you like it you are a horrible person.
The “one shot” movie Doug is referring to is called Russian Ark (2002).
So our discussion about the intent of the film is pretty clearly addressed in this Deadline interview. But it’s nice that we seemed to have figured out some of it on our own! It’s a good read, do it!
And please also read Beginners, which was the title of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love before Raymond Carver’s editor changed it. And then imagine how it could possibly be adapted for the stage…
Movies We Reference:
We welcome our first sibling to the podcast, Lesley Wallace, to talk about The Shawshank Redemption (1994)! Despite the near constant airing on TNT, Lesley had never managed to watch this, well, except the ending. But it still managed to hold a few surprises, including some of the bushiest eyebrows in cinema. So get busy living, get busy dying, or get busy listening to this episode (the third one sounds the easiest to me)!
Here’s that Vanity Fair article I talk about in the episode. Lots of good stuff in there! In fact, most of my facts were referenced from here, so the show notes are going to be a bit light today…
Apparently, most people don’t quite know the breadth of Stephen King’s literary career, and there’s an anecdote about a run in with a lady in this interview by Neil Gaiman which makes it worth the read by itself.
Here’s a clip from the unfortunately named Cougar Town where you can get “the full Shawshank experience”.
And we’ll end with Will Forte making things awkward, which he excels at.
Movies We Reference: