Girl Gang: 2018 Edition

I can’t make a proper top ten list because every movie I saw this year was my favourite… until I saw another movie. Beyond being a great year for movies in general it was an amazing year for women in movies. They were everywhere! And as I am nothing without my girl gangs, I will recount for you now a select few of my faves.

Colette from Colette

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I knew absolutely nothing about Colette before seeing this movie and I left completely in love with her. Her whole life people keep trying to tell her what to do and how to act and guess what, it doesn’t work! She ends up ghost-writing the Harry Potter of her time for her creatively bankrupt husband and then deals with him sleeping with other women by… also sleeping with other women? We love a pansexual literary icon! And don’t worry, she got the rights to those books back.

Sarah from Game Night

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First of all, I love that she agrees to go to a complete stranger’s game night with the dumb pretty boy from work just because she low-key wants to sleep with him. And in the end, she makes him fall in love with her anyway! Even after she loses interest! What. A. Legend. I love that she never pretends to be young or hip; she is just so effortlessly herself and it’s honestly inspiring. That scene with the $17 is still one of the very funniest things to happen in any movie this entire year as well.

Natasha from Avengers: Infinity War

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Is it just me, or does it seem like Nat is the only thing keeping Cap and Sam going? Like, they would have been caught instantly if they were on their own. They were not trained as covert operatives. She was literally a Russian spy. And when she’s scolding Wanda and Vision for almost getting themselves killed, you can tell she was the one who came up with that plan because this is WHAT SHE DOES. She may not have any “powers” but she is easily the toughest and smartest of all the Avengers. And yes that includes Tony because he’s made a lot of dumb mistakes for a supposed genius.

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I feel bad for people who don’t think they liked this movie because it was actually flawless. This is a story about friendship, discovering hidden talents, and learning to choose yourself. I love how they work together to problem solve and the unconditional care and love they have for each other. And that they become full on spies at the end because I always need more spy friends.

Astrid from Crazy Rich Asians

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Crazy Rich Asians was already jam packed but I would have loved just a little bit more Astrid. She deserved so much better. I can’t believe someone can be that rich, stunning, and KIND and still be treated so poorly. Men really are trash. Apparently she has a much bigger part in the sequel which I hope they’re already making because I can’t wait to dive back into that crazy rich life!

 

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Lightle-tainers of the Year 2018

Brian Tyree Henry

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If you went to any movies this year, you saw (or heard) Brian Tyree Henry. If you’re me, you even saw him in Lobby Hero on Broadway opposite Chris Evans and Michael Cera and I can confirm he really is that good. His measured voice and imposing figure can be terrifying or beguiling, whatever the occasion calls for. I’ve also heard he’s great in Atlanta which I haven’t watched yet but mark my words: this kid’s got it and he’s going places.

Bradley Cooper

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Look, I’ve been a Cooper stan since 2005 and unless we find out something awful about him, I’m not going to stop. As if his stellar voice work in Avengers: Infinity War wasn’t enough, he pulled off the wildest of flexes by directing himself and Lady Gaga in Oscar-worthy performances and dropping a full-length soundtrack of absolute bops. If you haven’t listened to “Shallow” in the dark while sobbing, you’re a liar. A Star is Born didn’t have to be as good as it was but he gave us that because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

Emily Blunt

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How does one go from one of the best horror movies of the year (and one I actually liked!) to the best Mary Poppins movie ever? If you’re Emily Blunt the answer is *effortlessly*. And if the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack isn’t enough for you, she’s also partially responsible for this gem which I personally have watched ~27 million times.

John Legend

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In his own words, John Legend “began the year playing Jesus and ended the year playing Santa.” He also won an Emmy (completing his EGOT), released A Legendary Christmas which features the all-time best new holiday song “Bring Me Love” and continued to be a model husband and father. He’s honestly one of the most gifted performers working today and consistently stands up for what he believes in while remaining unbelievably kind. A TRUE LEGEND.

Tessa Thompson

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Tessa Thompson had a very busy year. Between Annihilation, Sorry to Bother You, Creed II, Furlough, Westworld, and appearing in Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer, she basically did it all, and how! She’s funny and smart and I love it when she talks and looks like she’s almost going to cry but doesn’t and then someone else cries and it’s pure poetic cinema. I’m constantly in awe of her talent and badassery and how vocal she is about socio-political issues. I can’t wait to see what she blesses us with in 2019, starting with this:

A Very Downey Christmas

It’s hard to imagine our lives today without Robert Downey Jr. His name and face have become synonymous with the Marvel Cinematic Universe; his Tony Stark/Iron Man is the fulcrum upon which all the Avengers pivot. But there was a time when his career was in serious jeopardy, owing to his drug addiction and tendency to run afoul of the authorities while high.

Ally McBeal ran from 1997-2002 and helped launch the careers of Lucy Liu, Portia de Rossi, and Jane Krakowski. It also tried to launch the comeback career of RDJ, who spent much of the late 90s in prison or rehab. He was fired from the series after being arrested again in April 2001 so we only got one, glorious season with Larry Paul. I still sometimes wonder if Ally and Larry would have gotten married if he had stayed. Lord knows she could have used the stability.

Season four blessed us with not one but two Christmas episodes. Episode six, “Tis the Season” begins with Larry and Ally carrying a tree and commenting that the Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier and Ally finding out that Larry hates Christmas. She finds out his aversion to the holiday season is due to missing his son while John (Peter MacNicol) defends a man who was fired for announcing on the news that Santa Claus isn’t real. And then this happens.

Robert Downey Jr – River (Ally McBeal) from MaKaElectric on Vimeo.

This recording actually made it on to the show’s holiday album A Very Ally Christmas and it is a joy that you can re-live every year until the end of time. Some other stuff happens and Ally finds Larry in the end and they sing “White Christmas” together.

Episode eight, “The Man With the Bag” starts with Nelle (de Rossi) asking John to help her father who has been wrongfully terminated because he believes he’s Santa Claus. We first see Larry trying to woo Ally with his over-the-top Christmas office decor but they are rudely interrupted by his ex Jamie (Famke Janssen) who’s in town for one night only, so of course he invites her to the office Christmas party! After a bunch of talking and more singing, Ally and Larry end up dancing together, stronger than ever.

In 2005, Downey Jr. launched another comeback by starring in Shane Black’s noir-caper Kiss Kiss Bang Bang alongside Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan.

This wasn’t Bob’s first movie since being “back” but it was definitely the best one, or at least the one that has held up over time and become a cult classic on its own. It may not be a festive film in the traditional sense but it is certainly Christmas-adjacent. It starts with our hero Harry (RDJ) trying to find a Christmas present for his nephew… by robbing a toy store. While evading capture, he stumbles into an audition and is so emotionally unhinged that he gets a callback.

Harry runs into his high school friend Harmony (Monaghan) at a holiday party in LA. They go to a bar to catch up and it looks like they’re going to spend the night together but, movies being movies, they don’t. Meanwhile, Harry starts his “detective lessons” with Gay Perry (Kilmer) and they stumble upon a murder that only they can solve. The report among the three is terrific, with Downey as the neurotic centre and Kilmer and Monaghan hovering around him as a source of jaded wisdom and wide-eyed enthusiasm, respectively. After several misunderstandings, more murders, and some very dark comedy, everything gets wrapped up in a neat little bow because the real Christmas spirit was the friends we made along the way.

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By 2013, RDJ had been sober for over a decade and already made three MCU movies. He was well-established as a big box-office draw and known for consistently bringing charm and pathos the franchise. For the third stand-alone Iron Man film, he re-teamed with Shane Black for a vaguely Christmas-themed instalment which also explored Tony’s PTSD following the attack in New York. This was also back when the scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a little more… earthbound.

The story begins on New Year’s Eve in 1999 in Bern, Switzerland. Tony is about to bed Maya Hansen and inadvertently makes an enemy of Aldrich Killian.  We continue to the present day and find Tony in the R&D Department of Stark Industries, dealing with his anxiety by building more and more suits that he can control remotely. He’s testing a new suit that comes via a flick of the wrist and rocking out to “Jingle Bells” because, ’tis the season.

Tony has lunch with his best buddy Colonel James Rhodes aka War Machine aka Iron Patriot to find out about the new terrorist in town, The Mandarin. After signing an autograph for a child (and making a crack about A Christmas Story) he suffers a panic attack and runs away. Classic Tony. He’s also having problems with Pepper and after an attack on his home, ends up in Rose Hill, Tennessee with a busted Iron Man suit and no way to get home.

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This is my favourite Iron Man movie for two reasons. One, it shows that Tony still is a worth adversary without the suit. He doesn’t need to be Iron Man, he just is. And two, I just love it. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s got a great supporting cast and interesting villains. And it ends with Tony blowing up all his suits as a gesture of love for Pepper because, hey, it’s Christmas. Don’t worry though, I have a feeling he’ll make a few more.

 

 

 

Bringing the Figgy Pudding

When you think of contemporary Christmas music you may think of your Michael Bubles or your Mariah Careys but they’re all hot garbage compared to the masterpiece A Christmas Together by John Denver & The Muppets. 1*b5qmbgf4dA0lBrGIcsk6wQ.png

The Muppets have always had a relationship with Christmas. From numerous specials to their take on A Christmas Carol (which is the best one imo) and it just isn’t the holidays without this merry group of Muppets, accompanied by the dulcet tones of John Denver. And if you don’t think John Denver is relevant anymore, let me turn your attention to the cinematic landscape of 2017.

Some standouts on the album for me are “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Little Saint Nick” which I genuinely believed was a Muppets original for…probably too long. The album ranges from goofy fun (“Christmas is Coming”) to poignant and moving (“The Peace Carol”). The music, especially on the tried and true classics, is expertly performed and presented. I can’t imagine “Twelve Days of Christmas” without hearing Miss Piggy belt out “FIVE GOLD RINGS” and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Girl Gang: Christmas Edition

Christmas is a time for sharing and eating and taking time off from work. And watching lots of Christmas movies. And I guess if you want you can spend time with your family too. Although I’d rather spend the holidays with these ladies.

Karen – Love Actually

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Is there anyone not on Karen’s side in this movie? She’s got to deal with her stupid husband buying presents for his receptionist and her brother, the Prime Minister, muddling his way through foreign relations, (and domestic relations..) making a lobster costume for her child and buying presents for her entire family and her ungrateful husband’s family? And she takes one (1) Joni Mitchell song length of personal time to cry before slapping on a cheery face and reaching for the ice cream. What a legend. There’s a lot wrong with this movie but Emma Thompson almost redeems it.

Jovie – Elf

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When New Girl started and there were complaints that Zooey Deschanel was playing “the same character” she always plays, I was surprised because to me she’ll always be Jovie. The sarcastic, bitter, BLONDE department store elf who saves Christmas with the power of song. There’s nothing “adorkable” about Jovie. She’s just over it. Over Christmas, over men, over paying for indoor plumbing, over Santa, over everything. But when she meets some weirdo who claims to be a “real” elf, she might just find a little Christmas cheer after all.

Amy  – The Family Stone

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I don’t like this movie that much. I think they made Sarah Jessica Parker too cold and socially awkward to be sympathetic and the idea of the two sisters just swapping boyfriends at the end and everyone carrying on with their lives is… bizarre. They still have to see each other! Like, all the time! However, much like Emma Thompson, Rachel McAdams almost redeems this whole blessed mess. Amy, the youngest of the five Stone siblings, is an absolute brat and I love her for it. She’s mean, surly, demanding, and she relishes in the pain of others. And she has a soft spot for Paul Schneider so I know in my heart we will be best friends.

Jo March – Little Women

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Is Little Women technically a Christmas movie? I mean, look, yes it spans several decades (so many Christmases) but when it starts, the March family are celebrating Christmas. They’re exchanging gifts and singing carols and all, right? And doesn’t it just feel like a Christmas movie? And if it gives me an excuse to talk about Jo March, isn’t that reason enough? Winona Ryder has a real knack for playing outsiders that spoke to a generation of weirdos. I identified so much with Jo while growing up. Tomboy? Check. Writer? Check. Flies into a rage at the slightest inconvenience? Check. Best friend proposed to me and I refused and then he married my sister? Okay that one not so much. Moved to New York and fell in love with a German professor? THERE’S STILL TIME.

Therese – Carol

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In the world of Carol, you would be think one would be more interested in forming a friendship with Carol, and you may choose to do that in your own girl gang, but I think I would have more in common with Therese. She thinks she’s figured out what she wants when Carol appears like a vision and steps into her world. She complains that she’s too passive and she just “goes along” with what anyone suggests but she makes a choice, a real choice that is hers alone, to pursue Carol even before she understands what she’s chasing. Rooney Mara can do so much with just a look or a glance and she plays Therese as someone who just arrived at a party they forgot they were having. After I read the book I had a lot more appreciation for what was going on in her head while surrendering to her feelings for Carol and acknowledging that she may never get a happy ending. And really, what’s more Christmassy than that?

 

To Boldly Go

I am not, strictly speaking, a “sci-fi” fan. As a genre, I think it’s mostly okay with a few standouts. My mother and sister are very into sci-fi so naturally being the teenage rebel that I was, I had to go in the complete opposite direction and devote all my time to watching movies that were firmly set in OUR world, on this PLANET, featuring REAL people doing MUNDANE things and discovering long-buried TRUTHS about themselves. I think we call it mumble-core now. But that was my jam all through high school and most of college.

All that being said, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for movies about or involving space travel. Now, not all of these are technically sci-fi. First Man and Hidden Figures certainly aren’t and they definitely count. And then you have something like Armageddon which, I mean, I don’t even know what you call that. It’s a space rom-com, I guess? And then you have space horror, like Alien, which is also sci-fi, kind of. I’m going to present a well-rounded top five but if you’re curious what almost made the cut, you can click this link. Also if you don’t already have a letterboxd account, go make one right now and follow me.

The Fifth Element

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Some people look at Bruce Willis and all they see is John McClane. I only see Korben Dallas. Time permitting, I could probably quote this entire movie to you right now. I could watch it every day and never get sick of it. Have you ever heard or seen a performance as heart-wrenchingly compelling than that of Diva Plavalaguna? Is there a funnier phrase than “Leeloo Dallas Multipass”? Is there a more well-rounded and diverse character than Ruby Rhod? Is there a more ridiculous catchphrase than “Aziz, LIGHT!”? Is there a more steadfast argument in favour of widescreen aspect ratio that the ending of this film where you clearly see the moon in the wide shot? It changes the entire narrative! Look, the bottom line is, this movie isn’t just good, it’s perfect. Just like Leeloo.

Moon

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Sam Rockwell is one of my favourite actors. I think he’s immensely talented and I’m just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. Moon is his greatest hour. His only scene partner is himself, via the magic of editing, and he still manages to steal scenes?! If you haven’t seen it, do yourselves a favour and check it out. It’s on Netflix in Canada. If you like The MartianOblivion, or basically anything involving the moon, I promise you will like this. Also @DuncanJones it’s not to late to replace the voice of Gerty. It’s a robot voice. Anyone can do it. I will spend money to re-purchase my blu-ray copy if you do this.

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Okay look I don’t want to start a fight about what the best Star Trek movie is (it’s this one) or who the best Kirk is (it’s this one) or if this even fits into the Star Trekiverse (of course it does how dare you) because I just love this movie so much. I saw it five times in theatres. I own it on blu-ray. I once watched it twice in a row. You heard me. It ended, I returned to the disc menu, and I hit play. Again. I live for the scene where Kirk is running around being stabbed in the neck by Bones, trying to talk with numb tongue, and still saving the Enterprise in the process. I love the Kobayashi Maru test. I love every scene with Spock and his parents. I love the part where we meet Scotty for the first time. I love Eric Bana and Clifton Collins Jr. as the Romulans. I love Spock Prime meeting Kirk and trying not to tell him how much he loves him. Everything about it is so good and I just won’t hear otherwise.

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First Man is getting a lot of attention this year and it’s honestly very okay but the whole time I was watching it I couldn’t help comparing it to Apollo 13… which I think is better. It’s just a better story and sorry Ryan Gosling but Tom Hank you are not. I really love Jim Lovell’s journey in this film. There’s so many great moments. The first time they realize something is wrong. Trying to build the thing to fix the thing on the ground so they could explain to the astronauts what to do in space. Jim looking out the window and watching the moon pass him by. It’s crushing to watch his dreams die, even though he’s alive and going home, his last ever chance to walk on its surface has just slipped through his fingers.

Thor: Ragnarok

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Taika Waititi is one of my favourite filmmakers so when I heard he was directing the third instalment of my favourite (yes even more than Captain America) Marvel franchise, I was elated. And I was worried. Worried that the studio would take everything unique and wonderful about Taika’s vision and voice and squash it to fit their pre-destined plan. And they were releasing the movie on my birthday so it was either going to be a glorious addition to that blessed day or a bitter yearly reminder that we can’t have nice things and to never trust anyone. Thankfully, it was the former. Thor: Ragnorok finds our hero shorn, hammer-less, and stranded on a planet run by Jeff Goldblum, eager to return to Asgard to fight his evil sister Cate Blanchett. He teams up with The Hulk and a former Valkyrie that goes by the title Scrapper 142 and arrives at some closure with his brother Loki (just in time for the events of Avengers: Infinity War..) while Idris Elba chills at home, working on his dreads. It is the most fun anyone has ever had watching a Marvel movie and look, if you’re not on board with these things by now, I really don’t know what to tell you. I love action and I love to have fun and I love space! I really hope Chris Hemsworth decides to continue making Thor movies if Taika stays on but if not, we’ll always have Ragnarok.

 

 

 

 

Trailer Radar: Biopic Edition

Nothing says Autumn is here like a barrage of biopics, amirite? Seriously, if you fancy an Oscar, play a famous person. Preferably a dead one who was beloved by Hollywood all their life and/or died under very tragic circumstances.

Bohemian Rhapsody

I came to know Queen exclusively because of their involvement with the television series Highlander and my sister’s subsequent obsessive relationship with them. So I do consider myself a fan. This is my “Birthday Movie” this year and I am THRILLED. I have cried every time I’ve seen this trailer. Rami Malek you are so special and I love you.

Rocketman

I appreciate Elton John’s contribution to music and I think this looks really good too. Weird that it’s a summer movie?

Vice

First of all, I KNEW Christian Bale was playing Dick Cheney and I still didn’t recognize him right away in this trailer. I thought it might have been Jeff Daniels for a hot sec. Also if that isn’t makeup his heart is literally going to explode one of these days. ALSO casting Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell in this feels like a personal attack on me to make me watch this even though I don’t want to give any more time or attention to any of these characters or administration. But damn it looks good.

At Eternity’s Gate

So…. Golden Globe Winner Oscar Isaac is in this.. And it looks gorgeous. Need I say more?