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this ‘dune’ trailer is everything i needed today! [trailer park.]

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

How beautiful does this movie look?! It’s even better than I’d hoped the first Dune trailer might be, and I had high hopes!

Villeneuve’s genius is on full display. It’s visually and tonally perfect [at least compared to how I imagined it], and the trailer is overflowing with delightful glimpses to tease the book’s fans, without giving everything away to newcomers.

I know, I know, we’ve all been burned before. Even with a brilliant director and an amazing trailer, there’s still a chance this movie sucks, but I’m all in! I’m choosing unbridled optimism that this is going to be amazing. After all, fear is the mind killer.

Now, back to watch the trailer again five more times.



five antiracist movies that break the mold. [five things.]

Movies about race are most often – like very, very, very often – biopics and/or fictionalized documents of historical events. Don’t get me wrong, I think films like Selma and 12 Years a Slave can be amazing and important [Steve McQueen forever!], but the films on this list are refreshingly divergent from the norm. From the powerful oscar-bait biopic to the toxic white savior narrative, these filmmakers have thrown away all those recipes that studios and filmmakers normally follow to make racially themed movies.

Each entry is a fresh, vital contribution to the larger cultural conversation. And speaking of conversations, the invitation to the RtM antiracist movie club is still open. It’s been amazing so far!

Every film on the list was made by people of color, and they all focus primarily on Black Americans. Any future lists will branch out into the experiences of other communities. With that said, on with the show!

Here are five mold-breaking antiracist movies that you should DEFINITELY watch.


Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is the quintessential example of the mold shattering antiracist movie, so it should come as no surprise that he shows up on this list.

In his follow-up to BlacKkKlansman – which despite technically being a biopic, could have made this list in its own right – the director has delivered one of the Spike Lee-est Spike Lee Joints that ever Spike Leed. His stylized approach to filmmaking is used to great effect to tell an emotionally powerful story that tackles perennially relevant issues – like race, war, politics, family, mental illness, guilt and money – in a world where America used Black, Vietnamese, and poor White bodies as cannon fodder in pursuit of consolidating power and wealth for the American ruling class.

For my money, this is one of Lee’s best films, and Delroy Lindo should win all of the things.

Also, if you still haven’t seen Do the Right Thing, now would be a great a time to rectify that!

Update: Hours after this was originally posted, we all found out that Chadwick Boseman – who costarred in Da 5 Bloods, has died after a years-long battle with colon cancer. It felt right to come back and mourn a remarkable talent, and by all accounts I’ve seen, a good man. Rest in Power, Mr. Boseman. Wakanda Forever.




Oakland’s own Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal wrote and star in this powerful, remarkably singular piece of filmmaking. Set in today’s Oakland, Blindspotting tells a poignant story at the intersection of race, gentrification, criminal justice, and prejudice, and it does so with energy and humor, somehow managing to feel ebullient even as it tackles dark themes with gravity.

You’ve never seen anything like Blindspotting before. It’s the movie we didn’t know we needed [or wanted], but absolutely did. Watch it!

Also, can we all agree to offer up thanks to whatever gods gave us Daveed Diggs?



Queen & Slim

Like Blindspotting, Queen and Slim is a truly unique film. Writer Lena Waithe and director Melina Matsoukas collaborated to tell a heartbreakingly beautiful story that not only transcends the all too common lazy, paint-by-numbers movies about race, but transcends the majority of film of any sort.

It’s a love on the run road movie where literally everything works: the visual style, the characterization, the tension, the performances, the humor, the dialogue, the locatedness in the cultural conversation, etc. etc. etc.

Seriously, friends, can you just watch all the movies on this list?



Dear White People

Dear White People is a razor-sharp comedy that feels like a series of powerful, Black-led conversations on race distilled into a movie. It provides a clear-eyed glimpse into some of the microaggressions, appropriation, power dynamics, and other bullshit Black people have to deal with every single day, challenging the unchecked beliefs, assumptions, and blind spots that keep white people participating in and feeding racism. Also, it’s not as heavy as the above films.

The movie has since been adapted into a Netflix show, which is still running at the time of this writing.



Get Out

Okay, okay, okay, I know everyone’s already seen this one, but how could I leave Get Out off this list?!

So, you know, watch Get Out again.



Important endnote: In the week between deciding to write this post and publishing it, another Black man has been shot by police without cause. Four. Fucking. Bullets. In. His. Back. And three more bullets that missed.

It’s horrifying how unsurprising that is. To be honest, it may have been more surprising if the cops had gone two weeks without shooting a Black person on video. That’s how fucking bad this is! Can you imagine how much worse things were before cell phone recordings? Before police violence was a central part of the national consciousness? It’s been said again and again, but this is how they act when they know everyone’s watching!

Black bodies continue to be lynched, and not just without legal recourse, but by “law enforcement” itself. Meanwhile, a huge part of the population, along with much of the media, blame the victim nearly every time. It’s a horrifying symptom of the terminal disease of racism, a disease genetically grafted into America’s DNA from the beginning.

So, while education and cultural exegesis can be helpful [I love both dearly], they’re useless if they don’t lead to tangible work to replace racist policies with antiracist ones. Watching antiracist movies doesn’t change anything, but things like this help me keep fighting, and I believe it can help us fight smarter, and with more empathy and understanding. But we can never allow it to take the place of the actual fight, or else all we’re doing is assuaging our guilt while we change absolutely nothing.]]


‘the batman’ has a trailer!

As much as fanboys (aka man-babies) bitched and moaned, I was on board with the idea of Robert Pattinson as Batman from day one. Seriously, if you still think of Pattinson as nothing more than the sparkly guy from Twilight, then you’re clearly in the dark as a movie fan, He’s been consistently amazing ever since.

And after his work writing/directing the last two Planet of the Apes movies, I’m excited to see what Matt Reeves does with the character. I mean, the fact that all along he’s been saying the film is going to be a gritty, noir detective story is all I need to hear. Almost all of my favorite Batman stories are rooted more in the fact that he’s the world’s greatest detective, with a noir visual style. I mean, Batman: The Animated Series is noir as fuck, including making Batman’s investigative skills the focus, and that’s still the best onscreen Batman to date (fight me!).

This trailer only amplifies my hope that this will be great. Fingers crossed that movie theaters are a thing by the time this comes out!



And speaking of Batman, some bonus trailers from the world of video games!

First, a WB Games Montreal trailer for a new Arkham series style game that I REEEEEEEEALLY hope is good. Those Arkham games are some of the best games ever made. Without Rocksteady – the makers of the original Arkham series – who knows what we’re going to get quality-wise. I’m hoping for the best on this one!



And speaking of Rocksteady’s Arkham series, they revealed a new Suicide Squad game set in the same universe!! The movie won’t be out until at least 2022, so there is no gameplay footage yet, but my interest is most definitely piqued!



my year in movies, 2019.

Some-fucking-how, I forgot to post a list like this for 2018.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that’s crazy. Literally insane. I have no idea how that happened. If nothing else, it speaks to my state of mind the last 18 months or so. 

Hear me, O Internet, I won’t make the same mistake again!

Anyway, I give you a list of every movie I watched in 2019.

Here’s the key:
(#) Movie I saw in the theater.
[#] Movie I saw for the first time.
E# Movies I watched with Emily.

If a movie has ** before it, that means it’s one of my favorite films I saw for the first time this year. Doesn’t matter when it came out, as long as I saw it for the first time this year.

Underlined titles are all-time favorites for me. They can’t be movies I’ve just seen, but movies that stand the test of time.

And away we go. 

1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

2. Bird Box [1]
3. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle [2] E1
4. Bandersnatch x1 [3]
5. Bandersnatch x2
**6. BlacKkKlansman [4] E2
7. Ocean’s Eight [5]
**8. American Animals [6] E3

9. Sorry to Bother You [7]
**10. First Man [8] E4
11. Ghost Stories [9]
12. The Place Beyond the Pines [10]
13. Bad Times at the El Royale [11] E5
14. Smokey and the Bandit [12]
15. Bohemian Rhapsody [13]
16. The Old Man and the Gun [14]
17. Central Intelligence [15]
**18. The Guilty [16] E6
**19. Seconds [17]
20. Captain Marvel [18] (1) E7
21. The Mirror [19]
22. State and Main [20]
23. Coming to America
24. Sleight [21]
**25. Widows [22]
**26. A Star is Born [23] E8
**27. Us [24] (2)

28. The Wedding Singer
29. John Wick – E9
30. Bumblebee [24]
31. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
32. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore [25]
33. Venom [26]
34. Avengers: Infinity War – E10
35. Guardians of the Galaxy
36. John Wick: Chapter 2 – E11
37. Guava Island [27]
38. Shazam! [28] (3)
**39. Avengers: Endgame [29] (4)
40. Waiting for Guffman (5) E12
41. Five Easy Pieces [30]
42. Purple Rain [31]
43. The Sisters Brothers [32]
**44. Avengers: Endgame (6) E13
45. The Predator [33]
46. Triple Frontier [34]
47. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu [35] (7) E14
48. Long Shot [36] (8) E15
**49. A Face in the Crowd [37]
50. Thoroughbreds [38]
51. Lego Movie 2: The Second Part [39] E16
**52. Booksmart [40] (9) E17

53. Gaga: Five Foot Two [41] E18
54. Bullitt
**55. John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum [42] (10)
56. Fast & Furious [43] E19
**57. After Hours [44]
58. Mid90s [45]
59. Hotel Artemis [46]
60. Searching [47]
61. Upgrade [48]
62. Thor: Ragnarok
**63. If Beale Street Could Talk [49] E20
**64. Us
65. I Am Mother [50]
**66. Spider-Man: Far From Home [51] (11) E21
67. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty [52]
68. Fast Five [53] E22
69. Enemy [54]
70. Crazy Rich Asians [55] E23
71. Snatch
72. Glass [56]
73. Always Be My Maybe [57] E24
**74. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood [58] (12)

75. Hot Fuzz
**76. Ugetsu [59] (13)
**77. Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down [60] (14)
**78. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (15)
79. For a Few Dollars More
**80. Hereditary [61]
81. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote [62]
82. Mississippi Grind [63]
83. Creed II [64] E25
84. Aquaman [65]
85. Shazam – E26
86. My Blueberry Nights [66]
87. The Beach Bum [67]
88. Breakdown
89. Chef – E27
90. Coco
**91. The Farewell [68] (16) E28

**92. The Wages of Fear [69]
93. The Disaster Artist [70] E29
94. I Went Down [71]
95. Iron Man 2
96. Tokyo Story [72]
97. Candyman [73]
98. The Dead Don’t Die [74]
**99. Jojo Rabbit [75] (17) E30
100. The Last House on the Left [76]
101. Mandy [77]
102. Torn Curtain [78]
103. Joker [79] (18)
**104. Parasite [80] (19)
105. The Last Boy Scout
106. Anna and the Apocalypse [81]
107. Toy Story 4 [82] E31
108. Captain America: The First Avenger – E32
109. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
**110. Knives Out [83] (20) E33

111. The Lion King
**112. The Irishman [84] E34
113. Dark Passage [85]
**114. Dolemite is My Name [86]
115. Little Monsters (2019) [87]
**116. High Flying Bird [88]
117. High Life [89]
**118. Shadow [90]
**119. Ready or Not [91]
120. Under the Silver Lake [92]
**121. Hustlers [93] E35
122. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker [94] (21) E36
**123. Little Women [95] (22) E37
124. Ad Astra [96] E38
**125. Marriage Story [97] E39
126. It: Chapter Two [98]


roused to mediocrity is back! probably. [five things 5.4.19]

It has been a long time coming, but Roused to Mediocrity has returned.

I’ve miss it too much to let it stay dead. I’m not myself when I’m not nerding out about the things I love. I miss using this medium to tell my friends about the cool shit I’m into right now. I miss diving more deeply into the things that moved me to parse out what impacted me. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been hiding my passion for things the last few years, but I have been, and it’s stupid, and I need to stop.

Part of my life, part of me has been missing, and while RtM might not account for all of it, I need to be writing again, and this is as good a place as any to start.

I’ve shied away from jumping back in for fear I won’t do it consistently enough, but fuck it. Let’s do this.

What better way to get back into the swing of things than a good old fashioned ‘Five Things’ post. So here they are, five random things I’ve loved recently.

On with the show!


1.  Avengers: Endgame

Epic is overused these days, but it’s the only word that accurately describes last week’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to long-awaited onscreen battles.

Game of Thrones and the MCU have captured a huge portion of the pop culture consciousness for about a decade (eight and eleven years respectively), and last week included two massive battles royale that were meant to offer some semblance of closure for two devoted fanbases — along with the larger public who’ve been pulled onto the bandwagon.

Within the worlds of each story, both battles had the fate of all (or half of all) life hanging in the balance. Each had wildly overpowered villains. And each had a remarkably high degree of difficulty for the creators.

The difference between the two, in my experience, is that one was a mess, and the other stuck the landing.

Endgame had the same magic that the first Avengers film had in terms of the good kind of fan service — seeing it opening weekend at a 1am showing was not without more than its fair share of roaring cheers. And it offered satisfying conclusions for character arcs that have spanned more than a decade.

The notes all landed in terms of humor, action, acting, and poignancy. These characters we’ve grown to love were given their due at the end of a long road, and some of the more significant moments in the film were — on the other side of the coin from the cheers mentioned above — not without more than their fair share of sniffling throughout the audience.

The theater is often my favorite place to be, heightening the magic and power of cinema. Seeing Endgame with a theater full of strangers all invested enough to start a three hour movie at 1 a.m. was a genuinely communal experience. The quality of the film is the reason that experience was a beautiful one.

Bravo to everyone involved for taking a tough pitch and hitting it out of the park.


2. Russian Doll

I watched all of Russian Doll twice in a week. The first time because I started an episode to try it out and watched all of it in a day. The second time because I was so taken by it the first time that I got Emily to watch an episode, and we promptly watched the whole thing in an evening.

I love it so much. It’s funny and smart, and manages to be sardonic enough that any tenderness and hopefulness doesn’t feel like bullshit.

Everyone in it is great, especially Natasha Lyonne as our hilarious, irreverent, self-destructive, lovable asshole of a protagonist.

Most importantly, the show is my favorite narrative interaction with mental illness — and how much we all need each other — in a long time.

I should write more about this show, and maybe I will, but for now, suffice it to say that I really loved Russian Doll.

P.S. It also includes what will undoubtedly be my favorite line of dialogue from TV all year. I won’t write what it is, because I think it’s spoilery, but feel free to ask via message or IRL.


3. Love by Toni Morrison

I’m pretty sure there has never been a writer superior to Toni Morrison. She has peers, but no betters.

Her style is full of quiet power, never relying on overly flowery or ornate language, but instead delivering perfect prose in which every word is a gift.

She shines light through the stories of ordinary but marginalized people, Black Americans struggling for joy, belonging, or respect; for love, sex, or security; for revenge or power; for a way out or a way in; for hope or release; and in the process she reveals the beauty and darkness in every human life.

To quote Oprah — something I can assure you I never thought I would do in the life of this blog — “Toni Morrison’s work shows us through pain all the myriad ways we can come to love.”

Love is a difficult book to put down; not because of some narrative tension where we need to see what happens next, but because it’s such a gift to live with Morrison’s words. Her characters are so full of humanity, each feels like a full, living person, slowly revealing their inner world. The conclusion is moving and beautiful for all its tragedy, and it moved me to tears.

In related news, this:


4. Bob’s Burgers

Nine seasons in, and Bob’s Burgers is better than ever. At a point when too many shows begin teetering into poor quality, getting more desperate to keep an audience as characters grow stale, Bob’s Burgers just keeps improving. I’d say I don’t get the sense that Bob is planning to strap on any water skis for a daring jump over some sharks, but since that would be an amazing episode of Bob’s Burgers, it would be stupid to rule it out. Yet, the metaphor stands, Bob’s Burgers appears to be in no danger of jumping the shark any time soon.

I get that these characters check all my boxes. Droll weirdos who genuinely love and support each other in spite of all the pot shots is definitely my jam, but those elements alone don’t automatically make me enjoy a show or movie or whatever. More often than not it’s poorly executed, as if the characters were written by aliens who have only a vague approximation of human interaction. Aliens who believe that as long as a line is delivered in a certain tone of voice, with certain musical cues, it’s the same thing as writing genuinely funny and believable moments.

Bob’s Burgers gets it all right, and for my money, the Belchers are the best family on television.


5. Borderlands 3 

Okay, so this is over a month old, but I wasn’t writing a month ago. Borderlands 3 is officially happening. It has a release date and everything (Sep. 3)!

If you know, you know.


my favorite films released in 2017.

Here they are. Of all the 2017 releases I was able to catch, these are my favorites. Also, this is a perfectly sane date to release a list like this.

As always, I never make a claim to pick the best movies of a given year, just my favorite.

In part, this is because there are far too many films I missed — see below — and the gaps in my film knowledge and technical understanding of cinema are far too vast for me to pretend this list is in any way exhaustive or academic. But more, it is because I think “best” and “worst” are words used far, far, far too often by writers and critics and whatnot.

Honorable mentions (I’ll probably decide some of these should have been included after all): Ingrid Goes West, Free Fire, Spiderman: Homecoming, The Meyerwitz Stories (New and Selected), I Am Not Your Negro, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Okja, Colossal, War for the Planet of the Apes, The Red Turtle

The depressingly long list of major omissions from my year’s film-going, in no particular order: The Florida Project, Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, The Post, Phantom Thread, Blade Runner 2049, Personal Shopper, Coco, The Disaster Artist, All the Money in the World, The Killing of the Sacred Deer, The Square, mother!, Good Time, A Ghost Story, Kedi, Brigsby Bear, Lady Macbeth, Detroit, Menashe, Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, Super Dark Times, It Comes at Night. If I didn’t mention one of your favs, please include them in the comments!

On with the list! Here are the favorites, in no particular order: 


One major thing Dunkirk illustrates is that plot isn’t necessarily… necessary. Throwing out plot because you’re a hack is obviously bad writing. Throwing away plot because you are using a different sort of storytelling can be remarkable, and Dunkirk is remarkable.

The technical precision of this film never detracts from the tension. At a lean and well-earned two hours, the movie is an experience, but without the bombast and melodrama one normally finds front and center in a movie described as such. In spite of its July 21 release date, this is not an experience in the summer blockbuster sense. Instead, the film is harrowing; it is a simultaneously sobering and life-affirming glimpse at the horror and beauty of humanity that never glorifies war.

Not only was the story itself thrilling, but the perfection of the craft Nolan exhibits is equally electrifying. The three overlapping durations of time that weave together into one seamless, moving denouement is some of the most impressive storytelling I’ve ever seen.

This is a visually beautiful war film that I’m really glad I got to see in 70mm. I actually wish I had this one fresher in my mind so I could point out more of the beautiful technical aspects. I guess it’s time to watch it again!

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

On the shortlist of all-time underrated actors, Frances McDormand is in bold letters, and circled twice. At least up until the current awards season.

It’s not that she doesn’t get praise — for example, her performance in Fargo is appropriately revered — it’s just that she hasn’t been the household name she deserves to be.

As dumb as I think most awards are, I’m glad she won the Golden Globe this week. To quote Sam Rockwell, “She’s a badass, she’s a force of nature.” Her turn in Three Billboards is the sort of performance that deserves to be marked in some lasting way. Future generations should look back and take it in.

It’s an impressive win, as this year’s pool of best actress performances looks more like required viewing for the syllabus in a masterclass exploring the power and possibilities of great acting.

McDormand’s performance is obviously no surprise, she’s that kind of actress. For that matter, none of the great performances in this movie come as a surprise. It’s packed to the brim with underrated performers. For instance, I’ve made no secret of my firm belief that Sam Rockwell is a national treasure — another Golden Globe I was actually excited about.

I love that this film is never straightforward, that it is a story about how messy it is to live together. I love the way it engages the destructive and consuming power of anger, even the most righteous and understandable anger. It’s not the clear-cut ‘citizen against the lazy police to get justice’ story, it’s not the ‘blue lives matter, cops are all heroes’ sort of story. To be honest, it’s a Martin McDonagh sort of story — although, it’s really a McDonagh brothers sort of story, because it felt like a bit of a cross between Martin’s work and the work of his brother, John Michael McDonagh.

If you haven’t seen their work, you should definitely take the time to check it out, after Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri, I’d go with In Bruges, then The Guard and Calvary. And don’t forget Seven Psychopaths at the end there.

Baby Driver

I already went into significant detail about my love for Baby Driver with this post.

To quote myself briefly: “This is peak Edgar Wright. While a definite shift in tone and location for the director, like all of his films it is an invitation into a world shaped by his deep love of cinema — this time, set to music! … The well-deserved time has finally come. Edgar Wright will no longer be an underrated genius, just a genius.”

I need cinema that is thoughtful, that explores the emotional landscape of what it means to be human. I also need well-made movies that are first and foremost a great fucking time, made by film-loving geniuses for the pure love and joy of cinema. Nobody is better at that than Edgar Wright, and I’m so glad his time has come to experience broader appreciation.

The only rain on the parade is that it turns out Kevin Spacey is a monster. Fuck.

The Big Sick

The best romantic comedies — which are very few and far between — are the ones that make it impossible not to fall in love with the romantic leads. The Big Sick somehow gets the audience to fall in love not only with the two leads, but two entire families.

Full of charm and warmth, Nanjiani and Gordon delivered a film that made me smile and helped remind me that people are capable of being good to each other, even in the midst of all the bullshit that gets in the way. That’s no small task at the moment.

There are several movies on this list that seem to have come around at exactly the right cultural moment, and this is one of them.

Thor: Ragnarok

Between Edgar Wright, Kumail Nanjiani, and Taika Waititi, this was a good year for personal favorites making good on a massive scale. It would have been difficult for me to keep this movie off of my list even if the only thing to love was that it thrust Waititi into the international limelight. Fortunately, there was so much more to love.

This clusterfuck of a year called for heaping portions of clever silliness, and I knew Taika was just the man for the job. Ragnarok ended up even more bonkers than I’d dared to hope. The movie combined frenetic improvisational energy, an irreverant approach to the characters, and solid filmmaking. The result is a film that rejected and transcended both superhero tropes and stale line-o-rama comedies.

In short, Thor: Ragnarok was as much fun as I had at the theater this year.

After totally blowing it with Edgar Wright, Marvel Studios seems to have course-corrected and now continues to expand the color palette of their films visually, tonally, and emotionally.

Korg for intergalactic president!

Get Out

At the end of the day, this movie wasn’t made for me — but I sure did love it anyway.

We all knew Jordan Peele was talented, but I’m not sure we knew just how immense that talent was until now. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Get Out is a funny, troubling, tense mindfuck that succeeds on every level. It proves that you can find an audience for original and interesting content. This is smart, thoughtful, inventive storytelling that made loads of cash on a tiny budget.

Hey Hollywood, much more innovative storytelling, please!

Most writers and directors given space and resources to tell stories are straight white dudes. Fairness and representation are good enough reasons for everyone else to have the same space and resources to tell their stories, but it’s also a win-win for film lovers. It’s important because it’s justice, it also happens to result in better storytelling and a more interesting film landscape.

I, Tonya

I never would have anticipated having a movie about figure skating anywhere near my list of favorite films, but here you go. Although, I suppose I, Tonya is about as subversive as a sports movie can get. Whatever the genre, there wasn’t a more engaging film released in 2017.

This film speaks directly to some of the darkest parts of our culture, and perhaps even our humanity. The pressure created by our cultural darkness has the power, from time to time, to make something beautiful, but it will then quickly destroy and consume that beauty more often than not. The same suffering that helped transform Harding’s athletic brilliance into a feat no woman had ever accomplished before also contributed to the destruction of her vocation, which was the only thing she truly loved at that point in her life.

While bartending the other night, some customers described the way the film would get them to laugh, after which they would immediately feel guilty for what they had just laughed at. This is entirely by design. I, Tonya pulls the audience in and makes us complicit in her abuse and downfall. Or, more accurately, the film reveals that we have been complicit all along.

Every performance in this movie is great, but Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are the forces that elevate the film to a different level. The writing and direction are fantastic, but it required the work done by these remarkably talented actresses to stick the landing.

The Shape of Water

After being thoroughly disappointed with Crimson Peak, I was really pulling for this to remind me why I roll with Team GDT, and did it ever!

The Shape of Water is the culmination of everything Guillermo del Toro has done to this point. It’s a story about outsiders and beautiful monsters. The lack of a child as the focal point around which all the violence and magic happens was the only common del Toro trope missing. In reality, what del Toro and cowriter Vanessa Taylor did was create a more complex avatar for that childlike innocence in an adult character, played to perfection by Sally Hawkins. It’s one of the unexpected ways this film actually transcends del Toro’s previous work for me.

It takes everything that del Toro is known for to the next level. Most notably, the reversal in which we find a human being the true monster and a monster full of sympathetic humanity is starker than ever, as in escalating to an outright consummated interspecies romance.

GDT also leans all the way into his love of cinema, while fully embracing the beauty and danger of movies. They can be the light in the darkness, a link to humanity, or they can be the thing we use to distract us and drown out what is really happening in the world to the extent that we never try to make it better. There is meaning and beauty to be found, and there are also cartoonish, whitewashed, oversaturated and oversimplified biblical epics. The one side cannot cancel out the other, and there is goodness hidden everywhere.

Side note: Michael Shannon is one of the fucking best. His use of pacing and vocal nuance to pack power and intensity into even his quietest performances — this was not one of those on the quieter side — gets me every time.