Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Black Widow” End Credits

Marvel's Black Widows!

Never, ever mess with war Widows.

Nearly a decade in the making and fourteen months in the releasing, the next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here at long last, two years after Spider-Man: Far From Home capped off Phase III in theaters. Fans had to content themselves with Marvel’s new above-average TV fare on Disney+ (or, I guess, some comics) until the world was ready for Black Widow…or at least a lot of the world. Calling them “most of the world” might be an overstatement considering the pandemic has not yet been called off in numerous countries and states. Alternatively, Disney+ subscribers who can’t wait for the home video release in October can cough up thirty bucks and slightly expand that virtual library of above-average TV fare.

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“A Quiet Place Part II”: Prolonging the Silence

A Quiet Place Part II

Sometimes it’s just nice to get out of the house.

If you and your loved ones are still debating whether or not it’s time to return to theaters and leave the safety zone where you’ve been harbored for the past year, might I suggest starting with the simplest of creature comforts? Emphasis on the “creature”.

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“Final Account”: Minutes from the Nazi-Occupied Neighborhood Association Meeting

"Final Account" movie poster.

A relic of the Before Times: a movie poster made of actual paper. I remember those!

Anne and I saw the new documentary Final Account in a county where masks were required of all patrons regardless of inoculation levels, in an auditorium where the A/C was on the fritz. Posted signs and the clerk warned us, but we insisted on proceeding anyway despite any consequences ahead. The environment was livable at first, but our comfort levels fluctuated as time went on and the air quality went from breathable to stifling and back again. Eventually we convinced ourselves to overlook our nagging concerns, but at no point could we simply sit back and pretend everything was fine.

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“Godzilla vs. Kong”: When Humanity’s Doom Was Super-Sized, Not Microscopic

King Kong Waits.

“Waitwaitwaitwait — they signed me up to fight WHO?”

Once upon a time at the cinema, the deadliest monsters weren’t lurking in our own airways, weren’t infiltrating nursing homes to murder our loved ones, and weren’t other humans screaming in our faces about their hallucinatory conspiracy theories. In our shared realm of pure imagination, creatures fifty feet tall or more threatened our lives, our livelihoods, our close-quarters societies, and our very infrastructure that is the ultimate status symbol of superior lifeforms. In each rueful tale humankind was brought low by its hubris and its denial of its own frailty, screaming at the heavens as our deathblow came not from ironically itty-bitty microorganisms, but from amazing colossal oppressors who deemed us just as squashable as ants. Though they were arguably empowered by humanity’s sins, at least we could see them coming from a mile away and escape them if we had a cool enough car. In those days, dire threats to our entire species were much more fun.

Blame nostalgia for old-fashioned monsters, as opposed to today’s monsters outside our windows, as the primary motivation that drove me to see Godzilla vs. Kong in theaters and break my own rules.

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MCC Live-Tweeting: The Oscars 2021 Pandemic Dinner Theater

Oscars 2021 telecast title card.

At least not all the awards went to white folks this year, so there’s that.

At a cozy and snappy 217 minutes (two minutes longer than last year’s), the 93rd Academy Awards went hostless for its third straight year in its very special pandemic edition co-produced by director Steven Soderbergh. A maximum of 170 guests were allowed into an auditorium furnished like a company Christmas party inside L.A.’s Union Station, while all the European nominees who cared to participate holed up in a rented UK theater, and someone let Bryan Cranston have the Kodak Theater all to himself. In pre-show interviews Soderbergh insisted strict COVID-19 protocols were in place, same as they’re using for current Hollywood productions, and AMPAS president David Rubin swore from the red carpet that everyone was “100% safe”. Here’s hoping all the scaled-down glitz and glamour wasn’t for the sake of an awkward super-spreader event.

(Occasionally a mask could be seen in the crowd. At one point the camera lingered on a seated, masked Frances McDormand glowering in repose. She was among the few celebs I spotted taking measures for the public to see. In that one moment, at least.)

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Oscars Quest 2021: All the Other Viewing I Could Fit In Before the Big Event

Promising Young Woman, Carey Mulligan

Do you…like to watch?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

Whenever I’ve been away from here over the past six weeks, I was either hiding out in Skyrim again, getting a good night’s sleep because I’m needing those more than ever, or seeing how many of this year’s Oscar nominees I could watch. Many were on streaming services to which I already subscribe. Two were released on Redbox for us old folks who like physical media. Some were available for rental on Vudu or YouTube, though those were lowest priority. Five nominees were sadly, annoyingly beyond my grasp on services not in our household (three were exclusive to Amazon Prime, two to Apple TV). Otherwise, I was willing to let myself get carried away. I arguably did.

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The MCC 2021 Oscar-Nominated Documentary Revue

Ann Cupolo Freeman from "Crip Camp".

Retired social worker and physical rehab specialist Ann Cupolo Freeman, among the many campers who grew up to become activists in Netflix’s Crip Camp.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

In my youth and young-adulthood, seeing any of the Oscar-nominated documentaries before the ceremonies was usually impossible. Or after the ceremonies, for that matter. Streaming media changed the game and broadened access and opportunities for ordinary viewers even before the pandemic turned the convenience into a lifesaver. I’ve yet to enjoy a year in which all the nominees for Best Documentary Short Film or Best Documentary Feature were universally clickable, but the percentages have been generously high. It’s been fun seeing how many I could chase down legally without overpaying for the privilege.

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The MCC 2021 Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Short Film Revue

"Two Distant Strangers" short film

Two strangers from “Two Distant Strangers”, but not the actual distant ones in the title. Points for dramatic irony.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover

Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to our city’s singular, fully dedicated art-film theater to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.

This year’s environment threw a wrench into the works. On the bright side, by the end of the pandemic Indianapolis may have as many as three such theaters to its credit if our old standby and the two hopeful newcomers can stay solvent till then. On the downside…well, there’s that notorious pandemic. Unlike certain Best Picture producers we could denigrate here, the folks at Shorts.tv, which packages the nominees for theatrical release each year, realizes not everyone is ready for theaters yet, and won’t be for a good while to come, not even for Oscars season. In their benevolent cognizance they made special arrangements to let email followers of participating theaters rent streaming access to this year’s shorts for a limited time and a fair price, with the respective theaters receiving a cut of our proceeds. Those theaters get a little help living a little longer, and in exchange so do we…

Our annual shorts rundowns continue with the Live-Action Short Film nominees, ranked from Most Adrenalizing to Most Side-Eyed. Relevant links are included where applicable. As a value-added bonus, the following week after the Oscar Shorts were released in theaters, our first two nominees hit Netflix and increased their potential audience hundredfold.

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The MCC 2021 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Film Revue

Mole and bunny from "Burrow".

In my mind the mole is lecturing the bunny about his code violations in the voice of John Ratzenberger from House II: The Second Story.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to our city’s singular, fully dedicated art-film theater to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.

This year’s environment threw a wrench into the works. On the bright side, by the end of the pandemic Indianapolis may have as many as three such theaters to its credit if our old standby and the two hopeful newcomers can stay solvent till then. On the downside…well, there’s that notorious pandemic. Unlike certain Best Picture producers we could denigrate here, the folks at Shorts.tv, which packages the nominees for theatrical release each year, realizes not everyone is ready for theaters yet, and won’t be for a good while to come, not even for Oscars season. In their benevolent cognizance they made special arrangements to let email followers of participating theaters rent streaming access to this year’s shorts for a limited time and a fair price, with the respective theaters receiving a cut of our proceeds. Those theaters get a little help living a little longer, and in exchange so do we.

Our annual shorts rundowns begin with the Animated Short Film nominees. I’d offer links to watch them if I could, but nominees in this category are traditionally removed from their previous posts until sometime after the awards are over. I also usually rank them, but this year’s lineup were so apples-and-oranges that I’m sticking with unhelpful alphabetical order because no one’s forcing me to rank things and in this case I don’t feel like it. Onward!

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“Sound of Metal” and the Beat of a Different Drum

Riz Ahmed in "Sound of Metal".

I honestly thought all the band T-shirts in this film were fake till they brought out one with Einstürzende Neubauten. Them I recognize.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

Of all the Best Picture nominees I hadn’t seen prior to nominations, Sound of Metal was among the 2020 films I’d been most eagerly anticipating even if AMPAS had snubbed it. I was denied the chance to see it in its exclusive Amazon Prime cage, as one of maybe six Americans who refuse to subscribe out of a sense of monopoly subsidy fatigue. (There’s also my personal rule that I never, ever pay monthly or annual fees for shopping perks, which is equally confounding to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.) As is the annual Oscars season tradition, post-nom Metal was re-released to exactly one (1) local theater, in case any non-subscribers wanted to catch up mid-pandemic. My son and I lucked into a Monday night showing entirely to ourselves without paying AMC a $100-$200 private screening fee. Chalk up another win to my non-patented four-step H.I.D.E. method for pandemic theater survival.

The ironies compounded as we went. I was anxious to immerse myself in a theatrical speaker setting to experience the unparalleled sound design of a simulated world of encroaching deafness. And just as we were alone in the theater, so did Our Hero grow increasingly alone in his own world — sometimes though not always through no fault of his own.

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