TRACK MARKS 2021: “Final Girl” by Chvrches

Track Marks is a recurring feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. Though they can appear on the site at any time, we always run a bunch of them around the turn of a new year, looking back at the previous year in music.

The music of Chvrches has always had a widescreen quality: With its swooning synths and pealing guitars, it’s virtually engineered to soundtrack a Michael Mann epic. But on “Final Girl,” the Scottish synth-pop trio isn’t just making music fit for the movies; they’re placing themselves within the movies. The title, as those steeped in pop culture well know, refers to the sometimes-virginal victim of a horror film, the last woman standing (and screaming) after the killer has eviscerated her hapless friends. Is lead singer Lauren Mayberry equating the burdens of feminine fame to the terrors of haunted-house mayhem, with toxic internet trolls swarming her with the destructive zeal of an inexorable slasher? She certainly seems battered, if not broken; whereas in the past she “could drown it out by filling up the silence with an organ sound,” now she’s wondering if she should just quit and go get married.

Final girls can’t give up, though. They’re defined by their endurance, their pluck, their defiant survival. And if a decade of commercial success has sapped Mayberry of her artistic enthusiasm, that’s news to Chvrches’ listeners, because “Final Girl” represents a band at the peak of its musical powers. Structurally, there’s nothing fancy about the song; it’s just a couple of verses, along with the usual pre- and post-chorus. But the compact, muscular arrangement bristles with precision and verve, the steady repetition paradoxically creating kinetic momentum. All of the harmonizing instruments—the glittering keyboards, the sliding guitars, the punchy percussion—are perfectly synchronized, and appropriately subservient to the clarion beauty of Mayberry’s voice. (During the chorus, she muses whether she should have changed her accent to make herself sound more attractive, a wistful piece of self-reflection which ignores the fact that her accent totally rules.) This exactitude lends the imagery a chilling vividness; when Mayberry conjures the vision of someone finding their daughter in a body bag, you can practically see the coroner pulling up the zipper.

“Final Girl” deftly mingles the personal with the professional—it’s an introspective diary entry that’s been crafted with brash, boisterous confidence—but in the spirit of the best slasher flicks, it saves its biggest twist for the finale. Mayberry has already mentioned the track’s title on her initial run through the post-chorus, but the second time around she asks, “There’s a final girl / Does she look like me?” It’s a jolting question, one that ponders just how much of ourselves we see when we’re staring at a movie screen. “She should be screaming!” Mayberry sings, her voice cresting with urgency as the mix gradually dissolves into an extended hiss of reverb. It’s a fitting non-ending, one that primes you to anticipate a sequel. And why not? With music this rich and taut and assured, Chvrches deserve a whole damn cinematic universe.

TRACK MARKS 2021: “Faith Healer” by Julien Baker

Track Marks is a recurring feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. Though they can appear on the site at any time, we always run a bunch of them around the turn of a new year, looking back at the previous year in music.

I cried a lot in 2021. I don’t think I’m alone in that. It was a uniquely dark time for many of us, when the continued isolation imposed by the pandemic began to feel less like a moral imperative and more like a congenital defect, particularly for those like me who live alone and already prone to depressive and defeatist thinking. We had hoped the year would go better. It had other plans. In times like this, sometimes it doesn’t really help to try and boost yourself up with positive and mindful self-talk that feels false or forced. Sometimes you just want to hear from someone who gets it. For me, that someone was Julien Baker.

In advance of the release of her third solo album Little Oblivions, Baker was remarkably candid about the personal struggles and demons that inspired it, from her evangelical upbringing to a series of addictions and relapses before she was even out of her teens. If there’s a self-flagellating aspect to her music, a punishing intensity not only to the lyrics but the musical compositions supporting them, there’s also a firsthand knowledge of unhealthy coping mechanisms that can make her seem like the gurus she’s questioning, a belief in herself that’s all the more compelling for how clearly fragile it is. No track embodies that better than “Faith Healer,” the record’s first single and its best song.

Like much of Baker’s music, it starts hushed, with a simple undulating guitar picking, her voice not entering the song so much as venturing into it. “Ooh I miss it high,” she croons, as if hesitant to invade its holy space with a confession of weakness. But, as with most confessions, once Baker starts it all begins flooding out: “What I wouldn’t give if it would take away the sting a minute. Everything I love, I’d trade it in to feel it rush into my chest.” If there’s anything an addict understands in her blood, it’s the seductive power of a quick fix. Whatever the vice might be, whether it’s a drug or a person or a belief system, there’s a relief in giving into it, blinding yourself to the delusion that maybe, this time, you can control the chaos being welcomed back in. The song itself mirrors this during the bridge as strings dart with increasing fervency, building to the cathartic invitation to connect, even, and perhaps especially, when it’s bad for you: “Come put your hands on me.” When she performed this live at one of the first shows I went to post-vaccine in September, the crowd lifted theirs as if the concert hall was a revival tent. And for the upteenth time that year, I cried. And I wasn’t alone in that.

The Podcast: The Matrix Resurrections and the Wachowskis’ Career

We here at SportsAlcohol dot com were pretty excited about the recent release of The Matrix Resurrections, the 18-years-later legacy sequel to the Wachowskis’ Matrix trilogy, written and directed by Lana Wachowski sans her sister Lily. After watching the movie in IMAX theaters and/or HBO Max, Jesse, Marisa, Ben, Jeremy, and Nathaniel got together to talk about how the new movie fits in with the legendary original, the controversial trilogy, and the garden of delights that is the full Wachowski filmography. We start with The Matrix Resurrections and then get into our full collective ranking of the Wachowski movies, discussing the finer points of Cloud Atlas, Speed Racer, Bound, and more. So join us, won’t you, after all these years… to go back to where it all started. Back to The Matrix. (And also back to Jupiter Ascending.)

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

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • is a proud member of the Aha Radio Network. What is Aha? It’s kind of like Stitcher, but for your car.
  • You can download the mp3 of the episode directly here.
  • Our most recent episode or two will sometimes be available on our Soundcloud. We don’t always have it working right but there’s good stuff there regardless!
  • You can listen to the episode in the player below.

The Podcast: The Films of Wes Anderson

How did it take us this long to get to a Wes Anderson podcast episode?! Though The Grand Budapest Hotel was our consensus choice for the best movie of 2014, our site’s very first best-movie-of-the-year pick, we hadn’t yet dedicated a full episode to Anderson’s full filmography. With the recent of release of The French Dispatch, we decided to change that, assembling Marisa, Jon, Sara, Jeremy, and Jesse to rank Anderson’s movies and discuss all ten of them. Which film edged out which other film for the number one spot? Which one was lowest on multiple lists? What do we think of his latest movie (now available to stream, rent, or buy on disc)? And where do the stop-motion animals fit in?! All of this information and more is contained in this podcast episode, our first in too long, but also one of our best. So switch off the Kinks for just a couple of hours and listen up!

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

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • is a proud member of the Aha Radio Network. What is Aha? It’s kind of like Stitcher, but for your car.
  • You can download the mp3 of the episode directly here.
  • Our most recent episode or two will sometimes be available on our Soundcloud. We don’t always have it working right but there’s good stuff there regardless!
  • You can listen to the episode in the player below.

The Worst Movies of 2021

There are worse things going on in the world than these movies—than any of these movies. I mean, the fact that I got to actually go to the movies a hundred-plus times this year counts, unfortunately, as a triumph, and even the worst movies of 2021 didn’t inspire the same hopelessness as much of 2020. Instead, the worst movies of 2021 were back to something more like business as usual: overblown blockbuster chintz, self-conscious entries in genres the filmmakers thought they had down pat, bad horror shit, and even more attempts to do the Coens or Tarantino or whoever else. (Say this for Dear Evan Hansen: It’s bad in new and unfamiliar ways.) Many of them were streaming-only titles; others played in thousands of theaters nationwide. The worst movies of 2021, like the best ones, know no boundaries. Here I purge them from my ledger, with a mix of links to my past writing/ranting and some newly created sum-ups. Here’s to more regular old bad movies in 2022—that aren’t outshined by the bad movie unfolding all around us.

The Worst Movies of 2021

15. The Tomorrow War

“That’s where The Tomorrow War’s whiff of Christian-movie piety comes in: The filmmakers are careful to characterize Dan as a good husband, attentive and loving father, tough soldier, capable leader, and near-genius scientist, leaving any personal failings as abstract, offscreen concepts that can only be explained, never dramatized, before they’re heroically overcome. Pratt gets in a few of his trademark regular-guy semi-witticisms, but mostly the movie extends the option on Hollywood’s baffling collective decision to employ him as an all-American can-do adventurer rather than an underachieving goofball.”

14. South of Heaven

I believe in Jason Sudeikis’s capacity to go serious… but not like this… not like this. A grave and tone-deaf mix of reflective indie redemption drama, blackly comic Coen Brothers-esque crime caper, South of Heaven made me nostalgic for the days when SNL alumni made terrible feature-length shtick out of their comic personas, rather than po-faced junk.

13. Dear Evan Hansen

“In a weird way, Dear Evan Hansen does achieve the effect it’s going for, in that the whole movie feels like an out-of-control lie: Its phoniness, starting from Platt’s masquerade and building from there, compounds and compounds, and no one involved, especially not director Stephen Chbosky, is willing to call the bluff. Platt gives the worst performance, in the sense that it feels like you’re watching a police sketch of Jason Biggs go through psychotherapy against its will. But there’s a different sort of badness in watching Amy Adams and Julianne Moore (as Evan’s mom) flounder through material so ill-considered.”

12. The Fear Street Trilogy

I have rarely felt crazier than I did watching Twitter reactions and even Rotten Tomatoes scores on this Netflix botch get ever more enthusiastic as it dropped each weekly entry, as if the contact high from an efficient knockoff-Scream opening sequence somehow got into everyone’s bloodstream and kept them peaking for weeks. Guys, this is the bad stuff: archly written without any proper laughs or scares; clumsily plotted and seemingly convinced of its own cynical relevance; saturated with lazy anachronisms disguised as pop-culture signifiers (hint: American kids in 1978 were not saying “shagadelic,” a word coined by Austin Powers in 1997); and ruthlessly extended in the manner of a bad streaming TV show, suggesting a genuine interest in smearing all forms of visual art into generic content paste. The creepiest thing about this trilogy is the way it evokes the feeling that no one involved with this teen horror movie has ever been a teenager or even watched one in a horror movie;

11. Breaking News in Yuba County

“You can probably tell what kind of bad movie this is: Affected. Smugly “satirical” without really satirizing anything. One of many Fargo knockoffs, full of zany quirks and sticky ends, that makes Fargo seem better and richer than ever.”

10. Cherry

Joe and Anthony Russo seem like fairly mild-mannered and pragmatic fellows, having made a name for themselves as go-to network comedy directors throughout the 2000s, then unexpectedly becoming MCU mainstays starting with their work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Yet Cherry, their first movie following the unfathomable global success of their Avengers sequels, feels like the Russos have worked themselves into a rage binge over any perceived lack of seriousness to making multibillion-dollar superhero movies. So, they kick up a bunch of aggro grit, with their Avengers co-star Tom Holland playing a vet turned addict turned criminal. This is a movie that has nothing to say about war, addiction, or anything else that it’s supposed to be about, instead focusing on providing the Russos plenty of opportunities to dick around with camera tricks and show-off shots. The striving for gravitas starts to feel like auteur hubris minus any personality: Just pure movie-director ego. Good on them, though, for finally making the incompetent “serious” movie Michael Bay keeps smirking his way out of making.

9. Joe Bell

Plenty of writers focused on the questionable taste of Mark Wahlberg, who committed a hate crime as a young man, playing a father embarking on a cross-country anti-bullying campaign on behalf of his gay son. That’s probably because they weren’t sure how or if they could discuss either the mid-movie twist, or the real-life twist the movie conveys in its final on-screen text, an attempted gut punch that misses and falls on its face. I think enough time has passed to issue a spoiler alert: This movie ends with a serious-minded equivalent of “Poochie died on the way back his home planet,” offering incontrovertible proof that sometimes real-life tragedies are better left unadapted.

8. Here Today

Here Today has some—well, a few—well, a handful of—graceful moments, focusing on the unlikely, ambiguous, surprisingly supportive relationship these characters. It is also singularly, fascinatingly, appallingly, confusingly unfunny… The writing, and the writing-within-the-writing that supplies the movie’s fake comedy, feels restless and rushed, as if Crystal and Zweibel affixed their every “yes and” with the words “…then we’re done.” There’s rich material to be mined from the quirks and foibles of a professional comedy lifer. Instead, Charlie Burnz just sounds like someone opened an expired jar of Billy Crystal and left it out on a counter for several decades.” – my newsletter entry on Billy Crystal. Subscribe to it, maybe I’ll do more in the new year!

7. Demonic

Seeking an M. Night Shyamalan-style low-budget rebirth, Neill Blomkamp returns with an amateurish shocker—that is, a movie that is shockingly amateurish, especially given that he’s been involved with some of the best lower-budget visual effects I’ve ever seen. No such luck in the haunted virtual world of Demonic. Then again, maybe this movie is a miracle: Using a sliding scale based on the fact that District 9 and Chappie cost under $50 million apiece, it would be fair to assume that Demonic cost no more than $600 cash. None of that would matter if the movie were scary or engaging, but its best ideas—involving a woman who uses new technology to venture into her comatose mother’s mind and winds up unleashing a terrible evil—languish with bargain-basement production, and not just in the area of visual effects. It’s one of those movies where I’m shocked to discover afterward that the lead is a professional working actor; whatever she learned in her literal years as a well-liked and successful television performer, Blomkamp managed to wipe the slate clean.

6. Space Jam: A New Legacy

“This is the least funny Looney Tunes endeavor since Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. It is worse than the original Space Jam, because the original Space Jam had Bill Murray. Imagine a movie that replaces Bill Murray with 30 minutes. That Justin Lin and Ryan Coogler, filmmakers I would prefer to continue liking, were not frightened away from putting their names on this shit either speaks to their bravery, or their unexpected kinship with Ivan Reitman.”

5. Hero Mode

“It’s tempting to call Hero Mode harmless. It’s a low-budget indie, and the fact that the lead actor, screenwriter, and group of people given a story credit all share a surname suggests that this may be a family project taken too far. Yet in addition to the latent sexism, unmitigated by Mira Sorvino’s nothing of a mom role, there’s something insidious about the movie’s incompetence, and the accompanying belief that it’s good enough to entertain audiences of any age. It aspires to harmlessness, and fails. Even its version of a valuable family-film lesson is bizarre and off-key. Remember, kids: If you happen to become the head of a company before you’ve learned anything about employee management or leadership, be sure to embrace teamwork.”

4. Dating & New York

”Some credit must be awarded to the actors: First, based on the available evidence, they did not flee the movie mid-shoot. (Although if they did, the movie wouldn’t look much different; some of their scenes may well have been completed from the comfort of home.) Second, Young-White is a successful stand-up comic in real life, playing an aspiring stand-up comic in this movie, and he is extremely convincing as someone who will never, ever succeed at stand-up, or possibly anything else besides the wearing of turtlenecks. Even that, I’d call more of a qualified success. They do go around his neck, but at what cost in terms of indicating what season it’s supposed to be? Further to that concern, another scene has Reale wearing a turtleneck of her own, with overalls, while Young-White wears a half-buttoned Hawaiian shirt. Finally, a movie that asks the haunting question: Does New York have weather?”

A postscript to this review: Here and in my A.V. Club preview item about this movie, I mentioned that it was an obviously green-screened New York experience that looked as if it had largely been shot elsewhere. Apparently the writer-director took issue with this, claiming that nothing in the movie was green-screened. This speaks to both the false authority with which we critics sometimes speak, and what a strange, uncanny experience this anonymous-looking New York Movie is, full of generic interiors and obscured backgrounds. If green-screen wasn’t involved, certainly some cheap digital effects make an appearance. I mean, take a look at the header image for this piece again.

3. First Date

A crime comedy that emerges as if from a gruesome accident at a late ‘90s video store, this movie somehow played the Sundance Film Festival in 2021, which would be a source of intense bitterness for the next two decades’ worth of Sundance rejections, if anyone bothers to seek it out. A teenager buys an old car so he can take out his crush, and everything goes wrong—not just with the car and the cops/criminals on its tail, but with the movie, which introduces two likable young characters, contrives idiotic reasons to keep them apart, and drowns everyone in imitation-Tarantino banter.

2. Separation

“It’s this sad-sack divorced idiot, who by all we can tell is a terrible provider, a bad husband, and a mediocre dad… there’s a fascinating convergence of bad directing, bad writing, and bad acting to make this character both terribly unlikable and at the same time, intended to be likable. It’s a feature-length apologia for deadbeat dads everywhere. If we’re OK to get into spoilers, I’ll eventually talk about how the movie even fucks up its weird attempts to mitigate how toxic and poisonous this thing is.” – selections from my sputtering disgust expressed in a discussion on the New Flesh podcast

1. He’s All That

“I do believe fans of That Type of Stuff (a group that I obviously, albeit somewhat torturously, belong to) deserve movies starring people who actually like movies, rather than seeing them as a subsidiary of their TikTok empire. Addison Rae doesn’t look especially excited or moved by anything happening in the movie that she’s starring in. She’s just there, photographed as prominently and helplessly as those plastic-looking slices of Pizza Hut-brand pizza product.” – Also from my newsletter! Like and subscribe!!!

FLIRTING WITH DISASTER at 25: To Break Things and Be Forgiven

Mel Coplin cannot name his child. This is the inciting plot point of writer-director David O. Russell’s second and, in my opinion, best film: 1996’s Flirting with Disaster, which celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. It belongs in the same upper echelon of satirical road trip comedies as Albert Brooks’ Lost in America and Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels but is rarely granted that level of recognition, perhaps overshadowed in the popular imagination by Russell’s flashier but less soulful later efforts. Watching it now, there’s something quaint, even wholesome, about Disaster’s more pint-sized focus and ambitions; its entire budget could probably match the cost of one of American Hustle’s needle drops. It’s a portrait of a distinctly dysfunctional family, released during the height of the Clinton years, picking up on the ambient anxieties of the you-can-have-it-all era and mining it for painful laughs. But, like pretty much every character in the film, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Let’s get back to Mel, who is played with exquisitely calibrated neuroticism by Ben Stiller. Mel cannot name his child because he doesn’t understand where he came from. Mel was adopted as a baby by Pearl and Ed Coplin, played by an uncharacteristically ribald Mary Tyler Moore and perpetually harried George Segal, respectively. Though they are not his birth parents, it’s easy to see how they’ve rubbed off on Mel once they’re introduced in the sort of madcap multilayered “everyone talking at once and about different things” dinner sequence that will become this film’s recurring set piece. For someone like me, who grew up in a household that insisted on sedate nightly meals together that often unfolded with the television on in the background, these scenes hit the same pleasure centers as Moonstruck or Raising Arizona. It’s not that I recognize my own family in them, but the particularities of the arguments and the tangled affection informing them invite me, if only briefly, into a new, more emphatic one. Pearl and Ed are upset with Mel because, deep down, they fear they haven’t been enough for him. Because this is a David O. Russell comedy, that’s expressed by Moore boasting about the defiant buoyancy of her late-middle-aged breasts and Segal cautioning about the carjacking problem in San Diego, where Mel has just announced he’s heading with his wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette, expertly capturing the heightened-stakes sensuality of new motherhood) and his hapless caseworker Tina (Tea Leoni, never sexier), who is recently divorced and feeling pressed for time, biologically speaking. Tina has identified San Diego as the residence of Mel’s birth mother, Valerie Swaney.
Continue reading FLIRTING WITH DISASTER at 25: To Break Things and Be Forgiven

Is SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME self-improvement or giving up?

Let’s start with what we’re allowed to say about Spider-Man: No Way Home without spoiling anything, because it’s something you already know or could have guessed (or maybe even watched online already): It begins immediately after the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, with J. Jonah Jameson, recast as an Alex Jones-like renegade buffoon but, crucially, still played by the inimitable J.K. Simmons, exposing Spider-Man’s secret identity to the world. So No Way Home starts in a tizzy, and only gets tizzier from there: Peter (Tom Holland) is accosted by the public, pursued by the press, and mortified that his nearest and dearest—the select few who already knew his secret, including his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), and his beloved Aunt May (Marisa Tomei)—are getting swept into his Spider-Drama. (He claims to also feel for the plight of Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, but who really believes him?)

These opening scenes represent a welcome pivot to the beleaguered Spider-Man who hasn’t always felt central to the Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation, guided here, as in the previous two installments, by Jon Watts. Sure, Peter Parker has faced plenty of tough choices, but they’ve often felt a little softened: by a lifestyle that has appeared more middle-class than just-scraping-by, a mentor-benefactor in the form of Tony Stark, and by the support network of Ned, MJ, and May that’s gradually formed around him. The tradeoff has been that the Watts Spider-Man movies, especially Homecoming, have an appealing lightness of tone, where the patented MCU comedy beats mostly feel natural and in-character, with a sense of teen-comedy community around Parker’s misadventures (at least when he’s not blasting off into space for other people’s epics). Having the world learn his secret is a setback that Mr. Stark can’t buy out. Dr. Strange, however…
Continue reading Is SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME self-improvement or giving up?

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO and ANTLERS on the horror elevator

Edgar Wright seems like he was born to make horror movie. In a sense, he already has, depending on your analysis of the horror-to-comedy-to-squishy-drama ratios in Shaun of the Dead (or your tolerance for the millennial antics of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; it’s my favorite Wright movie so far, but seems to be one of his more divisive works). Even in his non-zombie pictures, there are dark corners: The elaborate gore of Hot Fuzz, protruding into a spoof of a genre that doesn’t generally go that far (think of Timothy Dalton, spired through the jaw), or the ominous alien invasion (and existential dread) of The World’s End. Wright’s comedies are uncommonly perceptive about the psychology at the contemporary, and often very male, intersection between repression, dorkiness, and despair—without skimping on the geek-show flourishes that genre fans tend to love.

Last Night in Soho is not about men—at least not in its most literal sense. It’s the first Wright movie to assume a female point-of-view, then doubles and blurs that POV with dream logic. At first it’s about Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), a withdrawn young woman who speaks in a slurry whisper, attending fashion college in London while daydreaming of the ‘60s culture and fashions she worships from decades later. With her obsessively rose-colored vision of past cultural peaks, she could fit right in on the couches of Wright’s nerd-layabout TV series Spaced, though she’d be the best-dressed character by a mile. Irritated by her snarky roommate Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen), Eloise vacates the dorms in favor of a flat upstairs from owner Ms. Collins (the late Diana Rigg). Living on her own for the first time, she plays her retro records loud and soaks in the flashing neon outside her window. But at night, she goes further, dreaming herself all the way back to the 1960s. In her realer-than-real dreams, she’s not exactly jumping into the body of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer who apparently once lived in Eloise’s flat; she’s more like a shadow, sometimes watching Sandie from a mirror-close vantage point, her empathy (or is it envy?) so intense that she sometimes feels as if she’s sharing Sandie’s experiences.
Continue reading LAST NIGHT IN SOHO and ANTLERS on the horror elevator

HALLOWEEN KILLS is David Gordon Green’s movie, through and through

Because the Halloween movies are part of a long-running horror franchise, it’s natural that a new entry like Halloween Kills will be received as part of that legacy—even as the movie intentionally picks and chooses what’s part of its continuity, what’s sneaky homage, and what’s brand-new. Halloween Kills is a follow-up to 2018’s Halloween, which itself is not a remake of the original 1978 Halloween, but a 40-years-later sequel that ignores the many other sequels (and the 2007 remake, and its sequel). The new sequel takes some cues from the “original” Halloween II, but it’s not a remake of that one, either; at times, it seems to be consciously rebuking some of that old sequel’s most famous elements.

To a lot of critics and fans, Kills reverts its 2018 predecessor into slasher-sequel mode: more (and gorier) killing, additional backstory (or is it retconning?), more vaguely supernatural power emanating from the unstoppable masked killer Michael Myers. And the film undeniably has all of those elements. But Halloween Kills is more interesting than it sounds, because it represents another left turn in the career of director/cowriter David Gordon Green.

Green also made the 2018 Halloween (and is about to make Halloween Ends, the final movie in this trilogy, slated for release next October). That was a left turn, too, in a filmography full of them. He started out doing soulful, Terrence Malick-esque Southern indies like George Washington and All the Real Girls; tried his hand at stoner comedy with the well-received Pineapple Express and the less-beloved Your Highness; did some movie-star-gone-indie portraiture like Joe and Manglehorn; made a couple of true-life dramas including Stronger; and then signed on for this Halloween trilogy. Green has made a rich and prolific career of baffling different factions of his potential supporters.
Continue reading HALLOWEEN KILLS is David Gordon Green’s movie, through and through

NYFF59 Part 1: The Worst People

I’ve been trying and failing to wrap my head around Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Grade: C) and the enthusiastic reaction it’s received at New York Film Festival press screening sand elsewhere, wondering if I might have been more receptive had the content warnings before the movie not characterized it as a comedy. I admire its bizarre juxtapositions: It opens with graphic and unsimulated sex, in order to depict a leaked sex tape with maximum verisimilitude; it then follows Emi (Katia Pascariu), one of the tape’s participants, on a harried bunch of errands as she prepares for a hearing at the school where she teaches, the camera drifting through the COVID-affected spaces around her, eavesdropping on various phone calls; next, there’s an extended break for a wry illustrated glossary of various social and political terms; finally, an extended set piece in the form of the hearing itself, where a group of largely ridiculous parents air their grievances over Emi’s accidentally exposed private life.
Continue reading NYFF59 Part 1: The Worst People