Our 2021 Road Trip #33: Valley of Gold, Valley of Shadow

Anne and Makoshika!

Anne in happier times, by which I mean ten minutes into the walk, taken at her request for her Facebook friends back home.

When recounting our disappointments about Yellowstone National Park, at the time two occurred to us: we wished everyone else in the world had stayed home so that we could’ve had the entire park to ourselves; and we wished we could’ve hiked more. We spent so many hours driving from one site to the next that we really didn’t walk a lot of long distances. We knew some exercise would do us a world of good, and yet its hiking trails — which we were pretty sure they had — didn’t stand out to us on their official, main map. It was all about dots of interest, not lines for walking.

Our next stop in Montana satisfied our urge to walk, then exceeded said urge until it began to pose safety concerns. As darkness overtook us at the close of Day Six, we stopped any and all jokes about “getting our steps in” for the rest of the trip.

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My 2021 at the Movies, Part 2 of 2: The Year’s Best

Scarlett Johansson IS Black Widow!

Yeah, I know, superhero films with only one timeline in them are so 2018.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: In 2021 I made 22 trips to the theater to see films made that same year. In Part 1 we ranked the majority from “this film is pretty keen” to “this film is my mortal enemy” but in reverse. And now, the countdown concludes with the ten most relatively awesome films I saw at a theater in 2021 that were released for general audiences in 2021. Exactly those dates. Exactly those dates.

EXACTLY those dates.

Onward!

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My 2021 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: The Year’s Least Best

Spider-Man: No Way Home!

“Our billion-dollar movie made six whole people grumpy! Let’s ask Doctor Strange to overwrite their brains!”

It’s listing time again! In today’s entertainment consumption sphere, all experiences must be pitted against each other and assigned numeric values that are ultimately arbitrary to anyone except the writer themselves. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #32: A Celebrity Signing in Sandstone

William Clark's autograph!

An autograph so rare, it takes an entire national park to serve as its Certificate of Authenticity.

Chasing autographs is usually an activity better suited to our comic cons than to our vacations. This time we had an excuse to peruse one along our path through Montana. We weren’t allowed to take it home, and its signer was unavailable for a jazz-hands photo op with us, but we appreciated the chance for a close look at preserved physical evidence from a real historical figure who’d later go on to costar in a long-running comics series. The giant object containing his personal graffiti was pretty keen, too.

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“Nightmare Alley”: How Grifty McGrift Became Grifton Griftershire, Esq.

Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley!

“Okay, once more for the polygraph: was it really that awesome to work with Lady Gaga?”

Hi! Show of hands: who wants to read thoughts about a new Guillermo del Toro film from one of the six people in America who didn’t care for his Best Picture winner The Shape of Water?

No? Nah, it’s okay, I understand. Our exits are clearly marked for safe evacuation. See you next entry!

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Our 2021 Road Trip #31: The Montana Montage

I-90 and mesa!

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

Prior to 2021 I’d been to 32 of our United States. Plenty of Americans have walked around more states than I have, which is pretty cool for them. Our last six annual road trips took us to new places we hadn’t seen before, but they were all in states we’d already visited in the past. This year we finally crossed another state off the to-do list as we exited Yellowstone into the southwest end of Montana. Pound for pound Wyoming was prettier overall, but the Montana scenery had its charms.

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Midlife Crisis Crossover 2021 in Review: The Not-Great, Not-Terrible Sequel to 2020

Welcome Back to the Office!

A fun pandemic moment from June 7th when my workplace held a “return to office” party for anyone ready to end work-from-home. Thanks to this premature jubilee our stalwart skeleton crew had free leftover snacks for days after.

Hey, there! Welcome, gracious non-bot readers, to the tenth annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review! Once again we run down the site’s highlights and lowlights among readers, search engine stragglers, and anyone else who trips over us on their way to other, more popular internet destinations. Over twelve months those fleeting glances add up to concrete stats that may or may not be reliable indicators of things!

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Yes, There’s a Scene After “The Matrix Resurrections” End Credits

Matrix Resurrections Red Pill Blue Pill Poster!

The grand return of the world’s favorite equivocal metaphor for every us-vs.-them feud ever, in which the beholder is somehow always a hero of “us” and never a lackey of “them”.

It’s hard to muster up enthusiasm for a conditionally beloved old series which had one really, really good film that made a groundbreaking impression on me in a packed theater, followed by two expensive letdowns. That means the series previously had a 33% success rate with me, a failure in any rational classroom. Sure, the animated follow-up had its fans, but it wasn’t quite the same thing even if one feels compelled to argue that it indeed “counted”. Here we are again in 2021 with a revival that perhaps some were wishing for, the studio execs more so than the public at large, inviting a few familiar faces to train a batch of promising newcomers in the ways of their franchise. The digital effects have been upgraded and more money has clearly been invested than anyone in the 20th century would’ve dreamed might ever be possible or necessary for a single movie. Just the same, the thought of sitting through such a perfunctory revival felt less like a joyous homecoming and more like that childhood dread of being forced to visit distant, smelly relatives — that sense of “Awwww, do I HAVE to go?”

In conclusion, that’s why I skipped Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

So why did I give The Matrix Resurrections a shot? Good question.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #30: Restaurants Rundown

Pokey's kangaroo dinner!

Lunch on Day Four at Pokey’s BBQ: a dinner of grilled kangaroo (“Just the ugly ones,” swears the menu) and spicy corn nuggets.

Longtime MCC readers may recall our best annual travelogues usually include photos from the restaurants we’ve visited in other states and the foodstuffs we’ve found that we don’t necessarily have back home in Indianapolis. We do enjoy sharing those moments, but you may have noticed their conspicuous absence from this series so far. We had looked forward to leaving home and hopefully leaving the year’s troubles behind for just ten days. The more we drove, the more we had to face reality: it was the same kind of 2021 everywhere in America.

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“Being the Ricardos”: Crisis on Infinite Balls

Being the Ricardos!

Our A-list stars resembling Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz about as much as they resemble Julianne Moore and Jeff Goldblum in The Lost World.

Remember the four worst things that ever happened to you? The four biggest challenges to your family, livelihood, reputation, or whatever? Now imagine if an evil time-travel despot had folded your timeline in on itself and all four moments of The Worst had befallen you in the same week. Be grateful they didn’t, but just imagine…what if? Enormous pain, right?

That’s the narrative conceit of Being the Ricardos, the third true-story project from writer/director Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7, Molly’s Game), yearning to avoid the trappings of a formulaic three-hour biopic, with their pedestrian history-book retelling and their leaps and bounds across their subject’s unremarkable years to deliver the Good Parts version of someone’s life. If it’s inescapable that your Hollywood production will bend some truths to achieve Art no matter what, why not embrace compromise and use your truth-bending skills to weave a smaller, tighter basket and have all the conflicts happen at the same time? While we’re at it, why not also have a film in which Queen Elizabeth II mourns the death of her father, Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, and Prince Philip all happening in the same week? Historians would have apoplexies, but just imagine the potential pageantry of a Hollywood-designed four-way royal funeral procession.

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