December 2022 Posting Schedule

Well, November was quite a surprising month. I was anticipating breaking 4,000 views, a new record and perfectly reasonable looking at the pace I’d been setting for the last six months. However, my review of the experimental horror film Skinamarink took off like wild. I have to guess I was “in the right place, at the right time,” and my prediction of 4,000+ was woefully underestimating things. On the Skinamarink review alone, I pulled in 2,662 views. My grand total for views in November came in at an impressive (for my little blog) 6,849 views. I’m under no delusions that I will match this or beat it in December. The Skinamarink was a nice fluke, but I have noticed that once views pass a certain threshold, they remain within that range. I would think someone much better at statistical analysis and who has a better understanding of the algorithm would probably be able to explain that. It should be interesting to see how December turns out. Onto the schedule.

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Patron Pick – One True Thing

This special reward is available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 monthly levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.

One True Thing (1998)
Written by Karen Croner
Directed by Carl Franklin

Movies like One True Thing weren’t on my radar in the late 1990s. I was a teenager, a year away from college, sheltered & homeschooled, working at my local public library and discovering all sorts of exciting niche things I would cultivate over the decades. So something like this movie wouldn’t have even been a blip for me. Instead, I was far more interested in exploring weird movies, inching my way towards becoming the art house snob I lived as during college. Now, at age 41, I appreciate this type of movie more, particularly in the face of its near extinction, as something you can see in a theater. The cineplexes are dominated by blockbuster incoherence, and streaming seems to be a flood of mediocrity devoid of soul. So while One True Thing sounds like a Lifetime movie in its description, the performances, mainly Meryl Streep’s (coming as no surprise to anyone), elevate the picture to something of note.

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Movie Review – Four Christmases

Four Christmases (2008)
Written by Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson, Jon Lucas, and Scott Moore
Directed by Seth Gordon

I hardly ever enjoy disparaging another fellow Seth, but for Mr. Gordon, I will make an exception. He made quite an entertaining pop documentary in The King of Kong, giving us one of the great villains of the 2000s, in video game veteran Billy Mitchell. And to be fair, I don’t place the blame for this movie squarely on the director’s shoulders. Watching Four Christmases, something was happening in the background that most viewers likely didn’t notice. Even with my attention to detail, it took me a few days after watching the picture for all the pieces to come together. It was a Christmas movie starring Jon Favreau and Mary Steenburgen, and the cartoon level slapstick and the proliferation of cameo performances by well-known faces and…is that Peter Billingsley (A Christmas Story) as a ticket agent? When I saw New Line Cinema distributed the picture, it all suddenly made sense. Four Christmases was an attempt (as ridiculous as this sounds) to squeeze more money from the audience that loved Elf. 

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Movie Review – Decision to Leave

Decision to Leave (2022)
Written by Jeong Seo-kyeong & Park Chan-wook
Directed by Park Chan-wook

Part of me is surprised at the moderate reviews Decision to Leave has garnered from audiences. However, I can understand it if you focus entirely on the plot. This is an homage to Hitchcock that is very obvious from the start. The shadow of Vertigo looms large, and that’s not a bad thing. A good crime thriller is rare, and South Korea certainly knows how to make good movies. It’s a pairing that meshes perfectly. But yes, you’ll not be blown away by the story, at least on the surface. It’s still a tremendously compelling story. Where Decision to Leave blew me away was with the cinematography. Holy shit! Park Chan-wook is one of the greatest directors of all time, but you forget in between watching his movies. Then when you sit down and watch one, it doesn’t take long to be reminded you are in the hands of a genuine master of the form. There are shots in this movie that blew my fucking mind! Even a person simply driving from one location to another always looks interesting. The camera is always put in a spot you wouldn’t expect, and it always works.

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Movie Review – Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls (2006)
Written by Matt Corman, Chris Ord, and Don Rhymer
Directed by John Whitesell

Surviving Christmas is objectively the worst holiday film I have ever seen. However, Deck the Halls does not lag far behind. What redeems it only the slightest is Danny Devito. Without him, the movie would have been unwatchable. I try not to shit on directors too much; just like actors, movie-making is a job for them, and you often take work you aren’t excited about because it affords you opportunities down the road. However, John Whitesell has just cultivated a career of utter shit. Before directing this Christmas flick, Whitesell gave us such gems as Jamie Kennedy’s Malibu’s Most Wanted and Big Momma’s House 2. You’ll be happy to know that Whitesell was able to keep cranking ’em out and went on to direct Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son. Unfortunately, we face this pedigree when sitting down to watch Deck the Halls.

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Patron Pick – Sweet Smell of Success

This special reward is available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 monthly levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Written by Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman, and Alexander Mackendrick
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick

Possessing a title that drips with as much irony as grease seems to exude from its central character, Sweet Smell of Success is a bold reminder that America in the 1950s was not some picket fence, sunny side wonderland. It was the same festering sore before, and it remains a place where no one gets ahead because they have talent or have cultivated a skill. Nope, the only skill that counts is how well you can lie, cheat, and steal your way to the top. Success is defined as power, and you get that power with money. How do you get the money? Well, with power. See what a con job it is? Some gatekeepers sit on makeshift thrones, not in throne rooms but in nightclubs where they humor desperate politicians and desperate talent who want a kind word thrown their way in tomorrow’s paper. But what will they do for that bit of ego-boosting fluffery, hm? There seems to be no bottom.

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Comic Book Review – Catwoman: Lonely City

Catwoman: Lonely City (2022)
Reprints Catwoman: Lonely City #1-4
Written & Illustrated by Cliff Chiang

In 1986, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns mini-series reconceptualized Batman by telling an out-of-canon story. An aging Bruce Wayne retired from being Batman years earlier, but now Gotham City is falling into a deeper cesspool than ever before. Mutant gangs run rampant, and The Joker has resurfaced. Wayne must become Batman again, this time with Carrie Kelly by his side as Robin. The Dark Knight Returns, while ground-breaking & compelling, is a politically questionable book. Miller has always been reactionary to one degree or another, and TDKR is very much indicative of this mindset to not examine but react with emotion. Miller is a passionate guy, and that fervor has gotten him into much-deserved praise and trouble. He’s apologized, but the man is so entrenched in his mindset that it would be hard to pull him out. But 2022 is not 1986, and the reactionary Death Wish-driven media of that era just doesn’t fly these days (unless you’re a big Daily Wire fan, I suppose). Cliff Chiang is here to tell us another story of a future Gotham, which is far more coherent and sets up a conflict between the criminal and the authority leading us to question if those labels are being accurately applied.

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Movie Review – The Holiday

The Holiday (2006)
Written & Directed by Nancy Meyers

I don’t really enjoy much of Nora Ephron’s work. It’s just not my taste, but I acknowledge there are things I like. Despite knowing it is such a flawed picture, I have a soft spot for My Blue Heaven. Ephron’s closest contemporary is Nancy Meyers. Both women were gaining steam during the same period, and they made films targeted at women…well, white women. Where Ephron can be playful & inventive, even if it doesn’t always work (see Bewitched), Meyers consistently wallows in indulgent upper-middle-class fluff. I actually went into The Holiday with a moderate amount of open-mindedness. For years, I heard people defend the movie citing the Kate Winslet/Jack Black half of the picture as worthwhile. I like both those performers and decided to include this in my A Very 2000s Christmas series and was looking forward to them.

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TV Review – Star Wars: Andor Season 1

Andor Season 1 (Disney+)
Written by Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, Stephen Schiff, Beau Willimon
Directed by Toby Haynes, Susanna White, and Benjamin Caron

Humanity isn’t going to be saved by Star Wars. It was a global capitalist juggernaut consumed by an even larger one almost a decade ago. It’s a product that gets its label and trademark slapped on a host of garbage manufactured in squalor and then sold to grubby-handed man-children that are desperately clinging to the comfort of their youth because, and they are not wrong in this estimation, the world is broken. But the thing is, Star Wars can be used. It can be a tool. In the desire to overthrow oppressive power, we will have to use the materials made under the monolith to destroy it. That’s the beautiful irony, every day, the capitalist machine unknowingly builds the very thing that will kill it. We don’t know what it is or when that will happen, but it is inevitable. 

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