Top Movies of 2016: Jeremiah’s Picks

jeremiah-picks

Hello and welcome to Jeremiah Trotter’s top 10 movies of 2016. Now, let’s be clear: these are the top 10 movies that I enjoyed the most from 2016… that I saw. So, of course you will have different opinions and different ideas of what is “the best” of 2016, but maybe you discover something on this list that you’d like to check out. And I’m definitely not opposed to debating the merits of individual films. Anyway, let me know how you feel in the comments if you get the urge. Continue reading

Every Movie I Watched For the First Time in 2016: An Analysis

all-of-2016Earlier, I posted my ten favorite movies from 2016. But a “best of” list provides only a snapshot of a yearlong collection of movie-going experiences. If movies can impact a moviegoer’s worldview (by stimulating creativity, encouraging empathy, and raising awareness), then moviegoers should thoughtfully consider which movies they choose to watch. With this in mind, I have posted a list below of every movie I watched for the first time in 2016. Continue reading

88th Academy Awards: Big B’s Predictions

Best PictureThe Big Short
The Revenant
Should Win: The Big Short
Disappointment: Bridge of Spies
Should Have Been Nominated: Straight Outta Compton
Should Have Been Nominated: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Director
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
Honorable Mention: Adam McKay, The Big ShortStraight Outta Compton
Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Best Actress
Brie Larson, Room
Honorable Mention: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Should Have Been Nominated: Alicia VikanderEx Machina
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Honorable Mention: Tom Hardy, The RevenantThe Revenant
Honorable Mention: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Should Not Have Been Nominated: Christian Bale, The Big Short
Should Have Been Nominated: Oscar IsaacEx Machina
Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Continue reading

Flawed Logic in Movies: Spider-Man, Batman, and Shia LaBeouf

SPOILERS

Some films contain flawed logic, trains of thought that, at some point, hop off of the tracks and barrel through fields of plot. This occasional lapse of sound reasoning does not necessarily decrease the value of a film (in fact, some plots thrive on lapses of logic), but audiences should be aware of these deduction deficits so that similar logic pitfalls do not occur in their own lives. Enjoy the stupidity of movie characters, but don’t pretend that it’s not stupidity.

Shia I RobotI, Robot (2004)

Flaw: Shia LaBeouf should lead you into battle. In this sci-fi action movie, Shia LaBeouf plays Farber, a teenage punk who cusses and objectifies women. He is also the protagonist’s friend. Though Farber really has no reason to exist in the film aside from providing some awkward and arguably unnecessary comic relief, director Alex Proyas includes a few scenes in which Farber and Detective Spooner discuss ladies and Farber’s poor use of profanity. During these conversations, nothing redeeming is revealed about LaBeouf’s character. Farber has no depth. He is a hormonal teenager who has managed, for some unknown reason, to befriend a renegade cop. Other than his friendship with Will Smith, Farber has absolutely no qualities that should inspire a mob to follow him into battle against a hoard of assertive robots. In fact, logic should dictate that when Farber starts to mock the robots, everyone else should back away, leaving Farber to deal with his own poor life decisions. In the movie, however, a large crowd of people, apparently unaware of Farber’s substandard leadership qualifications, stand behind the teenager, ready to charge. The result is pandemonium and pain for the humans as the robots toss people into the air like confetti. Farber, however, escapes unharmed, like a cockroach after a nuclear apocalypse. Continue reading

In Defense of Intelligent Responses to Film

via IMDb.com

When I watch a movie for the first time, I try to experience it. I allow the colors and sounds to guide my thoughts. I set my brain to autopilot and repress the part of my mind that prides itself on analysis and critical thought. I forget about financial woes, annoying friends, and other daily stresses and immerse myself in whatever world is on the screen. My goal is to create memories, not brain wrinkles.

But that is the first time. If I watch the movie again, the gloves are off. My brain cracks its knuckles and prepares to pick apart the film. No scene, motif, or character escapes my analysis. My mind becomes a warrior of intellect, attacking ignorance and feeding on subtlety and nuance.

Some friends have told me that they don’t appreciate casual film analysis. Chicago is not a social commentary.” “I don’t like to think of Aslan as Jesus.” “I don’t care if WALL-E wants me to save the planet.” But these friends are missing a crucial element of movie-watching. There is nothing wrong with intelligent responses to film.

via IMDb.com

Many films offer viewers guided tours through various philosophical musings and sociopolitical statements, and those messages demand critical thought. Like literature, music, and other forms of art, the burden of interpretation falls to the viewer. Films cannot easily be divided into groups based on the existence of a moral or social statement—those with messages and those without—and moviegoers who are only willing to analyze films that advertise as social commentaries (like FernGully: The Last Rainforest and Sicko) hide themselves from deeper understandings of their favorite movies. Analyzing film does not somehow ruin the simple pleasures of movie-watching, and thinking about the more profound aspects of a specific movie does not lessen the movie’s initial impact. Instead, injecting critical thought into the movie-watching experience enhances the adventure. The Lord of the Rings is better when considering Tolkien’s background. 30 Rock is funnier with an understanding of the show’s social commentary. And appreciating Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical as social satire brings the music to life.

So, the next time a friends tells you to stop analyzing movies, just remember that critical thought is film’s best friend. Feel free to tell your friend something like, “I’ll stop analyzing movies when you start paying for my movie tickets. Until then, I pay for these experiences, and I’m going to make the most of them.”

We’re Back! Back with Falcon Fan Fiction

Big B and Mo’ Money

After a long sabbatical, Big B and Mo’ Money are back, and we are pumped to talk about movies. And we will talk about movies. Eventually. But instead of talking about specific movies right now, we’d like to discuss something else.

Fan Fiction

Ladies and gentleman, fan fiction is powerful. It allows devout followers to keep their favorite shows and movies alive. It encourages unpaid writers to continue their trade. And it creates communities of like-minded individuals, lost souls who cannot quench their thirst for scenes simply by watching television. The world of fan fiction is an ever-changing world, a malleable universe that sits atop layers and layers of fabricated content.

Big B has written some fan fiction.

That’s right. Big B has created his own unique fan fiction. You have seen fan fiction for everything from RENT to Charlie Brown, from Ace Ventura to Happy Feet, from Scrubs to Green Lantern.  But you have perhaps never seen fan fiction for this State Farm commercial:

The Vengeful and Well-Insured Falcon

Gregory, the man with the falcon, and his wife, Liz, return home. Liz is obviously displeased with her husband’s purchase, but Gregory doesn’t seem to notice. As Liz washes the dishes, Gregory attempts to teach his falcon how to play foosball. Gregory’s loud attempts to high-five his falcon irritate Liz. After a few minutes, she walks to the living room to confront Gregory.

LIZ

Are you going to help me with these dishes?

GREGORY

Let me just finish this game. I can’t believe he’s beating me!

LIZ

(Lauging) It sounds like you love that falcon more than me.

GREGORY

LIZ

That’s it. We’re getting rid of the falcon. We’re going to take him to an animal shelter tomorrow. I don’t care if we get our money back.

GREGORY

(Turning quickly to Liz) Maybe I should get my money back from marrying you!

LIZ

Wha–

Gregory picks up his falcon and runs to the door. Liz, shocked, places one hand over her mouth and lets the other fall to her side. Gregory grabs his coat from the coat rack. Liz mumbles something as Gregory, maneuvering the bird from hand to hand, quickly puts on his coat.

GREGORY

You know what really kills me, Liz? We could have been happy together. The three of us. We could have been happy.

LIZ

I…

GREGORY

(Standing in the doorway) That’s fine. You don’t need to say anything. You just haven’t found your falcon yet.

Gregory stands in the doorway holding his falcon and looking at Liz for nearly a minute. Just before Gregory turns to leave, Liz’s expression changes. As the door closes, Liz speaks.

LIZ

…it looked at me. It looked right at me.

END

~Big B

Big B’s Oscar Picks and Predictions (with some offal artwork)

Best Actress

Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”

Best Supporting Actress

Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”

Honorable Mention: Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”

Best Actor

Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”

Honorable Mention: James Franco, “127 Hours”

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, “The Fighter”

Honorable Mention: John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”

Best Picture

“The King’s Speech”

Best Director

Should win: Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”

Will win: David Fincher, “The Social Network”

Best Animated Film

“Toy Story 3”

Best Art Direction

Should win: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”

Will win: “Alice in Wonderland”

Best Cinematography

Should win: “Black Swan”

Will win: “True Grit” Continue reading

Romantic Movie Moments You Shouldn’t Attempt at Home

Say Anything… via IMDB.com

For hopelessly romantic introverts such as myself, the dating world can be unkind and troublesome. Words don’t come out right, and romantic gestures are misinterpreted. Luckily, we have movies to give us scripted romantic scenarios. From John Cusack and his stereo to Tom Hank’s online connection with Meg Ryan, movies have offered us wonderful pick-up lines and possible dating situations.

Unfortunately, some movies are more practical than others. And some romantic movie moments should never be attempted by nonfictional individuals. So, in the spirit of camaraderie amongst hopeless romantics, I’ve created a list of some movie moments you shouldn’t attempt at home.

(Romantic scenes often double as final scenes. So, by nature, this post is full of spoiler alerts. Consider yourself warned.)

via IMDB.com

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a wonderful movie with many clever lines to try on your date. The film’s romantic finale, though, probably shouldn’t be reproduced in real life. By the end of the scene, Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard are kissing in the rain and snuggling with a newly found cat. But, the cat has to be lost before it can be found. To orchestrate this admittedly romantic moment, Audrey Hepburn tosses her adorable feline from a taxi in the middle of a city during a rainstorm. While kissing in the rain should be on every romantic’s bucket list, animal cruelty should never be a by-product of infatuation. If Audrey Hepburn’s cat had run away (as perhaps it should have) then Audrey and her man-friend would have spent their romantic moment searching through crates and trashcans in a dark, wet alley. So, don’t try this moment at home unless your cat is a stuffed animal. Or imaginary.

via IMDB.com

Grease (1978)

Grease is full of semi-romantic scenes that are only possible in the leather-filled, fictional world of Rydell High. Amidst awkward drive-in flirting and dances on carnival rides, Grease doesn’t offer much practical dating advice. But there is one scene that should be particularly avoided in real life, and it’s not the film’s absurd flying-car ending. Ladies and gentlemen, don’t date drag racers. Even if they’re competing against age-old rivals or defending the honor of a bro, drag racing is a sport that is better left to Kenickie and the wonderfully dense characters of The Fast and the Furious (2001). Though I have never participated, I imagine drag racing in concrete ditches is less romantic than it may initially seem. Sure, drag racing offers whiplash and the intoxicating smell of fuel, but a true racer learns to turn. If Danny Zuko had stopped cheating on Sandy with Greased Lightning, Danny and Sandy could have ridden away in their flying car much earlier.

via IMDB.com

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Secret flirtations can be delightful. Filled with passionate whispers and subtle glances, such relationships can jump-start the heart of even the most cynical bachelor or bachelorette. Couples enticed by secrecy, however, must be willing to commit to the role. The whole appeal of clandestine relationships is the thrill of confidentiality (and perhaps love of one’s partner), and PDA is an easy way to unveil a once-classified hook-up. And, as seen in the secret relationship between Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, these situations are further complicated when authority figures forbid such relationships. So, if you are going to yield to the temptations of secret love, remember that PDA is, indeed, public. If you can see others while you’re snogging near the red satin curtains of an old stage, the confused and oddly entertained audience in the theater can probably see you.

via IMDB.com

Serendipity (2001)

If you manage to find someone who makes your heart flutter and who can match wits with you in a game of flirtatious small talk, get his or her contact information. Serendipity is perhaps one of the most emotionally frustrating romantic comedies of the past couple decades. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale meet, spend an adorable few moments together, and then, for some awful reason, decide to leave their future in the hands of fate. After the movie’s initial scenes, viewer have to sit through an irritating hour of wrong decisions and missed opportunities. Though the ending is happy, no last-minute romantic embrace can fully justify the emotional angst of handing possible love over to fate like giving a baby to a hooded figure sporting some hate tattoos at a low-budget daycare. Again, if you’ve managed to find someone worth seeing again, get some contact information. Phone number. E-mail address. Or enough random information to enable successful Facebook stalking. Get something.

Indie/Alternative Music in Blockbuster Films

The “Yes Man” soundtrack heavily featured Eels (via IMDB.com)

Recently, theaters (and not just the artsy theaters) have offered experiences similar to those gained from chilling in a store’s alternative music section for two hours. This phenomenon is not new, but the status of independent and alternative artists in big-name films has shifted. Now, songs from such artists are highlighted as climactic-moment songs or as songs in movie trailers instead of being relegated to background music for on-screen moments of contemplation.

Before I continue, I offer a disclaimer: I have no education or background that makes me particularly qualified to discuss independent or alternative music. Read this post as one would read the comments section of a YouTube video (approach it with vague interest and hints of cynicism). To eliminate semantically driven debate over “indie” and “alternative,” I will use the labels given to these artists by third parties such as iTunes and Last.fm.

The growing phenomenon of alternative music in blockbuster films first gained my attention when I rented Yes Man (2008) on pay-per-view. The film’s soundtrack heavily features the brilliant music of the Eels. (The only other group on the soundtrack is Munchausen By Proxy, a fictional band featuring Zooey Deschanel and Von Iva.) Eels contributed a total of nine songs to the movie, including “Sound of Fear” and “Flyswatter.” And Yes Man isn’t the only movie to use the Eels’ music: the group also has soundtrack credits on movies such as Shrek the Third (2007) and Shrek 2 (2004). Other artists such as Eddie Vedder and Belle and Sebastian have benefited from the popularity of blockbusters as well. Eddie Vedder provided the music for Into the Wild (2007), and Belle and Sebastian’s music appeared in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008). The O.C. has used or featured music from Sufjan Stevens, Imogen Heap, Beck, and Modest Mouse. And Bon Iver, Death Cab for Cutie, Grizzly Bear, Muse, OK Go, and St. Vincent, among others, all have tracks on the New Moon (2009) soundtrack. And, recently, Florence and the Machine was featured on Glee (a wonderful episode).

New Moon via IMDB.com

So what does this mean? Nothing, really, except that indie-loving movies such as Juno (2007), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), and (500) Days of Summer (2009) no longer have a monopoly on the use of independent and alternative music. Now, moviegoers are just as likely to hear their favorite independent artist in a film featuring Robin Williams as they would in a film starring Michael Cera. And, given how much Cera’s particular brand of teen angst is starting to annoy me, I consider this a welcome change.

Now, for those of you who are still skeptical about your favorite independent or alternative artist ending up in a blockbuster, consider this trailer of It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010) featuring “Oh My God” by Ida Maria. Regardless of how you feel about the movie, you must admit that Ida Maria’s song fits this preview beautifully.

Review: Newsies (1992)

Newsies via IMDB.com

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like if Batman and the President of the United States from Independence Day sang a song together?

Or, have you ever wondered what it’d be like if the cast of High School Musical found themselves in the late 19th century with nothing more than a pack of newspapers, some cigarettes, and hearts of gold?

Or, have you ever wondered how news traveled before the Internet?

Newsies, a film starring Bill Pullman and a young Christian Bale (among others) and directed by the guy who brought you all three High School Musical films, will tickle your inspiration and dazzle your dance shoes. When the cost of selling newspapers goes up, a ragtag group of newsboys go on strike. And, in a display of true patriotism, they voice their social concerns in the form of song and dance.

But their jazz hands quickly turn to brass knuckles when the authorities and Joseph Pulitzer come after them. In some fight scenes reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin movies, the newsies struggle for their independence (day).

Though there are a number of storylines running throughout the movie (a love plot, a bromance plot, a New Mexico plot, and a teen rebellion plot), and though any of those storylines could have led the audience to the victorious finale, I choose to believe that the newsies were led to victory by only two things: dancing and Gov. Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, had Gov. Roosevelt showed up earlier, the newsboys wouldn’t have had to practice parkour all around New York, and Crutchy wouldn’t have had a run-in with the fuzz.

But, Roosevelt didn’t. And the newsies did.

It all worked out in the end though. The guy gets the girl, the newsies get a better price for the papers, and the citizens of New York finally get to know what the heck is going on in the world.