“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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“Judas and the Black Messiah” and the Madding Crowd

Daniel Kaluuya in "Judas and the Black Messiah".

Knock knock, America.

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…

I don’t subscribe to either HBO or HBO Max and try not to get attached to their programming announcements. That’s included everything from Jumbo Largo Justice League to Judas and the Black Messiah, despite the latter’s two awesome lead actors.  When it was announced as one of this year’s eight Best Picture nominees, I had a quandary on my hands: do I (a) wait for the eventual release on other home video platforms (as will be granted next week to Wonder Woman 1984), even if that means waiting till after the Oscars ceremony on April 25th; (b) sign up for a free HBO Max trial and pull the plug seconds before the first charge hits my credit card; or (c) see it in theaters and take every possible measure to avoid the COVID?

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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Wonder Woman 1984” End Credits

"Wonder Woman 1984" poster at AMC Perry Crossing.

A rare sighting of a movie poster in its deserted natural habitat.

Yes, we are going to stubborn lengths to avoid subscribing to HBO Max. Thanks for asking!

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2020 at the Movies at My House

Tom Hardy as Al Capone.

If Tom Hardy is determined to play only inaudible characters from now on, might I suggest he grab a corncob pipe and reboot Popeye?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: I saw four (4) whole movies in theaters in 2020, the Purgatory That Only Pretended to Be a Year on the Calendar. For those of us who didn’t live cocky, selfish lives, home video was our best possible escape hatch into other worlds, a lifeline out of this farcical fiasco of a reality, and our safest way to take a scenic cross-country walk in other shoes. And walk I did.

I don’t usually rank my home video viewing. I’d stopped keeping track of all that years ago because my posts about home video arrive with stats DOA. In 2020 I felt moved to devote full entries to a few key works, but by and large I watched them, I processed my feelings, I shut up, and I saved it for later. At long last, later is now.

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My 2020 at the Movies, All Four of Them

Elisabeth Moss in "The Invisible Man".

Elisabeth Moss demonstrates the proper distance to sit away from other viewers at the theater.

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. Even when we don’t have much to list thanks to the decline of Western civilization. Every year I compile this list from every film I’ve seen in theaters that year and, well, you can imagine how that went.

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Yes, There’s a Moment after the “Soul” End Credits

22 and Joe's soul in an astral pizza shop in "Soul"

If you loved Jamie Foxx as a blue guy in Amazing Spider-Man 2 or Tina Fey playing against a blue guy in Megamind

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover back in May, when ruminating on our family’s adoption process for new streaming services:

Our family prides itself on not being early adopters of new technology or services. We prefer to let upstart projects and products get up and running, figure out their processes, work out their bugs, set a price point that’s worth the venture, and build up a reputation, preferably a favorable one. Then we might give them the time of day. Maybe. Sometimes. Streaming services are subject to the same vetting procedure. The internet’s Baby Yoda obsession notwithstanding, we have yet to pull the trigger on Disney+…

All that changed Christmas evening. Everyone does the post-Christmas thing where they wait until all gift-giving is finished, then buy themselves a little something to compensate for any oversights or disappointments, right? Mine was springing for an upgrade to our existing Hulu With Five Tedious Commercials Repeated Ad Nauseum subscription. Now we can access the wonder and whimsy of Disney+. One day in the future I can at long last stop worrying about pervasive spoilers for The Mandalorian.

And what better way to test-drive our new channel than with the latest Pixar production? Soul was among the hundreds of major releases relegated to the once-ignominious fate of a direct-to-video release thanks to pandemic pandemonium. Technically it’s cheaper for viewers this way who have the wherewithal to let the fees sink into the morass of their monthly credit card charges, but on the downside, the wildly inventive score by the Oscar-winning duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross made me wish I could’ve seen this in a theater and immersed myself in the splendor of its music, apropos of the film’s own themes. Among other benefits, it might’ve better distracted me from a few things that bugged me as the film played on.

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How Many Talented and/or Famous People Have You Unfairly Outlived?

Chadwick Boseman.

The late Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, posthumously released today on Netflix.

The year 2020 is an incorporeal super-villain mastermind and everyone’s list of grievances against it is longer than a protest march and bitterer than black coffee tinged with chicory and herbicide. I’ve tried to work through several of my own fears and anxieties here throughout the course of the year, but one nagging thought has escaped articulation for months. It’s the sort of riddle that drives a thinker nuts if they dwell on it too long. Every faith and/or philosophy has a response to it, but not necessarily an answer. “All is within God’s Plan.” “Everything will make more sense in the end.” “The universe works in mysterious ways.” “Perhaps we’ll never know.” “Everything is meaningless and we’re all doomed so why worry about it.” Or put it out of mind and distill it into Kurt Vonnegut’s black-humored humanist shrug of “So it goes.”

Faith notwithstanding, it bugs me anyway. I’m 48 and counting. I am who and what I am. I have my uses, but I’m just me. Why did Chadwick Boseman only get to make it to 43?

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How We Spent Our Thanksgiving 2020 Pandemic Weekend

Large serving plate of thick-sliced roasted turkey.

Turkey! Because not all traditions needed to be suspended this year.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: 2020 is still running rampant and no one’s offered us free COVID-19 vaccines yet.

Despite the best attempts of many to pretend everything was fine and normal and safe, Anne and I refused to let our guard down and declined an offer to have a large dinner with far too many relatives. That doesn’t mean we spent all four days sulking and doom-scrolling in our PJs. Just a little of it.

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Bill & Ted Face the Music” End Credits

Bill & Ted 3!

“Most bodacious ladies and gentlemen, we beg you, please do not ask us to play ‘YMCA’.”

Of all the films to be released in theaters after March 2020, I’ve regretted missing none of them more than I’ve been regretting missing Bill & Ted Face the Music, the long-awaited reunion of Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as good-natured rockin’ goofballs Bill S. Preston, Esq., and Ted “Theodore” Logan. The first two films were hilarious delights back in their day and, while I was prepared to live the rest of my life without a trilogy realized, years of negotiations with skeptical studios finally came together courtesy of original writers/creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, along with director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest). Thus did their dream come true in the worst possible year of this millennium.

From August onward I kept doggedly checking On Demand prices every weekend but was reluctant to pull the trigger on a $15-$20 home viewing experience. Fans of pay-per-view sports may be accustomed to that or far worse, but for that price, if I have to play it on my own inferior equipment, then I insist on physical custody. I was willing to go as high as maybe eight bucks, but they kept holding out on me. This past Tuesday The Powers That Be relented and BTFM finally materialized at Redbox. And for a most non-non-non-heinous price well under eight bucks.

*air-guitar riff*

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“Tenet” abed? Tides reversed it? Debate, ‘Net.

Tenet!

walking into a 2020 theater like

Has Christopher Nolan’s Tenet conked out too soon in its beleaguered theatrical run, snoozing while no one’s watching? Would it have performed proportionately better had it not capsized in the vast, tumultuous sea change that is the Age of Coronavirus? Perhaps it isn’t fair to argue over its meager box office profits while much of the American theatrical market is shut down or heavily restricted, but argue over it we must, for we are Of The Internet. Sometimes we must ponder things deemed insignificant in the grand scheme, and sometimes we go to tortuous lengths to justify our painfully contrived palindromic headlines.

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