Attempting to Explain Jordan’s Furniture

So it starts with a revolving door that may stop suddenly…

Excuse me as I attempt to explain from the broadest perspective what Jordan’s Furniture is to anyone not from New England.

Don’t be foolish. It’s not a furniture store.

You walk in and you see a Jelly Belly store. In fact, the floor is a painted design made up of jelly beans. There’s not so much of a lobby as it is when you go left, you see a gourmet burger restaurant. Past it is a hallway that on the right side, brings you to their furniture outlet, the largest section of the venue, but if you keep going straight it takes you to the lobby of a movie theater with two IMAX screens. You can still see the dinner table room of the furniture section from the theater lobby. However, if you take a right out of the entrance, your eyes will either draw you to the main hallway that leads to the furniture outlet or to the right of that which includes a waterworks stage in between a zipline course and an ice cream shop. There’s also a massive Wally the Green Monster sculpture attached to the wall. Did I mention that the ice cream shop signage is a giant banana split made up of jelly beans? There’s also Eliot, who has a ponytail. And the buttkickers. And on top of it all, you could’ve gotten free furniture if a Red Sox player hit a home run at one of their signs at Fenway a while back.

It’s not merely a furniture store, but it’s not really a mall when you break it down. That would be giving malls too much credit. No mall is named after one of the stores. You know what Jordan’s is? It is Jordan’s, an exclusive category on its own. It’s also the centerpiece of every fun night that I’m capable of having. My “Jordan’s nights” that I just thought of this second are the kind of pleasant nights that I thought would fizzle out once I joined the real world. The daunting and uncertain real world still has yet to come to fruition. When I, all alone, go about a two mile walk to Jordan’s, inebriate myself at the neighboring Chili’s, chow down on some burgers, watch a movie made for the movie theater (recently saw Nope and Jaws there), and head back to the Chili’s for more drinks, intellectually I know my life won’t get much better than that, but emotionally there’s something vacant. When they say to take advantage of when you have it good, I do everything but lick the floor during these times. I take pictures, stare off into the distance, what have you, all so I can consciously cherish the moment. I think about what I could be suffering through instead of cinema and suds. Forcing myself to appreciate my easy living offers limited personal value. Perhaps I just need more friends.

Ah, yes, Jordan’s Furniture! Great place! This wasn’t an ad, by the way, which is evident by my sudden philosophical reckoning. I can’t properly explain Jordan’s concisely. Just visit the place, no matter where you are located.

A PERFECT WORLD (1993) – The Best Eastwood Picture You Haven’t Seen

Creator: Warner Bros. | Credit: Getty Images | Copyright: 2012 Getty Images

It’s quite fitting that “perfect” found its way into the title of Clint Eastwood’s follow-up to his 1992 magnum opus, Unforgiven. The 1993 film, about an escaped convict, Butch Haynes, (Kevin Costner) and the boy he has kidnapped, Phillip, (T.J. Lowther) and their bond formed while on the run from an aging U.S Marshall, Red Garnett. (Eastwood), A Perfect World is a continuation of perhaps Eastwood’s finest run as an artist. Unforgiven, A Perfect World, and The Bridges of Madison County, all thrive as magical works of cinema thanks to Eastwood’s instinct to upend audience expectations and question his own on-screen ethos. Unforgiven revises the star’s gun-wielding and blunt force heroism as sadistic, and Bridges turns his movie star charm and handsomeness into one struggling to fulfill himself with love. Film critic Sean Burns writes on Letterboxd about A Perfect World, “In a movie about the sins of fathers passed on to their sons, here’s the screen icon considered a dream daddy by at least two generations of moviegoers, admitting that he blew it.” Butch and Phillip are the way that they are because of their lack of proper fatherly love. As Eastwood does time and time again in the past and future (High Plains Drifter and Mystic River), he shows audiences the real cause and effect of violence. Butch uses his pistol, which the photography by Jack Green precisely captures its importance when in his waist pocket, as his weapon for fatherhood for Phillip. He holds the facade of taking Philip trick or treating for the first time a day after Halloween by discreetly aiming the gun at the homeowner. Their first true moment of bonding stems from Butch handing Philip his gun to point at the former’s fellow violent prison escapee. During the film’s pivotal dramatic scene at the local farmer’s house, Philip continues to take comfort in Butch’s state of paternity even after shooting him in the stomach.

While Clint has rightfully received all the praise here, I would like to give a shout out to screenwriter John Lee Hancock. When looking at his directorial filmography, which includes The Blind Side, The Founder, and The Little Things, the apex of pedestrian, I have to think there was a body switch along the way. I’m still not over The Little Things in particular. He made Denzel Washington uninteresting! Despite that, he really killed it with his Perfect World script. It is even more impressive to catch the eye of Eastwood considering he made his supposed swan song and was finally crowned by the Academy Awards in Unforgiven. Though as it turned out, he would still be directing movies, including additional ones that dissect the Eastwood persona, for thirty more years. I think it is worth noting that Clint’s chops purely as a visual storyteller were solidified during his early 90s run. A Perfect World is gorgeous looking without being overly directed. He uses the open fields and roads of Texas like they belong to one of his westerns. Something mesmerizing, but wouldn’t crack the feed of One Perfect Shot is the shot of Butch’s stolen car parked in the middle of a cornfield at night with our two, lonely spirits running away from their respestive imprisonments. I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention the brilliance of Costner’s performance, which is his best ever. I refuse to hear any slack about him solely being a matinee idol who is best suited for swinging a baseball bat.

The idea of escaping from spiritual imprisonment is the greater theme of the film and ultimately why it is my favorite of Eastwood. Butch literally breaking out of prison is a secondary goal compared to his desire to reclaim something spiritually that isn’t entirely articulated, but can be best demonstrated through his relationship with Phillip. The boy, however, is in need of a way to break free more than anyone. Phillip is raised under a mother practicing as a Jehovah’s Witness, and is stuck in a rigid social life, not permitted to interact with other kids. We see in the film’s opening that he is restricted from celebrating Halloween. Phillip getting a hold of a Casper the Friendly Ghost costume is two-pronged. One, he steals it from a shop in a sequence where Butch evades the law, and two, wears it, ocassionally with a mask, for the rest of the film. Again, Butch liberates his temporary surrogate son through means of violence and mayhem. The film’s climax captures the feeling of Phillip as a liberated boy, where the call of his mother to return to her safety cuts a close up shot of him wearing his Casper mask.

I’m trying to keep this on the hush-hush, but you know what sucks and ruins movies especially of the current day? Plot. Somehow, whether it be from a studio adding notes or additional screenwriters, a plot with a macguffin and forced side characters would derail the version of A Perfect World made in 2022. This is definitely true because this would be a Hulu miniseries that’s too long and shot on digital. 1993’s Perfect World is only about the sheer fact that Butch is aimlessly drifting away for something better. Eastwood’s Garnett character even notes that Butch is heading in the wrong direction despite his claims that he’s on his way to Mexico. 

For as much as I’m laying out the beauties of the film and why I have such a sentimental relationship to it, the feelings and ideas are never poured on too thick. That’s not how Eastwood operates. The guy shoots one take for scenes after all. I’m all here for his syrupy sentimentality and wondrous outlook on the universe throughout his filmography, but Steven Spielberg, who expressed interest in directing, could’ve overstayed his welcome. As a quick digress, you see what happens when you complain about Spielberg being too schmaltzy for all these years? We’re stuck with the soulless and insincere MCU. Anyways, A Perfect World worked even better for me on rewatch, as I was able to dig into the makeup and foundation of the themes that pay off in the end, while on first viewing, I was mostly just left with the ground-level emotions it left me with. The film is currently streaming on Showtime, but you could do much worse than coughing up a few bucks to own it for yourself (which I can’t say I’ve done myself. Relying on streaming is going to kill this medium). Anyways, amazing film, Eastwood is a blessing to the art of cinema.

The Update

It’s easy to say that you want this blog to be continuously active and inspiring. It’s very easy, actually, to the point that you can get reckless about it. I hate that this website hasn’t been updated with a new post since March. A high level of confidence in January slowly waned to doubt in February, all the way to writing myself off in March. I coulda been a contender! I coulda been somebody! This was my line of thinking in February. By March, I was thinking, “Terry Malloy and Jake LaMotta were lucky. They HAD a chance. I was doomed from the start!”

Not to turn this into The New York Times best selling self-help author hour, but this mindset will get you nowhere. I’m not reinventing the wheel here. On a good day, I want to talk about the ethos of an 80s Clint Eastwood joint. I don’t write particularly funny, and I take movies too seriously as it is already in my everyday life, so I ought to just have at it with writing completely sincerely. There’s enough hacky material at the expense of a variety of films online and on an Oscars telecast. 

I sure hope a miracle comes my way, because the older I get, I’ll start beating up on myself when I remember that Spielberg was 26 when he directed Jaws and P.T Anderson was 27 on the set of Boogie Nights. I’m lucky to be cooking dinner for myself by 26.

The Price of Admission

There’s been a lot of talk about the magic of going to see a film at a theater over the last two years. Streaming is nice and all, but you can never capture the emotions of the big screen, the surround sound, the concessions vendor, and the communal experience. I endorse theaters for all reasons minus the last part. I could do without having a mass amount of people at a showing of a movie, with the exception that the people are not chatting, coughing, laughing too hard or too often. or cheering. You rarely get those exceptions. Let’s normalize going to the movies alone. Not to pull a Jerry Seinfeld set, but WHYYYYYYY do people insist on going to the movies together? YA CAN’T TALK TO ANYONE! Otherwise, my plain old TV has nothing on the big screen, so theaters will always have a place in my heart. I even love the carpeting.

This was just a prelude to run through the old memory bank and look back on (with possible rage) the most annoying theater-going moments from the great people of Earth.

The Many Saints of Newark – I skimmed through parts of the movie on HBO Max the other day, and I think I was too generous to this movie when I first saw this at the Regal Cinemas in Newington, NH in October. Pretty awful, a Sopranos movie made for the fans who skip the therapy sessions and dream sequences. During the showing, an old guy was chatting the whole time, pointing out the ham-fisted references for the people there that somehow didn’t watch the show. When Vera Farmiga Livia said “poor you!” the guy responded, “she said that on the show”, presumably talking to his wife. I found this one a little more amusing, who needs to pay attention to this thing on screen anyways.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Okay, now we’re talking if you want me pissed off. My hype for this was through the roof. I love it now, which I can’t entirely say about all of Tarantino’s filmography as I’ve gotten older, but I was afraid to admit that I wasn’t infatuated by it when I first saw it in July 2019 at the Showcase in Woburn, MA. A group of fucking assholes, I couldn’t tell if they were like the shitbags I go to school with or just a rowdy big family with teenage kids, were chatting their way through the first half. They each had a whiff of the “yeah bro, that’s fucking sick” college kid. Someone, unfortunately not me, finally told them to shut up, and the second half was peaceful, but it was too late. I was simply not in the right mood to enjoy Quentin’s most wholesome film yet. This should’ve been an all-timer theater experience for me, and I still blame those fuckheads today for depriving me of it. I really, really hope the pandemic wasn’t tough on them at all.

Creed II – An old guy coughed out his lungs throughout the whole second half, also at the Showcase in Woburn. Theaters, don’t feed the elderly with popcorn. Those seeds stick in your throat.

Avengers: Endgame – Can’t believe I’m admitting seeing this on its opening weekend. Might as well go all out now, I liked the MCU at that time. Maybe I was happier back then, maybe I didn’t watch enough movies back then. Will anyone give a shit about me watching more movies? No, they won’t show up to my wake because I was a stuck-up cocksucker. Anyways, I was starting to get more cynical about these movies when I saw the big one in April 2019 at Jordan’s Furniture IMAX Theater in Reading, MA. For Infinity War, the cheap fake-snarky jokes, overbearing fan service, shitty visuals, and the quantity over quality mentality sucked me in. I was not having it this time around. Clapping? CHEERING? But please, tell me it’s not an amusement park. Feige really knows how to play it right down the middle. None of his movies are all that shitty. They are just so goddamn pedestrian. Things like the Venom movies are way more impactful because they embrace the goofiness. The MCU thinks it’s in on the joke but they lack any sense of earnestness.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout – From a pure visceral experience, this movie kicks ass. I hate that the beginning of the third act wants you to legitimately care about the convoluted plot and melodrama and halts all momentum, but I can let that aside. Somehow, only in the way I can, I found myself feeling disheartened after seeing this at Jordan’s in Reading in July 2018. Birthday weekend. Easy Friday at work. Fuddruckers dinner. IMAX screen. It was all lining up for me. This time, the person I am mad at the most is me. Why was I grump during this? Cruise and the boys gave me everything I was expecting. Why did I relentlessly try to grapple every minute detail about this ridiculous plot!?!? “But wait, this guy him and Cavil are fighting needs to be…” Dude, SHUT UP and cherish this bathroom fight! Like everything in my life, I never appreciate my good fortune. I think about this when I sit in an empty theater for a gruelingly average movie like Belfast. Not to mention, there was a culprit of one of the worst offenses sitting in my row, the obnoxious laughter. Every footstep from a character got a chuckle from this guy. When Simon Pegg is almost killed via hanging in the climax, this fucking guy was HOWLING like it was the zipper scene in There’s Something About Mary. Hope you enjoyed the picture, big guy, wherever you are.

I Try My Best

There’s a great line from Robert Altman’s (perhaps my personal favorite?) The Player from Greta Scacchi’s character: “I like words and letters, but I’m not crazy about complete sentences.” This is how I feel about writing. (Although it even applies to my reading habits. I haven’t read enough books considering the outrageous amount of free time I have). I like to have written, but I don’t like to write. I know there’s something in my brain that can produce coherent blogs on a weekly basis, yet I find myself going through this game every time. At some point, writing about how you have nothing smart to write about runs its course. It may have already done so last time.

Fine, I’ll talk about The Batman.

I enjoyed it. For all the talk about it being dark and gloomy, this was very satisfying in the theater. I figured every Batman iteration from here on what would be actively attempting to replicate the Nolan trilogy, both with its tone and scope, but I think Matt Reeves actually crafted his own unique vision of the character and Gotham City. I was ready to be somewhat dismissive of the film and its baggage: self-seriousness, false claims of originality, and a fanbase championing it into the prestige. I’d argue even the positive takeaways from the movie are more modest. Either way, all the performances rocked.

This was the most packed a movie theater has been since the pandemic…. and it was probably a quarter full. Granted, the theater was not exactly in a highly populous area. However, we almost had a major crisis on my hand when, after a seating mishap from an individual and a party of four or five, I ended up having to sit next to someone. The first ten minutes of the movie was also my personal countdown of when it would be appropriate to leave the row and change seats. I never book a seat in the back, because that’s always the most crowded area, but I thought every screening of Batman would be getting sold out. Those recliners seats are a lot closer to each other than they seem. Half of the problem is my own, I think self-manipulated, claustrophobia, and the other is the stupidity of us humans that we squish ourselves in the back when the whole third row was empty.

By the way, if you didn’t know, going to the theaters alone is a utopia. Speaking of theaters…

I really wish I could’ve caught Red Rocket in the theaters. It went away in a big damn hurry. That sucks because it is PHENOMENAL. And I always misspell “phenomenal”, so that’s how serious I am about it. The best film and best performance of 2021 by Simon Rex. The less said the better for your own enjoyment, but it placed Sean Baker on my list of filmmakers who I will automatically look forward to seeing again.

A Very Special “Empty Theater” Blog

Yes that’s right, you don’t have to hear me aimlessly ramble about a 25 year old movie at the end of the blog. At least for this week anyway. Life is too short to follow these phantom rules I made for myself when I was depressed and clinging on to this website as a possible career endeavor. Internships? Who needs em’! Let me shoot the shit with you guys about a Mike Nichols movie!

For as much as I enjoy watching movies, I struggle to articulate my thoughts and analysis of them for the life of me. The experience is very cerebral for me. There’s an innate quality to the movies that I like and don’t like that can’t be summarized on text. Perfect for an aspiring writer. If I even had half of my own ability in disliking my college classmates put into writing something witty about what I watched on Wednesday night, I’d be golden. I had to put a lot of thought in writing that awkwardly botched description because idiots are outside yelling and bothering me.

As I came back to writing this a few days later, geopolitical affairs are going on or something like that. I try my best not to care, simply because life is too short. But per usual, my body never lets me relax, and part of me is legitimately anxious about war and escalating gas prices. But as I wrote about in my introduction to this blog, all out nuclear war would be a perfect excuse for me not succeeding in the life. Yes, I can say with a straight face that I’d rather be in the throes of a global apocalypse than apply for a job. This says nothing about the state of the economy for undergraduates relative to the weakness of myself. My issues are my own nuclear disaster. It’s good that I have a thoughtful and intelligent therapist. Oh, wait, he just left me to pursue a new job. I told him it was better for his own mental health not to hear my woes.

The fact that I worry about politics and current events is a sign that in the moment, nothing else is bothering. At this precise point in time, no one is blasting music, slamming the door, yelling in the hallways. That will change soon, and then I’ll forget Ukraine even exists.

February 7-14

With all the discourse that arises out of Oscar nominations, I can’t accept the idea that the award show is completely irrelevant. Look at me, I have other, more vital tasks that I should be occupied with, but I find myself needing to respond to the guy who directed Mallrats.

The tragic downfall of a filmmaker, and just a man for all that matter, is being an avatar of indie filmmaking to a spokesman for Marvel as an underappreciated work of art. Kevin Smith gave his two cents on the Academy Awards, along with Jimmy Kimmel. So really, the top class of the insufferable. Their arguments essentially boiled down to, “Spider-Man was the most popular movie in 2021, so acknowledge it, you out-of-touch assholes!” The entitlement from the Marvel camp is truly astonishing. You guys have EVERYTHING. You won, you have as close to a cultural homogeny as you can get. You own the box office, and the livelihood of the theater industry at this point. As Tom Hagen asked, do you need to wipe everything out? I think most reason-minded Marvel fans are not clamoring for a Best Picture nomination, because it would come off as disingenuous. Checking off nominations solely based on popularity is a sure way to bastardized the award.

From the financial/ratings perspective, there’s no way the Academy will see a significant jump in ratings because Spider-Man got a Best Picture nomination. A. No one thinks it will win. B. They can just watch the isolated clip on YouTube of Kevin Feige accepting the award on stage. The days of the Oscars being the highest rated non-NFL broadcast of the year are over. So at this point, they ought to lean into more obscure/arthouse movies. And yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, West Side Story and Licorice Pizza are obscure, word-of-mouth films, because that’s the business now.

The wide variety of movies nominated shows how communist the Marvel crowd really is. We have a western, musical, coming of age dramedy. sci-fi epic, neo-noir fantasy, foreign film, satire, sports movie, family drama, and a period piece all on the board. I certainly don’t love all the movies that I’ve seen from the list, but I think this is pretty much the best they could do. We’re over ten years late on this, but this feels like the best use of the Best Picture expansion in 2009, which everyone thought would be for The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers. And it’s no big deal, but Dune made over $100 million domestically.

Of course, there are pockets of the Internet and general life that always bangs the drum of, “the Oscars are so woke, they’ll obviously give Best Picture to a foreign film!” This card was played commonly after the Parasite victory two years ago. From their purview, in the last three years, that is true. Since the Academy expanded its membership, more younger voters, women, and people of color were added. The way people have always thought of the Oscars will probably be true from now on. Can we dispense the notion that the Academy was this leftist propaganda machine (in the way we think about the far-left: Northeast universities and people who write “he/him/his” in their email footer) throughout history? Just about every BP winner until Parasite (Moonlight being the ultimate outlier) appeals to a middle-aged white centrist/neoliberal, which is about as obvious as the sky being blue because that’s who the voters were. Nothing says leftist art like Braveheart, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Million Dollar Baby, and Green Book.

Anyways, here’s what I watched this week:

Major League (1989, David S. Ward) – I love myself a good baseball movie, especially a comedy, but when was this beloved movie supposed to get funny? I know when I’m not in the mood to laugh, but that wasn’t one of the nights. This bounced off me like a breath of air. His dad is great, but Charlie Sheen is not a good actor, and I can’t be convinced otherwise.

Closer (2004, Mike Nichols) – To work with often ham-fisted dialogue and to make it captivating is all you need to know about Mike Nichols as a director. Not his best or even a great picture for that matter, but this much talk about sex from good-looking people is a layup.

Fail Safe (1964, Sidney Lumet) – I’ve never heard anyone claim to be a Lumet-head. Everyone reveres Dog Day Afternoon and Network, but there’s never any career retrospectives written about him or profiles from film Twitter or Instagram. Even though this isn’t the best movie about accidentally launching nuclear missiles from 1964, it is great, with the pressure heightened at all times between the end of the world and interactions between the President and his Russian interpreter.

Nightmare Alley (2021, Guillermo del Toro) – Trust me, I want this aforementioned Best Picture nominee to be great. Praising films that have gotten buried because of the Marvel shadow is like 40% of my existence, but this simply didn’t resonate with me. It does look great, though.

Kimi (2022, Steven Soderbergh) – My first 2022 release gave me exactly what I wanted: lean and thrilling. Soderbergh’s work output in the last few years is astonishing. He’s probably inspired a lot of young people to slap a indie film together shot on an iPhone.

January 31-February 6

You know what I reminisce about? Early pandemic life. You know, the time when corpses in New York were being hauled out of hospitals in freezer trucks… Reason #127 why I’m going to hell.

Of course I’m speaking selfishly inside my own world, which is so closed off from reality, it’s claustrophobic. Don’t tell me that, assuming everyone in your life was healthy, the early stages of the pandemic, from mid-March to the end of April 2020, wasn’t a neat little novelty.

Immediately writing this last block of text, I looked up this phenomenon and it turns out, early pandemic nostalgia is a thing, and I share it with zoomers (unfortunately, my own age) who live on TikTok. Okay, now I definitely should be going to hell right now. Who am I kidding, I’m no different than the likes of Jackson Mahomes. Might as well start dancing!

Leading up to this retroactive golden age was stressful as hell, as it seemingly was for the rest of the world. In fact, ‘let’s break down the stages of the pandemic experience around this time (or at least mine. Again, excuse the claustrophobia).

January 2020: Coronavirus? I guess it’s the new Ebola or Swine Flu, if it’s lucky.

February: This isn’t actually becoming a thing, right? No way… It really did seem exclusively an eastern thing. China is ravaged by it because they’re commies and we’re Americans!

March: By the time we got to 9th, real panic was setting in. The virus gradually climbed up the media ladder to dominate headlines. My stress level was perhaps at an all-time high, fearing that one day interstate travel would be prohibited and I’d be stuck with my peers at school who were getting under my skin. March 11th happened (the day of the pandemic that will live in infamy) and I could feel the world stop its spinning. Stock market crashed, NBA suspended its season, and Trump shut down travel from Europe. Once I arrived back home for spring break (and inevitably the rest of the semester), I immediately became at peace with myself. I’m almost always a lazy bastard who lives easy but with guilt. Once you remove the guilt from not doing anything, as we weren’t supposed to be doing anything under then-seemingly benevolent government orders, you couldn’t make a dope like me happier.

Why do my emotions revolt at the idea of COVID-mania at the level of early 2020 coming back? It really was the best thing to happen to me, as sad as that sounds. I was able to cut out the search for future job endeavors in exchange for sitting around watching movies and scrolling through take-out menus. Again, I still do this all the time, but I miss being guilt-free. In general, everything felt so innocent from a 2022 perspective. Wash your hands, stay apart, masks were reserved for medical workers, and two weeks to slow the spread.

March 2020 was also a heavy film viewing period. During the first week of quarantine, the initial spring break period, I watched something new every day; consisting of Dressed to Kill, JFK, King of New York, End of Watch, Under the Skin, In the Heat of the Night, The French Connection, The Farewell, and Manhattan. Perfectly random for my liking. Not much as changed in February 2022:

Ordinary People (1980, Robert Redford) – It’s tough to be a Best Picture winner spoiling the prize for a better, all-time classic. This isn’t Raging Bull, but it’s pretty damn good. While I don’t relate to being an abusive and sexually insecure (well…) Jake LaMotta, Redford’s film hit home for me in many ways. It can be pretty cliche and Hollywood-sappy at times, but sometimes you got to accept it’s a movie and relish in the emotions.

Defending Your Life (1991, Albert Brooks) – Between watching this and Lost in America in a two month span, I’m just coming around to the realization that Albert Brooks is a genius. I wasn’t expecting a comic like him to get me thinking about and rationalizing my own past life choices. Maybe it’s also because I’m about to enter wilderness of life in so many months and I’m always thinking about something embarrassing I did twelve years ago.

Last Action Hero (1993, John McTiernan) – Check out McTiernan’s filmography. Casual viewers might not even know the name, but they’ve certainly rewatched his movies plenty of times. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career is one of the most fascinating in history and is completely deserved in starring in a movie both satirically and reverently commenting on his persona.

One Hour Photo (2000, Mark Romanek) – This movie has glaring flaws: revealing the ending at the beginning, one dimensional supporting characters, and a narrative flow that is a little too clean and convenient for a portrait of a sociopath. However, this is thoroughly entertaining, and couldn’t help but be gripped despite how predictable the story progressed. Robin Williams is fantastic, and only spotlights how many poor choices he made throughout his film career. We say this about everyone who passes too soon, but he truly was an all-around talent.

January 24-30

Outside of my domicile up here at school, a few people are playing in the snow. They are cheering with their friends because some people enjoy this precipitation, I guess. My instinct when I hear benevolent emotions? Internally yell, “SHUT UP!”

I just started my last semester of college and boy do I feel a cold wind chill when I say that. When I am forced to reluctantly talk about school with others, they respond with “wow, that’s exciting!” when I tell them this is the last dance. Oh is it? I guess terror is a form of excitement. However, any form of excitement will be a first-time entry into my college career. I’ve spent these last four years spending nights alone eating roast beef baskets and watching neo-noirs. My collegiate journey is a chicken or the egg conundrum: am I like this because I chose to isolate myself or am I isolating myself because I’m like this? I wasn’t made for college, but I don’t get down about it because I just assume I would’ve knocked down a construction sight or flooded an entire apartment complex if I went into a trade.

This week’s positive self-talk is sponsored by this week’s watches:

Gerry (2002, Gus Van Sant) – Sometimes a hard narrative and style choice misses wide right. Van Sant is often criticized for his vapid showy filmmaking (I happen to like Elephant but that’s where you can easily point to this) and here, it doesn’t take long to realize what kind of movie this is going to be. I wanted to enjoy spending time with Matt Damon and Casey Affleck alone in the desert. This was one of those movies that made me wish I was satisfying my slowly declining attention span by clicking through my YouTube recommendation feed.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974, Brain de Palma) – This really flies by the edge of its seat. One part farcical comedy, another part tragic rock opera. In the famous photo of the Big 5 New Hollywood filmmakers, De Palma is the odd man out, never reaching the critical and commercial success of Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, or Lucas. However, if you were to ask each of them who was the most gifted filmmaker of the bunch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they all said De Palma. He’s the only one who never really altered his DNA into the 21st century. Here’s what I propose: is De Palma the best American director to never be nominated for Best Director?

Deep Cover (1992, Bill Duke) – I was pleasantly surprised to discover a year ago that the guy I liked from Commando and Predator had a vast directorial filmography. It was nice to watch the last credit for Larry Fishburne and a non-annoying presence from Jeff Goldblum. Felt a little flat but a solid watch while stuck inside in a blizzard.

January 17-23

This is as obvious as a sledgehammer to the face, but movies simply aren’t as good anymore. There’s so many reasons why that is the case, and this Twitter thread breaks it down quite nicely. That graph signaling the rapid expansion of sequels and IP is dystopian if you care about mid-budget cinema. As the studios became fatter in money, anything that isn’t Star Wars or in the realm of The Avengers is seen as a financial risk. The likes of David Chase and Vince Gilligan, who are clearly inspired by film, migrate to TV to tell their stories, and that’s why everyone in my life only talks about TV rather than movies.

As someone who never has any priorities to manage, I can speak on the matter of how to spend your free time. During peak quarantine activities, people were watching, let’s say, five T.V shows consecutively. For me, I see that window of time and see 60 movies that I can bang out. It’s stitched into people’s brains now to stick with TV instead. I remember people were disgusted that Martin Scorsese would have the NERVE to film a three and a half-hour epic when all I ever hear is “yeah, it gets good around season 5 so just be patient!” about some show on IMDb TV. Unless there’s a Marvel or DC logo before the credits, forget it, movies are an old man’s game. I think it’s bad when the 16th reboot of Batman that’s coming out in March is treated like the highest form of art. People say to me “oh, you hate Marvel. This is the anti-Marvel!” No, no. We can do better than this.

Anyway, I digress. My top 5 of 2021 (as it usually goes, I still haven’t seen everything) goes as:

5. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson) – I was ready to give this 6/5 stars when the trailer dropped in September. The lofty expectations hurt this for me in the long run. In a vacuum, this is a solid movie, no doubt about it, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Punch-Drunk Love, Phantom Thread, or the best of PTA’s ability. This movie represents the side of PTA as a person that I have no use for: the one who praises Marvel and acts like Spider-Man is good for the business for the Twitter applause, signaling “I’m not an old pretentious dickhead like Scorsese or Ridley Scott.” Please, be pretentious about it. You’re better than Kevin Feige. I didn’t really need to see a hangout movie from PTA either. Having said that, I can see myself fully loving this six months from now.

4. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion) – Coin-flip between this and Licorice Pizza, but I was slightly more interested in the direction of Campion more than Anderson. This is not for everyone, which is fine, but nothing pisses me off more when people who clearly wouldn’t connect with a slow-burn western about perverse male bonding review the movie saying “what the fuck was that bullshit!” Opinions are fine (I guess), everyone’s gonna have them, but sometimes, as I’ve learned, maybe the problem is you. This isn’t perfect by any means, but I have to think there’s a universal acknowledgement of its craft.

3. The Last Duel (Ridley Scott) – Why on God’s green earth wasn’t this marketed with the angle of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck reuniting? Fucking Disney… It’s as if they want to sabotage 21st Century Fox…. This was certainly worth a re-watch on HBO Max. I initially saw this in theaters solely as charity, irrationally thinking my $11 ticket will help cover the $100 million it lost. I didn’t REALLY want to see it. Ridley Scott and medieval period pieces are not draws for me. My mind really wasn’t in it when I watched it with two other people. Turns out, movies are better when you are committed to watching them.

2. The Card Counter (Paul Schrader) – There weren’t many surprises (maybe except for the U.S military torture program, conveniently left out of the marketing), but this hit all the spots I was looking for. If cinema is ever going to be redundant, it should be from Paul Schrader’s Lonely Man protagonist. It never fails. Has Oscar Isaac perfected downer energy between this and Inside Llewyn Davis?

1. West Side Story (Steven Spielberg) – The fact that this isn’t the easiest $100 million box office earner is tragic. This was an emphatic reminder that movies can still be great. The musical numbers and emotional weight and scale are why you go see movies in theaters. If you read anything about how Spielberg topped the 1961 Best Picture winner (building miniatures, recording the numbers live, emphasis on placing the camera inside the famous numbers), you should be slapping yourself for giving a damn about Marvel. But I shouldn’t be so callous, because getting to see this on the big screen was such a joyous experience.

Before I bore you with how evil Disney is, let me play this blog out with the only two things I watched this week:

Marathon Man (1976, John Schlesinger) – Not bad, but underwhelming from what I expect from 70s paranoia thrillers. Maybe it’s just me, but Dustin Hoffman seems incredibly miscast in this movie. He’s bringing his nervy method acting to a role that needs more of an everyman (i.e. his co-star Roy Scheider who drives the first half). This famous quote from Laurence Olivier to Hoffman was ringing through my head the whole time watching this: “’My dear boy,’ replied Olivier, ‘why don’t you try acting?’”

Popeye (1980, Robert Altman) – Everything you heard is true. The guy who directed M*A*S*H and Nashville turned a cartoon into New Hollywood. I get why this flopped, but it doesn’t make it right. No matter if you like it, Altman makes movies that are unlike anything you see anywhere else.