2019 Oscars

So the Oscars are tonight. Huh. I won’t lie, I really don’t care about this years Oscars. When the nominations were first announced I was disappointed with them, mostly the nominations for best picture. The Oscars moved a few years back to allow up to 10 movies to be nominated for best picture, this year they chose only to nominate 8.

Bohemian Rhapsody, Black Panther, Green Book, Roma, The Favorite, Blackkklansman, Vice, and A Star is Born. We all know I feel Black Panther is overrated so it’s placement here is entirly because of its cultural impact and not on it actually being a quality film which is fine I guess, but films like Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice have no real place in this category, They’re above average (Ok Vice is actually just average) movies for sure, but to say that they should be considered the best movie of the year while First Reformed, Eighth Grade, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, First Man, Creed II, Isle of Dogs and A Quiet Place are ignored is just tragic. It’s the worst-kept secret that money and campaigning determines most if not all of who wins the actual awards, but to not even nominate some of these while nominating others is just plain stupid.

Take a look at Vice, it tried to emulate the style of The Big Short, but playing a biopic about Dick Cheney so fast and loose just doesn’t work at like all. It’s nominated liberal Hollywood elites watched it and thought to themselves, “Yes I also think Dick Cheney was a bad guy who abused power, therefore this movie is good!” It’s so stupid. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t-a fan of Dick, but that doesn’t make an average movie really good all of the sudden.

Oh well, what can I do about it? Not watch probably. I’ll still make some predictions though.

Actor in a leading role: Christian Bale will win for Vice, I know I just bashed the movie a lot, but Bale’s performance is so good it elevated what is otherwise a bad movie to average. It’s exceptional.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Mahershala Ali will win for Green Book and they’ll be 100 articles more written about the historical inaccuracies of Green Book.

Actress in a Leading Role: Glenn Close, The Wife. End of story.

Animated Feature Film: Incredibles 2 will probably win because Disney/Pixar always win, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse is miles bedtter.

Directing: This is a toss-up for me, I’m tempted to say Alfonso Cuaron for Roma, but I also really want to say Spike Lee for Blackkklansman. I’ll stick with my initial gut and go with Alfonso.

Original Song: I’M OFF THE DEEP END, WATCH AS I DIVE IN… Shallow’s got this locked up as far as I’m concerned even though I think there are better songs in A Star is Born than it.

Best Picture: I’m gonna go for Roma on this one, I know Netflix really really wanted to win a big Oscar like this and so they probably campaigned super hard and as I said before, money really wins these things.

Adapted Screenplay: Blackkklansman, they gotta give Spike Lee something.

Original Screenplay: First Reformed is actually nominated for this so I’m really tempted to go with it, but something like Green Book will probably win.

No one cares about the rest of them so I won’t make predictions. Someone let me know how I do because I’m not watching. Later.

5 Least Favorite Movies: 2018

2018 was a pretty great year for movies, but even in this sea of greatness, there are surely a few turds floating about. I hope and pray that you all missed these movies, but if you had the displeasure of seeing them, I guess we can get some satisfaction by mocking them together.

#5: 7 Days in Entebbe

I won’t lie to you, I really wanted to like this movie. Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brühl are two of my favourite actors and I always want to see them succeed. This movie is just not very good though. Like it’s that bad either, but it is remarkably mediocre in its execution. I do think that Brühl and Pike’s performances are worthwhile, but everything else is just below average and the action sequences are honest to goodness pitiful. Like you could probably scrounge up some random film students who could piece a better action scene together. They’d also do it for a whole lot less money. Hollywood take note.

#4: Red Sparrow

Do you know what I remember about this movie? Jennifer Lawrence is in it, the writing is really bad and just like 7 Days in Entebbe holy crap is it boring. I think I said this when I reviewed it, or maybe I tweeted something about it, I don’t remember. What I said though was that for something with as much violence, sex, and betrayal I can’t believe how unengaging this movie was. It’s just boring all the way through, like eating a whole loaf of white bread, it’s edible, but you just know there are a million ways to make it better.

#3: Gringo

I won’t lie, when I went and saw this movie I had pretty low expectations. It’s a comedy about weed essentially, you’ve seen what Seth Rogen makes, something like that. Here’s the big problem with that though, if your jokes aren’t funny, the whole movie just falls apart and Gringo isn’t funny. I sat and watched this movie silently with the occasional break to chuckle to myself. Do yourself a favour and watch a clip of Pineapple Express on Youtube, it’s 100x better than anything Gringo had to offer. Seriously, this could have been a really funny movie, but an endless series of half baked (pun intended) jokes leaves it thourougly lacking.

#2: The Happytime Murders

This movie has a cool premise, puppets are real people and interact with the world. What does that world look like? However this movie takes the premise and totally throws it to the side in favor of telling horrifically raunchy jokes severally lacking in creativity, intelligence, or any sense of decency. This is a movie that decides to tap into the most depraved parts of the human psyche, but since its puppets doing it its funny right? I think if I had walked into this movie expecting to be horrified and disgusted I would have actually said it was a good movie because it does those things quite well. However, it called itself a comedy so I have to judge it as a comedy and in that sense it stinks big time.

#1: A Wrinkle in Time

I really had to debate with myself for quite some time about whether this or The HappyTime Murders was the worst movie I saw in 2018, ultimately I decided that this enormous piece of garbage was the absolute worst. This film has exactly one redeeming quality, sometimes the CGI looked really neat, sometimes. Everything else about this movie just fell flat on its face if you ask me. Acting? A Wrinkle in Time is a perfect case example of the risk of child actors because some of them just suck at this. (Remember its not the kid’s fault, they don’t have enough formal training to be blamed if a child actors performance is bad, it’s on the casting director and the director) The story? Totally lacking. The book this film is based on has some heavy Christian themes that were removed for the movie, and that’s all fine. You just have to replace it with something, and A Wrinkle in Time the movie didn’t, which left the second half of the film feels much like an empty void. Which is like a really bad thing in a movie, in fact, its the worst thing, you should always feel something in a movie and that feeling shouldn’t be a mash-up of boredom and frustration. The truth is that A Wrinkle in Time is just plain old empty filmmaking.

Ooof, sometimes it feels bad to come down on something you know people worked really hard on, but that’s life, isn’t it? Oh who am I kidding, I enjoy ripping on bad movies just as much as I enjoy praising great movies. I feel pretty ok about that though because these pieces of crap took two hours of my life, so I want to try and get something back from them. Later.

Pika Pika

Something I’ve come to realize over the past couple of weeks is that not only do I see significantly more movies than the average person, but I also follow movie news much more closely, especially when it comes to trailers. I’ll be totally honest with you, I thought most people watched most trailers that came out for movies. There only a couple minutes long and they’re these little snippets of films to come. I love em! A good trailer can really take a person from somewhat uninterested to genuinely hyped for a film. This is the case for me with Detective Pikachu.

Yeah no, you can still read. There is a Detective Pikachu movie coming out next year. When I first heard about it I immediately thought, “This is going to be amazing with how weird it is or an absolute train wreck right from the get-go.”  Just think about the premise of it.

1. A live-action pokémon movie, already pretty nuts.

2. Pikachu is a detective in it. What?

3. Pikachu is played by Ryan Reynolds. Actually, this one makes a lot of sense.

With all these things considered if really feels like the movie should be just a total mess. Then the trailer for it dropped today. Here it is.

I don’t know about you, but I’m leaning on it’s going to be amazing with how weird it is line of thought. First off, the pokémon largely look really good. There’s a little bit of questionable/uncanny feeling for some of them, but for the most part were in a good spot, especially with Pikachu him… her… do pokémon have genders? I don’t know, but the point is that Pikachu looks friggen adorable. Also, this movie looks genuinely entertaining, and I can say that with some level of authority because for whatever strange reason my parents didn’t let me or my siblings play pokémon growing up so I don’t really have those rose-tinted glasses who just wants to see pokémon in real life. This trailer has actually got me excited to see this movie, although I (and also everyone else) shouldn’t be putting this much stock into a trailer, we’ve all seen great trailers that turned into dumpster fires of movies. I’m looking right at you Suicide Squad, now go back to your dark corner and think about what you did. Later.

First Man: First Impressions

Ok, I literally just got out of seeing First Man, if you haven’t heard about it yet get out from under the freaking rock and check out this trailer!

I’m going to be doing a full review of this thing over the weekend probably, but I NEED to let people know right away.

GO SEE THIS MOVIE

Holy mother of all that’s good in this world is this movie an absolute masterpiece. Damien Chazelle is an absolute master of film and I am permanently a lifelong fan of him. This thing blows every other movie I’ve seen this year way way-way-way out of the water. It’s gorgeous to look at, the acting is impeccable, it’s intense, its riveting, it’s deeply emotional. Even though I identify much more closely with being Canadian, it made so outstandingly proud to be able to call myself American. Seriously I can’t recommend this thing enough, go see First Man as soon as you can. Later.

Realizations

I’ve come to a realization in the last week or so. My taste in music is like really weird. I definitely I had some preferences that were a little out there, but I honestly hadn’t realized just how far out there I’ve strayed. It took a full weekend of people asking me, “what is this?” rather than “Wow! WHO is this?!” while listening to music to make me fully realize that things might have gotten out of hand.

How many people do you know that still listen to Linkin Park? Probably a decent number, that ish is dope. How many people do you know also enjoy the musing of one Michael Buble? Definitely less, but I’m sure there’s some overlap right? Now let’s add K-pop into the mix as well. We’re almost certainly down to single digits of people you know with all of these combined tastes. Just to top it all off add a dash of love for hardcore rap just to top off this remarkably weird musical ice cream sundae. Perhaps you’re still unconvinced? Let’s get the sprinkles on there too, just the other day a co-worker of mine suggested I check out some Armenian Reggae, and I was just like, yeah sounds dope!

That’s not what normal people do, normal people hear Armenian Reggae and think, “there’s no way on earth that combo works out, hard pass” Not this guy though.  This guy went head first into it and guess what? That ish is sick af! Ok not actually sick af, but worth a try for sure.

I’ve actually known that my music taste was this weird for a long time, but what my real realization was that my music taste has gotten so weird, that I have completely lost the right to criticize anyone else’s taste in music. How am I supposed to look people in the eyes and say that crap like (insert generic pop artist here) is bad when I’m still unironically listening to Avenged Sevenfold? It’s just not right, is it? So I don’t judge people for their music anymore.

Now that I’m writing this all down I’m realizing that I should probably be extending this out to pretty much all forms of media. Can I really make fun of someone for watching soap operas when I’ve seen every episode of Glee ever made? Not really. Who am I to really say that The Greatest Showman is a snoozefest when I honest to goodness still enjoy the Transformers movies for some sick masochistic reasoning? (I’m telling you, there is something wonderfully horrible about watching Sir Anthony Hopkins flip the camera off like an edgy 14-year-old!) Perhaps I should just let people like the stuff they like and just enjoy the things I like for what they are…

Nah, way more fun to needlessly attack things and be a nitpicky tool about everyone else taste while continuing to hold my own up as the pinnacle of media. /s

I’ll be cooler about it all, Later!

Falling Into Films

Hey! Remember when I talked about movies? Yeah me neither, regardless fall is already upon us and that means a whole new slew of films that are going to be coming out. It also means that awards season is nearly upon us so for the next couple of months we’ll be moving away from big blockbuster movies to all those artsy, pretentious ones no one ever sees and then are mocked when they win all the awards. Fun right!?

I’m actually pretty excited, but that’s because I love those pretentious films and I even see them too! I’ve managed to put together a list of 19 films I’m excited to see before the end of the year, assuming I find the time to see them. Honestly, I’m gonna consider myself lucky if I find the time for like 10 of these. Tangent aside the 19 remaining films of 2018 I’m pumped for are:

1. A Star is Born 2. Bad Times at the El Royale 3. Beautiful Boy 4. First Man 5. Creed II

6. If Beale Street Could Talk 7. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse 8. Bohemian Rhapsody

9. Ralph Breaks the Internet 10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (I spelt that without using google, let’s go!)

11. The Old Man & and The Gun 12. Welcome to Marwen 13. Erased Boy 14. Vice

15. The Sisters Brothers 16. Green Book 17. Johnny English Strikes Again

18. The Hate You Give 19. Mary Poppins Returns

I could try and go into detail about why I’m excited about each one of these but good lord we don’t have all day do we? I don’t, thats for sure. Later everyone.

Why Even Write?

A few weeks back (way longer than I wanted to take for this, sorry about that) I got a message from some family responding to another blog post: Fiji to Provo. (Gah I still hate that title)

I don’t think they’d have any problem with me using their name in here but I didn’t check with them so I’ll just play it safe. Their response started a lot like several other responses I got, they thanked me for sharing my story, let me know that they cared and supported me, all that stuff.

After that, they asked some questions. Big questions that are tough to answer. I like these questions though, I tend to be a pretty heady person so having big questions I can mull over in my mind for long periods of time is actually a lot of fun.  Today I’d like to start responding to some of those questions. The first of them is probably the easiest, “Do you know why you started blogging? Or reviewing movies?”

I do know why I started blogging when I first started doing it in late high school and just after graduating it was honestly out of arrogance. I really believed that for some absurd reason that what I had to say was just so important that I needed a platform to do so. I also had a compulsive need to write/create and blogging was the easiest outlet for that. As time went on and my life experiences humbled me (to say the least) the reasons for writing changed. It stopped being about thinking my opinions were better than others and therefore deserved a platform and an audience, but more about being an outlet for my struggles, and a way to achieve some sort of satisfaction in my life because good lord was I not finding that in any other area of life.

This naturally led to me talking more and more about movies because as life continued to pound me into the ground I retreated more and more into the stories of film. I couldn’t find love to save my life, but I could watch a romantic-comedy and feel some semblance of the happiness those characters were feeling. So I just watched more and more movies and just like anything in life as you do it more and more your perception starts to shift. I started building a tolerance like someone learning to hold their liquor. The same basic movies that had previously kept me perfectly entertained were no longer able to do so, little problems with a performance that most folks would totally overlook became glaring errors because I had seen lots of other people get it right. Then I would talk to people about these movies and become frustrated about how they just weren’t seeing what I had been seeing, so much so that I thought I needed to start using blogging as a way to fully explain my position on movies. What I quickly learned when I first started reviewing movies is that I had neither the expertise or vocabulary to even begin giving useful criticism of the film. I have some of it now, but I always feel a little vulnerable that someone with real knowledge might come along and explain in detail just how wrong I am though. Although I think I’d enjoy that just for the wealth of knowledge it would expose me to.

Beyond talking about movies though I really felt my writing kind of “stall out” so to say. It always felt like I was just going in circles talking about the same things over and over and never really having anything new to say.  That was until I discovered what is the current goal of blogging for me. To achieve transparency in my life. The goal now is not to arrogantly flaunt my opinion, but rather to simply explore the question of “what does it mean to be Jonny Tollestrup?” (GAH that sounds so cliche and pretentious doesn’t it? oh well like I care.) Fiji to Provo was the first in what I hope to be a series of steps that actually achieves that goal. I also hope that I can find a way to use movie reviews to answer that question as well. How a person reacts to the stories we’re told says an awful lot about who we are and so when I talk about movies I want to now try to totally avoid trying to be objective about the film. It’s a silly thing to pursue anyway, we can never fully divide ourselves from our subjective interpretation so why not lean into it?

Okay, that actually kind of went ok, I guess that means I can keep going through these questions and trying to answer them as best I can. Also, I just wanna throw this idea out there for the like 2 people that actually read to the end of my blogs, it’s been a while since I talked about dating and gave some of my more out there theories on the subject. Perhaps it’s time to go into that again? I actually think I have new stuff to say now beyond, “holy crap I suck at this.” so that might be neat. Later

The Happytime Murders

So the Happytime Murders was released in theatres this weekend and I saw it.

Oof. This movie was just plain old frustrating to watch. My personal takeaway from this movie is how utterly unrefined it was. And not just in the fact that it takes the idea of a raunchy comedy and leans heavily into it like so much that it was the only thing they marketed about it, but it felt like every joke and story point never made it past a first draft. Like something would get suggested by the writers and at no point did anyone ask, “Can we make this joke better? Does this really fit into our story?”. This resulted in a story absolutely full of cliche and holes, and an endless supply of jokes that fall horrifically flat and even worse most of these jokes that fall so flat are repeated over and over again because it’s not like anyone could be bothered to write unique jokes to fill out the runtime of this movie.

Just to give you an idea of how little thought went into this script there is a scene where Melissa McCarthy’s character, a detective for the LAPD is told by an FBI agent to “turn in her gun and badge”. The fact that no one in the writer’s room thought to point out that it makes no sense whatsoever for an FBI agent to demand the badge of someone in an entirely different police department just highlights how thoughtless and dispassionate everything about this movie is.

I honestly don’t want to spend that much more time thinking about this movie because it was such a piece of garbage. The performances are all brutal, once again the talents of Melissa McCarthy are utterly wasted. There is absolutely nothing interesting happening with the camera in terms of cinematography or camera movement.

To put it simply, this movie is like if I jumped on a grenade not to save others from the explosion, but rather just to confirm that it was, in fact, a grenade and now it’s blown up in my face. I hope I never have to hear another word about this dump of a movie again unless its to see it win a “worst movie of the year” award. Screw this garbage, 1/10. I gotta go rewatch some good movies to cleanse my palate.

Y’all Ready for This?

Is it just me or is it bonkers that I’m nervous about reviewing a movie about the Ku Klux Klan in 2018 because people might think it’s too touchy of a subject? Like that’s nuts right? Freaking 2018 is way to weird for me…

For those unaware, the movie I’m speaking of is Spike Lee’s new movie/joint Blackklansman. It stars John David Washington as Ron Stallworth and Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman, two detectives that go undercover to investigate, infiltrate, and inevitably foil a terrorist attack by the Ku Klux Klan in an utterly bizarre story that is somehow based on actual events that took place in the early 70’s. Yeah, it’s a wild ride, but well worth it if you ask me.

Now the most obvious thing about Blackklansman is its social commentary. This movie has a lot to say, particularly about race in America, and it’s totally unafraid to just go right for the throat with it’s messaging. This combined with some frankly blunt and overt comparisons between whats happening in the movie and whats happening in our current political climate. I know for a lot of people that can and will be a major turn off. Politics and identity politics, in particular, is a really toxic environment and one that is forced down our throats, so why would anyone subject themselves to a whole movie about it voluntarily? Hear me out though.

Despite the very heavy layer of commentary and messaging taking place, none of that comes close from slowing down the wildly entertaining ride that is Blackklansman. There are just some incredible moments of tension and drama just like what you would find in any other great film, and that doesn’t even take into account some absolutely gut-busting laughs placed and spaced nearly perfectly throughout the runtime. You could pretty much ignore all of the politics going on here and still come out having enjoyed this wonderful film as a stand-alone product.

Also, the performances from the two leads! OOOHHH they’re so good! John David Washington nails a wonderful portrayal of a man caught between two identities that seem to be contradictory and you just feel his struggle between that throughout the movie. Adam Driver is also in top form, but frankly, I haven’t seen anything from him in the past few years that wasn’t top form so I’m just going to start assuming that this is his default level of acting. If you’re a fan of either of these guys this is a great movie for you.

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Also Topher Grace is David Duke, that’s neat.

This being said, there are a couple of things you should really know before considering a ticket for this movie. The language is very explicit, not like in a way where they’re dropping F-bombs left and right, (although there are plenty to go around) but more in the sense that this movie doesn’t shy away from the nastiest kinds of hate speech and racial slurs. Like I don’t normally notice language too much in films and am bothered by it even less often, but there were a couple of moments where I was made deeply uncomfortable by what was being said. Personally, I really enjoyed that the movie challenged me in such a way, but for a lot of folks that’s something you’re not looking for at all.

Lastly, there is the ending. By the way, this I suppose has to be considered a spoiler so like you’ve been warned. I’ll put all the spoiler stuff in bold you can really tell what to skip.

SPOILER AHEAD SPOILER AHEAD SPOILER AHEAD

Remember when I said this movie takes its messaging and goes for the throat with it? Yeah, the ending is more like they take a bazooka and just obliterate you with it. So if you were sympathetic to the alt-right protests in Charlottesville from a year ago, the ending of this movie is going to really tilt you, actually, the whole thing will probably tilt you, but especially the ending.

Spoiler over

So while there are certainly some things I know that people would find objectionable about this movie I do think that as a whole it’s very much worth seeing, the message is one that is somehow still very needed in 2018, and it’s delivered in an impeccably well-contructed manner as well. Blackklansman is a top shelf kind of movie everybody. Later Y’all.

 

 

The Best Movie of the Summer

Yeah, I’m going for a clickbait title, what are you gonna do about it? You’re reading this so obviously it worked. So strap in and get ready to have me just absolutely gush over Eighth Grade.

Eighth Grade is the directorial debut of comedian Bo Burnham and was also written by him. It follows the story of Kayla as she tries to navigate the final week(s?) in middle school and it is a masterpiece.

My immediate comparison would be Lady Bird from last year and if you’ve like ever had a conversation with me about that movie you know that it’s pretty much the highest praise I can give. I go to Lady Bird as a comparison for a bunch of reasons, the first and most obvious being that there are some marked similarities between the two. They both follow young women trying to navigate a new world while also struggling to come to terms with who they are. Both movies focus on the somewhat strained relationship between the main character and a parent, and both movies feature top of the line performance from their lead characters. Seriously Elsie Fisher is an absolute force on screen and has a very bright career ahead of her.

While these things are all great, what for me makes Eighth Grade such a phenomenal piece of film is the dialogue which again I have to tip my hat to Bo Burnham for his work writing it. The dialogue perfectly fits into the story the movie is trying to tell while also being 100% faithful to how teenagers really talk. Trust me, there is nothing but 13-17-year-old kids at my job right now and it’s dead on. It’s just so awkward and cringy like there is one scene involving truth or dare and it was easily the most uncomfortable scene I’ve watched all year, and it’s supposed to be because you look at all the characters faces and they’re all just sooo uncomfortable.  I don’t know about you, but being oppressively uncomfortable was definitely a hallmark of my adolescence.

I also love how this movie goes about its story in such a simple way. There were a bunch of times I made mental notes about how plain the cinematography was. Now that may have not been intentional and the result of a rookie director, but I definitely thought that it was an intentional decision to keep the focus really squared on the character of Kayla, the movie is all about her and her struggles so there is absolutely no need to distract from that.

Another little detail I wanted to point out was the decision to make the main character believe in God, it plays a very minor role within the story, but it was interesting to me to see.

I’m sorry if I’m a bit rambly and gushing too hard about this thing, but I literally just got out it and I loved it so much that I just had to start writing about it immediately. I cannot recommend this movie enough to people although I suppose I should point out that there are several (like 5-6ish) F-bombs and that’s why this movie is rated R which I think sucks, it would be much better if actual eighth graders could go see this movie because I think it’d be really good for them to have something they can relate so closely to. But yeah, this is a definite top shelf kind of movie and I can’t wait to be unreasonably upset when it doesn’t win every award next year. Later.