David Benioff’s City of Thieves

After finishing Game of Thrones, I was interested in reading the book written by one of the show’s principal writers, David Benioff. I am pleased to report that the book is excellent.

City of Thieves is a book inspired by the true events of his Grandfather and takes place during the siege of Leningrad. After his Grandfather Lev is taken in by the Russian police, he meets an army deserter named Kolya. The colonel at their prison offers them a way out, to find a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding and get freedom and ration cards. If not, they would be back in prison for as long as they lived.

Benioff’s story is fun and heartbreaking, managing to weave humor with horrifying aspects of Leningrad during siege time. The prose is also easy to understand and deft. It is a short book but an incredibly fun and fascinating read. This is an excellent historical fiction book.

Atlantics, 1917 is not a good movie & Looper

Atlantics (Netflix) – This was an incredibly surprising movie. It starts as an African Romeo and Juliet type story. Then things quickly change. I do not want to say too much about this film, but it manages to combine realistic horror with fascinating themes and character building. This is an excellent foreign film overflowing with themes and ideas about what makes a person to how people can haunt us. While the film drags at points, this is a really excellent examination and a great example of storytelling. I do not want to say much else other than watch it if you have a Netflix account. A-

1917 – This year’s war movie is so bland and uninventive I am genuinely shocked it has won any awards. 1917 uses one-shot technology to make you feel as though you are present with the soldiers, and it does not work. Rather than add to the film or make it more exciting, it makes you feel like you are watching a first-person shooter video game. Viewers are held captive as watching as each successive “boss battle” gets harder and harder, only for there to be little reason to care. Frankly comparing this movie to a video game is insulting to some video games, as there are many with better stories than this.  It is distracting and unnecessary and forces the story to contract in a way that is not beneficial for the viewer. It just seems like a way to mask bad storytelling.

While I understand people will love this movie for the cinematography alone, the story is why I go to the movies. This movie fails completely in this regard. The characters are uninteresting. The story is unrealistic. The choices the characters make are hard to explain.  While the one-shot gimmick could have worked in other movies, the poor storytelling makes it difficult to justify the movie’s existence. 

For the record, the cinematography is stunning. The one-shot does work very well at certain moments. There is one shot where a character is running across a battlefield. It is beautiful and moving. Then again, I found it hard to care and just hoping for the movie to be over. There will be plenty of people who like this movie, but I am not one of them. The fact that this movie was nominated over Uncut Gems is insulting, and if 1917 wins Best Picture I will have a hard time justifying my interest in The Oscars. 1917 is one of the worst critically acclaimed movies I have seen in years, and I really hope no Academy Award member votes for this film. C+ 

Looper – Looper is set in 2044. Time travel has not been invented yet but it will be in 2074. It is outlawed and only used by major crime organizations. When crime organizations want targets eliminated they zap them back to 2044 to people called loopers who shoot them and eliminate them. One Looper, Joe, is given a target who is him 30 years later and lets him escape. Chaos ensues.

The concept of this movie alone is brilliant. The writing sends this film over the top for me. Rian Johnson does such a good job of making genre fiction new and exciting, and this film is a great example of how to embrace the paradoxes of time travel and tell a terrific story with it. Every part of it is perfect, from fast editing to terrific performances. This is one of my favorite films I have seen in a while. A+

It Comes at Night & Fleabag is so ****ing good

*The following post contains spoilers for Fleabag.*

It Comes at Night – Horror is not generally my cup of tea, but Night is taut and sharp without being over the top. I do enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction and this finds a way to nail a feeling and a moment. While it is a bit lacking at points, the story is quite good. It is told on a small scale and is more impactful than you would expect. If you are not into horror films, this is a good one to try. B

“Love is awful. It’s awful. It’s painful. It’s frightening. It makes you doubt yourself, judge yourself, distance yourself from the other people in your life. It makes you selfish. It makes you creepy, makes you obsessed with your hair, makes you cruel, makes you say and do things you never thought you would do. It’s all any of us want, and it’s hell when we get there. So no wonder it’s something we don’t want to do on our own.” – Hot Priest

Fleabag (Amazon Prime) is an incredible work of art, with terrific writing and innovative style. While Season 1 is excellent, the second season is its best. It is so inventive and heartbreaking, some of the scenes took my breath away.

Where the first season is focused on building the Fleabag character as she tries to live with herself, the second focuses on how she and a priest try to live with themselves together. Fleabag questioning her past choices and the Priest questioning his faith.

Both manage to shake up each other’s faith. The priest even begins to notice how Fleabag addresses the audience. Suddenly, she can no longer escape each moment, she has to live in it fully with the priest. She has to be honest with him. She can no longer hide from others. The priest is the only one who sees Fleabag for what she is and changes her for the better.

The priest also has to live with himself. He loves God and his faith, but Fleabag makes him question it. He also falls for her and breaks his vows, forcing him to live in conflict. How can he preach love to God if he broke his vows?

The conflict and pain within these characters are so beautiful and real. I had not watched Fleabag before the end of the last year but it easily would have made my top 10 best shows of the year and of the decade. It is a remarkable piece of art, and with only 12 episodes of 20 minutes each, it is rather binge-able. Please take the time to watch it. It is phenomenal.

 

Bombshell & My Final Thoughts on Game of Thrones

Bombshell – I was surprised how much I enjoyed this movie. Directed by Jay Roach, this movie explores the Roger Ailes scandal from inside Fox News. Bombshell focuses on three characters to explain how the abuse happened, popular news anchor Megyn Kelly, initial accuser and talk show host Gretchen Carlson, and composite character Kayla Pospisil.  While the other two characters are very interesting, Kayla is easily the best part. Her response to the abuse illustrates the horror of the abuse itself, and how it happens. It is not always about the physical, much of it is psychological.

While this movie is certainly not pro Fox News, it does not get too caught up in politics. While it does illustrate Trump’s rising popularity, the movie is not interested in making a liberal statement. Bombshell’s primary focus is on workplace harassment, making for a better and more straightforward film. It is not perfect, and at times it is hard to care about every part of this film. However, it is plenty of fun and does a great job illustrating how harassment happens in the workplace. B+

“There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story” – Tyrion

In the show’s final moments, Tyrion is speaking for the writers. Nothing beats a good story, and while the ending was not perfect, it is really hard to take away from the story of this series.

The final two seasons were not the best this show had to offer. Both had plenty of ridiculous and absurd points that were odd from a fantasy perspective and from a plot perspective as well. That said, the show is incredibly well made, and even with some of the downsides is worth watching.

One episode I was particularly impressed with was the Season 6 finale. As I tweeted, it is one of the best episodes of television I have ever seen. From pacing to storytelling, everything works. The opening scene at the Sept of Baelor is one scene I will never forget.

The actors all give incredible performances, but I was particularly impressed by Sophie Turner. While I was critical of her initially, much of that had to do with her intentional aging in the show in comparison to the book. Her transformation during the show is terrific, and she sells it all the way through.

Also, I understand why many people are upset with the ending. I would have picked Sansa, as she was the best politician and Bran has too many responsibilities as the three-eyed-raven to actually serve as the Protector of the Realm. I once again say that the ending does not ruin the overall quality of the show. It is a tremendous achievement of Television, and one worth watching.

The Noah Garf Awards!

While the year and decade may be over, the best of lists have only just begun. Here are my awards for the past year and decade. Enjoy! If I left something out that you think should be included, let me know! I am a mere mortal and can only watch and read so much. I would love suggestions and recommendations!

Best Movies

2019 – Uncut Gems

I saw this movie very recently, and while I have yet to do an official review, Uncut Gems is the perfect movie for me. It’s almost as if this movie existed in some fever dream of mine somewhere. The Jewish references, the basketball, the gambling, the blistering pace; it is all incredible. The performances are also terrific as well. Adam Sandler is perfect. Julia Fox is great and a complete newcomer to acting. Kevin Garnett’s energy is terrific. The Weeknd is even in this and does really well. This movie even has tense Passover scenes! If this movie was not made for me I do not know which movie is. This is not just my favorite movie of the year but one of my favorite movies of all time. A+ (If I see it again I will write a long post about it).

Honorable Mentions: Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Knives Out, Us, The Irishman, and The Laundromat

Decade – Arrival 

There have been plenty of great movies in this decade but none are as impactful to me as Arrival. I saw this movie as a Senior in High School, I had heard good things about it but had no idea what to expect. It was so good it shocked me. The structure of the movie is still one of the smartest set-ups ever. I will not spoil it, but Arrival has so much to say about how we communicate and how we perceive the world. I thought this movie would be some strange alien invasion story. It is so much more.

The basic story is that alien-like structures have arrived around the world, and no one knows what to do. A linguist is sent to try and communicate with these foreigners. What happens next is truly terrific. I leave you to watch.

Honorable Mentions: The Social Network, Whiplash, First Reformed, Minding The Gap, Annihilation, Drive, and OJ: Made in America

Television

2019 – Watchmen

I wrote about this show plenty so I will not say too much about it. The show found a way to take the original comic material and write a new story in 2019. It is not just thrilling, but important. It changes superhero narratives and weaves it into the American experience as well. Damon Lindelof’s show is a masterpiece.

Honorable Mentions: Russian Doll, Bojack Horseman: Part 1, and Chernobyl

Shows I have not seen that might not be left out otherwise: Fleabag, Succession

Decade – Bojack Horseman

A story about a humanoid has-been horse is an odd premise for a show. What makes Bojack so great is its willingness to deal with mental health and its love for the characters. The show is very clear that Bojack and others are not great people. They do bad things. But you still care for them, because you understand their pain. There are plenty of standout episodes, “Escape from L.A.”, “Fish Out of Water”, “Time’s Arrow” and others among them. When an episode of Bojack Horseman is at its best, its emotional impact is unparalleled. No show made me feel more than Bojack, and it is going to be hard to find one that will.

Honorable Mentions: Game of Thrones, The Good Place, Atlanta, Watchmen, Archer, and Rick and Morty

Albums

2019 – Norman Fucking Rockwell by Lana Del Rey

I have never been much of a fan of Lana’s work, but Norman Fucking Rockwell blew me away. It is so heartfelt and sweeping it is hard to keep your breath the whole time. Songs like “The greatest”, “Fuck it I love you”, “Happiness is a butterfly”, and others are all so moody and beautiful it is hard not to get swept away. This is the album she had been building towards, and while I could never have seen this project coming, I am so glad it came. It is truly sensational.

Honorable Mentions: IGOR by Tyler, The Creator, Ginger by Brockhampton, Forever Turned Around by Whitney, When we all fall Asleep, Where do We Go? by Billie Eilish, 

Decade – Flower Boy by Tyler, The Creator 

Tyler, The Creator’s metamorphosis from Goblin to IGOR is so fascinating and in many ways reflects so much about the decade. Each project gave us something new from him, and are important to a different stage of his maturity and development. Tyler is my favorite artist of the decade and there are many albums I could put in this slot as my favorite of the decade. The reason I chose Flower Boy is because of what it meant for music and its cultural significance.

What Tyler, The Creator accomplished on Flower Boy is genuinely incredible. He went from being apart of a group accused of pedaling homophobia to a gay rapper and artist the world had to listen to believe. It was a time that was (oh boy here we go) polarized politically for many reasons. He found a way to tell his own story and grow as a person without getting caught up in what others would think. Flower Boy is the most compelling work from Tyler and the one that is the most important for the decade. 

Honorable Mentions: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West, To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar, Bad Self Portraits by Lake Street Dive, Light Upon the Lake by Whitney, Norman Fucking Rockwell by Lana Del Rey

Songs

2019  – GONE, GONE/ THANK YOU

The Weatherman told me it wasn’t raining
My stupid ass brought an umbrellas
I got a glimpse of your cloud and feel better
Now it’s ninety degrees, and all the tricks up my sleeve
Is drenched in sweat and illusion because I jet to conclusion

The bars on this track are terrific. It is one of my favorite songs ever. While IGOR is not my album of the year, it was very close. This song though is the best to come out this year.

Honorable Mentions: Happiness is a butterfly by Lana Del Rey, Sugar by Brockhampton, and Used to be Lonely by Whitney

Decade – Devil in a New Dress

Put your hands to the constellations, the way you look should be a sin, you my sensation.

This song is peak Kanye. It is so good, I love every part of it. Please listen to it if you have not.

Honorable Mentions: Solo by Frank Ocean, Alright by Kendrick Lamar, and Rental Love by Lake Street Dive

Books I read (does not necessarily have to come out in the respective years)

2019 – The Great Successor

Anna Fifield’s story of Kim Jong-Un features plenty of original reporting and fascinating tales of palace intrigue. It is a dark story of a ruthless bunch and a fascinating introduction of how leadership works in North Korea. It is genuinely shocking at points and a terrific read. One of 2019’s best.

Honorable Mentions: Speaker for the Dead and A Feast for Crows

Decade – Friday Night Lights 

H.G. Bissinger’s story of Permian High School’s football team and the town of Odessa, Texas changed how I saw the world. It is fascinating from start to finish and is a true non-fiction masterpiece. While the football team is the main catalyst in this story, the true story ultimately revolves around Odessa. It is a crazy, absurd place. It is also a portrait of what America was becoming and has become. When pressure is put on high schoolers to perform and be the lifeblood of a town, it is not dissimilar to the spectacle of college football and athletics in general. It is a circus that can leave the kids behind. It does not have their best interests at heart. It is a terrific story told in a brilliant way. It is a must-read regardless of interest in sports.

Honorable Mentions: A Storm of Swords, Born a Crime, Outliers, The Blind Side 

Podcasts

2019 –  30 for 30: The Sterling Affairs

Ramona Shelburne’s profile of the Los Angeles Clippers during the Donald Sterling fiasco is a terrific re-examination of a watershed moment in the NBA. Sterling’s racism and vitriol would eventually get him removed from the NBA, and the response from the Clippers and others would shape the league for years to come. The podcast has plenty for those familiar and unfamiliar with the story. It also is full of great interviews from including from Blake Griffin, Ralph Lawler, and Shelly Sterling. Ramona’s retelling of the story is a great examination of one of the most important cultural moments of the decade. It is an important listen.

Honorable Mentions: Grierson & Leitch, The Big Picture, Binge Mode: Star Wars, Colin’s Last Stand: Fireside Chats, and Planet Money

Decade – Colin’s Last Stand: Fireside Chats

When Colin Moriarty was fired from his own company, I was unaware of the situation. However, the gaming world was up in arms. He made a bad joke on international women’s day, which I would not have made. It did not justify his firing.

He then went and started his own company, Colin’s Last Stand. The best product was his fireside chats, in which he would invite random guests from the audience and talk on random subjects. From a small-town mayor to a full-time chef he finds interesting people to discuss topics not often discussed. Pornography, Judaism, Space Exploration, Governance, Video Games, and so much more are explored by his episodes. Colin announced that the show would be ending, an incredibly sad ending to a great series. I will miss it and hope he continues to do amazing things in the future. It was truly a special show.

Honorable Mentions: S-Town, Believed, The Daily, Planet Money, and Radiolab

Sports Moments

2019 – Lucas Moura sends Tottenham to the Champions League Final

When Tottenham needed it the most, Lucas Moura stepped up. Down 3-0 on aggregate to Ajax, Lucas Moura scored a hattrick including a stoppage-time wonder to send Tottenham to their first-ever Champions League Final. It was a moment of pure brilliance that brought me to my knees.

Honorable Mentions: Kawhi’s Game Winner vs. The 76ers, USWNT winning the World Cup, Alex Morgan’s tea celebration vs. Britain, Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Title, and Liverpool comeback vs. Barcelona

Decade – LeBron blocking Andre Iguodala

This was the single greatest performance in Finals history. This block will live on as one of the greatest plays in this series. From nowhere, LeBron changed the fate of the NBA. He also managed to lead in all major categories and come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the team that had the best regular-season record ever. It was remarkable and this block was just one moment from an incredible NBA season.

Honorable Mentions: Steph Curry buzzer-beater against the Thunder, Leicester City winning the Premier League, The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, and Nick Foles’s Playoff Run

I hope you enjoyed this! Once again please give me suggestions if you have any!

 

 

Frances Ha, The Laundromat, High Flying Bird, & The Edge of Democracy

Frances Ha – Frances Ha is a really fascinating movie, that manages to tell so much story in such little time. It is certainly fun, but it just lacks the emotional resonance that I expect from Baumbach at this point. It is very good at points, and Greta Gerwig does a great job. It just lacks the emotional resonance to really make it interesting. B-

The Laundromat – The Laundromat is The Big Short but for the Panama Papers. One of the two Netflix films directed by Steven Soderbergh, it is incredibly fun and entertaining. While many characters and performers get lost in the fast plot (Meryl Streep among them), this film belongs to Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas. Thankfully, they deliver as Mossack and Fonseca. They manage to be clever and break the fourth wall without it being distracting from the plot. It all just works so well, and while I can understand why people are not as high on this film as me, everything worked for me in this film. This is an important film, as the Panama Papers were not given nearly the attention that they deserved in the media. It is fun and fast, and one of my favorite films to come out this year. A-

High Flying Bird – The second Soderbergh Netflix film is a bit slow for my tastes, and even though it is about basketball, it bored me. I enjoyed the interviews interspersed with basketball players, but this film, on the whole, did not work for me. C+

The Edge of Democracy – This Netflix documentary was directed by Petra Costa, an activist in Brazil with sleek film making. It chronicles the Car Wash scandal in Brazil, and how it threatens to upend the Brazilian political system. It is very melodramatic at points, and I would have appreciated a more Frontline style approach to the material. The film also could have been a half-hour shorter and tends to drag at points. At the same time, the personal connection made the film a fascinating project, even if I did not always agree with the filmmaker’s point of view. I also think the length and dread was an artistic choice, and one that I disagree with but also respect. It is a worthwhile watch and a great introduction to a political nightmare in Latin America, even if some of its sensibilities do not always agree with mine. B

My thoughts on The Irishman

The first hour of The Irishman is the worst part of the movie. The writing is crammed in the beginning, and it does not give a ton of room for the characters to breathe. Also, the limits of the de-aging technology are on full display during the first hour. There is one scene where Robert De Niro beats up a guy in a shop, and it looks very silly. Even though his face is younger his body is not the age that he is supposed to be in the film, and so it looks strange. It is also unclear what age the characters are supposed to be at what points. De-aging technology needs work but after the first hour, it disappears into the film.

The film really becomes great in the last hour. Then after two in a half hours, the film’s themes of age and loss come together in a searing finish. It is a devastating end, and the length in some ways helps the impact as you feel you have been with these characters for so long before it all comes together. I won’t spoil anything, but it is definitely worth it if you are willing to watch the movie.

Robert De Niro is a standout as is Joe Pesci, but Al Pacino is the showstopper as Jimmy Hoffa. He energizes the movie and brings out the emotional core of the movie at many points.

If you are willing to sit through three and a half hours this movie is worth it. However, make sure you know what you are in for. It is long and takes time. It is flawed and needs work in certain areas. If you love Scorsese however, this is a must-see. I think the flaws mostly in the beginning hold the ending back for me, but it is so brilliant and searing, the movie just gets into the A category. A-

Knives Out, The Social Network, The Art of Self-Defense, & Ad Astra

Knives Out – Watching some of the criticism toward Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi has been disappointing, as I find him to be an exceptional writer and director. Knives Out is another terrific film from Johnson. A whodunnit may seem unnecessary or even unoriginal, but Johnson’s ability to play with genre, narrative, and scope make it a terrific outing. He also updates the whodunnit for 2019 in an incredibly clever way. The biggest complaint I can see potentially coming for the film is that it is not particularly artistic or beautiful, that it focuses more on just having a good time. It is really hard to make that complaint when a whodunnit is made this well and the experience is this much fun. Whether or not it is a film that lacks artistic quality, it is one of the best moviegoing experiences that you can have this year. I cannot recommend it enough. A

The Social Network – Skimming through many best of the decade lists, The Social Network kept coming up as one of the top movies of the past ten years. I decided to see it, with admittedly low expectations. It completely blew me away. The movie came out in 2010, before its massive growth in the 2010s and Russian Interference. The film managed to forecast what social media can do to us, and what it can do to the connections around us through the lens of Mark Zuckerberg. It is an absolute classic, and while it may not win my best of the decade, it is a worthy pick. A

The Art of Self Defense – The off-kilter film starring Jesse Eisenberg is interesting enough. Not everything lands, but the film has plenty of interesting things to say about toxic masculinity through the lens of karate. It works well for its limited scope and does an excellent job of using Jesse Eisenberg to deliver the off-kilter humor. The “twist” (although I would not really call it a twist) is pretty obvious and the plot becomes fairly predictable. I did not mind as much, as some of the humor is enjoyable, but this movie is not for everyone. I enjoyed it but recognize it had plenty of room to be better. B-

Ad Astra – Ad Astra is a movie about daddy issues. While it manages to juggle plenty of other themes, from creation, god, and the meaning of life, the daddy issues lie at the core of the film. Brad Pitt stars as Roy McBride, an astronaut, and son of another famous astronaut H. Clifford McBride. Roy must go to Neptune to find his dad and stop power surges that have been causing brutal destruction to the earth and other planets back home. The themes and the cinematography are excellent, and it features some of the best space shots in any movie. It manages to capture the loneliness of space that I loved as well. My biggest complaint is the narration and its stillness. The narration seems pretty detached and not needed, it does not add much. All it seems to do is just emphasize what we are seeing on screen. Regardless, this is a very good film and will be touted by some as the best film of the year, and it deserves some of that praise. B+

I am seeing Star Wars tomorrow so I hope to have a review up on the Michigan Review shortly!

Marriage Story & Some thoughts on Season 4 of Game of Thrones

Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach’s Netflix film is one of my favorite films to come out this year. The movie is about divorce. Divorce is a tough topic, but Baumbach treats his characters with such love and warmth it allows you to get absorbed in the story, and not worry about taking sides in a divorce. This film does a great job of showing how people around divorce can exacerbate the situation, and turn what should be a tough but personal process into a public bloodbath. I think it is pretty clear that Nicole and Charlie should not be together. However, the lawyers and legalese surrounding them make things worse.

Every performance in this movie is terrific. Two standouts are Laura Dern and Adam Driver. While Dern steals every scene she is in, this becomes Driver’s film and he nails it. Driver is so talented and this is one of his best performances. It is also full of small humorous moments to jokes about Los Angeles and New York to chummy lawyers outside of trial. It is a must-watch, full of emotion and brutal truths. A

I am your son, and you sentenced me to die. You knew I didn’t poison Joffrey, but you sentenced me all the same. – Tyrion

I am slowly binging Game of Thrones, and I just finished Season 4. Reading and watching this series unlocks and showcases different pieces of the story and helps you notice things you would not otherwise. Season 4 is probably the best in the series I have watched thus far, and I loved how it brought alive the theme of becoming what people want you to be or say you are.

Throughout the season, Tyrion is repeatedly told he is a killer. While he is not guilty of what he is accused of, he is treated as a villain, a jealous and angry half-man who only knows revenge. While he is not what he is accused of being, he eventually fulfills his destiny. He kills Shae and his father and escapes. Had there been a fair trial, had their been more sympathy for Tyrion, perhaps he would not have lashed out. However, that is now a world of what-ifs.

Tywin and others refer to Shae as a whore. Shae loves Tyrion, but she is a bad look for the Lannister family. So when Tyrion has to tell Shae to leave, he calls her a whore because he is convinced that is what she needs to hear. While she was not a whore at the time, she becomes a whore and sleeps with the person who despises her the most, Tywin.

Shae will be remembered in history not as a Tyrion’s lover, but as a whore who died doing her job. Tyrion will be remembered as a kinslayer. Neither of them deserved the title initially but fulfilled it because of the people surrounding them. Neither of them wanted to be remembered for this, but they will be because of the people around him.

Tywin is a fascinating character as well and gets his fitting send-off. He never truly cared about any of his children and views them as products. Tyrion is a slap in the face to his ideal vision or product, an Imp who has no physical talents. Despite Tyrion and Tywin’s shared understanding of politics, his appearance alone causes Tyrion to view him as a disappointment. He looks at Cersei as his beautiful bride to marry off to a famous house and looks at Jamie as the legacy and fighter that he wants. He views them as ideal products, so much so that he is incapable of believing his children would be capable of incest. Yet they are, and had he paid attention, as Cersei noted, he would have figured it out quickly. But he refused to believe and will die refusing to believe it.

Tywin is a manipulative and terrible person and father. While he has political talent, he got a fitting end. I love his ending more now after watching HBO’s rendition.

 

Drive is one of the best LA movies ever

Last night I watched Drive (it was just released on Netflix). After some time to digest it, I can say it is one of my favorite films about Los Angeles ever made.

The film is about an unnamed driver who is out of touch from the surrounding world. By day, he works at a repair shop and is a stunt double. By night, he is a getaway driver for heists.

The driver’s lack of connection begins to change when he meets a lovely neighbor Irene and her daughter Benicio. He quickly begins to attach himself to the family, but then Irene’s violent husband comes home and is threatened if he does not complete a job for them. The Driver volunteers and things get out of hand.

What makes Drive such a great representation of Los Angeles is not only its stunning shots of the city but also its capturing of the dark underworld that lies beneath. Los Angeles is a city that appears nice and shiny but is sinister beneath. Too often films like La La Land are too focused on their idealized version of the city to portray it accurately. While that movie is still a good movie, I do not think it gets LA right. This movie does.

Drive is also great for how its dialogue and characters mirror and reflect off of the driver himself. How they change his world and he responds to those changes are terrific. At no point does it feel overwritten or forced.

This movie also has an excellent cast. Ryan Gosling, Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, and many others. If you have not watched this movie, you are missing a gem. A