The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Quentin Tarantino (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)

Last month, Quentin Tarantino released (by his count) his ninth feature film, which is also (by his count) the second-to-last film he’ll ever direct. With the takes, thinkpieces, praise, and outrage flying thick and fast, your movie core at SportsAlcohol.com felt it was a good time to talk about every single movie Tarantino has directed so far, starting with his newest one. Hence our brand-new two-part episode: first, a rundown of what Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse thought about Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood; then, a consideration of how it relates to all of his other films. So strap into your death-proof cars, drop a needle onto some semi-obscure oldie that may actually be from another iconic film, and enjoy our discussion of all things QT. (Even that Four Rooms segment.)

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ANNA plays like exactly the movie Luc Besson intended. That is to say: Yikes.

Early in the new spy thriller Anna, the title character played by Sasha Luss is selling matroyshka dolls on the streets of Moscow, until a talent scout notices her beauty and whisks her away to Paris to begin a modeling career. Soon enough, she’s introduced to a cadre of similarly lanky, striking housemates, anyone who has seen the film’s trailer, or knows that it’s directed by Luc Besson, might reasonably expect that the modeling agency will turn out to be a cover for some kind of elite agency of gorgeous, deadly assassins.

That isn’t the case—though Anna herself is, indeed, a deadly assassin working for the KGB. Further details about her situation are filled in through the movie’s frequent flashbacks, and Anna isn’t really a movie about a model-turned-spy so much as it is a spy movie with a few modeling scenes to explain why its ass-kicker looks like, well, a supermodel. It’s a very ’90s conceit that Besson indulged all through that decade and beyond. La Femme Nikita, The Professional, The Fifth Element, and even Lucy all feature variations on this theme.
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Dark Phoenix and the X-Men Movies

It’s been almost 20 years since the first X-Men movie made the world safe for high-quality big-screen superheroes, and somehow the ensuing film series is only now winding down, with the release (and flop!) of Dark Phoenix, combination sequel, prequel, and remake that marks the final big team X-Men movie greenlit before Disney finalized its acquisition of Fox. While New Mutants and maybe another Deadpool remain on the docket at DisneyFox, it seems likely that the X-Men as a full-fledged franchise is going away for a while, likely to re-emerge as part of MCU Phase 7 or whatever. So this seemed like a good time for Rob, Sabrina, Nathaniel, Marisa, Jesse, and Jon to sit down and talk about all things XCU: Dark Phoenix, the series as a whole, the highlights and the failures, and, of course, Michael Fassbender’s beautiful face. It’s a lengthy but somehow also zippy discussion and we all wind up making fun of Beast at some point for some reason. Poor Beast. But long live the X-Men!

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The MCU and Avengers: Endgame

Hey, did you guys hear about this Avengers movie? It’s like, the end, except like, not? It came out a month ago, but Avengers: Endgame will likely stand as the biggest-grossing superhero movie (maybe even biggest-grossing movie, period) for a good long while. The SportsAlcohol.com crew has talked a lot about the Marvel Cinematic Universe on our podcast in the past, whether it was about Spider-Man, or Captain America punching Iron Man, or mitigating some of the praise for the Guardians of the Galaxy, or enthusing about Ultron, or getting psyched about a new take Thor. We skipped a big Infinity War discussion, but we’re back now with a sum-up about our reactions to Endgame, its predecessor, and the state of the MCU in general (including our work on a group-voted MCU list that isn’t actually complete yet, since the new Spider-Man movie is coming out next month). Disagreements and weird preferences abound, so now that you’ve finally had a chance to digest all three hours of Endgame, let us tell you all about what we loved and hated about it! (Fuck you, soul stone!)

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Farewell, Sweet Elementary

Word has come down from on high that Elementary will be ending after is upcoming seventh season, which premiered this week. I am gutted. Elementary never came close to ever being my favorite show in any year, but it’s a show I’d always watch in any given year, and I don’t know how to replace it.

Elementary

When I first saw it — for review, no less — I was dismissive. “Bah,” I said. “This is just like any other crime procedural, but with Sherlock Holmes as  the main character.” This was when Sherlock was still a going concern, mind you, so adding Holmes to Elementary just felt like an odd graft into a pretty established formula. But as time went on, I started to think, “Cool, it’s just like any other crime procedural, but with Sherlock Holmes as  the main character!” Now, Elementary has outlasted Sherlock, and it scratched my Holmes itch for far more episodes.

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Tribeca 2019, Part 2: American Women

If my first batch of Tribeca movies featured a lot of woodsy scenes, Clementine (Grade: B-) occupies a whole woodsy subgenre: the Two Women in a Cabin movie. Another title for this obscure-ass video shelf, Always Shine, premiered at Tribeca a few years ago; another, Alex Ross Perry’s Queen of Earth, was his first time giving Elisabeth Moss a starring role, an uncomfortable prelude to their current collaboration Her Smell. Clementine, Lara Gallagher’s feature directing debut, doesn’t derive its tension from two women who are ostensibly close friends but secretly ready to maybe throttle each other; Karen (Otmara Marrero), unlike the characters in those other two movies, admits at the outset that she just wants to be left alone. Then again, she has a weird way of showing it: She breaks into her older, imperious-sounding ex-girlfriend’s vacation home, and decompresses from their recent break-up.

Her solitude is disrupted by Lana (Sydney Sweeney), a girl-next-door of indeterminate door. She shows up asking Karen, a stranger at least five or six years her senior, to drive her around and help find her lost dog. Karen both doubts the existence of this dog and agrees to help, and for the rest of the movie, the two women circle each other with uneasy fascination and sometimes flirtation. Gallagher takes her time, and never goes into full-blown psycho-stalker territory; Clementine often feels like a movie about two women deciding whether or not the other is a stalker, an object of obsession, or something in between. The film has a short-story quality that drags, a little, at 90 minutes; written out at 25 pages, this might be masterful (and would probably seem a lot more eventful). But I admire its quiet precision, even if it its outlines look a little thinly sketched.

There’s a similarly uneasy quality to the relationship between the two central women of American Woman (likely to underdo a name change, as it shares a title with an upcoming and unrelated Sienna Miller film). This American Woman (Grade: B-) has an impressive pedigree: It’s an adaptation of the Pulitzer-nominated Susan Choi novel, written and directed by Semi Chellas, a Mad Men staffer, fictionalizing the story of kidnapper-turned-radical Patty Hearst. Sarah Gadon takes the Hearst-ish role, while Hong Chau plays a radical-in-hiding hired to look after her. She’s also supposed to encourage ringleader Juan (John Gallagher Jr.) and his partner Yvonne (Lola Kirke) to put their experiences down on paper, to self-publish and further their cause, but good luck with that; the pair is antsy and unfocused.

A bond of sorts develops between Gadon and Chau, and Chau is especially terrific as a radical who has grown accustomed to containing and managing her emotions to survive. In just a few movies (she was great in the underappreciated Downsizing), she’s become an expert at showing women working, pushing through their personal feelings to get shit down. But the movie oddly elides a lot of the pair’s one-on-one time; they aren’t isolated from the other major characters until the movie is nearly over. American Woman has an ambiguity, sense of place, and performances worthy of Mad Men, but there’s something frustratingly elusive about it. It doesn’t make a clean break from its real-life inspiration, and winds up feeling like a docudrama even though the characters are made up. But Chellas and Choi are both artists to watch.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Checking in with SNL and Adam Sandler

Certain pockets of the SportsAlcohol.com editorial team have a soft spot for Adam Sandler, so when we heard that the Sandman would be returning to his launching pad Saturday Night Live for his first-ever hosting gig, it struck us as the perfect time to do our annual but irregularly timed Saturday Night Live check-in. So Marisa, Jesse, and Nathaniel stayed up late to watch the episode and talk about both Sandler’s performance, and the show’s performance all during its 44th season. So listen up, because we have a microphone and you don’t!!!!

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Every Adam Sandler Character from SNL, Ranked

The SportsAlcohol.com editorial core closely follows Saturday Night Live, and perhaps not coincidentally also closely follows the career of Adam Sandler, through a series of numerous lows and occasional highs. So obviously some of our most misguided interests were piqued when it was announced that the Sandman was down for his first-ever Saturday Night Live hosting gig, airing this Saturday, May 4th, on the good old NBC television network. Sandler has returned to the show for a few celebrations and one show-opening musical number, but he’s demurred on the possibility of hosting for many years. Though he currently alternates Netflix movies with the occasional arthouse indie picture (!), Sandler is still a major star, and his return to the show where he spent an uneven five years as a writer and performer qualifies to us as a major pop-culture event. So we decided to figure out a complete ranking of Sandler’s (non-impression) recurring characters from his SNL years.

As it turns out, there aren’t really that many; one of these 16 “characters” doesn’t really qualify, and 6 of the remaining 15 are Weekend Update bits. Really, Sandler’s signature character was, well, Adam Sandler: the guitar-playing or Halloween-costume-suggesting goofball who showed up at the Update desk to goad Kevin Nealon into singing or to make faces at Norm MacDonald and/or Chris Farley. Sandler is not a virtuosic sketch performer; his stand-up comedy roots show, and it’s arguable that the stand-up-bro sensibility of so many mid-90s cast members is what led to one of the program’s worst slumps. But Sandler and his guys — Chris Farley, David Spade, to a much lesser extent Rob Schneider — all had great moments on the show.

To rank these characters,, I sent a master list to a bunch of people who I thought might know or care enough about Adam Sandler to send back ranked ballots. Only I, Nathaniel, and SNL fan Brian had enough of an opinion to weigh in. And, as it turns out, our ballots were often pretty much in sync, making this an unusually strong consensus in terms of what goes where. The Sandman: the great uniter…of people who watched him on SNL when they were younger.
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Tribeca 2019, Part 1: Into the Woods

There are certain types of indie movies I’ve seen a lot in seven years or so of Tribeca Film Festival coverage: the gritty coming-of-age movie, the would-be scrappy rom-com (more on that in a future dispatch!), the slow-burn thriller. But it was still a little surprising that at Tribeca 2019, I saw no fewer than three movies in a row that featured following shots of its characters traipsing through woodsy environs. The movies had very little to do with each other. Sometimes it’s just one of those things.
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Billboard Hits of 1999

The SportsAlcohol.com editorial core has kind of a thing for the ’90s. But sometimes just talking about the best of that decade isn’t enough; sometimes we need to travel back in time exactly 20 years and go through the good, the bad, and the ugly of the annual Billboard Hot 100. We did it for 1996, and in this anniversary year for 1999, we’re at it again! Shania Twain, Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind, Brandy and/or Monica, N’Sync and/or Alabama (whoever they are)! They’re all here and you’ll never guess which ones Rob and/or Jesse and/or Marisa love and/or hate! You’ll have to listen to fin dout.

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