Wednesday, February 26, 2020



Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Written by Laeta Kalogridis and James Cameron (based on the comic, like, all of the comic, Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kushiro)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, February 20, 2020


(Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara)

2019 Japan/2020 USA
Directed by Masaaki Yuasa
Written by Reiko Yoshida

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, February 17, 2020

Tears of a clown


Directed by Kathy Yan
Written by Christina Hodson

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Reviews from gulag: And 2019's still stinking up the place, part 3

In this installment: I Lost My Body, Atlantics, and Penguin Highway.

I Lost My Body, always the most purely-theoretical of this year's five contenders for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, is indeed one of those cartoons—foreign, weird, comparatively modest—for which just being nominated really was an honor, the extra eyeballs drawn to it by an Academy Award nomination always the best-case scenario for its existence.  I won't say it don't deserve them eyeballs, either.  It's a fun and thrilling, even moving piece of work, driven by a nonsensical but novel premise that could probably only fully work in flat animation in the first place (Body is partly-rotoscoped, and highly CGI-boosted, albeit mostly only in terms of backgrounds).  Arguably, that premise justifies the whole exercise, and it's certainly bizarre enough to get you to stop and at least think about watching it: I Lost My Body's title is to be taken literally, for it is about a body's part, specifically a right hand, that has been violently separated from its owner, and which has come magically back to life, absconding from the medical fridge it's being kept in so as to undertake an arduous journey across a tough urban landscape to reunite with the body it has, as noted, lost.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The 2010s: Well, goodbye! Have fun on the other side of this door

Okay, yes: I'm not really done with the 2010s yet.  But, you know, I basically am, and am very ready to dispense with a little (actually, characteristically overlong) top ten for that departed decade.  Now, I should still have such a list for 2019, too.  And that's fair enough, considering there aren't any making it onto the list below.  Anyway, while it might seem strange—though I think you'll agree it makes sense—I'm a lot more comfortable with my top ten of the 2010s than I am just my top ten of this past year.  They've been a fairly stable bunch, particularly the top five.  I could have made the same list four weeks ago when it was perfectly of the moment.  I think I stuck it out in the hopes that something would muscle its way to the top of the heap; and, in defense of 2019, it made its most valiant efforts in its final weeks.  Perhaps the year's single strongest gesture only arrived on American shores shortly after it died.  But even if there were some close calls, there was nothing that truly changed my mind, and the odds against any of the films still remaining on my 2019 pile turning out to actually be mind-blowing masterpieces are so low I think it's pretty safe to disregard 'em.

So I should note the honorable mentions (which do include a couple of 2019 films).  They're basically an unsorted nos. 11-30, and some of them could have been higher, and in some cases it would be better for my credibility if they had been.  (Then again, in some cases, it would be even worse.)  In any event, they are truly wonderful films, and I celebrate them each and every one.  It's possible you may be able to guess from this when over the past six years I think my reviews rose to the level of "not terrible."  (If not, well, it was in 2015.)

From 2010: Rupert Wyatt's The Rise of the Planet of the Apes
2011: Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life; Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
2012: Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained; Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom; Sam Fell & Chris Butler's ParaNorman; Scott Derrickson's Sinister
2013: Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby; Spike Jonze's Her; Michael Bay's Pain & Gain
2014: Eugenio Mira's (and Damien Chazelle's) Grand Piano; Chris Lord & Phil Miller's The LEGO Movie
2015: George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road (oh, I know, I know)
2016: Martin Scorsese's Silence
2017: Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049
2018: Steven Caple Jr.'s Creed II; Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman's Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
2019: Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life; Makoto Shinkai's Weathering With You

Now here's where I say something that should never have to spoken aloud.  As always, "the best" only means "my personal favorite."  What the hell else could it mean?  There is no such thing as objectivity in the evaluation of art: any argument that "best" and "favorite" are distinct categories is supremely arrogant, and any expression of the notion in practical terms is almost by necessity dishonest.  If being honest means I also have to look a little stupid, that's certainly nothing new.  If it also means that my top ten list, or anybody's top ten list, is only mental masturbation—well, of course it would be.  And while everybody likes to masturbate, and some people like to watch, that doesn't mean anybody involved should pretend it's dignified.  So let's begin.