High Fidelity [2000]

As many record store fanboys probably did, I grew up approaching this movie with a Biblical sense of reverence. I never took Rob's process as something to watch out for, a cautionary roadmap of what not to do. And now I hate him as I see bits of myself scattered throughout his sad, misguided existence. Could be worse, I suppose... could still idolize'em.

Dogma [1999]

Would have liked to see more George Carlin, but at least he wasn't relegated to a being a cheap-gag (sex pun!) hitchhiker in this one. Growing up in Canada, Alanis Morissette as a deity makes sense to me... though if I might be nitpicky for a moment: Shania is the real God.

The Fifth Element [1997]

The future, but still the '90s, Bruce Willis repeatedly hitting on an alien dressed in a meat spacesuit, Tricky shows up, Deebo as the President, Chris Tucker plays himself, and Muppets as bad guys.

Stigmata [1999]

Kinda interesting to see how spottily dark raver aesthetic holds up two decades removed. Loved this movie as a teenager (loved Patricia Arquette as a teenager), but its "edgy" religious themes/commentary combined with gaudy stylized editing makes it feel like an extended Enigma music video more than anything.

Fight Club [1999]

Snuck in to the theater to see Fight Club when I was still underage and excused myself half-way through to go have a seizure in the bathroom. No idea if that's what really happened (I did black out for a few moments), but that's what I've been telling myself happened for the last twenty years or so. Also: Still a good movie.

Tropic Thunder [2008]

Tropic Thunder is smart as hell, one of the best parodies ever, and also makes for a solid action movie, but my desire to appreciate it always seems to eclipse how enjoyable it actually is to me.

31 [2016]

More Sheri Moon, more desperate "shock." An upgrade, visually, from Rob Zombie's other movies, and Richard Brake might be the most interesting of all Zombie's characters in playing "Doomhead," but there isn't much here beyond a gory Running Man.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [1964]

The absurdity isn't necessarily found in how possible a doomsday scenario might be (now, still, forever?), but in the reaction to and management of such a situation by world "leaders." One of the sharpest movies of all ever.

Finish Lines



"the race for me had become an endless repetition,
as i made my way around my circuit of duties.
hour after hour i went thru the same unchanging tasks. [...] 
after it was all over
i went to the little house to start my update. 
the update i had been putting together in my mind was,
of course,
gone." —Gary "Laz" Cantrell, Big's Backyard Ultra Founder

~~~~~

"We’ve created society that mistakes the notion of hard work to mean not just dedicated work but difficult work. As if difficulty and struggle and torture somehow confer seriousness upon your chosen work. Doing great work simply because you love it, sounds, in our culture, somehow flimsy and that’s a failing of our culture not of the choice of work that artists make." —Maria Popova, The Tim Ferriss Show

"One woman venture capitalist told us, after hearing my very nervous pitch, 'I hate to say this because I hate that it’s true, but men who come in here pitch the company they’re going to build, while women pitch the company they’ve already built.' The men could sound delusional, but they could also sound visionary; women felt the need to show their work, to prove themselves. This wasn’t a note just for my style of pitching (flat, part-Troll doll); she was encouraging us to dream bigger and start anew. What would Rookie look like if we saw everything up until that point as just research?" —Tavi Gevinson, (final) "Editor's Letter," Rookie Mag

"Inactivity, inaction is discredited. Silence is discredited. And fasting is discredited." —Ulay, The Artist is Present


There's a self-seriousness that irritates me about my approach to writing in public. Here I am, trying to pair three thoughts together—and they make sense to me as a whole, which is the crazy part—that revolve around values. The Public Writer in me says, "This is some serious shit, and I should write about it in a serious way." Though opaque in their connection, the concepts of exertion, validation, and force all wind together in a braid...

"The real struggle isn't in force," a serious writer might write. "Force is easy. Real struggle is in Restraint." I mean, that's what I'm talking about. That's what I want to internalize, that particular thought. And what I want to communicate is that the words here are targets I'm aiming for, even though I might only ever be able to take aim at them after telling an imagined audience that I'm doing so. Maybe that's the delusion I'm faced with. Another? Continually starting a path before taking any time to consider the terrain. Before the first step, I'm outwardly committed to whatever may lie ahead, but after just two the entire process seems unsustainable.

"What about the assumed honor of struggle," that serious writer might continue. "Or how about what a Next Step might look like if the previous had never existed? If one actually approached each new day as something New?" A serious writer might try to conclude their thought by writing something like, "The profound resides outside the shadows of yesterday's ghosts." It's all just me trying to prove myself, in one way or another.

But I'm not good at that. In those moments, where I'm too serious, I'm serious because of fear. Fear that I won't get credit for being something I'm not. Fear that I'll be found out as a fraud, a phony, or maybe fear that I'll be rightly judged for my lack of profundity. "Silence is discredited," says the man with words coming out of his mouth.

~~~~~


"We really are some scorekeeping motherfuckers," he said, motioning between the two of them while standing in line at the diner. "Aren't we?" It was all about "the hit," as they called it. They've talked about it before, that feeling of validation that comes with being publicly recognized for taking action in a way that can only be understood by someone who never changes a lightbulb in the dark. "Yeah, we sure are."


~~~~~

"In the dead darkness of Tuesday morning, 67 hours and 279 miles after they’d started, two battered warriors shuffled to the start corral. Dauwalter said a few words to Steene. They shook hands, the starting bell clanged, and Steene tottered off into the blackness alone. In the uncompromising world of Big’s Backyard, Dauwalter quit, and was marked, like 68 others, DNF. [...] 
Typically, Dauwalter’s takeaway from the race had nothing to do with how much she had suffered and endured, nor about winning or losing or strides made for women, but about learning: "I feel pretty good about how it played out now that I’ve had night of sleep and a shower. Yeah, my legs hurt really bad and that’s probably going to get worse over the next couple days, but already I’m thinking about next year’s race, what we can do differently so we’re out there even longer. I want to come back and go into the 300s. Kevin and I have never done anything close to this. We learned so much—all the ways we can work more efficiently, gear and food that would have been helpful. To have this cool experience—I was lucky to be a part of this.” —Sarah Barker, "Ultrarunner Courtney Dauwalter Takes On The World's Most Sadistic Endurance Race," Deadspin

~~~~~

"Fuck 'wellness.' Wellness is capitalism trying to sell you back the sanity it stole from you."

"In one way or another, all of these new services generally boil down to elaborate, expensive instructions to eat more of one thing and less of another, or to make a dietary addition or replacement that will unlock your body’s true potential. Convincing consumers that this new wave of diets is somehow distinct from the diet industry’s long, pseudoscientific history is a big task, but a potentially profitable one. According to the market-research firm Marketdata, the U.S. diet industry was worth an estimated $66 billion in 2017, but the number of active dieters in the country was down 10 percent. The firm found that that was due to two things: the growing popularity of the size-acceptance movement, and dieter fatigue. For new companies, laundering what are often fairly conventional diet practices through the language of technology provides the imprimatur of newness in the eyes of seasoned dieters, as well as a Trojan horse to reach consumers who, for whatever reason, were never interested in dieting qua dieting." —Amanda Mull, "The Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Language of Dieting," The Atlantic

"That meditation and mindfulness have entered the repertoire of global capitalism isn’t surprising: In the face of stagnant wages and an ever-deteriorating boundary between work and whatever we do outside it, why not shift the responsibility of finding peace to the individual? Put another way: Next time work makes you feel less than human, should you gently speak truth to power, or should you use mindfulness to self-regulate and maintain function in an oppressive system? And should you choose to self-regulate, are you tacitly thanking the oppressive system for giving you the tools of self-regulation to begin with? Furthermore, how much of this experience—this process of spelunking into my mind—should be comfortable and brightly colored? How much should feel good?" —Mike Powell, "Meditation in the Time of Disruption," The Ringer

"Perhaps most wearying are the invasive yet distant commands from media, state institutions, advertisements, friends or employers to self-maximise, persevere, grab your slice of the diminishing pie, 'because you are worth it' – although you must constantly prove it, every day." —Ruth Cain, "How neoliberalism is damaging your mental health," The Conversation

"You know what’s actually therapeutic—more therapeutic than staring at the ceiling desperately inventing a string of 'free' associations, more therapeutic than reading a book with a vested interest in establishing your insufficiency so that you will have to purchase its string of accoutrements and sequels? Screaming where people can hear you. Weeping on the train. Indulging in the intimacy of jointly cultivated resentment. Seeing your suspicions that you aren’t a self-pitying maniac confirmed." —Becca Rothfeld, "The Promise of Misery," The Baffler


I love sharing this phrase with people, "Those who manufacture umbrellas need it to rain." It sounds really smart—and hell, it even makes sense—but it's kind of like cracking a knuckle and thinking "That feels great!" Does it, really? I mean, does it actually feel anything truly positive, or is it just audibly satisfying in a way that only a generally benign release of gas can be? Another article. Pop. More fast-acting "wisdom." Maybe it's not about umbrellas, but how much of my own "self care" is a measure of buying in to someone else's idea of what's supposed to protect me from the elements? The lines between being informed and being distracted aren't always clear.

Inaction is discredited, but sometimes action is discredited, too.


~~~~~

"If there had been a predestined finish line at Big’s Backyard my money would have been on Courtney to win, she would beat me at any such race and distance. But at the Backyard you draw your own lines. As long we are at least two remaining there is a feeling of purpose, that this painful game has a meaning. That illusion disappears in a blink when only one remains. The actual winning needs to be the sole focus if that is what you’re after. That focus was feeding me and let me put all other things aside. At the moment when Courtney congratulated me and remained in the coral as I jogged away alone into the Tennessee night I didn’t feel joy. I felt empty and without purpose. You can not carry the illusion by yourself. It takes at least two to play. Thanks Courtney Dauwalter for taking us this far. We are good at playing this game." —Johan Steene, 2018 Big’s Backyard Ultra "Finisher"

Nymphomaniac [2013]

The Extended Director's Cut is around five and a half hours, and in that time there's so much space for trust to grow between Joe and Seligman. Yet, on several occasions, she alerts him to how she feels he's misunderstanding her, or how he's not following what she's trying to actually communicate through the stories of her past that she reveals to him. Buying in on the projection of him as an intellectual asexual, I thought she was being difficult in doing so. But in the end she was right. After all that was said, he saw her as little more than a whore sent by the gods of coincidence to grant him reprieve from his own sexual burden. "The human qualities can be expressed in one word: hypocrisy."

The Chase [1994]

There's something incredibly comforting about early-'90s Henry Rollins decked out in a police uniform barking dialog at a backseat ride-along camera crew. A nonsensical romance, vigilante Flea, high speed chase, and a Butterfinger hostage situation... The Chase might well be my favorite bad movie.

Arrival [2016]

Feel like kind of a douche writing anything after reading this review. What can I say? I like the feeling Arrival left me with? Maybe throw in the word "ethereal" to try to express something it most surely doesn't mean? I almost need to watch it again to see if it's wholly tainted now.

Out Cold [2001]

There's always been just enough Zach Galifianakis in this movie to keep it near to my heart. (The car crash scene is the best... though it's also a shining reminder of how bad my taste in movies can be.) Also: Dave Koechner is Anchorman-level Koechner here, which is pretty great.

Payback [1999]

Loved this movie as a teenager. Between its dark visuals, gritty themes, Maria Bello & Lucy Liu it was one of my favorites of the late-'90s/early-'00s. Now, the highlight came when Kris Kristofferson showed up on screen and I lit up like a Christmas tree, having forgotten he was even in this thing.

Ronin [1998]

My dad: That such and such a car there looks like it's gotta be so and so year.

Me: Oh, interesting.

 I don't "get" cars the way some people do, but that never seems to prevent me from enjoying this movie's big car chase. It's pretty good.

The Shawshank Redemption [1994]

"Brooks was here," he writes, a thousand times, written in a thousand ways, said to a thousand people in a thousand languages. How many times must we wail before being heard? Does it even matter?

Gattaca [1997]

The way Gattaca feels new and old, its visuals tugging between the two as society strains to reconcile the perfection gap between Vincent and Jerome... it's stylistically beautiful and crafted with care. "You wanna know how I did it? I never saved anything for the swim back."

Dark City [1998]

Visually impactful though the substantive themes don't materialize into a a resolution nearly as inspiring as the set design.

The Ghost and the Darkness [1996]

An African period piece! Val Kilmer! Michael Douglas! Lions! This nearly doubled its money at the box office! Only in the '90s!

Conspiracy Theory [1997]

The lingering memory of this movie has been the first half hour or so of Mel Gibson establishing his character (which, I admit, is still fun despite a residue of sourness over who we learned that abusive anti-semitic asshole to really be). I failed to recall that Conspiracy Theory then devolves into a fairly standard dramatic affair for another hour forty-five thereafter, which draws on and on and on and on and on and on and on... only to reach its conclusion with a happy-go-lucky cop car sing-a-long confirming: Nah, black helicopters and murder plots weren't really mental illness—Jerry was the only sane one this entire time. OK.

The Thing [1982]

I've seen the best of the practical effects countless times as clips, but somehow this one alluded me until now. Even without a trace of nostalgia in me it holds up (which is something considering it's almost four decades old). One thing I noticed: The Thing is far more aggressive compared to Carpenter's other movies from the same era. I'm still trying to figure out if I actually like that or not.

Kids [1995]

All the while I was thinking to myself, "Did this influence me as a kid?" I remember watching Kids on late night Showcase viewings in Canada in my parents' basement, not terribly long after its release. I was a teenager, a kid. I remember the style, the music, the youthful ignorance. How sexy some of it looked. It's taken me a while to begin to understand any of it.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid [1969]

While showcasing an entirely different story in a wholly different manner of presentation, the chemistry between Newman and Redford is not nearly as enjoyable here as it in The Sting. Maybe on its own it'd fare better, but purposefully watching them both within a day leaves Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid feeling especially drawn out and tired (even despite its marginally shorter run-time).

Escape from New York [1981]

That government officials thought a guy named "Snake" wouldn't screw them over in the end exposes a naivety which, frankly, is a little endearing... considering the country has become a police state.

The Sandlot [1993]

"I've been coming here every summer of my adult life, and every summer there she is oiling and lotioning, lotioning and oiling... smiling I can't take this no more!" There's no question in my mind that this was the inception point of the male gaze for an entire generation.

The Devil’s Candy [2015]

Think they broke the saturation knob off by crankin' it so hard during some scenes, which is probably the most metal thing about The Devil's Candy: The visuals. Had forgotten how forehead-smacky the Flying V as a weapon scene is, but bonus points for the adorable father daughter headbang session.

Upstream Color [2013]

The love, the confusion, the anger, the swaying hums of plot, linked together by a vanishing horizon of understanding. Rising, sinking, gone, with the lingering instinctual reaction being one of confusion, unsure and fearfully defensive as if needing to argue that this was something different that what it should have been.

Jackass: The Movie [2002]

When it was first released, I drove an hour and a half with a group of college friends to see Jackass at a theater in Okaboji, Iowa. That should tell you a lot about where I was with my life then. Part of me wants to recapture that feeling when watching this. Part of me is totally comfortable no longer taking the slightest interest in seeing a guy eat a pissy snowcone.

Edge of Tomorrow [2014]

Finally, a movie that indulges my dream of watching Tom Cruise die a thousand deaths.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation [1989]

When the S.W.A.T. team busts into the Griswold's house at the end of the movie and instructs the family to freeze, Beverly D'Angelo's hand is firmly cupping Chevy Chase's crotch. Pointing that out to a friend tonight was the highlight of the entire viewing.

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present [2012]

I feel the intent. I feel the pain. And in that same space I also feel regret for the many moments of purposelessness to my own self-flagellation. The eyes of those who sit with Marina are amazing. The challenge of it all. What it became is not what it set out to be. There's bonus footage on the DVD featuring an eleven year old child who sat with Marina who says he's glad he was "finally" part of a work of art. Fuck, man. Thirty five here, and still on the outside...

Slap Shot [1977]

In the final game scene, Ned removes his boxers without ever taking his jock strap off. Old time hockey was weird.

Widows [2018]

Taking one star away for each time Robert Duvall's spittle took me out of the movie.

Half Baked [1998]

The first time I saw Half Baked was upon its initial run in theaters, and when I returned home—still delirious with laughter—I recalled the entire movie to my mom. I was in junior high and completely sober. There's no way in hell she could have thought I wasn't high as a kite.

Big Trouble [2002]

Big Trouble totally did the "Andy Richter as goofy twin brothers thing" years before Arrested Development did. Have no interest in talk radio or the Florida Gators, but I love the running talk radio/Florida Gators fan gag. And the cast... Teenage Zooey Deschanel is the best Zooey Deschanel. Pre-plastic surgery Sofía Vergara. Heavy D. David Puddy as the horny police officer turned stripper. "Was that a goat?" Tom Sizemore going all Dr. Strangelove at the end. There's a lot to love here. One quibble: Tim Allen could have literally been any actor and his role would have been better.

The Wrestler [2008]

This thing is so tragic... Can I even say that I "enjoy" it? The scene where Randy is recognized at the deli and he slices his hand on the meat slicer. The extreme wrestling match. Practically everything with his daughter. When Pam chugs her beer and leaves to escape sharing a moment. That prayer before his final match where you can see the streak of a tear having run down Randy's face. "The world don’t give a shit about me." What's there to "enjoy" here? And why does this feel like a bolder shade of a color time is bound to paint us all with? What am I doing with my life? What has this movie done to me?!

Shutter Island [2010]

Reluctant to say that Shutter Island just wasn't that convincing but that's how it feels. It's not that the line from the start through to the end was linear and predictable, but so many beats along the way were exaggerated—a little subtlety would have gone a long way here.

Inception [2010]

Maybe it's a telling sign of Inception's visual strength and thematic creativity that I'd be open to watching it all again, right now, despite having just completed its two and a half hour runtime. "You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling."

Dunkirk [2017]

Dunkirk is visually incredible. I'm not generally a fan of war movies, which clouds my perspective, but this was built in such a claustrophobic way - it was easy to get lost in how real it all felt. It's the type of film that should win awards. Then again, it's also just not something I'm likely to return to.

The Game [1997]

I want to get more out of The Game than I have. This is the second viewing this year—each time with a separate friend who was unimpressed. But I was impressed... at some point, which keeps me returning to try to find that feeling again. It was when I had this VHS tape in my late teens—it gave me that "whoa" moment. Matt Goldberg's review fills a mental pothole for me. I don't think this one's going to work for me now.

Creed [2015]

Baby Creed. Is it possible to strip Creed of its Rocky nostalgia and see it as its own property? What then of Rocky's cancer thread? Why should we care about that character? Why not build up more of the backstory, the fights in Mexico, the fact that this man wants to prove he can do this for himself, to prove that "he's not a mistake" as he says to Rocky. Instead those fights are framed as illegitimate (but important!) if mentioned at all. Instead we just believe that this out of the blue child of a legend can outbox top ranked contenders, because of course he can. Adonis gets a shot at a major boxing title despite not being the most qualified contender, and outperforms his expectations... But is it enough just to say: Don't quit? Sometimes that's what we need. I need to be reminded of that regularly. But bringing the bigger picture back into frame here, didn't we already get that with Rocky?

12 Angry Men [1957]

"Character" is the word ringing in my ears after watching this movie. "I don't care whether I'm alone or not! It's my right!" But what does blindly flexing that right say about you, sir? What does imposing that right where it does not belong say about your character? This is such a carefully acted movie with such an important story about what it takes to be of a society, and not simply part of it, inflexible in brandishing your "rights" to the detriment of others'. I dread a modern remake in which "alternative facts" are brandished as imprecise daggers, sloppily defending flimsy opinion as fact... But that's the thing though, 12 Angry Men isn't political. It's about empathy. Yet somehow even that seems to be a line to be drawn in the sand of today's society.

The General [1926]

Buster Keaton's deadpan delivery is great and he's daring as hell, but there's no way I believe someone looked at that flaming bridge and thought: "That bridge is not burned enough to stop you." A visual triumph of its time, but also: The Confederate army wins? GFY Buster Keaton.

What About Bob? [1991]

For as much as I want to say that Bill Murray's performance carries this movie, that's not wholly true. Richard Dreyfuss plays an asshole really well here, and without his (equally?) neurotic counterbalance to Murray's Bob, What About Bob?! wouldn't be half the movie it is.

Holy Motors [2012]

Fans of peculiar erections are really going to like this one.

Being John Malkovich [1999]

The camera pans to Andy Dick and Hanson in the audience at the Emmys, cheering on puppeteer John Malkovich, while Craig is also on stage... pulling all the strings.

Batman [1966]

For as criminally creative as the practical props and stylish sets are, the real beauty of Batman is found in its stupendous script (POW!). It's one of the most hilarious movies in my collection. "They may be drinkers, Robin, but they're also human beings." (Sidebar: The Blu-ray transfer is gorgeous.)

Hatchet [2006]

The "monster" here looks a hell of a lot like a grownup Sloth from Goonies, and the backstory is about as much of a stretch as portraying Joel David Moore of Grandma's Boy as a believable lead is, but it's not without its moments. Like when Sloth "dies" and there's an unnecessary (necessary) splatter of blood that sprays in JDM's face. Sometimes it's the little things that matter the most.

Her [2013]

Her: A fantasy film in which a writer makes enough money to afford a luxurious cosmopolitan flat.

Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion [2007]

Seth Galifianakis is still a fun character, but I'm really glad that Zach developed further creatively beyond the self-indulgent hung over self-loathing schitck on display here.

Pontypool [2008]

The concept is unique and the little flares of Canadiana make me sliiiiiightly homesick. I'm not sure what would make this any better, as resolution and causation aren't particularly necessary, and the story of the development of the sickness alone is satisfying. I guess I have a hard time tracking Grant Mazzy (among the few other main characters) through who all he's supposed to be (to the community, his co-workers, himself), and part of that leaves me feeling distance from the plot as a whole.

Hardcore Henry [2015]

This is my third or fourth viewing this year—and is my favorite (new to me) movie of the year. From the sharp, funny contrast of The Stranglers' "Let Me Down Easy" over the slow, stylized scenes of insane violence in the introduction through to the brilliant use of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" in the fight scene near the end, the use of music in this movie is brilliant. That's nothing to say of the ingenious first person visuals and the absurd non-stop action... and Jimmy. Oh my, Jimmy—for being a movie that places so little emphasis on acting, his role is so interesting, bouncing between avatars and playing each with such enthusiasm—he's just great. And the horse scene, the overlapping subtitles—the humor just gets me.