Movie and TV reviews finally finished during quaran-time. Favorite films from the last decade, first time viewings, binge-watched TV series, foreign and classic films, snuck-in book reviews, gay stuff, wildcards. No particular order.
Existentialism Lite™: The Good Place (2016-2019) (series)
Drawn in by positive critical reception and the regionally famous “I should get to spend eternity in a medium place, like Cincinnati” line, I quickly found The Good Place to be a lighthearted, wholesome, and occasionally thought-provoking little romp. From the creator of TV hits such as The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, writer/director Michael Schur pumps out yet another twee but bingeable series. Repetitive at times and a few minor plot holes, but with easily digestible 22-minute episodes and clever, lovable characters, those four seasons go down fast. Season 1 is by far the most amusing as you get to know each character, and by the Season 3 finale, you’re wholly invested in the absurdity. With a brightly lit and colorful palette, great one-liners, Maya Rudolph being Maya Rudolph, and Michael’s (Ted Danson) bowties on point, it's an enjoyable-for-what-it-is 8/10.
Damn Good Reporting: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) (documentary)
Raw, unfettered commentary about the police negligence of the violence against trans women, particularly trans women of color. Heart-wrenching firsthand stories, tender black-and-white nostalgia, and just as much about Sylvia Rivera, Victoria Cruz, Islan Nettles, and an entire movement as it is about a vibrant, loving Marsha. Johnson's murder remains unsolved due to unwinnable systemic circumstances, and the storytelling evokes a deep helplessness. Although, Victoria explains that her motives for re-investigating are to shed light on injustice and bring new hope to forgotten (ignored) cases of victimized women - and that it does. Watching Sylvia Rivera’s impassioned speech at the 1973 march and her ultimate redemption does the soul good. A lo-fi, no-frills political doc that inspires anger, action, and pride. Gay power!!! 9/10
Sophomore Slump: Midsommar (2019) (film)
He says it better than I could. Director Ari Aster's second feature-length film after horror success Hereditary (2018) is visually stunning and meticulously composed; reminiscent of Wes Anderson, The Wicker Man, and Ingmar Bergman (eh, maybe just because it’s Swedish); and has beautiful, sun-soaked cinematography and an artfully anxiety-inducing score. Alas, there is no real character development. Other than Dani, (Florence Pugh, who is as good as ever in this role), the film generally resorts to trite and standard horror movie character tropes. There’s an interesting, pseudo-intellectual back-and-forth between actual sociological critique and a dumb willingness to suspend moral judgment for the sake of appearing culturally sensitive. A black man infringes on some white people’s culture? That has to be a joke, right? (No, it’s deadly serious.) I liked the film more after I read Aster describe it as a "big operatic, apocalyptic breakup film.” It’s far more satisfying that way, because otherwise, it's pretty thematically stunted. Christian (Jack Reynor) sucks, I’m glad he gets toasted in a bear suit, and I need an all-female empathetic screaming circle. 5.5/10