How It Works

I love movies, but I hate most movie reviews. I hate them for two reasons: First, they always begin with a 3-5 paragraph in-depth description of the film. I don't want to know the entire plot, I want to know if it's good! I may say generally what the movie involves but that's it. Second, most movie reviews are unclear. I've read countless reviews that left me with absolutely no indication as to whether or not I should even see the film. Not here. I developed three methods to rate television and movies:

1. Just your average 10 point scale.
10 is obviously the best and 1 is the worst. Although, Something Borrowed might make below a 1 if I ever get around to reviewing it. I consider myself quite harsh, so if you see anything above a 9, it's probably in my top ten of all time.

2. What's it Worth?
I will tell you if I think it's worth paying for and worth the 2 (and ever more increasingly 3) hours of your time. I also make an educated guess as to whether or not you can multitask during the film.

3. The (not-yet) Patented Clairometer
In honor of my college friend Claire, I developed this rating system in order to display how "appropriate" the film is. It is designed to tell you a more detailed rating system. I find this helpful. Sometimes you want to know ahead of time so you're not stuck watching Black Swan in an empty theater with your mom. The range between PG-13 and R is more vast than the plot holes in a Michael Bay movie. I hope to combat this. The scale shows photos and descriptions of a few well-known women in film and television. The rating is the farthest woman to the left of the scale who would approve of the film. For example, June Cleaver would not approve of
Tequila Sunrise. The woman who would is probably Mathilda.





With this blog, I write as though someone will read it and enjoy what I have to say. I am under no false pretense that I have a wide readership. It is mostly for me and for the one other person who accidentally stumbled across this blog. If that is you, I'm glad you are here. With this blog, I send my thoughts about what I watch on a black box into the abyss of the world wide web. I hope you enjoy reading these thoughts as much as I enjoy writing them.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

5 90's Movies That I Love, Because My Dad Does

(and also because they're great).

© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. 1995
1. Get Shorty (1995)
This movie has everything I love: witty dialogue, the movie business, an intricate plot, and ironic commentary. With Get Shorty you get the best of a Quentin Tarantino film without the horrifying nightmares.

John Travolta is out of a leisure suit and in his mob-guy prime. Rene Russo is nearly as beautifully cunning as she is in the Thomas Crowne Affair. And James Gandolfini is a southern-accented stunt man named Bear, who is eternally devoted to his four-year old daughter. Does it get any better than that?

I feel very connected to John Travolta's character Chili Palmer. He's a person who won't stop quoting movies even when no one around him understands the reference. Hmmm...

© Polygram 1997

2. The Game (1997)
I bet M. Night Shyamalan wrote one too many papers on The Game in film school. It seems like something he has often attempted to replicate. This is my go-to film to show people, partly because I have it on DVD and partly because it's a major crowd pleaser - for those who can pay attention. Also, David Fincher directed it, and he pretty much tonally nails everything he does.

©20th Century Fox 1995
3. Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
In my controversial opinion, the best of the Die Hard cannon. Most would probably argue the original, but I just can't get behind Alan Rickman as a villain. Although he plays one masterfully, I prefer when he ends up being the good guy. (See: "After all this time?" "Always.") I also prefer John McClane going on an exciting scavenger hunt throughout the city. As opposed to just crawling through air ducts for an hour. If you need more evidence as to why this installment is better than the newer ones, just ask Michael Scott.

© Miramax,1997
4. Jackie Brown (1997)
Perhaps my second favorite Tarantino (the first being Inglorious Basterds, in case you care). Pam Grier's title character is like Annalise Keating before she went to law school. Honestly, the fact that Shonda Rhimes hasn't written a series starring Pam Grier is a crime.

Jackie Brown takes the best parts of Pulp Fiction, removes the horrifying scene in that basement, and adds Di Nero. My dad quoted Samuel L. Jackson's "Beaumont" lines over and over, and I was probably too young to hear them. But alas, early exposure to Tarantino has only improved my life I'd say.

©MGM 1999
5. The Thomas Crowne Affair (1999)
I hate myself for saying this, but I haven't actually seen the original. However, my borderline illogical loyalty only to the 1950's Sabrina should make up for it. Apparently, according to this list, I really love Rene Russo. But seriously, have you seen Nightcrawler? She's incredible. She's a topless temptress at 45 in this film, and that was back in the 90s! Her character reminds me of those classic gumption-filled women of the early 20th century. Hmm, perhaps I should watch the original. Oh and Pierce Brosnan is the same character he always plays. He just can't look poor can he?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

America, Azkaban, and Unauthorized Affinity

Camp X-Ray (2014)
© IFC Films 2014
Written and Directed by: Peter Sattler
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Peyman Moaadi, Lane Garrison

My Rating: 7.8
Clairometer: Mathilda
Worth: The price to rent, and full attention (although, full attention isn't entirely necessary)

This film touched me. Some will probably loath it, viewing it as anti-American propaganda. Others will love it - for instance, the people who used to protest wearing orange jumpsuits outside the 7th Circuit Courthouse everyday of my law school career. Rational people, no matter their political opinions, will likely agree that Guantanamo Bay presents a major problem. Ethically, we can't keep it open, because it defies what America stands for - habeas corpus among other things. But we can't close it because no states are willing to house the Gitmo occupants in their prisons. This film, although set entirely in a prison in Guantanamo Bay, isn't really about those political issues. Yes, it presents serious concerns about how the prisoners are treated, as well as if they will ever be charged. But the bulk of the film is about a man and a woman learning to view their lives from the other's perspective.

© BBC Drama Productions 2016
I watched The Night Of and, while i was underwhelmed with the show as a whole, I connected most with Naz's parents. His father, played by Peyman Moaadi, is the Guantanamo prisoner in Camp X-Ray. I mention The Night Of merely to describe his range as an actor. It's really quite incredible. In Camp X-Ray he is raw and rude and full of emotion. In The Night Of, he's so reserved and collected, even in the midst of his family tragedy. I watched both around the same time, so the juxtaposition was fresh in my mind and enthralling to behold.

If you're thinking to yourself, "two hours of Kristen Stewart is a bit much," I say give her a chance. It will take her a while to move past the roll of Bella Swan and past her tabloid history. But she really is great in this. I forgot it was her within the first 10 minutes. Not that my forgetting was necessary for my enjoyment nor is it an indictment of Kristen Stewart. I merely mean to compliment her acting. Kudos Kristen. Major Kudos.

Overall, her emotional connection to Moaadi's character is heartbreaking. They don't say many words to each other, but their souls are poured out through the slots in the door. I spent the last 30 minutes of the film with my chest soaked with tears. While that may not be saying very much, I stand by my love of this film. If you are having a bad day, the kind of day where you hate the world. Watch Camp X-Ray to restore your faith in humanity and the power of human connection.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My Top 10 Gilmore Girls Episodes to Re-Watch

 ©Warner Bros. 2003
Gilmore Girls is probably my favorite television show of all time. Some times I watch it too much and The Office or Arrested Development kicks it out of first place. I have been re-watching Gilmore Girls since the show ended in 2007. In honor of the new Netflix show premiere in November, here is a list of my most re-watched episodes. These are the episodes that make me happy. Rory and Lorelai aren't fighting (cough cough, the first half of season six), and most of the town is usually involved. That is what this post is about... re-watching great episodes to uplift your mood. Spoilers will follow, obviously. Also, as a side note, there is nothing I hate more than blog posts that "sum up" an entire show in 10 episodes. Just watch the whole series. This post is for the loyal re-watchers!

1. "Nick & Nora/Sid & Nancy" - Season 2 Episode 5
The one where Jess arrives to Stars Hallow. We get one of my favorite Luke scenes. Two words: "Jam Hands."

2. "The Bracebridge Dinner" - Season 2 Episode 10 
The one where Lorelai and Sookie throw a Renaissance-themed dinner for the town at the inn. This one is particularly great because Jess and Rory emotionally connect on a sleigh ride and Richard and Emily interact with members of the town. 

3. "There's the Rub" Season 2 Episode 16  
The one where Lorelai and Emily go to a spa, and Rory, Jess and Paris eat takeout and talk books. Yes, Rory and Dean have a spat, as do Lorelai and Emily. But they are lighthearted spats that resolve quickly. Also, Jess has read Jane Austen... swoon. 

4. "The Fundamental Things Apply" - Season 4 Episode 5 
The one where Rory goes on a date with water bottle boy, and Luke and Lorelai have a movie night. How much I relate to Lorelai's movie night rules is startling. This episode may give you "a nice musk." 

5. "Dead Uncles and Vegetables" - Season 2 Episode 17 
The one where Luke's uncle Louis dies. Rory and Lorelai help him at the diner. I love this episode because we get to see Lorelai help Luke. He's always helping her, and finally the tables are turned. 

6. "Written in the Stars" - Season 5 Episode 3 
The one where Paris throws a wake attended by Emily. Rory meets Logan for the first time. This one is for all you Logan lovers out there. We get one of my favorite Paris Geller lines: "No Rory, this great man was not brought down by my vagina." 

7. "Take the Deviled Eggs" - Season 3 Episode 6  
The one where Lorelai and Rory go to Sherry's baby shower. This episode is worth enduring the cheesy baby shower dialogue (e.g. "What are we waiting for? Let the games begin!") entirely for the last five minutes. The town gathers to watch a protest. 

8. "But Not as Cute as Pushkin" - Season 5 Episode 10
The one where Rory has a Chilton student stay with her at Yale. The best part of this episode is Paris attending a speed dating session.

9. "Those Are Strings, Pinocchio" - Season 3 Episode 22
 The one where Rory graduates from Chilton. I usually don't like to re-watch season finales because Amy Sherman-Palladino is the queen of cliff hangers. Actually, that's probably Shonda Rhimes. But it usually leads me to start watching the next season, and some times, you just don't have time for that. But this one beautifully closes a chapter of both Rory and Lorelai's life.

10. "A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving" - Season 3 Episode 9 
The one where Lorelai and Rory go to four Thanksgiving dinners. Lane and Dave have a great time. Lorelai, Luke, Jess and Rory have a Thanksgiving dinner together. All is right with the world. Also, probably a top three Sookie scene. Melissa McCarthy showing off her Groundlings background.

Honorable Mentions, Because I Can't Decide

"A-Tisket, A-Tasket" - Season 2 Episode 13 - The one where Luke and Lorelai go on a "date," as do Jess and Rory. All is right with the world.
"You've Been Gilmored" - Season 6 Episode 14 - The one where Luke and Lorelai have dinner with Richard and Emily. We see Richard and Emily finally accept Luke as a match for Lorelai. Rory gives Christopher a tour of Yale and Paris accuses Rory of putsch-ing.
"Friday Night's Alright for Fighting" - Season 6 Episode 13 - The one where all the Gilmores fight at a Friday night dinner. Seemingly an odd choice, but seeing each one air grievances against the others is cathartic as an audience member. And its shot to perfection; well done Kenny Ortega. Also, we get to see Logan be charming for a reason other than his wealth.
"Christopher Returns" - Season 1 Episode 15 - The one where we meet Christopher for the first time. His past with Lorelai is so believable: acting at its finest.
"Lorelai? Lorelai?" - Season 7 Episode 20 - The one where the town sings Karaoke. We see that Rory isn't perfect. I watch this one when I feel bad and I need Lorelai to cheer me up. It does have a cliff hanger though...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Perfect Plane Movie (In the Best Way)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)
©Paramount Pictures 2015
Starring: Tina Fey, Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie
Written By: Robert Carlock, Kim Barker
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

My Rating: 7.0
Clairometer: Mathilda
Worth: Time, no money to rent, and you can multitask

Disclaimer: I watched this movie on a plane. As Toby Flenderson says, "Michael is like a movie on a plane. You know, it's not great, but it's something to watch. And when it's over you're like, how much time is left on this flight?" Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is by no means as entertaining as Michael Scott, but I enjoyed it. It's nice to see Tina Fey stretch her acting chops, and Martin Freeman is great as a romantic lead. It brought me back to his days as Tim Canterbury. Wow, two The Office references in one paragraph.

There seems to be a growing trend of films and television depicting journalists who "still care." As John Oliver recently showed us, traditional journalism is a dying art form. But films like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Spotlight as well as television shows like The Newsroom show journalists doing their job well in a changing environment. I realize the situation is very complex, more complex than a silly girl's movie blog can articulate. But it was nice to see journalists working incredibly hard and even putting their lives in danger to get to the bottom of a story.
© MCMLXXXVII Touchstone Pictures 1987

Tina Fey and Martin Freeman have great chemistry, and Margot Robbie is fierce. The screenplay is witty and the plot is interesting. If you've read other posts you know how emotional I am when I watch films; but to be repetitive and cheesy, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot made me laugh and cry. It is difficult to make a film surrounding the intensity of war "fun," especially without Robin Williams. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a valiant attempt.
Photo by K.C. Bailey ©Netflix 2015

Alfred Molina's character was a bit odd, although I haven't read Kim Barker's book on which the film is based. Perhaps his character is accurate. Although, they could have probably cast an Afghan actor, but Aziz Ansari does need material for his second season.  Overall, the film is good and worth watching. But keep in mind, I watched it on a plane and plane recommendations are always slightly tainted. Not to mention, my flight was over eight hours.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

3 Great YouTube Channels

I watch many YouTube channels at all levels of maturity and sophistication - from beauty gurus and vloggers to mathematic channels devoted almost exclusively to Klein bottles. But three of my favorites that aren't product laden and incredibly niche are as follows:

1. PBS Idea Channel - hosted by Mike Rugnetta

The show claims to examine the connection between pop culture technology and art. It starts with the phrase "here's an idea," and ends with the phrase "what do you think?" Mike poses an overarching idea in the form of a question and then rapidly spews well-researched information until we as the viewers feel informed enough to post a comment. The next video the channel posts is a discussion of peoples comments.

In my years of avidly watching YouTube videos, I have found that almost every person with a channel claims to create a "community" with the its viewers. Most of the time, that's a load of crap bigger than a beauty guru's haul. But the format of PBS Idea Channel actually facilitates a community with the viewers. I would also note that according to my years of viewing YouTube videos, the comments section has earned its reputation as Lucifer's Tinder profile. However, PBS Idea Channel has some of the most intelligent commenters I've ever read. Often times I feel too ignorant to post a comment because of the company in which my comment would live.

Some of the ideas are far fetched. Some of the information Mike provides throughout the videos is too sparse. But overall, each video is filled with wit, depth and an interesting conversation starter.

2. Crash Course - various hosts, including Hank and John Green

This channel offers summaries of the following topics: Anatomy & Physiology, Astronomy, U.S. Government and Politics, Economics, World History, Biology, Literature, Ecology, Chemistry, Psychology, and U.S. History. If you're like me, some subjects from high school are more than blurred in your mind. The most I can recall from my high school world history class was the ever-growing cheetos stain on the side of my teacher's desk chair. This channel makes each subject easy to understand. It makes us feel more comfortable discussing topics we should already know. Thank you Crash Course, for being a modern and interesting version of CliffsNotes (which may in fact be the culprit of my high school ignorance).

3. The Off Camera Show with Sam Jones

Finally, something related to movies! This show is incredible. It's for all of us who cringe watching ET and the Hollywood Reporter interview actors. It's more than the #askhermore campaign. It's difficult to put my finger on exactly what they are missing. Then I saw Sam Jones perform his magic tricks. It's a mysterious art form and what people outside Hollywood refer to as listening. He clearly has seen (or listened to, as some of his guests are musicians) the work of his guests. He's dissected their performances. He comes prepared with thought-provoking questions, asks them, and sits back. Some of my favorite questions include: asking Chris Pine what it's really like to work on a film with an astronomical budget, asking Aubrey Plaza why she is such a terrible talk show guest, asking Tatiana Maslany sincerely how she gets into the head of each character, and above all, showing Will Ferrell as a serious thoughtful man - which was akin to witnessing a car accident where no one was harmed and everyone has insurance. The show actually airs on an obscure channel on DirecTV exclusively. Thank the good Lord for YouTube, so us poor serfs can enjoy The Off Camera Show.