Watched in 2019by cecking | created - 1 month ago | updated - 2 weeks ago | Public
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1. The Wedding Plan (2016)
PG | 110 min | Comedy, Romance
When her fiancé bows out on the eve of her wedding, Michal refuses to cancel the wedding arrangements. An Orthodox Jew, she insists that God will supply her a husband. As the clock ticks down.
Votes: 1,049 | Gross: $1.40M
2. Flower (I) (2017)
R | 90 min | Comedy, Drama
A sexually curious teen forms an unorthodox kinship with her mentally unstable stepbrother.
Votes: 5,380 | Gross: $0.33M
Sometimes, I get to the end of reading a novel and feel dazed because while I was going through it, the book got its hooks into me. The story will have some indefinably addictive quality that draws me in and keeps me engaged until I forget myself. Once I've reached the end, I'll pull back from the story and the distance allows me to think critically or analyze what I've read. There are times when, as I begin to evaluate, I wonder what the heck is wrong with me because I'll realize that there may have been a problematic element I failed to notice. I went through this cycle of utter absorption and icky reflection with "Flower" and ironically, it reminded me of being in high school when I would have a fantastic time eating a bag of cheese puffs and then feel slightly queasy because I'd just eaten an ENTIRE BAG OF CHEESE PUFFS.
While I was watching it, I enjoyed the movie. I thought it was obvious that Erica was suffering from conduct disorder as she consistently displayed anti-social behavior. She repeatedly broke rules and laws, violated social norms, and lied easily without a thought for the consequences, emotional or otherwise. She clearly struggled to empathize. I framed her casual offers of oral sex and illustrations of male genitalia as symptoms of a much larger problem.
Erica was also captivating in her dysfunction and I watched uneasily to see what trouble she'd get in next. Her moments of vulnerability (around her mother or brother) and yearning (towards her father and Adam Scott) turned her bundle of criminality, sexual acting out, and selfishness into heartbreak. If she enthralled me as a viewer, it didn't strike me as outlandish that her brother would react similarly.
The film's third act was a multi-car collision of poor artistic choices and yet, I still wanted a happy ending for the critically unhappy teenagers. When my wish was granted in a sloppy way, I was okay about that too.
But once I finished the film, I second-guessed my interpretations because critics suggested her behavior didn't read as illness. They accused the filmmakers of objectifying and fetishizing her sexual dysfunction.
3. Support the Girls (2018)
R | 93 min | Comedy, Drama
The general manager at a highway-side ''sports bar with curves" has her incurable optimism and faith, in her girls, her customers, and herself, tested over the course of a long, strange day.
Votes: 4,918 | Gross: $0.13M
Hahahahaha, this one is so, so sneaky! "Support the Girls" is a feminist story set in a Hooters-like sports bar. UNBELIEVABLE MAGIC.
4. Border (2018)
R | 110 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance
A customs officer who can smell fear develops an unusual attraction to a strange traveler while aiding a police investigation which will call into question her entire existence.
Votes: 13,701 | Gross: $0.77M
Very infrequently, I'll stumble into watching a film that is challenging to watch. And when a movie is labeled "difficult", I usually avoid it because life is hard and I'm not interested in experiencing Lars Von Trier's most recent crisis of masculinity or whatever. Engaging with it would only feed the beast; cisgender able-bodied white guy freaks out, makes a movie about it, and we all have to stand around gawking and pretend it's something new or interesting while he does it again and again? No, thank you.
But this film was tough and I loved it. After I watched it, I went to read reviews of it and from the general vibe of those reviews, I felt the movie proved it's relevancy. In "Border", there's a sex scene between two conventionally unattractive people and the sex itself is radically unconventional and non-binary. The scene wasn't gratuitous; it felt necessary and inevitable for those characters and call me crazy, it was moving. Initially, I felt repulsed because it wasn't what I'm used to seeing on screen (pretty, antiseptic, heteronormative), but as it progressed, I felt envious of the couple who were sharing such an emotionally significant moment of self-acceptance and mutual sympathy.
However, the sex is only one part of a much larger story which raises complex questions and asks for a deeper level of empathy. Therefore, when I realized what a huge impression it left on some critics, I was shocked. One judged that it tiptoed the boundary of good taste while another wrote it was "disappointingly cavalier and insensitive." Considering the exploitive sex and explicit rape we commonly see in mainstream entertainment (Game of Thrones comes to mind), I thought that was rich... and indicative of why movies like this are important to watch, even if I'm only courageous enough once in awhile.
5. Booksmart (2019)
R | 102 min | Comedy
On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.
Votes: 32,127 | Gross: $22.68M
6. Fill the Void (2012)
PG | 90 min | Drama, Romance
When the older sister of Shira, an 18-year-old Hasidic Israeli, dies suddenly in childbirth, Shira must decide if she can and should marry her widowed brother-in-law, which also generates tensions within her extended family.
Votes: 3,475 | Gross: $1.77M
7. Black Panther (2018)
PG-13 | 134 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
T'Challa, heir to the hidden but advanced kingdom of Wakanda, must step forward to lead his people into a new future and must confront a challenger from his country's past.
Votes: 534,930 | Gross: $700.06M
10. Fyre Fraud (2019)
Not Rated | 96 min | Documentary
Concert promoters and rapper Ja Rule advertise a high-end festival experience that fails spectacularly when they don't plan for the infrastructure to support the venue, artists and guests.
TV-14 | 119 min | Documentary
The story of Theranos, a multi-billion dollar tech company, its founder Elizabeth Holmes, the youngest self-made female billionaire, and the massive fraud that collapsed the company.
12. Chappaquiddick (2017)
PG-13 | 106 min | Drama, History, Thriller
Depicting Ted Kennedy's involvement in the fatal 1969 car accident that claims the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne.
Votes: 9,936 | Gross: $17.40M
TV-MA | 192 min | Documentary, Crime
The extraordinary story of the "pizza bomber heist" and the FBI's investigation into a bizarre collection of suspects.
Star: Ann Smith
16. The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (2014– )
TV-14 | 795 min | Documentary, Biography, History
A documentary that weaves together the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American politics.
21. The Little Hours (2017)
R | 90 min | Comedy, Romance
In the Middle Ages, a young servant fleeing from his master takes refuge at a convent full of emotionally unstable nuns. Introduced as a deaf mute man, he must fight to hold his cover as the nuns try to resist temptation.
Votes: 16,120 | Gross: $1.65M
22. A Silent Voice (2016)
Not Rated | 130 min | Animation, Drama, Romance
A young man is ostracized by his classmates after he bullies a deaf girl to the point where she moves away. Years later, he sets off on a path for redemption.
25. Big Little Lies (2017– )
TV-MA | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
The apparently perfect lives of upper-class mothers, at a prestigious elementary school, unravel to the point of murder when a single-mother moves to their quaint Californian beach town.
Only Season #1
27. Game of Thrones (2011–2019)
TV-MA | 57 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
Nine noble families fight for control over the mythical lands of Westeros, while an ancient enemy returns after being dormant for thousands of years.
28. Untamed Heart (1993)
PG-13 | 102 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
A waitress hardly notices a shy busboy who secretly loves her; until one night she's attacked and he comes to her rescue. From there a relationship sparks but one secret could mean disaster for these fated lovers.
Votes: 11,967 | Gross: $18.90M
29. Sabrina (1995)
PG | 127 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
An ugly duckling having undergone a remarkable change, still harbors feelings for her crush: a carefree playboy, but not before his business-focused brother has something to say about it.
Votes: 34,250 | Gross: $53.67M
I watched the 1995 and 1954 versions of "Sabrina" a lot in childhood and I loved it. As an adult, I saw these films through a haze of nostalgia.
Rewatching it, I'm horrified. The movie's messages are deeply sexist and I could see how they shaped my worldview.
30. Laggies (2014)
R | 99 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
In the throes of a quarter-life crisis, Megan panics when her boyfriend proposes, then, taking an opportunity to escape for a week, hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year-old Annika, who lives with her world-weary single dad.
Votes: 39,238 | Gross: $0.44M
Although I consider myself the target demographic for this movie, it never "came together" for me. I found myself wishing it would push harder, go deeper, or become "more" somehow. Here are all the feels:
1.) I'm a huge Kiera Knightley fan and I've sought out films I wouldn't normally be interested in because she was in them. I enjoyed her in Bend It Like Beckham, Atonement, The Edge of Love, Never Let Me Go, Atonement, The Duchess and Anna Karenina. In "Laggies", she was off her game. Her performance felt shallow and inconsistent.
2.) I like female protagonists who struggle to develop into adulthood. Kiera Knightley's character (Megan) has allowed her life's course to be charted by other people's desires and expectations and consequently, she's failed to find a professional, social or romantic situation that truly fits her. Those moments felt life-like; I can relate to all of that. I even understand why hanging out with adolescents who see you as cool and mature would feel like a refreshing or exciting change of pace.
3.) I cannot understand why a woman who has earned an advance degree in counseling and had begun to see patients could easily overlook the importance of her teenaged friend's feelings. Megan seems indifferent, almost callous, towards Annika who has essentially adopted her as a companion and surrogate-sister. During the guidance counselor scene, she's shockingly inarticulate and self-absorbed as the counselor informs her of Annika's challenges. She's alarmingly subdued after the girl visits her long estranged and absentee mother. To top it off, she impulsively decides to sleep with the girl's father without stopping to consider how it might affect their relationship. But we're supposed to believe that she holds multiple degrees in psychology and that this connection has encouraged her emotional growth? I didn't buy it.
4.) But this film also had Sam Rockwell as a romantic interest so it wasn't an entire loss. My crush has been lifelong and it's not going anywhere. He possesses this intense mix of quick humor and sensitive emotionality that I can't resist (see: young Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck, Health Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You).
32. In Your Eyes (2014)
Not Rated | 106 min | Fantasy, Romance
Two seemingly unconnected souls from different corners of the United States make a telepathic bond that allows them to see, hear and feel the other's experiences, creating a bond that apparently can't be broken.
I'm biased on this one:
1.) I cannot resist a romantic plot based on some level of suspended disbelief or magical realism.
2.) I'm a huge Zoe Kazan fangirl. 3.) I'm also a deeply co-dependent woman who has always seen herself as fragile and in need of rescuing. Believe me, I'm working on it. But, while I'm at it, can I indulge in the fantasy of a supernatural bond which would make an extremely handsome and mysteriously virginal ex-convict fall in devoted love with me and heroically rush to my side when I'm in trouble? Why, yes. Yes, I can.
"In Your Eyes" feeds my lifelong addiction to sexist rescue narratives involving good bad guys (See: Beauty and the Beast, Sabrina, The Breakfast Club, etc.) and I'm not afraid to admit it.
33. Always Be My Maybe (2019)
PG-13 | 101 min | Comedy, Romance
Everyone assumed Sasha and Marcus would wind up together except for Sasha and Marcus. Reconnecting after 15 years, the two start to wonder - maybe?
34. Columbus (2017)
Not Rated | 100 min | Drama
A Korean-born man finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, where his architect father is in a coma. The man meets a young woman who wants to stay in Columbus with her mother, a recovering addict, instead of pursuing her own dreams.
Votes: 11,218 | Gross: $1.02M
What I learned from this film:
1.) While I've been to Columbus, Indiana, I obviously failed to appreciate it. Now, I want to go back for a guided tour.
2.) Haley Lu Richardson is undeniably awesome. I'm also a fan of everything she wears in this movie.
3.) Modernist architecture is immensely calming.
What I already knew:
1.) John Cho is a GORGEOUS DREAMBOAT who should be a romantic lead more often.
2.) I was born and raised in a blue state, I choose to live in one of the bluest cities in the country, and a part of me secretly yearns to return to Indiana. Shhh, don't tell anyone!
3.) I do not like movies that think they're saying more than they are.
Gravitas doesn't grow on trees, it has to be earned. I'm unconvinced that "Columbus" deserves all the dignity it wrapped itself in.
35. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
R | 104 min | Comedy, Drama
High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.
Votes: 89,835 | Gross: $14.26M
Give me all your unlikeable girls and women! When men call women unlikeable, what they really mean is that a woman has stepped out of the narrow, limiting and rigid box of self-denial the patriarchy prescribes. Striving for likability, women apologize for things they aren't responsible for, smile in the face of obvious discomfort, and internalize pain.
Nadine in "The Edge of Seventeen" isn't looking for you to like her. She isn't stuck in a loop of deescalating conflict with ill-placed apologies, she'd sooner stroke the fire than dampen it. When she's confronted with the extreme discomfort of a boy who isn't asking for her sexual consent, she tells him she hopes he gets into a car accident and becomes paralyzed. When she's hurting, she doesn't shrink into herself as much as she explodes into external action. She's difficult to love which - in my book - automatically made her deeply lovable. The world needs more Nadines.
36. Miss Stevens (2016)
Not Rated | 86 min | Comedy, Drama
A heart-broken teacher chaperones a group of high schoolers to a state drama competition.
Votes: 3,938 | Gross: $0.00M
This film is better than me. I kept wondering, when are Timothée Chalamet and Miss Stevens going to bone? Because if anyone looked at me with the intensity and focus that he gives her, I'd physically melt into a pile of goo. But this movie, to its immense credit, is a lot less obvious and much more complicated than my hormones envisioned.
37. On Chesil Beach (2017)
R | 110 min | Drama, Music, Romance
Based on Ian McEwan's novel. In 1962 England, a young couple find their idyllic romance colliding with issues of sexual freedom and societal pressure, leading to an awkward and fateful wedding night.
Votes: 6,911 | Gross: $0.75M
The book that this movie is based on is one of my absolute favorite novels of all time and it was adapted for the screen by the author himself. I was prepared to be heartbroken all over again by the film version and I was.
The plot is simple: Boy and girl meet, fall in love, get married, and then, they try to have sex. They're both insecure virgins and it goes badly. She runs away, he follows, she suggests the best possible solution she can think of and he angrily rejects her. They divorce and never see one another again. He remains alone and she remarries, has a family and a successful career as a classical violinist.
To begin with, I'm fascinated by small moments that result in huge change. We all come across crossroads in our relationships and they don't always feel as consequential as they are. We choose to reveal or obscure, we may stay silent or speak up, and we comfort a lover or we give them space. I imagine that these decisions lead to different outcomes and the results carve us into the person we are today. But what if it went another way? I'm haunted by my alternative selves.
"On Chesil Beach" explores the historical, socioeconomic, and interpersonal background that lead to one of these crossroads where everything could've gone very, very differently. In this film, we get the privilege of seeing a love story, but the audience must also bear witness to a tragedy that could've been avoided. We're forced to reckon with how close two people came to reaching a place of romantic happiness and personal freedom.
Secondly, the sexual misunderstanding at the heart of "On Chesil Beach" revolves around trauma and how deeply unrecognizable it would've been in 1962. Since these characters can't identify a traumatic response, they can't address it and when they can't address it, they're forced to talk around it. After we watch that process, it's deeply painful to see their conversation devolve into analogies to closeted homosexuality and misogynistic explanations of women's "frigidity".
I'm heartbroken for this fictional couple, but I grieve deeply for the actual people who had something terrible happen to them and had absolutely no language in which to communicate their pain. Sexual abuse and assault has a sensationalist quality that often obscures the pain that follows and the damage that may last a lifetime. When I'm reminded of this historic barrier to healing and the conveniently forgotten repercussions of sexual abuse, I can't help but weep. "On Chesil Beach" gets me every time.
38. The Pretty One (2013)
R | 90 min | Comedy, Drama
A tragedy presents Laurel with the chance to reinvent herself as her idolized twin sister, Audrey. As she eases into the life she has always wanted, she must decide between continuing the lie or revealing herself as the perfect fraud.
Votes: 8,866 | Gross: $0.01M
While this film was marketed as a romantic comedy and there is a central love story, I think it's about much, much more. "The Pretty One" presents a young woman who defines her identity by her relationship to others. It also seeks to explain how grief, insecurity and sexism can play a role in creating a crisis of selfhood.
When the film begins, we see that Laurel has dealt with her mother's death by subsuming her mother's role in the family. She wears her mother's clothes, acts as her father's substitute wife, and buries any hint of an independent identity. To avoid upsetting the delicate balance in her household, she avoids growing up into a sexually mature adult. Her long hair, lack of make up, bare feet and old-fashioned dresses infantilize her. Her first and only sexual partner is an underage boy.
She sees Audrey, her twin sister, as her antithesis. Unfortunately, Audrey isn't given a warm welcome from their father (after all, she's not the daughter that happily acts as an inappropriate caregiver), but in every other way, Laurel understands her sister to be better. Audrey seems self-assured and confident, socially at ease and sexually available. Audrey preforms her gender rather successfully, with flattering make up, stilettos, revealing clothing, and a trendy haircut.
In a tragic twist, Audrey dies in a car accident but due to a misunderstanding at the hospital, Laurel is the only one who knows that. Everyone else thinks mistakenly that Laurel has died and Laurel is about to clarify the mix up when she's cruelly confronted by a terrible truth: her loyalty, self-denial, and service to her father hasn't been recognized or appreciated. No one speaks at her funeral. She reacts to this betrayal and her sister's death in a familiar way, by assuming her female loved one's identity.
This swap gives her the motivation to set out on her own, but Laurel's performance of Audrey is an utter failure. She's socially awkward with the people in her sister's life, she's terrible at her sister's job as a realtor, and literally uncomfortable in her sister's clothes (low cut dresses and high heels). She hasn't magically turned into the image of self-assured, confident womanhood that she's projected onto her sister.
As Laurel tries and fails to imitate her sister, she's also confronted with the harsh reality of Audrey's poor decisions. She is horrified to learn that her twin was sleeping with a married man and was content to continue the deception. She learns from her sister's tenant, who has been warm and welcoming towards her, that Audrey had treated him unfairly. Once Laurel's idealization of Audrey starts to crack, Laurel begins to let go of the fantasy of her sister's success and her own corresponding failure. Now, she can face her grief more directly and allow others to get to know her. To signify this newfound self-reliance, she begins wearing clothes that reflect her comfort level (modest necklines, flat shoes).
As she inches closer and closer to an independent identity of her own, her fortunes change dramatically. She begins to date an age-appropriate and like-minded man. She successfully sells a house. At home, she'd "helped" her father with his paintings but with her new confidence, she isn't afraid to paint her own vision.
39. The Aftermath (II) (2019)
R | 108 min | Drama, Romance, War
Post World War II, a British colonel and his wife are assigned to live in Hamburg during the post-war reconstruction, but tensions arise with the German who previously owned the house.
Votes: 7,815 | Gross: $1.62M
Pretty solid until the last 5 minutes of the film which essentially undermines everything you've just seen. And points for the fierce 1940's fashion.
Rachael Morgan joins her shitty husband in Germany, excited to rekindle their romance after the tragic death of their son. Contrary to her expectations, she doesn't get a lot of bonding time. Instead, she's left in the requisitioned house of a German Widower and his daughter which isn't ideal since she sees the country and its people as responsible for her son's wartime death. Everyone in the house hates one another...until she and Sadface Alexander Skarsgard begin a hot affair.
Unlike her Shit Husband, Sadface Widower doesn't turn away when he sees her grieving but actively comforts her. They spend quality time together. He also expresses consistent desire for her which Shit Husband can't muster (pun intended). They decide to run away together. Rachael Morgan and Hubby have it out and it goes smoothly because Hubby isn't a colossal asshole, he's just really, really bad at being a partner which incidentally, I've heard is the key part of being married.
The morning she is leaving with Widower Man who is no longer quite so sad, her Shit Husband gives her this ill-timed speech about why he's been avoiding her: she has reminded him too much of their dead son (!!!!!). He also gives her a consolation prize compliment that she's "the best part of him." Part of me was like, yeah dude, that was obvious but you get points for trying. Another part of me was like, contrary to popular belief, SHE IS NOT YOUR RIB. She is her own person and she is exerting her free will by leaving you because you're lame.
I liked Kiera/Rachael the best when she made this choice. She was turning away from a comfortingly familiar relationship that no longer worked towards a hopeful, but unknown future in a foreign country. She wasn't going to stay with someone who didn't "see" her; she was choosing a man who recognized her sorrow and loved her regardless. Bad ass.
But NO. Oh, hell no. She turns down sexy, sweet Alexander Skarsgard and his vision for a modernist dream-home in the mountains for...the husband who refused to stay home with her for six days to mourn their son. Did I mention that he insinuated that he believed she was responsible for their son's accidental death? Yeah, it makes total sense she'd choose to go with that idiot.
What the heck is going on here?! Is this her punitive "penance" for having an affair? Are we supposed to believe that literally ONE COMPLIMENT would win her over after years of avoidance and emotional dismissal? Was she actually his rib?? Well, I suppose I learned my lesson: if I tragically lose my son and grieve openly, my husband has every right to dismiss and reject me. If I choose a better partner, I'll return to my husband eventually because I'm cluelessly fickle. A good woman always knows her place.
40. Hostiles (2017)
R | 134 min | Adventure, Drama, Western
In 1892, a legendary Army Captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.
Votes: 55,595 | Gross: $29.82M
"Hostiles" has all the makings of films I hate - it's a portrait of a white man whose personal growth rests heavily on his interactions with women and people of color. But it's also a total renouncement of the framing of manhood in traditional Westerns and seeks to investigate the reality of historical violence.
The brutality in "Hostiles" is futile, toxic to everyone it comes across, and tragically cyclical. People who kill are killed themselves, people who witness killing want to kill, people who protect others by killing watch as the protected get killed. And most radically for this genre, people who kill see a sensible way out of the cycle in killing themselves. This portrayal of violence upends the romantic images of fighting and death that Westerns provide.
I also want to clarify: I'm not anti-Western. Quite the opposite, I've always gravitated towards Westerns. I'm not particularly keen on horses, ranches, or vast mountain ranges (I prefer the ocean), but I love history. No matter how idealized they may be, I'm drawn to movies that depict historical moments. I love Westerns, but Westerns don't love me back.
I find Westerns are often male fantasies where women are brothel madams, tempting prostitutes, prizes to be won for hard work, and objects of derision that allow men to proudly display their breath of knowledge and experience. While the women are one-dimensional, the men get to have all the fun. I'm left envying the men who are are allowed to make their own rules, settle scores, and triumphantly kill bad guys. "Hostiles" effectively persuaded me that there wasn't anything to be envious of.
The movie argues that making the rules, settling scores and triumphantly killing bad guys is another way of saying that these men carried out a perpetual genocide. The soldiers in "Hostiles" who freely admit that they killed innocent women and children are quick to explain that this behavior was part of their job (a clear echo of the explanation prominent Nazis made after the Holocaust). But the violence that defines their job has also irrevocably broken them. They've become suicidal or homicidal, unreachable in their toxic combination of racism, self-loathing, shame and denial. Suddenly, I didn't want to be a man in a Western; I was horrified by their actions and pitied the half-lives they're left with. It's a surprisingly subversive message to find within this genre.
"Hostiles" ends with a message of healing and redemption. It suggests that to break the cycle of violence we must find within ourselves a mechanism by which we reconcile with, and come to love, our enemies. And that, whenever possible, we move in the direction of family and connection, rather than stoicism and isolation. The lone ranger is merely a myth and "Hostiles" convinces me that it's not a very good one.
41. A Serious Man (2009)
R | 106 min | Comedy, Drama
Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern physics teacher, watches his life unravel over multiple sudden incidents. Though seeking meaning and answers amidst his turmoils, he seems to keep sinking.
Votes: 123,019 | Gross: $9.19M
"I haven't done anything!"
Oh, poor Larry Gopnik. He hasn't learned yet that "doing nothing" is also an action. And, if he'd just embrace the mystery...
This is one of my top 10 favorite films and I watch it over and over again. I think we all might have a little Larry in us.
42. Little Sister (I) (2016)
91 min | Comedy, Drama
Young nun Colleen is avoiding all contact from her family, returning to her childhood home in Asheville NC, she finds her old room exactly how she left it: painted black and covered in goth/metal posters.
"Little Sister" has the same hallmarks of films I love: quirky characters, family dysfunction, and a youngish woman trying to find her way.
And I enjoyed it, particularly the "family Halloween party" climax. But, I didn't love it. There was something about it that didn't completely land or come together for me. It was as if I was watching this emotional journey from a great distance.
43. Damsel (I) (2018)
R | 113 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime
It's the Wild West, circa 1870. Samuel Alabaster, an affluent pioneer, ventures across the American frontier to marry the love of his life, Penelope. As his group traverses the west, the once-simple journey grows treacherous, blurring the lines between hero, villain and damsel.
Votes: 2,505 | Gross: $0.31M
I think "Damsel" is sketched pretty thin. I laughed out loud while watching this absurdist, trope-defying Western, but I also spent the first 20 minutes wondering how much a miniature horse costs.
I don't think I'm spoiling anything that wasn't in the film's trailer by saying that this movie begins by introducing what appears to be a romantic plot involving a sensitive hero who is bent on rescuing his true love by kidnappers. Instead, we learn it's a story of an entitled man-child's violent obsession with a woman who has already rejected him. It's the satirical Western version of Netflix's hit show, "You".
"You" and "Damsels" aim to redefine a common romantic trope and uncover how it reinforces toxic masculinity. Traditionally, a man's excessive fixation on his love interest is framed as an indicator of devotion and commitment, but these scenes actually portray a man who refuses to acknowledge a woman's boundaries, rejects her right to privacy and completely dismisses her individual agency. It isn't sweet or endearing, it's stalking.
In "Damsels", the filmmakers seem proud to have tackled this trope head-on. The word "pussy" is pointedly used as an insult between men, all the men are portrayed as completely incompetent, and an entire hour of the movie is devoted to setting up and executing the narrative shift from romance to stalking. It began to feel as if the film was a little too proud of itself.
I also thought the film was a little thin on the ground, like the Diet Coke version of a Coen brothers movie. It was less philosophical, less emotionally moving, and less engaging, but it had the same comedic violence, wacky supporting characters, and stylized dialogue. Surprisingly, this movie got consistently solid reviews which - I can only assume - had a lot to do with one tiny horse named Butterscotch.
44. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
R | 122 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet Agent within MI6.
Votes: 176,010 | Gross: $24.15M
I am one of those people who like to guess what's going to happen next while watching movies. For the record, no one really enjoys this except me, the person who is doing it. I sit there, mentally running through the possible outcomes of various plot devices. Clearly, I don't enjoy surprises, have poor impulse control, and need the perverse satisfaction of proved right.
Therefore, when I cannot even begin to guess where a story is going, I'm absolutely thrilled. When I saw "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", I couldn't have confidently said who the mole was and the intricate plot was too engaging to give me time to wonder. If that was this film's only redeeming quality, it would've been enough...
But no! "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" has an entire generation of the finest British actors at its disposal. Tom Hardy is in this! Tom freakin' Hardy! I also love spy movies and any entertainment that uses the Cold War as its setting. Boom, instant favorite from 2011.
45. A Perfect Getaway (2009)
R | 98 min | Mystery, Thriller
Two pairs of lovers on a Hawaiian vacation discover that psychopaths are stalking and murdering tourists on the islands.
Votes: 64,417 | Gross: $15.48M
I cannot FATHOM what could've happened to drive this wonderful concept directly into the ground. How could anyone have an idea this solid, with such endless potential, and turn it into this farce? It wasn't as if anything was lost between the scriptwriter and director - it was the same guy!!
It isn't the worst movie I've ever seen, it was just a continual explosion of wasted promise. Let's review what "A Perfect Getaway" has going for it:
1.) Pitch perfect casting. The male actors fit their roles seamlessly: Timothy Olyphant is the self-aggrandizing Special Ops. man who can kill a wild goat with a bow and arrow. Steve Zahn is the emasculated newlywed whose quick smile and nervous eyes reflect the socially awkward insanity around him. Young Thor (the internet tells me his name is Chris Hemsworth) is the thug hippie who uses a threatening tone with his dread-locked girlfriend while they hitch hike.
2.) The perfect location. The main setting is a Hawaiian beach which is bordered by steep cliffs and jungle. There are lots and lots of ways to use that scenery for dramatic effect since the scenery is undeniably gorgeous, inherently deadly, and wildly unpredictable. The scriptwriter can also move their characters vertically (up the trees, down a cliff) AND horizontally (across the water, along a ridge).
3.) The perfect premise. Like one of Agatha Christie's great mysteries, "A Perfect Getaway" gives us the potent combination of murder and a group of strangers in an isolated environment. But it get's better: those six people are actually three heterosexual couples and the murder was committed by a man and a woman. Yay! The scriptwriter gets to play with the tension of violence AND sex simultaneously.
Now, let's go over how "A Perfect Getaway" went completely off the rails:
1.) The movie uses its female characters as window dressing. This isn't just an error in equality and inclusion, it's a huge waste of the story's central strength. It's downright bizarre to pitch an idea of 3 couples and then only utilize the men. If you have 6 players on a field, why randomly bench three? "A Perfect Getaway" concludes with a clichéd "final girl" sequence, but it lacks significance since the sexy plot puppet had been ignored up until then.
2.) To further restrict itself, the filmmaker swept one of the couples off the board completely during the first third of the movie. Let's go over how stupid this decision was, shall we? The storyteller had 6 players to work with initially, but wasn't inclined to do anything interesting with half of them which is already a HUGE MISTAKE. But no, he's not done destroying his idea! He further limits himself by subtracting another character.
The movie also goes out of its way to point a giant red arrow towards one of the two men. Since the story only has two real protagonists, that choice means that the killer has been idiotically clear from the beginning or this film contains the most obvious use of misdirection I've ever seen.
3.) Thematically, I think this film was trying to say something about masculinity and what defines a "real man" which is HILARIOUS. Let's make a metaphor this sexist writer-director might be able to understand: this movie's efforts to create a message around masculinity was like watching a man try to stab someone to death with his own flaccid penis.
Is the "real man" the serial killer who lures his victims into a false sense of comfort by his performance of emasculation? Or, is the "real man" the obviously insecure braggart who rushes to over-preform his masculinity at every opportunity? The person who - when feeling socially vulnerable - stops the conversation to publicly urinate is an idiot, not a "real man". And women laugh at men like that, they don't wait breathlessly for them to propose. This piece of window dressing definitely laughed her ass off.
46. After (2019)
PG-13 | 105 min | Drama, Romance
A young woman falls for a guy with a dark secret and the two embark on a rocky relationship. Based on the novel by Anna Todd.
Votes: 16,374 | Gross: $12.14M