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.


The Grand Budapest Hotel

I’m so glad I don’t dislike Wes Anderson movies anymore. I realize that’s an antagonistic way to begin a blog post, especially one I intend to be inherently positive one, but it’s the truth. I watched this movie with complete joy, and also with the complete realization that there were things in it that would have bothered me five years ago, and no longer do. The plot is twisted enough to surprise you, but straightforward enough to catch all of the details. A clean caper, and a deliciously profane one at that.

Past me was so caught up in the deliberate aesthetics of it all, and the general asshattery of the conversations that Anderson’s movies would incite. Current me realizes that Anderson doesn’t take himself so seriously that he needs to inject both beauty and deep, profound meaning into his films. The visuals suffice, the story is fun, and then you don’t have to think for a long time afterward about how much you may or may not relate to the characters. In fact, if you do relate to any of the characters in his movies, it’s likely that you lead a fanciful, ridiculous life. Wes Anderson should be on Vine, by the way. Or Instagram video, because he’d blow our minds with the existing filters.

Ralph Fiennes may have shoved his way into a completely new career as a light-hearted, effeminate dandy. Seriously, I could watch him as Gustave all day, and he’s way better at it than he ever was at a romantic lead. (And he is very good at that.) He has a Colin Firthiness about him, in that he knows exactly when to be glib and when to be aloof, and he times his behaviour perfectly. Of course, much of that timing was in the script, but he still delivered it with true aplomb. I can’t imagine any of Anderson’s usual players in that role. I’m always delighted when he works a new person into his posse.

That being said, I wish Anderson weren’t so damn loyal. It was cute to see Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzmann, and Bill Murray pop up in tiny roles, but at this point the three of them were playing the very specific, recognizable-to-the-audience roles of “people in Wes Anderson films forever.” I think I would have liked to see Edward Norton’s Nazi General-esque role played by someone else, too; he’s just not a tough guy (or not anymore, anyway). Then again, maybe he and Brad Pitt are pulling another Tyler Durden on us — Norton’s Henckels in this movie is Pitt’s Raine in Inglorious Basterds. It’s fun to think of it that way, anyhow.

I did thoroughly enjoy Adrien Brody as Dmitri, mostly because in some alternate world he really is the reedy son of reedy Tilda Swinton (who wore makeup to age her to 84). Willem Dafoe came through as his vampiric self, brass knuckles and eyeliner and all. The Twilight franchise probably kicks itself every day, only to remember how much money it made. (Yes, I just anthropomorphized a franchise.) And Jeff Goldblum almost surprised me by almost not playing himself, but dare I say his precious pipes basically guarantee that from ever happening. I don’t remember what his character name is, because it’s basically lawyer Goldblum. The man is a national treasure, to be sure, but sometimes I wonder if he must get bored playing The World’s Card, and if his voice will ever change at all.

Oh, right, the kids. Saoirse Ronan can do no wrong, and Tony Revolori has a long career ahead of him of playing any role he wants. So long as they keep the Mexico-shaped birthmark and pencil mustache, respectively, off their faces. (That was weird.)

One final note, and it’s a conjecture. Jude Law’s quiet role as the Young Author and Narrator, made me realize that he’s having a McConnaisance of his own–a Rennaislawnce, if you will. He is the British McConaughey, in that he is a supremely tan heartthrob who has chosen to age well and gracefully out of rom-coms and into roles that don’t necessarily require him to be shirtless or smiling. Of course, McConaughey is completely nailing it right now; it’s hard to beat a run like that, but Law’s recent choices have been really interesting. Sherlock Holmes, Anna Karenina, Contagion, Side Effects, Hugo… His last rom-com, in fact, was The Holiday, and what a good one to hiatus on. He fancies himself as more of a serious actor now, with occasional dabbles of action thrown in, and I think he’s completely capable of the nuance. They’re still casting True Detective Season 2, right?

The Big Chill

I’ve found my new favorite movie. It’s true.

This is the kind of movie I’ve been waiting for. The kind that inspires me to write one of my own, to think about my own life, to develop characters, to appreciate my friends more, everything. It’s one of those movies that comes along quietly, makes its perfect impression, and then it’s over.

My parents love this movie, too, and I think they had mentioned it to me several times before, and I really get it now. Of course, all the Michigan references are particularly special to a child of parents from the mitten state, but there’s more to it than that. We don’t learn much about the characters in this movie, factually speaking, but we get to know them really, really well. Tom Berenger as Sam Weber is fed up wit his Hollywood life, Kevin Kline as Harold Cooper is just trying to do good in the world, Mary Kay Place as Meg is justifying her decision to have a child alone, William Hurt as Nick is coping with intense PTSD and impotence, and Karen is still in love with Sam from college. Oh, and then there’s Jeff Goldblum and Glenn Close. I love them as actors, though I didn’t think either of their parts were that big a deal. But they are still awesome. Moving on.

They all reunite for a terrible reason—their friend Alex committed suicide—but they have this singular 48-hour experience in a cabin that can’t ever happen again. They reconnect effortlessly after being away from college for 15 years, they skip all the catchup bullshit, and they just exist as people. It’s beautiful, and it’s also incredibly normal and real-feeling. I spend a lot of my time with friends I’ve had for 10 years, so seeing this movie brought me great comfort, knowing how precious close, long friendships really are.

This movie will do many things for you: It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll make you want to listen to Motown when you do the dishes (and pretty much any other time, for that matter). Mostly, it’ll make you love your friends even more. I’m glad this movie got the Oscar nomination. More great films like this need to emerge from the dramedy darkness.