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At just under two hours, Jenkins manages to take the audience through the life of Chiron  from bullied adolescent to withdrawn teenager to successful drug dealer.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: 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.

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 morning! It’s been a rough week for the world to say the least. We are all stuck inside, away from human interaction and fresh air, forced to spend our time watching movies and TV shows. So really not much different than the norm for some of us.

In all seriousness it’s a difficult time but it’s important we all stay inside and stay safe. So sit back and relax as much as you can and maybe binge that TV show you’ve been waiting to jump into.

Reading:

Not a lot of fun reading right now. And it’s difficult to escape the Corona Virus so let’s just lean into it. SlashFilm has a couple of great resources, one sad, another a small silver lining in all of this mess. First is a tracker of all the cancellations in Hollywood which shows we will feel the impact of this hard time for many months. The second is a list of all the early digital releases so you can safely watch new movies in your home.

And while we are on the subject, Vulture has a breakdown of how COVID could impact the future of the TV industry.

Watching:

Recommendation:

I splurged and actually paid to rent a digital movie (In this pandemic?! Mr. Money Bags over here am I right?). That movie was the Best Picture Oscar winning Parasite and it was 100% worth the money. If you’re on the fence about this movie go ahead and splurge and then watch this great video essay on YouTube (or one of the other million video essays about this movie):

And if you can’t get enough Korean cinema, check out The Handmaiden (streaming on Prime Video), a twisted and thrilling movie that you will not forget.

What I’m Watching:

I thought I would take this section to provide a mini self-quarantine movie diary:

Outbreak – cliche of me to watch this movie right now but come on, Contagion cost money to rent and Outbreak was right there on Netflix. Yes it’s a movie about a deadly virus that gets to the USA. Probably not something you want to watch to escape our reality. However it is a nice 90s throwback that has Dustin Hoffman running around all over the place trying to make the government take him seriously. At first I thought it was unrealistic that the people in power wouldn’t take a viral threat seriously…and then I remembered our president did exactly that. Watch only if you want to reminisce about a time none of this movie felt realistic.

Parasite – I wrote about this above but let me emphasize, watch this film. And then dive into all the Korean films you might have missed (Okja, Old Boy, The Handmaiden).

Mr. Right – Do you love Anna Kendrick? You should, she’s hilarious. Do you love Sam Rockwell? Probably, he’s a well-regarded actor with diverse roles. Then watch this mindless movie and try not to think about it too much. Currently on Netflix

Red Sparrow – I’ll admit I was “working” from home during this movie so I missed a lot of small details. My wife enjoyed it and wanted to rewatch it despite admitting it’s been done before and she had trouble accepting Jennifer Lawrence in the role. Intense and uncomfortable for much of the film, if you watch it make sure to pay attention.

Three Identical Strangers – I don’t watch many documentaries but this one caught my eye. Three young men discover they are triplets separated at birth. What starts as a fun and unbelievable story slowly unravels into dark and astonishing territory. Watch this if you love documentaries, crazy stories, and scientific research. Currently on Hulu

After – One of those teenage romance stories that you hate yourself for watching but can’t stop. Tessa Young is a young (subtle) and sheltered woman with a stable relationship who goes to college and finds herself intrigued by a young man who is dark and mysterious. This story goes exactly how you expect it to but is sweet enough to have on in the background and then not admit to anyone that you watched it. Currently on Netflix.

First Girl I Loved – Another movie about teenagers and love and honestly you can skip this one. Sure it’s nice to see representation for a budding lesbian relationship but this movie is problematic as the plot centers around inappropriate attempts to out two young girls. Don’t get me wrong, that is a serious issue and should be explored in a movie but this film doesn’t delve into why it’s problematic, in fact it doesn’t even bring it up as an issue, it just uses outing as a plot device. It’s on Hulu if you want to check it out but again I don’t recommend it.

Upcoming Flimsy Film Posts:

Welcome to New York: Mystery Film

I’m not sure which movie I want to write about yet but I want to return to this series. Maybe one with an apocalypse twist as New York is a ghost town right now.

Bought It Before I watched It: Jesse Arrives to Arrival

Apparently Jesse hasn’t seen Arrival yet. Which is weird, I thought anyone with a film blog was required to have seen, and loved, that movie. I guess he snuck through. I look forward to his thoughts.

Let’s Talk About: 100 Movies Bucket List

Jesse and I are going to introduce a new quarantine friendly series of posts where we aim to watch every movie on a 100 Movie Bucket List that his sister gifted him. We will introduce the list and discuss what we are excited to tackle.

While We’re Young: Nihilism in Aging

Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young is a film that stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as Josh and Cornelia, a married couple of a certain age (mid-40s) finding new friends in Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) a hipster couple of a jealous-inducing age (mid-20s).

While seemingly Baumbach’s version of This Is 40, full of his trademark witty dialogue and focus on relationships, this film is less about the relate-able theme of aging and more a nihilistic observation of the phonies of New York City and their inevitable successes.

The movie mostly focuses on Josh who is a documentary filmmaker stuck on a decade long project, either due to a lack of ambition or due to an abundance of morality depending on who you ask. Jamie, on the other hand, wants to be a documentary filmmaker and lacks neither the ambition nor the moral code of honesty.

Of course Jamie’s lack of ethics does not immediately come across to Josh who enjoys the energy and the praise that Jamie brings into his life. In fact Jamie revitalizes Josh and he returns the favor by agreeing to share his resources for a documentary that Jamie is filming.

It’s only much later than Josh realizes Jamie was using him to advance his career and get closer to his successful filmmaker father-in-law. He starts seeing Jaime for what he really is, he quips to his wife that “It’s like… he once saw a sincere person and he’s been imitating him ever since”.

As Josh follows the breadcrumbs to reveal that Jamie has been lying about the documentary he filmed he also discovers that nobody cares. Jamie’s lying and scheming is chalked up to his youth and his ambition and his sins forgiven for the same reasons.

As the themes of old versus young and honesty versus deception bubble up it’s easy to assume the film is suggesting that youth, for all its ambitions  and energy, is used to deceive people. Or that young people can do whatever they want as long as they are following their dreams. But there’s more to it than that. The film has an additional narrative that focuses on Josh and Cornelia’s older friends Marina and Fletcher who just had a baby and have been openly celebrating their exuberance for parenthood. As the film progresses their lives are used as another example of a couple that is living a fulfilling life in contrast to Josh and Cornelia. They’re accepting age with grace and they revel in the mundane parenting experience. This puts Josh and Cornelia in between two drastically different lifestyles that appear fulfilling for the parties involved while they struggle to find fulfillment in their lives.

Of course much like the reveal of Jamie’s dishonesty and Darby’s reveal of their unstable relationship, we find out that Fletcher and Marina are struggling too, “Before you have a kid, everyone tells you, ‘It’s the best thing you’ll ever do.’ And as soon as you get the baby back from the hospital, those same people are like, ‘Don’t worry, it gets better.’”

Both of their couple friends seemingly had it all together. One was hip, well-spoken, and ambitious, the other was mature, calm, and at peace but by the end the veil was lifted and it was clear that both were just playing their parts.

In the end Josh appears destined to be a cynic. No one cares that Jamie is a liar or that Darby seeks out other men or that Fletcher and Marina are dissatisfied with parenting. In fact, Josh appears to be the crazy one, “Josh, you know the world isn’t a giant conspiracy against you” states his wife.

Eventually Josh learns to let go of everything. He lets go of the jealousy, the hypocrisy, the disappointment and moves on in his life. And for Josh it’s less about beckoning Dylan Thomas as he doesn’t “rage against the dying of the light” and, in fact, he goes into the night gently. By the end Josh fittingly emits more of a modern poet in Childish Gambino, “I mean nobody out here’s got it figured out so therefore, I’ve lost all hope of a happy ending”.

While We’re Young is a film about aging but it’s also about learning to let go of things you can’t control. The movie doesn’t tell you to live your life to the fullest or to settle down and have children, it’s urging you to live the life that means something to you and don’t worry about what others are doing because it turns out those seemingly happy people you see everywhere, yeah, well they are just full of shit and probably as miserable as you.

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! Nothing beats a February Friday am I right? Except June Fridays! And July! And…well every other month. February sucks.

Unfortunately for my happiness, my wife is out of town this weekend. Fortunately this means I have time to catch up on my endless movie watch list to fill the crippling void of loneliness.

Reading:

In the future this space will be more fleshed out with many different reviews or analysis or news that stand out to us. For now I only have one post from our friends at Slashfilm (I like to think we are friends even though they don’t know we exist.):

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,’ ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and the Problem With Nostalgic Blockbusters

It’s a great analysis of one of my favorite topics of the last year, shit talking Avengers: Endgame and The Rise of Skywalker. Except it is actually well thought out and hits on a lot of my personal frustrations.

Watching:

Recommendation: I recently stumbled across Midsommar on Amazon Prime and if you are up for a twisted, dark tale set in beautiful Sweden that will make you want to forever avoid vacations, making friends, being in relationships, and psychedelic drug use then this is the movie for you! Written and directed by Ari Aster (the guy who brought us the unsettling Hereditary) and stars Florence Pugh whose performance makes it worth the horror.

What I’m Watching: My number one goal this weekend is to finally catch the Oscar winning film Parasite, it’s a movie that’s been on my radar for months now and my curiosity is killing me. I’ve been a huge advocate for Korean cinema ever since I say Oldboy and The Handmaiden. Wow I’m into some truly messed up movies.

Outside of that I want to continue the horror trend and finish Train to Busan on Netflix and I’ve been dying to rewatch Cabin in the Woods. 

And while this isn’t technically a “film” (such definitions of what constitutes a film feel arbitrary to me but whatever) Better Call Saul returns to our screens after a loooong hiatus. This show has definitely proven itself even in the shadow of Breaking Bad and now that Jimmy is embracing his Saul side, I expect this show to reach new heights.

And in case you can’t wait until Sunday for your Breaking Bad fix might I recommend you catch up on El Camino which is showing on AMC and on Netflix.

Upcoming Flimsy Film Posts:

Welcome to New York: While We’re Young

I’m jumping back into my ‘Welcome to New York’ series with Brooklyn’s own Noah Baumbach. What happens when a 30-year-old watches a movie about two 40-year-olds making friends with two 25-year-olds? Does it send the 30-year-old into a spiraling existential crisis about aging? Find out on Tuesday!

Let’s Talk About: The Rise of Skywalker

Oh this should be a fun read, two fans who loved The Last Jedi get to discuss all of the shortcomings of the final chapter in the Skywalker saga. I’m sure there will be a lot of yelling in the form of CAPITAL LETTERS.

 

Movies and Data: A Love Story

I am a natural lover of data. I use that love to keep me motivated on my goals. I keep track of my expenses, my miles ran, and in 2019 I started keeping tracking of the movies I watched. I started with an excel file but now I use IMDb to keep track. It was easy to download the data and then do the below analysis.

2019 was the year I started taking my movie watching habit seriously. I saw some of my favorite movies of all time (Into the Spider-Verse, Y tu mamá también, The Farewell), caught up with some classics I had missed (The Conversation, Silence of the Lambs, Taxi Driver) and sat through some duds (Avengers: Endgame, The Commuter, Always Be My Maybe).

Overall it was a great year and I am pumped to surpass these numbers in 2020. Do you keep track of your movies? Are you a data geek like me? Do you have a better system than me? Let me know and happy new year!

If you want to see the whole list, here is the link: Kevin’s 2019 Movies

LET'S GO SHOPPING!2

Movies to Stream this Weekend

Hello and happy holidays! My gift to you is a list of a few films you might want to stream over this long weekend/holiday break. We are lucky enough to have endless entertainment at our fingertips but it can be overwhelming so here are a few of my recent watches that I want to recommend:

Netflix:

Marriage Story: Yes the memes are trying to shift the latest film by Noah Baumbach from a beautiful, yet unsettling, view of a collapsing divorce into an over-dramatic and self-serious snoozefest but I still think this film is worth your attention.

From the opening moments of professed love to the closing moments of sacrifice this film is enthralling through and through. Especially for those of us who have ever struggled keeping their sanity in a relationship, aka all of us. Come for the headliners of Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver but stay for the destruction and celebration of love.

American Factory: This might be a stark departure from the previous movie but it’s a must watch. American Factory is a documentary about a Chinese glass company coming to America to create jobs and solve our country’s issues. Okay they’re actually in it for the money but either way this company finds a home in Dayton, Ohio and almost single handily employs a small city of blue-collar workers.

Of course, it’s not that simple, the company brings it’s own Chinese workers to help get the company off the ground. This creates cultural tensions and doesn’t always end well. The beauty of this documentary is it covers an array of issues including workers rights to unionize, cultural expectations of hard work, and the hardships of the working class but it never demonizes either side of any issue. It’s just a brutal and honest depiction of these, and many more, issues.

Amazon Prime:

Brittany Runs a Marathon: Now as a three time marathon runner I am letting my biases get the best of me. Regardless, this movie is inspiring and heart wrenching and worth your time. Just be warned, it will definitely inspire you to get off the couch more often.

A true story of a funny, underemployed 20-something that decides to take one simple step to improve her life, start running. And she really does start with a single, simple, step as she huffs and puffs her way down one city block before eventually taking on her first 5k. From here on out the familiar beats of any “makeover” movie start to hit but the final act is full of surprise, cringe, and beauty that will make you question our society’s obsession with self-improvement. Overall an impressive debut for director Paul Downs Colaizzo who wrote the movie based on a former roommate of his.

A Simple Favor: A deliriously fun and engrossing watch from start to finish. The movie follows a meek mom vlogger Stephanie as she becomes unlikely friends with Emily, a career-obsessed mom who doesn’t take any bullshit. Emily, played intensely well by Blake Lively, suddenly disappears and Stephanie, played pitch perfect by Anna Kendrick, tries to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her new friend.

This movie covers a lot of ground and delves into unexpected territory. A Gone Girl-esque thriller matched with director Paul Feig’s remarkable comedy. A thrilling and fun time all around.

YouTube:

Life in a DayA free movie on YouTube that is powerful, stunning, and completely unique. People around the world were asked to document a certain day of their life, July 24th, 2010 and it was then crafted into a beautiful film that reaches every corner of the Earth.

As real as anything you will ever watch, this movie has a bit of everything: comedy, love, heartbreak, and is impossible to turn away from. For voyeurs, travelers, or film enthusiasts this is a much watch. This film illuminates the wonder, horror, and beauty of the world we share.