No Matter How You Saw Them, These Movies from 2019 Were Worth Remembering

30 Dec

2019 top moviesWhen we look back at the year in movies 2019, chances are good we’re going to see it as a transitional year. Or, if you prefer, an inflection point.

It certainly was a big year, financially: When all is said and done, movie ticket sales in the United States and Canada will total roughly $11.45 billion for the year, according to Comscore. And yet, as significant a number as that is, it’s actually down 4 percent from last year — the largest drop in five years.

Where did that 4 percent go? Streaming, probably.

With Disney taking eight of the top 10 spots in the list of highest-grossing films of 2019 domestically, and 58 features earning the distinction of being “franchise films,” those looking for something different or original often had to look for it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime — or even CNN.

Indeed, when looking at the most memorable films of the year, they weren’t necessarily those with the highest box-office totals, the ones that monopolized theater screens for much of the year. They were films that, often, were just under the radar or could be easily enjoyed in the comfort of your own home, not a movie theater. Continue reading

Let the Memory of the Cats Movie Not Live Again

18 Dec

Cats movie posterFull disclosure: I’m not a fan of Cats the musical. I’ve seen a lot of Broadway shows over the years, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s feline songfest is one show I really didn’t like. I even enjoyed Starlight Express more. Yes, I like the roller-skating show more than I like Cats. If you know anything about Starlight Express, you know that’s really saying something.

But even with that in mind, I wasn’t prepared for just how much I didn’t like Cats the movie. We all knew going into it, based on the trailers, that this wasn’t going to be a good movie. But holy hell, is it bad. Jennifer Hudson is pretty much the only redeeming thing about it. Continue reading

I’m Putting These Songs in My 2019 Time Capsule to Preserve Good Memories

12 Dec

2019 music recapI love Spotify. As someone who listens to a lot of music, Spotify Premium is one of the things I’m most thankful for, because it allows me to have a seemingly bottomless collection of tracks and albums at a minimal price, and it exposes me to songs and artists I might not hear otherwise because I don’t listen to a lot of radio.

Every year, Spotify does its “Wrapped” marketing campaign, where it shares with users — in easily shareable form, natch — their most-listened-to artists and tracks. It’s hard to argue with the results, since, apparently, they’re based on Spotify’s own data. And yet, every year, I have a hard time reconciling Spotify’s results with the music I think actually represents my year.

And that’s why, for the past few years, I’ve compiled a running “time capsule” playlist, curating the songs and artists I was listening to at various points in the year, or ones that represent significant or memorable things I experienced. I like recapping my year in music this way instead of waiting and compiling a year-end top-music list, because rather than focusing on a few favorite albums or songs, with this playlist, I have a better representation of what was literally going through my head all year long. Continue reading

Wrapping Up a Decade at the Movies with 20 Favorite Films

10 Dec

Favorite movies of the decadeJust in case you haven’t heard, we’re now at the end of another decade. Which means it’s time to take stock not just of the year that’s closing, but the nine previous years, too, and what the major highlights and trends were.

Any decade recap in my world has to include a top-movies list. It’s a bit of a herculean task, to be sure, given that, by my math, I saw an average of 71 movies every year of this decade. (My single-year high was 85, a total I reached twice.) If all goes according to plan, I’ll close out the 2010s having seen 715 films.

That’s right: Seven hundred and fifteen films. It’s crazy, I know.

So yes, that creates a bit of a challenge when it comes to narrowing down the list to just a few “favorites.” Continue reading

It’s Important to Be Thankful for Everything That Makes Your Life Better

27 Nov

Martin at EpcotThank you.

It’s an expression people don’t say nearly enough anymore. All you have to do is pay attention and watch for it, you’ll realize that these days, unfortunately, gratitude is in short supply.

Perhaps that’s one reason why people tend to make a big deal about Thanksgiving. It’s their chance to pause and say thank you for all that makes their life great. Don’t be hateful; gotta be grateful, and all that.

I’d like to think I express gratitude all year long, for big things and small ones — including when people hold a door for me, when I’m brought something by a server in a restaurant, when I see a movie I like, when someone gives me a gift or does me a favor, etc. — but I can always do better.

So, in that spirit, here is a list (in no particular order) of some of the people, places, things, and events I’m giving thanks for on Thanksgiving this year — and on other days, too. Continue reading

In Theaters or Streaming, These Netflix Movies Are Well Worth Seeing

25 Nov

Marriage Story and Two PopesI have long been a proponent of seeing movies in a movie theater.

In spite of the possible frustrations — people talking and/or using their cell phones, overpriced food and drink — the communal experience of watching a movie, with good projection on a big screen, and loud, sharp sound can’t be beat. It is far superior to watching something in the comfort of your own home, where there are more distractions and it’s generally a much less immersive experience.

All of that has made the last month or so a bit confusing for me, because some of the best movies I’ve seen — indeed, some of the best movies of the year — have come from Netflix, which, not surprisingly, is prioritizing not the in-theater experience, but the at-home streaming one. Each of Netflix’s big releases this year is receiving just a limited theatrical release (to qualify for awards, natch) before being more widely shared with the public on the streaming platform.

Why would a filmmaker choose to make a movie for a company that does this? Creative freedom is generally the answer. I mean, were he working for a more traditional studio, Martin Scorsese would probably never have been able to make a three-and-a-half-hour epic like The Irishman the way he wanted to make it. Likewise, Alfonso Cuarón was able to be indulgent in his own ways with Roma, one of my favorite movies of 2018 (and a multiple Oscar winner). So obviously, there’s a tradeoff.

Films are supposed to be seen in a theater, on a big screen. I’ll never believe otherwise. But Netflix isn’t making it easy to see their films that way. So, should you make an exception for two of the company’s newest releases — which, admittedly, I did see in a theater? (And should I be okay with it?) Yes. Here’s why. Continue reading

It’s Mister Rogers I Like. The Movie? Not As Much.

20 Nov

beautiful day in the neighborhood posterAt the recent screening when I saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, I was unlucky enough to sit next to a couple of chatty millennials, who spent nearly the entire movie making comments to each other and being a bit of a distraction.

On the one hand, it kinda sucked; those two definitely affected my movie-going experience.

But on the other hand, I really couldn’t blame them.

After all, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood went off the air on August 31, 2001, just before my seatmates were probably old enough to watch and appreciate it. Mister Rogers himself passed away less than two years later, on February 27, 2003. So I chose to attribute these twentysomethings’ lack of engagement in what was going on on-screen to the fact that Mister Rogers hadn’t had the same effect on their lives that he had on mine — and on the lives of so many other people around my age and older, who grew up with him and his daily TV show. Because of this, I suspect my seat mates were just less invested in the movie than I was.

As a result, rather than be angry about the distraction, I found myself feeling sorry for these kids. Continue reading

Who Deserves a Spot in the Winner’s Circle: Charlie or Ferrari?

15 Nov Ford v Ferrari

It’s mid November, which means there’s now an overabundance of options at the movie theater (and streaming on Netflix).

Because time is tight and you likely don’t have as much of it as I do to see every movie, let’s take a look at two new releases. One of them is definitely worth seeing, but I’m going to start with the one that isn’t. Continue reading

I Heard You Like Good Movies

13 Nov

The Irishman - Robert De NiroLet’s get this out of the way: Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is a long movie. Three and a half hours long. That’s longer than Avengers: Endgame. Watching it legitimately feels like binging four episodes of a Netflix limited series.

But is it any good? Hell yeah, it is. Continue reading

This Christmas, Give Your Heart to a Better Movie Than Last Christmas

11 Nov

Last Christmas movie reviewI don’t want to ruin Last Christmas for anyone who might see it and not figure out the film’s big twist within the first 10 or 15 minutes, so I won’t.

But I’ll give you this warning: Don’t listen to the George Michael song that inspired this movie, and refresh your memory of the lyrics, because they are a spoiler. A very literal and very big one. D’oh!

Indeed, if you can get through this supposed rom-com without figuring out how it all ends, then you may just enjoy the movie. Continue reading