Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Your Oscar Alternatives

Now that awards season is over, I decided to offer MEL readers a different kind of viewers' guide. Looking at the nominees, I created suggestions about smaller, forgotten films that might make for decent companion pieces. Mostly, I just want you to watch movies like Primer and It's Such a Beautiful Day and Passing Strange. Take a look.

'Get Out' and the New Era of the White-Guy Villains

For MEL, I wrote about the hit horror-comedy Get Out. Specifically, I look at how it's part of a wave of movies in which black men are the heroes and white men are the bad guys. It shouldn't be that big of a deal, but it's actually rather radical. Read all about it.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: The Best Oscars Ever?

It was an incredible Academy Awards -- and I couldn't wait to talk about it. On this week's Grierson & Leitch podcast, we dig into the show and its ending. And we review Get Out. And we look back at Seven and The Deer Hunter. But, seriously, those Oscars. Hear it all here.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Best of 2016: The Year's Greatest Special Effects

Annually for Popular Mechanics' print edition, I have the pleasure of looking back at the year's most impressive movie effects and talking to the people who made them happen. Right around the Oscars, the feature shows up on the website. So here it is, featuring Jason Bourne, The Jungle Book, Sully, Passengers and even Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. And if you go here, you'll see a little bonus cut, if you will, of my conversation with the Arrival team as we geek out about James Turrell.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

SAG-AFTRA Foundation: My Conversation With Taylor Sheridan

When I do Q&As for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, they're usually with actors, for obvious reasons. So I was especially intrigued to talk to Taylor Sheridan, the writer of Hell or High Water. Of course, he'd been an actor before transitioning to writing (he's also responsible for the screenplay for Sicario) and now directing (his Wind River just premiered at Sundance). This interview was done before Sundance, so he hadn't yet been Oscar-nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Tribe Called Quest - "Award Tour"

The renaissance of A Tribe Called Quest is as unexpected as it is welcome.

For years, this was a band that seemed finished. They hadn't made an album since 1998's The Love Movement, and if you saw the 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, you were understandably convinced they'd never get back together. And then in March, Phife Dawg died.

But then came November's We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, which was one of last year's best albums. Partly a reunion record, partly a celebration of old-school rap, partly a grim commentary on the state of race relations in America, and partly a showcase for some of the best hip-hop artists alive (Anderson .Paak, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Andre 3000), We Got It From Here also has plenty of Trump-bashing, which makes it as relevant as any piece of music out there.

Tribe's Grammy performance was a highlight of the night. And because of it, I've been playing "Award Tour" on a loop.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Oscars 2017: Your Guide to the Show (When You Don't Care About the Movies)

Over at MEL, I gave myself the task of putting together a viewers' guide for people who don't watch a lot of movies. The truth is, many, many folks are going to check out the broadcast without having seen the nominated films. So, allow me to give you reasons to care. My piece is live now.

My Best Picture Ballot for the 2017 Oscars

OK, let's do this. If I was an Academy member, here's how I'd fill out my Best Picture ballot. (As a reminder, it's done on a preferential system.)

1. Moonlight
2. La La Land
3. Arrival
4. Manchester by the Sea
5. Fences
6. Hell or High Water
7. Lion
8. Hidden Figures
9. Hacksaw Ridge

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Oscars, 'The Great Wall' and 'The Temple of Doom'

The latest episode of the Grierson & Leitch Podcast is consumed by Oscar fever. Will and I run down every single category and make our predictions. Plus, we review The Great Wall. And we figure out just how problematic Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is. Give a listen.

Oscars 2017: Predicting the Major Categories

The tightest Best Actor Oscar race since ... well, OK, that year when Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne duked it out. A possibly historic Best Director winner. Yeah, there are plenty of interesting story lines at this year's Academy Awards. Over at The New Republic, Will and I give our predictions in the eight major categories. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Misleading Men: Anthony Hopkins

This Friday sees the release of Collide, which isn't screening in advance. That is a sure sign that the movie is bad. What's notable about it: Anthony Hopkins is one of the stars. It's become somewhat common for Hopkins to show up in forgettable fare. This is a man who won an Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs. But what's happened since then? For MEL, I dig into his very strange career. Hope you enjoy.

Friday, February 17, 2017

'Logan' Review

Logan would seem perfectly suited to my sensibility. It's a comic book film that's gritty and grownup, and it features Hugh Jackman as Wolverine for the very last time. And yet, I found myself indifferent to the movie's dark charms. My review is up at Screen International.

Talking Heads - "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)"

I still don't understand why this song wasn't a single.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

'The Great Wall' Review

The Great Wall -- or Matt Damon in a Ponytail -- is a very silly monster movie slightly redeemed by the fact that it's directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou. The thing has a ton of spectacle, and the monsters are pretty darn scary. But, seriously, good lord. Read all about it over at The New Republic.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Sequels and Spinoffs

There's no Reboot films on this week's Grierson & Leitch podcast. That's because we have three new movies to discuss. I liked The Lego Batman Movie a little more than Will did, and he liked John Wick: Chapter 2 a little more than I did. But we both preferred them to Fifty Shades Darker. You can check out the whole thing here.

Monday, February 13, 2017

An Ode to Chris Berman

Now that Chris Berman's visibility on ESPN has started to diminish, I thought it appropriate to reflect on a broadcaster I used to love. It's, frankly, embarrassing to admit that -- the adult me doesn't know what the teenage me was thinking. I try to reconcile those two parts of myself in a piece over at Paste.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Pleasures of Second Weddings and Getting Married Later in Life

MEL is doing a special issue for Valentine's Day focused around the theme of heartbreak. With that as my inspiration, I decided to write about the fact that, recently, I've been attending weddings of people getting married for a second time or getting married a bit later in life. I found these weddings incredibly moving -- and also just a lot of fun. It started making me wonder if, really, weddings are wasted on the young. I talked to some experts, I talked to my friends, I did a little research, and this is what I came up with.

Friday, February 10, 2017

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Legos, BDSM and 'John Wick: Chapter 2'

I was on KCRW today to talk about this weekend's big releases: The Lego Batman Movie, John Wick: Chapter 2 and Fifty Shades Darker. Alicia Malone was also on with me, and she dives into A United Kingdom and Stray Bullets. It was a fine time. Check it out here.

Adele - "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)"

As you may have heard, the Grammys are Sunday. As long as Twenty One Pilots wins nothing, I'm cool with how the evening plays out. Will Adele go home with another Album of the Year trophy? It's either 25 or Lemonade -- and I'm betting the Academy won't want to snub Beyoncé again.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

'Fifty Shades Darker' Review

I didn't mind Fifty Shades of Grey, so I was curious about the sequel. Well, if the first film was sexy and silly, this one is a little-less sexy and a lot sillier. Poor director James Foley ... this is the man who once brought Glengarry Glen Ross to the big screen. My review of Fifty Shades Darker is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

SAG-AFTRA Foundation: My Conversation With Tim Roth

I have been thinking about Chronic since I saw it in Cannes in 2015. So I was thrilled to get to speak to its star, Tim Roth. Yes, we talked about the ending, so if you haven't seen Chronic, you may want to stop the video at that point. I have to say: The interpretation I'd had all this time turned out to be wrong. (I think I prefer my reading better, but I'll defer to Mr. Roth.)

This was a unique SAG-AFTRA conversation in two ways. For one, Roth didn't wait for me to bring him on stage. He just walked up and we started chatting. (I think he was excited about digging into the movie, which I was, too.) Secondly, he asked that we take questions from the audience. Normally for SAG-AFTRA, the audience writes their questions down before the screening. But in this case, Roth felt it made sense to let people engage directly after what they'd just seen. He knew they'd be affected by what happens in Chronic.

Anyway, this was a treat. Chronic has been unfairly overlooked. I hope it eventually finds its audience. 

'John Wick: Chapter 2' Review

Keanu Reeves is back and slightly better than ever in John Wick: Chapter 2. As an action movie, it's first-rate. But I do miss the lowdown simplicity of the original. My review is up at The New Republic.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'Michael Clayton,' 'Other People' and Movies in the Time of Trump

Will and I got a note recently from a listener asking us to tone down all the political talk on the Grierson & Leitch podcast. We took the opportunity to discuss it on the show, and to talk about the movies that are helping us cope with the Trump administration. Plus, we dig into two Reboot films: Michael Clayton and Other People. Lots to enjoy in this week's episode. Take a listen.

My Interview With Barak Goodman, the Director of 'Oklahoma City'

Oklahoma City opened on Friday in New York and Los Angeles, and tonight it plays on PBS. The documentary recalls the horrific terrorist attack in the titular city 22 years ago, but writer-director Barak Goodman also connects the dots to previous incidents, like Ruby Ridge and Waco, which inspired the bombing. At a time when anti-government and alt-right groups are starting to sprout up, Oklahoma City is a pretty timely film. Goodman and I talked about that and several other things, including whether he has sympathy for Timothy McVeigh. You can read our interview over at MEL.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

'The Lego Batman Movie' Review

I deeply enjoyed The Lego Movie, but I was nervous about The Lego Batman Movie. Could you really make a whole film based on Will Arnett's snarky Caped Crusader caricature? Turns out that, yes, you can -- but even though this one's pretty funny, it's not nearly as inspired as the first film. My review is up at Screen International.

Donald Trump vs. the McConaissance

A lot of people didn't like Matthew McConaughey's comment that we should "embrace" the reality that Donald Trump is our president. For Paste, I wrote about the fact that people aren't just turning on the Oscar-winner because of his remarks -- they feel betrayed for believing in his comeback from a few years ago. Read all about it here.

Friday, February 03, 2017

My Interview With Raoul Peck

For Rolling Stone, I had the pleasure of speaking with Raoul Peck, the director of the Oscar-nominated I Am Not Your Negro. We talked about Trump. We talked about James Baldwin. We talked about the perils of being creatively blocked. I enjoyed our time together very much. You can read the interview here.

Philip Glass - "Opening"

Philip Glass turned 80 this week. This is off Glassworks, which I gather is considered to be more "mainstream" Glass. Whatever: It's beautiful, with a hint of the intensity that dominates his "challenging" work.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Reviewing 'Gold,' Revisiting 'Memento'

Now that I'm back from Sundance, I've recorded the latest episode of the Grierson & Leitch podcast with Will. We talked about the festival, and we also spent some time reviewing Gold, which I have already forgotten entirely. And then, in our Reboot segment, we revisit Trading Places -- and the movie that was my No. 1 film of 2001: Memento. How does it hold up? You can hear our thoughts here.