Get Out, Widows, & IGOR

Get Out – Jordan Peele’s first film I had avoided because I was afraid. I am really disappointed that I did, as this film is not focused on being scary. Rather it is focused on its social commentary, a welcome relief. The beginning build up is slow but incredibly well done, as it keeps us engaged with what will happen next. The finale is a bit over the top, and the story itself goes a bit overboard. That does not take away from what this film accomplishes, as it manages to be a fun and engaging horror with commentary to make it unique. Jordan Peele is a man of the pop culture moment, and it is understandable why this film elevated his status. 7.5/10

Widows – This was a film I wanted to see last year but unfortunately was unable to. This movie does a terrific job at being tight and ratcheting up emotion without using too much dialogue. It is also a unique Heist movie, as it forces characters into a heist rather than make them willful participants. It gives a heist film plenty of emotional weight, making it that much more rewarding than I expected. It also tells an incredibly complex story, but one that is deeply satisfying. My biggest complaint is that its tightness works against the film, as it is simply too complicated to compress. Complicated plots lead to subplots which lead to more subplots. I wish there were more time to really explore this but it simply runs out of time. This would have made for a terrific TV miniseries, but instead it is a very good movie, one still worth seeing even if it can be a bit confusing. 8/10

This album is so pretty, confident, and considered that you wonder why he named it IGOR. Tyler, the Creator’s not a freak or a goblin or a monster anymore.

I love Tyler, The Creator and with his release of his new album IGOR he begins to reshape his style after coming out of the closet on Flower Boy. His maturity is beginning to show, which is a much appreciated step since his days with Odd Future. One of my favorite parts of this album is how he plays with different gender roles, and attempts to craft a new persona. Particularly the music video for the song “Earfquake,” shows him playing with stereotypes and ideas that are brilliant.

However, I still wish he had an edge, and I miss it on this album. It is still a great project full of terrific songs, but it is about their artistic quality and less about Tyler’s emotions. Tyler’s emotions are what I find the most captivating, and that is sorely lacking on IGOR Part of what attracted me to Tyler was his deep-seated anger, and how he dealt with it.  In my favorite album of his, Wolf, he brilliantly fluctuated between anger and appreciation, struggling to put his feelings into music.  This album feels earned after the success and sincerity of Flower Boy, and I am glad that he has begun to figure out how to be happiest. I just miss some of the edge that got him famous in the first place, and I wish it was more present here.  

Ash is Purest White & Dentistry

Ash is Purest White – This movie was not made for me or many of the people that read this blog. However, it is full of beautiful movements and moving historical portraits of Chinese Society. Watching the transition of Bin and Qiao from confident and smooth to brutalized and chiseled is genuinely fascinating to watch. I also loved Zhao Tao as Qiao; she captures the transformation of Qiao beautifully. Watching her sacrifice and struggle to save a dying relationship is brilliant and heartbreaking.

My biggest problem with this movie is that it is too slow. It can feel dragging and it requires a deep knowledge of Chinese History to understand all of the themes. Much is touched upon outside of the relationship between Qiao and Bin, mainly the change of China itself. Without it, many of the sweeping and slow-developing themes are hard to understand. While part of the joy in this movie is about thinking and reading upon it after, I have to be honest to my experience in the theater. There were times when I just wanted the movie to end. I would check my watch, groan, and continue. Some of this is by design, as you can feel the change in their relationship slowly grind to a halt. However, it is a stylistic choice that breeds boredom. Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame is nearly 30 minutes longer, and yet it never felt as if it was slow or dragging. This movie felt much longer. However, for the right audience, this film is a must-watch. It is not an easy movie to enjoy but if you spend the time with it, you will be rewarded. 7.5/10

Fluoridation of drinking water seems to help reduce tooth decay in children, but there is insufficient evidence that it does the same for adults. Some data suggest that regular flossing, in addition to brushing, mitigates gum disease, but there is only “weak, very unreliable” evidence that it combats plaque. As for common but invasive dental procedures, an increasing number of dentists question the tradition of prophylactic wisdom-teeth removal; often, the safer choice is to monitor unproblematic teeth for any worrying developments.

I hate the dentist and I am sure I am not alone. I have always been lazy about oral hygiene, so part of my interest in this article is my need to undermine dentistry in any way. However, this article points out plenty of troubling problems with dentistry. Oral hygiene is certainly important, but if we cannot guarantee a certain level of quality from dentistry we need to seriously question how we should take care of our teeth. Even if you love the dentist, this is a brilliant article worthy of a read.

Avengers: Endgame

In the first ever piece I wrote for this blog, I was critical of Avengers: Infinity War. My opinion stands firm on that movie, as it was bloated and confusing. The mere fact that they were able to pull it off was impressive, but that does not make it a good film.

Endgame is certainly longer than it needs to be, but it is much better than Infinity War. The cast is much smaller, allowing the plot to be more focused. The movie is slower but really allows each moment to feel earned. It manages to work for fans who may not be as into Marvel (like me) while still giving fan service for those fans who have really invested in these films. It also has (light spoiler alert) fitting ends for both Captain Marvel and Iron Man. Watching both characters get the send off they deserve was certainly thrilling. I also thought Thanos was much more compelling in this film than in Infinity War. In the last film it felt like he was just getting the stones just to say he could. Now, his motivations, or at least his patience and persistence, come to bare more fruitfully. It gives him a better arc, making his quest and (light spoiler alert) failure much more meaningful.

My only regret with this film is that I did not always know enough to understand the reference being made to which precise film. I wish I was more in tune with the rest of Marvel to understand the movie as a whole. That being said the film did a great job of allowing everyone to enjoy the ride. That along with a more intricate plot gave the movie much more backbone than many of the other Marvel movies. While I may personally not connect with Marvel as much as others, this movie is an important feat. It rewarded fans for their patience and dedication, while still blasting records at the box office. That is a true accomplishment and everyone at Marvel should be proud. 8/10

Captain Marvel & Ip Man

Captain Marvel – This movie is annoyingly mediocre. It takes no risks. It does nothing new. It is just there to fill in the gaps for those interested in Avengers: Endgame. I am not apart of the Marvel target audience so perhaps I am just missing something. Maybe it is a good thing a film with a female lead is just as mediocre as the male superheroes. Regardless, it is still disappointing to watch Brie Larson and others muddle in a film with so little to add. This movie also has clunky dialogue which is a problem for most superhero movies, but this one in particular. Lines like “it is sad to see you go” and “what can I do when I am set free” are unnecessary and should have been removed. Many characters also serve the purpose of delivering these nothing lines, or delivering lines of dialogue that tell you exactly where the plot intends to go. This also leads to an ending that is boring and anti-climatic.

With all of that in mind, Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson are the best parts of the film. I loved Larson in Short Term 12 and she shows why she is so highly sought after. Unfortunately she is given little to work with. This is really disappointing, especially from a film so set on bringing about a new era for Marvel. 5/10

Ip Man – Donnie Yen is terrific as Ip Man. He finds a way to breathe life into the character while making the action and fight scenes exciting. The story can at times be fairly generalized and melodramatic, but the stakes are always there. The film never becomes self-obsessed with its action and always leaves room for the characters to develop. The story is also uniquely nationalist, which at times makes it easy to question the narrative itself. That being said, this film is plenty of fun and is a good movie outside of its fun action scenes. 7.5/10 

Jaws & The Best Article on the College Admissions Scandal

You’re going to need a bigger boat

Jaws– I have a lot of odd hot takes from this movie, but I really enjoyed it. My biggest problem with this movie is that characters often say lines that are so on the nose, it is hard to understand why they bothered. Certain things are implied, and do not need to be repeated. The continuous repetition of the amount of money will be lost is absurd. Also, lines about the shark being dangerous are at times brilliant and at times unneeded. Also, most of what Quint says are the same types of lines said in slightly different ways. This movie could have been cut by a half-an-hour. If it is not needed, there is not point in having it.

However, the suspense and drama are all there and still effective. Not showing the shark for most of the movie is an incredibly smart decision by Spielberg. It allows us to envision the shark in our heads rather than see the shark and not be scared. This creates for an incredibly shocking and fun finale, which makes up for the at times crawling pace. I think it is a very good movie, but overrated. Roy Schneider as Chief Brody is easily my favorite character, but not enough to bring up Quint in my view.  7/10

Biggest Hot Take: Can we please get Mayor Vaughn a normal looking Jacket? Those sport coats are terrible. Also, can Quint please not say another line referring to “his day” or “kids these days”? We got it the first time.

The collapse of manufacturing jobs has been to poor whites what the elite college-admissions crunch has been to wealthy ones: a smaller and smaller slice of pie for people who were used to having the fattest piece of all.

Caitlin Flanagan is one of my favorite writers today. Her content at the Atlantic is always well-written, and unique. She generally brings out the take that I could not quite say, and says it much better than I ever could. Here is a great example, using her time as a College Counselor and High School teacher, she analyzes exactly how and why many parents resorted to this lowly behavior in order to get their children in to good schools.

Growing up in a more well off area, all of this behavior makes sense. People forget that college educations are often not about the kids themselves, but about the status of the parents. Plenty of parents who went to traditionally great schools, are increasingly angry that it is no longer a guarantee their kid will be able to attend as well. Many parents feel it is a reflection upon themselves.

While this is not the case, and I would argue having hundreds of thousands of dollars in your pocket is a better investment, this is not the last time we will here of scandals like this. As college admissions get more difficult, the population of entitled parents will only continue to grow.

Movie Etiquette

While seeing Apollo 11, I noticed plenty of bad movie etiquette. I feel that I should write about it rather than assume people understand how to behave, since clearly full grown adults have no idea.

Two couples in front of me were pointing at the screen and loudly describing their thoughts about the film, making sure that everyone understood how smart they were. Loudly pointing and talking at the screen to prove how much you know about the film is disrespectful, rude, and unnecessary. While you may think people genuinely care about your thoughts on the movie’s tonal direction most people are concerned with the movie itself. We all have emotional reactions. Laughing, a sudden gasp are more than reasonable. However, actively taking away attention from the film and attempting to put it on yourself is never okay. If you think people care more about you than the film they are trying to watch you have other issues. You have plenty of time after the movie is over to discuss your thoughts.

An adult next to me was checking Instagram while the movie was playing. Playing on your phone is something I would have expected from a child who is bored at his sister’s piano recital. Who knew grown-ups were capable of the same selfishness. Movies are roughly two hours long. If you cannot go two hours without checking your phone, then stay at home and twiddle your thumbs to your heart’s content. Emergencies are emergencies, and if you have one you should absolutely use your phone, just make sure to walk out of the theater. The bright light is incredibly distracting while trying to watch a film, and it is important to show consideration towards those who want to be in the movie theater. If you would rather check Instagram and Twitter, stay home.

Am I being mean, snobby, blunt, harsh, or all of the above? Yes. Do I care if I hurt your feelings? Not particularly. Being considerate in today’s world is a lost commodity, and a movie theater may seem like small potatoes. It is, but we have to start somewhere. Show some consideration towards others when enjoying yourself, and the experience will be better for you and everyone else around you.

Apollo 11 & Daredevil Season 3 Review

Apollo 11 – This documentary does a great job of paying attention to detail. Each moment of the moon landing is painstakingly realized, from time to sound and communication. What is slightly off-putting is that this films opts for no “talking heads” and operates completely within the context of the events themselves. The goal is to create a “you are there” sensation, which at times adds to the film but also takes away from it. If you already know plenty about the mission than I suspect you probably prefer it this way, but for those who have little background in science and were not alive for the moon landing are left slightly confused. I love documentaries, and what makes them great are often the interesting subjects who help put things into context. I would have loved to hear historians discussing the implications of this event, or scientists describing exactly how the ship works. Instead I am left with plenty of interesting and cool footage, but no message from the directors. That is disappointing, especially considering how much terrific footage there is in this film. 7/10

This season was easily the best of Daredevil’s run, with smartly paced storytelling finally catching up to the already brilliant action scenes. For the first time in the show’s run, every episode felt purposeful, every move felt necessary, and nothing felt like filler. This makes it that much more disappointing that Netflix cancelled the show, as there was so much more left to offer.

Regardless, I think it is more important to look at the product of the third season as a whole before getting sad about the show’s cancellation. The newcomers in particular were great, as they added many new dimensions to the show. Jay Ali as Special Agent Ray Nadeem stands out in particular. His struggle and ultimate send-off are all incredibly powerful to watch. Overall I would give it a 8.5/10, a must watch for any Marvel fan.

Annie Hall, Michael Cohen, & A Storm of Swords Reflection

Annie Hall – Woody Allen is a fascinating character and a joy to watch in Annie Hall. His constant neuroticism, as well as his openness towards his contradictions make him troubled but likable. It is still hard not to think of the recent allegations against him, and wonder how honest he is being when describing his love life. Regardless that should not take away from the merits of this work, as it is still an incredibly smart and clever piece of work. That said, it does drag and tries too hard to subvert itself. Some of the gimmicks are strange and unneeded. Also watching him embrace every Jewish stereotype imaginable at times made me laugh but at times made me wonder if he approached the subject with any seriousness. My negative thoughts aside, this film is a fascinating watch, even if some of its tricks work against it. 8/10

There is none of the purgation of self and transformation of spirit that happens among people who have truly been altered. He’s just switched teams and concluded that the Democrats can now give him what he wants, so he says what appeals to them. That may be progress, but it is not moral renewal.

How should we view Michael Cohen in light of damning testimony? On one side there seemed to be more of an embrace, while on the other side there seemed to be complete skepticism of him. I think it is important to be very clear on who this man is but also understand that he is being candid in his testimony.

As David Brooks notes, he worked for Trump and branded himself as a “fixer” in order to gain respect in Trump’s orbit. He did horrible things in order to protect a man he admired and get recognition from him as well. Now he has looked back and decided he was wrong. Regardless, he has not given us enough of a turnaround to make him a new person. However, I do believe he showed candor, and as LawFare notes, plenty of his evidence is damning. While we can still rightfully question what kind of person Michael Cohen is, it is important that we treat his testimony as credible. If we do not, we are enabling a president who does not care about anyone but himself. That should be something we should all fear, regardless of political allegiance.

For the most part there was one perspective character per location. A Storm of Swords changes that by moving characters around and sometimes showing the same events from different perspectives.

I finally finished A Storm of Swords, and it is probably the best piece of fiction I have ever read. It never slows down, and keeps the pace going in such a smooth way it was easy to forget just how much happened in one book.

Every character changed and grew so much in this story that it is hard to view them the same way than at the beginning of A Game of Thrones. Sansa and Arya in particular, both young girls, have now become strong women in their own right. While their transformation is rewarding in many ways, it is also brutal to see them begin to lose hope in the world around them. Who can blame these characters? Often times they are isolated and tested just to survive.

My hope for the next book is to see how these characters become major players in the war itself and watch their characters grow and develop. I am really looking forward to A Feast for Crows, and have already begun reading. I will let you know of some of my favorite quotes when I get the chance.

The Oscars & The NCAA

But the easiest way to demonstrate relevance would have been to hand major trophies to two of the year’s most-loved films: Black Panther and A Star Is Born. When it came time for the two biggest awards of the evening, those movies were nowhere to be found.

This from writer David Sims, hits on the continuous ambiguity that is the Oscars. It is hard to know who the awards are for, and why certain movies continue to be selected in spite of the complaints that are made against them. I have not watched Green Book, so in a sense I probably do not get to complain. Regardless, it is still a confusing pick considering the complaints  from the Shirley family and the other films that came out this year. Free Solo, Roma, Black Panther, First Reformed, Minding The Gap and others all seemed to be lost on the academy. The Oscars continue to mystify me, as this year they tried to branch out and show that they were changing when in the end they really were not that different.

How valuable is an Oscar? Well in terms of money it seems to help a great deal, however its ability to reward merit is slightly skewed. When looking at the Oscars, it is important to remember that the voters are a specific group of people who have specific tastes. Not everyone has those tastes and that is okay. If you do not like the movies that get selected, ignore the show. Many terrific people (Alfred Hitchcock) and movies (reference the list) never get the recognition they deserve.

Justice demands the removal of artificial barriers to fair compensation. Here’s another one: Just organizations do not reap billions of dollars from mainly poor kids and then grant them fewer rights and more obligations than their peers.

This article from David French points to something I highlighted in a Michigan Review Article last year. After Zion Williamson went down with another knee injury, I continue to struggle to see how and why the NCAA should be allowed to function the way it is.

The athletes are not fairly compensated for the revenue they produce, and they cannot even work minimum wage paying jobs that any other college student would be able to if not for NCAA rules. I am fine with these athletes not being professionals, so long as they are also not barred from competing professionally whenever they want. The idea that they have to spend years in college to develop is absurd. Professional teams should be responsible for development academies, not colleges who should focus on academia and future employment.

 

AEI Conference Reflection & Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The AEI conference was very enlightening, as I got to hear from many fascinating speakers regarding political discourse as well as where much of the best policy research is leaning towards. There was a fascinating dialogue between current AEI President Arthur Brooks and Professor John A. Powell that did a great job of outlining how we can have a political discussion, which is vital for more people to here.

Some panels were better than others but another panel that stood out was a panel on the American World Order and a career panel were both very helpful for young college students. It created for fascinating thought and discussion which I appreciated immensely.

Much of what the conference suffered from was repetition, and in constant mentioning of the ideas that we are “divided” and that we need to find the “humanity” in others. This is not news to people who read this blog and to the people who go these conferences, but I recognize the value of mentioning it and making sure people do not forget it.

Also the timing for this conference could not have been worse. Right in the middle of midterms across the country in Berkeley put unnecessary stress on me and many others, This problem could have been avoided with more conferences or having it earlier in the semester. That aside, it was a great conference and I highly encourage those of you who know nothing about Arthur Brooks or AEI to watch his movie The Pursuit when it comes out on Netflix.

I can’t say that I regret any of my actions. In many ways this has been the best time of my life.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Melissa McCarthy has shown a tendency to play one-off comedic characters, which makes her role in this film that much more surprising. She does an amazing job of giving Lee Israel humanity and pain, allowing for us to sympathize with a serial forger. This movie is shockingly melancholic at times, and sometimes that works to its detriment. Regardless, McCarthy is a stand out and this film has a fascinating character for a fascinating story. 8.5/10