Sunday, April 18, 2021

2021 Movie List - The Top 69 of the Year

THE STANDOUTS (6) - This should go without saying, but these are all must-sees.

CODA ***1/2
Tiger ***1/2
After the Murder of Albert Lima ***
Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself ***
Pleasure ***
Run Hide Fight ***

THE GOOD (17) - These represent quality filmmaking all-around.

Coming Home in the Dark ***
American Skin ***
Together Together ***
Violation ***
In the Earth ***
Enforcement ***
Below Zero ***
Red Dot ***
Cryptozoo ***
Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal ***
The Marksman ***
The Mauritanian **1/2
Wild Indian **1/2
On the Count of Three **1/2
The White Tiger **1/2
4x4 **1/2
Held **1/2

THE GOOD... BUT SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTERS (13) - Why weren't these good movies better? I don't really know. But they should've been. Hence, the name of this section.

Jockey ***
The Father **1/2
I Care a Lot **1/2
Nobody **1/2
Why Did You Kill Me? **1/2
The Little Things **1/2
Malcolm & Marie **1/2
Breaking News in Yuba County **1/2
City of Lies **1/2
The Courier **1/2
Come True **1/2
#Like **1/2
R#J **1/2

THE GUILTY PLEASURES (8) - These are movies that I shouldn't like but I do, for one reason or another. I only feel ashamed because the Internet tells me I'm supposed to.

Wrong Turn ***
Slaxx ***
Zack Snyder's Justice League **1/2
Thunder Force **1/2
Bad Trip **1/2
Yes Day **1/2
Brothers by Blood **1/2
Last Call **

THE UNDERWHELMING DISAPPOINTMENTS (21) - Chalk it up to expectations but these movies just didn't cut it for me.

Judas and the Black Messiah **1/2
Mass **1/2
Silk Road **1/2
Rage **1/2
Godzilla vs. Kong **
Don't Tell a Soul **
Body Brokers **
Eight for Silver **
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar **
Crisis **
Locked Down **
Happily **
Voyagers **
Every Breath You Take *1/2
Funny Face *1/2
Prime Time *1/2
John and the Hole *1/2
A Glitch in the Matrix *1/2
Knocking *1/2
Honeydew *1/2
Censor *

THE BAD (4) - For better or worse, I just don't know what these movies were thinking.

Cherry *
Prisoners of the Ghostland *
Mayday *
Willy's Wonderland *

IN PROGRESS (3) - I started watching these but I never quite finished. Make of that what you will... but not always. Sometimes, it's just a matter of viewing circumstance.

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell (40 minutes)
The Day Sports Stood Still (30 minutes)
Persona (30 minutes)

EMBARGOED (6) - Silence is golden... for now.

Four Good Days
Golden Arm
Murder Bury Win
Riders of Justice

DON'T FORGET (10) - I first saw these 2020 movies a while back. This list is for me, so I don't forget them.

Into the Deep ***
Dinner in America ***
The Killing of Two Lovers ***
Summertime **1/2
The Night House **1/2
The Nowhere Inn **1/2
Zola **
Boss Level **
The Vigil *1/2
Run Sweetheart Run *

OOPS, I MISSED (40): American Dream, Bliss, Blithe Spirit, Boogie, Chaos Walking, Coming 2 America, Concrete Cowboy, Cosmic Sin, Cowboys, The Dig, Falling, Fear of Rain, Framing Britney Spears, French Exit, Horizon Line, Kid 90, The Knot, Land, Little Fish, Me You Madness, Miyagi, Monday, Monster Hunter, Moxie, Music, My Salinger Year, Night of the Kings, Our Friend, Outside the Wire, Palmer, Pixie, Raya and the Last Dragon, The Reckoning, SAS: Red Notice, Shoplifters of the World, Some Kind of Heaven, Supernova, Tom and Jerry, The Vault, The World to Come

COMING SOON (17): Army of the Dead, Cruella, Drunk Bus, The Dry, Mainstream, The Man Who Sold His Skin, Moffie, Mortal Kombat, Oxygen, Profile, Shiva Baby, Stowaway, The Truffle Hunters, The Tunnel, Without Remorse, The Woman in the Window, Wrath of Man

Sunday, March 14, 2021

If I Had an Oscar Ballot...

 ... it would look something like this. Please keep in mind that while I loved certain movies like Possessor and Alone, which are among my Top 25 movies of 2020, it would be hard to vote for either of them for Best Picture. These have to be somewhat REALISTIC choices, otherwise, there would be no point in this particular exercise. Also of note: I haven't seen films such as Another Round, The Father, French Exit, and The U.S. vs. Billie Holiday, among others, and I have abstained from voting in categories of which I am ill-informed, like the short film categories (loved Burrow though), or which I haven't seen enough contenders from, such as the Animated Feature and Visual Effects races, though Onward and Tenet would win each of those with little trouble. Feel free to show off your own Oscar ballot in the comments section below, and thanks in advance for reading. I hope you enjoy my nominees.

Important Note: An asterisk (*) denotes my vote to WIN.


The Invisible Man
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
One Night in Miami
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal*

Note: That's right, I only put seven movies on my ballot this year, as it was a fairly weak year for narrative features even though there were more films eligible for Best Picture than in the past 50 years. Sure, I could've put The Trial of the Chicago 7, News of the World and Da 5 Bloods on there, but I had issues with each of them, and at the end of the day, it was these seven movies that exemplified the year in film for me, as I felt drawn to documentaries during the pandemic, for whatever reason. So why Sound of Metal? I just thought it was a profoundly human, beautiful and heartbreaking film that I could strangely identify with. Between its great script, brilliant performances and raw direction, Sound of Metal was simply the Best Picture of the Year in my eyes, no question about it.


Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Darius Marder, Sound of Metal
Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man
Chloe Zhao, Nomadland*

Note: It was pretty easy to settle on this lineup, as these five films were among my Best Picture nominees along with Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and One Night in Miami. Yes, that means that Regina King and George C. Wolfe did not make the cut, but that's simply because theirs weren't what I think of as director-driven films, they were more script/dialogue-driven, each based on stage plays that provided more of a showcase for their actors than the filmmakers adapting them for the big screen. Even though Sound of Metal was my favorite movie of the year by far, this award was really between Zhao and Chung for me, as those were the year's two best-directed films, in my opinion. At the end of the day, I just loved what Chloe did with Nomadland following The Rider. It was a lyrical, gorgeous and poetic film that had so much to say without actually having to say that much at all. 


Ben Affleck, The Way Back
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal*
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods
Tahar Rahim, The Mauritanian

Note: It pained me to leave Eli Goree off this list because he happened to give my favorite performance in One Night in Miami, and I went back and forth on including him over Tahar Rahim, so I'll be completely transparent and say that it was Rahim's overall body of work that gave him the slight edge for me here. He has just been so good for so long, and truly underappreciated as an actor, and I do think his performance is why The Mauritanian works to the extent that it does. I do think Goree delivers a lead performance -- the problem is that I think of all four of those actors as leads, and yet, as such, they're all inherently supporting each other. Goree's placement just hurts his chances here, and yes, I could've just included him among my Supporting Actor nominees since it's my list, but that's not the category in which he's being campaigned, so that would seem like a waste of a vote. Rahim has also earned a bit more awards traction this season, so I did think of him as a more realistic nominee. I nearly put both Rahim and Goree on, leaving off Affleck, but I had to give it up to the guy for facing some of his own demons in The Way Back, which as a March 2020 release, really does feel like a victim of the pandemic. Plus, we've all seen those Dunkin' photos. Sympathy points apply... gotta have a heart for a fellow Bostonian in donut distress.


Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand, Nomadland*
Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Note: I don't know why Elisabeth Moss hasn't been gaining more traction for her work in The Invisible Man, as she makes for a very deserving fifth nominee in this category. I mean, I do know why -- there's bias -- real or perceived -- against genre films, which are rarely deemed worthy of "prestige." That said, the TV Academy loves Moss, who might've been embraced by her peers had Universal mounted a major campaign on her behalf. Vanessa Kirby is great in Pieces of a Woman but it feels like the nomination is the win for her, at this point in her career. No, this was between two-time winner Frances McDormand and Carey Mulligan, who has been so good for so long, she almost feels overdue despite being just 35 years old. As great as she is in Promising Young Woman, it's McDormand's performance that I was unable to shake, as she is once again excellent in Nomadland. If Carey Mulligan wins the Oscar that has thus far eluded her, I will stand up and applaud, because she will have absolutely deserved it. But I can't just penalize McDormand for winning this award twice before. If she deserves three Oscars, then so be it. I just have to listen to my gut and be honest in this space about it. 


Bill Burr, The King of Staten Island
Caleb Landry Jones, The Outpost
Peter Macdissi, Uncle Frank
Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal*

Note: This is the category where I could've gone a million different ways, including bestowing three nominations on the top-to-bottom solid cast of The Trial of the Chicago 7. I would have no problem subbing in Mark Rylance, Frank Langella and Sacha Baron Cohen (in that order), but I just loved what Peter Macdissi was doing in Uncle Frank, and I don't want to picture anyone else playing Bill Burr's part in The King of Staten Island. Meanwhile, Caleb Landry Jones should've been in the awards conversation this year, but Oscar bloggers forgot about him because The Outpost didn't have the backing of a major streamer. Of course, this award was always between Paul Raci and Leslie Odom Jr., and anyone who has followed Collider's FYC this year knows that Raci truly blew me away with his incredible performance, which simply could not be replicated by even Hollywood's best actors. Seriously, if you cast Dustin Hoffman or Tommy Lee Jones as that character, you're going to get a great performance, no doubt, but you're not going to get a performance as authentic as Raci's. That movie does not work without him and I hope that Oscar voters harken back to the day when lesser-known nominees would actually win every few years. That would certainly be refreshing and inspiring. Not that an Odom victory wouldn't be, because I thought he was electric as Sam Cooke, and he totally deserves all the love he has received this season. 


Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Lesley Manville, Let Him Go
Yuh-jung Youn, Minari*

Note: This was as easy as giving the male awards to the guys from Sound of Metal. Yuh-jung Youn delivered everything you could ask of a supporting actress. I loved her comic timing and her warmth as the film's wisecracking grandmother, and yeah, I'm still mad Zhao Shu-zhen wasn't even nominated for The Farewell. I mean, Maria Bakalova was a comic force of nature in Borat 2, but again, it feels like the nomination is enough of a reward in that instance. Say what you will about the movie, but I thought Glenn Close was pretty damn good in Hillbilly Elegy, but yeah, there was no way I was going to finally give her a win for that movie. I mean, I'm not a monster. Ellen Burstyn has been snubbed all season and she did deliver a scorching monologue in Pieces of a Woman that reminded me of just how formidable she can be, so she made the cut along with Lesley Manville, who was terrifying as the matriarch of a criminal family in Let Him Go. While it was a weak year for "obvious" nominees, I actually liked a lot of supporting performances this year, including Swankie (Noomadland), Dominique Fishback (Judas and the Black Messiah), Olivia Cooke (Sound of Metal), Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian), Marisa Tomei (The King of Staten Island) and Dianne Wiest, who was really good in both Let Them All Talk and I Care a Lot.


Promising Young Woman*
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Note: Since I'm not including Best Animated Feature on this ballot, I've decided to make it clear where I stand by going with Onward over Soul here. This is the superior Pixar movie, in my opinion, and I loved the ending, which left me in tears. I didn't even mean to see this movie. I went to the theater to see The Way Back, but it turns out that Google had the showtimes wrong, so I saw Onward instead. A week later, I was in the hospital and the pandemic forced theaters to close, so that was the last movie I saw on the big screen. While Sound of Metal was the year's Best Picture in my book, I went with Promising Young Woman here because I did want to find a way to reward Emerald Fennell, as I was greatly impressed by her fearless feature directing debut, which is one of the Sundance screenings I'll always remember. Like its protagonist, her screenplay took no prisoners, and I applaud how it sparked a conversation online, if not the culture itself due to its pandemic rollout.


The Boys in the Band
The Invisible Man
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
One Night in Miami

Note: I mean, what else is there to say? I think Nomadland faced a greater degree of difficulty in its journey from the page to the screen, rather than the three films that went from the stage to the screen. And yeah, I included The Boys in the Band on this list, because I really liked that movie, which felt very timely even though it's decidedly a period piece. I suppose the same can be said of both One Night in Miami and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom as well. I could really relate to both Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman's characters in MRBB, and maybe that's why I wound up voting for Nomadland -- because it struck my imagination in a different way.


Athlete A
Boys State
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution*
The Painter and the Thief

Note: This was a really close call, as I thought it was a banner year for documentaries. In fact, I'm mad at myself for not including the hugely entertaining Tread or Class Action Park among my nominees, though I don't think either was eligible, or on the so-called shortlist, and I do try to play by the rules here. This came down to Crip Camp and The Painter and the Thief for me, and I do think TPATF is a special film, with a devastating ending that will leave you haunted. But it's hard to overlook Crip Camp, which is an important film about a group of people who are all too used to being overlooked. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and most importantly, it made me listen. 


Midnight Family
The Platform*

Note: First of all, I don't consider individual country submissions when it comes to this category, so forget about what's eligible and what isn't. Yes, I'm cheating here. New Order nearly made this list, but I don't think the film quite lived up to its explosive premise. Collective bowed to great acclaim, and deservedly so, as it's a powerful and important work of journalism, but it's a little dry for my taste. I was also a big fan of the little-seen indie Midnight Family, about a family of ambulance drivers in Mexico,. But this one came down to Bacurau vs. The Platform for me, and even though I fell in love with The Platform way back in 2019, it technically didn't debut on Netflix until 2020. As such, it was eligible, and was the clear winner, as I've seen it about a half-dozen times. It's a great piece of genre cinema that offers valuable social commentary as well. I can't believe there hasn't been an English-language remake commissioned yet...


The Invisible Man*
News of the World

Note: This might've been the most competitive category in my mind, as all five of these films would make deserving winners, if very different ones. Nomadland and Minari are gorgeous, sensitive movies and News of the World is a golden oldie, full of dusty western vistas. Meanwhile, the cinematography in Tenet is one of the few elements of the indecipherable action movie that really works. But I loved everything about the camerawork in The Invisible Man and how it used empty space to tell its chilling story of domestic abuse and gaslighting. It's the kind of thoughtful work that should be studied in film school for years to come.


Da 5 Bloods
The Gentlemen*
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
One Night in Miami
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Note: Listen, I'm hardly an expert on costumes, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I'm going with The Gentlemen, which made expert use of tracksuits, goofy glasses and tailored suits. It's kind of weird how these five movies are so "male," in that female-driven costume dramas like Ammonite (which I didn't see) are the typical nominees in this category. I did really like the costumes in Birds of Prey, but I couldn't bring myself to give that film an Oscar nomination. I just can't condone that sort of comic book insanity, sorry. Promising Young Woman probably would've been my alternate, but it was more about Mulligan's outfits than anyone else in the cast, whereas all of my nominees do a good job of defining and differentiating their characters via their clothing. 


The Invisible Man*
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal

Note: Editing is a crucial element of every movie, but especially in terms of horror films and psychological thrillers like The Invisible Man, which are so dependent on timing. From the opening title sequence, this movie has you in the palm of its hand, so as much as I loved Sound of Metal and Nomadland, I had to give it up to The Invisible Man for keeping me on the edge of my seat and never letting up thanks to a fast pace that keeps the story moving.


Bad Hair
Hillbilly Elegy*
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal

Note: I love Riz Ahmed's blonde hairstyle in Sound of Metal and Carey Mulligan's rainbow wig in Promising Young Woman and the striking makeup job done on Viola Davis in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and you have to hand it to the team behind Bad Hair, given what this award is for. But to me, if we're going to have a serious discussion about the makeup and hairstyling work done this year, we have to talk about Hillbilly Elegy and Glenn Close's physical transformation.


News of the World

Note: This was a tough call, but it came down to Antebellum vs. Tenet for me, and in the end, I could not deny Ludwig Goransson's impact on Christopher Nolan's Tenet, which simply did not deserve such a thrilling score. Keep an eye on Roman GianArthur and Nate "Rocket" Wonder though, as they did a great job composing a spine-tingling score for Antebellum, and they should be getting more jobs off that little-seen film.


"Edgar's Prayer," Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
"Husavik," Eurovision Song Contest
"Rain Song," Minari
"Speak Now," One Night in Miami
"Green," Sound of Metal*

Note: Minari is the movie that should just be happy to be here, and as fun as "Edgar's Prayer" and "Husavik" are, the nomination is as far as I can go for either of those songs. This came down to "Speak Now" vs. "Green," and while "Speak Now" would make a fine winner, and is certainly the most likely among my nominees to actually win this year, "Green" is the song I'll listen to in my car on my own, years after this weird awards season is officially in the history books. 


News of the World
One Night in Miami
Promising Young Woman

Note: I thought Mulan featured some absolutely gorgeous sets that conveyed the scope of both the movie and the story itself. I loved what the One Night in Miami team did with that hotel room, and you have to give Promising Young Woman credit for its color scheme. Mank's below-the-line credits were flawless, and it's probably the most deserving winner, I just couldn't bring myself to give that movie an Oscar -- something I can't even say for Tenet! As a result, Mulan wins by default.


The Invisible Man
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
One Night in Miami
Sound of Metal*

Note: Do I really need to explain this one? Sound of Metal is a movie about hearing loss. The sound design is impeccable, as it places us inside the head of its protagonist. Not even Ma Rainey's Black Bottom -- a movie about recording sound -- could compete with that kind of Oscar-ready hook. 

BEST ENSEMBLE (not an actual award)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom*
One Night in Miami
Promising Young Woman

Note: The second-biggest award, I suppose, goes to the stacked ensemble of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which includes Colman Domingo and Glynn Turman, both of whom were overlooked all season, plus folks like Jeremy Shamos, Jonny Coyne, Joshua Harto and Dusan Brown, who played Ma Rainey's stuttering nephew. But I love all of these casts. If I had to say which one was the last addition, I'd say Promising Young Woman. I just loved what everyone brought to Minari and One Night in Miami, while the non-professional cast of Nomadland is what made that movie so authentic, not Frances McDormand. But yeah, at the end of the day, I entered Ma Rainey's recording studio a skeptic of sorts, but I emerged a believer, and that's thanks to the entire cast, not just Viola Davis and the late, great Chadwick Boseman, whose career ends on a high note here.

FINAL TALLY (out of 21, including Animated Feature and Visual Effects):

Sound of Metal - 5 (Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Song, Sound)
Nomadland - 3 (Actress, Director, Adapted Screenplay)
The Invisible Man - 2 (Cinematography, Editing)
Tenet - 2 (Original Score, Visual Effects)
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution - 1 (Documentary)
The Gentlemen - 1 (Costume Design)
Hillbilly Elegy - 1 (Makeup and Hairstyling)
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - 1 (Ensemble)
Minari - 1 (Supporting Actress)
Mulan - 1 (Production Design)
Onward - 1 (Animated Feature)
The Platform - 1 (International Feature)
Promising Young Woman - 1 (Original Screenplay)

Monday, January 11, 2021

The InSneider's Top 10 Films and TV Shows of 2020, Plus His Most Anticipated of 2021

You know the drill. This Top 10 is my ever-evolving personal list of favorites in both film and television. I also included my Worst 10 films of the year, plus lists of my most anticipated movies and shows in 2021. Enjoy!

TheInSneider's Top 10 Movies of 2020 - I already released a video about my Top 10 films of the year, so click here to watch that for further explanation.











And now for The InSneider's Worst 10 Movies of 2020. Apologies in advance!











Dishonorable Mention: AN AMERICAN PICKLE and SUPERINTELLIGENCE - Aside from CLASS ACTION PARK, this was a rough start for HBO Max, and I didn't even bother watching THE WITCHES.

And now for the Top 10 Movies I Missed in 2020...

1. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
2. The Traitor
3. The Load
4. The Kid Detective
5. Wendy
6. Ammonite
7. The Mole Agent
8. The Wild Goose Lake
9. Wolfwalkers
10. Black Bear

Honorable Mention: Hamilton: The Movie - I guess I threw away my shot, huh?

And finally, my Top 21 Most Anticipated Movies of 2021. An asterisk indicates that this film also appeared on my Most Anticipated of 2020 list.

1. Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch*
2. Candyman*
3. Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Movie
4. Halloween Kills*
5. Top Gun: Maverick*
6. Last Night in Soho*
7. The Tragedy of Macbeth
8. Nightmare Alley
9. The Matrix 4
10. Mission: Impossible 7
11. The Suicide Squad
12. Old
13. Judas and the Black Messiah
14. Marvel's Eternals*
15. Nobody*
16. Spiral: From the Book of Saw
17. The Card Counter
18. Next Goal Wins
19. The Little Things
20. Cherry
21. Ghostbusters: Afterlife


And now for the TELEVISION portion of this year-end list!

The InSneider's Top 25 TV Shows of 2020

1. The Last Dance (ESPN)
2. I Know This Much Is True (HBO)
3. Ozark S3 (Netflix)
4. Fargo S4 (FX)
5. Dave (FX)
6. Outcry (Showtime)
7. Narcos: Mexico S2 (Netflix)
8. McMillion$ (HBO)
9. Little America (Apple)
10. Curb Your Enthusiasm S10 (HBO)
11. Homeland S8 (Showtime)
12. The Comedy Store (Showtime)
13. Defending Jacob (Apple)
14. Ted Lasso S1 (Apple)
15. ZeroZeroZero (Amazon)
16. I'll Be Gone in the Dark (HBO)
17. Tiger King (Netflix)
18. A Teacher (FX)
19. Hunters S1 (Amazon)
20. Utopia (Amazon)
21. Ratched S1 (Netflix)
22. Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet S1 (Apple)
23. The Boys S2 (Amazon)
24. Manhunt: Deadly Games (Spectrum)
25. #blackAF (Netflix)

Top 20 Most Anticipated New Scripted TV Shows of 2021 - Based on the cuts I was forced to make to this list, including all the MCU shows, let's just say 2021 is shaping up to be a good year for television.

1. Dexter (Showtime)
2. Impeachment: American Crime Story* (FX on Hulu)
3. Untitled Lakers Series (HBO)
4. The Underground Railroad (Amazon)
5. Tokyo Vice (HBO Max)
6. The Afterparty (Apple)
7. Scenes from a Marriage (HBO)
8. The Old Man (FX on Hulu)
9. Peacemaker (HBO Max)
10. Clarice (CBS)
11. Dopesick (Hulu)
12. Foundation (Apple)
13. Inventing Anna* (Netflix)
14. Gone Hollywood* (FX on Hulu)
15. Lisey's Story (Apple)
16. Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu)
17. The Mosquito Coast (Apple)
18. Mare of Easttown (HBO)
19. The Sandman (Netflix)
20. A League of Their Own (Amazon)

Top 10 Most Anticipated Returning TV Shows of 2021 - As asterisk indicates it was on last year's list as well.

1. Ozark S4
2. Dave S2
3. Stranger Things S4
4. Barry S3* (HBO)
5. Narcos: Mexico S3
6. Ted Lasso S2
7. The Boys S3
8. Euphoria S2* (HBO)
9. Killing Eve S4
10. City on a Hill S2* (Showtime)

Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Movie List -- The Top 203 of the Year

THE STANDOUTS (16) - This should go without saying, but these are all must-sees.

Sound of Metal ****
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution ***1/2
Tread ***1/2
Boys State ***1/2
Nomadland ***1/2
The Painter and the Thief ***1/2
Athlete A ***
Assassins ***
American Murder: The Family Next Door ***
Into the Deep ***
Class Action Park ***
Promising Young Woman ***
The Invisible Man ***
Safety ***
The Way Back ***
The Standard ***

THE GOOD (63) - These represent quality filmmaking all-around.

Bad Education ***
Minari ***
Red White and Blue ***
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ***
One Night in Miami ***
Mangrove ***
Possessor ***
Alone ***
Jungleland ***
Let Him Go ***
The Gentlemen ***
Onward ***
Shadow in the Cloud ***
Robin's Wish ***
Lance (ESPN) ***
Happy Happy Joy Joy***
On the Rocks ***
Lost Girls ***
The Climb ***
Dinner in America ***
Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth ***
Blow the Man Down ***
Happiest Season ***
The Boys in the Band ***
Freaky ***
Uncle Frank ***
Showbiz Kids ***
Swallow ***
Midnight Family ***
Bacurau ***
Mope ***
Collective ***
Sputnik ***
His House ***
The Trip to Greece ***
7500 ***
The Outpost ***
Host ***
I'm Your Woman ***
The King of Staten Island ***
The Trial of the Chicago 7 ***
Mosul ***
Embattled ***
Standing Up, Falling Down ***
Blue Story ***
Big Time Adolescence ***
VFW ***
Sea Fever ***
True History of the Kelly Gang ***
Never Rarely Sometimes Always ***
Lovers Rock ***
Mulan ***
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga ***
The Wolf of Snow Hollow ***
Vampires vs. the Bronx ***
Education ***
Koko-di Koko-da ***
Have a Good Trip ***
The Mystery of D.B. Cooper ***
Baby God ***
Body Cam ***
The Opening Act ***
Summertime **1/2

THE GOOD... BUT SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTERS (42) - Why weren't these good movies better? I don't really know. But they should've been. Hence, the name of this section.

The Killing of Two Lovers ***
Da 5 Bloods ***
Pieces of a Woman ***
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart ***
Soul ***
Downhill ***
News of the World ***
Run ***
Beastie Boys Story ***
The Shadow of Violence **1/2
New Order **1/2
The Informer **1/2
The Secrets We Keep **1/2
Belushi **1/2
Extraction **1/2
Half Brothers **1/2
Synchronic **1/2
The Devil All the Time **1/2
The Old Guard **1/2
Project Power **1/2
Greyhound **1/2
Bad Hair **1/2
Palm Springs **1/2
The Banker **1/2
The Assistant **1/2
The Night House **1/2
All Day and a Night **1/2
Hammer **1/2
Spiral **1/2
Spree **1/2
Let Them All Talk **1/2
The Last Shift **1/2
Crazy, Not Insane **1/2
The Perfect Weapon **1/2
The Lovebirds **1/2
Spaceship Earth **1/2
The Hunt **1/2
The Rhythm Section **1/2
Arkansas **1/2
Proximity **1/2
Greed **1/2
Save Yourselves! **1/2

THE GUILTY PLEASURES (21) - These are movies that I shouldn't like but I do, for one reason or another. I only feel ashamed because the Internet tells me I'm supposed to.

Unhinged ***
Becky ***
The Tax Collector ***
Bad Boys for Life ***
Hunter Hunter **1/2
Greenland **1/2
Spenser Confidential **1/2
Honest Thief **1/2
Buddy Games **1/2
Coffee & Kareem **1/2
My Spy **1/2
Come Play ** 1/2
Mortal **1/2
True Fiction **1/2
Fatale **1/2
Echo Boomers **
Ava **
Impractical Jokers: The Movie **
Butt Boy **
The Postcard Killings **
The Grudge **

THE UNDERWHELMING DISAPPOINTMENTS (43) - Chalk it up to expectations but these movies just didn't cut it for me.

Tenet **1/2
Borat 2 **1/2
Hillbilly Elegy **1/2
Antebellum **1/2
The Rental **1/2
The Whistlers **1/2
The Nowhere Inn **1/2
Zola **
Human Capital **
Young Ahmed **
Underwater **
The Nest **
The Vast of Night **
Mank **
Alex Wheatle **
The Silencing **
The Binge **
Fatman **
The Owners **
Relic **
Amulet **
We Summon the Darkness **
Sonic the Hedgehog **
Wonder Woman 1984 **
The Dark and the Wicked **
The Midnight Sky **
Random Acts of Violence **
Centigrade **
Boss Level **
The Social Dilemma **
Rebecca **
The Wrong Missy **
Scoob! **
Run This Town **
The Lie *1/2
The Lodge *1/2
Tesla *1/2
Sleepless Beauty *1/2
The Vigil *1/2
Wasp Network *1/2
Hubie Halloween *1/2
Songbird *1/2
Archenemy *1/2

THE BAD (18) - For better or worse, I just don't know what these movies were thinking.

Birds of Prey *1/2
Irresistible *1/2
Kajillionaire *1/2
Superintelligence *1/2
An American Pickle *1/2
The Last Days of American Crime *1/2
You Should Have Left *1/2
Force of Nature *1/2
The New Mutants *1/2
Bill & Ted Face the Music *
I'm Thinking of Ending Things *
Run Sweetheart Run *
The Onania Club *
Come to Daddy *
Guns Akimbo *
Fantasy Island 1/2*
Scare Me 1/2*
She Dies Tomorrow (zero stars)

IN PROGRESS (7) - I started watching these but I never quite finished. Make of that what you will... but not always. Sometimes, it's just a matter of viewing circumstance.

The 40 Year-Old Version (30 minutes)
Black Is King (20 minutes)
Jallikattu (30 minutes)
Nocturne (10 minutes)
Shirley (45 minutes)
Shithouse (30 minutes)
Time (15 minutes)

EMBARGOED (0) - Silence is golden... for now.

DON'T FORGET (3) - I first saw these 2020 movies a while back. This list is for me, so I don't forget them.

The Platform ***1/2
Burden ***
Clifton Hill **

OOPS, I MISSED (174): 1BR, Alabama Snake, All the Bright Places, All Together Now, American Pie Presents Girls' Rules, Ammonite, Another Round, Artemis Fowl, The Audition, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, Babyteeth, Bad Therapy, Bang! Bang!, The Bay of Silence, Beanpole, Beats, Billie, Black Bear, Blackbird, Black Box, Bloodshot, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, Brahms: The Boy II, The Broken Hearts Gallery, Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You, Buffaloed, Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn, The Burnt Orange Heresy, The Call, The Call of the Wild, Charm City Kings, Chemical Hearts, Chick Fight, Coastal Elites, Color Out of Space, Come Away, The Craft: Legacy, Critical Thinking, Cut Off, Cut Throat City, Dads, Dave Not Coming Back, Deerskin, Desperados, Dirt Music, Dirty God, Dolittle, Dreamland, Driveways, Emma., The Empty Man, Endings, Beginnings, End of Sentence, Enola Holmes, Evil Eye, Exit Plan, A Fall From Grace, Fatal Affair, Feels Good Man, The Fight, Fireball, First Cow, Friendsgiving, The Giant, The Glorias, Godmothered, Gretel & Hansel, Guest House, Hamilton, Henchmen, Herself, The High Note, Holidate, Horse Girl, How to Build a Girl, Infidel, Inheritance, Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo, Into the Labyrinth, I Used to Go Here, J'Accuse, The Jesus Rolls, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, Jiu Jitsu, John Lewis: Good Trouble, Judy and Punch, The Kid Detective, The Last Blockbuster, The Last Full Measure, The Last Thing He Wanted, Like a Boss, The Load, Love and Monsters, Lucky Grandma, Made in Italy, Magic Camp, Misbehaviour, Miss Juneteenth, The Mole Agent, Monsoon, Monster Hunter, Mucho Mucho Amor, New Order, On the Record, The One and Only Ivan, Ordinary Love, Over the Moon, The Painted Bird, Parallel, The Paramedic, Peninsula, The Personal History of David Copperfield, The Phenomenon, The Photograph, The Prom, Proxima, The Quarry, Radioactive, A Rainy Day in New York, Rebuilding Paradise, Red Penguins, Rent-a-Pal, Residue, Resistance, Retaliation, Rogue, Saint Frances, Seberg, The Secret: Dare to Dream, The Secret Garden, Selah and the Spades, Sergio, The Sleepover, Smiley Face Killers, Spell, Spinster, Spontaneous, The Stand In, Stardust, Stargirl, Stuntwomen, Summerland, The Sunlit Night, Survive the Night, Sweat, Sylvie's Love, Tape, Three Christs, Tigertail, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, Totally Under Control, The Traitor, Triggered, Trolls World Tour, Troop Zero, The Truth, The Turning, Unpregnant, Valley Girl, The Vanished, Viena and the Fantomes, Vivarium, Waiting for the Barbarians, Wander, Wander Darkly, The War with Grandpa, We Are Freestyle Love Supreme, Welcome to Chechnya, Wendy, Why Don't You Just Die!, The Wild Goose Lake, Wild Mountain Thyme, The Witches, Wolfwalkers, Words on Bathroom Walls, Work It, Yes, God, Yes, Zappa


Friday, September 4, 2020

Instant InSneider: TENET (Very Minor Spoilers)

Christopher Nolan's Tenet is a frustrating experience, in that there's no denying its ambition and artistry -- or its needlessly confusing and convoluted story. It's like the love child between Inception and Memento, without the emotion of either film. Instead, Tenet just sweeps you along like a fast-moving current, with no time to grab onto a branch and catch your breath. Of course, in the inverted world of this film, time is decidedly not like a river.

Now, all of that might sound exciting to you, and it is exciting, at first. But after two hours of watching a few characters travel backwards and forwards in time, when Nolan magnifies the trick on a grand scale in the last 30 minutes, the idea no longer feels fresh. And without that exciting spark of originality, the way-too-busy last act falters, because the movie has been so focused on playing games and being an unsolvable puzzle that there's no real story to fall back on. Even the characters have basically been instructed to be bland, unknowable ciphers -- John David Washington's name is The Protagonist, really? -- so rather than bring you in, they keep you at a distance. Kenneth Branagh may have been chewing scenery, but his was the only performance I really liked, because he plays the villain like he's in a Mission: Impossible movie. I loved the score, and the scope, but the sound mix is terrible and no explanation from Nolan or his sound team will suffice.

Tenet features some really cool ideas, but they never quite coalesce, and for Nolan's next trick, I'd like to see him move away from the high-concept movies he's known for, or at least apply that big brain of his to a genre that isn't "action movie." Imagine Nolan reinventing the biopic, and turning that formula on its head! Or a horror movie! He keeps trying to top himself, and that's a fool's errand. There's a way to apply his skills to a smaller story that has more personal stakes than "the whole world could end!" And I know Tenet is about something worse than that. Instead of the world ending, it's possible the world may not have ever existed, which is an interesting idea, but one the film fails to properly explore. In the end, it's a spectacle I'm glad I caught on the big screen, but one I'm not terribly eager to watch again... even though I'll have to if I have any hope of understanding its labyrinth logic and many mysteries.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Instant InSneider: PERRY MASON

I just finished ALL of HBO's PERRY MASON, and it was good. I watched the first episode with Dad and we both thought it was kinda boring/disappointing, so he bailed, but I soldiered on, and it was worth the effort. What you don't realize is that what you're REALLY watching, in a sense, is TRUE DETECTIVE Season 4. If you're thinking of stopping after a few episodes or if you haven't started watching to begin with, reconsider... IF True Detective is your kind of show. I just think Perry Mason shares similar elements. I never watched the original series, but Matthew Rhys was good... again. Really liked him in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, too. Rhys, Shea Whigham and Juliet Rylance make quite a team, and the supporting turns from Chris Chalk, Gayle Rankin, Stephen Root and John Lithgow are all fantastic. Tatiana Maslany's white-haired preacher will be divisive for some, so just know that your mileage may vary. But overall? Not HBO's best series of the year, but a definite "recommend" from me. Let me know what YOU think...

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The InSneider's Top 10 Films and TV Shows of 2019, Plus His Most Anticipated of 2020

You know the drill. This Top 10 is my ever-evolving personal list of favorites in both film and television. I also included my Worst 10 films of the year, plus lists of my most anticipated movies and shows in 2020. Enjoy...

TheInSneider's Top 10 Movies of 2019 

I already released a video about my Top 6 films of the year, so click here to watch that -- but fair warning, there are SPOILERS, especially for The Farewell, so don't watch until you've seen that beautiful film! Without further ado...






7. JOJO RABBIT - Taika Waititi thread an absolute needle here, carefully navigating the tricky tone of the source material, and balancing both heart and humor with the more serious themes of the book. This is a brilliant film about war as seen through the eyes of a child, a child who is just trying to fit in before he has his eyes opened to the atrocities and indignities of war and its propaganda.

8. A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD - A minor miracle of a movie. This Mister Rogers movie is totally different than the documentary, starting out as one thing before becoming something else entirely. It lives up to the adjective in its title.

9. BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON - An inspirational true story featuring a breakout performance from Jillian Bell, who proves herself as a gifted dramatic actress.

10. LATE NIGHT - It was between this, Long Shot and The Peanut Butter Falcon here for me, and in the end, I went with the movie that made me cry the most. I was just really impressed with the story Mindy Kaling was telling here, and maybe that's because I'm more interested in the drama behind a fictional writer's room than most people, but yeah, Emma Thompson was great and so was the entire supporting cast.

And now for the Worst 10 Movies of 2019. Apologies in advance...

10. SERENITY - How Steven Knight thought this was a good idea, and then found a group of normally talented actors who also thought this was a good idea, boggles the mind. Misguided on a fundamental level.

9. HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U - The first one was a guilty pleasure of sorts, but this sequel, which some found superior to the original, wears out its welcome early on. The premise is exhausting and worst of all, this alleged horror movie fails to be scary on nearly every level.

8. SHAFT - One of the most homophobic films in recent memory, this movie was ridiculous on one too many levels, with a sense of humor that felt more appropriate for the early '90s. Just a horrific miscalculation on numerous levels.

7. FRACTURED - This instantly forgettable Sam Worthington "thriller" was Netflix's stupidest movie in a month (October) full of sub-par releases, which was really saying something.

6. VILLAINS - I should've loved this movie but I found it grating, and even though I'll always love Maika Monroe for her turns in The Guest and It Follows, I'm still not sure she can act. The tone of this movie was all over the place.

5. BLACK CHRISTMAS - I felt bad for the filmmakers watching this train wreck, because I know they meant well, but the decision to introduce a supernatural angle late in the game was one of the single biggest screenwriting mistakes of the year. I didn't mind how feminist it was, I was expecting that and had prepared myself accordingly. There's actually a kernel of a good idea in this movie, which is why it was so disappointing. 

4. MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL - The most embarrassing studio release of the year, although to be fair, I didn't see Charlie's Angels. Despite having chemistry in Thor: Ragnarok, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson displayed no chemistry here. None. Zero. I might even call it Negative Chemistry. What was this script? My goodness, this was awful.

3. STATE LIKE SLEEP - Just sooooo boring. Like, why am I watching this film? Such a downer, and barely comprehensible to boot.

2. WRINKLES THE CLOWN - A waste of time, pure and simple. This documentary is a wank. A brilliant marketing opportunity without a movie behind it. 

1. RELAXER - The single grossest, most obnoxious movie of the year, which I'm sure would be quoted in the trailer if I'd seen it early enough. Joel Potrykus would wear that quote like a badge of honor. I couldn't stand spending 5 minutes with these disgusting characters, let alone 80, but hey, I'm a professional. Let me know how long you last on that gross couch with that odd-looking man...

Dishonorable Mention: 6 UNDERGROUND  - Remember when Michael Bay made good movies? Jesus Christ...

But hey, at least I made it through those films, which is more than I can say for Showtime's navel-gazing Julian Edelman documentary... and I'm a Patriots fan! Go figure.

And now for the Top 10 Movies I Missed in 2019...

1. The Souvenir
2. Pain and Glory
3. Diane
4. Maiden
5. Transit
6. Atlantics
7. Fast Color
8. Gloria Bell
9. Her Smell
10. Mickey and the Bear

Honorable Mention: Cats, lolz

And finally, my Top 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2020...

1. Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch
2. (3-way tie between racially and/or politically-charged horror movies) Candyman, Antebellum, The Hunt
3. Judd Apatow's Untitled Pete Davidson Movie
4. (4-way tie between VFX-driven blockbusters) Christopher Nolan's Tenet, Dune, No Time to Die and Marvel's Eternals
5. (tie between two very different serial killer movies) Halloween Kills and Lost Girls
6. David Fincher's Mank
7. (tie between psychological thrillers from Focus) Edgar Wright's Last Night in Soho and Promising Young Woman
8. The Lovebirds
9. (tie between Netflix thrillers) The Devil All the Time and Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things
10. (3-way tie between long-delayed sequels) Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Top Gun: Maverick and Bill & Ted Face the Music


And now for the TELEVISION portion of this year-end list!

The InSneider's Top 20 TV Shows of 2019

1. Chernobyl (HBO)
2. When They See Us (Netflix)
3. Unbelievable (Netflix)
4. Too Old to Die Young (Amazon)
5. Watchmen (HBO)
6. The Loudest Voice (Showtime)
7. Mindhunter S2 (Netflix)
8. The Act (Hulu)
9. Barry S2 (HBO)
10. The Boys (Amazon)
11. Euphoria (HBO)
12. The Devil Next Door (Netflix)
13. Don't Fuck With Cats (Netflix)
14. Living With Yourself (Netflix)
15. City on a Hill (Showtime)
16. After Life (Netflix)
17. You S2 (Netflix)
18. True Detective S3 (HBO)
19. The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)
20. Black Monday (Showtime)

Top 20 Most Anticipated New Scripted* TV Shows of 2020 - An asterisk indicates my apologies to Netflix's Aaron Hernandez documentary and HBO's McMillion$, while a double asterisk indicates that I've already seen six episodes. There were some tough cuts here, let me tell ya...

1. Hunters (Amazon)
2. The Outsider (HBO)**
3. Utopia (Amazon)
4. Impeachment: American Crime Story (FX on Hulu)
5. Dispatches From Elsewhere (AMC)
6. Lovecraft Country (HBO)
7. Ratched (Netflix)
8. Little America (Apple TV+)**
9. The Stand (CBS All Access)
10. Manhunt: Lone Wolf (Spectrum)
11. Zero Zero Zero (Amazon)
12. Tokyo Vice (HBO Max)
13. Run (HBO)
14. Devs (FX on Hulu)
15. Space Force (Netflix)
16. I Know This Much Is True (HBO)
17. Your Honor (Showtime)
18. Inventing Anna (Netflix)
19. Tales From the Loop (Amazon)
20. (tie) Hollywood (Netflix) and Gone Hollywood (FX on Hulu)

Top 10 Most Anticipated Returning TV Shows of 2020

1. Curb Your Enthusiasm S10 (HBO)
2. Fargo S4 (FX on Hulu)
3. Narcos: Mexico S2 (Netflix)
4. Killing Eve S3 (Hulu)
5. Homeland S8 (Showtime)
6. The Boys S2 (Amazon)
7. Barry S3 (HBO)
8. Euphoria S2 (HBO)
9. The Mandalorian S2 (Disney+)
10. City on a Hill S2 (Showtime)