I spent last Christmas in Arizona with my fiance and her family. On Christmas Eve, her parents suggested that we venture down to Tombstone because I had never been there before and they knew that I was a fan of that Western. Pretty good family to marry into, right?
On the way, we passed the turnoff to Bisbee and I excitedly pointed out, “Bisbee?! That’s the first town they went to in 3:10 to Yuma!” My fiance laughed, rolled her eyes a little and said, “I love how you know where places are solely because of movies you watch.” She’s not wrong, but it’s simply the catch that comes with being engaged to a film lover. To her credit, she always takes it in stride and even sits through movies that I want to review and that she could care less about because she wants to be supportive. That’s true love folks, and another example of how lucky I am and that I made the right decision by proposing.
But while I could talk about my wonderful fiance from dawn til dusk, the point is that I will forever associate Bisbee with 3:10 to Yuma, the 2007 remake of the 1957 film of the same name. And when I’m reminded of that movie, I instantly recall the clever direction, expert pacing and superb acting. I then find myself yearning to experience it all over again, and that’s the mark of a tremendous motion picture: one that you can revisit repeatedly without tiring of it or being able to spot any flaws.
I’ve certainly never been able to find any, friends, and that’s why I declare that 3:10 to Yuma is a perfect film and one of the finest Westerns ever made.
I’m going to be upfront and admit that I have some pretty big misgivings about Toy Story 4. Sure, on the one hand, Pixar has crafted three outstanding entries for its most popular franchise. On the other hand, Toy Story 3 wrapped up the trilogy beautifully and left the story on a high note. Sometimes, you have to know when to leave well enough alone.
But regardless of how much I am or am not looking forward to the continuation of the franchise, that doesn’t really matter. Toy Story 4 hits theaters on Friday and hopefully any worries I have will be put to rest by another worthy follow-up. That really would be the best case scenario here. While we’re waiting, I thought it would fun to revisit Toy Story 3 and analyze what worked so well for that movie. The twist is that it won’t be me providing the analysis, or at least not present day me.
Back in the days before we had a blog for publishing our film reviews on the internet, Kevin and I would share our opinions with each other on Facebook messenger. Let’s just say it was the beginning of a shared appreciation for filmmaking and the first step towards pursuing a mutual passion. One of the movies I reviewed back then was indeed Toy Story 3, which Kevin and I saw together in 2010.
It’s crazy to think that it’s been that long since the last Toy Story hit theaters. It’s even crazier to me that we’ve been writing about films for almost a decade. That’s why I thought it be worthwhile, and just a little terrifying, to publish my original review and let 20-year old Jesse have his day in the sun.
That’s what we have to do, right? Take some time to remember where we’ve been, and the truth is the Toy Story movies have always been part of my life. My original review is after the jump.
Coming-of-age stories are one of the most overused archetypes in Hollywood: familiar, relatable and uplifting. In other words, it’s a proven formula that works. So when Wes Anderson revealed that his second feature film was going to follow that outline after Bottle Rocket bombed at the box office, I’m sure his producers were thrilled.
They might’ve been less enthusiastic when they read the script and found that the hero fakes injuries to try and win the heart of the woman he loves (one of the teachers at his school, nonetheless) and when his best friend starts dating that woman, he jealously tries to cut the brakes on his friend’s car. How are people supposed to get behind this guy if he’s trying to take us to all of these dark places?
The simple answer is that we have all been to those places before, because part of growing up is learning to cope with the injustices that life throws at you without succumbing to our worst impulses. That’s why we forgive the protagonist when he tries to exact terrible revenge on the friend who betrayed him. We’ve all felt that way before, only most of us haven’t acted on it.
You see, Anderson does adhere to the coming-of-age formula: he just does it in his unique, off-brand sort of way.
I needed to give it about a week. When you are fixated on a television series that lasts for eight years, and it ends, I think it’s hard to provide an objective opinion right away. Your thoughts on how the story wrapped up get mixed together with your disappointment that it’s over, and those emotions can cloud our judgment. That’s one reason why so many people derided season eight of Game of Thrones as the worst finale of all-time: they were pissed about how it ended and maybe even more pissed that it had really ended. Saying goodbye is always hard to do.
That’s why I didn’t want to put this out there right away. I figured that any kneejerk reactions wouldn’t do this show’s legacy justice, and so I would wait for those emotions to subside until I was sure that there was no bias in my opinions. Now I’m sure, and what I truly believe is that the last six episodes were in keeping with the spirit and themes of Game of Thrones. They weren’t perfect but I enjoyed them for what they were. There just weren’t enough episodes to truly stick that landing.
So if you were devastated by the events that transpired in season eight and feel that the entire series was ruined as a result of where your favorite characters wound up, maybe take a moment and see what I have to say. Perhaps I can talk you down from the ledge a little bit. Obviously, spoilers are coming, but if you haven’t watched the series from beginning to end by now, odds are you aren’t going to. Carry on ye who enter.
Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I turned on Last Week Tonight, my favorite news satire program, and the topic of his show was WWE, which I’ve been a fan of since I was a little kid. Oliver’s role as a force of chaotic good always makes for a hysterical 30 minutes, and as he says, “Wrestling is better than the things you like,” so at first you’d think this would be the best of both worlds.
But then the main story for his topic turned to a subject that is nowhere near as fun: the welfare of pro wrestlers who work for WWE. Oliver’s goal was to raise awareness for the good of the wrestlers, not for the multi-million dollar corporation for which they perform, because stop me if you’ve heard this before: the corporation takes advantage of its employees for its own financial gain.
It’s a subject that is probably news to people who don’t watch wrestling, one that I and all other diehard wrestling fans have been aware of for quite some time and something that isn’t going to get any better if it doesn’t receive mainstream attention. I thought it was a quality segment and if you’re so inclined, you can watch it here:
Whenever I start to think of all the wrestlers who end their careers broken, alone and too often dead at an early age, my mind always shifts to The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky’s brutally mesmerizing 2008 film starring Mickey Rourke.
I was never much of a Wes Anderson fan growing up.
Perhaps I was too young or too impatient to understand his style of filmmaking. I remember watching The Royal Tenenbaums when it came out and, other than the scene when Danny Glover falls into a ditch as he’s walking alongside Anjelica Houston, I didn’t laugh once. There were excerpts of critics praising that movie all over the case of the DVD, so what was I missing?
It wasn’t until it was screened for us during my senior year of high school that it finally clicked for me. I guess you have to experience your own period of growing pains filled with awkward moments before you can grasp that absurd and ironic sense of humor. Or maybe that was exclusive to me. Whatever the reason that it took me so long, I’ve been a fan of his ever since.
I’m also a fan of collecting movies. The guest bedroom in my apartment has shelves packed full of blu-ray discs, which is a testament to my fiance’s patience to put up with that sort of thing and a perfect example of why nowadays most people opt for streaming: storing that many movies is a big pain in the ass. For me, it’s more of a labor of love and when I found out that Anderson has gradually been remastering all of his feature films and releasing them on blu-ray through the Criterion Collection, I knew that I had to have them.
Which brings me here. If you’re going to buy all of these films, watch them and try to turn it into a series for your blog, you have to start at the beginning.
You may have noticed that it’s been a little quiet around here lately. I have a habit of not forcing myself to write unless I feel a great surge of inspiration. I wouldn’t say that this is the best way to complete your next piece as a writer, as it’s a good rule of thumb to fight through these periods of “writer’s block” and just get something down (a rule that I am admittedly very bad at following).
My goal for the future is to break this habit. My goal for today is to tell you about the surge of inspiration that hit me on Monday while I was taking the train downtown. It involves George Clooney and a little film known as Up in the Air. Why did a movie from 2009 randomly pop in my head while I was on the light rail? No idea. This is one of the reasons that I liken films to old friends: you can go months or even years without coming across them, but one day they just appear again and you instantly reconnect with them.
Maybe part of the reason it was this particular film is that Up in the Air is all about connections: the ones we don’t make, the ones we do and wish we hadn’t, and the startling realization that life just isn’t the same without them.
In order to truly explore this, I am going to go in-depth with the plot details here. If you continue, you’ve already seen the movie or just don’t care about spoilers. Power to you.