Duel

Comic Review Written and Drawn by David Yoder

Duel: The Passion of Youth

Written Review by David Carter

If there is such a thing as a movie sense—and I think there is (I know fruit vendors and cab drivers who have it and some movie critics who don’t)—Spielberg really has it.

-Pauline Kael on Steven Spielberg’s theatrical debut, Sugarland Express

 

At the full risk of sounding like a fanboy with a bias as long as the Mississippi river, I just want to say that some days I get furious thinking about how good Steven Spielberg is as an artist. It’s that full-on Salieri in Amadeus style jealousy of not only realizing that the type of genius some people have isn’t just untouchable, it’s almost an anomaly. Steven Spielberg seems to be a man who was designed at a genetic level to make cinema. If you watch a movie made by him you will see the craft of a person who stages a scene or moves a camera the same way I eat a slice of pizza; with efficiency and boundless artistry. He’s somehow simultaneously flashy and functional. For a small example of that, head over to youtube and watch Tony Zhou’s and Taylor Ramos’s video on the “Spielberg Oner”.

 

It illustrates how so much of this stuff seems to come second nature to him. Which makes sense. Spielberg is a wunderkind and prodigy turned elder statesman and god for this generation. He’s the rare artist that not only didn’t suffer a loss of spark and ambition that comes with age, that spark ignited into a full-on inferno and as far as ambition… look, he’s made some stinkers but you could never accuse him of phoning it in. The times he has made a belly flop it’s usually because he was wrong for the material and even those films fall into the category of “interesting failure” and you could never call them outright bad (Hook may be a mess only kept afloat by a generation of people with fond memories, but most directors would kill to make a movie that good). But even as a legend, that young man’s drive has been with him every step of the way. When you look back at what types of movies he was actually making as a young man, you see someone who could think quick on their feet while also painting a paranoia panorama as pulse-pounding as anything that Frankenheimer or Hitchcock could have whipped up.

 

Which bring us to Duel, Spielberg’s first feature-length film after impressing the higher-ups at Universal with his short film Amblin, earning him the cache to work on tv projects the studio was producing. Most notably his work on the anthology series Night Gallery, where at the age of 21 (Why am I sweating? Why are the walls closing in on me?!?!) he directed the notorious and legendary Joan Crawford. While she was at first alarmed by his age, even she eventually came around to the young virtuoso after seeing the work he could do. Afterward, a friend of his read Richard Matheson’s short story “Duel” in an issue of Playboy and pointed out to Spielberg that the material was perfect for him. Spielberg agreed and after showing Paramount the rough cut of the Columbo TV movie he had been working on, they knew they could trust him on a feature-length TV movie. Spielberg’s process on the movie has the crackle of someone with something to prove. The studio gave him 10 days to shoot, telling him he would have to shoot most of the chases on a sound stage since they didn’t believe it was possible to shoot on location and stay on schedule. He fought to have it on location and miraculously (if you’ve seen the movie you will understand) somehow only went 3 days over schedule. This may have been due to the fact that instead of a traditional storyboard (a must for shooting action efficiently) Spielberg made essentially a linear map of the entire path the vehicles take, only with what happens where (even non-action beats like a suspense-filled layover at a diner). Spielberg’s moxie could fill the grand canyon at this point in his career.

 

The actual movie itself feels like it could have fit right inside a Night Gallery-esque anthology series about strange but supernatural happenings in an anxiety-filled world. The premise of the movie is simple. Dennis Weaver of A Touch of Evil fame plays David Mann (this last name is not an accident) a businessman on his way to a meeting. His life is surrounded by a sense of emasculation. He listens to a drive-time radio show where the caller complains that he doesn’t feel like the man of his house anymore. While in Mann’s own house, his wife complains to him about his inability to stop a coworker from nearly sexually assaulting her during a dinner party.  To top it all off, there’s a giant semi-truck driving like a maniac as he’s trying to get the meeting. It all begins with a simple transgression, David tries to pass the truck which is driving lethargically and belching black smoke back in his direction. The faceless driver of the truck doesn’t take too kindly to the harmless show of force and punishes David for it for the remainder of the entire 90 minutes of the film.

 

And so begins the titular duel. The battle between a man so full of vile toxic masculinity that he wants to murder someone for a petty slight and a man just looking to recapture any sort of control in his life. The movie is just one long extended suspense scene punctuated by bouts of paranoia, like when David stops at a diner and notices that the madman’s truck is parked outside and doesn’t know which person in the diner he could be. Or the sheer terror the many directly attempted murders the truck driver pushes David’s way. The truck and the driver himself really does feel like a dry run for what the movie Jaws would be, down to men with varying degrees of wounded and unhealthy masculinity. As even learned on an extra feature of the film, Spielberg reuses sound effects and mimics shots from Duel when it comes to certain scenes involving the shark. The chase scenes themselves are ingenious. You see the early hints on Spielberg’s unbounded roving camera eye as we see how seamlessly the camera glides from car to truck in some truly tense chase scenes. He also always tried to shoot the chases against a cliff wall so that the vehicles looked like they were going 100 mph (due to the rocks and shrubbery that go zipping by) when in reality they were only going about 20 or 30 mph in any given shot. The movie also involves the low budget filmmaking magic of Dennis Weaver performing his own stunt of jumping out of the way just as a semi truck comes barreling towards him in a phone booth (complete with an accidental Spielberg cameo! He’s in the reflection of the phone both holding a camera). The last 15 minutes of the movie is, without a doubt, some of my favorite action filmmaking put to screen. The duel comes to a bloody and glorious end and it’d be criminal to spoil that here.

 

I could go on and on and on. But needless to say, the stuff on display here is why I love visiting the early work of maestros. You see bits and pieces of things that they’ll expand on later but also something that they have to lose in the process. The ingenuity, the improvisation, and the thought that the sky’s the limit. Spielberg himself has gone on record saying he couldn’t make this film again in the same way. He wouldn’t know how. To me, that’s a magical part of creation. To leave a stamp of who and what you once were on a page for everyone to see for a long time. Even yourself.   

 

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Black Panther

Comic Review Written and Drawn by David Yoder

Black Panther: The Price of Privilege

Written Review by David Carter

What do you stand for?

Are you a activist? What are your city plans for?

Are you a accident? Are you just in the way?

Your native tongue contradictin’ what your body language say

Are you a king or you jokin’? Are you a king or you posin’?

Are you a king or you smokin’ bud rocks to keep you open?

Because the king don’t cry, king don’t die

King don’t lie, king give heart, king get by, king don’t fall

Kingdom come, when I come, you know why

King, king, king, king

-Kendrick Lamar, “Black Panther”

I Am T’Challa

I think privilege is something people in most walks of life in contemporary society have to contend with. There obviously exists a hierarchy of privilege in which rich, old, able-bodied, cisgender white men sit comfortably on top, but I’m talking the privilege and power structures that exist in communities that don’t have to contend with such a factor. Like, imagine the make up of a society in which there existed only one race of people. Where at a glance, it looked as if the standard of living for all people was incredibly high and gender dynamics seemed to have women on equal footing. What would the privilege and power dynamics look like in a society that’s utopian by most other cultures standards? What would the responsibilities of a leader in that society look like when they had their own internal politics to contend with along with the knowledge that an entire world of their descendants didn’t have anywhere near the same privileges as even the lowliest member of their society?

What if that leader was considered conservative by those very people even though they were trying to do what seemed right for their nation?

It came as a shock to me as I sat in a nearly full theater on a Saturday morning that a Disney movie, based off a character created by two Jewish men for children’s enjoyment, was daring to not only ask these questions but to delve into them with a depth and nuance I personally hadn’t seen since watching Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing for the first time over 15 years ago.

I was not shocked, however, that the movie was guided so deftly by the hand that made the tense but empathetic Fruitvale Station and operatic and socially relevant Creed. Ryan Coogler seems to inherently possess the type of craft-focused, thoughtful, yet commercially surface level filmmaking we associate with giants like Spielberg or Scorsese. And like those two filmmakers he’s already knocking it out of the park playing in the big leagues at such a young age (he’s 31 right now and that thought alone is enough to send me into an existential shame spiral) and keeping his voice intact in a way that’s rare for emerging filmmakers to do in this increasingly producer and I.P. driven film industry. If you were to pinpoint one of two meta-narratives* within this film you would see that Coogler is probably feeling the weight of shouldering the responsibility of putting the first major (i.e. scale, size, and impact) work of Afrofuturism on the screen with a predominantly black cast.  “Heavy is the head the wears the crown” as they say, but not only is Coogler able carry that weight, he flexes and has the movie be unabashedly about the effects of colonialism and American imperialism on the diaspora and the responsibility of the privileged (be it black or white) to not only combat those influences but to tear up the toxicity that has entwined itself into the roots. What could the story of a movie this bold be in the first place?

Black Panther is the 18th Marvel movie, but outside of the prerequisite tie-ins to the Universe at large, it functions like the beginning of its own glorious epic franchise. The story is about prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman, reprising a role he seemed destined to play) of the isolationist but secretly centuries advanced nation of Wakanda, becoming king T’Challa after the passing of his father T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War. The initial conflict of the film is bringing to justice one of the only men to see Wakanda for what it really was, Ulysses Klaue (a sentient honey baked ham taking the shape of actor Andy Serkis) who robbed Wakanda of a portion of its Vibranium. Wakanda’s miracle resource in which a large portion of its technology is developed from (for the nerds out there it’s stronger than Adamantium and serves a hell of lot more purposes than just “strong” and “sharp”), but that conflict is a trojan horse for the real villain of the film. The sexy, sweet and savage Michael B. Jordan struts in with his future Best Supporting Actor nominated Erik “Killmonger” Stevens. This character is the beating heart of Black Panther but I’ll give him his due later. Suffice it to say the movie becomes a battle about idea’s between Killmonger, T’Challa, and the people of Wakanda. Those very ideas forever changing the shape of Wakanda and the world at large.

The ideas that this movie is presenting aren’t something as simple or wrongly reductive as the perceived ideals of  “The Black Revolutionary” vs. “The Black Pacifist.” It’s tackling an issue bigger than that. One that starts at the doorstep of the tradition that T’Challa is simultaneously burdened with upholding and somehow expanding.

The thing about tradition and isolationism is that these are inherently conservative ideas. They both literally conserve and hermetically seal the makeup of a culture so that it can’t be influenced (for better or for worse) by other cultures or ideals. When conservatism gets brought up within the black community (or perhaps more accurately, the televised depiction of the black community) it always becomes a conversation about respectability politics or as beautifully illustrated by Key and Peele, jokes about…well see for yourself

T’Challa stands as a poster child for conservatism, but he’s not ignorant of the world. He knows that things should be done to help others outside of Wakanda, but he’s beholden to the elders of Wakanda, people who sit above him in the hierarchy of privilege. He, can’t afford to take risks and part of him doesn’t see a need to take risks. His people seem happy and he feels like he’s honoring his ancestors before him, but this way of thinking is slightly delusional. Those around him (mostly those coming from a much younger generation than the elders) feel differently about how Wakanda should proceed forward with its new future. His security advisor and best friend W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya, who even in this movie, gives the best side-eye in cinematic history) thinks they should be using their military might to resolve the ever-increasing number of refugees and civil wars that encroach their borders by intervening in those conflicts. Nakia (played by Lupita Nyongo in a refreshingly high profile live action role) who is a spy and former lover of T’Challa thinks that Wakanda is strong enough to protect its heritage and lend a helping hand to those in need outside of their sphere. She even walks the walk by taking insanely dangerous missions to help liberate human trafficked women and children who aren’t Wakandan citizens. Then there’s the wonderful and magnetic princess Shuri (Letitia Wright who should be running the table in Hollywood in a few years, if there’s any justice), who has never bought into Wakada’s isolationist attitudes and enjoys/assimilates the gifts that black diasporic culture has to offer into her own incredible inventions. She’s pop culturally savvy in a way makes her on guard for the dangers of colonialism, but celebratory of its joy. Her mere presence and ribbing of T’Challa for being so old-fashioned is enough to illustrate what the future could look like if they opened up as a nation.

T’Challa is a benevolent king and he sees and hears these possible ways to move forward with kind thoughtfulness but has the privilege to divert attention to what he sees as more pressing concerns: finding and bring Klaue to justice.

That’s until Erik “Killmonger” Stevens cracks and shatters the mantle of T’Challa’s world.

Fuck integrity, fuck your pedigree, fuck your feelin’s, fuck your culture

Fuck your moral, fuck your family, fuck your tribe

Fuck your land, fuck your children, fuck your wives

Who am I? Not your father, not your brother

Not your reason, not your future

Not your comfort, not your reverence, not your glory

Not your heaven, not your angel, not your spirit

Not your message, not your freedom

Not your people, not your neighbor

Not your baby, not your equal

Not the title y’all want me under

-Kendrick Lamar, “Kings Dead”

All Hail King Killmonger

There’s a recurring motif in Black Panther where after whoever attains the title of Black Panther through ritualistic combat, must undergo a ceremony where they are granted enhanced strength, speed, agility, and senses by imbibing a plant called “The Heart Shaped Herb.” The plant itself not only grants these gifts but also sends the imbiber on an ayahuasca like vision quest to commune with their ancestors. For T’Challa, he is granted a vision of all the previous Black Panthers including his father T’Chaka, all on a very Daughters of the Dust styled African savannah. T’Challa is able to talk to and take counsel with his father concerning whether he is doing the right thing as king. T’Challa has strong roots to his heritage and an even stronger foundation with his father for whom he thinks is a man who could do no wrong. It’s a touching scene. One that comes full circle when he once again speaks to his father after finding out that T’Chaka was no saint, and had to make tough and ultimately damaging choices for the good of his kingdom.

However, when we see Killmonger go on his journey it’s a scene so many black youths and adults in the audience recognized. A small apartment in an urban landscape (here, it’s Oakland) adorned with all the makeup of his youth intact. The ethereal shimmer of the savannah still present but outside the window, looking as if it was a million miles away. This is his heritage. The only world he has a connection to, one that is small and as boxed-in as he feels in the world. His roots are lost to the effects of a western world that has practiced divide and conquer with overwhelming success.

There sitting in front of him is his father N’Jobu (played by future Oscar winner Sterling K. Brown). A man that he had so little time with but learned so much from. He learned about the inequality of the world and the struggle to change it. He learned about his heritage and how he descends from royalty and that there exists a place that’s as whimsical and farfetched sounding as a magic kingdom headlined by a talking mouse. The film cuts from Killmonger as a man filled with nothing but rage to him becoming a child again as he listens to his father speak. It’s a visual rhyme with Coogler’s other work Creed, in which we see young Adonis Creed unclench his balled up fist when someone shows him a bit of compassion and guidance. This, to be personal, is the part of the movie that struck the loudest chord for me. I would hear the same sentiments from my father growing up. He would constantly say “you have the blood of kings and queens running through your veins” and much like Killmonger, all I could take that statement as was a fairytale. I lived in midwest America, the closest thing to black royalty I knew growing up was Michael Jackson, Oprah, and Michael Jordan. I couldn’t grasp at that age or with so much societal conditioning that he was trying to tell me about a heritage that was filled with success, grace, power, and ownership. But, I grew up in good circumstances. Killmonger and thousands of other kids like him did not, and that fairytale burned and turned to ashes in their mouths when they saw how the world at large treats people like themselves. So they lash out and start to find their own path to making that power they think is a myth into a reality, but all they know are the exact same tools as those who put them and their people in this place. They think they’re just playing the game. That’s exactly what Killmonger does.

It’s why Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross character is so important to the overall thematic content of the film. He is the token white guy there to realize why he should help the Wakandans protect their way of life and the world at large, but he’s also the stand-in for American Imperialism. He knows the playbook Killmonger is playing out of, so he can explain that to those not in the know. He also has to stand and watch in horror what that playbook looks like in action. Most people like Ross can only intellectualize this stuff, it’s different when your own empathy comes into play. Your point of view shifts dramatically.

Killmonger knows a version of Disney World exists and he has the intelligence and tools to strip it bare for his own means and replace that big dumb mouse with himself (this metaphor might be getting away from me). He’s the antithesis of everything T’Challa stands for. Right down to the sentiment of what using your for a greater good means. This is where the ill thought out MLK/Malcolm X reads of the movie come into play, but the movie is striving for something way more nuanced than “preservation of values” vs “kill whitey”/”Killmonger was right.” It’s about pulling those infected roots from the soil and laying a new foundation completely.

I am T’challa. I am Killmonger. One World. One God. One Family

I brought up Do the Right Thing earlier for a very specific reason. The reason being how people tend to miss the point of the film completely when it comes to the actions of the lead character Mookie (played by Spike Lee himself). He’s been told by Da Mayor to “always do the right thing” in a super tossed-off manner (Da Mayor is an alcoholic and is probably a little drunk at this point) but they are the wisest words delivered in the movie (I mean, look at the title). But, this isn’t a morality tale for Mookie (he’s as complicated of character as you could ask) it’s kind of one for the audience. When the melting pot turned pressure cooker of a microcosm that is this Brooklyn neighborhood finally explodes, we see Mookie make a decision to essentially pour gasoline on an already raging fire by tossing a trash can through a window. However, we also see this righteous fire snuffed out only a few minutes later when two of the cops on the scene decide to make their own decision: to take the life of someone in the neighborhood when they posed little to no threat. I’m being vague for people who haven’t seen this incredible film (you should honestly stop reading and go put it on now) but what I’m trying to say is that those two decisions were generally met with one question from a lot of viewers: “why did Mookie throw that trash can?” but almost never do they ask “why did the cops take a life?” If you watch the movie or are even vaguely conscious of the world around, you know exactly why Mookie threw the trash can. It’s much harder to ask yourself why would somebody with that type of power take a life that they didn’t have to take. It’s about looking at the power structures and institutions set in place and questioning the very foundation they are built on, and if the foundation is faulty: you build a new foundation.

T’Challa effectively starts asking the right questions

Yes, Killmonger was right. The diaspora is in peril and it has been for a long time. The powers need to be tipped steeply back in its favor. We effectively know why he throws his metaphorical trash can and he is more than justified in throwing it. His only flaw was playing a game that was badly designed to begin with. One that almost left a mighty nation and his heritage in ruins. The movie also isn’t letting the (white) audience off the hook by having a worldwide uprising be halted with the help of a reformed white man (this is grossly reductive thinking). T’Challa is not the hero of the film, Killmonger is. Because Killmonger forces T’Challa to gaze into the ugly void of subjugation and makes him move to real action. You can only imagine how shook T’Challa would be after hearing a man’s final dying words be, “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage.” He decides to start putting his resources into places where they’re needed. Not rescuing one black child at a time, but a whole generation of them. This isn’t about creating another isolated community of black folks either. This is about effectively changing the entire game that’s been played for centuries and he’s writing the rules.

It’s why the final scene of the movie takes place at the United Nations. T’Challa sees what good he could do for the world. When the cynical UN rep asks what Wakanda can possibly offer the world, T’Challa smirks. Not just because of the irony of the statement but because he not only is holding all the cards. He’s completely redesigning the deck.

*I couldn’t find a way to fit this into the piece organically, but this movie serves as a meta Rocky 3 riff. It pretty much has all the same beats and structure as that film. The protagonist starts the movie off as the golden boy to lose it all when someone who has lived a truly intense life (rightfully) takes the championship, after taking the life of the protagonist’s mentor. Not to mention the racial subtext between protagonist and antagonist (in Black Panther, T’Challa is both Rocky and Apollo). The protagonist has to then go on a journey both spiritual and physical to become the people’s champ once again. The meta part of the equation comes to play out within the audience. T’Challa is our people’s champ going into the movie simply by existing. He steals much of Captain America: Civil War sure, but even in that movie he doesn’t have a traditional arc. He’s pretty much a fully formed character at the point we meet him. My take anyway.

The Florida Project

Comic Review Written and Directed by David Yoder

Written Review by David Carter to come later. 2 color prints of the comic are being raffled off for a showing of The Florida Project by Cicada Cinema (which David Carter is a part of) in Bloomington, Indiana. Information below.

We’re excited to announce our first film of 2018, the Bloomington premiere of the critically-acclaimed feature The Florida Project directed by Sean Baker (Tangerine) and released by A24 (Moonlight, Ladybird).

The Florida Project has made it onto the “Best Of” lists of many critics, including The New York Times’ A.O. Scott and Film Comment’s Amy Taubin. Following a summer in the life of six-year old Moonee, Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is an adventurous exploration of youth. Equal parts comic, heartwarming, and challenging, Baker’s film delights with a stellar cast of young (non)actors and the great Willem Dafoe in a supporting role.

Plot: Moonee and her friends spend their days wandering the colorful surroundings of their budget Orlando motel residence and causing mischief. Living in the looming shadow of Disney World, Moonee thrives despite the larger struggles of the adults around her. Baker’s vividly-rendered film juxtaposes the raw unbridled joys of youth with the (often harsh) realities of adulthood in contemporary America.

Please join us for the first of our 2018 pop-up events bringing films otherwise unseen to Bloomington!

THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Saturday, Jan. 20th
Screening @ 7:00pm & 9:30pm
Location: The Fell Building (415 W. 4th Street)
$6
Rated R
Runtime: 111 minutes

 

Top 10 Movies of 2017

Comic Top 10 List Written and Drawn by David Yoder- except last panel by Denis St John

Top 10 (But Secretly 25) of 2017

Written Top 10 List by David Carter

I think every year at the movies is a good year. I just think that it depends on the year for what type of movie tends to get the spotlight. In my lifetime so many years stick out as having a particular theme or focal point of achievement. 1999 is the year that future trailblazers and Gen X auteurs like P.T. Anderson, The Wachowski’s, David Fincher and Spike Jonze would break out with some of the defining films of the century. 2007 is largely considered the best year of the 00’s, containing films such as Superbad, Hot Fuzz, There Will Be Blood, Zodiac and No Country for Old Men. All movies that shot for the moon and hit galaxies we hadn’t even heard of. I’ve recalled 2015 being the year that sequels, remakes and reboots hit a high point and evolution that signaled we could take shameless brand recognition and pull actual meaningful and expertly crafted art out of them.

Upon reflecting on 2017, the year that made us look like idiots for thinking things couldn’t get worse after the sobering way 2016 played out, all I could think was how much of a cinematic cry for compassion, human decency, self discovery, and love it all seemed to be. I know these are broad concepts that could be applied to so much of our film landscape, regardless of the year. However, if art, especially art meant for and consumed by the masses are supposed to be this reflection of the zeitgeist then 2017 is a full length mirror showing us who we truly are and who we strive to be.

It was also the year where movies stepped up their game and showed us that certain types of movies we thought were dead really just needed a fresh perspective (i.e. not just white dudes) and ones that had been par for the course reached dizzying highs by leaning into their strongest elements and minimizing the weaknesses.

Frankly, it was hell making this list. I saw close to 100 films from 2017 and I’d bargain more than half of them deserve to be on a list in which the only criteria was how much I personally enjoyed them. Meaning, how much the impacted me, how much the stuck with me and how much they held up upon scrutiny or subsequent rewatches. This is not about objective quality because I feel like that’s boring and produces samey looking list (although I’m guilty of having some critical darlings on here as well). So before we jump into the meat here are the various runner-up’s that I feel like people should take the time and check out while the movie goin’ season is slow and these start rolling out on VOD.

Three Star Slappers That I’ll Be Watching on Friday Nights for Years to Come

Murder on the Orient Express, Kong: Skull Island, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. (reviews here, here, here, and here)

Small Dark Films to Take a Chance On

Super Dark Times, Nocturama, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Girlfriend Day (review here), Wheelman

Films That Go For Broke

The Villainess,  Blade of the Immortal, Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lure, BPM, Lost in London (review here)

Films that Destroyed Me Emotionally

Lucky, Step, Princess Cyd, All These Sleepless Nights, A Ghost Story

The Objectively Most Important and Entertaining Films of the Year

Get Out, Lady Bird, The Big Sick, Wonder Woman (review here, here, here, and guest review here)

The Films I Wish I Could Have Seen Before Making This List

The Florida Project, The Phantom Thread, Your Name, Coco, Wind River

And here my top 25 films of the year with some quick thoughts on the the top 10.

Top 25 (25-11)

25. Split (review here)

24. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2/Logan (review here and here)

23. mother!/I, Tonya

22. Alien: Covenant (review here)

21. Blade Runner 2049 (review here)

20. T2: Trainspotting 2 (review here)

19. Mudbound

18. Logan Lucky

17. The Lost City of Z

16. Columbus

15. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

14. John Wick: Chapter 2 (review here)

13. The Work

12. It Comes at Night (review here)

11. The World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts

10. Raw Directed by Julia Ducournau (review here)

It was a hell of year for first time outings. Get Out, Lady Bird, and The Big Sick all signal the seismic shift of what’s happening in Hollywood as of late. Movies that are so assured, complete and carry the very unique voices of their creators. However, none of those were as assured, complete and unique as Julia Ducournau’s horrific tale of carnal discovery. A movie that never once drops the ball on what it’s overarching metaphor is, while balancing so much tonal control it makes you dizzy. It’s a movie that’s as off putting as it is erotic. You may not feel as good as you would  from those aforementioned films, but you’ll walk away saying you saw something wholly unique. I can’t wait to see what Ducournau does next.

9. Good Time Directed by Ben and Josh Safdie

“After Hours as envisioned by Abel Ferrara”. That was my first thought as the machinations of this non-stop story started to unfold. The Safdies are making movies that don’t exist anymore. Capital “G” Grimey New York stories about people on the margins.  If their 2014 film Heaven Knows What plays like a heavy dramamine drip right into your veins, then Good Time is like going on a bender of whip-its, vodka and steady stream of cigarettes. But even outside of its unforgettable style, pacing, score (top 5 of the year easy) and an M80 of a performance from Robert Pattinson, it’s got things to say without coming right out and preaching them. A movie about love, systems designed to make outsiders struggle and the hierarchy of those very same outsiders. Queens as a microcosm of our society. I can only be more excited to see what they do with a 48 Hours remake.

8. The Post Directed by Steven Spielberg

It’s a list made up of favorites, so bias was always going to play a heavy part in making this list. I unequivocally believe Steven Spielberg is our greatest living filmmaker and upon his death his name should be said in the same breath as Hitchcock or Kubrick. So much can and has been said by much smarter people about the importance of this incredible movie that was rushed to production in the midst of our administration shouting down the press and threatening our 1st Amendment Rights. Though, for me the thing that makes my skull ring is how easy he makes it all look. The way he blocks a scene, the way he can control the crescendos and diminuendos of something as simple as a conversation, and of course the always motivated and only occasionally flashy use of the camera. It’s like watching Valerian’s very own Herbie Hancock blow over a blues. You can tell he’s not even thinking about, he is just existing in the song. People always doubt Spielberg or find him inauthentic, but every time he shows up and finds a way to dig into the essence of what makes us tick as humans and The Post is no different.

7. Okja Directed by Bong Joon Ho (review here)

Speaking of Spielberg, here’s one of the most buckwild films of the year from disciple (but not imitator) Bong Joon Ho. This movie can only be described as a delight. A movie that hammers home how important it is for us to communicate to each other and look past our baser instincts from time to time. If that wasn’t enough, it features some of the most striking visuals and laugh out loud funny moments of the year. The image of Tilda Swinton striking a jubilant pose announcing a competition as banners and confetti rain around her is seared into my mind. It has the best chase scene in a movie since Mad Max Fury Road and that movie didn’t involve an adorable super pig. The movie puts stark drama, comedy, slapstick, action and violence on the same plate. At first you’d be skeptical if those flavors belong in such close proximity to each other, but after you take a bite you’ll realize just how delectable that fusion of flavors is.

6. Visages Villages (Faces Places) Directed by Agnes Varda

I don’t know why Agnes Varda isn’t as recognized as the national treasure she truly is. You would think the inventor of the French New Waves supposed final film (she said Beaches of Agnes was her final film, and that was nearly 10 years and one TV series ago.) would be greeted with more fanfare but c’est la vie. Movies about mortality are always a tough pill to swallow but with Varda it becomes this beautiful and ecstatic journey into getting to know the world around you when you’re on your last leg. “Last Leg” isn’t exactly the right phrase, considering that even with her use of cane and a wheelchair, at the age of 89 Anges still has more energy and wit than most people have in their 20’s. It’d be shame to give any of this wonderful documentary away but the last 10 minutes truly is some of the most poignant cinema you will ever see. An ending that plumbs the very depths of cinematic history itself.

5. The Lego Batman Movie Directed by Chris McKay (review here)

Like all my list and rankings, when it comes to Batman movies it’s an ever shifting process based on my mood and the current standing the character itself. But I can safely say that The Lego Batman Movie is hands down my favorite Batman movie (you put up a good fight Batman Returns) and may objectively be the best Batman movie ever made. Unfortunately the playing field was never going to be level considering that the take on Batman in this movie is a celebration and deconstruction of every televised and cinematic depiction to come before it. It gets right to the nitty gritty of what makes Batman tick as character for himself and for us as the audience. It’s a heartwarming generational story about fathers and sons/daughters, and it’s a dense brick of wall to wall gags and jokes so funny (Robin: “My name is Richard but my friends call me Dick” Batman: “Well, children can be cruel”) that I spend every rewatch trying not to laugh over a joke I missed the last time by laughing over it. If the spark could be sustained and the talent stayed aboard Warner Bros. and DC would be smart to have this be their new DCEU going forward.

4. Dunkirk Directed by Christopher Nolan (review here)

I waxed poetic in my review of this movie about how this movie is a successor to Inception, Nolan’s greatest film to date, and the culmination of the man’s entire career. I also spent some time talking about how much pure, uncut cinema this movie has coursing through its veins and how it’s an experience so unique to see in its preferred 70mm format that I fear I’ll never see anything like it again. All of those things are true, but if I had the foresight to see that this tale of tooth and nail survival and unbridled kindness was going to be a definitive reflection of the mental psyche of the zeitgeist in 2017, I would have seen it four more times. I’m tearing up just remembering a shot of Tom Hardy gliding in for a landing after taking down a rival fighter pilot on an empty tank of gas, the sunset draped behind him. Knowing that he’ll be captured, but also knowing he did the right thing.

3. The Shape of Water Directed by Guillermo del Toro (guest review here)

“What am I?”

It’s what Elisa (played by the incredible Sally Hawkins) asks Giles (played by God among men Richard Jenkins) as he tries to tell her there’s no worth in risking their necks to save the fish man (Doug Jones, who needs a god damn Oscar already). It’s a big question, and one the movie never shies away from exploring. It’s a question I sit here in 2018 asking myself every single day when I crawl out of bed in the morning. A movie that wants us to look at people on the margins and see them as fleshed out, living , breathing entities with wants and desires. It’s the Merchant of Venice quote (“If you prick us, do we not bleed”) realized as entire movie that does nothing but fill me with a radiating light of joy.

Also I cannot stress enough that a lady bones down and tap dances with a fish man and it might be nominated for some Oscars, so please do yourself a favor and be a part of that magic. Guillermo del Toro forever.

2. Baby Driver Directed by Edgar Wright (review here)

“Baby, oh, baby

You look so good to me, baby

Baby, oh, baby

You are so good to me, baby”

“Just one look in your eyes

And my temperature goes sky high

I’m weak for you and can’t help it

You know I really don’t wanna help it”

“B-A-B-Y, Baby

B-A-B-Y, Baby”

Honorary #1. Twin Peaks: The Return Directed by David Lynch

I really try and not be one of those people that wants to try and take great televised works away from the medium and call them cinema. But as look on my movie shelf that holds The Decalogue, and Fanny and Alexander, or think about what Shoah and OJ: Made in America  is, it becomes clear that some projects defy the two mediums completely and there is enough wiggle room for them to fall into multiple categories. By all accounts Twin Peaks: The Return was written and shot in the same manner as an 18 hour movie would be and plays that way when you watch it. It has been shown in its entirety at the MoMA and for all of these reasons I consider it to boundary breaking cinema. Classifications aside however, this was hands down the best viewing experience of 2017 for me. Every week, I would be greeted with some new idea or image to chew on for months to come. Part 8 could be considered to be the single most buckwild hour of viewing this decade, and with a cast as incredible as this one, the cards were always going to be stacked against the competition. For all the flare of the show, Lynch and Frost never lose sight of the point that they’re trying to get across. One about the legacy of abuse and trauma we inflict upon women and children. Because for all of his weirdness and eccentricities you can look at a large chunk of Lynch’s work and tell that in the end it’s all about love. It’s no mistake the David Lynch as Agent Gordon Cole delivers the single most memorable line of the entire experience:

“ I told them to fix their hearts, or die”

1. Call Me By Your Name Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Sometimes it can just be one scene to seal a movie in your heart forever. One soul shattering and earth moving monologue delivered by our greatest soft spoken actor. No fire, No fury, just the soft caress of empathy. The speech delivered by Michael Stuhlbarg to Timothee Chalamet in the final minutes of Call Me By Your Name is to me one of the finest moments put to celluloid. A speech so simply about what we give up in our youth in the struggle to exist in the world with some semblance of comfort. A speech that hit me so hard that I sat sobbing in a crowded theater with no control over what was happening to me. The movie had made me take a step back and think about who and what I am at this very juncture in my life and what I had given up to become that person. It was too much absorb in that moment but as the days passed and the movie threaded itself into my very DNA that speech became a refrain of the most sumptuous pop song I had heard since In the Mood For Love.

I don’t make that comparison lightly. Both are hypnotic tales about a brief period where two people reaching out for each other could let there emotions run wild. While In the Mood For Love never has Tony Leung and Maggie Chung physically consummate those emotions and Call Me By Your Name most certainly does, the end result is the same in both. As Timothee Chalamet sits staring into fire place during the closing credits of the film you can tell that like Tony Leung he is reminiscing about the summer he had.

His face may not show it, but he remembers fondly.

The Shape of Water

Guest Comic Review Written and Drawn by Denis St. John. Denis draws horror comics, check out his work at deniscomix.com, support him on Patreon at patreon.com/denisstjohn, and buy his most recent book- “The Land of Many Monsters: And Many More Monster Tails” on Amazon HERE.

The Shape of Water and the worlds of Guillermo Del Toro

Guest Written Review by Jesse Pasternack. Jesse Pasternack is a filmmaker, blogger for IU Cinema (read his work here), contributor to the Indiana Daily Student (read more of his work here), and a friend of the Doug Loves Movies podcast.

 

It is always fascinating to see director Guillermo Del Toro’s fantastical worlds bump up against reality. The unsettling creatures of Pan’s Labyrinth were eclipsed in scariness by the Fascists of 1940s Spain. He made the ghosts and the murders in Crimson Peak more disturbing by making them exist in a sumptuous world more appropriate to a Merchant Ivory film than your standard horror movie. Now, Del Toro tells the most beautiful and adult love story of the year. That a mute woman and an amphibious man share this passionate love amidst the prejudices and repressions of early 1960s America is yet another example of how Del Toro’s fantastical imagination interacts with more realistic history and the ugliness of society.

The Shape of Water takes place in 1962 Baltimore. The benevolent and mute Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaning woman at a government facility. She has a seemingly full life listening to records and spending time with her best friend Giles (Richard Jenkins), a gay artist who feels like he has wasted his life. But Elisa’s life changes forever when she discovers a creature often referred to as “The Asset” but credited as Amphibian Man (Doug Jones, a frequent collaborator of Del Toro’s who always plays beautifully designed creatures). She develops a bond of love with Amphibian Man, and soon plots to break him out of the facility. But the sinister government agent Richard Strickland (the underrated and frightening Michael Shannon) has other plans for Amphibian Man.

What distinguishes the Baltimore of The Shape of Water from Del Toro’s other worlds is its realism. The bright colors and production design could have come from Mad Men, another creative work set in 1960s America that had a dreamlike bent. The sets are as exquisitely designed and imaginative as those in Pan’s Labyrinth, but they are not quite as fantastical. In contrast to Pan’s Labyrinth or Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which had many different types of creatures, this movie only has the Amphibian Man. There is still an idiosyncratic quality to this film, especially in a scene where Elisa and Giles have a small dance number, but that ineffable characteristic has the matter-of-fact feel of magical realism and not the wild nature of fantasy. By making the world of The Shape of Water more recognizably like our own, Del Toro makes it easier for audiences to accept his film’s messages.

The Shape of Water focuses on disenfranchised people. Its nicest human characters are a disabled woman, a gay man, a black woman, and an immigrant. In a decade when people like them were dehumanized, Del Toro shows that they have rich humanities that make them worthy of love and acceptance. His belief in loving people for the idiosyncrasies that others would demonize is just as vital in 2017 as it was in 1962.   

This warm and loving spirit that guides the film is perhaps best embodied in Hawkins’s lead performance as Elisa. Hawkins has shown that she excels at portraying characters whose defining characteristic is kindness since her breakout performance in Happy-Go-Lucky. She does bring the liveliness that animated similar characters in Maudie and Paddington to her performance, but her performance in this film is even more impressive because she has to convey all of her emotions without a single word. Some of her facial expressions are as vivid and emotional as any that were performed by one of the great silent era film stars.

The supporting cast is exceptional. Octavia Spencer shines, even if she doesn’t have a lot to do. Michael Stuhlbarg (who also acts in The Post and Call Me By Your Name this year) is excellent as Dr. Hoffstetler, and his scenes in Russian are almost as magnetic as Hawkins’s silent ones. Del Toro additionally supports the actors with beautifully mobile camerawork crafted by cinematographer Dan Laustsen and a rapturous score by Alexandre Desplat that can make even the most stone-faced viewer swoon.

    The Shape of Water is a jewel in Del Toro’s filmography. It features one of his most recognizable and rich worlds, as well as his most timely lesson. In the midst of darkness and bigotry, Del Toro argues that love and imagination can triumph over hatred and cruelty. That belief is more wondrous and beautiful than any impeccably crafted set or meticulously designed creature ever could be.  

 

Lady Bird, The Disaster Artist, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Comic Review Written and Drawn by David Yoder

Lady Bird, The Disaster Artist, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Examining Narcissism in 2017

Written Review by David Carter

As the year rolls to a close one of the few pleasures that greets the movie-going audience is a deluge of great movies aimed at adults all clamoring for the awards gold that awaits them early next year. These movies aren’t all perfect, they just tend to swing for the fences in a way that the mainstream movies don’t typically do (swing big, miss big), although in a year where we got Blade Runner 2049, Alien: Covenant, and  mother! during the blockbuster season, this particular wisdom may be coming moot. Inversely we also get good old-fashioned Oscar bait, that can be fun in the moment but ultimately forgettable (when was the last time you thought about Argo or The Artist?). While what’s considered awards-worthy is rapidly evolving (for the better) with the introduction of new and excitingly diverse voices in every aspect of film culture (direction, writing, production, criticism, reporting) the 2018 awards season looks to be a huge toss up. That’s exciting for a medium that tends to do better when it’s pushing and expanding its worldview.

But for all their aesthetic, budgetary and POV differences these films still share the human element. Humans, no matter what their background tend to share some universal experiences and therefore some universal themes. There’s one theme, in particular, that’s been daisy chaining seemingly dissimilar movies together in my mind for the past few weeks. One that speaks to anyone who’s been caught up with their own ego or passion and hasn’t taken a minute to step back and figure out how it affects themselves and those around them. Especially family and surrogate families. The narcissist is a tried and true archetype and a popular one at that. Why wouldn’t it be? All of us want something to aspire to and the narcissist is aspirational in a way. They’re a hero unto themselves. They’re smart or beautiful but use that power to benefit themselves first and the world second. They’re right of center of a hero and left of center of an anti-hero. They’re never really bad enough to be a villain but they do villainous things. Most importantly they leave a mark on the world and those around them.

But in 2017 we tend to view characters like these through a different lens. As the lines for good taste and standards of consciousness change and expand so do our flawed heroes. Sympathy, empathy, and growth are key ingredients to make characters like these not come off as repulsive. In 2017 three awards contenders inadvertently cover this ground in some pretty welcome and unique ways.

Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut Lady Bird is the latest in what has become an annual presentation of female coming of age tales (Diary of Teenage Girl, Edge of Seventeen and Girlhood are all wonderful movies from the past 3 years you should check out). Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (a potential career-defining performance from Saoirse Ronan) confidently states that she gave her moniker to herself and wears it proudly. She’s an audacious teenager looking to take the world by storm, while at the same time trying to figure out what exactly she wants out of it. Like most teenagers she’s selfish, and hasn’t really developed the skills necessary for impulse control, which rubs up against her mother Marion’s (Laurie Metcalf in a heartbreaking performance) own closed-off worldview. Lady Bird doesn’t do anything more drastic than any latchkey kid who grew up in the early to mid 00’s but the things she does do is to get attention. The attention of the cute boy in her theater group, the attention of the popular girl in class, and the attention of a mother that doesn’t really seem to love her so much as tolerate her. She spends so much time grabbing for attention that she never sees past her actions. She can only see herself as the lead in her own story. So yes, she’s a teenager. Little does she know that her family, friends, and teachers can see that once she looks forward she’ll do wonderful things.

It’s odd to say that James Franco’s The Disaster Artist covers the same ground in a very different way, but it’s true. The Ed Wood-esque tale of the making of cult favorite and cultural oddity The Room, is less about the process of making the world’s (debatably) best “so bad it’s good” movie (although holy shit is it about that as well) but more about the strange friendship of Tommy Wiseau (as someone who saw Tommy Wiseau in person, I can report that Franco is almost identical in speech patterns and mannerisms) and Greg Sestero (ditto for Dave Franco). Tommy is just as juvenile as Lady Bird, hell maybe more so, but his narcissism comes from a place of tragedy. He’s a lonely man who wants to make incredible art, but all of his instincts aren’t so much bad as they are extra-terrestrial.  He doesn’t know how to behave like what we as a society would consider a “normal person,” and has little interest in doing so. When he meets Greg and they do a reading of a play at a diner, Tommy urges Greg to come out of his shell and ignore what all the people around them think as they read the dialogue with the grace of a bus trying to Tokyo drift around a corner during 5 o’clock traffic. However, it’s good advice and gets Greg out of his shell and into a relationship with this bizarre man who’s mysteriously wealthy, claims to be in his 20’s when he’s clearly pushing 40 and speaks with an unpinnable eastern European accent but says he’s from New Orleans. I pointed out the Ed Wood comparison earlier but the relationship Tommy has to Greg isn’t the same as Bela Lugosi and Ed Wood’s because Tommy is pretty much Bela and Ed wrapped up in the same person. Tommy is delusional, steadfast, and stubborn to a fault and Greg is there to help him keep his dream on track and be an occasional voice of reason and healing when Tommy goes too far even by his standards. You root for Tommy right up to the point he starts verbally abusing Juliette Danielle, the woman who plays Lisa in The Room. His narcissism is no longer charming, it’s toxic in a way that no longer excuses Tommy’s eccentricities, but puts them in context. He’s not a monster, but he’s an asshole looking for a purpose.

Which is exactly what you could say about Sam Rockwell’s Jason Dixon character in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri. A movie which is filled with narcissists all trying to sort through the complicated mess of a jarring tragedy.  Frances “give me my goddamn Oscar now” McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a sharp-tongued matriarch who wants nothing but to find the man who raped and murdered her daughter. She does so by putting up three billboards on a little-used road outside of Ebbing Missouri posing the question to Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson in what is his third knockout role in 2017) as to why there haven’t been any arrest.  She has extreme but relatable beliefs (every man over the age of 8 should be registered to a database and when they commit a crime they should be killed) and she won’t take shit off anyone (she kicks two children in the crotch when she suspects one of them of throwing something at her car). She’s smart, she’s quick and she’s capable. She is the polar opposite of Jason Dixon, who is by all accounts and actions a certified moron. Jason is a policeman and a surrogate son to Sheriff Willoughby even though Jason lives with and has an odd relationship with his tough as nails mother. He has a murky past that includes torturing a black man under interrogation. One of the movies many themes is the meditation on a simple phrase “people are more than the worst thing they have ever done in their lives.” Jason does some dubious and downright unethical things throughout the film because to him he is doing the right thing for everybody. He’s the ugliest side of narcism. The side that has all the flaws of the quick-witted, Sorkin-esque heroes we love sans any of that wit. We also see him do things that are good and right, as well as things that stand in a grey area. In other words, he’s a complex human being who can’t be so quickly sorted as good or bad. Like Tommy or Lady Bird, he’s an asshole in a lot of ways and you don’t have to like him or even think those selfless acts outweigh the bad he’s done. It just wants you to know that for all the righteous anger aimed at people, in some cases there’s more there than just the shitty thing they said or did in a moment. It’s no mistake that the movie ends on a moment shared between Mildred and Jason, two character who have done and said morally and legally dubious things throughout the film as they face down the barrel of something that’s so grey that any narcissism to be had is washed away with a conscious awakening moral quandary that leaves them silent. In 2017, that’s the type of wringer we like to see our narcissists put through.

Justice League

Comic Review Written and Drawn by David Yoder

Justice League: Breaking the Cycle

Written Review by David Carter

Back in 2012, as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy was coming to a somewhat ungraceful end and the Marvel Cinematic Universe had hit what many still consider to be its absolute peak with The Avengers, it was refreshing to receive some news that there would be a cinematic resurrection of  DC’s second most bizarrely underserved hero, Superman. The first being Wonder Woman, but more on that later. Superman is largely considered the first superhero of the modern era and is the character most responsible for bringing superhero films to the big screen. Yet, after the run of Christopher Reeves films ended the character would largely only exist outside of comics in DC excellent animated series, a Dawson’s Creek riff (Smallville), a Moonlighting riff (Lois and Clark), and scores of undeveloped (most heartbreakingly, a George Miller directed Justice League movie) and underthought screenplays. There was the somewhat underappreciated Superman Returns in 2006 that put a small nail in the big screen coffin of the character for seven years. It’s safe to say that creatives were struggling to find a way to make the Big Blue Boy Scout work on the big screen.

But here comes Zack Snyder, who’s not particularly hot off of anything at this time. Watchmen, while I think a very good film was met with an underwhelming box office and mixed reviews. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole was a decently successful animated film despite no one on planet earth having actually seen the film (it’s a quantum mystery), and Sucker Punch is an interesting and ambitious passion project that failed to be (*checks notes* ) good or reach any audience. So, it was an interesting choice to have this man receive Warner Brothers and Christopher Nolan’s blessing to make a film that would potentially become a rival to the the MCU, not in execution (at least not at that time) but at least in scale. However, it looked as if maybe that would be the case.

That above trailer is, to me, the best DCEU film to date. Everything from the music, the tone, and the cast had all the elements of a proper Superman film for the the 2010’s. I wasn’t sold on the muted colors or the redesign of the costume but I just took these as creative choices that would make more sense after seeing the film. They did, but not in a way that had me or most audiences particularly inspired or entertained. It’s safe to say you know what happens from here. We’ve all seen the slow and very expensive trainwreck that has been WB’s DC films. Movies that have just been reacting to themselves, critical backlash, and eventually the continued, unmatched success of the MCU. And yes, Wonder Woman is the glaring outlier of this trash fire, simply by being a film with a functional screenplay (no shade, that’s a compliment), competent and exciting cinematography, and a top-notch cast portraying interesting and well-developed characters. Furthermore, it did something other superhero films weren’t doing for a long time: accepting that people besides men between the ages of 13-35 like going to these movies and maybe want something besides angst. The other 4 DCEU films can barely check one of those boxes off.

So here we are at Justice League, a movie with a behind the scenes production saga that is infinitely more interesting than anything tossed up on screen. Let’s get this out of the way, Justice League is a Franken-movie pieced together from the bloated but singular two film vision of Zack Snyder, chopped down and re-color corrected by producers, and sloppily salvaged by original MCU architect Joss Whedon. To put it simply, Justice League is the endgame of a studio that’s had no clear direction as to what to do with these films. I could barely think of anything to write about Justice League because whatever subtext that was in the film was scrubbed in the re-edit all that remains are small pieces of larger wholes i.e. the idea of these heroes being  new Gods, Cyborg and Barry bonding over being creations as opposed to born with abilities or wealth, and without any sort of existential or theological conversation about resurrection. If there was one thing of interest I would write about at length it would be about the music, and how while DC has largely succeeded in producing themes that are more memorable and emotionally effective, they have struggled to integrate and mold these into anything that feels appropriate to what we are watching. It’s also a bad sign when you don’t even have enough faith in your composers or compositions that you have them use themes from much better movies. You straight up hear the Danny Elfman/Tim Burton Batman theme along with the climax of John Williams Superman theme. The fact that these films have one of the worst fanbases on the planet and seem to only do exceedingly well abroad is just icing on the cake.

And I’m done with it.

Let me explain. It was suggested to me that I skip Justice League and write about how I and other people should stop going to these films like they’re obligations. We’ve been burned so why keeping walking into the burning building? But, my curiosity got the better of me and I saw the film, therefore relinquishing any moral or critical high ground I would have, i.e. I would be a hypocrite to tell people to stop going to something that I indulged in. While I think that’s fair, I don’t, however, think it excludes me from saying that from this point forward I’m bowing out of these films financially and critically, but with an asterisk. I don’t care that Aquaman is being made by one of my favorite genre directors (James Wan) I’m not seeing a movie made in the realm of people who clearly have no idea as to what these movies are. The asterisk comes in the form of the possibility of paying to see a Wonder Woman sequel, simply because that film and its creative team gave me every reason to believe that they could deliver another movie as or more satisfying and interesting as the last film. Even more simply, I’ll choose to support a movie made by and aimed at women because there isn’t nearly enough of those.

This isn’t a call for everyone to do the same because I don’t have the authority to do that, but if we are actually fatigued and worried about every installment of this series then the best thing we can do is let it wither up a bit. I want more DC films, just not THESE DC films. If I were to tip my hat into the what should be done with the DCEU (outside of just letting these films sleep for about 5 to 10 years and start over with some anticipation and good will built up from the vastly superior CW shows) it would be to have these films cost between 60 and 100 million (no more than that), have Wonder Woman be the model and character you build around (what Iron Man was for the MCU), make them as stand alone as possible, and have someone (not Whedon or Kevin Feige. Get a fresh voice or alternatively one of those DC animated people from the 90’s and 00’s) take leadership over the whole thing who has a knowledge of these characters but more importantly the knowledge of how good movies and stories are made. Because at the end of the day, all people really want out of superhero movies are just good movies. Why that’s so hard to do in 2017 escapes me.