Jurassic Park & Winter’s Bone

Jurassic Park – The classic movie is pretty thin outside of nostalgia. I enjoyed the dinosaurs and it is certainly fun to watch them rip and scare. However, it begins to feel like a basic monster movie pretty quickly. The characters themselves are pretty flat, all of whom are only there to act scared. While the cast is talented, they are given little to work with in terms of their own development. Jeff Goldblum is particularly useless as Dr. Ian Malcolm, the movie would have gone almost the exact same with or without him. Another character sat on a toilet and was eaten. That is all I remember of him.

It delivers on dinosaurs and action. If that is all you are looking for than you will be pleased. If you are looking for bold storytelling or facsinating themes of playing God, this will not be the movie for you. It has some intersting moments to be sure, but it trades them for cheap scares. It is fun, but not that good. C+

Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik’s 2018 film Leave No Trace was one of my favorite to come out last year, and was incredibly undervalued throughout last years awards. Winter’s Bone, one of Granik’s earlier films, shows her also able to extract empathy from unknown characters, and approach the subject matter with curiosity and sensitivity. It also creates a captivating story where someone normal does an extraordinary thing in extraordinary circumstances. She does not make excuses. She does not boast or speak for too long. She just does what she must. This along with a stellar performance from Jennifer Lawrence make this a terrific film.  A-

Layer Cake, A Serious Man, & Chernobyl

*From now on I will be grading using a letter grade system. The grading system will range from an A to F. This should be easier to understand and give me less room to overrate. I apologize for switching suddenly but I have come to the conclusion it will be easier to use.*

Layer Cake – Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake seems at first like something you have watched before. A crime movie about someone who has set up a successful front, and who swears he can get out. He is soon pull back in, and the world begins to unravel. It is complicated, and at times too much so for its own good. It can become tricky to follow, and I had to make sure to follow each point. Certain pieces get lost in the fray, and  I think making the movie 15 minutes longer to explain things would have helped.

However, the movie’s emphasis on a tight structure and a chiseled atmosphere serve it well in the end. The movie never loses its steam and finds ways to surprise and excite. The ending is also brilliant. In the layer cake of crime films, this one is a winner.  A-

A Serious Man – The Coen Brothers deliver some of their best heartbreak and irreverence with A Serious Man. Michael Stuhlbarg delivers a terrific performance as Larry Gopnik, a man struggling to figure out why everything around is going terribly. It also asks fascinating questions about religion and death, paralleling the book of Job all the while. This film has certain oddities as does all of the Coen Brother’s work. There are scenes that almost wash over you but are hard to justify in the overall context of the movie. It also ends in a slightly wistful and interpretative area. A Serious Man is far from perfect, but finds areas of brilliance throughout the movie. B+

I recently finished watching the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, and it is one of the most necessary pieces of art to come out this year. Some of its historical fictionalizing is tough to square, but it is brilliant and compelling throughout. The culture of the Soviet Union and the pride of their country also come through, making for a fascinating piece of work. If you have HBO, please go and watch Chernobyl.
A

 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of Quentin Tarantino’s best

It’s official old buddy, I’m a has-been.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – I love Quentin Tarantino, he could write a phone book and I would probably praise it as genius. So it means something when I say not only is this film brilliant, but it’s one of Tarantino’s best. From the man who taught me to love film, has outdone himself once again.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a story of place, nostalgia, and fear for the future. It shows a man struggling to figure out what’s next, spinning in the beautiful Los Angeles sunlight and the rhythm of a Hollywood golden age. It is a film anchored by terrific performances, that captures Tarantino at its best while also allowing him to differ from his previous work. Here the film is about the importance of an era and the characters that could have populated it, and relies less on violence to get that point across.

Hollywood in 1969 is realized in beautiful detail, from the spinning lights, smooth cars, and easygoing songs. From appearances by Bruce Lee, to fun moments at the Playboy Mansion, it gives us the best of that era.

This movie could have easily become a toy, something to look at but not examine too deeply. Thankfully it is a thoughtful film as well, and has plenty of terrific and serious moments to anchor it.  Leo is terrific as Rick Dalton, managing to bring melancholy and muse to the character. Dalton is looking back wondering where to go now. From the long stares, to crying over a novel that’s particularly timely, Dicaprio seems to embody Tarantino. The torture and the pain is a terrific touch, with lines and great scenes to go along with it.

However, he is bested by his partner Brad Pitt, delivering a terrific performance as Dalton’s stunt double Cliff Booth. Cool, funny, but pained all the same, Booth is the soul that in Dalton needs. He is funny, but also gives a jolt when needed. Both men deliver endearing performances, at points in their careers when it was easy to wonder if they had anything left.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is how Tarantino plays with the expectations. While I will not spoil anything, just know that even with all that has been written about the Manson murders, expect the unexpected. It is a brilliant and charming twist on a tale told over and over again.

9/10

 

 

Good Night, and Good Luck, Taxi Driver, & USWNT

Good Night, and Good Luck – George Clooney directs the film about the late Ed Murrow, and his takedown of Senator Joe McCarthy. Murrow was a terse writer, blunt and calculated in his attacks. The movie’s tone matches that to some degree and so does the film’s message. Joe McCarthy and others like him were wrong, and this film makes no concessions on that. It is interesting to see the work place and how it operated. Clooney does a great job of immersing you in the moment, using black and white as well as old clips to really immerse people in the atmosphere of television in the time period.  Unfortunately, there is not that much to be gained from this movie that could not already be learned. It is a good film, but not a great one, and one that does not entirely justify its existence. With that said, every single person should watch Murrow’s full newscast on McCarthy. It is still brilliant. 7/10

Taxi Driver In Taxi Driver, Senator Palantine’s campaign slogan is “we are the people”, implying that he is among the people who suffered in Vietnam and who have suffered as a country. Does he really understand what the people have gone through, does he know his people?

This movie has been a cornerstone in the film industry forever, and one of the main reasons is how it challenges the idea that anyone can no what some of us are going through. Travis Bickle is a unique character, defined by his loneliness and his social ineptitude. His loneliness is relatable, his social ineptitude causes him problems. That seems to be the story of his life and it makes Bickle do horrible things.

This film is not only about capturing a character but about capturing a moment, and it does so very well. While it can stall and meander, it is a worthwhile watch for any film fan, and for anyone trying to get a sense of Post-Vietnam America. 8.5/10

This USWNT is a team we do not deserve, but one we are so fortunate to get. They were incredible throughout and today’s final was emblematic of a team performance. Rose Lavelle also gets to have an incredible moment and score in a World Cup Final. An incredible group and an incredible team. Congratulations USWNT! Live it up!

KAWHI AND PG! I MUST BE DREAMING!

If this is a dream, I do not want to wake up. Today, Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers and Paul George is getting traded to the Clippers. OH MY GOD!!!

I shall not bore you with the story of my everlasting love for the LA Clippers, as courtly and as beautiful as it may be. I will tell you that it is genuinely shocking to be in this moment. When I first fell in love with the team, The Clippers were the laughing stock of the NBA. No one came to games. Clipper Daryl would scream his heart out, and the 30 other people in the arena would respond with glory. When Lob City came to LA, the momentum of the franchise shifted drastically. That momentum however, was halted by an owner too ignorant to admit he was wrong.

Steve Ballmer set things in a new direction, and he hired Jerry West. West brought with him a vision of an organization that could win a title. Now that organization is finally here.

I cannot say enough about the Clippers team this past year. Everyone wanted to talk about LeBron and the new look Lakers. It never bothered this group. This team showed grit and determination when no one even paid attention. They came and gave the Warriors a run for their money, and showed impressive heart throughout the year. A team led by two guys coming off the bench, found new hope. I also cannot say enough about Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, both of whom played their hearts out this year. Shai and Danilo will continue to do great things and I am excited to see their futures in Oklahoma City.

Today is a day that has been years in the making. The Lob City years were great, but our shot at winning the title was never really tangible. Today, the possibility of winning a title feels real. Clipper Nation, this year is our year.

 

Toy Story 4 & A Book Review I wrote

Toy Story 4 – This movie is another great addition into the Pixar canon and for whatever reason I doubted it. The third movie seemed like the perfect conclusion to the series. Making a fourth film just seemed like a money grab.

In spite of my fears, this movie completely justifies its existence and hits every beat. The fact that we have seen these characters and this group so many times, definitely takes away from the wonder and excitement of the first few films. Even with that, the movie glides with such confidence and fun, its hard not to feel yourself falling back into the traps of that world.

It also finds ways to play with the conventions of good and evil, allowing for empathy and understanding. It gives time for toys to discover themselves, and what brings them together. This movie never treats its audience as stupid, but still gives ample amount of fun for even the smallest of children.

Calling this a kids movie is selling it short. It is a movie appropriate for kids that can be enjoyed by all. The best Pixar movies are more powerful for adults, and Toy Story 4 is no different. While some of the initial charm from the series is taken away, this movie is still a must-see for any Pixar fan. 9/10

The author does a terrific job of simplifying and defining the dilemma, but the rest of the book misses multiple opportunities to address it.

I have been working as an intern for the Washington Examiner and got to write a book review on Tyler Cowen’s book Big Business. Please check it out! I will be trying to see more movies this summer so I will be coming back with more reviews so stay tuned for those as well.

USWNT vs. France Reaction, The Democratic Debate, & A Fascinating Abortion Article

If you did not watch the USWNT game against host nation France in the World Cup I can give you the summary: these women from the U.S. are absolute badasses.

France had home-field advantage, with the momentum to match. This was the most talented team that the U.S. women had ever faced on the world stage. Many thought this was the time France would finally overtake the U.S. Not only did the U.S. women never get rattled, they controlled the game from start to finish. Calling it impressive is an understatement. These women were giants.

It is hard to single out one girl on the pitch because all of them were incredible. Megan Rapinoe continues to be an American Hero, willing this team further and further still with two goals and an endless fighting spirit. Crystal Dunn was not on the world cup team in 2015, and this game yesterday was the biggest game of her career. She stepped up big time on the defensive end. Alex Morgan did not score a goal, but found ways to open up her teammates and broke down the French back line.

Those are just a few performances from what was ultimately a team victory. I do not know how much this group will get paid, nor do I care about that right now. What I know is this team is capable of giving me just as much joy as any other team I support. They may not be as “good” as the guys but to me it does not matter. It is impossible not to feel an immense surge of pride when Megan Rapinoe scored from a set-piece, and gave a celebration worth a thousand words. I love this team, and I wish them the best against England in the semifinal.

I could never in a million years vote for Donald Trump. So my question to Democrats is: Will there be a candidate I can vote for?

[The Democrats] are competing for the support of the angry voters they read on Twitter—overlooking the many millions of people uniquely available to the non-incumbent party in what should be a pro-incumbent cycle.

The first quote is from David Brooks. Sometimes, I wonder if I could just give my thoughts over to Brooks and just let him take over. He would probably say what I am feeling, just in a slightly more eloquent way. The other is from David Frum, another David I think highly of. Both summarize my overall opinion on the debate very well: the democrats should worry.

Incumbency is a powerful force, and even though Donald Trump is so disliked, he is still the favorite. In a year where the incumbent is this disliked however, there are plenty of available voters toward the middle who have no idea who to vote for. Yet, with the exception of Joe Biden, John Hickenlooper and a few others, the democrats seemed determined to feed their base. This strategy will most likely not work.

In terms of policy proposals and experience, Biden seems best prepared to take the mantle and win the election. Yet, when it comes to debates and personal attacks, he seems ill-prepared. If he cannot handle a prepared line from Kamala Harris, how can he possibly handle the barrage of attacks from Trump? This would not be horrible, if there were other candidates who could take the nomination who held similar views. Most of the candidates however, seem more left of center than ever before.

The person who is probably best equipped to handle attacks from Trump is Harris. But like the most of the candidates onstage, she has endorsed things that could spell trouble for her down the line. She raised her hand to endorse public insurance over private insurance and hedged later, she (along with everyone on stage) endorsed giving illegal immigrants healthcare. She also showed an unwillingness to work with other branches. If congress won’t do their job the way I want, I will sign an executive order and make sure they are doing it the way I want. This is a bad way to govern, even if it has been done before and feels right.

It is possible that the electorate is genuinely more polarized than ever. It is possible that this strategy will work. But I find it hard to believe. I really hope Donald Trump is not president in 2021. If this continues, I will not be surprised if my hope does not come true.

 

We weren’t just talking about nausea and swollen feet and low back pain. She and I are abortion doctors. We routinely perform procedures well into our patients’ second trimester, when the fetus is well-formed and easily recognizable as humanlike, even “life”-like. Baby-like.

Abortion is an issue I have struggled with in some respects, especially as I have moved through the conservative world. Writing for a conservative paper this summer, I am practically the only one who is pro-choice. My reasons for supporting the position have changed but my views have not. Yet, it is fascinating to hear so many arguments that disagree with my own.

This article, written by an abortion doctor who became a mother, is enlightening. Abortion is often treated as clear-cut by whoever argues for whatever side. It is going to be tricky, even for the people tasked with doing this. For this women she has to believe that she is in the right. Yet, there is still guilt.

When we forget how emotional these situations can be for so many, and treat people who disagree with us as the problem, we take the seriousness out of the issue. I believe women have the right to decide if a baby lives or dies within them, because they are the caretakers of the species. But with all of that said, do I understand why many are so angry and upset by abortion practices? Of course I do.

Ken Burns’s The Vietnam War

Sometimes, I think if we thought we weren’t always the good guys, we might actually get into less wars. – Karl Marlantes

The Vietnam War is an incredibly consequential point in our history, and a period I lacked knowledge in. I had been avoiding watching Ken Burns documentary on the period, because of how much time it would take it. 17 hours of rousing and brilliant storytelling later and I regret not watching it earlier.

The Vietnam War captures the instability, the insanity, and the uproar while finding times for stories of smaller scale. The blending of the general plot with little subplots along the way make it feel so much more emotionally rewarding. From Karl Marlantes to Hal Kushner, to big names like Tim O’Brien and smaller but very important ones like John Musgrave, each talking head comes to life.

To me this is an incredibly important series, one that goes beyond politics and delivers a searing account of an important point in our history. If you have never seen this, it is worth every minute of the 17 hour run time. 10/10

 

 

The Toronto Raptors Earned This

Congratulations to The Toronto Raptors on an incredible season. This NBA postseason was genuinely thrilling for the first time in years, and I enjoyed every second.

When Kawhi was first traded I was initially critical. Trading the face of the franchise for a guy who could bolt to Los Angeles the next year seemed like a mistake. However, you have to credit Masai Uriji for taking a huge risk. Kawhi bought in immediately to the Raptors program, and made the trade worth it.

I also cannot say enough about Kawhi Leonard’s leadership. Watching him off the court, his stoicism seems off-putting. Who would want to play with this guy? Does he have fun on the weekends? Whatever impression that may give off, that combination of calmness and tenacity inspires his teammates to be their best selves. His attitude and self-belief sets an example for everyone to follow. In the past, going down to the Magic 1-0, being down to the Sixers 2-1, would have all been reasons for the Raptors to cave. His unflappability is what this team needed, and Kawhi has helped them emulate that attitude. That installment of belief into this team is the defining difference between the Raptors of past years and the Raptors of this year. Kawhi deserves all of the credit in the world for that.

Leonard’s future remains unclear as my beloved Clippers seem to be in his sights. While I would love him to be a member of my team, I can totally understand why he would want to stay. He has an entire country behind him, and is in a winning situation. Regardless, I am incredibly happy for Toronto and I am happy to see them be crowned champions.

Burning & Elizabeth Warren

Burning – One of last year’s most critically acclaimed films, Burning has a quiet rage stemming throughout. It operates in subtleties, in many ways akin with Korean culture. It manages to carry weight without expressing it full stop. It is a good movie, but its story failed to really connect with me. It has some great performances and a story that cuts deep. It takes too long to develop, and really lost me at points. I enjoyed its undertones and deep seated anger, but I wish it was more polished. 7.5/10

In short, where Sanders seeks to steer capitalism toward socialism, Warren is bent on saving capitalism for all—and from itself.

The Bulwark, a site dedicated to Anti-Trump conservatives, is one of the most interesting sites to read right now. This Bulwark article discusses Elizabeth Warren’s importance in this election, an area which I had never really considered. Warren’s proposals are radical, from free college to massive increases in childcare. However, her ability to create so many policy proposals in such a short time span, have left others playing catch-up.

To hear about her importance from a conservative publication is particularly striking, especially considering how much she differs from conservative thought. Her proposals in many ways stem in the opposite direction from what many on the right hope to obtain from capitalism. Yet what this article recognizes is the importance of specificity. Her proposals create genuine conversations, where most candidates are merely running on an idealized version of what they would “like” to see for the country and themselves. While I may not vote for Warren in the end, her candidacy is still very important and I am glad that it is being treated that way.