Sunday, December 31, 2017

Best of 2017: The Top 10 Movies of the Year

On August 8, I went to a screening of Tulip Fever. This wasn't a particularly momentous occurrence. The movie had been long delayed, and the assumption was that, despite its Oscar-winning cast, the film was a dog. Plus, there was the fact that Tulip Fever's distributor, the Weinstein Company, was beset with financial issues. For months, rumors had circulated that the company was on its last legs. ("They can't even afford to promote their movies," someone told me, which perhaps explained why they'd been dumping their recent films without much publicity.) So when I went to the Weinstein offices, I wasn't expecting much.

When I got there, I decided I should probably use the restroom before the movie started. As I walked to the door of the men's room, though, I realized it had a code-lock on it. And then the second thing I realized was that a burly man had just come out of a side office at that exact same moment and was moving to the bathroom door just as I was.

This was how I met Harvey Weinstein.

Ordinarily, when two people are both reaching for the same bathroom door handle, it can be a little awkward. But when one of them is a major movie mogul and the other is some guy who's just there to review one of his movies, the awkwardness is more pronounced. Before I could do anything, however, he said in a rather friendly manner, "Oh, let me get that for you," punching in the code. I can't remember if I opened the door for him or vice versa. I can't remember if I walked in first. All I recall thinking is, "It's incredibly weird to be going into a small office bathroom with Harvey freaking Weinstein." And then I went into a stall and waited until he left to exit the bathroom.

For a month or so afterward, I would occasionally tell people this deeply benign anecdote. I had heard stories about what a monster Weinstein was — terrible on employees, bullying to his directors, and pretty sketchy when trying to seduce actresses into sleeping with him — but it always felt par-for-the-course for a Hollywood big shot. Basically, they're all awful, and seemingly nothing we could ever learn about their deplorable behavior would be surprising. If anything, running into Weinstein on the way to the bathroom kinda humanized him. Even nightmarish individuals have to use the facilities from time to time.

* * * * *

On October 5, The New York Times dropped its bombshell piece about Weinstein's history of sexual harassment and assault. It cannot be overstated how fundamentally different Hollywood was after that Times piece was published. It was all anyone could talk about at screenings or on Twitter. But the tone of these conversations wasn't euphoric or dishy, which is often the case with big celebrity exposés. There was no giddy schadenfreude. It was like the air had been sucked out of every room around town. The revelations were so horrendous and upsetting that people were shell-shocked. And it had been happening under our noses all along.

Then the wave started of accusations against other powerful men, the articles coming relentlessly one after another, each of them horrifying and depressing in their own way — including about artists I'd admired, like Louis C.K. After that came the personal stories from female friends and colleagues who, for years, had kept quiet about their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault — not at the hands of Harvey Weinstein himself, but of all the Weinsteins out there in the world. I knew Weinstein was a bad guy, but I had no idea just how horrible — or just how many other powerful people had behaved in similar ways. Likewise, I wasn't aware of all the pain that people around me had been silently carrying for so long.

2017 was always going to be a terrible year. Trump's election guaranteed that. But the Weinstein wave was blindsiding, prompting intense, difficult soul-searching. I've tried to live my life as a sensitive, caring, thoughtful person, but the Weinstein revelations fundamentally challenged my perception of myself. If I had been unaware of all this misery — or, in the case of the Louis C.K. allegations, hoped the years of rumors were magically somehow not true — how could I possibly consider myself enlightened or evolved? Every time I'd read a raw, emotional account from someone who had endured toxic masculinity — I highly recommend my MEL colleague Alana Hope Levinson's great recent essay — I would just feel so angry and ashamed all over again, upset that I hadn't been as helpful or compassionate or empathetic as I could have.

I have always believed that part of the job of being a critic is to do a regular inventory with myself, analyzing my reactions to the movies I see and write about. Why do I respond to this kind of film so profoundly? Why does that sort of storyline always leave me a bit cold? Is it morally justifiable to separate the art from the artist — a policy I've never questioned until this year? I think of all this as routine maintenance. I always find it funny when people tell me that they'd like to see me write more personal stuff. I feel like every review I write is something personal — it's my way of communicating with other people about what I feel and how I see the world. And so to understand if a movie is working or not, I need to understand myself and how I work — and be aware of my blind spots. That inventory was harder and more painful this year than any in memory. It's an ongoing process — not just at the movies but in real life.

* * * * *

So, with all that said, let's actually get to the movies. I didn't think 2017 was as strong a film year as the last couple, but these were its highlights...

1. Dunkirk
2. Call Me by Your Name
3. Personal Shopper
4. A Ghost Story
5. Loveless
6. Phantom Thread
7. Good Time
8. mother!
9. The Lost City of Z
10. Graduation

Will Leitch and I discussed our picks at length on this week's podcast. No documentaries made my Top 10, but that does nothing to diminish my affection for The Work (No. 12), Rat Film (No. 14) and In Transit (No. 18), all of which were little-seen and deserving of bigger audiences. And I ultimately decided not to include World of Tomorrow Episode Two, although it's absolutely astounding and a worthy sequel to what was an incredible first installment.

* * * * *

Professionally, 2017 had many bright spots. As usual, I had a blast writing for Rolling Stone, where my editors kept me busy with some fantastic assignments. I'm eternally grateful to Christopher R. Weingarten, who suggested I profile Adam Grandmaison, better known as Adam22, who has become a tastemaker in the world of underground hip-hop. Adam and I spent two days together, and out of it came this really fun piece. But my main man remains David Fear, who's a terrific writer and supportive soul who hooked me up with some of my most enjoyable interview subjects of 2017. I chatted with Spike Lee about his Netflix series She's Gotta Have It, spent some time with the team behind Call Me by Your Name, sat down with the Safdie brothers and Robert Pattinson for Good Time, chatted with Errol Morris (who also had questions for me) about Wormwood, talked to director Julia Ducournau about Raw, and interviewed Raoul Peck about his exceptional documentary I Am Not Your Negro. I write so many pieces for Rolling Stone that I'm proud of, so it's hard to narrow down my favorites. But I have to mention my appreciation of Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy, which was written the day of his passing. I also liked my essay on Wonder Woman and its heroine's battle against sexism. And Jonathan Demme's death in April gave me an excuse to herald him as the greatest concert filmmaker ever.

I've been reviewing for Screen International for 12 years now. I can't believe it, either. I'm so grateful to my editor Finn Halligan, who is a delightful presence in my life and a pleasure to hang out with at festivals. For Screen, I attend Sundance, Cannes and Toronto every year, becoming part of a community of writers and critics that feel a bit like a family of fellow travelers. And, of course, True/False is also such fun. In terms of pieces I most enjoy writing, my extensive rundown of True/False, which I always do for Paste, is a labor of love that means a lot to me. That was especially true in 2017 because I used the festival and its films as a way of grappling with what I was feeling in the wake of Trump's victory. It was no accident that my Paste missive was titled "Take Care of Each Other": With that cretin in power, it's a reminder we all need.

Speaking of Paste, Michael Burgin continues to be the film section's steady hand, and I so appreciate his careful eye. Will came aboard this year, so now we're both reviewing films for the site. And our weekly podcast recently reached its 100th episode. It is a wonderful excuse to talk to my dear old friend all the time. (And we have such fun writing for Vulture and SyFy together.)

In a couple months, my regular contribution to Popular Mechanics, steering their annual Incredibly Special Effects Awards issue, will be out on newsstands. This year, I have interviews with the creative teams behind Blade Runner 2049 (No. 16), A Ghost Story and Wonder Woman, among others. As always, the issue looks great, and my editor Peter Martin does a fabulous job putting it all together. 

And truly, I cannot say enough about the team at MEL and my editor Josh Schollmeyer. He and I have worked together since he was over at Playboy, brainstorming how to reinvent the idea of a men's magazine for the 21st century. MEL is the product of a lot of great writers and editors, but the vision is Josh's, and I'm incredibly proud to have been on that journey from the beginning. And I love all the strange avenues I travel down for stories that he or I think up. I got to interview brilliant baseball mind (and pop-culture maven) Keith Law, explore the history of Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, put together an oral history of Wedding Crashers, and dig into how wonderful Chris Pine is in Wonder Woman. But among the things I'm proudest about with MEL is how we've really explored all corners of the cinematic map, especially focusing on documentaries and indies. Interviewing the directors of The Work, Casting JonBenet (No. 22) and The Force was a welcome opportunity to give smart filmmakers a chance to expound on their movies' themes in ways you don't often seen in entertainment journalism. I can't wait to see what MEL does in 2018.

In March, I was inducted into the National Society of Film Critics, an organization that I've long admired. Months later, I remain floored, honored and humbled to join its membership. My first vote takes place January 6. I couldn't be more excited.

* * * * *

On a personal level, 2017 was the year I underwent vocal-cord surgery. I can never remember if, technically, it was a polyp or a nodule that was removed. But the voice problems I'd been suffering since August 2016 were finally taken care of in March this year, requiring me to be on vocal rest for a few weeks. It is frightening to be unable to talk. My wife was even more loving than usual during the ordeal, but I never felt lonelier. However, it was also an opportunity to reconsider my "voice": how it interacts with the world, and how one's essence is not necessarily tied to the things we say. Maybe one's voice is something more than that. Regardless, I am forever indebted to Dr. Mani Zadeh, who took such good care of me. (Plus, he's a film buff, always eager to chat about what he or I had seen recently. Running into him at the Rogue One premiere is probably the most L.A. moment of my life.) And I'm grateful to my speech therapists, who coached me on how to use my voice better and, perhaps even more meaningfully, how to think about the act of communicating in ways I never had before.

This past year, I also did something I never have before: I participated in organized protests. I missed the Women's March because of Sundance, but after seeing the pictures from around the country of the event — and seeing how much it affected my wife, who was at the L.A. march — I decided I was going to push out of my comfort zone and start attending rallies. I wasn't sure what these marches would do for me, but I was amazed how much they lifted my spirits. Part of it was the physical exercise. Simply moving and chanting gets the blood pumping; it makes you feel like you're doing something productive. But it also made me feel less alone in my Trump misery. That might seem odd since I live in the liberal hotbed of Los Angeles, but being around a bunch of strangers who felt the same way about this president gave me hope.

I know some people scoff at rallies or find the whole thing too performative. All I can say is that it helped me enormously. It's OK to be fooled into the belief that a bunch of people joined in a demonstration of resistance can make a difference. Before actual change happens, you have to believe it's possible. As I look back on 2017 — the Weinstein revelations, movies, Trump, my own experiences — I'd like to think that I was engaged in life and trying my best to make sense of it all. I grew, and I know I have more growing to do. Actually, I can't imagine a more hopeful notion going into 2018: the belief that personal growth is important because there's still a better world out there worth fighting for.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

What's Better: '28 Days Later' or 'Shaun of the Dead'?

Let's talk zombie movies. Over at SyFy, Will and I debate the merits of 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead. What's the better film? Our answer is here.

What's the Better Trilogy: The Dark Knight or Jason Bourne?

The latest Debate Club pits Christopher Nolan's Batman movies against Matt Damon's original Jason Bourne trilogy. There can only be one winner, which Will and I break down over at SyFy.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Taylor Swift - "New Year's Day"

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2018 be better than 2017.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

What's Better: 'The Terminator' or 'Terminator 2'?

Time for more Debate Club. In this episode, Will and I duke it out over The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Which Arnold do you prefer? Our answer is over at SyFy.

Best of 2017: The Year in Best-Of Lists

I say this every year, and sometimes I worry that people assume I'm being facetious. But I really mean it: One of my favorite annual traditions is compiling Rolling Stone's lists of the best lists of the year. It's a great way to chart what the culture cared about, and in 2017 the lists were split between politics and entertainment. Oh, and jokes -- very funny jokes. Check 'em out here.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Britney Spears - "Toxic"

Pitch Perfect 3 is meh, but its version of "Toxic" is fun. And now I've had it jammed in my head for days.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Last Thoughts on 'The Last Jedi'

Critics loved The Last Jedi. General audiences are having a fit about the movie. Why the disconnect? It's one question I tackled in my latest piece for MEL. (I also picked the film's MVP and rendered my verdict on the Porgs.) Check it out here.

'Downsizing' Review

Alexander Payne's latest is his weakest. But it's not without its rewards; it's a flawed but still affecting work. Matt Damon plays a man who decides to get miniaturized, and let's just say it doesn't work out how he imagined. I reviewed the film, warts and all, for Paste.

My Interview With Robert Brian Wilson, the Star of 'Silent Night, Deadly Night'

I had never seen Silent Night, Deadly Night. I remedied that for my MEL profile of Robert Brian Wilson, the film's unlikely star. He had always been a big sports guy. He never loved horror movies. And yet, he's forever linked to a cult classic that's also a slasher film about an ax-wielding Santa Claus. I really enjoyed talking to him. My profile is here.

My Interview With the Author of 'A Die Hard Christmas'

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Absolutely. I spoke with Doogie Horner, the stand-up comic who just published A Die Hard Christmas, which turns the Bruce Willis film into an illustrated children's book in the spirit of "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Our conversation, which also touched on Renaissance art, is over at MEL.

Misleading Men: Mark Hamill

The Last Jedi is a reminder of what Mark Hamill has meant to Star Wars. For MEL, I wrote about the actor's legacy and how it's inextricably linked to the franchise. You can read it here.

What's Better: 'Close Encounters' or 'E.T.'?

In the latest installment of Debate Club, Will and I pit two Steven Spielberg classics against one another. In one corner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the other, E.T. Who you got? You can read our deliberations over at SyFy.

'The Greatest Showman' Review

Hugh Jackman plays P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman, which is chockablock with musical numbers and razzle-dazzle. I found it pretty tiring, as I explained in my Screen International review.

'Pitch Perfect 3' Review

Anna Kendrick's franchise is starting to run out of gas. Pitch Perfect 3 doesn't have the fun songs and snarky spirit of the previous installments. I dug the Bellas' rendition of "Toxic," though. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

'All the Money in the World' Review

Perhaps you've heard that Ridley Scott decided at the last minute to replace Kevin Spacey from his latest film, All the Money in the World. Christopher Plummer now plays J. Paul Getty in this true-life thriller about the abduction of his grandson. Michelle Williams is quite good, but Mark Wahlberg is quite not. All the Money is muddled, but I dug its darkness. My review is live at Screen International.

Monday, December 18, 2017

My Interview With Errol Morris About 'Wormwood'

Well, this was a thrill. For Rolling Stone, I got to interview one of my heroes, documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. We discussed his new project Wormwood and embracing futility. It was a pleasure, and you can read it here.

Who's Better: Han Solo or Indiana Jones?

Harrison Ford has played two iconic characters. Which one is better? For SyFy's Debate Club, Will and I made the case for (and against) each role. The results are here.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Let's Talk About 'The Last Jedi'

This episode is dedicated entirely to The Last Jedi. It was recorded on December 11. We had both seen the movie but hadn't discussed it with each other. So, this is a pretty unfiltered look at our thoughts. There are plenty of spoilers. Hope you enjoy.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Smithereens - "A Girl Like You"

You may have heard that Smithereens frontman Pat DiNizio died this week. When I was a lad learning guitar, "A Girl Like You" was one of the first songs I wanted to play.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

What's Better: 'Alien' or 'Blade Runner'?

For our latest installment of Debate Club, Will and I look at two Ridley Scott classics. Is Alien or Blade Runner the better film? We hash it out right here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Review

A huge improvement on The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi is a thrilling and more thoughtful sequel. I have a few quibbles, though. You can read my review over at Screen International.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Reviewing 'The Post,' 'Phantom Thread' and 'Molly's Game'

We're coming to the end of the year, and this week's podcast is devoted to some of the high-profile Christmas releases. I'm a big fan of The Post and Phantom Thread, while I get a kick out of the supreme Sorkin-ness of Molly's Game. You can hear the whole episode down below.

SAG-AFTRA Foundation: My Conversation With the 'Pirates of Somalia' Team

Last week, I moderated a Q&A with Barkhad Abdi and writer-director Bryan Buckley. We spoke about their new film The Pirates of Somalia, as well as Abdi's life since Captain Phillips. You can watch the whole thing down below.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Mousterpiece Cinema: Happy 10th Birthday, 'There Will Be Blood'

I still remember vividly the press screening I attended for There Will Be Blood, which left me utterly stunned. Can it really have been 10 years? I was invited on Mousterpiece Cinema to talk about the movie, and I had a great time. (Also, this is my fifth appearance on the podcast: Yes, I'm part of the show's hallowed five-timers club.) You can hear the whole conversation down below.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The Careers That Big Directors Almost Had

Next week, Judd Apatow releases The Return, his first stand-up special. Of course, we know him as the filmmaker behind Knocked Up and This Is 40. But when he was starting out, he thought he was going to be a comic. In honor of The Return, I looked at some other directors and the professional paths they initially pursued. You can read it over at MEL.

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Alan Parsons Project - "Time"

A Fantastic Woman is Chile's official entry for the Academy Awards. The movie's quite good, but I especially liked the use of this Alan Parsons Project track on the closing credits. I've had it on a loop for weeks.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

What's Better: 'Children of Men' or 'Under the Skin'?

In the latest installment of our Debate Club series, we try to decide what's the best sci-fi film of this new century. In one corner, we've got Children of Men. In the other, Under the Skin. Place your bets, and read our verdict here.

'Phantom Thread' Review

Paul Thomas Anderson has made five movies this century. I love them all. His latest, Phantom Thread, is a romantic drama set in 1950s London that stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps. It's mysterious, just like love itself. Also, beautiful. My review is up at Screen International.

How Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel Saved My 2017

For Rolling Stone, I looked back at the year in late night, arguing that it wasn't Stephen Colbert who led the Trump resistance. It was actually Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel. (Seriously, what a 2017 Kimmel had.) Here's my piece.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

'The Post' Review

It's too early to tell, but I'd be pretty tempted to put money down on The Post winning the Oscar. It's a really good movie but, more importantly, it's a very timely film, telling the story of The Washington Post's battle to publish the Pentagon Papers. If you happen to see any modern-day parallels -- journalism versus a corrupt administration, say -- well, that's the idea. My review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

What's Better: 'Star Trek II' or 'Star Trek IV'?

It's an argument that's raged for decades: What's the best Star Trek movie? Will and I take to SyFy to present the pros and cons of The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home. Which film won? Read on.

What's James Franco's Greatest Performance?

Will and I put on our thinking caps to rank every James Franco role. Well, not every one. C'mon, we have lives, too. Our findings can be found at Vulture.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Let's Review 'Disaster Artist,' 'Shape of Water' and 'Wonder Wheel'

As luck would have it, all three movies we talk about on this week's podcast are ones I haven't written about elsewhere. So I have much to say about James Franco's film about the making of The Room, Guillermo del Toro's fantasy romance, and the latest from Woody Allen that everybody hates. You can hear the whole thing down below.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

My Interview With Jairus McLeary, the Director of 'The Work'

The Work is a remarkable documentary about a Folsom Prison program that brings together inmates and civilians to work through their problems with group therapy. I have reservations about this kind of therapy, but I found the movie to be stunning and emotionally overwhelming. I talked about my reservations, and a lot of other things, with Jairus McLeary, who directed The Work with Gethin Aldous. Our conversation is up at MEL.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Wolf Alice - "Don't Delete the Kisses"

The best-of-the-year lists are starting to roll out for music, and several publications have shown some love to Wolf Alice's second full-length, Visions of a Life. I wouldn't go that far, but I do dig "Don't Delete the Kisses."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Who's Better: Chris Hemsworth or Chris Pine?

The next installment in our Debate Club feature for SyFy tries to figure out which big-screen Chris is best: Evans, Hemsworth, Pine or Pratt. We narrowed it down to two finalists and duked it out from there. Read our findings here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

'The Other Side of Hope' Review

Aki Kaurismäki is back with his first film in six years. The Other Side of Hope tells the story of a Syrian refugee who makes his way to Helsinki. He'll cross paths with a middle-aged man who decides one day to radically remake his life. The comedy is deadpan, as per norm, but that doesn't mean there's no feeling underneath. My review is up at Paste.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What's Better: 'Star Wars' or 'The Empire Strikes Back'?

For SyFy, Will and I are going to do a limited-run series called Debate Club, where we come up with definitive answers to some of the greatest long-running arguments among sci-fi fans. Our first installment is a big one, as we weigh Star Wars against The Empire Strikes Back. Which one comes out on top? Check out our piece here.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'Coco,' 'Darkest Hour' and 'Spaceballs'

On this week's episode, we get rhapsodic about Call Me by Your Name. We differ on Coco. I talk to Will about Darkest Hour. And, in our Reboot segment, we look back at Spaceballs. The whole thing is delightful, take my word for it, and you can hear it right here.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What Was the Greatest Thanksgiving Movie Weekend?

Over at MEL, I gave myself a difficult task: figuring out which Thanksgiving movie lineup was the best ever. I'll give you a hint: It came from the 1990s. Check out the list here.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Ryan Adams - "Enemy Fire"

For this week's installment of "Songs of Pine," I thought I'd pick something that rocks a little. After all, we don't just deal with heartache by listening to sad, slow songs. Sometimes, you need something a little angrier. That was certainly the case with this Gold track, which was playing when I found out something devastating about an ex and then proceeded to play it over and over again as a coping device. (This did not help at all.)

It's too late, baby
Baby, it's too late

Was I trying to communicate that to her? Or was I trying to tell myself that? Regardless, I rarely listen to this song anymore. It still brings up ... not bad memories, per se. Just the memory of feeling bad.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My Interview With the Cast and Crew of 'Call Me by Your Name'

When I was preparing to sit down for separate interviews with Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg and director Luca Guadagnino about their superb film Call Me by Your Name, I had an idea: "I wonder if these guys have ever had a summer like the main characters in their movie." That inspired the angle to my piece, which I hope articulates how much I love this movie. It's over at Rolling Stone.

Breaking Down All of Netflix's Fireplace Videos

Netflix offers several streaming videos of virtual fireplaces, a perfect complement to your holiday party. But which one is best? I break down the numbers -- and talk to an actual fireman -- to come up with the answers. Check it out over at MEL.

Monday, November 20, 2017

I Talked to Spike Lee About 'She's Gotta Have It'

Almost two years after our first chat, I got on the phone to interview Spike Lee to discuss his new Netflix series based on his 1986 debut. He's always a lot of fun, as you'll see in my piece up at Rolling Stone.

What Happened With 'Justice League'?

For MEL, I tried to figure out what went wrong with the latest DC offering -- and if there's anything Warner Bros. can do to right the ship. You can read my thoughts here.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Superheroes, 'Jim & Andy' and 'Slap Shot'

On this week's podcast, Will and I lament how bad Justice League is. Then, we focus our energies on two Netflix films: the Sundance favorite Mudbound and the rather remarkable Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond. Finally, in our Reboot segment, I finally get around to watching Paul Newman's Slap Shot. (It's about hockey.) You can hear the whole thing down below.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': 'Justice League,' 'Mudbound' and Denzel Washington

I saw Roman J. Israel, Esq. back in Toronto, but the movie has been trimmed and reedited for its release. So I gave it a second look to be on Press Play with my good buddy Christy Lemire. We talked about that, as well as Justice League, Mudbound and Wonder. You can hear the whole thing here.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pearl Jam -"Black"

Continuing this month's "Songs of Pine" series, I will now acknowledge that, yes, at one embarrassing moment in my life, I was so heartbroken that I actually said to myself (to the woman who had made me so sad)...

I know someday you'll have a beautiful life 
I know you'll be a star 
In somebody else's sky 
But why 
Why can't it be 
Why can't it be mine?

Yup, those are lyrics from "Black," the emotional centerpiece of Pearl Jam's first album, Ten.

To this day, the song kinda makes me cringe because of just how nakedly earnest my feelings were in that moment. But I'll say this: Eddie Vedder was never a creep or a jerk in his lyrics. "Black" is a song about losing someone, about being left behind, but there's no misogyny or snottiness in his delivery. In the history of rock songs about dudes getting dumped, "All I taught her was everything" is pretty mild rancor. In other words, I feel embarrassed but not ashamed to have clung to this song in a vulnerable moment. Vedder is actually trying to be an honorable person while acknowledging how distraught he is. Many have expressed themselves in far uglier fashion under the same circumstances.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Misleading Men: Jim Carrey

For my latest installment of Misleading Men at MEL, I wrote about Jim Carrey, who's the star of a new documentary called Jim & Andy. It's about Carrey's transformation into Andy Kaufman for Man on the Moon, which I think is a great movie. Jim & Andy examines what went on during the movie, and what happened to Carrey afterward. I talk about the film and him here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

'Justice League' Review

This is the face that Ben Affleck makes through most of Justice League. It's also the face I made while watching it. My review is up at Screen International.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'Three Billboards,' 'Thelma,' 'Cabaret' ... and Louis C.K.

On this week's episode of the podcast, we dutifully review Murder on the Orient Express. But we're much more interested in discussing I Love You, Daddy and Louis C.K. Elsewhere, I go solo to break down Three Billboards and Thelma. And, in our Reboot segment, we tackle Cabaret. You can hear the whole thing below.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

'Wonder' Review

Wonder is a story about being kind, even when the world doesn't show you it in return. Based on the bestselling novel, this tearjerker has a lot to recommend. And, yet, I couldn't quite get there: The film ends up overdoing its sentimentality. My review is up at Screen International.

Will Ferrell and His Comedy Sidekicks

In many of Will Ferrell's movies, he works off a sidekick: John C. Reilly, Kevin Hart or, in the case of Daddy's Home 2, Mark Wahlberg. For MEL, I decided to rank all of his comedic wingmen. Check out the results here.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - "Blue Chair"

For this week's "Songs of Pine," I've chosen a track off Blood & Chocolate, Elvis Costello's 1986 record that I gorged on while obsessing over not one but two women. What's especially fun about that scenario is that the songs really never lose their vitality; if you get tired of projecting the lyrics onto one person, hey, you can just switch to the other.

"Blue Chair" was the focal point, though. I still cannot fathom these lyrics, which actually made the song work even better. The snippets of coherence stung even more...

You say that your love lasts forever 
When you know the night is just hours

And wherever she is tonight
I want her anyway
I suppose she never said to you
You were just in the way

Now when I hear it, I think, "Oh right, I was going through a bad time then, huh?" I'm very grateful not to be sinking into the blue chair anymore.

'Daddy's Home 2' Review

I thought the first Daddy's Home was disposable but contained an interesting idea underneath: In an era of enlightened masculinity, how do sensitive guys compete with old-fashioned alpha males? Alas, Daddy's Home 2 mostly abandons the nuance of that notion for dumb hijinks. This thing stinks, as I explain over at Screen International.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

What's Cate Blanchett's Best Movie?

With the two-time Oscar-winner in Thor: Ragnarok, Will and I decided to rank all of Cate Blanchett's roles. Where did I'm Not There end up on the list? That answer is over at Vulture.

Let's Rank Woody Harrelson Movies

Woody Harrelson is having a pretty busy 2017 between Wilson, War for the Planet of the Apes, LBJ and Three Billboards. Over at Vulture, Will and I went through all his performances to select his finest. Take a look.

'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Review

I saw Three Billboards in Toronto, but I wanted to catch it one more time before reviewing. I've done that now, so I have some thoughts about this Oscar contender over at Paste.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Thor, 'Lady Bird' and 'Punch-Drunk Love'

On this week's episode, we cover a lot of movies -- well, I do. Will and I review Thor: Ragnarok, while I go solo to discuss Last Flag Flying, Lady Bird and LBJ. Then, we take a little time raving about Punch-Drunk Love, which isn't getting any less wonderful over time. You can hear the whole thing here.