Pixar Movies, Ranked

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Because everyone seems to be ranking the Pixar movies, in advance of the release of Pixar’s 20th (“Incredibles 2”), I thought I’d give my two cents. Here are the official, take-them-to-the-bank, 100% correct rankings of every Pixar film so far:

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the 10-Year Anniversary

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I’ve seen a lot of movies. While this may not seem revelatory for those reading a pop culture and entertainment blog, suffice it to say I’ve seen thousands. Comedies. Dramas. Good movies. Bad movies. “Gone with the Wind.” All three “Harold and Kumar” films. Ten different “Star Wars” movies. Westerns. Crime films. Film noirs. I’ve seen movies that have nearly frozen me in my seat after watching them due to their power and message (“Sophie’s Choice,” “Spotlight,” “Schindler’s List”); there were movies that I’ve walked out of (“Antz,” “You, Me, and Dupree,” “Epic Movie,” “Fred Claus”). I’ve seen a lot of funny movies (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” “Old School,” “Zoolander,” “There’s Something About Mary”) and movies that tried to be funny but missed the mark (“Eurotrip,” “Funny People,” “Drillbit Taylor”). I’ve seen movies opening night in a crowded theater, opening night in an empty theater (“Scooby-Doo 2”), and movies by myself at 11 am on a weekday. I’ve seen Marvel movies, DC movies, indie movies, Tarantino movies, movies that tried to emulate Tarantino movies, and basically every Natalie Portman film under the sun. Some of these movies stick with me. Some are forgettable. Some were perfectly fine to watch on an airplane, or on Starz on some random Sunday. But ten years ago? Ten years ago I saw a movie that has stuck with me, that feels fresh every time I rewatch it. Because ten years ago, on its opening day in the theater, I saw “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Continue reading

Happy Sugar Ray/Visor Day 2018!

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Well, it’s the fifteenth anniversary of Sugar Ray/Visor Day, and you know what that means: Time to break out the crystal. Thankfully, I got my blog back after last year’s shenanigans. I can’t believe SRVD is 15 – that means it would be a freshman in high school! So, to honor the holiday, I thought I’d take a look back at some of my favorite high school-related movies. And for those who are gluttons for punishment or just need a refresher on the origins of the holiday, you’ll find that after the list.

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Things that still bother me…Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead edition

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I love almost everything about Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. “The dishes are done, man!” “I’m right on top of that, Rose!” Everything that happens at General Apparel West. The movie is so much better than it has any right to be. Hilarious, poignant, and a great star turn for Christina Applegate. Just a solid, entertaining flick all around. But is it perfect? No. Here are some lingering questions I have after having recently watched it for the umpteenth time. The lack of answers to these questions still bother me. Continue reading

Can I Be Natalie’s Agent, Or: Wait, Does Natalie Portman Choose Bad Movies?

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As my friend Tessa can attest, I’m not someone who easily changes his opinion. Or regularly changes his opinion. Or, like, ever changes his opinion. And one of my bedrock principles has always been “Natalie Portman = amazing.” I mean, ever since I saw her in The Professional I was hooked. I have seen every major release of hers in the theater with one glaring exception: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. And that continued through this past Monday, when I saw Annihilation. Which made me yawn and left me angry and confused:

I told co-workers yesterday that I was disappointed in Annihilation, despite its cast (Portman, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac) and pedigree (written and directed by Alex Garland, who wrote The Beach [the book], 28 Days Later, and wrote and directed Ex Machina). They acted surprised – what did I expect? And, what did I expect from a Natalie Portman movie anyway? They are never any good. And while my instinct was to rise to her defense, I realized something: they were right. Her movies, on the whole, are actually pretty bad. And while this may be an obvious statement to those reading this, that is akin to me realizing the sky is blue after thinking (knowing?) it was red all these years. How did I come to this game-changing realization? More after the jump… Continue reading

Quick Oscar Picks/Reaction

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I’ve already said what I would choose if I had an Oscar ballot. This morning, the 2018 Academy Award nominations were announced, and so I’m making my picks (along with some minor commentary) on the “major” categories. I’m betting that the SAG/Golden Globe winners (McDormand, Oldman, Janney, and Rockwell) all repeat. Feel free to disagree below in the comments.

Best Picture
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Well, given that “Disaster Artist” didn’t even get nominated (which I’ll get to in a second), and that I won’t see “The Shape of Water” and haven’t seen “Phantom Thread,” the choice really comes down to “Lady Bird” or “Dunkirk” for me. But let’s be honest – “Three Billboards” is going to win. As my wise friend Jill said, the only thing that can stop “Three Billboards” is, well, four billboards.

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

If I were voting, this would be Robbie’s award to lose, with Ronan a close second. Alas, this seems to be Mildred Hayes’s year.

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Day-Lewis, The Phantom Thread
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Well, those James Franco allegations certainly hurt “Disaster Artist,” no? Franco won the Golden Globe for best performance (comedy), and seemed like a lock to be nominated. The allegations of his deplorable behavior indicate that he has some repugnant personal demons, and that clearly cost him a nomination. (Of course, that isn’t to make light of the accusers: his minor suffering at losing out on a nomination is trivial compared to their hardship.) If I were voting, it’d be between Chalamet and Oldman, but I think this is one of those “he’s due!” years, and it’s Oldman’s to lose.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Where is Holly Hunter for “The Big Sick?” I thought she gave one of the best performances of the year. Rinse, lather, repeat: Allison Janney (who was tremendous in “I, Tonya.”)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer,  All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

I genuinely like Sam Rockwell movies, and have been talking them up for years. So while I wasn’t crazy about “Three Billboards,” I’m glad he’s finally getting his due. (I do think Michael Stuhlbarg should have been nominated for “Call Me By Your Name,” though.)

Best Animated Feature Film
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent
The Breadwinner
The Boss Baby

Pardon the pun, but I loved “Loving Vincent” (though given that I’m a van Gogh fiend, this isn’t surprising). But yeah, this seems to have “Coco” written all over it. (Although if we’re really, truly being honest, this award should have been discontinued ever since “The Lego Movie” got snubbed.)

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
Bruno Delbonnel, Darkest Hour
Dan Laustsen, The Shape of Water
Rachel Morrison, Mudbound
Hoyte Van Hoytema, Dunkirk

#WokeTwitter has informed me that Rachel Morrison is the first female cinematographer to ever be nominated, and that’s fantastic. She should win, but not because of her gender – because “Mudbound” was beautifully shot. (Though Deakins would be a close second for me.)

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig,  Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out

Another category I thought Franco would sneak into. Given that Martin McDonagh (of “Three Billboards”) didn’t make it, and that “Shape of Water” is the most-nominated movie of the year (and because he won the Golden Globe), you could make the argument it’s del Toro’s to lose. But it’s also a year when Hollywood wants to (rightly, finally) celebrate both powerful women and people of color. Therefore, I think either Peele or Gerwig will end up winning. I’ll say Gerwig for the upset. Will be the moment of the night.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
Guillermo Del Toro & Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Martin McDonagh,  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I included this category because it’s the one in which I have the biggest rooting interest. I loved “The Big Sick” and am very much hoping that it wins. I’d be pleasantly surprised with wins for “Lady Bird” or “Get Out” as well – maybe “Get Out” wins here, and Gerwig wins director, and then both she and Peele have been rewarded.

 

What does everybody else think? Let me know in the comments.

Best of 2017

During Thanksgiving weekend, my nephew wanted my family to play a game. It was pretty simple, actually: name your favorite thing, from categories he chose. Name your favorite TV show. Name your favorite movie. Name your favorite video game. Etc. As simple as the concept of the game is, however, it was wholly impossible for me to answer his questions. Having to choose my favorite movie would be like having to choose which is the favorite hair on my head. The idea of even trying to narrow down to just a handful, let alone one, was way too complicated. While I was happy to rattle off all-time favorites (“Back to the Future,” “A Few Good Men,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” all of the “Star Wars” movies, etc.) there was no way to pick just one.

So why am I bringing this up now? Because, as in years past, I’m not going to blog about my “ten favorite shows” or “eight favorite films.” I’m not bound by space or word limit. These are just the things that I either loved or thought about critically in the world of entertainment in 2017. Even though it’s been a dumpster fire of a year politically,  a lot of the below shows and movies allowed me some form of escape, at least temporarily. Here now is my list of the best of 2017, broken down by category. If you are able to narrow down your list(s), please feel free to provide it in the comments section below.

TV/Streaming

Love (Season 2)

Season 1 ended on a pretty good cliffhanger (Gus and Mickey kissing at the gas station seconds after Mickey has told Gus she needs to be alone for a year), and Season 2 really delved into the question of whether or not 1) these people actually like each other 2) these people are capable of love and 3) these people should be dating each other, either now or ever. Funny, and the show just feels…real. Special shout-out to Claudia O’Doherty’s Bertie, who cracks me up at least once an episode. Here’s hoping that the newly-announced Season 3 (the final season) sticks the landing.

Master of None (Season 2)

Man, this show. Season 1 was pretty great, and then Season 2 just upped the ante. From the premiere episode, filmed on location in Italy in black and white, to the incredible Thanksgiving episode (which rightly won an Emmy for comedic writing), to the doorman/cab driver/hearing impaired woman episode, to the episode at Storm King and ending with the helicopter ride, Season 2 was just incredible. I know Ansari is on record as saying he needs to live more before he can do a third season, and I don’t blame him. If we can get a third season as rich as this one was, I’ll happily wait a few years.

The Good Place (spoiler alert in the clip below)

Holy. Forking. Shirt. I thought The Good Place’s first season was pretty good, and it was a show that, like The Office and Parks and Rec before it, would get its sea legs in the second season. But that twist at the end of Season 1 was genius, and I did not see it coming. Special shout-out to Manny Jacinto, who has made Jason into the show’s MVP.

Superstore

When I was growing up, NBC’s Thursday night line-up (aka “Must-See TV”) was the place for comedy. Cheers and Seinfeld and Friends are all sitcom legend, and some shows (Caroline in the City, The Single Guy, Boston Common) brought some laughs, despite lackluster ratings and having to be compared to those mentioned above. What does any of that have to do with Superstore? Superstore ticks a lot of boxes for me. It’s a funny workplace ensemble that really feels like a spiritual heir to The Office (without the awkwardness and the talking heads), and feels like it is of a place where it could have fit very easily into the Must-See TV schedule. It’s not the kind of show that will win accolades or awards (except from this blog, I guess), but it is consistent week-to-week, and its episode about health insurance was the best primer on the subject (in a funny way) that I’ve ever seen. Humor + distillation of timely political facts = a win in 2017.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 3)
Full disclosure: I thought this season felt a little muddled. Kimmy goes to college! Kimmy struggles in college! Kimmy leaves college! That’s a huge arc, and it was done in about 3 weeks of the show’s timeline. This season did great some great mileage out of guest stars like Laura Dern and Daveed Diggs, which I think bumped it up a notch for me.

Saturday Night Live

“Now I’d like to begin today by apologizing on behalf of you, to me, for how you have treated me these last two weeks. And that apology is not accepted!”

While some may argue that Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin overshadowed the regular SNL players, SNL is clearly having a renaissance. Also, “Woke Jeans” is the sketch of the year for me, in a walk.

Billy on the Street

In a year when a lot of us wanted to just yell and scream out our frustration, Billy Eichner was our avatar.

The Leftovers (Season 3)

This show just got better and better. The final season didn’t waste time, even as the characters moved from Texas to Australia. Unlike a certain other Damon Lindeolf show, this one stuck the landing in the end. And Carrie Coon – just wow. What an all-time performance as Nora Durst.

Veep (Season 6)

The first season with Selina out of power entirely (and without Sue – who I really missed), the show smartly pivoted into a few funny story lines, most notably three terrifying words: Congressman Jonah Ryan.

Silicon Valley (Season 4)

The other half of HBO’s spring comedy duo, Silicon Valley took a few characters in new directions this year. Big Head taught at Stanford, Gavin Bellson became something approaching relatable, and poor Erlich is now stranded off in an opium den.

The 2017 Academy Awards

Well, the ending, anyway. I don’t think we’ll ever see another moment like that again, especially for presentation of best picture.

 

The Challenge: Dirty 30

Didn’t necessarily end the way I’d like, and there was a lot of drama from some random people (Nelson, I’m looking at you) and way too much (racist) Camila. That said, what a stacked cast. Wish they could just run it back.

GLOW (Season 1)

GLOW makes the brave choice of (spoiler alert) having the main character (Alison Brie) sleep with her best friend’s husband in episode 1. The show concentrates so much of its time on good guys and bad guys (or “heels” in wrestling parlance) both in and out of the ring. Like my friend Mags, I found myself compelled to root for the bad guys. Bonus points to Marc Maron for killing it as the show’s director and as a surrogate father figure to all of the GLOW ladies.

New Girl

Mostly because we finally got this moment:

 

Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later

When I first saw Wet Hot American Summer, and it had the joke about meeting up ten years later, I never thought I’d be watching a whole TV season of the counselors’ lives. Of course, I also didn’t know what “streaming” or “Netflix” was, but that’s another matter. This whole series is insane, but in the best way possible.

Late Night Shows

John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and even Jimmy Kimmel really stepped up to the plate this year and delivered scorching, heart-felt, and/or impassioned monologues and comedy bits about everything from health care to net neutrality.

My friend winning Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions

When I was growing up, I used to ride the bus (and later gave rides home to) a kid named Buzzy (whose dad, fun fact, sold me my Bar Mitzvah suit). Really exciting to watch him win the whole Tournament of Champions. (And let’s be honest, Austin was really fun to watch, too.)

 

Other shows I enjoyed: The resurgent third season of Mr. Robot (especially the one-take/”oner” episode), When We Rise, Handmaids Tale, The Young Pope, Future Man, This is Us, and Big Little Lies.

People

James Franco

The Disaster Artist was great, full stop, and his performance on The Deuce was what brought that show from “huh, interesting idea” to fully watchable.

Laura Dern

Between Big Little Lies, her role as Jon Hamm’s new wife on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and, of course, as Admiral Holdo, Laura Dern had an amazing 2017.

Comic Book Movies

Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, and especially Spider-Man Homecoming were all solid popcorn movies. (Of course, Justice League was about as entertaining as watching paint dry, but that was the exception, not the rule.) Bonus points to the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War for looking amazing.

Star Wars

While The Last Jedi isn’t my favorite Star Wars movie, at the end of the day it was a lot of fun, and years from now I’ll still be thinking about that scene of R2 playing Luke Leia’s original “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” recording. #DroidGuiltTrip

Other Movies

The Big Sick was the best movie of the year, and I’ll be quite upset if it doesn’t get nominated for several Oscars. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon wrote a tremendous screenplay, Zoe Kazan does great character work in what amounts to not a lot of screen time, and Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are both incredible.

War for the Planet of the Apes

I’ll admit it: I love this new “Apes” trilogy. I love the original, Charlton Heston-led Planet of the Apes (and its goofy sequels), but the serious tone of this new trilogy (especially the last two) is really enjoyable.

Stronger

Gyllenhaal is on such a weird streak of choosing interesting, good roles, some of which really pay off (Stronger, Nightcrawler), some of which are disappointing (Demolition, Life), but all of which are captivating on the big screen. I wish this movie had gotten more awards-season recognition, but c’est la vie.

Other enjoyable movies: Get Out, I, Tonya, The Post, Call Me By Your Name, The Meyerowitz Stories, Lady Bird, and the movie I’d vote for Best Picture, The Disaster Artist.

 

Music

Um, did both Gallagher brothers release new CDs this year? And did the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” become the unofficial rallying cry of the city of Manchester? Yeah, no matter what Camila Cabello and Taylor Swift tried to do, it was a good year for music in 2017.

Good Riddance

To the men who committed horrific acts (Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose) and to those who covered up or abetted their behavior, don’t let the door hit you.

RIP

Always tough to lose people who meant so much to the entertainment world, and I obviously cannot touch on everyone. But 2017 will be remembered for the losses of Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Bill Paxton, Mary Tyler Moore, Miguel Ferrer, Erin Moran, Martin Landau, Powers Boothe, Don Rickles and, of course, Tom Petty.

Anything I missed? What did others enjoy in 2017? For what will you remember this year? Let me know in the comments.