Every DCEU Movie, Ranked

Sure, there are twentysomething Marvel movies that we could sort and rank and argue over. In fact, the good people SportsAlochol once tried this as a group, and we may circle back to the project one day. But you know what’s a lot easier? Ranking the extended-universe movies from DC Comics, which kicked off in 2013 with the Superman reboot Man of Steel, and now, the better part of a decade later, continue to wonder around, stumbling across various megahits, disappointments, and flops, sometimes, somehow, in the same film. In celebration of the DCEU’s first actual sequel, the brand-new Wonder Woman 1984 hitting theaters and HBO Max in the U.S. on December 25th, here’s one man’s rundown of the whole DC shebang, before The Batman comes out in 2022 and makes it all even more confusing. All your favorites are here: Wonder Woman! And others! Like Enchantress! Now please let this all last long enough for them to make a Starfire movie!
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The Worst Movies of 2020

Usually, around November of each year, I contribute a ballot of fifteen terrible movies to the A.V. Club, which they aggregate into a list of the year’s worst films. In 2020, owing to a slowdown in studio movies (which usually provide at least a few juicy targets) and overall feelings that the year has had enough pain and punishment without asking critics to relive their worst experiences, my editor decided not to do a Worst-Of list. Elsewhere, there’s a growing consensus that Worst-Of lists are pointless endeavors, designed to reward cheap and easy snark; the exact opposite of what a critic should do.

As Adam Sandler says in Uncut Gems: I disagree.

Worst-of lists are cathartic. There are all kinds of bad movies critics wind up watching out of curiosity, completism, assignment, or, if you’re a freelancer trying to cover some bases, the futile hope that you may be able to parlay having seen it into an assignment. Sometimes you just want to write a few words to try to process the experience. Also: if the most valuable function of best-of lists is to shine a spotlight on movies you think people should prioritize, is it not helpful to explain which movies you found particularly unworthy of the time it takes to watch them? I tend to be pretty loose with recommendations; if you want to see a movie, I say, you should just see it. Read my review afterward. I’m not a consumer guide; who knows what you’ll like? That said, sometimes there are movies that deserve special attention, and sometimes that attention is not positive.

So, because I’m happy to keep the bad vibes flowing, here are my personal choices for the worst movies of 2020. I’ve quoted from my review when a review exists; otherwise, I re-opened these wounds and let some blood flow.
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola’s new movie On the Rocks dropped on Apple TV (and a few theaters, apparently), and with a worldwide pandemic still raging, it felt like a good time to stay in and rewatch her other six movies and talk about her 20-year career so far. So that’s just what Marisa, Sara, Jesse, and Jeremy did in a comprehensive conversation, appreciation, and career overview. The gang’s all here: Bill Murray! Kirsten Dunst! Guilded cages! The birth of Josh Hartnett’s dirtbag cool! Amazing soundtrack cues! Anachronisms! The Godfather Part III! A short-lived MTV series! And more! If you love the current Best Coppola’s work as much as we do, you won’t want to miss this one.

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: What Makes Us Laugh

Look, it’s been a long sort-of quarantine for everyone, including your friends at SportsAlcohol.com, and we haven’t all completed the projects we thought would be our silver linings for this extended period of inactivity. For example: Thinking we could all use some laughs during a pretty dark time, a bunch of us recorded a comedy-centric podcast about what makes us laugh, in the vein of our other episodes about what makes us cry or scared in movies and TV. We did this back in the spring, when it seemed like maybe we’d be dealing with a pandemic through the summer. Jesse’s neglect in editing this long but fun-filled episode turned out to be prescient, as it’s now almost six months later, and here we still are, dealing with the pandemic, and maybe still in need of laughs? So happy Election Day 2020, everyone! Here’s Marisa, Jesse, Nathaniel, Sara, Jeremy, and Jon talking about, and analyzing, the kind of comedy (well, mostly comedy) that makes us laugh now, has made us laugh in the past, and we hope will make us laugh again in the future.

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: 1999 Albums – 69 Love Songs by Magnetic Fields

Our miniseries on notable albums from the blessed year of 1999 is finally coming to an end, with an episode recorded a year ago and lost until today, well past the 21st anniversary of 69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields. This episode is a showcase for frequent SportsAlcohol.com contributor Ben, who has a close and complicated relationship with the best-known, most acclaimed Magnetic Fields record, and who was really on the scene back in 1999. Are we all absolutely cuckoo for Stephin Merritt’s massive concept album? Listen and find out! It’ll only take one sixth as long as listening to the album itself!

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

SportsAlcohol.com Endorses Joe Fucking Biden for President

With all the editorial authority invested in me, someone who comes here to post about Halt and Catch Fire and Peaky Blinders sometimes, I officially announcing that SportsAlcohol.com is endorsing the ticket of Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris for president and vice president.

Do we think that anyone comes here to read our political opinions? No.

Do we think that anyone comes here at all to read our opinions about anything? Possibly not.

So then why are we doing this? Because this shit is not normal.

It’s not just a matter of looking at two different ways of running a country, and lining up behind the person whose policies best match up with our opinions of how things should be done. It’s about choosing between one party that has a vision of how to move the country forward — a plan that has pieces that we like and pieces that we don’t like — and one party who doesn’t want us to be a country at all anymore. And everyone who has a microphone, even one as tiny as ours, should be screaming about this. So we will: Fuck Donald J. Trump. Fuck the party that enables him. Fuck everybody who’s turned the other way as he’s enabled and enacted white supremacy, shown criminal negligence in matters of public health, flouted the law, trampled norms, consolidated power, and betrayed the founding principles of this country for his own gains. Vote, and vote Biden. (And yeah, a vote for anyone else falls into the category of “people who didn’t do all they could do to stop Trump” category.)

I was inspired to do this because Tough Pigs, the Muppet fan site, wrote its own endorsement of Joe Biden. I figured if the Muppet guys have the courage to come and step up, so should we. Their endorsement  is much nicer, and more eloquent, and includes lots of good reasons to vote for Biden. I encourage you to read it if you want some good reasons to vote that way.

But you know the reasons already. You should know the score by now.

It just needed to be said.

So we can pretend this post is useful and offers some sort of service:

  • Go to Vote411 to check your voting info and make a plan for how to vote. Balletopedia and Injustice Watch also has good info so you can study up on your ballot initiatives and your judges before you go to the booth.
  • The header image comes from this Etsy site, which is in the UK (they call it a jumper!) so it won’t ship you merch in time for the election and the proceeds won’t benefit the campaign, but it’s cuter than the other stuff out there. (They had nothing to do with the writing of this post.) These shirts are also cute and 50% go to the campaign.
  • Or fuck the shirts, and just give money to democrats all the way down. Donate to Biden/Harris, this fund to help flip some vulnerable senate seats, this fund for reps, and this one to help turn state legislatures. Some of these funds are rolling in it, but sometimes it feels good to rage-give. (I’m also a fan of Higher Heights, Vote Mama, and Supermajority, which helps women candidates get elected.)

Modern Men: HONEST THIEF and SHITHOUSE

I have to get this out of the way: I have no idea why Shithouse is titled Shithouse. I mean, technically I know: The title refers to some kind of frat or residence house on or near a Los Angeles college campus where the movie’s two main characters don’t quite meet. It’s the kind of place where, when Alex (Cooper Raiff) asks about where to find a party on a Friday night, and his asshole roommate Sam (Logan Miller) tells him the big one is at Shithouse, Alex asks if there are any other parties available. There are not. 

Alex is not the kind of guy who particularly wants to go to a place called Shithouse and he’s not the type of guy who would name a movie Shithouse. (This apparently sets him apart from the actor playing him, who wrote and directed the film and likely had at least some input on the title.) Maybe that’s the point, in a movie about Alex trying to get out of both his comfort zone and his freshman-year loneliness (turns out, they may be the same thing). But it’s still a strange gesture for the movie to make, if only because it portends a different, more aggressive and maybe dirtbaggy brand of campus comedy, and Shithouse is one of the most sensitive renderings of college insecurity I’ve ever seen.
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NYFF58 At-Home Dispatch #3: Michelle Pfeiffer, Scene-Stealing Cats, and More Steve McQueen

The problem with doing festival dispatches more or less organized by your watch schedule is that you inevitably wind up feeling like you left something out. This year’s missed opportunity: When I caught up with The Woman Who Ran, it seemed like an obvious companion to The Calming. The latter, as covered here, is about a woman traveling around and retreating into solitude where she can find it. Hong Sang-soo’s The Woman Who Ran is about a woman (Kim Minhee) in a similar state, but with a more socially oriented structure: Spending time apart from her husband for the first time since they were married, she visits three different figures from her past. The scenes are long, chatty, sometimes awkward, and sometimes revealing; the best one only tangentially involves the lead character, as one of her friends has a polite but strained disagreement with a new neighbor about whether it’s reasonable for her to feed stray cats. (Great cat acting forms a punchline that somehow felt unexpected even though it’s the natural endpoint.) It’s less aesthetically pleasing than The Calming, as well as less, well calming, but it also generates some minor, compelling mysteries from these glimpses into the characters’ lives. (It’s also even shorter, at 80 minutes! Lots of below-90 runtimes in this year’s NYFF, as if the programmers knew viewers might be fitting in their viewings into an increasingly tricky jigsaw puzzle of at-home viewing.)
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NYFF58 At-Home Dispatch #2: Mangrove and Nomadland

Neither Nomadland nor Mangrove are set right now, or even just before right now, in 2019, which is where I’ve mentally sorted any otherwise-very-contemporary stories that, naturally, do not feature multiple characters wearing masks and keeping their distance. Nomadland is specifically set during an election year that now feels like the distant past, taking place mostly over the course of 2012. Mangrove is a real-life courtroom drama that takes place in 1970. Yet–big sigh, deep breath, and then maybe another sigh–both of these New York Film Festival entries are plenty appropriate for our current moment, in ways that alternately seem complementary and diametrically opposed. Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland is all about our old friend “economic anxiety,” albeit treated with unusual gentleness, while Steve McQueen’s Mangrove is about the kind of racist, violent police harassment that has inspired countless protests in 2020. Both of them have plenty of opportunities to come across as hamfisted in one way or another, and both of them succeed in ways that are somehow both straightforward and oddly miraculous.
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ANTEBELLUM raises the question: Is Janelle Monáe a great actor, or just a musical genius?

Antebellum was supposed to be another big breakthrough for Janelle Monáe. That might seem like an absurd concept for an entertainer who has already put out multiple records, starred in multiple Best Picture nominees, and received of her own nominations for a multitude of awards in various fields. Surely, someone will offer decent odds on her EGOTing sometime in the next four decades. But right now, her film career is still relatively young, and Antebellum represents her first unambiguous starring role. It’s the kind of next step that can only be taken after massive previous successes; last spring, starring in a new socially-conscious horror movie from producers who worked on Get Out and Us seemed like another level up for a rare talent.

As with so many plans, a worldwide pandemic waylaid Monáe’s first leading-lady film. (She previously starred in the second season of Homecoming on TV.) Originally set to debut in April, Antebellum was bumped into August, then scheduled for a VOD-only release in September. Though trailers piqued a lot of curiosity, early reviews have not been kind; some critics have designated it one of the year’s worst, and they’re not wrong. A seemingly provocative dual narrative—one featuring Monáe as Veronica, a successful author in contemporary America, the other where she endures grotesque cruelty as Eden, a slave in the South—turns out to be a pretty facile, even exploitative gimmick story that employs real-life horrors for no greater purpose than to point out that they are, in fact, horrifying. Aiming to blow minds a second time, the movie further points out that racism still exists today. Turns out those Get Out comparisons were extremely unwise.

Notably, there aren’t many reviews that blame Monáe for the film’s shortcomings as a thriller, which makes sense; Antebellum fails on the writing and directing levels before any of its cast has a real chance to salvage it. Live by a hooky concept, die by a hooky concept. At the same time, it’s hard to walk away from this mess thinking that Monáe is a major movie star in waiting. If she’s giving it her best shot, it hasn’t resulted in a compelling performance that powers through bad material. She goes down with the ship. As Eden, she spends a lot of screen time reacting: to the horrors around her, to the unwinnable situation she’s found herself in, and to horrible violence perpetuated against other Black people. That’s the case for her work as Veronica, too. She reacts to microaggressions from white folks, vaguely unsettling hints that something is about to go wrong, and to the more outspoken demeanor of her friend Dawn (Gabourey Sidibe)—giving us scenes where Monáe is reacting to other reactions.
Continue reading ANTEBELLUM raises the question: Is Janelle Monáe a great actor, or just a musical genius?