Having recently reflected about what I want to get out of DangerClassified the website, I concluded that it’d be fun if it served as a time capsule that I could look back on in a few decades and laugh about how wrong I was about everything. With that in mind, I figured it would be fun to do more time-specific postings, so I could better connect my age with my thought process.
Opinions about movies are very low stakes, so I’ll start there.
As someone who watches a lot of films, I’ve historically kept track of what I’ve seen in a private spreadsheet to shift the burden of recollection to a source that never forgets. Usually I’ll jot down a few sentences as a review, but mainly I rely on the very advanced green/yellow/red coloring system to express how I felt about the movie. Quick and easy.
With the decision to go public, I’ve expanded the length of my thoughts while keeping them very digestible. I also decided to only talk about movies I enjoyed, because I didn’t want to contribute more anger to the internet, especially when it comes to subjectivity and taste (if you ask me in person what I didn’t like … well that’s a different story.)
Note: This is not a list of obscure deep cuts, it’s just a collection of greens presented in whatever order I felt like.
You know, they say it’s a sign of genius to cast Cate Blanchett in a movie.
This is my favorite film of the year. I adore character studies, and the way that writer/director Todd Field chose to dole out the pertinent information about Lydia Tár’s story over the course of the film instead of all at once at the beginning was a brilliant decision. Field allowed the audience to see who Tár was from all sides, enabling us to hold complicated feelings for the character as we sank deeper into her world. The film is shades of gray.
And as well-made as the movie is, it’s able to achieve such heights because of the towering lead performance by its star, Cate Blanchett, for which she earned a Best Actress nomination. The way Blanchett inhabits Tár’s self-created mythology (a fancy way of saying her self-deception) is a magnificent example of acting craft. The lengthy 2 hour and 38 minute runtime flies by.
It’s these kinds of films that give me hope that the art form still has life in it.
A meditation on spectacle.
It’s been a good while since a monster movie knocked my socks off like this one did. Jordan Peele’s third effort on the big screen (Get Out (2017); Us (2019)) as writer/director might just be his best yet. Not only is this his most ambitious story, but the way Peele went about achieving the scope, by planting seeds early on which bore fruit by the end … that’s storytelling, that’s movie making.
Without spoiling too much, I think the best word to describe the movie is “disturbing”, with major two scenes in the middle of the film embodying this (I chose to watch both through the gaps in my fingers.) The only negative thing I have to say about this compelling thrill ride of a movie is that it’d be tough to watch more than once a year, given its intense nature.
The two leads, Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, both gave terrific and memorable performances, as did Steven Yeun, and the rest of the cast was mostly very good. The cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema was purely excellent, which could not have been easy given how simultaneously big and small the movie is.
The film was built to be seen in a theater, as the monster element is meant to dwarf the viewer, while the darkness and packed cinema imparts a sense of claustrophobia, further facilitating the feelings of terror. The people who I’ve spoken to who saw it at home on a smaller screen told me they had trouble connecting with the movie, which is obviously disappointing.
Top Gun: Maverick
Miracle 1: This movie got made. Miracle 2: It’s stellar.
The most common unforced error that action movies inflict upon themselves is when they prioritize the fight scenes over the people doing the fighting. The reason this is a mistake is because it’s difficult to care about the outcome of a battle when there’s no emotional ties to the people brawling. Explosions may make for arousing visuals, but when done for their own sake they quickly become dull.
The director of Top Gun: Maverick, Joseph Kosinski, got the formula right by putting the pilots ahead of the planes. Near the end of the movie when Tom Cruise leads the younger aviators into enemy territory, we’re pushed to the edge of our seat because of the interpersonal relationships that were foregrounded, creating a high stakes climax. When in doubt, movies should focus on well-written characters, because that tends to stand the test of time.
Another aspect that makes this movie highly watchable is it’s essentially two hours of wish fulfillment for Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell character. There’s even an intriguing fan theory which posits that Maverick actually dies in the Mach 10 explosion at the beginning of the movie, and what follows is a death dream. This would account for the lack of specifics with who the villains are and why Cruise is thrust into a position where he’s able to get closure for his guilt from decades prior. The movie can be watched with or without this viewpoint, which is how all good fan theories should work.
Finally, perhaps the most interesting detail of the movie actually took place off-screen: When filming was completed in the spring of 2019, and post-production a year after that, the movie was ready for public consumption just as the world was sent into COVID lockdowns, which obviously included theaters. Paramount Pictures, which spent $170 million making the movie, weren’t thrilled with the idea of keeping it on the shelf for an extended period, so they eventually announced that they would debut it on their new newly created streaming service, Paramount+, in the hopes that it would drive people to subscribe. This plan ran into problems though when the Paramount executives went to Tom Cruise to get his approval, and he very simply told them “no”.
Cruise is probably the only movie star in the world with enough juice to pull this off, and that’s because in an era of rising ticket prices and falling attendance, his movies still put butts in seats, and Paramount was willing to do whatever it took to preserve their relationship with him. So, Cruise got his way and the movie was held until the summer of 2022, where the marketing pivoted to this being the film that would re-open theaters to a mass audience. When the dust finally settled, Cruise got the glory, as the film went on to make nearly $1.5 billion, positioning it as the 12th highest grossing movie of all time.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
To truly love someone means accepting them on their terms, not yours.
I’m normally pretty aware of what the most anticipated movies are each year, but EEAAO was not on my radar. I heard a couple good reviews of it, so I trekked out to my local theater to give it a shot, and while most everything in life is aided by a lack of expectations, this movie would’ve been an utter delight no matter how much it had been built up.
On its face the movie is about nihilism, but it goes a step further than that because it’s really about not letting meaninglessness stop you from finding people you love and cherishing them. Despite a dense storyline (the multiverse plays an integral part in this movie), it still manages to be a fun romp, with extremely thrilling and funny action scenes. I don’t know how the writer/director team of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as “The Daniels”) concocted such a raucous movie, but the world is much better off for its existence.
This film went on to become such a crowd pleaser that it got more Oscar nominations than any other movie released in 2022, including four of the 20 total acting nominations: Michelle Yeoh, Best Actress; Ke Huy Quan, Best Supporting Actor; Stephanie Hsu, Best Supporting Actress; Jamie Lee Curtis, Best Supporting Actress. All deserved.
Essentially a superhero movie featuring dance numbers!
This movie is from India’s “Tollywood” (films made in the Telugu language) and it’s the first one of its kind that I’ve seen. Apparently, movies from India are known for their long runtimes, and it’s a high compliment to say that I was never bored during the whole 3-hour commitment. The movie is extremely over-the-top, deftly walking the line between being outrageous and transcendent, but it never strays from being entertaining.
At its core, the movie really works because of the chemistry and rootability of its two leads: N.T. Rama Rao Jr. & Ram Charan Teja. Despite both of their characters being historical figures, the movie elevates their abilities to such a degree that they could easily fit in a Marvel movie. In fact, if Kevin Feige’s smart, he’s already made a few phone calls inquiring about the pair’s availability.
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
BJ Novak’s film debut as writer/director fires on all cylinders from nearly start to finish, with his sense of humor in high gear as he channels it through cultural criticism. B.J. very smartly pokes fun at “both sides” of the modern-day political spectrum, which simultaneously allows the audience to laugh at the onscreen people they don’t like, while leaving the door open for them to perhaps recognize the ridiculous side of themselves in the characters whom they do align with.
B.J. himself also stars in the movie, and he makes a good decision to have his character’s cynical outlook sweetened by the end of the film, finishing the at-times bleak story in a positive light. In general, the supporting cast was quite good, with Ashton Kutcher stealing every scene he’s in while playing against type as a dramatic character. Though I do have a quibble with the movie’s ending, it wasn’t enough to sour me overall on the film.
We’re all just distracting ourselves til we die.
Right up front: This movie is not for everyone. Hell, it might not even be for me. I mean I genuinely don’t know whether it’s good or not. But I always admire a big swing, and director Noah Baumbach took one here.
The movie is based on Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel by the same name, which for years had been considered impossible to take to the screen. Baumbach, who has an overall deal with Netflix and therefore a greenlight to basically make whatever he wants, decided now was the right moment to try his hand at adapting the unadaptable. There’s no time like the present, I suppose.
The movie focuses on an average family living in an average town, when a train carrying noxious gas derails nearby, resulting in a “toxic airborne event”. Each person in the family, parented by Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig, has their own opinion about how to deal with the fallout, and ultimately they decide to hit the road to try to escape the poisonous cloud.
What sets this story apart from others like it is the satirical dialogue, which Baumbach directs his actors to deliver with flat intonations to allow the daffy words to speak for themselves. This makes for a very bizarre viewing experience, but it evokes a recent favorite of mine, The Art of Self-Defense (2019), so it’s right up my alley.
Driver remains the most interesting actor working today, and I admire his ongoing working relationship with Baumbach. Here’s to many more movies.
How many men suffer in silence?
Simply put, this is a devastating film about the quiet loneliness of a man’s depression, as seen through the eyes of his daughter. What makes this film so effective is that it’s an accurate reflection of how it typically goes in life, because if someone doesn’t share how they’re feeling it’s near impossible to know what’s going on in their head.
The father, played so brilliantly by Paul Mescal that he earned an Oscar nomination, is a character whose inner pain and indifference toward the world is something we’re only given brief glimpses at. A particular moment that will stick with me is when Mescal’s brushing his teeth and suddenly spits at the mirror, which happens so quickly that I became shocked into wondering if my eyes had played a trick on me. As for the daughter, she’s played by newcomer Frankie Corio, and she very impressively matched Mescal’s acting, and earned herself more roles in the future.
Overall, this is a stunning debut feature from writer/director Charlotte Wells, and it sticks with you long after the credits have rolled. My only warning for anyone planning to watch the film is to prepare to be in a certain headspace, because it will take you to places you may not be ready for.
Judge by actions, not words.
This is a genuinely fun horror movie, mostly because it manages to find a number of laughs along the way. Perhaps that’s not all that surprising, given writer/director Zach Cregger has an extensive comedy background from his time in the sketch group Whitest Kids U’Know.
The plot also has plenty of engaging twists and turns that keep you guessing throughout, and most importantly, the characters generally act in ways consistent with their situation, which is crucial for suspending your disbelief during a horror movie. The lead, Georgina Campbell, was brand new to me, but she was very convincing playing a part that could’ve been fumbled in a lesser actor’s hands.
I would’ve loved a more ruthless and complicated finish, but the movie by-and-large works from beginning to end, and Justin Long’s character arc is worth the price of admission.
Triangle of Sadness
… plus absurdity, equals comedy.
I found this to be a very engaging film, mainly due to how many quality jokes it packs into its rich vs poor satire. I also particularly enjoyed how the story rotates between large-scale and small-scale, and that it manages to be both opaque and straightforward.
I’ve read negative opinions of the film that say the cultural criticism it’s aiming for has been overdone, and while that may be true, this one is interesting enough that I think it supersedes many of the films that came before it, and therefore will be looked back on fondly.
The writer/director, Ruben Östlund, specializes in these types of dark comedies, and I’m pleased that he’s steadily gaining access to bigger budgets and better casts with each film he makes.
Though I wasn’t familiar with many of the actors in this film (Woody Harrelson being the obvious exception, with his gut-busting cameo), the performers were a strength of the movie, and I was compelled to look up my favorites afterwards: Harris Dickinson, Dolly De Leon, Zlatko Buric and Charlbi Dean (who tragically died before the movie was released.)