The Best Movies I've Watched This Year
I'm pretty late to the game with a lot of movies so the ones listed will not actually be from 2020. Here we go ...
1) Body Double, Brian De Palma, 1984: The movie is about mistaken identities, is set in 1980s Los Angeles, and ends with an interesting twist. Craig Wasson is adorable, I'm surprised he didn't have a bigger career after. Melanie Griffith is lovely, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for her because her mother, Tippi Hedren, has a big cat sanctuary called Shambala and has done a long of amazing work with big cats. I had no idea, Gregg Henry, Logan Huntzberger's dad, was so cute when he was younger!
There is a very cool movie within a movie sequence in the film where Craig Wasson's character wanders onto the set for the filming of the music video for "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I am OBSESSED with this song. It's so catchy! Holly Johnson, lead singer for the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, was in his early 20s during filming and he looks like a BABY. I wonder what it's like to have such monster success when you're so young.
Here is a PG-13 version of the movie music video for "Relax." If you are easily offended, don't watch it and for the love of god, don't watch the actual music video. Let's just say it involves a rotund man dressed as a Roman emperor, some baby tiger wrestling, and some other freaky stuff.
2) Scarface, Brian De Palma, 1983: This movie is amazing. It's about the manifestation of the American Dream. Al Pacino's character decides to achieve it in a certain way that I obviously wouldn't recommend but we understand where his motivation comes from. Michelle Pfeiffer has got to be one of the most beautiful women alive. The world is yours ...
3) Session 9, Brad Anderson, 2001: This movie is consistently on the "best scary movies ever" lists. It is such a creepy, effective movie. No gore, very tight editing, there are no wasted seconds. The whole cast is excellent but Peter Mullins is the real standout. He has such a sad, expressive face. The real Danvers State Hospital has since been converted to an apartment complex which must be a little weird.
4) Bird Box, Susanne Bier, 2018: This movie is AMAZING!!!!! I saw posters for this all over LA when it premiered but I didn't watch it for the longest time because I thought the premise was far too ridiculous. But the movie is extremely good. Much more violent than I expected. They really don't hold back on anything. Sandra Bullock is amazing as always. I liked how the movie showed the progression of her ambivalence toward motherhood to becoming a fierce protector of her children. This was one of those movies where I thought I would only sit through 20 minutes before turning it off but the next thing I knew, two hours had gone by. Those are the best kinds of movies.
5) The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, various directors, 2018: I was listening to a terrific podcast called Even the Rich and they talked about the Versace family. Their story is fascinating and I remembered that Ryan Murphy created a show around the family a few years ago on netflix. This technically isn't a movie but the TV series is very good and I highly recommend it. The first thing you notice is how GOOD-LOOKING everyone is. But the story is solid, and the acting is very good. Some standouts for me:
a) Max Greenfield as Ronnie. This is a small supporting role but he looks NOTHING like he normally does in real life. I've never actually seen him in anything else but I recognized him and was shocked at his physical transformation. In reality, he is really, really handsome. It's astonishing how actors can physically change their appearance for different roles.
b) Cody Fern as David. He is terrific in this role. I really liked the scenes of him with his father. The last scene (I won't spoil here), the very obvious dream sequence of his last meeting ever with his father, made me tear up. Cody is very good and I hope he becomes a very successful actor.
c) Finn Wittrock as Jeff: He is very cute. I just have to say, there's one scene where his character says, "I'm leaving San Diego to move to Minneapolis to find myself" and I wanted to shout at the TV screen, "You're not going to find anything in Minneapolis! There's nothing there for you!" No offense to anyone in Minneapolis but I lived there for a few years and his character was just not going to fit in.
6) Mia and the White Lion, Gilles de Maistre, 2018: Anyone who knows me knows I never shut up about big cats. This movie is about a young girl growing up with a white lion in Africa. They actually used a real lion, and the movie is filmed through the course of three years so we see the girl and the lion grow up together in real time.
There's a big cat education and conservation center called Project Survival Cat Haven up in Dunlap, CA, right outside of Sequoia National Park, that I visit often and they took in a baby white lion named Barafu last year that looks just like the lion in the movie. Barafu is now a year old and I can't wait to watch him grow up to be a big, strong, handsome white lion just like in the movie.
7) Bombshell, Jay Roach, 2019: I'm a huge fan of both Charlize Theron and Megyn Kelly. Once again, movie transformations can be amazing. Charlize looked virtually identical to Megyn Kelly. Margot Robbie is overrated. Yeah, I said it. FIGHT ME. I haven't been impressed with anything she's done. This movie is highly entertaining. Several elements are taken from Megyn's book Settle for More, which is a very solid biography. Megyn is very honest about her life and what she has failed at, succeeded at, and what she's learned over the years. There was none of that "Kumbaya, let's all lean in and hold hands and take over the world and all your dreams will come true" nonsense. Megyn cuts straight to the point, just like she is in real life and I found that utterly refreshing.
8) Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, Joe Berlinger, 2019: This is the netflix biopic about serial killer Ted Bundy. I HATED the trailer. It was too violent and set the wrong tone for the movie.
The movie itself is actually amazing. It's not violent at all, except for one very quick shot at the end. Its more a character study into Bundy and his former girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall. Lily Collins and Zac Efron are very good in this film. They have such baby faces that they look like teenagers playing dress up. This movie has one of the most effective endings I've ever seen. The song is a haunting Marco Beltrami remix of Mozart's song "The Magic Flute Queen of the Night Aria."
9) Hustlers, Lorene Scafaria, 2019: This movie was based on the Jamie Pressler article "The Hustlers at Scores". This is an incredibly good movie. Jennifer Lopez is outstanding. Once again, it's about achieving the American dream. I wouldn't recommend it the way the women did it in the film but just like in Scarface, there are certain people who come from nothing and have the grit and determination to go to the very top. I don't see this trait in many people so I like watching movies that explore this idea.
10) Molly's Game, Aaron Sorkin, 2017: This movie is based on the book by Molly Bloom called Molly's Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World. This movie was terrific. Moves very fast, super tight editing, movie was over before I knew it. Jessica Chastain is very good. The casting of Michael Cera is brilliant. His character is based on a real-life actor (I'm not going to name who here but you can easily find out who online) who is always cast as genuine, Pollyanna-type people but is apparently the exact opposite in real life. Once again, this movie is about a person who rises to the top in an industry I wouldn't recommend but you've got to admire their grit.
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.