Richard Linklater’s first Oscar better not be Honorary.

I’m serious. Give the guy some hardware already.

He’s a true artist and visionary, taking a specific medium and bending it to his creative and innovative will. Boyhood is a beautiful, self-contained example of that, and probably his most-awarded work. But after seeing his Before trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, I’m convinced it’s his masterpiece. There are no movies — or pieces of art — like the three of them.

Before Sunrise has an initial romantic, cinematic hook. Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) meet on a train and decide to spend a whirlwind, unbelievable 24 hours together in Vienna. It’s a standard meet cute, but it escalates into something incredibly profound and complex. I found myself abandoning all cynicism because I was captivated (and a little frightened) by their bare honesty. Say Anything was made six years before Sunrise, yet Jesse seems like he inspired everything about Lloyd Dobler, and not the other way around. Celine, meanwhile, is everything but the Pixie in MPDG — which is to say she’s manic, dreamy and female. She’s impossible but impossible not to love. They enhance each other’s methodical brains, and they adapt to each other’s communication styles.

Jesse and Celine experience a whole relationship over the course of the day, and they jump into it instantly but naturally, with first-date-type awkward jitters at a record store to few-months-in conversations about past loves to one-year-anniversary speculation about future commitment. No interaction is shallow, no thought is insignificant and no emotion is invalid. Both of them want to be loved, and each trusts the other enough to move toward that goal at the same pace. By the time they agree to make the insane promise to see each other in the same spot, six months later, it doesn’t seem so insane.

Before Sunset picks up nine years later in Paris. Jesse and Celine never met up six months later, because life happens, but Celine happens upon Jesse’s book tour stop and they end up spending another day together. “Catching up” seems like such a trivial term to describe their interaction, because it’s so much more than that. There’s clearly still a very strong attraction between them, a what-if hanging over them as they walk around, but there’s also this very plain desire just to look at each other and feel that same inexplicable, strange comfort they felt with a stranger so many years ago. They look at each other with such longing, such understanding and such pain that it’s almost like the lives they’ve lead in the meantime really didn’t happen. When Jesse reveals he has a wife and kid back home, it shouldn’t be surprising but it is. The ease with which they — and the viewer — slip back into their love story is powerful, and it makes their (seemingly) final moments together in the car all the more overwhelming to watch. My friend and I were utterly destroyed (but completely satisfied!) by the ending: Though Jesse’s on his way to the airport, he stops at Celine’s apartment for a drink, and he stays there and misses his flight back to the U.S. It’s my favorite of the trilogy.

Before Midnight is the most emotionally draining of the three because it’s the most anchored in reality — despite the otherworldly-shades-of-blue setting of Greece. Nine years after Sunset, Jesse and Celine are married with kids and on vacation, and their dreamy love is subjected to the banalities, logistics and consequences of everyday life. They continue to push each other’s buttons, for lack of a better term, but it makes for tense disagreements instead of provoking conversations. We also get to see them as a real couple and as people in the world who interact with other people, their bubble burst and their normalcy exposed. The movie builds toward a heavy, cutting fight in a hotel room in which Jesse and Celine express their doubts about their relationship and its future.

I watched Midnight with the same Sunsetfriend, and she brought up a great point — over the course of the first 2.5 movies, we’re used to seeing them in varying states of bliss, so this fight is more impactful because it’s the first we’ve witnessed, but it can’t possibly be the actual first fight, can it? They seem so perfect, so yin to each others’ yang, that this fight feels like it’ll ruin everything. The ending — a semi-cheesy kiss-and-make-up moment — seems unsatisfying for that very reason, because their love is too powerful, too extreme to overcome a fight that basically consumes it. It would almost make more sense for them to split. But if they’ve indeed overcome many passionate fights over the course of their relationship, maybe this one is just a blip on the radar, and their reconciliation checks out.

Throughout the fight, I was on Jesse’s side, because Celine’s irrationality does not wane one bit over the course of 18 years. He made the sacrifice to live with her in France, so it seemed logical for me that she’d do the same for him and move the family to Chicago so he could be more of a parent to his older son from his previous marriage. But these kinds of decisions eluded them when they were falling in love, because they did so very quickly and uniquely. They never grew together, they just jumped in. They knew each other in pieces when they were young, but they only really comprehended each other when they were older. So it makes sense for their love story to culminate in something so intense and potentially life-altering. And even though the drama subsides curiously easily, it still pleases me to know that somewhere out there, on some continent, Jesse and Celine’s love story is still being written. Maybe we’ll see them in 2022, Hawke and Delpy’s schedules permitting.

Wonderment is hard to come by as an adult, but at least there are dinosaurs to think about.

Maybe the most wondrous moment of Jurassic Park — a movie that’s basically back-to-back-to-back-to-back wondrous moments — is when the brachiosaurus comes into view for the first time. It’s truly awe-inspiring, no matter your age. I watched this movie for the first time recently, in my never-ending quest to fill in childhood blanks, and seeing their long, swooping necks was completely unreal.

I’m a little bummed I never saw this magnificent movie when it came out. I would’ve been six years old, maybe too young, maybe easily spooked, but I think I would have loved it, and I think it would’ve had a profound effect on me. I was a very sci-fi averse child, mostly because no one was telling me how cool it was, and I think I would have had a stronger connection to stuff I’m just now learning about, like this flick.

But watching it in my late 20s, and watching it with someone who did watch it back then and adores it to this day, I found myself with a different kind of appreciation for it. He pointed out the brilliance of John Williams’ score and the tightness of the editing, which I know I would’ve glossed over as a kid. “Every shot had a purpose,” he also said, which is such a lovely observation. I realized just how much we take certain blockbuster-level directors like Steven Spielberg for granted. Guy knew exactly what he was doing, and undoubtedly still does. That’s why Jurassic Park turned out as magically as it did.

The dinos are the obvious centerpieces of this movie, of course, as their other-worldliness captivates kids and adults alike. But there’s beauty beyond the visuals, too. I especially loved how the children were portrayed — sweet, resourceful — while most of the adults were annoying and acerbic. Some were benevolent, like Sam Neill’s Grant, Laura Dern’s ass-kicking Ellie and Jeff Goldlbum’s Jeff Goldblu–er, Malcolm. (He’ll never not play himself, which is fine.) Both were scientists, pitted against the business-minded fogeys who ran the theme park and tasked with making sure it was safe. But without the presence of the kids — the grandchildren of one of the fogeys — grounding the adults with some of that aforementioned wonderment, the movie would have been too weighty, even cynical.

I’m not exactly on the edge of my seat to see the sequels or the reboot. I might read the book. But for now, I just want to continue to live in the world of 1993, when this movie (and dinosaurs) were maybe as real as they’ll ever be.

Why hasn’t Paul Reiser starred in a Woody Allen movie yet?

Yes, a quick internet search reveals that he was in an Allen play, “Writer’s Block,” which sort of counts. But it doesn’t count completely. I long for a permanent filmic recording of Reiser going full neurotic.

Diner is very nearly that. As Modell, he is a surrogate Woody, providing both the comic relief and the voice of reason in a circle of friends who are mostly rooted in reality. I love all the other adorable dudes in this cast, but Reiser edges them out for Most Charming because he’s more of a minor player — and thus leaves us wanting more.

Now for those other adorable dudes. Steve Gutenberg is Eddie Simmons, the soon-to-be husband of the never-seen Elyse, and he has a hell of a grin and a hellish attitude toward his mother. But there’s something about Barry Levinson’s relatable, non-sequitur-filled writing (and the cast’s improvising, I’m sure) that makes me ignore his cockiness and, instead, revel in it.

The same thing goes for Kevin Bacon’s Fen — he’s sweet, stupid and troubled, all wrapped into one, the guy who’s easy enough to let go of because he’s too much agony to deal with, but hard to let go of because he’s impossible not to care about. Current — crispy, you might say — Bacon’s roles have been hardened, unemotional, stoic in the face of challenges, so it’s nice to check back in on the early 80s and remind ourselves of what a softie he was.

I also enjoyed Tim Daly as Billy, though I found his early-80s mien indistinguishable from present-day Chris Hardwick’s. (That’s a compliment to both.) I equated Daniel Stern’s Shrevie with a hybrid of Josh Charles and Ben Schwartz, too, also flatteringly. Finally, though, Mickey Rourke blew my goddamn mind as Boogie. He rolls in right at the end here:

I didn’t even know it was Rourke until I looked it up. I hate to be superficial for a second, but I must: DREAMBOAT ALERT. MY GOD.

I’m back. That scene is exemplary of the movie as a whole. There’s love in the pointless banter, and poetry, too. As these gents gear up for Eddie’s wedding, they cover a lot of emotional ground. It’s pretty unrealistic how much ground they cover, considering the movie is supposed to take place over the course of a single night, but disbelief is worth suspending in this case. I think coming-of-age movies are at their best when they’re simplified, when they focus on a particular event rather than trying to span decades of growth. The growth happens in bursts, in meaningful moments, mostly around a plate of fries at a diner.

Before there were fingerprints, scripts were a lot easier to write.

That’s no disrespect to current screenwriters; on the contrary, setting your crime story in the olden times is a smart move, one that maybe lets you play down the special effects mumbo-jumbo (that’s the technical term for it) and play up the plot development.

And that’s exactly what the Coen Brothers did in Miller’s Crossing, all the way back in 1990. I had been told to watch this movie many moons ago but only got around to it in the past year, perhaps as a subconscious palate cleanser for their most recent release. It did the trick.

It’s a quick, dirty noir that’s never grimy, thanks in large part to Carter Burwell’s warm score. The juxtaposition between the movie’s gangster darkness and musical lightness is refreshing, and it’s exactly the type of unexpected touch you’d expect from the Coen Brothers, even back then. They have a penchant for lightening darkness, usually with hilarious dialogue (mostly from Frances McDormand), and so the music takes them down a different tonal path.

The Coens also bring out the asymmetry in Hollywood’s most symmetrical elite. Gabriel Byrne and Marcia Gay Harden fit quite nicely into the world of Miller’s Crossing; Byrne is no stranger to mob stories, but he always gives off an outsider air. Here, he’s in it the thick of it as someone else’s consigliere Tom. Byrne is Tom Reagan, second-in-command to Leo (Albert Finney) and first in bed with Verna (Harden), who’s also seeing Leo.

Two of the Coens’ usual suspects stand out in that stacked cast: Steve Buscemi, as unlucky Mink, and John Turturro, as bookie Bernie Bernbaum. In fact, I’d say Turturro gives the performance of his life as Bernie, who is embroiled in a war between Leo and his rival, Caspar (Jon Polito). He is cocksure to some, groveling to others, never confident in himself and always willing to reassign his loyalty. He runs such a gamut of emotions that you’re never sure what you’re going to get, but you know it’s going to be real in that particular moment. Bernie is pathetic, but he’s not unsympathetic. I can’t believe this guy hasn’t won an Oscar.

Miller’s Crossing is peak Coen before their peak. (And I’m not entirely convinced their peak has happened yet.)

I still think Charlie Sheen should’ve thrown out a first pitch.

Wouldn’t it have been delightful? I mean, I completely get why the Indians didn’t allow it to happen. He’s a perpetual liability, and the organization is already dealing with the fact that it’s got the most racist mascot and logo in baseball. Plus, from the Cubs’ perspective, who knows what would have happened? If Wild Thing had been allowed to toss one instead of [wow, I remember zero of the Progressive Field first-pitch throwers from the World Series and I was literally paid to watch all seven games], maybe history would have taken a different turn. Maybe Cubs fans would still be in their perpetual state of dissatisfaction instead of uncomfortably struggling with the feeling of “winning.” Hey, winning! This paragraph has come full circle.

Sidebar: I may not remember the names of the people who threw the first pitch at the four Cleveland home games during the Fall Classic, but I damn well remember the guy who sang the National Anthem a bunch of times at Dodger Stadium during the postseason. I love him. Francis Scott Key may not have known it, but he was writing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for Keith Williams Jr. to completely slay in 2016. Watch him and try not to feel American as hell.

Anyway. The point of this blog post is for me to tell you that I watched Major League for the first time in the same year that the Indians went to the World Series, and that’s a fun coincidence. I’d say I’m sorry they didn’t win, but I’m not, because I was rooting for the Cubs. (Though it was either team’s to lose by Game 7, and both should be wholly proud of the way they played. Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp, maaaaaaan.) And the more specific point of this blog post is for me to praise the hell out of Sheen’s “Wild Thing” hair. What a masterpiece. You can see the lightning-shaped buzz peeking out from underneath his despicable Chief Wahoo cap. Please disregard the incredibly bigoted fan costumes, if you can.

Major League is an exemplary product of its late-80s time for many reasons. One, its stars — Sheen, Dennis Haysbert, Wesley Snipes, Tom Berenger, to name a few — are at their peak and have since… well, you know. Maybe that’s unfair to say of Haysbert or Berenger. But they’re all deeply unrecognizable. Two — and this is something I can get behind — the Yanks are the enemies! Three, the topic of athletes cheating plays a prominent role, which grounds the otherwise very absurd film in something seriously real and dark about baseball. Unfortunately, and fourth, the movie shrugs off of sexism, as Berenger’s Jake Taylor courts Rene Russo’s Lynn by stalking her, yet it’s supposed to be romantic. We’re used to this by now.

But, like … it’s silly. Bob Uecker is in it. That’s fun. So is Neil Flynn. You’ll laugh, and you’ll love baseball more for not being quite as stupid as it used to be, and you’ll wish for better walk-up music from your team, and you’ll check your calendar to see how soon Opening Day is.

The Lobster

I tend to avoid blockbuster-franchise-superhero-sequel movies for the same reason I avoid chain stores — they have enough money, what’s my $20 to them? I’d rather support a mom-and-pop establishment. Of course, there are a couple exceptions to my rule — the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, Chipotle before the germs — but for the most part, I hashtag-shop-small.

Oh, also, you don’t need a shit-ton of money to make a great movie. Case in point: Batman vs. Superman was a $250 million punchline, whereas The Lobster was a $4.5 million work of art.

If you liked 1984, and/or the concept of a dystopian future, you’ll like this movie. I’m certain it’s a direct correlation. In The Lobster, there are a certain, very specific set of rules that people follow, and they’re incredibly fucked up, but those rules actually break your (the viewer’s) thinking habits. It’s a fun paradox and a mind-bending couple of hours.

The Lobster is a lush movie about an empty world. The purpose of life is to find a partner, full stop. Single people are given 45 days to do so in a sterile, hotel-like environment; if they don’t, they’re surgically turned into the animal of their choice. Singles tend to pair up on the basis of shared superficial traits, like speech impediments, since they have no time to form meaningful connections. Singles can also extend their stays in the hotel by venturing out and killing escapees, who live on the lam and extoll the virtues of loner-dom.

The story revolves around bespectacled David (Colin Farrell, who continues to surprise me with his versatility), whose animal of choice — the lobster — contrasts starkly with the mammals that most people select. He seems to have a higher intelligence and tolerance for stupidity than everyone else, making his existence a pretty pathetic one. His friends (John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw, both heartbreaking), however, are worse off because they’re so submerged in their fates that they can’t see life any other way. His love interests (Angeliki Papoulia, Rachel Weisz) are arguably more evolved than he is, and they inspire him to see more than what’s there.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that the ending makes you consider a really difficult question (Consider the Lobster, if you will): Is it better to live life alone, or with a partner? Maybe the answer is obvious in those terms, but considering how partners are chosen, you might surprise yourself with your revised answer. Would you want to be with someone forever who has the same physical weakness or psychological tendency as you do? What kind of life could you build together? Would either of you actually change or grow? By posing these questions in the surreal world, the writers (Yorgos Lanthimos, who also directed, and Efthymis Filippou) make the real one seem … pleasant. Almost.