Thursday, January 30, 2020

Time for Some Flickcharting!

Let's do some Flickcharting! Here come 20 random match-ups and what I chose.

1. Autumn Sonata (1978) vs. Mozart and the Whale (2005)

Two very good movies, certainly both in my top 1000. While I should probably rewatch Mozart and the Whale to be completely confident in its ranking, though, it currently sits much higher, and deservedly so. Some killer performances in both of these, though. Mozart takes it for now. No change in the chart.

2. The Interpreter (2005) vs. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

I'll be honest, the details of both of these are pretty much erased from my memory. However, the one piece I do remember of Synecdoche, New York, is that haunting final image of Philip Seymour Hoffman making his way through the enormous abandoned facsimile of New York he constructed, and that image and the emotions of it are so embedded in my brain that it easily wins here.

3. Passion (1996) vs. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Passion is a filmed version of one of Stephen Sondheim's more operatic and less interesting shows (at least for me). Even Donna Murphy in a lead role can't sell me on it. Full Metal Jacket has its problems, but the first half of it is great, and it easily takes the lead here.

4. Get Smart (2008) vs. Copying Beethoven (2006)

Oof. I was extremely disappointed by Copying Beethoven, while Get Smart was about as mediocre as I figured it would be. I guess for now I'll give the nod to the movie that didn't fall as far, so Get Smart it is. It did make a significant jump up my chart, from #2624 to #2072, but I don't remember it being cringey so much as just kind of blah, so that's probably a more accurate place for it.

5. The House With Closed Shutters (1910) vs. Ghostbusters (1984)

I am not a huge Ghostbusters fan, but neither am I a big fan of silent melodrama. I bet Ghostbusters would gain some interest from me if I rewatched it a couple times, if it settled into a comedy-through-familiarity spot for me. I don't really see myself getting much more out of The House With Closed Shutters, so it loses here.

6. The Internship (2013) vs. Gosford Park (2001)

Gosford Park is a movie that completely lost me the first time I saw it, but I've been meaning to go back and rewatch it and see if it's better than I gave it credit for. I highly doubt The Internship is better than I thought it was when I watched it, so we'll give Altman the benefit of the doubt.

7. 22 Jump Street (2014) vs. ParaNorman (2012)

I'm one of the few people I know who didn't particularly like ParaNorman. The animation is nice, and the story is fine, it just seems very... typical? On the other hand, 22 Jump Street should have been horrendous and instead turned out to be hilarious. Its constant lampooning of the existence of big blockbuster sequels was great, and it contains one of my all-time favorite movie jokes -- where they comment on the ridiculous choice of title to continue the sequel and make it an actual plot point, that they had to move out of 21 Jump Street and into the house across the street, and then follow up with, "Probably soon we'll have to move back out of this place and back across the street, but next door."

8. I and You (2018) vs. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

This is kind of a tough call. I and You is a filmed version of a Lauren Gunderson play that was livestreamed on, of all things, Instagram. I like the play, but I don't particularly love that particular production. But I also don't live Spider-Man 2. I just find it bland and forgettable. I guess I'll vote for I and You for having a more interesting script, but it doesn't do a lot for me.

9. Nick Nolte: No Exit (2008) vs. Rogue One (2016)

Ha, that Nick Nolte documentary is weird. It's him interviewing himself. I only saw it because I captioned it, and I have no desire to watch it again. Rogue One had disappointingly flat characterization but a good overall concept and some pretty cinematography, so I'm voting for it here because I could see what it was trying to do even though it fell flat.

10. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) vs. State of the Union (1948)

I'm so, so, so bored by Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man. Like why do we even have this when we JUST had Tobey Maguire's franchise? And State of the Union is decent but way lower on my chart than it should be, so while there's a good chance this will be a huge change in my chart, but a deserved one. Yup, State of the Union jumped from #2300 to #2048, which seems more accurate. It kept throwing off movie rankings being so low, so hopefully this will be better!

11. The Crazies (2010) vs. Transamerica (2005)

While I had a very good time watching The Crazies, it's nowhere near as great or as thoughtful as Transamerica. This is an easy choice.

12. Young Frankenstein (1974) vs. Bean (1997)

I do not love Young Frankenstein as much as I'm supposed to. I blame it partly on having seen it after hearing my parents and peers talk about all their favorite parts, so the surprise of the comedy was largely lost on me by the time I finally got around to it. Bean, however, is abysmal and unpleasant, so I the win goes easily to Young Frankenstein this around.

13. V for Vendetta (2006) vs. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Two movies with huge followings. While I like both movies themselves probably about the same, the V for Vendetta fandom is absolutely awful, and the Shaun of the Dead fandom is just occasionally awful (any decent sized fandom's got its own awfulness, occasionally awful is a pretty great deal). Slight edge to Shaun of the Dead because of that. V for Vendetta fans make me want to not like the movie.

14. It Comes at Night (2017) vs. Harold and Maude (1971)

Two movies I went into with big expectations that were not met. Even reading through reviews for It Comes at Night later didn't illuminate it for me. Harold and Maude has a decent chance at being better than I thought it was, though, so we'll give it the nod for now, which jumps it from #2461 to #1968.

15. The Lady Eve (1941) vs. How to Rob a Bank (2007)

I saw How to Rob a Bank, obviously, and I think I remember it being fun? It definitely didn't have much staying power though, and The Lady Eve most certainly did, so it wins here, easily.

16. City of Angels (1998) vs. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

While I'm not much of a fan of Christmas vacation -- it's certainly not in my own holiday movie rotation -- it's far, far better than the weird mess that was City of Angels, which was ridiculous and made me laugh out loud at a clearly tragic turn of events in the narrative because it was handled so sloppily.

17. Gunga Din (1939) vs. The American President (1995)

Two movies I don't really have much of a response to. Which one would I rather rewatch? Gunga Din, I suppose, since it's been a very long time and it might make a different impression on me watching it years later. That jumps it from #1955 to #1710, which isn't an egregious difference, but it does feel a bit unearned.

18. The Longest Yard (1974) vs. Safety Last! (1923)

The Longest Yard is pretty dull. Safety Last, on the other hand, is funny and creative and that clock climbing scene is kind of terrifying! It wins here.

19. A Dangerous Method (2011) vs. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

I am not in love with either of these movies, but I can appreciate everything Who Framed Roger Rabbit is doing. The combination of live action and cartoon both looks good and makes thematic sense, and it has a lot of fun playing with the noir genre throughout. A Dangerous Method is not nearly as interesting.

20. I, Tonya (2017) vs. The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Well, that's a heck of a matchup to go out on. I am, of course, voting Star Wars.

I kid, I kid, it's terrible. I, Tonya takes it quite easily.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Turns Out I Am Not Good At Daily Blogging

As I write this, my first "daily blog" is set to come out tomorrow, and I have written a grand total of seven blog posts (eight counting this) in a month. I mean, granted, that's more than I'd written in a month for ages, but it's not what I was hoping for.

However, if I can write seven blog posts a month, that's actually decently sustainable. That's blogging twice a week, which keeps my blog active. I just need to schedule them out ahead out of time so I can have time to have writer's block and then suddenly write a bunch at once.

So you will probably not see a blog from me tomorrow... But hopefully sometime next week you'll see another one.

This is not an exciting blog. Um... have a YouTube video!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Small Turning Point In My Church Journey

I've talked about my problems with church a lot on here. It's been a long difficult road and I'm far from finding a church community, but I wanted to share a recent piece that I think has been a definite turning point for me.

I've always felt kind of weird about my alienation from the church, because, come on, it's not like they ran me out of town or told me to my face I wasn't welcome. I've had to deal with much less than a lot of people I know, so why can't I suck it up and just go? Why do I have such strong emotions about this? What did the church even do to me except just "not feel like a home"?

Well, I'd been thinking and praying through this for awhile. I talked with my mom about it and she said she felt like God was going to show me something, like he was going to help me find the core of my hurt, like there was going to be a specific moment that he was going to bring to my mind that I had blocked out or ignored.

And I think he did -- or if it isn't the actual core, it's something extremely close.

I think I was listening to the Good Christian Fun podcast when it came up. I don't remember the words they said that jarred this memory, but I suddenly got a vivid recollection of a teacher in our church speaking to a group and saying, "Your good deeds are like filthy rags to God."

This is a paraphrase of a verse from Isaiah 64, which talks about the sins of the people of the land as the reason why God has abandoned them to their enemies, that evil has become so deeply ingrained in them that even the good they do is pretty crappy. The second half of the chapter asks for God to come back and fix what has gone wrong.

But that was definitely not the context in which this verse was used at me. I was not being told that God had abandoned me to my enemies.

It was used in the context of, "You cannot earn your salvation."

So this may not be how everyone hears and processes that verse in that context, but this is where that goes for me:

"You cannot earn your salvation. Because your good deeds are like filthy rags. And filthy rags are disgusting. And even the good things you do, even when you try you hardest, God thinks you are disgusting. God is super grossed out by you. Like that other verse these teachers like to quote a lot, about God vomiting you out of his mouth. God looks at you and just wants to puke. Good thing Jesus is standing in front of you so God can see him instead of your gross, disgusting, sinful face."

And that sense of disgust, that God was disgusted with me even when I was doing the right thing, began to permeate my sense of self.

None of the people who said these things to me would ever say it as explicitly as it translated to in my mind. None of them would use the words "God thinks you're gross." And they'd probably be horrified that my mind took it to that extreme, they'd probably insist, "That's not what we meant, that's not what we were talking about." In other words, it would be my fault for misinterpreting their words as a child. (I am assuming a little bit here, which I probably shouldn't, but it is based partly on how people have reacted when I have tried to point out possible consequences of certain teachings. The answer is usually, "You should know that's not what we meant.")

Anyway. Now, years later, even as I have recovered that sense of self and that sense of God's true, deep love for me, I still struggle to not feel like other Christians are looking at me in disgust. Because that is how I and my peers were taught to view people and ourselves, as fundamentally pukeworthy. And I'm absolutely positive I'm not the only one who was a good teachable Christian and internalized it.

Things clicked into place a bit after this realization. I think I found The Main Thing that made me so uncomfortable around other Christians and in churches. Now that I've unraveled it down to its core, I'm starting to actually clean out that hurt and fear and anger that I couldn't find before, and then maybe start building it back up. In the meantime, unveiling that hurt has brought up feelings I didn't know I had but have clearly been sitting in my soul for awhile. Turns out when hurt is brought to light, it brings anger, and I've had no idea what all what to do with that, ha, so I'm working through it slowly and trying to let go so that I can move on. But in the meantime it feels like a "darkest before the dawn" moment, so I'm feeling my feelings, evaluating them, and figuring out which ones are good to keep and which ones I need to dismantle.

Maybe someday I'll be able to clean this all out enough that I can talk to members of my former church growing up without feeling waves of panic, or that I can post something like this without mentally bracing for backlash that may or may not come, or that I can walk into a church without my heart rate skyrocketing.

Fingers crossed!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Best Song From Waitress

So I just recently got familiar with the musical Waitress, and while it's pretty consistently fun and interesting and solid all the way through, there was one song that stood out to me the most, and it's probably not any of the ones you're thinking of.

The song that most captured my attention was "You Will Still Be Mine." It's sung by our protagonist's self-centered abusive husband. It has all the earmarks of a classic love song -- a romantic line the two sing to each other, a hearkening back to the early days of their relationship -- but it's all twisted and dark to highlight his obsessive, controlling nature.

The thing that hits me the most every time I hear it is how he pushes her to say the words that will keep them together. The general overview of the first verse is him remembering back when he used to write her love songs, and he asks her, "What was that one line? Something about sunshine... I sang it every night." And he keeps guessing wrong until she corrects him: "'Til the sun don't shine, you will still be mine." He responds, "That's right!" And the first time I heard it, it sent shivers down my shine. He's doing a subtle abusive thing where he pushes her to promise to be with him, so now if she leaves him, she's the one breaking her promise and don't the wrong thing, not him. She's the one who said the words. His "That's right" in response doubles as both a, "That's right, those were the lyrics" and a "That's right, you will still be mine and I will still be yours and nothing you can do can change that."

It's just such a terrifying song about feeling trapped. I feel claustrophobic for Jenna just listening to it. It's such an incredibly well-written song that touches on the not-always-obvious ways in which abusers hold on to their victims.

Friday, January 24, 2020

I Started a Podcast!

Since I haven't been blogging, I never posted about it on here, but back in November, I started a podcast! My friend Jennie and I had been on the lookout for creative opportunities somewhere, though not necessarily together, and then I came up with a podcast idea and asked her to join me.

The podcast, called Somebody Write This, is based on a writing game I used to play with my sisters, where we'd randomly generate a character, a setting, and a plot action from lists I had on the computer, and then we'd have like half an hour to write a short story featuring that.

I put together a more elaborate (and often more difficult-to-work-with) random plot generator online, and at the beginning of every episode we generate one and then spend 15-20 minutes talking it through into a possible actual story. Sometimes this gets complicated -- in one episode, our protagonist's main action was "unwittingly comforting" someone. In another, an MI5 officer and a gentleman rat were apparently solving crime together. Others lend themselves more naturally to full-length stories, so we get to get into the details a little bit more.

At the end of each episode, we put out a call to the listeners to take any piece of the story that may have inspired them and turn it into something. Any listeners who do write something based on our goofy brainstorming can share their output with us and, with their permission, we'll share pieces of it on-air and publish it or a link to it on our blog. To our delight, we've gotten a couple responses! Our first two episodes yielded a one-act play and a sonnet from our listeners, respectively.

If you're interested in listening, it's available wherever you get your podcasts, or you can check out our host page on here. We also put up transcripts on the blog so our hard-of-hearing subscribers can be part of this too, so check that out! Subscribe, and if you use iTunes, which seems to be the only place you can review podcasts (get with the times, Spotify), go ahead and give us a review, because that boosts our visibility.

I shall leave you with three random synopses from our generator. You may see pieces of these popping up on the show in the future, who knows?

  • A biography of a group of friends, who must follow a clue.
  • A Canadian intelligence officer and the Jedi Council face life in a drab police state, looking for a nerve gas attack and a Walkman.
  • With a special heritage, the brother of a prominent district attorney is brainwashed to want a book.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Christmas Gift Adventures

I've written before about my family's gift giving tradition, where my siblings and I shop for each other at the dollar store. It stemmed from the days when we had little money and a lot of people, and it allowed all the kids to be involved in the act of giving even when we couldn't afford elaborate gifts. It's a tradition that remains even while most of the siblings are now working and could afford more than a dollar per person, and it's become a bit of a game to see what kind of ridiculous things we could get for each other.

This year, since I wasn't going home for Christmas, I roped in two of my siblings to help shop for me. They told me when they went shopping for their own gifts, and I sent them text messages throughout the shop as if I could see where they were and could direct them to the right object.

For example:

"OH! That one's perfect, because it begins with N and Nathan's name begins with an N!"

So my sister hunted for around for an item beginning with N, purchased it, and gave that to Nathan for me. In this case it was a ninja mask.

One sibling told me what I ended up picking up for them, the other did not, so seeing them open it on Christmas Day via Google Hangouts was as much a surprise to me as it was to them. It made for a lot of laughter.

The other prompts I gave and what they yielded:

"Elizabeth told me she had a gift for Micah, but she didn't want to say it out loud. So go find her, and whatever she's looking at, that's what he wants." --> A reusable coffee filter. (Micah does not drink coffee.)

"Ok, now find Elizabeth one more time, and get whatever is BEHIND her. She's facing away from it because it hurts too much to look at it, thinking she won't get it. Boy, will she be surprised!" --> Italian dressing.

"Ooh, up there, the very last thing on the top shelf, on the right. That'd be a good gift for Bekah. Especially if you drew a tiny caterpillar on it. (Can you do that please)?" --> An empty red bottle, which wasn't so easy to draw a caterpillar on, so my sister drew one on paper, cut it out, and taped it to the bottle.

"I really have no idea what Joel wants, but one of his recent Facebook posts began with 'TLDR,' so that must be some sort of clue. What would you say is the most 'too long' thing in the next aisle over?" --> A shoehorn you could use while standing

"Oh, right there, Bethany told me she really wants that thing to your left. Even though it's kind of gross." --> A wooden birdhouse to assemble.

"What would you say is the MOST orange thing on that middle shelf? Dad would be happy with that, I think." --> An orange bag of dog treats. (My family does not have a dog.)

"At first glance you'd think that thing on the bottom shelf is what Mom wants LEAST, but it's actually what she wants most! She's just too embarrassed to say it!" --> A bag of Epsom salts.

"Definitely get Seth the fifth thing in that stack. Oh, and that round thing behind you! Those go so well together! What an amazing duo gift for him!" --> A large aluminum cake pan and a box of moon pies. (As far as gifts going together, it could be worse.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Worst Movies I Saw in 2019

Just to even things out, here are the 20 worst movies I saw for the first time in 2019, most of which were part of my attempt to watch 100 movies from 1968. Turns out there are a LOT of bad movies from that year. Fight me on these if you want!

20. Legendary Weapons of China (1982). I'm sure this is better than my ranking. I just think kung fu movies are so boring.

19. Epic (2013). This movie is such a nonentity, I had to go look up my review to remember what it was even about.

18. Will Penny (1967). There were a LOT of westerns in 1968, solidifying for me how very dull and one-note I find cowboy characters.

17. Blade Runner 2049 (2017). I don't like the original Blade Runner and I don't like sequels, so this was probably unexpected.

16. Cocktail (1988). Did Tom Cruise show someone his party trick of flipping liquor bottles and someone say, "Let's make a movie about this, but, yeah, that bottle trick, that's the heart of it"?

15. Pretty Poison (1968). A pretty upsetting movie where I think I'm supposed to kind of root for the leads to be together when she is 16 and he is an adult. Later plot twists don't make this any less upsetting.

14. Jezebel (1938). It's like Gone With the Wind, but with less likable characters and less interesting cinematography.

13. Mute (2018). What a wildly disappointing, dull, ugly take on what could have been a good premise.

12. Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). This is the laziest kind of biopic.

11. You Were Never Really Here (2017). I don't think Lynne Ramsay and I speak the same film language. I just didn't "get" this one.

10. Wuthering Heights (1939). Oh my goodness, do I hate these characters.

9. Devil's Knot (2013). A very messily made movie about a very interesting true crime case.

8. Graveyard of Honor (2002). The last non-1968 movie in the bottom 20 for me. This character is wildly unappealing and I just didn't want to see him on screen anymore.

7. Shalako (1968). Another bland western. Sean Connery as a cowboy is very weird.

6. The Green Berets (1968). This pro-Vietnam-War movie feels like far more propaganda than storytelling, and I'm not interested in that.

5. Murder a la Mod (1968). A very early Brian de Palma which is all over the place.

4. Greetings (1968). Yet another very early Brian de Palma, and it's exceptionally student film-esque.

3. The Birthday Party (1968). I'm sure there's art behind both this play and this movie adaptation, but I just don't get it.

2. Barbarella (1968). This is so boring and sexploitational which isn't my style at all.

1. Head (1968). A truly nonsensical, dull movie that just feels like the Monkees trying to be the Beatles.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Best Movies I Saw in 2019

Did I write this blog on December 21? Heck no! Am I still going to write one and hope I can pick back up with this daily blogging thing after the chaos of the holidays? Heck yes!

So everyone else is doing year-end (and now decade-end) posts. I'll jump on board and tell you my top 20 movies that I saw in 2019. Doesn't mean they came out in 2019, just that I saw them this year.

20. Miss Saigon (2015). A filmed production of the stage musical, which is not without its problems but has some truly gorgeous performances.

19. Finian's Rainbow (1968)What a weird little movie, but gorgeous cinematography that really makes the most of its musical numbers.

18. Dead Ringers (1988). Easily my favorite Cronenberg so far, I think. Dark and unsettling but so compelling.

17. Kuroneko (1968). I'm finding I really love Japanese folk horror, and this is a great example of it.

16. My Name Is Joe (1998). A thoughtful and touching drama. The same director did another film much higher on my list that I'll point out when we get to it.

15. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968). This title is so apt, because this movie just oozes loneliness. And what a great performance from Alan Arkin.

14. Romeo and Juliet (1968). I love theater but not always Shakespeare, as even professional performances of his works so often feel stilted to me, like the actors are still wrestling with the speech. This is natural and lovely.

13. Woman in the Dunes (1964). The images from this film continue to haunt me. (In a good way.)

12. Dreams (1990). A strange little anthology film from Akira Kurosawa, and while they vary in terms of quality, it's so fascinating.

11. The Cameraman (1928). This is such a charming and funny little film. Keaton's eye for gags is so perfect.

10. Shoplifters (2018). I haven't seen a lot of foreign films from last year, but this one is such an interesting, touching story.

9. Broadcast News (1987). Pretty sure I just want to be Holly Hunter's friend in this movie. She's so relatable.

8. Knives Out (2019). A gloriously classic whodunnit that still feels seamlessly modern. That's an impressive feat.

7. The Seventh Continent (1989). Oh, OOF. My heart was punched out of my chest with this one.

6. The Kindergarten Teacher (2018). Maggie Gyllenhaal is a terrifying villain in this story, and you see her self-justifications every step of the way. What a powerful performance.

5. A Simple Plan (1998). A crime story that surprisingly roped me in from minute one. The build of tension is perfect.

4. Eighth Grade (2018). What a ridiculously relatable movie.

3. Mirai (2018). One of the most sweet and charming films I've ever seen about childhood. It captures the infuriating powerlessness of being about three years old.

2. Kes (1969). By the same director as My Name Is Joe (my #16). It's a sad and beautiful story of a young boy's relationship with a falcon he manages to train.

1. Us (2019). I think I like this even better than Get Out. Jordan Peele continues to knock it out of the park.

Monday, January 20, 2020

I Miss Blogging

So I haven't really written here in awhile. Some of that is just being busy, some of that is getting caught up in long elaborate blog posts that I never finish, some of that is that I've been medium depressed for awhile... I've just lost my momentum.

But I just read somebody else's blog, and they boldly proclaimed they were going to blog every day. Even if it was only a couple of sentences.

Well, that sounds nice.

So I'm doing a thing. I'm writing a blog every day but not publishing it until a month out. So this one you're seeing right now was written on December 20th. This allows me to cancel all of them if I write three blogs in this ambitious goal and then give up. It also means I won't spend as much time going over and over and over how I want to say something, because I can always post it now and go back in and fix it later. (This is a trick I've been using to manage email anxiety, and it helps me actually get stuff done.)

So yeah. You may see a blog every day from me. In fact, if this posts, I think you can expect a few more. We'll see what I find to write about on a day-to-day basis, but the fact that I haven't blogged seriously in several years probably means there's a good chunk of stuff sitting there just waiting to be written.

Here we go.