Mister America (2019) Written by Tim Heidecker, Gregg Turkington, & Eric Notarnicola Directed by Eric Notarnicola
For seven years, writer/actor/comedian Tim Heidecker has been building a universe. It started with “On Cinema at the Cinema,” a film review show on YouTube. Heidecker and Turkington starred as versions of themselves, the former an arrogant prick and the latter a film buff obsessed with all that is mediocre. Worldbuilding occurred during the conversations the men had. This included Heidecker marrying a Japanese friend, having a child with the friend (Tom Cruise Junior), and the child dying because Heidecker became a strict anti-vaxxer. It was clear that Heidecker had a point of view to get across, the sort of profoundly twisted satire mainstream media doesn’t provide audiences with.
The Death of Dick Long (2019) Written by Billy Chew Directed by Daniel Scheinert
The Coen Brothers so successfully cornered the market on rural crime/mystery that a review of any film that falls into that genre will inevitably mention them. So here’s the mandatory mention. The Death of Dick Long is very much in the vein of movies like Blood Simple, dark and funny with a biting wit. The filmmaker understands his characters to a depth that they avoid becoming caricatures. It would be easy to lazily portray everyone here as ridiculously stupid, but the film manages to show them like idiots in a totally realistic way. The lies told to cover up what happened are so paper-thin the audience cringes knowing these guys are going to get caught.
When Star Trek was canceled by NBC in the late 1960s, it seemed like its revival was an inevitability. As early as 1972, there were discussions about a film, and by 1977, it was decided to make a revival television series starring the original cast. Another change in mind led to the Star Trek film series that kicked off in 1980 and led to Wrath of Khan and the following pictures. The popularity of the Star Trek movies led Paramount pictures to plan for a new series with creator Gene Rodenberry coming on board after seeing some disappointing early ideas. By September 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered in syndication. The show would go for a longer run than its predecessor and gain a fanbase that rivaled the original series.
Two Dollar Bill (2016) Written & Directed by Hannah Marks
Hannah Marks was born into the industry, the daughter of actors, granddaughter to a musician. She made her debut in 2006’s Accepted, a middling Justin Long vehicle. Along the way, she became interested in directing and has jumped into the deep end. After a series of successfully received shorts, she’s made a feature film with another in the pipeline.
Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts. When I go to a great movie, I can live somebody else’s life for a while. I can walk in somebody else’s shoes. I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief.
This is a liberalizing influence on me. It gives me a broader mind. It helps me to join my family of men and women on this planet. It helps me to identify with them, so I’m not just stuck being myself, day after day.
The great movies enlarge us, they civilize us, they make us more decent people.
Roger Ebert, remarks when receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (June 23, 2005)
Promethea Volume 1 (2000) Written by Alan Moore Art by J.H. Williams
Alan Moore has always been a remixer of comics history and iconography. In 1999 he started his own imprint of Wildstorm (which was then a division of DC Comics), called America’s Best. The name was a repurposing of a defunct line of comics from the 1940s, which featured superheroes now lost to the memories of the general public like Black Terror and Fighting Yank. Moore stayed in that vein of pulpy, Golden Age stories centering this line around four core titles: Tom Strong, Top 10, Tomorrow Stories, and Promethea. Each book examined an archetype comics in typical Moore fashion, deconstructing the tropes and reinterpreting commonly accepted norms.
The Art of Self-Defense (2019) Written & Directed by Riley Stearns
When David Fincher’s Fight Club came out in 1999, I was a college freshman, just the right age and gender for the film to hit me firmly between the eyes. I thought the movie was genius, and at some point in the 2000s, I started feeling like the picture held a certain phoniness, that is was macho posturing that claimed it was condemning a certain mindset while actually supporting that ideology. I love Fincher, but Fight Club is a picture that hasn’t aged well for me, and that might be because of the young men who flocked to its images but didn’t necessarily explore its philosophy. Riley Stearns’ The Art of Self-Defense feels like a wry satire of the sort of young men who wanted to start their own fight clubs after watching the film. In the age of incels and the questioning and exploration of what it means to be a man, there couldn’t be a better time for this picture.