Tumble off with Stan & Ollie [u]

First, a paean to Laurel & Hardy as the shining binary star of early Hollywood.  I have fond memories going back to childhood of their short films, though they were much harder to come by on broadcast television than the ubiquitous Stooges.  Laurel & Hardy were utter genius, and every time I think of them it still makes me smile.

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For Stan & Ollie to work, Coogan and Reilly had to nail Oliver Hardy & Stan Laurel.  And — to the extent that it is knowable without consulting a scholar — they did.  No easy task.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch Stan & Ollie, but I revisited the trailer and sensed that as well as providing insight into the legendary duo, the film would be touching — and it was, especially in the finish, which raised the film from a mostly-7 to 8/10.  And I am happy to do so.  I’m glad I went to the movies.  It’s nice to watch a movie that makes you think and makes you feel.  2019 has set off on the right left foot.  8/10

UPDATE: Scratch that about 2019 setting off on the right left foot.  Apparently Stan & Ollie is a 2018 film, which puts it in 5th place, behind Upgrade on the 2018 List.  Never mind where and when it might have been released (see 2016 End Note).


The Best and Worst of 2018

2018 was the worst year in movies since I’ve been doing my blog (2012), and probably since long before that.  An abysmal year, with almost nothing released that anyone will care about or remember in five years time.  Makes you appreciate 2017 so much more.  So here goes — *Asterisk denotes the film I saw at home via VOD:

Black Panther — 2/10 and Honours for Worst Movie of the Year

You Were Never Really Here — 3/10

Anna and the Apocalypse — 3/10

Disobedience — 4/10

Slender Man — 4/10

Mission: Impossible – Fallout — 4/10

Annihilation — 4/10.  I’m amused how this highly touted and highly hyped film has already been utterly forgotten.

Halloween — 4/10

Destroyer — 4/10

Welcome to Marwen — 4/10

Bad Times at the El Royale — 4/10

A Quiet Place — 5/10

BlacKkKlansman — 5/10

Double Lover — 5/10

Mid90s — 5/10

Game Night — 5/10

Beast — 5/10

The Mule — 5/10

Blockers — 6/10

American Animals — 6/10

The Sisters Brothers — 6/10

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot — 6/10

Sorry to Bother You — 6/10

Blaze — 6/10

A Star Is Born — 6/10

Widows — 6/10

The Old Man & the Gun — 6/10

The Rider — 7/10

Eighth Grade — 7/10

Leave No Trace — 7/10

Crazy Rich Asians — 7/10

Thoroughbreds — 7/10

Searching — 7/10

Cold War — 7/10

Hereditary — 7/10

Roma* — 7/10

First Reformed — 7/10

The Favourite — 7/10

Can You Ever Forgive Me? — 7/10

Upgrade — 8/10

== TOP 3 ==

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3. A Simple Favor — 8/10

2. Free Solo — 8/10

1. Isle of Dogs — 8/10 and Clearly the Best Movie of the Year

End Note (in 3 parts): Yup, Top 3.  Those are the only films of note this year, the only ones that come this time next year I will remember with a fond heart.  Special mention to Upgrade, a surprise entertainment — I almost fashioned a Top 4, but that just didn’t have a ring to it.

Obviously, I have to choose the best prospects of the movies which are released in any given year.  So maybe I’m just missing out.  Maybe 2018 was a better year for films than I am realizing.  Maybe Bohemian Rhapsody and Mary Poppins are really that good.  Maybe I’d like If Beale Street Could Talk, but I’ll probably never find out.  Maybe Green Book or Vice — but I just have zero desire to see any psuedopolitical movies.  The real politics we are dealing with are much more compelling.

It’s hard not to think that the down-swing of films this year is connected to the explosion of television VOD.  But then, that didn’t hurt 2017.

A Toasty Cold War

I went into Cold War hoping to receive some limited salvation from this abysmal year in movies at the hand of Paweł Pawlikowski, the director of Ida, one of the best movies of the last 10 years.  Something, maybe, to eke out at least a Top 5 of 2018.  No such luck.

The problem is that despite the magnetism of the femme fatale Joanna Kulig, the movie is a narrative jumble, especially in the latter half as transitions from one stage to the next seem unfounded and disingenuous.  I wasn’t entirely buying the love story at the heart of the movie either — the chemistry did not work 100%.


For all the narrative issues, I blame Amazon, not the director.  Bezos didn’t stick his fingers in Ida, and the result was a lot better.

The dreaded square-frame-for-no-reason rears its ugly head again too.  It was not at all distracting here, but unlike with Ida, it did not seem to add anything either.  Nonetheless, I liked the singing, I liked the music, and I liked the dancing.  All very nice.  There were some luminous moments to be certain.  And the star’s magnetism throughout, even if she’s a bit spoiled.  The post-war Polish setting provided some edification as well.  And finally, maybe I’m giving someone too much credit, but I think there’s a clever double entendre with the title as a cherry on top.  7/10

Comparison Notes: the aforementioned Ida4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 DaysLa Dolce Vita, Barbara, Wings of Desire, Under the Skin, A Star Is Born (2018), La La Land, Leviathan, Blue Valentine

VOD Log: Roma

Netflix does Roma a tremendous disservice by releasing it simultaneously to its own streaming service and theaters.  Yes, I see that it officially was released in a highly “limited” way to theaters beforehand, but that does no good for people who live in such far-flung locations as San Diego.  By releasing in that way, it very well assures that the only way realistically to watch it is at home.

Which is a shame, because of all the films of 2018, Roma is the one that perhaps most of all needs to be seen on a big screen.  There are many sweeping long shots with lots of small detail that are absolutely miniaturized on even a 4K 55″ set as mine is.


Roma′s visual depth is one of its strongest features, despite being in black and white — this is a very cinematic film.  But I can only go by my viewing experience, which was handicapped.  That, and trailer perjury — there is no Pink Floyd in the movie — knocks Roma, as seen at home, down to as many as two pegs from where it might otherwise have been.  One thing it does is reaffirm why I go to the movies.

Having said all that, the movie did hold my interest, and I liked a number of the scenes.  Roma had a good, almost Iñárritu-like flow to it, and even on my small screen the visuals were conveyed, though tamped down like so much pipe tobacco.  7/10

Comparison Notes: La Dolce Vita, Wings of Desire, Bicycle Thieves, La Cérémonie, The Housemaid

Destroyer of all that is Holy

The much-anticipated Destroyer lives up to its name by squandering the exceptional talents of Nicole Kidman.  Though the highlight of the film, Kidman’s performance was not where it needed to be — on this I blame more the storywriters and director than her.  Mostly a Sicario / Inherent Vice – type bore, Destroyer wasn’t nearly as edgy as it fancied itself to be.

Besides wasting an alterna-face Nicole Kidman, the film hardly maximizes its splendid urban and desert settings.  Logic problems, two very weak half-stories, and a half-hearted hocus-pocus narrative trick at the end do nothing to lift this project.  4/10

Comparison Notes: Highly Recommended: Chinatown, The Big Sleep, and After Dark, My Sweet; Not Recommended: the aforementioned Sicario and Inherent Vice


Innocence Lost: Making a Murderer Part 2


Almost exactly two years ago I wrote: “Making a Murderer on Netflix is a magnificently compelling, gut-wrenching, and heartbreaking series.”  Part 2, released in October last year, doubles down on being among the most riveting television ever aired.  And where Part 1 might have been shortened by a couple episodes, that is not at all the case in Part 2 — every minute is used to its full value.  For fans of true crime, this is as good as it gets.

SPOILER ALERT! — Referring back to my previous spoiler comments, I will add that the Avery case, in the absence of anything to contradict the evidence raised by Kathleen Zellner —  is even more solidly, and clearly, on the side of his innocence.  Zellner is in a different league than the original defense; we will see where she can take it.  Does this mean a Part 3 is in the offing?

[End of Spoilers]

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So I never was able to produce a TV 2018 part 2 post as intended.  Those items, including Roseanne without Roseanne, are hereby tabled for a future post.