Hi so I AM ALIVE! It turns out that it is hard to both finish a Ph.D. AND write an ice cream blog at the same time! I was thus forced to let my ice cream blog dreams go, for at least a short while, as if those dreams were fish thrown back into the ocean by me, a dad in an LL Bean vest drinking a light beer on a rowboat. I also haven't really cooked much lately, which is devastating for me and most likely inconsequential to you. Therefore, I instead decided to write something up about the movies I've seen this year, and which ones were my favorites, in order to fulfill my new resolution of writing at least one thing a week this year! Be warned that this list is very incomplete (I STILL have not seen Moonlight, because NOTHING IS FAIR, and I haven't had time to see much else, either) and essentially meaningless (movie lists are usually exercises in narcissism and self-importance, but so are most fun things in life, so, whatever), but should provide good argument fodder in case you have any interest in yelling at or with me in the near future.
8. Don't Think Twice: Mike Birbiglia is great, everyone in this movie is great, and Gillian Jacobs should be in everything because she a) does a genuinely impressive one-woman improv scene and b) briefly made wearing overalls seem like a good idea to me. It's a movie about following your dreams that feels real, if not particularly uplifting. I keep finding myself thinking about this movie as a less emotional but more deeply realized version of La La Land, and wishing that this movie were getting the kind of attention that LLL is.
7. Sing Street: At first you think it's a movie about an Irish kid who starts a band to impress a girl, and it's cute enough, but then you realize who the movie is actually about and it makes you cry and you almost have to cancel your NYE plans so you don't go out with Smeary Mascara Face. The music is genuinely good and the cast is terrific. What a lovely and joyful movie.
6. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping: A perfect companion piece to one of my favorite musical comedies ever, Walk Hard, Popstar is hilarious and also weirdly touching. The bee scene is so simple and yet the funniest scene of any movie I saw all year.
5. Arrival: FYI, if aliens ever come to Earth I am going to freak the fuck out!! Amy Adams does a much better job than I would, though, as a linguist who's responsible for trying to learn how to communicate with some aliens that have recently dropped by our lil planet. It's the rare smart sci-fi movie in which the conflict and tension are genuinely compelling, and even its antagonists are relatively well-rounded and reasonable, so when you unravel the mystery it's extra rewarding. As with every other movie on this list, I cried, duh, but it was more of happy/hopeful cry than a miserable/wallowing cry. Even if you don't like science fiction, it's fun to watch Jeremy Renner mansplain math to aliens.
4. The Witch: Puritans are CREEPY! Puritan toddlers who claim to talk to goats are CREEPY! Nathaniel Hawthorne was probably CREEPY! This movie is unsettling and puritanical and has that kind of There Will Be Blood-style blarey soundtrack that some people hate and I find deliciously atmospheric and terrifying. Yes, it's about a witch and how she destroys a family, but it's also about gender and religion and Satanic goats, shot so beautifully and distinctively that I'm still thinking about individual frames of it weeks later.
3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: A boy and his reluctant guardian run away into the wild New Zealand bush, while Child Services representatives try to track them down. Everyone is perfectly cast and distinctive without being unbearably quirky, and it's both funny and moving. Sam Neill is flawless.
2. The Invitation: If you know me, you're probably aware that this year I got SUPER into murder and cults for some reason, and I listened to a ton of stuff about Charles Manson, and boy was he a bad egg on really just a number of levels. I didn't know much about this movie before I saw it, and neither should you, but I will say that it feels very Manson-y (Mansonian?). The movie is about a man who hasn't seen his ex-wife for two and a half years until she invites him to a dinner party; you spend most of the movie feeling very tense and uncomfortable while you try to figure out what exactly happened between them in the past, and what the fuck is happening at the dinner party, which is very creepy, and then everything goes to hell. I couldn't stop thinking about this movie after I saw it. The final shot is chilling.
1. Manchester by the Sea: OK, let's be clear, Casey Affleck is gross and I don't like him as a human being and I feel uncomfortable liking this movie as much as I do because of him. But this movie does the best job of capturing the feelings of grief and loss that I've ever seen, and beautifully shows how people deal with those feelings in wildly different ways, and also shows how mundane things can sometimes actually be surprisingly funny even when everything else feels terrible all the time. I was actually surprised when this movie ended, not because it was abrupt, but because I was so invested in what was happening and how real everything felt that I could have sat there for even longer, just watching these people live their lives. As you've probably gathered from this list, I tend to judge movies based on how much they stick with me over time, and this movie has stayed with me so vividly since I saw it that I've been planning on seeing it again. You should too.
And finally, the Benjamin Button Prize for the worst movie I saw all year is Passengers, which is not only gross and weird but also BORING AS SHIT which is criminal because it takes place in OUTER FUCKING SPACE. The first shot of the movie shows a big space rock crashing into the spaceship and then Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence spend the ENTIRE MOVIE trying to figure out why the spaceship is broken and GUESS WHAT it's because of the space rock! Never have I seen an action movie with such a lack of tension and such unlikable characters. Even Space Hero Lawrence Fishburne is barely around to make it better. I give this movie ZERO out of ten Obvious Space Rocks and recommend that you don't see it, or at least see it and let me complain about it to you.