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Author: Josh

Why I’m Rooting for Get Out at the Oscars

 

The Oscars are this Sunday, and a case can be made for just about all of these Best Picture nominees. They are all different and they each cater to a different audience. There are no films on this list that you say to yourself, “Man, I just don’t get why this is here.” And no film represents that concept more than Get Out, a film that really caught a lot of people off guard with how well-made it was. It became one of the most talked about films of the year and it is absolutely deserving of a Best Picture nominee and, dare I say, a Best Picture Award?

I’m rooting for Get Out this Sunday at the Oscars, and let me tell you why.

1 – It came out in February!

In a day when we have very strong recency bias, Get Out has stayed with us for over a year now. It was released in February of 2017, and with each passing month, it became a stronger film for its themes, for its dark comedy, for its brevity in storytelling. And as the months went on and more and more films came out, it became evident that Get Out was beginning to prove itself to have staying power. The mere notion that we are just as hyped about Get Out now as we were when it first came is a testament to how well-constructed this movie is. Most of the films on the Best Picture list came out during award season. They have the aroma of award season. Get Out isn’t like that. It doesn’t “feel” like it was made for the awards. It feels like it was made for the people. And as such, it doesn’t cut corners. It doesn’t try to manipulate the audience in any way. It allows the audience to take in the story and form their own thoughts on it. It’s not a preachy film. It’s a movie that knows the story it’s telling and goes all in on the unique concept.

2 – Watch it once, get hooked. Watch it again, get educated.

When I watched the film the first time, I was terrified by the things on that screen. The subtlety of the themes, the dark humor that was boiling, the oddities of character that hovered over everything, I was pretty much blown away. It’s easy to just watch and film and move on. That’s what happens most of the time. But when I saw Get Out, my jaw dropped, and I was left wanting to learn more about the universe that Jordan Peele created. And finding out the attention to detail that went into weaving the themes throughout the narrative was quite eye-opening. This film wasn’t made haphhazardly. It was made with great care. So going back to watch it again, you begin to see those little details start to stand out so much more, and it’s like watching a completely different film. When there’s a story within the story, you know you’ve got something special. It’s unlike any of the other Best Picture nominees in that regard. And while they all tell their own unique story, Get Out does it in a way that keeps you coming back to figure out what you can learn. And you’ll learn a lot.

3 – It’s flat-out entertaining!

There’s a problem that I’ve seen with Best Picture nominees. Not all of them, but a lot of them, tend to be just…hard to watch. They aren’t easily accessible. A movie like Phantom Thread was riveting, engrossing, and challenging, but it’s not all that entertaining. Three Billboards was built on the shoulders of great performances, but it’s not something that everyone can get into. It’s a tough watch. Dunkirk is telling a complex story of hope in the middle of despair, but it just isn’t that intriguing with its lack of character growth. Lady Bird is highly enjoyable, but it’s eccentric and odd. Gary Oldman gives an incredible performance in Darkest Hour but he’s on the screen for 90% of the time. The Post may find itself to be too on-the-nose for our current times even though it has an all-star cast. The Shape of Water looks great, but it’s a quirky, R-rated story about a fish-man and a woman that you’ll either love or hate. And Call Me By Your Name, with its abundance of nominations, isn’t going to be for everyone.

Get Out, for my money, is incredibly thought-provoking about the landscape of covert racism and low-key relatability (“I would have voted for Obama for a third term”) while also being highly entertaining. It’s something that everyone can watch and gain something from. It can be a popcorn film if that’s what you want, but it can also be a deep journey into the human complexity.

All of the nominees in the Best Picture category feel like Best Picture nominees. Get Out feels like the one that shouldn’t be there, and yet, it’s the one that deserves to be there the most because of its bold approach to taking a lot of ideas and allowing each of them to breathe within the film. It never forces the viewer to see the film from a pushed point of view. Rather, each viewer is able to take something different and significant away from this near-masterpiece. That’s why I’m rooting for it to win Best Picture. It’s a head above the rest.

Oh, That’s Why The Cloverfield Paradox Went to Netflix

In what was originally looked at as a stroke of genius, we were all treated to trailer spots for The Cloverfield Paradox during the Super Bowl, and as the game went on, more information starting flowing, and it became apparent that we were going to treated to a new Cloverfield film immediately following the game.

This all happened really quickly.

The Cloverfield Paradox, at one point named God Particle, has been in the pipes for a while–many Cloverfield fans had been anticipating it, and we thought we were going to be getting a theatrical release in February. However, as the date got closer and closer, with no news, no trailer, nothing at all, it became clear that we weren’t getting this film in February, and so rumors started floating that it would get a release around April. But–still, no trailer?! Where’s the news for this film? Where’s the marketing? Where’s that Cloverfield charm that we all know and love so dearly?

We didn’t get any of that.

But then, the Super Bowl spots. And a lot of excitement. Hey, this is a big deal, and not just to fans of Cloverfield. To have a full, feature length film, one that was scheduled to be released in theaters, to now be released moments after the Super Bowl ends? That’s a trailblazing moment.

The problem with this, however, is that the movie needs to deliver. It needs to resonate with folks. For this movement of releasing big budget films straight to Netflix or other streaming platforms to gain true momentum, yes, the name matters, but the results matter even more.

And The Cloverfield Paradox is a complete sham on almost every front. It’s an embarrassing film, and it hurts all the more because this was supposed to continue in the lineage of Cloverfield films–to say, they are unique, they have an aura of charismatic frustration, and they rely on tense performances to maneuver the story along and continue to cultivate the enigma surrounding this universe.

But…the movie has to be good. The Cloverfield Paradox is awful. Perhaps even more frustrating is that the Cloverfield mythology feels completely squeezed in to this film. On its own, it’s already not very good–mainly due to a really flat and boring story that is convoluted enough to make your head spin, and some of the worst characters you’ll encounter. Sci-fi, to a large extent, should be campy and have an element of oddball fun. But spoiler–when a guy loses half his arm to the deep unknown, and doesn’t at all respond in any significant way but to crack a joke when he sees the hand slithering around on the ground–whatever fun and creepy element the movie is going for just loses its attempt to surge the story in a palpable direction that is satisfying.

10 Cloverfield Lane worked because A) the cast was legendarily good. John Goodman owned his role and was subsequently snubbed at the Oscars for it (I know, it was always a longshot, but hey, he deserved some award recognition there), and B) it actually felt like it was apart of the Cloverfield universe. We all saw the first Cloverfield and knew what the little details of 10 Cloverfield Lane were alluding to. We knew there was a greater presence at play within the overall context of the story. The ending notwithstanding, this was a film that was pretty dang good, and even if you take all of the Cloverfield stuff–it’s still a really, really good movie. Paradox plays off like a film that’s trying way too hard to conjoin itself with the great Cloverfield franchise, and it really leaves a bad taste to view this film as a continuation of what this franchise has done, and what it’s trying to do moving forward.

Let’s be real here: there’s an opportunity with this property. A real chance to do something good and unique and interesting. It’s clear at this point that we’re never going to get a true sequel to Cloverfield, and yes, that is definitely a punch to the gut. But if they’re going to keep trying to expand our surroundings and the scope of what is happening within this world, they’ve got to do a better job of injecting stories that at least make sense within the context of what we’ve gotten so far, without trying to manufacture the Cloverfield brand.

J.J. Abrams, you’ve got a fanbase here that is giving you the benefit of the doubt, but I believe patience is running thin. If Overlord doesn’t pan out, I just don’t know how this franchise can regain its footing.

Or you could, you know, just give us the true Cloverfield sequel we all want and stop playing with our emotions. That would fix this right up.

Oscar Nominations 2018 – Who I Hope Wins

Well, the nominations are out! We all woke up this morning and waited with anticipation to see if our favorite movies were given nods for their extreme awesomeness, and we now have the official list. It’s an exciting day and a wonderful reminder of how fun movies can be. If the Oscars are the Super Bowl for movies, the Oscar nominations are like Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament. So–here’s who I would like to see win, which, in some (or most) cases, will be different than who I think will ultimately win. Hopefuls are in blue.

Best Picture

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kuluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Best Directing

Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro

Best Animated Feature

The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly’s Game
Mudbound

Best Original Screenplay

The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Foreign Language Film

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
Loveless (Russia)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)

Best Documentary Feature

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Icarus
Last Man in Aleppo
Strong Island

Best Original Song

“Mighty River,” Mudbound
“Mystery of Love,” Call Me By Your Name
“Remember Me,” Coco
“Stand Up for Something,” Marshall
“This Is Me,” The Greatest Showman

Best Original Score

Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water

Film Editing

Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul

Makeup and Hairstyling

Darkest Hour
Victoria & Abdul
Wonder

Production Design

Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water

Sound Editing

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Sound Mixing

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Documentary Short

Edith and Eddie
Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Heroin
Life Skills
Traffic Stop

Best Animated Short

Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Lou
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

Best Live Action Short

DeKalb Elementary
The Eleven O’Clock
My Nephew Emmett
The Silent Child
Watu Wote/All of Us

3 Tips to Start & Maintain Your Podcast

We just finished episode 90 of our podcast this week (which you can listen to for FREE at our website, or on iTunes, or on Google Play, or on Stitcher, or on…you get the point!), and while we are very proud of all that we have accomplished so far with our show, we believe that we are just getting started. It has taken us a while to find our groove, and the cool thing is, we’re discovering that the groove is fluid. When you create something, you can do whatever you want with it. It really doesn’t matter because it’s yours. We try to keep our focus on movies, but there will be times when we decide to shoot from the hip and talk about life (I favor those episodes). That could lead us to talking about the great things that are happening for us, or the rough patches we’re going through. We love that the podcast is an outlet for us to give our thoughts not only on the film business, but on our day-to-day lives.

But how do we do this? How does this process work for us?

Well, let me say that while the process is going to be different for everyone, I believe that there are a few core ideas at play here and everyone can and should implement. So, here are some tips I can give you based on my podcasting experience over the past 90 episodes:

3. Preparation
I can’t emphasize this one enough. Preparation is key to really anything in life, and as such, it’s vital for anyone wanting to start up and maintain a podcast. Not only do we need to watch movies, but we must then think intentionally about what we have just seen and put those into cogent words. It’s about figuring out how to go deeper. It’s getting under the hood of the car to see what is really working. It’s a relatively simple practice that can be overlooked if you’re not being deliberate about it. It’s easy to try to go off-cuff, but I don’t recommend it, especially in the early stages of your podcast. From my experience, when we don’t prepare enough for our show, it is extremely evident, not only in the overall quality of the episode, but in our enjoyment of recording the episode. You can just tell when something is “off.” That’s not a place you want to be. Thankfully, it is completely avoidable.

Preparation doesn’t have to be rigid. On the contrary, fluid preparation is important to not make it feel like a chore. On our very first episode, we just knew we wanted to introduce ourselves and talk about two things: Star Wars Episode 7 and Jurassic World. That was it. That was our preparation. Could we have gone more in depth on that? Sure. We could have drawn up a diagram, wrote out critical pieces of information we wanted to hit on, but it’s just not something we felt like we needed for our first episode. We had our two movies, and that was that. It was enough to get the ball rolling.

I don’t think that preparation should be exhausting. At least it never has been for me with our podcast. I’ve just chosen to see it as fundamentally necessary for the overall quality of our show and to give me peace of mind. It can be done in as little as 10 minutes for a one hour episode, and it be as concise as writing down three bullet points. I can see a difference when I take just a few minutes to think about what I’m going to say on our episodes. It’s through preparation that we can delve into spontaneity, but without being properly prepared beforehand, the spontaneous moments would never, ever happen.

We have a weekly show, and occasionally we’ll throw in some extra episodes. But for the most part, we know that every Monday, we’ll have a new show. And it’s important to at least know a few days before we record what we’re going to talk about. I started up a Google Document and planned our next 30 episodes, all the way up until the Academy Awards air in March 2018. It took about half an hour and I just started jotting down every topic I could think of. It was fun and it got a lot off my mind regarding all the things I’ve been wanting to tackle on the show.

It’s good to have something like this even if you don’t stick with it. For example, for our 91st episode, we’re going to be talking about something totally different than what I had written down, because something else interests us and things change. But just knowing that we’ve got a plan as a backup is a huge relief of burden and honestly, it allows for more free thinking.

Next, I try to keep up to date with movie news. It only takes a few minutes to skim headlines, and if something piques my interest, I’ll stop and read more thoroughly. But for the most part, this is a very simple idea that just allows for us to talk about film news on the episode. If it’s something I know I’ll want to talk about, I make a note of it. If it’s not, then I’ll forget about it.

I believe that the longer you do something, the easier it will be and the less structured the preparedness can be in theory. You’ll always want to prepare, but as you get use to the rhythm and flow of your episodes, it’ll become easier.

2. Relaxation
There’s no getting past it. If you’re not relaxed, it’s going to affect how you feel. If you’re tense and tight, you’re just not going to have as fun with what you’re doing. A few things I like to do beforehand: take a few deep breaths, do some short vocal exercises, and practice saying a few lines: Sometimes I write out our intro, and that leads me into relaxing myself into the episode. It really helps. Don’t, I repeat, don’t worry so much about promoting the podcast, because the truth is, if you love what you’re doing, the listeners and downloads will come with time. And besides, you’re not doing this to get a set number of downloads. Do we want to have listeners? Of course, but it’s not the main thing, and it really shouldn’t even be on the top list of things you evaluate for your podcast anyway. So, allow yourself to relax and embrace the actual process of recording your episode and try not to stress about the little things that ultimately take away your joy from what you’re trying to do.

1. Enjoyment
As crazy as it sounds, I must remind myself that this is all supposed to be fun. There’s no competition here. We’re not trying to become something that we’re not. We’re just trying to have fun. Jordan and I use to talk on the phone quite a bit about movies, and so one day we said, “Why not just podcast this?” And that’s how it all got started. The truth about it is that we just love movies. I personally try to think more positively about the movies that I watch and I try to limit my criticism unless I’m just feeling particularly sarcastic and biting on that day. And on those days, I give myself some time to vent, and then try to reign myself back in and remember that film is one of the greatest avenues of expression, and it’s a fantastic way to immerse a person.

I’ve gotten stuck in a negative mindset a time or two on the podcast, and each time I regret it. Yes, there are some bad movies out there. And yes, I think they’re bad too. That’s not to say you can’t give constructive criticism, but it is to say that you probably want to start your movie podcast (or whatever topic it might be) because you love the subject and you want to learn more about it. Don’t forget what brought you to the dance in the first place. Kill the cynicism and enjoy what you’re doing. Don’t record what you hope people will enjoy listening to. Record what you want to talk about! There are genres that I just don’t watch. So, I’m not going to start just because I think some people want to hear it. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone. Instead, I watch things I know I’ll probably like. That’s why I’m more positive about the movies I see because I already know beforehand that I’m probably going to like them anyway. That’s not to say you can’t stretch yourself and try new things. It’s because of the podcast that I’ve watched so many movies that I otherwise never would have and I’ve discovered new forms of storytelling that I really like. Try new things if you feel inclined, but if you don’t, then don’t force yourself to watch movies or shows you know you’re just not going to like. The bottom line: ENJOY! The only person who needs to be satisfied with your podcast is you. Make it fun! Make it memorable! Love what you’re doing and the rest will take care of itself.

There are certainly many other aspects to podcasting. Scripted vs. non-scripted, episode length, editing, debate vs. discussion, equipment, logo design, and all that fun stuff. But at the core of it all, the three things I talked about above are what I find most important. Preparation, relaxation, and enjoyment. If you start with those three, and truly allow yourself to be “in” those things, everything else will just be a continuation of that. You’ll be happier, and you’ll want to podcast more. And that’s really what all of this is about.

Take care!

Josh

Josh’s Top 5 Films of the Summer

September is here, folks! And even though fall doesn’t start for a few more weeks (right around my birthday, as always!), I’m still compelled to throw my hands up and wave goodbye to heatwaves and overloaded sweat glands when this month starts up. Yes, temperatures are still hovering in the upper 80’s, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go ahead and start dreaming of pumpkin spice lattes and falling leaves.

This summer flew by, didn’t it? And while the box office seems to have took a nosedive, good times were had here at the podcast, as just about every week we were at the theater, taking in superheroes and heists, car chases and world takeovers. Ultimately, it was a satisfying summer, low box office numbers and all.

Here are my top 5 movies of the summer, spoiler-free.

5. Logan Lucky
I can’t express how great and refreshing it was to see this unique take on the heist genre. It’s just ridiculous enough to work. The trailer doesn’t exactly evoke the charming nature of this one enough, and so it would certainly be excusable to simply skip out on Logan Lucky for the simple fact that the trailers don’t sell how engaging and thoughtful this film really is. I consider it to be well-written and well-acted. It’s clear as day that the actors had a blast with this one, and that makes it that much more enjoyable. You’ll go because of Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, and Adam Driver, and you’ll stay for the solid execution of the concept. The thick accents are absolutely part of the charm of this one. I love that this movie doesn’t play up the hillbilly stereotype as much as it pays homage to it.

4. Spider-Man: Homecoming
The hype for this one was oddly all over the place. There were actual complaints from people about Tony Stark being featured so prominently in the marketing. Well, yeah, of course! Hello, this is what we wanted! We were craving Spider-Man in the MCU. What, they weren’t going to use the character that effectively started this whole shebang to continue Peter Parker’s initiation to the universe?

I loved every aspect of this film; Tony Stark was in it enough to remind us that, “Oh yeah, all of this is connected,” and Peter’s struggle to juggle real high school elements with his desire to become Spider-Man was interesting. There is also an emotional depth at play here that we have rarely seen from most of the MCU movies. I was taken back at just how invested I was in the levels of emotion in the characters. And let’s give a huge shout-out to Michael Keaton, who brought a great performance as The Vulture. There is a solid twist in this film that brought an audible gasp throughout the crowd that I’ve never, ever heard in a Marvel movie before. It’s moments like this that enable this movie to be so effective in the story it is telling.

3. Wonder Woman
We could write and podcast for days about our issues with the DC Extended Universe, but that’s not what this is about. This is about the great film that is Wonder Woman. I love that this is standalone. It isn’t trying to be overly connected to everything else that has come before. It is trying to establish its own characters without the crutch of the past, and it does so admirably, as we really learn to embrace the world that we’re given on screen. It’s insanely fun to watch, and it has a ton of heart to boot. Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, and she owns the role. She has become priority #1 for each collaboration moving forward, starting with Justice League. Make sure that her role is at the forefront of this one; she deserves it. She is what the fans want to see. This movie packs a solid punch of excitement and story and gives us a sense that what we’re witnessing is on a level of epicness that we absolutely must tune in to.

2. War for the Planet of the Apes
A film that is dark and full of dread doesn’t exactly spell out fun, summer blockbuster, and it’s not a fun film at all. In has a moment here and there where it tries to break up the insane tension, but that’s not what the tone is about. This is a film lynched to the ideas of abandonment and the forsaking of human decency. The people have effectively taken on the role of savage beasts, while the apes have become the species of peace and forgiveness. It’s an odd dynamic, but we find ourselves totally rooting against the humans from the word, “go.” Each of the movies in this trilogy has created a different enemy, and Woody Harrelson takes it upon himself to become the most ruthless of them all, showing no signs of empathy or remorse for his actions. The character of Caesar has become iconic in my eyes. Andy Serkis brings his all to this character, and if you trace the genealogy of this role back to the start, the journey of Caesar has been amazing to watch unfold. This is a fitting and sublime end to a wonderful trilogy of films.

1. Baby Driver
It’s hard to top a movie like Baby Driver, which has just about everything going for it: A creative director, a unique take on a tried and true genre, a fun romantic component, solidly written characters, and top notch people to play those characters. At the top of all that is the soundtrack, which becomes its own character and just as important as any actual person in the movie. How cool is that?

This movie is not only a ton of fun, it is tense and unnerving at times but it never loses track of the type of film that it is, an action movie with heist elements that focuses on the charming personalities of its characters to take it to another tier. This tier is reserved for films that are expertly crafted from start-to-finish, functioning like a well-oiled machine designed to bring the viewer pure enjoyment and excitement. Baby Driver is a cinematic treat, and not only is it my number one film of the summer, it’s my favorite movie of the year.

Thanks for reading!