“1917”: The Marathon of Battle

1917!

Our young heroes navigate the long walk to the Oscars, fraught with snipers, barbed wire, raging rapids, and Joker fans.

Despite my peculiar and not impenetrably defensible fandom for the Academy Awards, I’m galled every December and January whenever myriad ostensibly august awards-handout bodies bestow major nominations upon films seen only by critics and the privileged residents of New York and L.A. Once those hoarded films have picked up accolades from those anointed viewers, then the studios deign to roll out their preordained champions to the rest of us. I feel this same frustration whenever caucuses in Iowa and South Carolina choose our political nominees for all us flyover states, whose own primaries are less a useful part of democracy and more the patronizing equivalent of handing us a googly-eyed Fisher-Price phone and letting us pretend to call someone who cares.

The rousing new World War I adventure 1917 strutted off the red carpets and arrived in theaters five days after winning a Golden Globe for Best Drama According to Some Drunken Cabal Who Attended Special Screenings in Their Country Clubs. The only Golden Globe I’ve ever cared about is my own head, but I was intrigued by its high-concept design and its director/co-writer Sam Mendes, whose Skyfall remains my all-time favorite James Bond film, a preference that vexes cineastes who’ve actually seen more than ten Bond films. If my math is accurate, I fail to number among them. But now that I’ve seen it for myself, Monday morning’s Oscar nominations don’t bother me the same way.

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“Uncut Gems”: Baubles, Balls, Bets, Beats and Beatings

Uncut Gems!

“Howard Ratner sent away to Africa / For a gem to pay for Hanukkah…!”

Prior to checking out the gritty new drama Uncut Gems, my total Adam Sandler film experiences ranked best to worst like so:

1. The Wedding Singer

End of list.

Now Uncut Gems makes two. I tossed The Meyerowitz Stories into my Netflix queue after the same director’s Marriage Story lanced my heart. Someday that’ll make three.

I admit Sandler was okay on Saturday Night Live (“The Hanukkah Song” was a keeper and Opera Man had his moments), but his post-SNL comedy brand has never been my thing. The Wedding Singer benefited at the time from above-average reviews for a Sandler film and a brief run at a second-run theater that used to be a couple miles down the road from us. It was nice to save a buck whenever we could.

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My 2019 at the Movies, Part 2 of 2: The Top Ten

The Farewell!

Okay, who wants to tell Grandma that Awkwafina won a Golden Globe and she didn’t?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: In 2019 I made 28 trips to the theater to see films made that same year. In Part 1 we ranked the majority from pretty-keen to The Worst. And now, the countdown concludes with the ten most relatively awesome:

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My 2019 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: Everything Below the Top Ten

James McAvoy!

James McAvoy gave his all for three different movies, all sunken into this list’s bottom half. Better luck next year, my dude.

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.

I saw 32 films in theaters in 2019 — another new personal record, beating last year’s record-breaking — but four were Best Picture nominees officially released in 2018 and therefore disqualified from this list, because I’m an unreasonable stickler about dates. Ranking those four from Best to Least Best:

  1. The Favourite
  2. Vice
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody
  4. Green Book

Of the remaining 28 contenders that I saw in theaters, we had seven super-hero films; three animated films; nine non-superhero sequels, two of those animated; just one prequel; and four book adaptations. Obviously you’ll note the following list is far from comprehensive in covering 2019’s release slate. Once again this was a busy year during which I failed to spend gas money on every film that caught my attention.

Here’s the rundown of what I didn’t miss in theaters in 2019, for better or worst-of-the-worst. Links to past reviews and thoughts are provided for historical reference. And now, on with the bottom half of the countdown:

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“Little Women”: What Is It Like Being a Woman in Old-Timey Arts?

Little Women!

You can have your Charlie’s Angels. I’m here for the March matriarchy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: writer/director Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird was one of my favorite films of 2017 and left me looking forward to her future endeavors. She’s finally returned to theaters with her take on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the 1868 novel that many of you were probably required to read in school, or perhaps cheerfully read on your own because someone trustworthy recommended it to you or it was shelved in a special library display alongside numerous other 19th-century books written by women that you’d already read. Either way, chances are your Little Women experience goes back farther than mine.

How far back are we talking? Full disclosure: prior to 2019 my Little Women experience consisted of a hazy memory from decades past in which I saw the scene where one of the girls-who-would-be-women gets a drastic haircut for altruistic reasons. I have no idea if I ran across one of the first four cinematic adaptations on TV when I was a kid, or if some sitcom paid it homage. All I know is I already knew of that plot point. I deemed that insufficient data and decided to do some homework before heading out to the theater: I rented Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version on YouTube. I enjoyed that in and of itself (so many familiar faces!), and appreciated that it conveyed the novel’s basics so I’d have an idea of what was supposed to happen in case Gerwig sold out and bowdlerized the whole thing into a ripoff of Hustlers.

Thankfully this did not happen. Little Women is among the hundreds of “classic” novels I failed to read in my youth, but if it intrigued the director of Lady Bird, then it was bound to intrigue me. I was a little annoyed in advance that one site recently chose to run a dubious thinkpiece about how men were supposedly avoiding the film in droves, based entirely on one (1) tweet from one (1) critic who cited her scientific research drawn from chats with three (3) whole males. It’s been 28 years since my last statistics class, but I still recognize an extraordinarily poor sampling pool when I see one.

Regardless: I, a male, willingly saw Little Women in defiance of the three dudes who purported to represent the grossly generalized aesthetic will of 150 million other dudes. And it was my idea to see it in theaters, not my wife’s. I refuse to pretend this counts as some groundbreaking accomplishment.

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“Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker”: The Third Series Finale

Episode 9 wreckage!

Our cast ponders life after Episode VIII’s messy deconstruction.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: 91 previous entries on this site bear a “Star Wars” tag, signifying that George Lucas’ beloved universe has been a major part of our entire lives, from the films to the books to the music to the fanfic to the conventions, including our all-time greatest celebrity encounter, which in turn led to that time Star Wars got me interviewed on local TV. Star Wars has been kind of a big deal in our household.

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“Doctor Sleep”: Terms of Psychic Warfare

Doctor Sleep!

“After that night, I could never watch The Tonight Show again.”

I read The Shining during my big Stephen King phase back in high school. devouring nearly all his books from Carrie up through Gerald’s Game. I’ve run across Stanley Kubrick’s version countless times in TV reruns over the years and I think I’ve seen the entire film, but never in one uninterrupted, sequential sitting….though I did catch the 2013 documentary Room 237, which tabulated conspiracy theories about Kubrick’s deep, dark, double-secret meanings with which the film was allegedly fraught if you paid more attention to the backgrounds than to the actors.

Decades later, King returned to the remains of the Torrance family with the sequel novel Doctor Sleep, which I haven’t read. The sequel film it inspired from writer/director Mike Flanagan (Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House) was escorted surreptitiously into theaters in the middle of an unusually packed November release schedule, then quietly ushered out the back doors, as if it were trying to escape the spotlight before Jack Nicholson came after it with an ax. As we prepare to trudge defensively into this long weekend in which internet folks will be slap-fighting over sequels that cling slavishly to their 40-year-old progenitors, why not pause and pay respects to a sequel that struck a dexterous balance between old confections and new directions.

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