Thank You Garr y Marshall for bringing me to LA

It was the summer of 1999. My most anticipated movie was not “Tarzan.” It wasn’t “The Mummy.” It certainly wasn’t “Star Wars Episode 1: A Phantom Menace.” It somewhat was “Pokemon: The First Movie.” No wait, it legitimately was “Runaway Bride.”

runawaybride_2Yes, the poorly reviewed Julia Roberts-Richard Gere romcom was the most anticipated movie of the year by a mile for a seven year old boy. This was not a joke.

Some backstory: I grew up in a redneck town with one theater in my town. That theater, the Valley Cinema, was a former two theater cinema next to the grocery story that thought it would be smart to put a tarp in the middle of one of the screens to make a third screen. Soundproofing be damned. My Dad had seen three movies in his life at age 40 — “The Sound of Music,” “Duel” and “The Love Bug.” I watched three movies a day. I loved them. Couldn’t get enough. My Mom was my movie education, for better or worse.

Pretty_woman_movieIn the 90s (and today), my Mom’s favorite movie of all time was “Pretty Woman.” She knew I was interested in movies and made the bad (good) parental decision to let a six year old watch an R-rated movie. That movie was “Pretty Woman.” It confirmed that I wanted to move to LA, make movies, live a glamorous life and make people as happy as Vivien made Edward (no, not the other way around). Also, I fell deeply in love with Julia Roberts. I would talk about her to my friends at T-ball practice (they all made fun of me). I would talk about her constantly. Her red hair, her laugh, her smile. She was everything that told me that being an adult was the best.

When I saw Runaway Bride, I had my new favorite movie, but I had a question.

Who was the bad guy? – Christopher James, age 7 (1999)

My Mom didn’t know what to answer. As a Disney lover kid, each movie had a bad guy. Even Pretty Woman had Jason Alexander and the guy whose skateboard turned into a knife and I would close my eyes and have nightmares (in a movie about a prostitute, that was what scarred me). She answered:

No one. – Susan James, age 39 (looks 29)

How can that be? Every movie has to have a bad guy.

Two years later (and two years wiser), I eagerly bought tickets to “The Princess Diaries.” I was charmed and delighted, but I had the same question.

The fact of the matter is, Garry Marshall did not see people as good or bad. He saw us all as flawed people. His movies weren’t always good. I’m watching “Runaway Bride” right now and it ain’t Oscar material, but I still love it. But he had this joy in presenting people as not baldly one way or another. In fact, he took joy in showing people at the most joyous points in their life… falling in love.

I want to take tonight, after binging both “Pretty Woman” and “Runaway Bride,” to thank Garry Marshall. I want to thank him for making me an elementary school outcast. I want to thank him for getting my hopes up that I might win over Julia Roberts, a full 24 years my senior.  I want to thank him for teaching me people aren’t good or bad, they’re just people. Most of all, I want to thank Garry Marshall for happiness. He brought me LA. He brought me Julia Roberts. He showed love. He showed joy. He showed happiness. As a Julia Roberts loving Hollywood bound kid stuck on a farm, he showed me that life was made to be loved. For 81 years he loved life. I thank God that he left pieces of his love for us to cherish forever. As long as Julia Roberts saves Richard Gere back, there will always be a part of Garry Marshall’s love in the world.

Real Time Gif Worthy Emmy Reactions – 2016

The Emmy Nominations are here! The Emmy nominations are here! Seeing as I have a job that I need to get back to, but still want to scream from the hilltops. Here are my reactions (many times in gif format) to the nominations.

  • Best Drama Series
    • The Americans
    • Better Call Saul
    • Downton Abbey
    • Game of Thrones
    • Homeland
    • House of Cards
    • Mr. Robot

Most Happy For: “Mr. Robot” for being a risky show that has a shot at gold and “The Americans” for being a quality show that finally broke through.

Snooze: “Downton Abbey.” At least it’s done.

Snubbed: I knew “The Affair” and “Unreal” wouldn’t get love here, but it still stung.

  • Best Comedy Series
    • Blackish
    • Master of None
    • Modern Family
    • Silicon Valley
    • Transparent
    • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
    • Veep

Most Happy For: “Blackish” and “Master of None” both were the best comedies on TV and deserved their spots here.


Snooze: Why, “Modern Family,” why? Even “Silicon Valley” had a down season.

Snubbed: When will they catch onto the likes of “Casual,” “Broad City,” “Younger” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”? Sigh.

  • Best Limited Series
    • American Crime
    • Fargo
    • The Night Manager
    • The People vs. OJ Simpson
    • Roots

All love for American Crime and People vs. OJ Simpson!

  • Best Made for TV Movie
    • A Very Murray Christmas
    • All the Way
    • Confirmation
    • Luther
    • Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
  • Best Actor in a Drama
    • Kyle Chandler – “Bloodline”
    • Rami Malek – “Mr. Robot”
    • Bob Odenkirk – “Better Call Saul”
    • Matthew Rhys – “The Americans”
    • Live Schreiber – “Ray Donovan”
    • Kevin Spacey – “House of Cards”

Most Happy For: Rami Malek for the new series love and Matthew Rhys for finally breaking through.

All together solid, but not mindblowing category.

  • Best Actress in a Drama
    • Claire Danes – “Homeland”
    • Viola Davis – “How to Get Away with Murder”
    • Taraji P Henson – “Empire”
    • Tatiana Maslany – “Orphan Black”
    • Keri Russell – “The Americans”
    • Robin Wright – “House of Cards”

Most Happy For: I’ve loved Keri Russell forever and am always happy when good things happen to her.

Snubbed: Leave, Claire Danes, and make room for queen Shiri Appleby. She is literally… “Unreal” (pun over).


  • Best Supporting Actor in a Drama
    • Jonathan Banks – “Better Call Saul”
    • Ben Mendelsohn – “Bloodline”
    • Peter Dinklage – “Game of Thrones”
    • Kit Harrington – “Game of Thrones”
    • Michael Kelly – “House of Cards”
    • Jon Voight – “Ray Donovan”

Most Happy For: Kit Harrington got great things to do this season and happy he was rewarded for it…

Snooze: …If only they had realized Peter Dinklage had no material this season. Lazy voting.

  • Best Supporting Actress in a Drama
    • Maggie Smith – “Downton Abbey”
    • Lena Headey – “Game of Thrones”
    • Emilia Clarke – “Game of Thrones”
    • Maisie Williams – “Game of Thrones”
    • Maura Tierney – “The Affair”
    • Constance Zimmer – “Unreal”




  • Best Guest Actor in a Drama
    • Max von Sydow – “Game of Thrones”
    • Reg E. Cathey – “House of Cards”
    • Mahershala Ali – “House of Cards”
    • Paul Sparks – “House of Cards”
    • Hank Azaria – “Ray Donovan”
    • Michael J Fox – “The Good Wife”
  • Best Guest Actress in a Drama
    • Laurie Metcalf – “Horace & Pete”
    • Molly Parker – “House of Cards”
    • Ellen Burstyn – “House of Cards”
    • Allison Janney – “Masters of Sex”
    • Margo Martindale – “The Americans”
    • Carrie Preston – “The Good Wife”

While “House of Cards” was not great this season, I’m happy all of the amazing guest cast is heralded, as they did ace work this season, and in seasons past. Very worthy.

  • Best Directing in a Drama
    • Downton Abbey – “Episode 9”
    • Game of Thrones – “The Door”
    • Game of Thrones – “Battle of the Bastards”
    • Homeland – “The Tradition of Hospitality”
    • Ray Donovan – “Exsuscito”
    • The Knick – “This Is All We Are”

Pretty solid list, with Battle of the Bastards easily taking the cake.

  • Best Writing in a Drama
    • Downton Abbey – “Episode 8”
    • Game of Thrones – “Battle of the Bastards”
    • Mr Robot – “ (Pilot)”
    • The Americans – “Persona Non Grata”
    • The Good Wife – “End”
    • Unreal – “Return”

Most Happy For: Unreal and Mr. Robot, duh!!! Great work including them.


Snooze: Downton Abbey. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Best Actor in a Comedy
    • Anthony Anderson – “Black-ish”
    • Aziz Ansari – “Master of None”
    • Will Forte – “Last Man on Earth”
    • William H Macy – “Shameless”
    • Thomas Middleditch – “Silicon Valley”
    • Jeffrey Tambor – “Transparent”

Most Happy For: Aziz Ansari for his brilliant work in Master of None.


Snooze: Thomas Middleditch has been win worthy in the past, but this season was a bit of a slog.

  • Best Actress in a Comedy
    • Ellie Kemper – “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
    • Julia Louis Dreyfus – “Veep”
    • Laurie Metcalf – “Getting On”
    • Tracee Ellis Ross – “Black-ish”
    • Amy Schumer – “Inside Amy Schumer”
    • Lily Tomlin – “Grace & Frankie”

Most Happy For: Ellie Kemper finally makes it in! Tracee Ellis Ross gets in!!! Laurie Metcalfe has three nominations today and is brilliant in Getting On!!!!! Way too look outside the box.


Snooze: Lily Tomlin? Really? Even Amy Schumer wasn’t as on her game this year.

Snubbed: Chief among many snubs, Constance Wu is consistently brilliant in Fresh Off the Boat.

Also, the winner of this category should be Rachel Bloom for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but now she is not even nominated.

  • Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy
    • Louie Anderson – “Baskets”
    • Andre Braugher – “Brooklyn Nine Nine”
    • Keegan Michael Key – “Key & Peele”
    • Ty Burrell – “Modern Family”
    • Titus Burgess – “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
    • Tony Hale – “Veep”
    • Matt Walsh – “Veep”

Most Happy For: Matt Walsh for breaking in. Veep has such a deep, funny supporting cast. Also, Titus Burgess forever!


Snooze: Ty Burrell… again? Can we be over this Modern Family deal?

  • Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy
    • Niecy Nash – “Getting On”
    • Allison Janney – “Mom”
    • Kate McKinnon – “Saturday Night Live”
    • Judith Light – “Transparent”
    • Gaby Hoffman – “Transparent”
    • Anna Chlumsky – “Veep”

Most Happy For: I smile every time someone mentions Niecy Nash.


Snubbed: Everyone I love…

Amanda Peet – Togetherness


Donna Lynn Champlin – Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Hilary Duff – Younger

Jennifer Lewis – Black-ish

  • Best Guest Actor in a Comedy
    • Tracy Morgan – “Saturday Night Live”
    • Larry David – “Saturday Night Live”
    • Bob Newhart – “Big Bang Theory”
    • Bradley Whitford – “Transparent”
    • Martin Mull – “Veep”
    • Peter MacNicol – “Veep”
  • Best Guest Actress in a Comedy
    • Tina Fey & Amy Poehler – “Saturday Night Live”
    • Melissa McCarthy – “Saturday Night Live”
    • Amy Schumer – “Saturday Night Live”
    • Christine Baranski – “The Big Bang Theory”
    • Laurie Metcalf – “The Big Bang Theory”
    • Melora Hardin – “Transparent”

Interesting how this whole category was swept by only four shows? Wish they would’ve broadened the bench more.

  • Best Directing in a Comedy
    • Master of None – “Parents”
    • Silicon Valley – “Daily Active Users”
    • Silicon Valley – “Founder Friendly”
    • Transparent – “Man on the Land”
    • Veep – “Morning After”
    • Veep – “Kissing Your Sister”
    • Veep – “Mother”

Veep had some strong moments, but three nominations? Wow.

Silicon Valley didn’t need two for a subpar season.

Immensely happy about the nod for Master of None.


  • Best Writing in a Comedy
    • Catastrophe – “Episode 1”
    • Master of None – “Parents”
    • Silicon Valley – “Daily Active Users”
    • Silicon Valley – “The Uptick”
    • Veep – “Morning After”
    • Veep – “Mother”

Just started watching Catastrophe the other night and it is hilarious. Great out of the box nomination.

  • Best Actor in a Limited Series
    • Bryan Cranston – “All The Way”
    • Benedict Cumberbatch – “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride”
    • Idris Elba – “Luther”
    • Cuba Gooding Jr. – “The People vs. OJ Simpson”
    • Tom Hiddleston – “The Night Manager”
    • Courtney B. Vance – “The People vs. OJ Simpson”

I’m just going to keep saying hooray for OJ in gif format.


  • Best Actress in a Limited Series
    • Kirsten Dunst – “Fargo”
    • Felicity Huffman – “American Crime”
    • Audra McDonald – “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”
    • Sarah Paulson – “The People vs. OJ Simpson”
    • Lili Taylor – “American Crime”
    • Kerry Washington – “Confirmation”

Brace yourself… for Marcia Clarke gifs




Now Felicity Huffman ones.

I rest my case. Thank you Emmys!

  • Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series
    • Jesse Plemons – “Fargo”
    • Bokeem Woodbine – “Fargo”
    • Hugh Laurie – “The Night Manager”
    • Sterling K. Brown – “The People vs. OJ Simpson”
    • David Schwimmer – “The People vs. OJ Simpson”
    • John Travolta – “The People vs. OJ Simpson”

Travolta and Schwimmer over Joey Pollari and Conner Jessup for American Crime? That’s a real crime.

  • Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series
    • Melissa Leo – “All the Way”
    • Regina King – “American Crime”
    • Sarah Paulson – “American Horror Story: Hotel”
    • Kathy Bates – “American Horror Story: Hotel”
    • Jean Smart – “Fargo”
    • Olivia Colman – “The Night Manager”

Really strong list. Love more Paulson love.

  • Best Directing in a Limited Series
    • All the Way
    • Fargo – “Before the Law”
    • The Night Manager
    • The People vs. OJ Simpson – “From The Ashes of Tragedy”
    • The People vs. OJ Simpson – “The Race Card”
    • The People vs. OJ Simpson – “Manna From Heaven”
  • Best Writing in a Limited Series
    • Fargo – “Palindrome”
    • Fargo – “Loplop”
    • The Night Manager
    • The People vs. OJ Simpson – “Marcia Marcia Marcia”
    • The People vs. OJ Simpson – “From The Ashes of Tragedy”
    • The People vs. OJ Simpson – “The Race Card”

That’s the nominations! Enjoy the show on September 18th.


Mid Year Check In goes to the Animals

Where has the time gone? It’s already July 1st, which means (after a long absence) we’ve got to check in on the movies that have come out so far. Since my love will always be Oscars, we will do it category style:

Best Picture

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. “Zootopia”
  2. “Everybody Wants Some!!”
  3. “Hello My Name is Doris”
  4. “The Witch”
  5. “Hail Caesar!”

It’s been quite the year for exclamation points. In all honesty, “Zootopia” is an easy number one at this point. It’s ambitious storytelling paired with the dynamic world it paints resulted in a truly original work that feels bigger than any other work this year. It’s got an epic scope without losing scope of being a kids movie. From there “Everybody Wants Some!!,” “Hello My Name is Doris” and “The Witch” all operated as wonderfully effective genre pieces and have individual elements that deserved to be singled out come year’s end. “Hail Caesar!” didn’t quite live up to lofty expectations, but it is a joyously fun ode to the good ole days of filmmaking.

Best Director

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Robert Eggers – “The Witch”
  2. Richard Linklater – “Everybody Wants Some!!”
  3. Yorgos Lanthimos – “The Lobster”
  4. Joel and Ethan Coen – “Hail Caesar!”
  5. Michael Showalter – “Hello My Name is Doris”

The main change here is I really want to single out Eggers for achieving a distinct, specific vision with his film. It’s the one film so far this year that made me want to see more of that filmmaker. While I really liked “The Lobster” rather than loved it (the second half in the forest didn’t work as well as the hotel), Lanthimos proved his strength as a filmmaker. He was able to cultivate a unique and salty tone that works, despite being far from what most people respond to. It’s a strong work of filmmaking.

Best Actor

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Colin Farrell – “The Lobster”
  2. John Goodman – “10 Cloverfield Lane”
  3. Taron Egerton – “Eddie the Eagle”
  4. Matthias Schoenaerts – “A Bigger Splash”
  5. Josh Brolin – “Hail Caesar!”

The above is quite an eclectic mix. Farrell brings so many interesting layers to the character and proves to be an expert tonal match for the material. Speaking of character, character actor John Goodman finally got his time in the spotlight and slayed it basically playing the male version of Annie Wilkes from “Misery.” Nothing matches the boundless energy and enthusiasm Egerton brings to the role of Eddie the Eagle. He makes the formula film work so well and proves he is one of the top talent to watch. Schoenarerts, meanwhile, is the straight man that let’s the rest of the fine ensemble build until he strikes in the final act. A glorious, talented actor gets another role to showcase his gifts. Brolin, another always dependable actor, fantastically anchors a quirky Coen comedy stacked with comedic relief. It’s a great example of how to anchor a film.

Best Actress

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Sally Field – “Hello My Name is Doris”
  2. Anya Taylor-Joy – “The Witch”
  3. Susan Sarandon – “The Meddler”
  4. Dakota Johnson – “How to Be Single”
  5. Mary Elizabeth Winstead – “10 Cloverfield Lane”

It’s been a strong year so far for older female women. Sally Field has got one of the most textured characters of her career and absolutely kills it on both the comedic and dramatic fronts. I pray she stays in the Oscar conversation. Sarandon also is gifted with a complex part for a woman her age and absolutely slays it. Further proof that more stories should be told about women over the age of 50. On the other side of the age spectrum, newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy makes an compelling case for future roles in “The Witch.” Her raw talent glistens from her astute performance. Similarly astute in a far different genre is Dakota Johnson. While the movie she is in is frequently wonky, Johnson taps into something authentic and relatable. In fact, I believe it trumps even her mother’s performance in “Working Girl” (fun fact: I dislike “Working Girl” so that was just a little bit of shade). Mary Elizabeth Winstead also channels her inner 80s heroine in “10 Cloverfield Lane.” She starts as a fleeing fashion student and ends up cut from the same cloth as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley.

Best Supporting Actor

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Alden Ehrenreich – “Hail Caesar!”
  2. Glen Powell – “Everybody Wants Some!!”
  3. Ralph Fiennes – “A Bigger Splash”
  4. Ben Wishaw – “The Lobster”
  5. Ralph Ineson – “The Witch”

Sometimes you feel as if you saw the birth of a star. Alden Ehrenreich made a convincing case to be a true movie star in his first big role in “Hail Caesar!” It’s proof he deserved to win the part of Han Solo and I’m excited for him to make the role his own, rather than be Harrison Ford-lite. Similarly, Powell perfected a sort of charismatic naturalist. He unintentionally aced his interview to be the next Matthew McConaughey. The consummate professional, Fiennes let loose (in more than one way) and was exhilarating to watch in “A Bigger Splash.” In just small moments, Wishaw steals every scene he is in. Whereas, in a much larger supporting role, Ineson casts an imposing shadow that permeates his film.

Best Supporting Actress

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Olivia Colman – “The Lobster”
  2. Kate Dickey – “The Witch”
  3. Frances O’Conner – “The Conjuring 2”
  4. Chloe Sevigny – “Love & Friendship”
  5. Zoey Deutsch – “Everybody Wants Some!!”

No one can give a better line reading than Olivia Colman. She absolutely slays every moment on screen in “The Lobster.” In many ways, she epitomizes everything that works about the film. Dickey manages to shade her malicious mother in interesting ways that makes her both loathsome and sympathetic. While many aren’t huge fans of the sequel to “The Conjuring,” the main thing that hooked me to the film (which I found strong, but not at the level of the first) was O’Conner’s committed performance as the desperate mother.  Sevingy excels at the Whit Stilman comedic sensibilities better than anyone else in the film. Lastly, Zoey Deutsch undermined the traditional “girl role” in a fratboy film and crafted a unique and lived in character we all wanted to know more about. It takes true talent and made me interested to see her tackle greater challenges.

Can Blackish make it to Best Comedy Series?

This is an abbreviated post originally published by me on Awards Circuit, where I am now a contributing writer. Please go over to that site and follow me as well for even more awards and movie/TV fun.

While delivering a strong first season last year, no one was quite ready for how simultaneously hilarious and relevant Black-ish would become in its second season. The ABC sitcom is a spin on the traditional family sitcom. Dre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) is a successful marketing executive whose family lives in a nice suburb and has a great deal of wealth and privilege. However, Dre feels his family is out of touch from his roots, as he grew up in a poorer neighborhood in Los Angeles. With the help of his crotchety father, Earl “Pops” Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) and evangelical mother, Ruby Johnson (Jenifer Lewis), Dre tries to bring his culture back to his home. On the other side of the equation is his mixed-race anesthesiologist wife, Rainbow “Bow” Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross), whose hippie upbringing has led her to instill their children with other values.

Last year, Black-ish walked away with only one nomination – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Anthony Anderson. It’s clear to assume he will be back on the ballot after this outstanding second season, which has garnered critical praise. However, will this be the year that Black-ish breaks through in some of the other categories, including Best Comedy Series?

24-blackish.w750.h560.2xWith the second season, Black-ish has tackled some tough topics through comedy, including the n-word, gay marriage and family finances. However, the show truly struck a nerve during the sixteenth episode of the season, entitled “Hope,” which saw the Johnson family discuss police brutality against African Americans after the youngest twins see reports of a police shooting on TV and their oldest son, Andre Johnson Jr. (Marcus Scribner) wants to join in protest. At the very least, that episode can be in conversation for Best Directing and Writing for a Comedy Series due to its poignancy, claustrophobic direction and complex and humorous handling of a very serious subject.

Sometimes it takes the Emmys a few years to give a network comedy a slot in the top category. Take for example Parks and Recreation (first Comedy Series nomination in season 3), The Big Bang Theory (first Comedy Series nomination in season 4), How I Met Your Mother (first Comedy Series nomination in season 4) and The Office (first Comedy Series nomination and win in season 2). Anthony Anderson’s acting nomination proves it is on the Emmy radar. Is it possible they wowed voters enough to make it in to the top category? Of the seven nominees from last year, both Louie and Parks and Recreation are ineligible this year since no new episodes of the show aired. One of those slots could go to Black-ish.

Read more on Awards Circuit for full details.

Hit Me With Your Best (Short Film) Shot: World of Tomorrow

There’s something so beautifully simple about Don Hertzfeldt’s animation work. It’s very blunt, often times in a very humorous way, but it still has the distinct power of driving our imaginations and emotions further than we could have prepared to have gone.

“World of Tomorrow” takes a very simple premise – young girl is taken into the future by her future self – and delivers a depressing and beautiful look at the future, showing class structure, love, the desire to live forever and the inevitability of death. As stark, morose and dauntingly huge as all of these topics are, they seem rosy and cute through the eyes of an effervescent child.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 10.45.31 PM

Being a media person, the shot I chose spoke to an interesting and disturbing trend predicted by the future. As these clones have stored memories from their previous hosts, they are able to watch and visit any memory or place or time. With this ability, people get lost watching things that have happened. In time, people look back on other people watching other people do things. It’s a strange paradox of people passively watching, rather than doing new things.

In many ways, with social media becoming more obligatory and obtrusive, we are creating this future for ourselves. In the age of Snapchat where the mundanity of one’s life is pushed out for “real-time story,” people seem to spend more time looking at other people’s lives than creating their own memories and experiences. In fact, we now have an actual condition, FOMO (fear of missing out), that has resulted from this phenomenon. Have we lost the ability to be like the young Emily – chasing butterflies, looking into strange eggs and just all around having an innate curiosity?

So much is said in such a short time. This small glimpse into the future has left more to unpack than most feature films do in bloated two and a half hour running times. This is an art form that rarely gets its proper due. With the internet making content distribution easier, hopefully projects of this length and variety become more readily viewed by the general population. However, if this level of quality keeps up, pretty soon we will end up like the future people in “World of Tomorrow,” constantly consuming content to the point that we aren’t actively doing things anymore.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: “Death Becomes Her”

“Death Becomes Her” is the most strangely wonderful monster movie mainstream cinema has turned out in the modern era. Rather than relying on scares and bumps in the night to thrill audiences, they thought watching two zombie divas battle both each other and the effects of aging would be enough to entertain. Boy were they right.

Daredevil S2The shot I chose occurs once Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn) has burst in to help Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis) bury the body of her nemesis, Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep). Ernest bumbles to find the words to tell her Madeline isn’t quite dead and isn’t quite living. However, we see Madeline emerge from atop her staircase, lurking in the shadows. She’s biding her time, waiting to make her best entrance (like any true diva would). However, one insult hurled at her spurs Madeline into action.

“She was a homebreaker. She was a man-eater. And she was a *bad* actress.” – Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn)

In a movie filled with great one liners, this is a great one that does a great job of articulating who Madeline Ashton is as a person in just one sentence. Madeline does not care what people think of her as a person, nor does she care about being loved or adored by a man. She cares about being the best actress around. Her job, commanding the spotlight, is the one thing she prides herself at being the top at. To hear someone even assert that she is anything less than best causes her to strike.

Madeline Ashton and Helen Sharp are both monsters, literally and figuratively. I love how the production design and framing really treats them almost like classic monsters straight out of an old Universal movie. These undead ladies know how to fling barbs (and guns, and stakes, and many more household objects) just as well as Frankenstein, Dracula and the rest of the ghosts and ghouls that populate the screen.

I just love when visual effects or genre movies aren’t relegated to big, serious blockbusters or to destroy the world. It would be a joy to see more movies use visual effects to showcase fun, complex sight gags or to enhance the storytelling in a genre that you wouldn’t expect to use such technology. That’s why “Ex Machina” was such a worthy visual effects winner this past year. The film was a contained thriller, almost like a play; however, it used state of the art technology to enhance the world and characters within. While “Death Becomes Her” holds the title for first visual effects Oscar winner to feature a twisted neck Meryl Streep or hole-in-stomach Goldie Hawn, I pray that it is not the last.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Daredevil Season 2

I used this week’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” as motivation to finally watch Netflix’s “Daredevil.” I had heard great things but never took the time for a variety of reasons:

  • Intense superhero fatigue
  • Gloomy, dark setting. Do I want another self-serious superhero.
  • Unfamiliar with the character, except for the fact that everyone hated it when Ben Affleck donned the suit.

Boy was I wrong. I watched the entire first season in four days. When I took the time last night to watch the first episode of season 2, I was interested in this new malevolent bad boy in Hell’s Kitchen (The Punisher). However, I was overjoyed to see lots of scenes and interaction between the core trio at the center – Matt Murdoch (Charlie Cox), Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). That’s where my pick for “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” comes from.

Daredevil S2

These two are my life blood for the show. Sure, Vincent D’Onofrio was amazing on so many levels last year as Wilson Fisk, last season’s “big bad.” However, both Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll are what keep my eyes hooked on the screen, and it’s not just because they are so insanely good looking it’s crazy.

Cox’s Matt Murdoch is not what I had thought he was going to be. He isn’t this brooding, overacting man reeling with serious madness. While he has his rough edges and demons that give him depth and make him captivating, there are no better moments when he is grounded as Matt, smiling, enjoying a drink with friends and realizing he does have quite a bit to lose. My favorite episode from last season, “Murdoch vs. Nelson” deals head on with how his secret life and powers have led to him lying to the people he cares so deeply about. As potent as that episode was, I’m happy my trio is back. I’d love to see the “Friends” style sitcom version of “Daredevil.” Think of it, three young lawyers (one blind) living in Hell’s Kitchen and trying to ignore the potent sexual chemistry underneath their friendly pool games.

Deborah Ann Woll was my favorite thing about the entire series of “True Blood.” Her Jessica kept me invested in that show long long long after it jumped the shark. I jumped and yelled the immediate moment she appeared on screen in the first season. “Jessica has a new show! Why did no one tell me,” I screamed into the void. After collecting my bearings, I binged the rest of the show and became very interested in her character, Karen. She starts out as a victim, but doesn’t stay that way for too long. She’s got a vigilante-like streak to her too that, while quick, still comes off as earned.

When I look at the above shot, I see the potential the season in front of me holds. Whether it reaches that potential or not remains to be seen (after all, all I want is sitcom “Daredevil”). We see a moment of levity between two deeply screwed up people who have yet to confront the consequences to their actions and the blood that is on their hands. I hope they use their relationship, whether it be platonic or otherwise, to not just deal with the issues that plague them, but to help each other find their way into the light. In a way, that may be a case of the blind leading the blind.

January – March: A Quarter to Remember

It’s only been 3 months, but 2016 is turning out to be a surprisingly robust year.

You can check out the 2016 movie grades on the site right now to see my thoughts on the movies I have seen this year thus far. However, I wanted to take the time to single out some achievements from this year’s films I want to remember come year’s end time. I thought I’d break it down in my ranked order thus far (as per usual: films tend to fluctuate in ranking once I first see them):


static1.squarespaceRemember For: Best Animated Feature, Best Original Screenplay

This year’s animation race already has a bona fide frontrunner. “Zootopia” is the movie I wanted “Inherent Vice” to be. The world building in the film is terrific and the central mystery to the plot takes bunny Officer Judy Hopps (an excellent Ginnifer Goodwin) and swarmy fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) into so many interesting, weird and funny realms of Zootopia. Even more than that, it’s a complicated film about how prejudice, sexism and fear, in both small and large gestures, can divide and tear apart a community. It’s a powerful film that ranks as one of Disney Animation’s best of the millennium.

The Witch

maxresdefaultRemember For: Best Actress (Anya Taylor-Joy), Best Cinematography, Best Production Design

More a drama than a pure horror film, “The Witch” is nonetheless painfully chilling in its micro look at a disgraced family in the founding days of this country living in solitude amongst the woods. The look of the house nestled in the creepy forest and the foreboding, almost intrusive camera work paint a vividly dark portrait of the damage isolation can do to a person. At the center of it all is a wonderfully layered performance by Anya Taylor-Joy as the eldest daughter Thomasin, who is hated upon by her family as she serves as the scapegoat for all ailments that happen to the family. Her narrative arc yields a haunting finale that sticks with you long after you leave the theater.

Hail, Caesar!

hail-caesar-alden-ehrenrich-ralph-fiennes-1Remember For: Best Supporting Actor (Alden Ehrenreich), Best Costume Design, Best Original Song (“No Dames”)

No film so far has been as fun. The Coen Brothers’ glorious send up to the studio system is brimming with life from every corner of the ensemble. However, in a sea of game veterans and movie stars hamming it up, newcomer Alden Ehrenreich walks away with the film as the lovable western star Hobie Doyle, thrust into a new genre and a new phase of his career. His awe shucks charm and salt of the Earth boyishness creates an old fashioned movie star, the likes have been driven out of today’s paparazzi, social media obsessed Hollywood. Likewise, costume designer Mary Zophres has a breezy field day with all of the period and genre elements, sending up every genre Hollywood used to churn out. Yet, above all else, Channing Tatum’s song and dance number “No Dames” was an utter delight and a highlight of the film. Fingers crossed he will be performing it at the Dolby come next February.

How to Be Single

HTBS-05Remember For: Best Actress (Dakota Johnson)

The plotting is all over the place and some subplots are miles better (all hail Leslie Mann and Jake Lacy) than others (Alison Brie is as confused as we are about why she is there). Many people won’t enjoy the easy, breezy, almost freeform trek through New York dating life, and if the trailer repulsed you, the film won’t convert you. However, for those who thought it looked “cute enough” (my words exactly), you might walk out having had one of the most fun nights in the theater. That can mainly be contributed to Dakota Johnson, giving another specific, interesting lead performance suggesting she is much better than the material she is given. She not only clearly defines her relationship prone Alice so specifically, but grounds her in some sort of yuppie reality that is interesting to explore. Even further, she bucks the rom-com trajectory to deliver a character journey that is equal parts feminist and subversive without even realizing it.

10 Cloverfield Lane

imagesRemember For: Best Actor (John Goodman), Best Actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Best Production Design

The best way to describe “10 Cloverfield Lane” would be to liken it to a sci-fi millennial’s version of “Misery,” filled with knowing references, a sardonic edge, humorous nostalgia and the undercurrent of alien life. If this analogy holds, then John Goodman is doing some of his best work as Howard, the de facto Annie Wilkes of the story. He’s a grizzled war veteran and conspiracy theorist who is definitely off-kilter, but shades his character with backstory and constant doubt that maybe he’s an earnest guy underneath all those warning signs. Much like James Caan in “Misery,” our protagonist Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, might get overshadowed. However, she makes our heroine a specific, mysterious woman whose evolution into a badass is fully earned. Her arc is facilitated by her skills as an aspiring fashion designer and, as she runs from her boyfriend in the beginning, seems to be a Marion Crane like figure for the film. Lastly, much like “Room” was so affecting in its small space due to the lived in quality of the set, “10 Cloverfield Lane” is so creepy because the bunker is so precisely retro. It’s a stroke of genius and one that needs to be rewarded.

Eddie the Eagle

anglo_1920x1080_eddietheeagle-e1450281884148-1598x720Remember For: Actor (Taron Egerton), Supporting Actor (Hugh Jackman), Cinematography

The film is the definition of “by the numbers,” but Egerton and Jackman make such a great pair as a well-meaning lummox trying to make the Olympics and his alcoholic coach. They sell the film and make it something to cheer for. For a sport like ski jumping, one needs to feel the height and the terror. Much of the first person shots are thrilling in and of itself, raising the stakes as Eddie keeps jumping from new heights. It’s not high art, but it’s tremendously fun art. It’s the type of film the Golden Globes comedy category should try harder to reward.

“You Could’a Been a Contender”

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


deadpool1-gallery-imageRemember For: Crappy Filmmaking during action scenes

There’s a lot more in common between 2016’s biggest hit and one of its biggest flops. Both feature a charismatic actor in the lead doing a good enough job (Lily James and Ryan Reynolds, respectively) amidst a movie that doesn’t want to have any visual panache. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” does more than a respectable job bridging Austen’s language and zombie lore into a cohesive package. However, the zombie bits don’t land, the film chugs along at a far too rapid pace, never letting a moment land. In the end, it’s a strong enough blueprint resulting in a lackluster, cobbled together film. “Deadpool” is a welcome raunchy turn into the McDonalds level blandness of the Marvel Universe. Too bad the changes start and end with more vulgar dick jokes. The film recycles every standard superhero origin trope. Even more egregious, it features one of the most bland and insipid finales where nothing feels at stake and there is no sense of place or spectacle. It’s drab and boring, but it features funny dick jokes.

Razzie Remembrance

Dirty Grandpa

3d1180a0d74b5617_udep_d28_07565_r-xxxlarge_2xRemember For: Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Supporting Actress (Julianne Hough), Worst Screenplay

I still hold that the basic logline for the film (an uptight young attorney goes on a road trip with his newly widowed grandfather who is ready to party) has more than a fair bit of comedic potential. Robert De Niro and Zac Efron are both good enough choices for these roles and the supporting cast is lined with comedy all stars such as Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas and Adam Pally. However, the film seems less inclined with making this workable premise actually work. Instead, it lazily drags along, tacking on a screwish soon-to-be wife (Julianne Hough at her worst), an utterly forgettable romance, a bevy of raunchy jokes without a punchline and completely unearned sentimental moments. This is why people don’t respect comedy, and the genre deserves better than this.

Am I Missing Something?

Midnight Special

MIDNIGHT SPECIALI really didn’t like this movie. I could tell director Jeff Nichols was taking great care in crafting a Bible belt, fantasy chase movie that borrowed quite a bit from “E.T.” I don’t know why, but from the very first moments, I was never hooked. As each elongated minute of the film passed, I grew more and more aggressively disinterested in this kid and his magic powers. The languid pacing and inability to give any sort of rules or structures to the kids powers or journey made this an absolute trek to get through. What’s worse, despite having great actors doing solid work, none of them are given characters to play. Instead they are all in service of returning this magical child to its homeland. The film aggravated me with its darkened shots, its precioutiously annoying child star (“St. Vincent’s” Jaeden Leiberher) and the increasing reality as the running time ticked along that it was nothing more than a low rent “E.T.” rip off. It’s less than a movie, it’s a vacuum of time.

A Merry St. Patrick’s Day to Irish Cinema

One of my favorite classes in college was my “Irish Cinema” course. Many of the films we watched were old favorites of mine. The others became new favorites. Viewed through the lens of Irish history, it was so interesting to watch the films in chronological order in terms of the time period they were set in. Issues of women’s rights, the Irish troubles and immigration took center stage.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, let’s take a look at 10 of my favorite Irish films.


  1. “In the Name of the Father” (1993)
    You won’t find many people doubting that Daniel Day Lewis is one of the most powerful film actors around. However, while most people cite “Lincoln” or “There Will Be Blood,” my favorite of his performances might be this small Irish drama set in the ’70s about a man falsely imprisoned for IRA terrorist activity. The relationship between his Gerry Conlon to his Father, Giuseppe Conlon (the brilliant Pete Postlethwaite), who is imprisoned by association, is a thing of beauty. It’s a rousing, heartbreaking film. It’s also a must see.Film Title: In Bruges
  2. “In Bruges” (2008)
    The dark humor only accentuates the hard undercurrent of sadness that runs deep throughout the film. Ray (Colin Farrell, a role that should’ve netted him an Oscar nomination) and Ken (similarly wonderful Brendan Gleeson) are hitmen forced to take a vacation to Bruges. Little do they know their boss, Harry (a playfully vulgar Ralph Fiennes) has other plans for them. Having seen this countless times before, studying it in class gave me a new appreciation how the relationship between Irish Ray and Ken and the British Harry is fueled by warring sentiments that go back hundreds of years. It’s fascinating how the British-Irish conflicts still rear their head in contemporary cinema.Brooklyn2
  3. “Brooklyn” (2015)
    In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, I showed my friend “Brooklyn” last night. What else can one say about how magnetic Saoirse Ronan is in the role of Eilis, a young woman who moves to Brooklyn only to be torn between a young Italian man named Tony (Emory Cohen, so endearing) and her former life back in Ireland. Upon rewatching, I found myself similarly animated throughout the film. It’s a true gem.url
  4. “In America” (2003)
    This would make a fascinating double feature with “Brooklyn” about the plight of Irish immigrants to New York. This contemporary film about an Irish family moving to New York following the death of one of their children is utterly moving. One of the most complex relationships comes between the young girls (Sarah and Emma Bolger) and their dying black neighbor, Mateo (the wonderful Djimon Hounsou). It’s a great film about a family trying to adjust to a new life where they are the fish out of water.Magdalene
  5. “The Magdalene Sisters” (2002)
    One of the hardest things to study was the treatment of women and their sexuality up through the ’60s. Women who had premarital sex, babies out of wedlock, or even looked as if they might engage in sexual acts young were sent to asylums the church put on for fallen women. The torture and abject horrors these women went through was unthinkable. The film is a powerful and complex portrayal of how the patriarchal society coupled with religious fear robbed young women of their lives.sunday2
  6. “Bloody Sunday” (2002)
    Paul Greengrass revolutionized real time filmmaking with his detacted and powerful film “United 93,” which depicted the events of 9/11 from the point of view of the passengers on United flight 93. However, his visual style and haunting matter-of-fact look at terror was shown even earlier as he examines the events of Bloody Sunday. Rather than develop characters, he hurls us right into the action as we witness the cacophony head on.calvary
  7. “Calvary” (2014)
    There’s nothing better than a star vehicle for terrific character actor Brendan Gleeson. He plays a good hearted priest who examines his life after an abused parishioner threatens him with death. The character study becomes less about the man and more about the community he serves, painting a rich picture of the people that live in a small Irish village.some-mothers-son-1996-01
  8. “Some Mother’s Son” (1996)
    There are many films that depict the hunger strikes going on with members of IRA (Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” is another brutal depiction of this struggle focusing on Bobby Sands). What makes the film “Some Mother’s Son” so powerful is it focuses on the mothers of the boys on the hunger strike who are given the decision to either let their boys die for the cause or sign a waiver to force the prisons to feed them and keep them alive. Helen Mirren and Fionnula Flanagan are revelatory as two women from different political sides joined together by their boys decisions to go on hunger strike. It’s a powerful film.878ca4b830a1485cba48de5b403f717c
  9. “My Left Foot” (1989)
    Daniel Day Lewis’ first Oscar came from this film about the painter Christy Brown, who suffered from cerebral palsy and could only fully control his left foot. It’s an early sign of the tremendous control and commitment Day Lewis would bring to characters throughout his career. Come for Day Lewis and stay for Brenda Fricker’s Oscar winning role as his warm-hearted and strong-willed mother.mlRVOBLXZYntn4F3mR7T7ukEgsp
  10. “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” (2006)
    One of the perks of Irish cinema is that it gives perennial character actor Cilian Murphy room to shine in lead roles. He’s got great opportunities to shine in this film as a man studying to be a doctor who is goaded into joining the IRA in the 1920s after witnessing the cruelties done to people in the town. It’s a sobering film, but a strong character piece on the bond of brothers.

Some other honorable mentions: “Once” (2007); “The Crying Game” (1992); “Waking Ned Devine” (1997); “Hunger” (2008); “Philomena” (2013); countless others…

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: “Atonement”

Every Oscar year has its maligned “Oscar-bait” movie that gets into the top categories, but never seems to generate much passion. Think “Bridge of Spies,” “Chocolat,” “The Theory of Everything” and “War Horse.” In 2007, many people tried to put “Atonement” in that bucket. How wrong they were. This was the perfect film for the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series. Each frame of the film brims with beauty. Paired with game performances from the entire ensemble, the film is poetically beautiful. This takes it beyond a well executed Merchant – Ivory film and into an epic, tragic romance.

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 5.32.04 PM

The shot in question takes place as Robbie (James McAvoy) walks back to an ambush. The twins  had gone missing and in that span of time, Briony (Saoirse Ronan) has testified that she saw Robbie sexually molesting her friend Lola (Juno Temple).

The framing of the shot makes one’s heart sink. Cecilia (Keira Knightley) looks crestfallen as she knows the outcome to befall her beloved. Her short lived romance with Robbie is coming to an end as quickly as it started. For as many beautiful shots there are in the film, I always knew I had to pick one with the infamous green dress that everyone but my mother loved (“Keira does not have the boobs to pull that thing off” – Susan James). While I have long championed Keira Knightley to do more contemporary roles (so charming in “Laggies” and “Begin Again”), she exudes Old Hollywood grace and stardom in this film. She’s the glamorous, larger than life paramour that makes any tragic romance worth.

Thematically, we see Briony exit the scene of the crime she has committed. She’s stepping into the light, as if someone is shining a light as to the culprit of this miscarriage of justice. For as much as the film relies on the tragedy of the central love story, the protagonist of the film is Briony and her struggle to right the wrongs her bullheadedness had gotten her into. Saoirse Ronan does a great job of portraying Briony as this ambitious girl wound up so tight, her moral compass is filtered through the elaborate defense mechanisms in her brain. For a girl so consumed with receiving positive attention, whether it be her mother’s approval, Robbie’s love or sister’s affection, she approaches each moment as a chance to crush those who might stand in her way. She’s never an outwardly malicious person, rather someone who, at such a young age, can reason her way into describing any of her actions as moral.

There’s so much commotion in the shot, with cops milling about and Briony’s mother looking at the scene with a taciturn face of concern. While the shot may be so composed with so many faces, it’s Keira’s pained face and Briony’s exit that shine through. Though they may be sister’s, their worldviews and moral compasses could not be farther apart.

It’s always wonderful to revisit this beautiful film, even if it leaves me in a week’s funk of emotional distress. Saoirse Ronan would’ve been my vote in the famously close 2007 Best Supporting Actress lineup.

Thanks again to Nathaniel at The Film Experience for organizing such a fun series.

Sometimes the gold makes us all go a little bit mad.