What I’m better at is writing notes about stuff and then leaving them in my phone for months.
Aforementioned notes, continued.
Selma // Ava DuVernay did a beautiful job of weaving together new and archived footage. The costumes, the acting, the looming anguish — all of it blends seamlessly. David Oyelowo is commanding as MLK, Jr., though it occurred to me that John Legend (who performed the movie’s Oscar-winning song) might have been a cool choice to play him, too, since he can generate those effortless vocal trembles. The rest of the cast is incredibly strong, and it’s thrilling to see them all come together from Moonlight (Andre Holland), Empire (Trai Byers), Orange is the New Black (Lorraine Toussaint), Get Out (Lakeith Stanfield), The Wire (Wendell Pierce) and so many other prominent but not necessarily non-fiction works of art. I’ll also never tire seeing Martin Sheen play a good guy, nor will watching Tim Roth ever get old, even when he’s depicting someone as deplorable as George Wallace.
Wonder Woman // I don’t have a ton of experience with recent Marvel or DC Comics-based movies, but I can say that the single-character focus of this one made it pretty easy for someone like me to jump right in. And focusing it on a lone female character left me feeling simultaneously invincible and disheartened as I exited the theater. Gal Godot is (to quote my friend Kate) “ass-kickulous,” as is the all-female world she lives in, but the world she enters isn’t. And neither is ours. It was pretty refreshing to see Chris Pine woo her without leading-manning her (though I could have done without the romance, actually) and enthralling to watch a battle scene that contained no men and exquisite armor. For once.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again // The late David Foster Wallace is brilliant for small reasons — like the phrases “pussified whisper” (p. 6), “the sky is the color of old jeans” (p. 87) and “a facial expression that looks the way a bad dream feels” (p. 157) — and medium reasons, like his in-graf abbreviations, his self-loathing footnotes and his entire essay about David Lynch, who is “one of these people with unusual access to their own unconscious” (p. 166). But the large reasons are somehow larger than DFW himself, as cliche as it may be. While reading this essay collection, a woman stopped me on the subway to talk about it. Looking back, I probably should have engaged with her more, but at the time, I wasn’t in much of a chatting mood. She did leave me with this advice, though: “You can’t write until you really know yourself.” And I feel like DFW would have thoroughly enjoyed the guilt trip I gave myself after the whole interaction. He may have even reacted the same way.
The Big Sick // The world needs more Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, I know that for sure. Seeing their imperfect, perfect story on screen was a true delight, and I feel a comedy-nerd pride swelling in my chest knowing that it has gained popularity and acclaim. They took a risk by writing something so intimate — reliving a trauma and portraying oneself and one’s family in an unflattering light is a monumental choice for artists to make — and it paid off. Ray Romano was devastatingly great as Emily’s father, too. I only wish I could have gotten more on board with Kumail playing his twentysomething self. He was way too old for the role, but no one else could have played him, either.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi // Not only will this tiny old Japanese man make you hungry, but he’ll also make you question your work ethic and redefine how you conceptualize “honor.” I don’t know if I’d call sushi master Jiro Ono a happy man, but I think “content” is a fair term. He’s found contentment in learning and honing a trade, in knowing that achievement is inevitable with practice and in unlocking dignity from repetition.
Lucky Number Slevin // It’s clear that the writer/director tandem of Jason Smilovic and Paul McGuigan was going for a Quentin Tarantino/Chan-wook Park vibe with this movie, though it had its own style. The mod, vibrantly colored sets stuck with me much longer than the plot’s twists, turns and timeline shifts, but those were pretty fun on their own, too. Suffice it to say that Josh Harnett, doing his best Benicio Del Toro impression as Slevin, gets caught in the middle of a feud between two crime bosses (Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman, as it should be) and enjoys the ride almost as much as the viewer.
The Incredible Jessica James // I am all for the world containing more Jessica Williams, but I’m not sure this movie did what it set out to do. It is, primarily, a vehicle for Williams’ infectious brand of confident comedy — she is effortlessly funny, smart and sexy, and she’s uncocky while showcasing all of it. It also breathes life into the sagging moving-to-New-York-in-your-twenties trope, and it’s the product of a tight script. No extraneous characters or tangents or background information. Yet it also falls victim to an unfortunate, predictable ending — young, struggling woman allows slightly older man to rescue her. Jessica begins dating Boone (Chris O’Dowd, who can do no wrong), and they have unique, unsappy chemistry. They’re a joy to watch and he’s in complete awe of her. But she teaches theater to kids and he is a rich app developer. There’s nothing wrong with one person supporting another, except when the first word you might use to describe the supportee is “independent.”
Bridget Jones’ Diary // Somehow I managed to escape my twenties without seeing this movie. A sin to some, but I’m glad I saved it for when I was closer in age to the title character. It seems strange that Renee Zellweger was nominated for an Oscar, considering how rom-commy the role was. Then again, she was so clumsy and real — and British! — and thus the ideal candidate. Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, dashing suitors til the day they die, were given more than usual to work with here. Grant is Daniel Cleaver, the player boss, Firth is Mark Darcy, the short-tempered eccentric, and both play off Zellweger’s magnetism perfectly.
Next time, I’m really gonna go on a break.