Happy Labor day from your pals at SportsAlcohol.com! We got you a podcast episode! Earlier this summer, Ben convened a small panel of labor experts (by which we mean Marisa, Jeremy, and Jesse) to talk about the bumper crop of movies about companies making products. Air, Blackberry, Flamin’ Hot, and Tetris all came out within months of each other — what gives? In this episode, led by a bona fide MBA, we talk about each movie, which ones (if any) appealed to us and why, and the greater meaning of this trend. (We recorded this episode before The Beanie Bubble dropped but you know what? It’s barely worth discussing anyway!) Please, spend your hard-earned Labor Day with us! Download link available on the embedded player below!
Remember 2003? Remember the summer? Remember the summer movies of 2003? Remember Hulkmania? Remember how The Matrix Reloaded was going to blow everyone’s mind? Remember just whatever random cop movies making $125 million? Remember the X-Men starring in what was considered the best superhero movie ever made? Remember going to see 2 Fast 2 Furious by yourself, maybe sneaking in as part of a double feature with maybe Wrong Turn? Remember the Pirates defeating the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Remember going full throttle? Remember that weirdo sitting next to you at Bruce Almighty who was visibly and vocally moved by the film? Remember how Seabiscuit was nominated for Best Picture? Remember Eddie Murphy doing uninspired family comedies that you’d skip and they’d make $100 million anyway? Remember sequels, sequels, sequels? Remember when sequels took over and never relinquished their grip? Remember?!?!?
SportsAlcohol.com remembers. We remember everything! So here, continuing our look at the biggest summer movies of the 2000s, is our look back at summer movies of 2003. Most of us were in our twenties. One of us was younger. Jesse, Marisa, Jeremy, Ben, and Becca assemble to talk about our memories of the summer movies of 2003, our new observations from fresh watches and rewatches,
In case you’re collecting SportsAlcohol.com podcasts about 2000s summer movies, here’s the complete set so far:
And here’s the latest and greatest, including a download link if you need it:
Remember 1993? Remember the summer? Remember the summer movies of 1993? Remember dinomania? Remember dad-movie-mania? Remember Nora Ephron movies making $125 million at the box office? Remember 10-to-12-year-old boys starring in movie after movie after movie? Remember legal thrillers? Remember Michael Crichton? Remember riding your bike around by yourself while your mom was out of town and your dad was at work, hitting the curb and going over the handlebars, scraping the hell out of both your knees and walking yourself home in search of first aid? Remember your dad dropping you and your brother off at the mall to see Coneheads and So I Married an Axe Murderer and the first big-budget movie based on a video game? Remember Stallone trying to be normal? Remember renting these movies on VHS around Christmas 1993 or seeing them in second-run all the way in summer 1994? Remember Last Action Hero vs. Jurassic Park? Remember playing the Jurassic Park theme at your piano recital? Remember sequels, but not that many sequels? Remember when sequels were kinda low-rent most of the time? Remember?!?!?!
SportsAlcohol.com remembers. We remember every year! So here, finally completing our long-running series-within-the-series about summer movies of the 1990s, is a look at the summer movies of 1993. Nathaniel, Sara, Jeremy, Ben, Marisa, and Jesse are all here to talk about our hazy memories, our more recent rewatches, and, yes, dino-mania as we lived it.
Here’s the full set:
Indiana Jones has been a source of cornerstone #content for SportsAlcohol.com ever since we had Nathaniel write extensively about his love for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. So, with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in theaters now, supposedly wrapping up Indy’s story for good, Marisa and Jesse and Nathaniel got together for a rare completely in-person recording to talk about what we thought of the new movie, and what we think of all the new movies, too: we talk about our respective favorites of the sequels, our favorite scenes and set pieces, what we look for in these movies, how Harrison Ford might have been our collective first understanding of a grown-up male movie star… plus, Nathaniel knows a lot about The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles! It’s a great listen whether you love all five movies or just really love Raiders of the Lost Ark.
You can download the episode here or listen in the player below:
Wes Anderson is known for his precision, to understate matters. So it’s striking when, early in Asteroid City, Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman) tells his four children that they’re going to stay with their grandfather on their recently deceased mother’s side for “an unspecified period of time that has yet to be determined.” This fumbling redundancy isn’t a one-off verbal joke, either, or confined to just this one character (though he does it again at least once more). Throughout the movie, characters add extra clauses and repetitions onto their sentences (“I wonder if I wish I should’ve”), even more noticeable than Anderson’s favorite go-to words and phrases (a nonchalant “anyway” being perhaps the most frequently used).
This inexactitude, exactingly portrayed, could be chalked up to an affectation of fictional playwright Conrad Earp (Edward Norton), but even this is uncertain: The framing device is not precisely a production of Earp’s play Asteroid City, but a theatrical-style live-television production of a play about Earp writing Asteroid City. So, we see black-and-white TV-square footage of a host (Bryan Cranston) introducing various scenes of Earp and his associates, and then we see most of the action of Earp’s Asteroid City, portrayed in full widescreen color – and what color! Some of the most vivid pastels and richest yet lightest sky blues I’ve ever seen! – as a feature film unencumbered by the physical limitations of a TV set.
Though of course, all of this was still performed on an actually-elaborate film set meant to create a kind of hyperreal version of the American desert in 1955. Scarlett Johansson’s character is a movie star – which means she is an actress, playing an actress, playing an actress. And on it goes. Is Anderson, following the nested stories of The Grand Budapest Hotel and the magazine construction of The French Dispatch, performing the narrative equivalent of his newly redundant sentences? How many hats can balance on top of how many hats?
Movies have had an uneasy relationship with the internet since at least the days of ubiquitous American Online diskettes. Whenever a movie (especially a clunkily humanist one like noted non-classic Men, Women and Children) expresses any alarm about the pitfalls of digital technology, anyone with online levels of medium or above tends to point and laughs—and not for nothing do so many members of a particular subgenre have the adjective “paranoia” inserted between “internet” and “thriller.” Really, though, who can blame the movies for their paranoia? Anyone who spends a reasonable (read: unreasonable) amount of time online will readily admit what a cesspool it is, then gaslight any movies that agree with them—and that was before the internet enabled a haphazard half-dismantling of the already-fragile big-studio movie pipeline. This makes it all the more impressive that Celine Song’s new movie Past Lives sees the internet, particularly social media, with such clarity, and depicts it with such restraint.
That’s typical of the movie of the movie in general, which is not principally about digital technology, but rather a pair of young friends with middle-school crushes on each other who are separated, then reunited decades later. If the movie is a romance, it’s one of bittersweet small gestures and longing looks—the small spaces in between major life decisions.
It’s a premise that could have inspired a sitcom episode, and probably has: Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a writer who has been working on draft after draft of her new novel, accidentally overhears her husband Don (Tobias Menzies) offer his honest opinion of her work, which he’s repeatedly praised to her. The truth is, he doesn’t much like it, and he feels like it’s too late for him to tell her this. What makes this seem like a potential sitcom episode is also, oddly, what makes the movie seem true to life: This revelation isn’t just an embarrassment for Don or a surprise for Beth; it spirals into a crisis of confidence for both of them. The rawness is right there in the title: You Hurt My Feelings, a phrase that (unless I’m misremembering) no one in Nicole Holofcener’s new movie actually directly says out loud. Beth doesn’t need to; it’s all over her face, whether accompanied by anger, sadness, or uncertainty (over her career, her marriage, her family… you name it).
You Hurt My Feelings is, to be clear, very funny – I laughed out loud repeatedly, especially in scenes involving Beth, her sister Sarah (a perfectly cast Michaela Watkins), and their fussy mother (Jeannie Berlin, ably and hilariously impersonating someone five or ten years older than her actual age). Those laughs feel fuller because the movie allows the truthfulness of that hurt to burn through the mild shenanigans of sneaking up on your spouse while he’s sock-shopping and hearing something you shouldn’t. Rather than letting her movies turn into farce-lite trifles without the wherewithal for full slapstick, like some later-period Woody Allen pictures, Holofcener only gets sharper and more precise as she moves through her career. Feelings, along with Enough Said, her decade-ago previous collaboration with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (whichI see I also described as deceptively sitcom-ready back then) and Please Give, from a few years before that, sits among her best.
One of Holofcener’s gifts is her ability to casually, convincingly fill out what could seem like a cloistered upper-middle-class New York City world. Though Beth and Don are the film’s focal points, we also spend time with Sarah and her actor husband Mark (Arian Moayed), as well as Beth and Don’s son Elliott (Owen Teague), himself an aspiring writer, who expresses discomfort over his parents’ closeness and, eventually, their loving encouragement. Is he actually good at all the things they tell him he is, or does he just have a doting mother, desperate to reverse her own, less nurturing upbringing? All of the characters ultimately struggle with forms of this question, and while Holofcener clearly has affection for all of them, she’s unsparing enough to allow for the very real possibility that none of them are particularly good at the things that they’ve self-designated as their skill sets, their passions, their callings. Maybe no one is? Maybe even a calling is subject to the muddling-through mediocrity of everyday life? That’s not exactly the point she’s making (at least not explicitly), but it’s tantalizing to watch a movie that itself seems cautious about providing too much encouragement, too much coddling for its audience. This is a comedy, not a therapy session.
Although, as it happens, this is a comedy that contains multiple therapy sessions, because Don is a therapist, and, in keeping with the artier aspirations of his friends and family, something of a flailing one. He catches himself mixing up patients’ backgrounds, he sees a couple (real-life spouses David Cross and Amber Tamblyn) who seems comically incapable of positive change, and, in a devasting social exposure to match Beth’s, he even overhears someone else muttering about the sessions’ – about his, really – uselessness. In the starkness of these low moments, it’s hard not to ruefully think of how many movies and TV shows trend in the opposite direction, earnestly espousing the benefits of therapy and emotional openness. It’s hard not to think specifically of Ted Lasso, a feel-good workplace sitcom where every character seems to eventually arc toward moral instruction for the viewers, apparently in such dire need of guidance that they not merely laugh at Ted’s culture-clash antics, but laugh with them, and, worse, learn from them. In Holofcener’s films, even moments of understanding can sting: “Leave him alone,” Tamblyn’s character says when her husband criticizes Don for not helping them enough. “He looks tired.”
It would be a stretch to describe You Hurt My Feelings as a rebuke to the fact that Ted Lasso’s second and third seasons have kinda sucked. It’s a bigger achievement than that, and bracingly alive all on its own, all the more impressive for existing near-exclusively in an Allen-ish world of privilege without using that world as a narrative problem-solver. (It’s a little vexing that no one in the movie seems to have any financial concerns, but the writer-director of Friends with Money can probably be granted a pass there – and anyway, the fact that Don and Beth are potentially well-compensated for their work only makes questions of their competence cut deeper.) But it’s still a relief to see that starting with sitcom simplicity doesn’t have to mean a bunch of squishy revelations that engulf comedy and attempt to decompose it. It can, instead, build out into something exacting and almost anthropological in detail. And even so: funny, too.
Welcome to the 95th Annual SportsAlcohol.com Oscar Special! True, our podcast has only been around for nine years (!), but the Oscars have apparently been at it for 95, and one day they’ll get it right! Will that happen for the 2022 movies, including Everything Everywhere All At Once facing off a bunch of challengers including The Banshees of Inisherin, Top Gun 2, Avatar 2, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Fabelmans, and a bunch of Talking Women?!? Tune in to our Oscar special to find out what “getting it right” would even mean for Sara, Jeremy, Marisa, and Jesse, who offer their selections for who will win, who should win, and who was SNUBBED in each of the big eight categories! You can download our Oscars ep here or listen below!
Movies! Now more than ever! For this late-but-not-that-late episode on the Best Movies of 2022, the SportsAlcohol.com movie core of Marisa, Sara, Jeremy, Jesse, and Nathaniel each submitted a list of, yes, their 20 favorite and/or best movies of 2022, aggregated into a single list. Four of us then run through those collective choices in this loose countdown, which means talking about movies that are and are not actually about the magic of cinema. Musicals, multiverses, Hitchcockian thrillers, dark comedies, and emotional devastation… this year’s best movies of 2022 had it all! Along with our group’s consensus choices, we offer occasional dissent with each other’s picks, plus a quartet of outliers that only made certain individual lists. There’s a lot to enjoy here, so get to listening!
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“Worlds within worlds.” That’s the well-worn descriptor—Quotation? Catchphrase? Cliché? Really, that universal catch-all-three “from the comics”—one character uses to characterize the primary setting of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The characters are goggling at the previously glimpsed and now heavily explored Quantum Realm, a beyond-microscopic section of the Marvel Cinematic Universe reachable only by advanced (and dangerous) shrinking technology. Ten years ago, though, this phrase might have applied to the MCU’s numerous overlapping mini-franchises, Iron Man’s world not quite the same as Captain America’s which was not quite the same as Thor’s—until they pulled a few narrative threads together and converged into The Avengers. Now, it could also apply to the way the MCU seems obligated, whether by due dates, artistic conviction, or pure high-roller self-confidence, to paste together its wonders with green-screen, dim lighting, and suspiciously empty one-shots. Whenever it’s possible to look at Quantumania and idly wonder whether anyone on screen was actually in a room together during shooting—which is often!—you may be peeking at the worlds-within-worlds built by visual effects artists and actors’ conflicting schedules. In other words: a Zoom call with (somewhat) better backgrounds.
Which is not to say Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania entirely lacks for sights. Previous looks at the Quantum Zone somewhat resembled the spongy insides of Fantastic Voyage crossed with a lava lamp; this time, we see cityscapes that look like a more gelatinous Star Wars, and creatures to populate them. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), also known as Ant-Man, is on accidental extended visit there, along with his girlfriend Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), his teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), and Hope’s parents Hank (Michael Douglas) and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer). The whole family gets sent there in a sequence of admirable expediency and perhaps not a lot of sense; the stakes may be higher in this third Ant-Man movie than they were in the previous palate-cleansing adventures, but returning director Peyton Reed seems to vaguely recall the crispness of his best comedies like Bring It On and Down with Love (if not their colorfully winking wit), and attempt to bring things in around the two-hour mark. (For a contemporary superhero movie, this is the equivalent of 91 minutes.)
Continue reading ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA is all small favors