2017 In Movies

Every December for the past two years I’ve recapped all the movies I saw that year in Tweet-sized reviews. So without further adieu, here’s my 3rd-Annual year-in-review for movies.

Honorable Mentions: Movies that came out in 2016 that I didn’t catch until 2017.

 

  1. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
    BvS is a boring superhero movie, which is worse than it being “too dark,” “too rainy,” or “too joyless” even though it is also those things. (1/5)
  2. La La Land
    This movie managed to make me care about Mia and Seb’s romance, even if I didn’t care for Seb. Beautiful shots throughout the movie. (4/5)
  3. Moonlight
    2016’s Best picture is a tear-jerker with fantastic performances. Better romance than La La Land; loved that beach scene. (5/5)
  4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    I wanted to like Jyn and company, but their motivation was shaky, and their mission was undermined by eye-rollingly bad cameos. (3/5)

  5. Hidden Figures

    I thought this was going to be a cheesy family film, but it kept the cheese to a minimum (mostly K.Costner) and dished a lot of real drama. (4/5)

    And now onto 2017 proper…

  1. John Wick: Chapter 2

    While not as strong as the original, JW2 expanded the lore without breaking it, and created a lot of memorable, entertaining moments. (4/5)

  2. Kedi

    Do documentaries belong here? Kedi is about cats in Istanbul, but it’s also about humans who love cats, and therefore, amazing. (5/5)

  3. Get Out

    I’m normally too scared of horror movies to even see them, but thankfully Get Out kept jump scares to a minimum and got psychological. (5/5)

  4. Logan

    Logan was praised for being dark and violent but it really didn’t do much for me. I wasn’t emotional about the end of Jackman as Wolverine. (3/5)

  5. Ghost in the Shell

    Aesthetics is all this movie has. I can’t believe they made whitewashing part of the plot. I’m sad to see good source material wasted. (2/5)

  6. The Fate of the Furious

    This is the worst F&F movie they’ve made since ‘09. They took a popcorn-flick-franchise into a dark direction, fridged a woman, & it sucked. (3/5)

  7. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

    I didn’t care for the original GotG, but this one’s themes about family resonated with me. I got emotionally invested this time around! (4/5)

  8. Wonder Woman

    Wonder Woman juggled three things, and did it well somehow! It did 1) origin story, 2) fish out of water rom-com, and 3) war drama. (4/5)

  9. Baby Driver

    Ansel Elgort & Lily James stand out in this heist movie with a focal twist. It looks great, and sounds great, as standard for Edgar Wright. (5/5)

  10. Dunkirk

    I was underwhelmed by Dunkirk. I heard over and over about how tense it was, but, I didn’t really feel it. At least it was short. (3/5)

  11. Atomic Blonde

    This is a super stylish movie with an awesome 80’s soundtrack tailored for me specifically! Unfortunately the plot was convoluted. (4/5)

  12. Logan Lucky

    Not an amazing heist movie, but this movie really worked as a comedy, made me appreciate John Denver, and had southern accent Daniel Craig. (4/5)

  13. Battle of the Sexes

    I was pleasantly surprised at how much this movie dove into BJK’s sexuality! Emma Stone was perfect, and S.Carell made Riggs sympathetic. (5/5)

  14. American Made

    I will keep seeing Tom Cruise in action movies, and while this was marketed as one, it’s actually just a clunky-comedy bio-pic. It’s okay! (3/5)

  15. Blade Runner 2049

    No movie this year demanded a rewatch like Blade Runner 2049. This movie has a lot of things to say, if you have nearly 3 hours to listen. (5/5)

  16. The Florida Project

    I couldn’t stop thinking about this movie. It combines poverty and the dangers of childhood, in an uncomfortable heartbreaking nightmare. (5/5)

  17. Lady Bird

    Lady Bird perfectly captures the feeling of being in your last year of high school. Saorise Ronan is great & Laurie Metcalf brings it home. (5/5)

  18. Murder on the Orient Express

    This movie’s a “whodunit” that doesn’t give the audience the chance to solve the mystery. The more I think about it, the less I like it. (2/5)

  19. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Thematically, I think Rian Johnson has done something great with Star Wars. That said, I’m deducting a point for everything at the casino. (4/5)

  20. The Shape of Water

    This is a wonderful, science-fantasy romance, that almost functions on a family-movie level of logic, but deeply explores sexual themes. (5/5)

 

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What’s Up? (12/12/2017)

New York, New York

So, it’s been 2 weeks since I’ve been back in Pittsburgh after about 12 days in New York. I meant to write this immediately upon my return, but, a little time away to think doesn’t hurt. I do struggle when thinking about New York conceptually; it is where I’m from, it is my first home, but I don’t want to gush about it too much. My friends and family there are great, and it’s really easy to be surrounded by the sights of the city and become infatuated by them, but then there’s Pittsburgh, my chosen home. And when I’m away from Pittsburgh and I’m in the house I grew up in, I don’t know, it feels wrong. It feels too much like coming home from college, only different, like I went to college and never came back and that’s resented. It’s weird being a stranger in the house you grew up in — you can’t help changing while you’re away, and you spend enough time away from everyone that they’ve changed too (like, when did your brother get into Kendrick? I wish I was there for that).

Every visit to New York brings feelings like these; you’re glad to see everyone, but the ways in which you’ve changed sometimes leads to unexpected results. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad, and the whole thing feels very melancholy.

Cleaning Haus

In the 12 days I spent in New York, I spent a pretty significant amount of time just cleaning my old room. It’s unrealistic to expect this room that hasn’t been mine in 6 years to reflect who I am, but I can at least bring a few touches of the new me to the room. Something the Pittsburgh version of me is really into is tidying, and in tidying I probably threw out 2 garbage bags worth of old crap. Old drawings, notes from as far back as my sophomore year of college, and useless trinkets were all over the room, scattered and taking up space. It gave the impression that someone lived there, with all of this media lying around, but whoever it was hadn’t lived there in quite some time.

The room went from wearing the trash of my past, to accessorizing my past, fashionably. Some good drawings from high school are now propped up, some decorations my dad purchased, and even some toys from childhood make an appearance. With another round of cleaning in December it might start to feel more and more like my room again (or something I at least had a hand in designing).  

Focus

I will say this about being in New York — every second that I’m not in Pittsburgh reminds me of who I am and what I want to do in Pittsburgh. It gives me a focus and a drive. I long to return to my work, to return to my apartment, and to work hard to improve both.

Obit. for a Tree

Today when I returned to work, a four-story tree that stood outside my apartment all three years that I’ve lived here, was cut down. I didn’t even get to say goodbye, so I’ll write my farewell here.

That tree gave me front-row seats to so many birds, from tiny chickadees and hummingbirds, to red-tailed hawks. That tree and I went through the seasons together, and I’m going to miss seeing it outside my window. Peace out tree, it’s been good.

Soul Swapped: 2017 Edition

Every now and then, I love to sit down and play a randomized Pokemon game. I’ve written about this a lot over the years. In fact, The Nuzlog may have been one of the first things I tried writing on this blog. As far back as 2013, there are entries where I write notes, detailing out the play-through in an immersive, role-playing fashion.

Why?

Well, I think that’s just one way to keep the memory of the play-through alive. I’m not the type to record videos of every randomized run, though I’ve done that in the past. I’m not a streamer, I don’t talk over videos, so writing has always been how I tried to infuse some character into my notes.

Okay, but why Pokemon?

Randomizing Pokemon games breaks down the human design and structure, and replaces it with chaos and mystery. As a child, I never knew what was around the corner in a Pokemon game. As an adult, even if I’m not actively spoiling myself, I can read the signposting to figure out what’s going on. As a result, the games feel easier and easier as I grow up — they’re still fun, but not because they’re challenging. But in a randomized game, the chaos and mystery I experienced as a child is still there. It’s so much fun to see what’s around each corner, who’s in the gyms, what Pokemon trainers use, that randomizing a Pokemon game is practically an annual thing for me.

Which brings me to the last run I did, a randomized Pokemon Silver run for the GBC, played on legit GBC hardware —  no accelerated emulation, it had to be played in real time, so grinding out levels would take hours, not minutes. Since Pokemon Silver was remade as Pokemon Soul Silver, I affectionately call these randomized runs “Soul Swapped” — again, there’s a history there spanning back to 2014 on this blog.

PokemonKrystal2

The game presented me with Grimer, Kadabra, and Dugtrio as possible starters. I love the purple poison types introduced in Gen I, as they were always the villain’s Pokemon, so Grimer was the obvious choice even though it was disadvantaged against Kadabra and Dugtrio. What followed over the next 20 hours and 21 minutes was a nostalgic, but fresh play-through of Pokemon Silver, which was one of the first games I really enjoyed as a child (if not the first).

I’ve left a record of each of the gym trainers and Elite Four members encountered during the initial Johto leg of the adventure. My trainer, Krystal, would go on to train that Grimer, Slimey Gal, until the very end, along with a Magneton, Magnetique, a Blastoise, Kaiju (named so because he knew Fire Blast, which reminded me of turtle-Kaiju like Gamera), a Starmie, Beast II (named so because they replaced Entei as a Legendary Beast), a Raichu, Blackthorn, (named so because she was received as a gift Pikachu by the Dragonmaster in Blackthorn City), and finally, a Pupitar named Reptar.

I don’t know what to say. I have an urge to record the results of these randomized runs because they are truly unique. I have had that urge since 2013. I have no intentions of stopping. Pokemon got into my system when I was a six-year-old kid, and boy, I still love this.

What’s Up? (10/1/2017)

  1. Lingering. After a fantastic week with my family in Pittsburgh, I need to hit the reset button on my apartment, there’s some lingering differences. Guests have been gone for a week, but there are still guest towels in the bathroom. Small things like that.
  2. End of Summer. I get the feeling I’m surrounded by people who are like “I love fall” or “I love autumn.” Like, sure. I like autumn things as much as the next — foliage, apples, pumpkins… etc, but I don’t live for this season. Halloween? Yes. Cold temperatures? No.
  3. New Retro Arcade: Neon: Again. Next to Pokemon, there’s probably no game I’ve talked about here as much as New Retro Arcade: Neon. On some level, that’s because NRAN is almost more about the games inside of the game. (I can talk your head off about SEGA’s OutRun… and I just might.) On another level, the amount of work I put into NRAN outside of the game, is what makes me want to spend time inside of the game. 40 in-game hours are probably matched by 20 hours spend in Photoshop, creating, arranging, and fine-tuning arcade cabinet art so that it is exact to real-life cabinets, or at least visually appealing. Sharing that effort with the NRAN community, so others can enjoy my cabinet art, is also a nice bonus.
  4. SEGA’s OutRun. For the first time since picking up OutRun back in February, I made it to a third level. OutRun can be both extremely relaxing, and extremely tense. I’d say for the first few hours of playing, I was casually cruising through its pixely beaches without caring much whether I saw a second level. Now, I feel like any run where so much as a single mistake is made on the first level, might as well be trashed. There only so much that’s under your control though, and that’s probably what makes OutRun such a good quarter-stealer. You can be great at lifting on the gas through corners, you can be great at driving and all of that, but the traffic on the road is different every time, and sometimes, brutal. Still, celebrating a small victory in making it to a third level after months of on-and-off practice.
  5. Signing Off. Look how close the end of the year is approaching. Soon enough, I’ll be recapping my year in movies again. The end of the year makes me melancholy in a way that the summer never does. The end of the year is loaded with expectation and tradition. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years; things you have to get right because they only come once a year, and family, and all of that.

What’s Up? (9/6/2017)

  1. I ran to Southside early in the morning on Labor Day. Early enough to see waitresses from Hofbrauhaus step out of their cars in full dirndl uniforms (think Oktoberfest) and walk into work. It was like seeing Disney behind the scenes.
  2. I made that run to Southside in under 40 minutes. Really pushed myself to do it, but it was good.
  3. Logan Lucky was a good time, with a unique genuine wholesome-ness that I rarely feel in movies anymore.
  4. I rewatched the Mayweather/MacGregor fight, and it’s kind of nuts how much leeway they gave MacGregor since he didn’t 100% grasp the rules of boxing… I guess? I wish I wasn’t sucked into the extravaganza the first time around; I lost my head, and a few bucks, over nothing. On top of all that, a serial abuser did make a lot of money.
  5. Logan Lucky has me listening to John Denver, what the f-
  6. On this full moon, I’m going to be thinking about the autumn and winter to come, and how I can best end 2017 on the best possible note. What do I do at home to make me happy? How do I dress to create happiness? How do we keep summer vibes around after the summer is gone?
  7. For years I’ve thought about participating in NaNoWriMo, this thing where people practice writing by cranking out a whole novel during the month of November. Sounds like a lot of work that could be therapeutic.
  8. Hoe gaat het met uw? Met mij, ga het goed.
  9. The ending of Twin Peaks has my heart in a knot. If you love 90% of a thing, but you can’t reconcile with the final 10%, then I don’t know if the other 90% matters all that much.
  10. I wish I had more to say at this time.

What’s Up? (8/8/17)

Where the hell have I been?

Downtown Run

June (6/11/17) marked the first time I ran from my home in Squirrel Hill, to the neighborhood of South Side. A straight run from Point A to Point B? No, but I’m running a good 75-80% of the way. July (7/30/17) marked the first time I took that run a bit further, stretching all the way to The Point, Downtown. I suppose that makes it all a 5 or 6-mile adventure. Maybe more.

Altogether, it’s really amazing to sit by the huge fountain at The Point after such a long run. To stick your tired feet in a freezing cold pool, and get misted by this geyser shooting water two stories in the air. To be in an entirely different place than you’re used to because your body carried you there.

Change in a person is so gradual. I know people can tell I’ve lost weight; heck I can tell I’ve lost weight too, but I don’t look the way I imagined a runner to look.

Battlegrounds

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds lives up to the hype. Quickly put, this game is Battle Royale / Hunger Games on a huge scale. 100 Players enter, only one gets the chicken dinner. I’ve made the Top 10 a few times in my 7 hours; but even the matches where I die early are exhilarating, and each match memorable in its own way.  If I die in the first 5 minutes because I bring a pistol to an assault rifle fight, or my fists to a gun fight, that’s fun. If I smoke 4 dudes with a shotgun, and run over 2 with my car, that’s fun.

But the fun is mostly in hindsight – in the moment of playing the game I am anxious, alert, and really trying my best not to get murdered and sent back to the lobby. I think that’s why, for a game I love, I’ve only played 7 hours; I’m almost afraid to boot the game up because I know my heart will be pounding, my hands sweating, and my ears perked trying to listen for footsteps.

It doesn’t help that the game’s bugs and quirks sometimes lead to serious frustration. Murdering some fool for his jeep gives me an intense rush; dying because I jumped out of that moving jeep then completely ruins it. Killing someone who has better armor and guns then me through sheer tactics makes me feel amazing; dying because I couldn’t escape the force field makes me feel like an idiot.

It’s worth playing, I think the whole of the internet knows that now, and everyone who isn’t playing is experiencing the fear of missing out – I know I was. But while I can appreciate Battlegrounds for the narratives it spins just by playing it, I don’t think I have an appetite for the white knuckle “kill or be killed” gameplay. I do and I don’t… I guess what I’m trying to say is I love this game, but man do I “hate” playing this game.

Mid Century Modern

Someone once said, “where did you get all this Mod furniture?” I think that was the first domino. The furniture I had was the furniture that fell into my lap, hand-me-downs and things my parents bought for me. I never noticed how heavily it leaned into a certain style; the Mid-Century Modern look. Noticing was damnation, because once I noticed what fit the style, I noticed everything that didn’t. If it was Mid-Century it belonged, but everything else had to go.

For months now I’ve been caught in a sort of shopper’s hell, spending dozens of hours shopping on Etsy, Ebay, Wayfair, Overstock, etc. for Mid Century Modern furniture, decorations, knick-knacks and junk. Hours that normal people probably spend watching TV, you know? Or reading a book. But I can’t get over how stylish, garish, or kitschy some of the stuff made in the 1950’s-1970’s was. And I think it makes me happy, surrounding myself with this aesthetic like a blanket. “Look at me, I’m surrounded by Mid-Century things! I know what I like and I’m sticking to it!”

But this also scares the hell out of me. Maybe just a little bit… because my apartment looked nothing like this in May. And I keep telling myself “once I get this one last thing, then the apartment will be complete.” But where is that line? Am I ever going to stop and be satisfied with what I own?

It’s an overreaction to an overreaction. Redecorating my apartment is not hell, it’s not a problem like an addiction, and I’m being responsible about it — but I also didn’t need to do it so quickly, cutting out the old furniture root and stem in a month or two. Change should be gradual.

What’s Up? (6/18/17)

South Side Run
Panther Hallow. Junction Hollow. Eliza Furnace. Three Rivers Heritage. Hot Metal Bridge.

Two weekends in a row this is the new path I’ve been running, and it’s hard, tiring, and incredibly rewarding. Last Sunday, (6/11/17) I ran to South Side, probably 4ish miles, and snacked up at Crazy Mocha, grabbing a banana and monkey mocha before going on another run which added a little over 1 mile. Ran all the way out to the 10th street bridge! I also made stops to an H&M that was sadly going out of business, and the Hofbrauhaus which opens its doors at 12PM on Sundays. After a significant amount of running and sweating, let me tell you, some beer and pretzels really hits the spot.

This Saturday (6/17/17) I repeated the first leg of the run, but this time I called it a day after getting breakfast at Crazy Mocha. I’m not going to do myself any favors if I get beer and pretzels after every 4-5 mile run.

Still, this is such a rewarding trail to take. Running the Panther Hallow Trail brings you to a small “Panther Hallow Lake” which is quaint, and you can also catch the Cathedral of Learning over in Oakland. Running all the way out to the Hot Metal Bridge is such a bigger reward though… it’s like you break out of these thin woods and BAM, there’s the Pittsburgh skyline, and you’re running over the Monongahela River. In time, I’ll make it all the way downtown on a run. That probably requires an early morning start though. You probably want to get out at sunrise before peak heat and all that.

A part of me still can’t believe this is part of who I am now. Running.