“Promising Young Woman” is Incendiary, Horrifying and the Best Film of the Year

2020 has offered very little in the way of pleasure. Count the COVID-19 pandemic, the crippling economic fallout as a result of it, the complete and utter upheaval of everything that was once perceived as normal just to name a few things. One of the things lost in the wake of this traumatic year has been there art of moviegoing; the never-ending argument of theaters vs. streaming is now unavoidable as big name distributors reconcile with shifting their calendars. The Oscars have extended their eligibility window, while also (begrudgingly?) adjusting their rules to favor films released on streaming services like Netflix. Warner Bros. has decided to put their entire slate of films for the next year to stream exclusively on HBO Max, while others are holding out waiting for normalcy to return.

Going to the movies by myself was something of a weekly tradition; there was nothing more reassuring after a hard week than knowing I could disconnect for a bit, and think of nothing but people on the screen in front of me. Losing that has been difficult, but something I hadn’t really reckoned with until last night when I was fortunate enough to watch a screener of Promising Young Woman in my living room. I’ve been watching movies all year long in my bedroom or my living room, but last night was the first time in a long while that I really thought about how incredible it would have felt to experience this film in a theater with other people. When it ended, I paced around my apartment for a half hour while I tried to process what I had just seen. After everything that’s happened this year, I couldn’t remember the last time a movie had affected me so viscerally; it felt as if I had just been struck by lightning.

Written and directed by Killing Eve show runner Emerald Fennell (though you may recognize her as a young Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall from the most recent season of The Crown), Promising Young Woman is an incendiary and thorny movie, one that is oftentimes just as hilarious as it is horrifying. It’s my favorite film of the year.

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Joker Drowns Under its Desire to Be Groundbreaking

The discourse surrounding Joker has been happening for so long, you’d be forgiven if you thought the movie had already come out by this point. Long before the movie was named the (surprising) recipient of the Venice Film Festival’s coveted Golden Lion (which in years’ past has gone to films such as Short CutsBrokeback Mountain and most recently, Roma) there was anxiety about its impact in a world being ravaged by armed, white men. Director, producer and co-writer Todd Phillips (The Hangover) has spoken at length about why the seriousness of Joker appealed to him (Comedy was too PC for him, boo hoo!); this isn’t just another comic book origin story, Phillips wants you to know that this is a serious, gritty character drama. Then there were the stories about just how far Joaquin Phoenix went down the rabbit hole in preparation for his role as Gotham’s Clown Prince have earned him the status of frontrunner in this year’s very crowded Best Actor race. It has all been exhausting to say the least. But now the movie is finally here to be judged on its merits, for what it is and not the controversy and “what ifs.” The most offensive thing about Joker is how bland, boring and toothless it is. 

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“Booksmart” is the Best Movie of the Year (So Far)

I’m just going to say what everyone is already thinking (and what some of us have already said): Booksmart is the best movie of the year. Sure, it’s only the end of May. We still have a whole other half of the year left to go! Am I crazy? Probably (yes). But my insanity is not a cloud over my judgement. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a tenderly assorted, rip-roaringly funny love letter to the tradition of best friendship and high school debauchery.

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Jordan Peele’s “US” is A Terrifying Hall of Mirrors

Mirrors have been a tool in the horror genre since its inception. I think of the shattered mirror in Carrie as she gets ready for the prom, the REDRUM laden mirror in The Shining and more recently the sinister, inescapable reflections terrorizing Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Just like those movies, Jordan Peele’s US uses the mirror (literal and figurative) to send a message to his audience. 

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The Best Movies of 2018

2018  was one of the most grueling experiences in recent memory and as a result I’ve unfortunately been neglecting this blog. It was something that used to give me a lot of joy, and through personal and professional setbacks I have to admit that finding the drive to do anything outside of my day to day demands has been seemingly impossible. But one thing that has continued to give me joy, however, has been film. Without film and escapism, I’m not sure I would have made it through such an emotionally taxing year. Like a warm hug on the coldest, most bitter day, I knew I could always just take myself to the movies and forget my troubles for a few hours. I feel like I say that every year, but it has not stopped being true. 

Recently I’ve been re-discovering the joy in things I had thought I had lost, writing being one of them. It’s a chore I’ve avoided for too long, both recreationally and professionally.  I’m in a much better headspace than I was last year, with a renewed drive to continue to pursue things that give me joy. Let this be a promise that I hold myself to throughout 2019, that I push myself not only to continue the upkeep with this little blog of mine, but in the other endeavors I’ve been ignoring.

So, without further adieu, my favorite movies of 2018. 

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Final Academy Award Predictions

Tomorrow morning, the nominations for the 90th Academy Award ceremony will be revealed. Based on precursors, it’s going to be a big morning for The Shape of Water (which has been nominated by every major guild and won with the Producer’s) and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (our Best Picture frontrunner). I fully expect Get OutLady Bird and Dunkirk to get a healthy amount of nominations as well. The biggest question is how well passion picks like I, Tonya, Mudbound and Call Me By Your Name will do. Will the Academy resist the Netflix aspect of Mudbound‘s distribution? Was the BAFTA love for Darkest Hour a fluke? 

Below are my full list of nomination predictions. 

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Again and Again: “Happy Death Day” is A Surprisingly Subversive Horror-Comedy

Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) just can’t catch a break. After waking up in a strange boy’s (The Blind Ring’s Israel Broussard) dorm room after a night of heavy drinking, Tree is fighting a killer headache and must do the walk of shame, in which she tries to unsuccessfully attempts to dodge a pesky student protestor, a guy she’s been ghosting, and her sorority sisters. Later, she will be confronted with the wife of the professor she’s been having an affair with, but now she’s late for her surprise party because there’s a masked murderer trying to kill her. Oh, did I mention it’s also her birthday?

If this sounds like life is playing some cruel joke on her, then just wait till you hear the punchline. When the masked killer does in fact kill Tree (and they do), she wakes up again on the morning of her birthday, doomed to live out the same excruciating day again and again, and again until she can solve the mystery of her murder. 

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