100 Movies Bucket List: Moonlight

100 Movies Bucket List was a poster given to Jesse by his sister on Christmas 2019. We are committed to watching all of these movies and writing about them. We have no idea how long this will take. What even is time during the quarantine? And sometimes, these posts will include spoilers. Just a friendly warning from two friendly guys.

The 2016 film Moonlight is not just a character study of a young black man growing up in the streets of Miami working through his identity and sexuality. It does more than show his life and his struggles, it actually takes on the personality of the protagonist. The film, much like Chiron, is soft-spoken and pensive, layered with love but with a growing aggression boiling beneath the surface.

Midway through the film that aggression bursts through with a violent act that, in a traditional story structure, would be the climax of the film. However in the deft hands of director and writer Barry Jenkins, the real climax comes in a late scene and is accomplished entirely through dialogue.

The climax coming through dialogue only works because the real beauty of the film is its subtlety. Each cut, each word, and each moment is meaningful and succinct. This is not your typical critical fodder attempting to cash in come award season. Typically films that are upper case IMPORTANT and TRANSCENDENT go out of their way to be as long and drawn out as possible. Moonlight stands out from that way of thinking and proves that a movie can be tragic, lovely, and IMPORTANT without the fluff.

At just under two hours, Jenkins manages to take the audience through the life of Chiron  from bullied adolescent to withdrawn teenager to successful drug dealer. The transitions are smooth and timed perfectly. Just as you think you are understanding Chiron he grows up and changes in ways you didn’t expect. Broken out in chapters based on his nickname at each point in his life (Little, Chiron, Black), and played by three different and remarkable actors, we see the subtle growth of a young man trying to figure himself out. From a skinny, scared child to a muscular drug kingpin, the only trait carried form youth to adulthood is his uncertainty about his own identity.

The direction of Jenkins is best represented by how the three actors portrayed Chiron at different stages in his life. The transition from Alex Hibbert (“Little”) to Ashton Sanders (“Chiron”) and finally to Trevante Rhoades (“Black”) could have been jarring or confusing but these three actors, and Jenkins direction/trust, did a remarkable job losing themselves in Chiron so much that it feels like a natural growth of the character.

Rhoades especially stands out as he had the toughest job of them all to transition Chiron from a scared teenager with an identity crisis to a tough guy masking his insecurities with bravado. Rhoades’ ability to show the scared child in his eyes while walking around with a veneer of a tough guy is remarkable and represents the pains that “outcasts”, especially gay minorities, will go to to fit in or not to be bothered.

Moonlight’s beauty comes from what is unspoken, Jenkins trusts the audience to fill in the gaps based on subtle glances and body language. A trust he can bestow because he carefully constructed a multi-layered loving, tragic piece of art with perfect pacing. It’s akin to reading poetry or listening to a song, it’s best to watch it for yourself and, like the moonlight on your face on a cloudless night at the beach, let its beauty sink in.

 

100 Movies Bucket List: Her

100 Movies Bucket List was a poster given to Jesse by his sister on Christmas 2019. We are committed to watching all of these movies and writing about them. We have no idea how long this will take. What even is time during the quarantine? And sometimes, these posts will include spoilers. Just a friendly warning from two friendly guys.

This is the second time we have written about Her on our site. I don’t think we often feel the need to touch on a film more than once. We either collaborate on a Let’s Talk About post or just trust the other guy to write about it. I trusted Kevin when Her first came out and he nailed it, as usual. I’m not here simply to tell you how great this movie is, because he already made that point rather emphatically and there are plenty of reviews and articles to support that. So why am I here?

Is Her being revisited just because it’s part of this series? Partly, and as we continue to to forage our way through this list of 100 movies, maybe that will happen more and more. But I think I would have had something to say even if I wasn’t obligated to share. This film hurt me. It reminded me of a time in my life when I was very withdrawn and afraid. The story conveys those emotions in such a realistic way that I was right back there again: a depressed introvert that badly needed a connection, but wasn’t going out of his way to find it.

And for that, I’m grateful. While it can be painful to reflect on these difficult moments that we all experience in our own way, it’s equally important to not forget them. How else can we truly appreciate how far we’ve come in our lives if we don’t take a second to look back and remember where we used to be? I like to think that’s where Theodore, Joaquin Phoenix’s character, finds himself at the end of the film: accepting of the failures of past relationships, appreciative of the good times and the love that was shared, and finally willing to embrace the change and see what a new day has in store for him.

Did I mention this is a guy who rebounds from his divorce by entering into a relationship with his operating system?

A premise that absurd on the surface would’ve been a disaster in less talented hands or if a studio just wanted to make a fun rom-com out of it. It’s a testament to the performances of the lead actors and the tight direction from Spike Jonze that things don’t go completely off the rails. Is there another actor in Hollywood who could’ve done more with this role than Phoenix? Is there anyone that we could’ve related to so effortlessly when he is mostly emoting without anyone else on-screen? I don’t think so. To be fair, I can envision this type of OS actually being released in the real world and many men falling hopelessly in love with a voice that sounds like Scarlett Johansson. Credit goes to Jonze for depicting a future that is not too distant and entirely plausible.

And then there’s the score. It is the perfect soundtrack not just because it works for the film, but because you can easily picture it playing over all of those uncomfortable moments of your own past romances. The courtships, the instances of joy, the rough patches, the breakups and all of the empty spaces in between. It’s the empty parts that pack the biggest wallop, I think. When I listen to the score, I can remember myself floating for seemingly endless amounts of time in that relationship purgatory. I felt trapped there, as most of us do when we are in pain and aren’t doing anything practical to try and fix it. 

I hope I’m making sense here. The point is I don’t always connect with a film on a deeply personal level, but when I do I try to understand why. Her resonated with me and so many others because we’ve all been Theodore at one point in our lives. I certainly don’t think Jonze and his crew were trying to make us all miserable by digging up our past trauma. Rather, I think the message delivered is a very positive one.

It’s okay to not be okay, but don’t be afraid to embrace the opportunity to be happy when it presents itself to you. Love and heartbreak has a profound impact on us, but what we learn and take away from them can help us grow and change. I’m happy to say that I find myself in a much better place these days.

If you aren’t there just yet, give yourself some time. Eventually you will too.

100 Movies Bucket List: 3 Idiots

100 Movies Bucket List was a poster given to Jesse by his sister on Christmas 2019. We are committed to watching all of these movies and writing about them. We have no idea how long this will take. What even is time during the quarantine? And sometimes, these posts will include spoilers. Just a friendly warning from two friendly guys.

Once upon a time I was traveling through Southeast Asia on a quest to find myself. Well actually I was on a quest to travel around Southeast Asia and I wasn’t thinking about much else but I was young and looking to connect with the world outside of the suburbs of Colorado.

During my travels my wife and I made a lot of new friends. Most were ex-pats (ex-patriots, AKA extended travelers from the USA), others were from Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and a few were from Southeast Asia. I wanted to connect with this region so obviously the few from Southeast Asia were my favorite (yes I pick favorites among my friends! Jesse is currently trending up so good for him.)

One such friend was from India. She told us stories of the wars her country had fought in, the struggles her family had endured to survive, and all of her favorite Bollywood movies. Yes we would often transition from the most haunting stories of war to her favorite Bollywood actor seamlessly. Travel friends are funny like that, you feel an instant connection and you have to pack your entire life story and personality into a constrained amount of time.

I remember her recommending 3 Idiots, a coming-of-age Bollywood film. At the time I wasn’t aware of how large of an impact this movie made in the film industry. Based on the name I assumed it was the Indian version of Dumb and Dumber except with three dummies instead of two.

I was very wrong. Unfortunately I didn’t pursue her recommendation, I put it on a list that has since been lost. Thankfully due to another friend (Jesse, you see why he’s moving up the rankings?) and his ‘100 Movies Bucket List’ project the recommendation was given another chance of life.

I’m profoundly grateful as 3 Idiots is an absolute delight. Despite being near three hours long the heart and fun never let up in this beautiful film. And as far as an introduction to Bollywood? Well let’s just say 3 Idiots piqued my interest in Indian film as Old Boy piqued my interest in Korean film. Albeit with far less blood and psychological fuckery.

3 Idiots is a typical coming-of-age story with a traditional collegiate setting that follows three young men as they attempt to survive the unrelenting pressure of a prestigious engineering school. And while the story hits all the usual beats it has a freshness to it thanks to the natural charisma from the wise-beyond-his-years lead in Rancho (played by Aamir Khan who plays a teenage character despite being in his 40’s during filming).

The film is also distinct because it has a secondary timeline, ten years in the future, that provides the audience with a natural fulfillment. Typically the joy behind a coming-of-age story is seeing a young protagonist grow into themselves and then by the end you are ready to let them go in to the world alone because you know they will thrive. It’s like being a parent to a fictional character. But in this film we actually get to see the people they become, in some instances, before we see their collegiate journey. Even better we see them in their grown state while they are on another journey in the present timeline which provides further growth! It’s a beautiful touch that teaches humans are constantly learning even outside of their formative years.

Perhaps that’s why the film resonated with me so much. I may not be Indian nor smart enough to be an engineer but the characters and the story still spoke to me. The two journeys the characters go on, with one journey explicitly shaping who they are in the other, is relatable no matter who you are, especially as you get older and more reflective and you realize how much of an impact your past has on your present and future.

Cheesy as it is the memory of a simple act, in this case a movie recommendation, by a travel friend from another country allowed my mind to jump back to the time my wife and I traversed the great region of Southeast Asia. And the recommendation coming back to me six years later allowed me to connect the dots of my own journey from a wandering 20-something in Bangkok to the present day 30-year-old living in Brooklyn. I discovered I have been in my own coming-of-age story this whole time and it reminded me there is always more to learn.

100 Movies Bucket List: Life of Brian

100 Movies Bucket List was a poster given to Jesse by his sister on Christmas 2019. We are committed to watching all of these movies and writing about them. We have no idea how long this will take. What even is time during the quarantine? And sometimes, these posts will include spoilers. Just a friendly warning from two friendly guys.

“Its been a rough year so far” will probably wind up being the most understated and repetitive statement of 2020. With all the uncertainty in the world and the negative impact that COVID-19 is having on all of our lives, it can be hard to keep your chin up and carry on through your normal day to day. Probably because none of this is normal and we all feel a bit powerless as we wait to see how the rest of the year is going to shape up.

Which brings me to Life of Brian. Our main character (shocking, but his name is Brian) finds himself in a variety of situations that are completely out of his control and mostly to his detriment. Just to name a few, he is mistaken as a messiah, taken on a ride in a spaceship with some aliens and ultimately finds himself condemned to die via crucifixion. Yes, there are aliens and messiahs and crucifixions all in the same movie and if that sounds absurd to you, it’s on purpose. Give the Monty Python boys their due: they don’t hold anything back and unapologetically stay true to their style of humor. Also, those set designs are on point.

Whether or not that appeals to you is going to go a long way in determining how you feel about Life of Brian, and if you agree that it should be on any 100 movie bucket list. And while it may be partially due to the times we live in, here’s one part that resonated with me:

Yes, that is Eric Idle breaking into song and convincing all his fellow doomed companions, Brian included, to always look on the bright side of life. “If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.” The sentiment is obvious, but it’s the execution and the people delivering it that makes it work so well. If Brian can sing and face death with a smile after the unfair hand that life dealt him, why can’t everyone else?

And for those who might object by saying, “Well, that worked then but there’s no way audiences would buy that these days,” here’s Idle performing the song again back in 2010.

Everyone in attendance sings along in unison to an absurd song from an absurd film about how absurd life really is, and that we can’t change that. But you can change your perspective and how you cope with it. I found that to be a refreshingly positive message. Life of Brian was streaming on Netflix as recently as the last few weeks, so if you’re sitting at home and feeling pretty down about the state of the world and all of your favorite events being cancelled, see if Monty Python can give you a little pick me up.

They certainly provided me with one.

Let’s Talk About: 100 Movies Bucket List

Kevin: Why hello there friends, family, and enemies! How are your self-quarantine days going? Does each day feel like a month to anyone else?! Of course it does! We are all miserable together.

Here at Flimsy Film Critics we like to focus on the silver lining and while it’s pretty tough to find a positive in a literally deathly situation, we are still trying to enjoy our time at home. I’ve been practicing my handstands while hanging out with my best friend (social distancing doesn’t apply to married couples right?). And we have also sat through quite a few movies.

Which brings me to the main point of this post. My friend Jesse had a great idea to keep ourselves entertained through this unprecedented time. Jesse, what is the great idea and how are you holding up during these strange times?

Jesse: Introverts were made for quarantines, Kevin. Staying at home, ignoring the outside world and spending time on all of the hobbies that we love and never have time for? This is OUR moment! That being said, I do miss my family and friends. And sports. I REALLY miss sports.

But like you said, we’re all about the silver linings. My sister gave me a poster for Christmas titled, “100 Movies Scratch Off Bucket List.” As you can likely surmise, it is a poster with a list of 100 movies, but it also features a little scratch off picture for after you watch each movie. It’s a pretty cool novelty for a film fanatic like me and a much more interesting way to check things off a list.

Anyway, I suggested to Kevin that since we’re all under quarantine and have all this extra time on our hands, why not attack this list together, watch all these movies and make a series where we write about it? Kevin either actually liked the idea or he’s being really nice because he doesn’t want to stifle my creativity. Either way, it’s much appreciated, my friend.

So what about this series are you looking forward to, Kevin? Are you chomping at the bit to share how overrated some of these movies are or are you genuinely looking forward to seeing some of them for the first time?

Kevin: I’m looking forward to you watching Oldboy, the top-notch Korean film that will leave you absolutely shook. You won’t be able to forget it! I’m also looking forward to the act of crossing off so many classic films on my movie bucket list. There’s movies on here that I should have seen already that I am ashamed I haven’t like Casablanca, Scarface, and The Goonies. Plus, crossing things off lists is very satisfying.

There is something I am not looking forward though. The dark secret behind this “100” Movies Bucket List is there are actually 104 movies because it lumps in the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy and the original Star Wars trilogy together. That means I will have to attempt to get through Lord of the Rings, something I have failed many times in the past. I think at this point my official watch history is I fell asleep during the first one, skipped the second one, and begrudgingly sat through the entirety of the third one in a theater. I got up multiple times thinking it was over only to realize the movie had a lot of fakeout endings. As you know I’m not too good with the whole middle earth genre (still never planning to catch up on Game of Thrones) so this will be a painful experience to say the least.

I’m going to assume you will enjoy my suffering but what else are you looking forward to? And how should we go about this project? Should we each watch every movie (we are quarantined after all) or should we divide and conquer?

Jesse: I really love the idea of us each watching every movie on that list. One thing this quarantine has taught me is that there are plenty of ways for you to connect with people without actually seeing them. And while tackling 104 movies together seems rather daunting, we aren’t doing much else at the moment and even when all of this is over, that still gives us plenty to post about in the post-quarantine world. On top of all that, it sounds like you’re going to need some moral support to get through Lord of the Rings. I got you pal!

What say you, Kevin? Are you ready to embark on this grand adventure with me? And what should we be looking for and paying attention to as we rewatch the 104 greatest films of all-time (according to a random movie poster)?

Kevin: I am READY! Let’s do this and let’s make sure we review as many of these classics as possible because people want to know our opinions on movies that are already beloved right?

Things to look for? Maybe we will get in a fight over a few movies on the list. Maybe you’ll finally catch the Korean films bug that I caught. Maybe our relationships will slowly falter as we spend days of our lives watching movies from a random poster. There are so many possibilities!

And for those of you at home who want to watch along or see us progress, I have taken the liberty to translate the poster into a friendly excel/sheets document to view. Jesse and I have already marked which movies have seen. Are we going to rewatch those? Who the hell knows, stay tuned to find out!

So Jesse, what say we get this started this weekend? What will you dive into first? I’m thinking I might start with a modern like Moonlight mostly because I think I saw it was available on Netflix.

Jesse: Is it a cop out if I also say that Moonlight jumped out at me too? It’s even potentially a two for one, since it’s currently sitting on my movie shelf and I still haven’t watched it.

I’m convinced this is the way to go. Any last thoughts?

Kevin: My last thought, I wish you luck on this journey my friend. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility (to review as many of the 104 movies as possible). That’s how that quote goes right?

Friday Film Roundup

Our Friday Film Roundup is an attempt to share what we are reading, watching, and listening to as we head into the weekend. We plan on sharing major film news, interesting film essays/videos, good reads and recommended films you might want to check out.

Hello again friends. We haven’t exactly lived up to the “Friday” portion of Friday Film Roundup, have we? Sorry about that. These are strange times and we’d be lying if we said that Covid-19 hadn’t impact our personal lives to some degree. Even so, we’re going to try and deliver a more consistent product. Thanks for hanging in there with us.

So join me on the very first Sunday edition of our Friday Roundup.

Reading

Last week I gave some recommendations that didn’t exactly consist of uplifting material. Let’s go the opposite way this week. I haven’t really been reading much in terms of film news lately, mainly because most of it is regarding delays of upcoming releases, but there is ample time right now for film analysis. One of my favorite reads is Roger Ebert’s first entry in his Great Movies collection. It will remind of you of two things: 1) Ebert understood the medium so well and was a hell of a writer, and 2) There a lot of great films just waiting for you to discover them, regardless of your age or preferences.

Recommendation to Watch

*61 – I mentioned last week that I’m going through a bit of a sports withdrawal. The Colorado Rockies aired a live stream of past Opening Day games on Friday and I absolutely had it on for a bit. Not the same, but I always look forward to baseball this time of year and you make do with what you have.

Which is why I recommend you check out *61. The retelling of Roger Maris’ and Mickey Mantle’s historic 1961 season was an HBO original film and I don’t believe ever saw the inside of a movie theater. For that reason, it doesn’t receive nearly as much love or attention as it deserves. And I suppose that’s fitting, considering the same could have been said of Maris at the time. *61 does come off as a little hokey, but director Billy Crystal deftly guides us through his personal recollection as a fan of the Yankees.

Let’s just say that sports fans and reporters didn’t need social media to make Maris’ life miserable back then.

What I’m Watching

Love is Blind – I can’t in good conscience recommend this to anyone. It’s arguably the most ridiculous thing I’ve watched on Netflix recently, and that’s saying something considering I sat through Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. Single romantic hopefuls interact with the opposite sex and go on dates without ever leaving these “pods” that they stay in or seeing the person they’re dating. Yes, there’s literally a wall between them. They then have to decide whether they want to propose to that person and they don’t actually meet until after they agreed to get married. The kicker is that there’s then only FOUR weeks until their wedding, and that’s if their relationship doesn’t totally go off the rails in the meantime.

To an introvert like me, the mere idea of any of this is completely terrifying. It’s an insane concept and makes for some cringeworthy viewing. I guess in that way it’s like a car wreck: you just can’t look away.

Upcoming Flimsy Film Posts

Welcome to New York: Mystery Film

I asked Kevin about this last week and he seemed to imply that this was going to centered around I Am Legend. If that turns out to be the case, you guys saw it here first in my roundup last week. Totally my idea.

Let’s Talk About: 100 Movies Bucket List

Yes, this is still coming. I wouldn’t share my neat movie poster with the world unless we were committed to writing about all of the movies on it. Stay tuned.

Friday Film Roundup

Our Friday Film Roundup is an attempt to share what we are reading, watching, and listening to as we head into the weekend. We plan on sharing major film news, interesting film essays/videos, and recommended films you might want to check out.

Good afternoon friends! I hope you’re all hanging in there okay as we continue to weather the storm of these unprecedented circumstances. If there’s one thing that’s well-served for getting us through a quarantine, it’s watching movies. We’ll be here to continue providing new content that will hopefully distract you from how crazy things are right now.

So join me on a Saturday edition of our Friday Roundup.

Reading

The fiance and I recently started watching the Watchmen TV series (which we’ll get to in a bit), but Kevin piqued my curiosity when he told me that the show uses the graphic novel as canon, rather than Zack Snyder’s 2009 film adaptation. I grabbed Alan Moore’s masterpiece off of my shelf, flipped through a few pages, started reading and haven’t been able to stop. Beyond just being a fan, I find a measure of odd comfort in immersing myself into a story about superheroes in the face of Armageddon.

So if you’re weird like me, I would definitely recommend giving Watchmen a try if you haven’t read it before. The Dark Knight ReturnsThe Road1984 and Old Man Logan are a few others that I’m fond of, and if reading isn’t your thing, there are film adaptations of all of those. Enjoy!

Recommendation to Watch

When done right, the threat of mankind’s extinction makes for some riveting stories, and Children of Men absolutely gets it right. This somewhat forgotten classic is available to rent on Prime Video. Here’s the trailer if you want to decide whether or not it’s worth a few bucks:

What I’m Watching

Watchmen – A faithful continuation of the beloved graphic novel. A standalone series that doesn’t require its audience to be familiar with the source material, but winks and nods at those who do. It’s not often you get an adaptation that checks both of these boxes. Two episodes in, Watchmen does. I’ll see if that changes or not as I get through the series.

Hook – Recently added to Netflix, this childhood favorite seemed like a no brainer to help kill some time during the quarantine. The fiance was thrilled when she saw it as an option. We took the trip back to Steven Spielberg’s Neverland and while the nostalgia factor will always make that a worthwhile voyage, there is absolutely no way that this film would be well-received today. Sexual innuendos in a movie about Peter Pan? The social media police would burn Spielberg to the ground if he tried that again.

But hey, maybe I’m overthinking it. Give it a watch and see if you agree.

Upcoming Flimsy Film Posts

Welcome to New York: Mystery Film

It’s possible that Kevin just wanted to do something less obvious, but if he’s looking for a New York movie with an apocalyptic setting, he could do a lot worse than I Am Legend. It’s also possible he already figured this out and has a different post coming for you soon!

Let’s Talk About: 100 Movies Bucket List

We are still planning on introducing this. Be on the lookout for it next week.