Posted in Movie List

My Top Ten Films of 2021

I hate long intros, so let’s get right into this list. In a year packed with more film excellence than 2020 (for obvious reasons) the following are what I’d say were the ten best films of 2021.

10. Don’t Look Up:

A movie that warmed my anti-capitalist heart, “Don’t Look Up” reaffirms that nobody in power cares about you, social media is a distraction, and we are stuck in a patriarchal society that hates women and wouldn’t believe them even if a female scientist had evidence of a comet hurdling towards earth to kill us all. Moral of the story…welcome to earth (specifically the United States). 

In what is an allegory for the climate crisis, this story sees a scientist (Jennifer Lawrence) discover that a comet is going to hit the earth in six months and fourteen days. This will be an apocalyptic level event. She and a colleague (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) alert the proper authorities and even the President, but nobody seems to take the scientists seriously until the comet suddenly becomes a capitalistic opportunity. This is a comedy.

Writer/director Adam McKay absolutely hits the mark here, creating a giant timely reference. In his “fictionalized” version of the United States billionaires run the world, the main stream media only cares about headlines and so do influencers and so does the President. And also, dumb people hate science. This is the most Terry Gilliam film I’ve seen in a while, with a sprinkle of Coen brothers realness.

9. CODA:

This may be the strangest film on my list, not for any other reason than its damn formulaic and damn uplifting. I’m usually very much into downer films.

“CODA” stands for “Child of Deaf Adults”. It follows a high schooler named Ruby who is the only person in her family who isn’t deaf. One day she decides to join a music class, as she is a very talented singer but doesn’t seem to realize it yet. An eccentric teacher sees potential in her and spends the movie trying to challenge her to go off to music school. But as the only non-deaf person in her family, she feels that her destiny is to stay and take care of her parents. F-O-R-M-U-L-A-I-C! That said, the formula works quite well.  Very Disney in tone, with every loose end tied up by the end, “CODA” is undeniably heartfelt, funny and contains real gravity and stakes.

The characters are all likeable and we root for them the entire time. The acting is quite effective (the mother is played by Marlee Matlin) and the director does a great job of spotlighting deaf dialogues, with scenes of real deaf actors communicating for entire scenes without vocal breaks; which sounds like an obvious move in a film with this subject matter, but it’s something that really isn’t seen in film today. Sure, there are plot holes. And yes, movies like this may not make a lot of people’s top ten, but it’s really not up for debate how well this gets you right in the feels and never let’s go.

8. Spencer:

“Spencer” portrays Princess Diana, trapped at the end of a loveless marriage, surrounded by the most powerful family in the world, hopelessly marching towards the gallows, accompanied by a Jonny Greenwood orchestral score which swings back and forth between avant-garde jazz and classical; a decision which wonderfully complements a woman who famously stood in between two worlds. Beginning with a screen text which reads “A fable from a true tragedy”, visionary director Pablo Larrain (Jackie) gives us a brief glimpse into the life of Diana, as she attempts to break free from a world that at first glance could be mistaken for a fairytale.  His vision gives us something different, more surreal and far less narrative driven. The camera floats alongside Diana as she ventures outside on her own, almost getting lost amongst the seemingly never-ending world around her. And inside the estate Larrain creates a very claustrophobic feel, as the walls of opulence close in on the princess; establishing this as a fully immersive Diana experience. But also layered, because as much of a movie about Diana as “Spencer” is, it very much attempts to be a film about women trapped under the weight of the patriarchy. For as we root for Diana’s rejection of this life, Larrain quietly but consistently reminds us all about how these fairytales tend to end. 

Also, Kristen Stewart plays Diana in the role that will win her an Academy Award, creating a character all her own, not so much doing an impression, but an interpretation, giving a very Meryl Streep level performance.  And so it goes, a Kristen Stewart movie has finally made it onto one of my top ten lists. I totally get it. I’m late getting on this bandwagon.  

7. Dune (part one):

Denis Villeneuve makes perfect sci-fi. I need this on a tee-shirt.

Writer/director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2024, Arrival) adapts Frank Herbert’s notoriously difficult to adapt “greatest science fiction novel of all time”. (Seriously, look up the history of attempts to adapt “Dune).

The film sees House Atreides gain power over the planet Arrakis aka Dune; a desert planet filled with many dangers, including massive Godzilla-sized worms (sandworms); calling them worms may be selling these visually grandiose creatures short. This planet is also the home to a native peoples called Fremen and a valuable mineral referred to as “spice”, which makes interstellar travel possible. The story soon finds Paul Atreides (the youngest member of this house) encountering conflict involving spice mining, double crossing, and the aforementioned big ass worms. But Paul is no ordinary duke. He may or may not be a messiah of sorts, whether he wants to be or not.      

As expected, there is a ton of exposition which I saw and accepted as necessary in order to adapt a book like “Dune”; even again when you take into account that it’s a two hour and thirty-five-minute “part one”. Villeneuve handles the pre-action stuff by acknowledging the extensive exposition and (with the help of cinematographer Greg Fraser) establishes his brand of spectacular visual effects from minute one. This along with Han Zimmer’s score, carry the first hour of this movie until everyone is up to speed.  While there are many reasons why this film works, it’s greatest achievement will not be the film’s adaptation integrity, but the fact that as a visual sci-fi experience it works for the masses. And with a world this complex, this is the best compliment I can give.  

6: Titane:

The hardest sell on this list. Even though “Titane” is an award-winning film, it’s not one for everyone and will definitely turn people off who aren’t into extreme visuals. Also, even though I saw this film months ago, I will admit that I still don’t fully understand everything the director was trying to say and am eager for a second viewing. So, why would a film that I’m not totally sure I understood, be on this list?

Allow me to explain: Written and directed by Jula Ducournau, this is a horror film which follows a woman who develops a sexual attraction to cars after a childhood car accident. This car accident has left her with a titanium plate in her head. As an adult she works as a dancer, dancing atop classic cars for men. She has become a celebrity to these men, who find her as irresistible as she finds them repulsive. One night, she kills an aggressive fan after he chases her to her car. After which, she has intercourse with a car. After that she goes on a killing spree. Mid-spree she discovers she is pregnant with what we can only assume is a car baby. As she attempts to evade the police, she hides disguising herself as the long-lost son of a local fire chief. And then things get weird.

How am I doing selling this movie?

On its face “Titane” can be shrugged off as a body horror, extreme cinema and nonsensical slasher. But like Ducournau’s previous picture “Raw” there is so much more going on with this movie than just surface and visuals (the visuals are beautifully shot by the way). At its core this movie challenges and addresses gender stereotypes, toxic masculinity, childhood trauma and transphobia in very profound ways.

It’s easy to say that this is simply a movie about a woman who kills. And I think that’s the point. This brilliantly chaotic piece of filmmaking seems to being saying that if all you see is the violence or the sex, and/or all you get out of this movie is “a woman dresses like a boy”, this may say something more negatively about you than you’d like to admit.

5. Shiva Baby:

An anxiety attack told in one hour and seventeen minutes, “Shiva Baby” is a dark comedy about a woman in her early twenties named Danielle who finds herself at a Jewish funeral with her overbearing parents, her ex-girlfriend and her “sugar daddy”, who turns out is married with an infant.

Written and directed by Emma Seligman, as much as “Shiva Baby” is a comedy of unfortunate events, it’s filmed at times like a zombie movie (frantic soundtrack and all) as Danielle, unable to leave this situation, is surrounded by a crowded room full of flippantly passive aggressive family conversation, random family friends touching her stomach and commenting on how she’s “too skinny” and the aforementioned crying infant.

The movie is sharp, hilarious and had me on the edge of my seat. It’s basically the party sequence from “The Graduate”, just cranked up to eleven.

4. Gunda:

The only documentary on my list and it’s the anti-meat one, shot in black and white. Sounds about right.

Directed by vegetarian Viktor Kosakovskiy and produced by vegan Joaquin Phoenix, “Gunda” is a nature documentary without narration and without any soundtrack (all sounds are diegetic). It’s about ninety minutes long and in it we follow a group of animals; some who are living on an animal sanctuary and others who are living on a farm. The animals prominently featured are a mother pig and her newborn piglets. The film opens with a scene of a mother pig feeding her newborn litter. And we follow the mom and her children as the newborns grow.

The point of this film is animal activism. As a vegan I have seen all the slaughterhouse videos. I have seen cruel and unspeakable acts by humans towards living sentient creatures. These videos are commonplace in the community and used as ways to open people’s eyes to the atrocities of animal agriculture. And it does work sometimes. “Gunda” gives an alternative to videos of brutality and throat slashing violence. And it does it majestically.

I believe there is a place for film like “Gunda” which makes the same case (if not stronger) for animal sentience. It shows that a piglet or calf, etc. will suckle from their mother’s teat, will play like puppies and will look to their mothers for guidance when navigating a large field, if you let them. Also, a mother pig or a cow, etc. will feed and raise their young, if you let it. 

While there is no blood and no slaughterhouse shown in this film, there is a third act which will have audiences emotionally distraught as we begin to understand the fate which awaits these creatures.

3. Luca:

“Luca” is the story of a young boy sea monster named Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) who has become infatuated with seeing what lies above the surface and on the coastal Italian town of Portorosa. He is told by his parents that good kids (sea monsters) don’t venture to the surface. But when another boy sea monster his own age, Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer) sparks his curiosity by showing him that he can venture onto land and change into human form once on the surface, Luca soon discovers that this place may be where he’s meant to be.

This is a whimsical Pixar Italian folktale for sure, with all that entails. High quality animation, entertaining story with lots of levity, but also themes of fear, loss and acceptance told in a way that a child can digest. That said, it’s not hard to see “Luca” for what it is, with a particularly tender relationship between these two boys at its forefront and telling a story where these boys must hide their identity for fear of being hurt; where on multiple occasions they are referred to as “kids who are different”. While the plot of “Luca” could be seen as more simplistic than others in the Pixar canon, it’s more than a little exciting to finally see a film like this. An animated film which carries the same Pixar award worthy standards, and also celebrates an LGBTQ+ story; even if the corporate machine behind it attempts to gaslight us all, denying this watershed moment.     

This is one of the most important movies in the history of animated film.  

2. West Side Story:

How do you make arguably the greatest musical in history even better? Let Steven Spielberg have a go. This remake of the 1961 film and/or the 1957 Broadway production, is a masterclass.

We all know this Romeo and Juliet inspired story. Boy (Ansel Elgort) and girl (Rachel Zegler) from different sides of the tracks (one white, the other Puerto Rican) fall in love despite their families wishes and fighting ensues. Anyway, expectations were high and expectations were exceeded.

Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner actually add elements to the source material, which in another director’s hands would be catastrophic. But every element added gives this version more life and context and allows the characters to become more three dimensional. It’s undeniable.    

Spielberg continues, giving audiences camerawork which seems to dance and glide alongside choreography so breathtaking that it made the entire theater vibrate. 

He also gives us Latino characters speaking Spanish without the addition of subtitles, a move which may not seem like much to some, but to those who never looked to the original for representation, this is one of the touches which reinforces that this is also a Latino story. Furthermore, this film contains far more Afro-Latino representation than Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” (big eyes emoji).

This acclaimed filmmaker is asked to remake a legendary film. And what he does is make it his own while also pausing at times to reenact iconic shots, paying homage by creating sequences which look visually as though we are back watching the 61’ version; giving us fans all the nostalgia feels. 

Watching this movie reminded me why Steven Spielberg is the greatest director alive.

1. Last Night in Soho:

If anyone could fit this much movie into one experience it would be Edgar Wright.

In this female lead horror, with the best soundtrack of the year, writer/director Edgar Wright tells the story of Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), a young woman from the country who gets a chance to go to London to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer. It’s alluded that she’s had some sort of breakdown in the past and that London might be overwhelming for her. Ellie rents a room in an old house and when she falls asleep, she begins to have dreams (or visions) where she is transported to 1960’s London, where she seems to become this other woman, an aspiring singer played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Ellie becomes enamored as each night she falls asleep and lives through this mysterious other woman. But theses dreams turn to nightmares, as she discovers that London has a darker side and the true monsters in this horror story are men.

Visually this film is delicious, with every stylized sequence popping and grabbing and pulling the audience into the film, just as the protagonist is pulled into 1960’s London. The script is perfect, fluidly sliding in, out and around the horror genre, building into a quite unexpected mystery.  

“Last Night in Soho” is the culmination of every Wright movie. It is a masterpiece which gave me the same feeling I got the first time I watched Hitchcock.

Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus and on Instagram @moviesmarkus1

Here are 15 movies that didn’t make my top ten list, but I still enjoyed and would recommend.

11. Eternals

12. Violet

13. Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

14. Candyman

15. A Quiet Place Part 2

16. Godzilla vs. Kong

17. Benedetta

18. Annette

19. Encanto

20. The Mitchells vs. the Machines

21. C’mon C’mon

22. Judas and the Black Messiah

23. In the Heights

24. The Green Knight

25. Licorice Pizza

Posted in Movie List

My Top Ten Films of 2020

2020 will go down in history as the year of COVID, BLM and the rejection (by many) of fascism. 2020 also saw massive lockdowns in many states in the US. And with that, many businesses where forced to shut down and/or modify how they functioned during a pandemic. This was also true for the film industry and the movie theater industry. Many big budget features have been pushed to late 2021 or placed on a streaming service. But that doesn’t mean there were fewer quality movies released this past year. In fact, some excellent and quite relevant movies were released on VoD and streaming services. So, with that said, here are my top ten films of 2020: 

10. Ava: From director Tate Taylor, who’s last film “Ma” was majorly flawed, but highly entertaining, comes a movie about an assassin who has a bounty on her head. Starring Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Common, Geena Davis and Colin Farrell, this is a curious pick for sure, only because I wouldn’t say this is a “good movie” on a technical level. In fact, the acting is shockingly average. The plot is not anything new and (in fact) is filled with clichés. Even the fight choreography is clunky at times. So why is this one my list? Thanks to Taylor’s direction, “Ava”, while flawed, is non-stop entertainment. I don’t really know why I enjoyed it as much as I did, but I did. I enjoyed this more than any John Wick film, more than “Hanna”, or the “Taken” films; all of which “Ava” would be considered in the same category as, but on the B-side. A highly rewatchable and easily digestible movie, this may be an instance of right place/right time, arriving just when I needed some mindless entertainment.  

9. Never Rarely Sometimes Always: This independent film focuses on an American teenager who must travel to obtain a legal abortion. The point of this movie is to recreate an accurate depiction of what a teenager must go through in certain areas of the country, in order to have a safe abortion without parental consent. As viewers, we go through this process with her. Writer/director Eliza Hittman really takes her time with this journey, forcing us to look on as this girl meets with a financial advisor, has multiple sonograms, sees a counselor and on the way navigates a large city full of lecherous men. Reminding me of 2003’s “Thirteen”, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is a not so gentle reminder of how dangerous it is to be a teenage girl.  

8. Red, White and Blue: John Boyega gives a performance rivaling his own in “Detroit”, in this the third in a series of five Steve McQueen feature length films to come out in 2020. “Red, White and Blue” is the true story of Logan Leroy, a young Black forensic scientist in London who wants to become a cop after his father is assaulted by two police officers. Exploring both sides of what we would now call the “Defund the Police” argument and also the dichotomy of being a Black cop, this isn’t itself a pro-cop or anti-cop film, but more a fascinating character study of two opposing Black viewpoints and how they each see the purpose of police in their communities.   

7. The Forty-Year-Old Version: Filmed in black and white on what looked to be a shoe-string budget, Redha Blank, writes, directs and stars in this film about a struggling Black female New York playwright, who may or may not be having a “mid-life” crisis when one day she decides to pursue a career as a rapper.  This is a film that drips with love for the culture, feeling like early Spike Lee, but with a more comedically awkward tone. Blank puts it all out there with a character who works in a field run by white gate-keepers, attempting to tell a story of Harlem as she sees it, the whole-time hurtling sexism, ageism and the pressure to write “poverty porn”. It does take about twenty minutes to get going, but once it does “The Forty-Year-Old Version” is hilarious, personal and profound in a way that really caught me off guard.  

6. Possessor: Uncut: Set in an alternate universe where assassins take control of (inhabit) unsuspecting people’s bodies using brain-implant technology, in order to execute targets without it being traced back to them. “Possessor” sets a high bar conceptually. And it not only delivers, but will age as a sci-fi achievement on the same level as “Blade Runner”. That’s right. I said it. Starring the brilliantly eccentric Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott giving dueling performances, while technically never actually being in the same room, and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, there is a ton of mind-bending goodness to feast on. It is also the most explicit movie on this list, in every aspect. But what else would you expect from a Cronenberg?

5. Sound of Metal: A profoundly emotional journey following the life of a young metal drummer who suddenly loses his hearing. Director and co-writer Darius Marder does a spectacular job of putting the audience into the shoes of a person struggling with sudden deafness, by focusing not only on how the world feels to someone who is deaf, but also how deafening the world truly can be. The sound mix is superb and Riz Ahmed gives one of the best performances I’ve seen all year. The only real flaw (if I had to find one) is that I wish it was longer.  “Sound of Metal” is tragic (not a spoiler) even in its happiest most redemptive moments. Most of the things I loved about a movie such as “Whiplash” or “The Place Beyond the Pines”, are things I loved about this.

4. The Devil All the Time: Just to be upfront, this form of woefully depressing, life is meaningless storytelling is right up my alley; if you couldn’t tell by a list rife with downers. Adapted from Donald Ray Pollock’s acclaimed debut novel by writer/director Antonio Campos, and set between World War II and the onset of the Vietnam War, this “Hillbilly Gothic” tale follows the lives of three groups of people, a war vet and his son, a couple of evangelical preachers and a couple of serial killers, all seemingly trapped in a hyper-religious area within the Bible Belt, whose lives intersect in random and vicious biblical ways. With tons of moving parts, Campos does a superb job of methodically maintaining this ever changing two hours plus story of relentless despair, while teasing us with unattainable hope. Sounds like a blast, right?   

3. The Assistant: A snapshot of one day in the life of a young female assistant working for a powerful (but never physically depicted) executive. Written and directed by Kitty Green in a way that really emphasizes the silent suffering of one female employee trapped in an abusive workspace, in order to amplify the voices of many women who work in equally abusive environments. “The Assistant” showcases what an everyday hostile work environment looks like. We watch a mounting drip, drip, drip of uncomfortable and abusive actions made against this woman, as she absorbs every blow for the good of her career. “The Assistant” is a film where, if you relate to the protagonist at all, it will leave you absolutely decimated. 

2. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Based on a play by August Wilson, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is quite a simple concept on the surface. Set in 1920’s Chicago, we follow Ma Rainey (the “Mother of the Blues”) and her band during a single recording session. Like any great piece of art, there are layers. These layers tell a generational tale of the Black experience in the United States. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is less a biopic, than it is a movie about trauma; Black trauma. Much like “A Raisin in the Sun” we are forced into a dingy claustrophobic environment and made to witness multiple generations of black people struggle to make sense of things, as the world around them continues to take and take. Also, the performances for Viola Davis who plays the titular Ma Rainey and the late Chadwick Boseman who plays a young trumpet player with big dreams and a whole lot of unresolved anger, will both garner award considerations, if not victories.

1. Da 5 Bloods: Great war movies look to not only humanize, but to tell all sides of the story. This is Spike Lee’s most award worthy Joint since “Malcolm X”.  Following four Black Vietnam vets, who travel back to current day Vietnam in order to recover the remains of their fallen squad leader and also a secret chest full of buried gold bars they’d hidden during the war, Lee makes the forgotten casualties of war (dead or alive) his main focus. With a cast that includes Delroy Lindo and the late Chadwick Boseman, it takes no time for the dialogue to become deep, critical and cutting towards a society which has always used poor Black labor to advance and conquer. The movie soon becomes less about a quest and more about the systemic long-term effects of colonialism on all victimized persons in that war, American and Vietnamese. A companion piece to something as prolific as “Apocalypse Now”, “Da 5 Bloods” tops my list most of all because it is unapologetically Black Lives Matter.

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Posted in Movie List

My Top 10 Movies of 2019


It’s the end of the year, so let’s get right into it:


  1. Knives Out: KnivesOutWhen the patriarch of a wealthy family dies under suspicious circumstances, an investigation filled with zany characters as well as twists and turns ensue. More than just pure escapism though, this Clue inspired whodunit has a fun political undertone along with one the strongest and most original scripts of the year. With a star-studded cast, including Chris Evans, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis and Daniel Craig, I could say that Daniel Craig’s Southern accent is the standout, but honestly pick your poison. Everyone is great here. Every aspect of this film is highly entertaining. Writer/director Rain Johnson comes through with a stylized comedic murder mystery that should be up for an Oscar or two. And maybe this is the movie which proves to the neckbeards that “The Last Jedi” was pretty great. Or, maybe not…


  1. Jojo Rabbit:jojorabbit Beginning with a montage that compares the frenzy of Hitler’s fan base to Beatlemania, “Jojo Rabbit” shoots immediately into Mel Brooks territory with its “out of bounds” hilarious satire. But it also has that irresistible heart found in other comedies from writer/director Taika Waititi. Set in Germany during WWII, this comedy follows a young boy, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) who is a part of Adolf Hitler’s army and has dreams of capturing a Jewish person for Hitler in order to become his best friend. But one day he is confronted with a dilemma, when he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding a teenage Jewish girl in the walls of his home. Also, Jojo has an imaginary friend. It’s Hitler. And it’s played by Waititi himself. So, I get it. This synopsis sounds like it very well could be an unpleasant watch. A heartwarming comedy about a child Nazi? Yikes. At the very least the logistics of making a movie like this sounds insane; let alone getting us (the audience) to laugh, as well as root for its characters. But this is the magic trick performed by Waititi. And it is a great one. Because, by the end, “Jojo Rabbit” becomes this hilarious coming of age story for the whole family.


  1. Joker: joker2“Joker” is an R-Rated stand-alone prequel of sorts about the man who would become the titular Batman villain. This version of the Joker story was not one that I was familiar with and thus I was happy with sitting through two hours plus of this mentally unstable character, as he watches the world burn. Even though plot-wise there isn’t really much more to it than that, there’s a lot here to appreciate. I think we all knew Joaquin Phoenix (The Master, You Were Never Really Here) was going to be an excellent Joker. I mean, the man is an eccentric character in street clothes. And he is spectacular in this. Not any better or worse than Heath Ledger’s 2008 performance as the Joker. Phoenix’s Joker is a whole other beast. From his dance inspired erratic contortions, to his body transformation, to that laugh, with this performance Phoenix reinvents the character so much so, that audiences will actually find themselves rooting for the Joker; unironically. Also, Todd Phillips, the director of the horrid “The Hangover” trilogy, has probably made the best movie he’ll ever make by nailing this fan fiction “Taxi Driver” homage.


  1. Under the Silver Lake: Under-the-Silver-Lake-1.1Every year there is one movie like this. A movie that is bizarre and profound, hated and loved in equal measure. A movie where after watching, you may feel as though there is so much more to uncover, while others will proclaim whoever enjoyed this movie to be unbearably pretentious. “Under the Silver Lake” was that movie in 2019 (with a release date having been delayed for months). From writer/director David Robert Mitchell, this begins as a fairly straight forward crime drama/neo-noir, following an unlikable young man (Andrew Garfield) who becomes infatuated with a woman (Riley Keough) whom he sees in his apartment complex; and then one day she disappears. But in very Lynchian style, there is much more (ugliness) when you dig beneath the plastic façade. And as we start to pull back the layers and the story becomes almost too convoluted to find “believable”, that is when the fanboy “cult classic” magic begins. This is a movie that can and should be dissected for some time after its viewing; even if all of the work that goes into post-viewing analysis may be altogether meaningless. This is the love child of “Mulholland Drive” and “Chinatown”, even though rumor has it “Southland Tales” may be the real father.


  1. Booksmart: booksmartThis high school comedy about two super smart female friends having a “life crisis” the day before senior graduation, was said to be the “Superbad” of this generation, but I thought it was much better. It’s the funniest movie of the year, as well as the best “buddy comedy” I’ve seen in ages. And as great as the acting is (Beanie Feldstein is not only hilarious as one of the two leads, but also a sensational actor) I have to equate the fact that this movie reaches teen comedy perfection multiple times, to the direction of Olivia Wilde, who gives us one of the best directed movies of the year.


  1. The Irishman: irishmanThe movie was nearly three and a half hours long, so I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Martin Scorsese directs a movie about a mobster (Robert De Niro) recounting the killing of Union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). For me, this was not only the finality of a trilogy that consists of “Goodfellas” and “Casino”, but it reads as a more complete thought; that means I thought it was better (de-aging aside). Fight me.


  1. Parasite: parasiteSadly, the only foreign film to make my list (sorry, “Monos”) there could be a strong argument made that “Parasite” should be number one for everything it attempts and absolutely nails here. No lie. Watching “Parasite” is like watching a two-hour juggling act. Even though I was a huge fan of 2009’s “Mother”, here writer/director Bong Joon Ho makes his Hitchcockian masterpiece, telling the story (set in South Korea) of an unemployed family that begins to weasel their way into the lives of a disgustingly wealthy family. This movie not only hits on the solid story (stories) aspect you look for in a film (there are literally 3 or 4 different stories going on at once) it also layers in tons of dark comedy and some scathing political satire regarding not only North and South Korean relations, but of South Korean and the United States as well. Now that I’m thinking about it, this probably should be higher on my list…well, maybe next year.


  1. Midsommar: midsommarWriter/director Ari Aster was right. This really was Willy Wonka for perverts. This “horror” film tells the story of a young woman (Florence Pugh, who gives my favorite performance of the year by a female lead) who goes on a trip to Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends, in order to participate in a Coachella-like festival (just with more white people). What “Get Out” did for white people in the suburbs, “Midsommar” will do for white people internationally. It’s that effective. And it’s twisted in all of the right ways. That said, if you think of this as less of a standard horror flick (because it isn’t traditionally “scary”) and more of a relationship/breakup movie, then this two hour plus bright and beautiful looking nightmare will come full circle like an aggressively sadistic yet satisfying joke. Also, the final scene of “Midsommar” solidified Aster as my spirit animal, hitting another twisted homerun in this follow-up to last year’s “Hereditary”.


  1. Luce: luce-movie-octavia-spencer-tgj-600x317My favorite protagonists are highly flawed. Speaking as a Black American, “Luce” is everything I want in a movie. Directed by Julius Onah and co-written by J.C. Lee, this slow-burn thriller tells the story of Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) an honor student, originally from war-torn Eritrea and adopted at age ten by white American parents (played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth). One day a teacher (Octavia Spencer) becomes suspicious that Luce’s calm and affable exterior may be hiding something a bit more sinister. It’s quite fascinating to see all of the dynamics at play. From the white American parents who struggle with how much to trust their black child, to the black teacher whose ideology comes in direct conflict with Luce’s. And Luce, a character that struggles with his identity as an immigrant person of color, going to a predominately white school, where he is praised for his eloquence and ability to basically make the white people around him feel good about themselves, is a revelation of a character. The beauty of a film like this is that ten different people could watch it and come out with ten differing takeaways. To me this isn’t a story about a sociopath or a star student, but rather a commentary on being black in America; how as a permanent immigrant (based on skin color alone) there is a dichotomy within the community and individual, which causes a schism in mentality and social norms. What does it mean to be a Black American? Is it Obama? Is it a rapper on BET? Is it a Mammy? Is it even an American? Or is it all of these things and none of them at the same time? “Luce” asks all of these questions, while making the bold statement that the Black American is culturally schizophrenic and as James Baldwin once said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” To me, “Luce” is an example of how one perfectly tells the story of what it’s like to be black in America.


  1. Marriage Story: Marriagestory-1280x533Noah Baumbach writes and directs the most perfect film of the year. “A Marriage Story” contains the best script, the best direction, the best editing, the best all-around performances and honestly, made me cry multiple times. If you haven’t seen this Netflix film yet, I’d describe it as a more expansive version of “Kramer vs. Kramer”. We see a couple (Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson) who once loved one another, go through a divorce. And then we are made to witness them figuratively cut each other up for a couple of hours. I’ve never been through a divorce myself, but this looked pretty accurate to me; and more vicious and with more bloodshed than most war films. Also, I know what you’re saying, and trust me, a movie that contains not one person of color is not a conventional pick for me; but here we are. What I will say, in my defense, is that this is a movie that punched me in the stomach and when I was on the ground, proceeded to start kicking. Yeah, that sounds like more my type of movie.


Just missed my list:

Babu Frik


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Posted in Movie List

Top 10 Movies of 2015


Time to start my year anew; a new website for a new year. And what better way to start off the New Year than with a top ten list…a top ten list of last year’s movies, but you get what I’m trying to say.

Narrowly missing my list (in order):
16. Chappie
15. Creed
14. The Martian
13. Brooklyn
12. Predestination
11. Secret in Their Eyes

And now, for the 10 best films of 2015:

10. Jurassic World:Jurassic-World-Chris-Pratt-850x560

The first of two on my list that successfully rebooted an entire franchise in spectacular fashion. Telling this story on a new and much larger theme park, built around Jurassic Park, this much anticipated film gave audiences the “more factor” (more CGI, more dinosaurs, more actual “park”) but for a 4th installment, director Colin Trevorrow more importantly gave fans a fresh story with likeable characters (starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) all while not diluting the original product; as is the problem with many sequels.

9. The Big Short:the big short

Directed by Adam McKay (who injects some welcome levity, cutting the countless scenes of “make me feel bad” Michael Moore-esque finger wagging) and starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, who collectively attempt to make the housing bubble collapse of nearly 10 years ago somewhat understandable. “The Big Short” gets an “A” for effort, while also standing as the most important movie of the year (and undoubtedly the one the most pretentious among us will claim to fully understand in order to save face). The problem is, much like 2009’s “Up in the Air” (my favorite movie of that year) “The Big Short” will be almost entirely forgotten in a couple of years. Nevertheless, it still deserves a spot on my list because (say it with me) it is the most important movie of this year.

8. The Hateful Eight:hateful-eight-jennifer-jason-leigh

Taking an appropriate spot on my list, “The Hateful Eight” is the newest Quentin Tarantino film that only a Tarantino fan could love. Meaning, you have to look past the aggressive violence (in this case) aggressive abuse towards women and the aggressively defiant use of the “N” word (and the fact that this movie is over 2 ½ hours long) in order to see how well plotted, beautifully filmed (especially the 70mm showings) and exploding with unabashed entertainment value it is. Or, if you’re a Tarantino fan (like I am) you won’t have to look past any of that. Depicting a post Civil War Wyoming blizzard, where a collection of lively characters of feuding races are held up in a cabin for the duration of a storm. Thing is, someone isn’t who they say they are, which leads to arguments, which leads to killing. Oh yes, does it lead to killing. No, “The Hateful Eight” isn’t Tarantino’s best work. But, even an above average Tarantino whodunit is wildly entertaining and superbly unique. In short, it’s still better than watching high octane, zero-substance cinema, like “Mad Max: Fury Road”.

7. Room:room

Not perfect and quite predictable, yet pulls every heartstring in reach. “Room” tells the story of a five year old boy and his mom, who are held prisoner in a shed. The shed is a prison for the mother, but is the only “world” the little boy has ever known. What gets this film on my list is Lenny Abrahamson’s direction (which is absolutely perfect) as she tells this story mostly through the eyes of the child. I dare you to watch this movie and not cry. It’s simply impossible.

6. The Visit:the visit

The first movie on my list which I enjoyed from start to finish and also a surprise entry, as I may be the only critic in America (if not, the world) who enjoyed “The Visit” enough to give it a place on a top ten list, “The Visit” concerns two children who visit their estranged grandparents; and soon enough the grandparents begin to act strange…and violent. I understand that many were more frightened by the fact that this was a film from the much-maligned M. Night Shyamalan. But I am here to tell you, that “The Visit” is a return to Twilight Zone form for M. Night. And yes, the twist was worth it this time.

5. It Follows:it follows

As more and more people got the chance to see “It Follows”, there have been are more and more who claim “It Follows” is more so flawed and dreadfully slow than it is scary and suspenseful. But I (a critic who has championed this film since its release) still stand by my initial praise that this is one of the scariest movies of recent years, not only because the feeling of suspense is palpable throughout the entire film (without rest) not only because the admittedly blunt allegory of a woman who has sex and then is relentlessly chased by an unseen monster is quite inventive (given the rules of this world) but mostly because “It Follows” will stay with you long after your viewing has ended. It will haunt you. It will follow you. And what more could you want out of a horror flick?

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: star wars

  Ripe with thirst quenching nostalgia; thanks to director J.J. Abrams, there may not even be a need for explanation as to why “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” gets a spot here. I mean, chances are, out of all the movies on my list, this is the one you’ve seen. But OK, allow me to play devil’s advocate for a second. Maybe this is a film that didn’t deserve a spot in a top ten list of “best films” of the year (let alone, a place so high on my list). I mean, the acting wasn’t anything spectacular, the visuals don’t rival a “space film” like “The Martian”, and the story is basically “A New Hope” warmed-over for a generation who had never seen “A New Hope”. But it’s my list. And I’m not lying when I say that watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was the most fun I had in a theater all year.

3. Sicario:sicario

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, I suspect audiences who disliked “Sicario”, disliked it because it wasn’t a shoot-em-up, U.S vs. Mexico, Robert Rodriguez romp. “Sicario” is a calculated film that stands as the most accurate cinematic depiction of a war that’s going on in our very backyard. Concerning Mexican drug cartels and corrupt FBI agents, for me this film was as much eye opening as it was brutally alarming, as I viewed “realistic” U.S./Mexico relations which shook me to my core.

2. Beasts of No Nation:beasts of no nation

Brutal, violent, heartbreaking, unflinching, grotesque, realistic, tragic, “Beasts of No Nation” (not “Beasts of the Southern Wild) a film from the great Cary Fukunaga, stands as the hardest, yet the most beautifully compelling film to watch on my list; one which deserves a second, third and fourth viewing, because of its truthful depiction of a fictional war fought using child soldiers (a savage practice that still occurs today). Wait. You haven’t heard of this movie, you say? A movie that has taken the #2 spot on my list?! Well that might be because the big chain theaters refused to show it, since it was bought by Netflix, with plans of simultaneous release on the big and small screen. I truly believe that because it was released primarily on Netflix, many don’t even know this film exists. What a travesty!

1.Inside Out:Inside-Out-keyboard-642x396

Over the years only one Pixar film has ever reached my #1 spot; “Inside Out” will be the second. I previously stated that “The Big Short” was the most important film of the year, but in that same breath (and I truly believe this) “Inside Out”, an animated film about human emotions, may be the most important children’s film not only of this generation, but ever made. Yes, the animation is high caliber, but it is truly the adult themes made palatable for children and (though fabricated) a creative look at how memories are stored, what happens to our childhood imaginary friends, how a pre-teen sees the world vs. how a child going through puberty sees the world vs. how a grown-up sees the world, which makes “Inside Out” a watershed film in children’s entertainment.

Bonus: The Worst Films of 2015:

age of adaline

I didn’t see a whole lot of bad movies this year, but I did see 7! And here they are (in order):

7. The Lazarus Effect
6. The Loft
5: Taken 3
4. Sinister 2
3. The Green Inferno
2. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death
1. The Age of Adaline: (the only one on my list that actually garners a small explanation, seeing how there were people who actually liked it) The story of a woman who gets electrocuted and now can live forever, actually sounds like (in the right hands) it could’ve lead to an interesting narrative. While this isn’t technically the most inept film I saw all year, it was the most boring and lifeless. This is one of those movies where you could leave to use the restroom, go get some popcorn, go out to your car, drive to the nearest Red Robin, have yourself a burger, eat the burger, tip big, drive back to the theater, find your seat and not have missed a damn thing. With the most annoying voice-over narration throughout as the cherry on top; a narration which rocked me into a cinematic coma, “The Age of Adaline” stands as the worst film of 2015.

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