Last month at various get-togethers (which seems like over a year ago now), friends would ask me what I thought of Parasite winning Best Picture at the Oscars. I responded with mixed feelings. On one hand I was admittedly rooting for 1917 during the telecast, not because I thought 1917 was the better movie but because I had a small wager on it. There was no way the Academy voters would pick a foreign language class thriller over an immaculately choreographed war epic, right? Or so I thought. On the other hand when Parasite pulled off the upset, part of me was glad despite the result reducing my net worth by a whole $20 bill. This was a deserving, exciting, and quite simply an interesting choice compared to the rather blandness of most of the winners this century (looking at you Argo, looking at you Green Book, don’t even get me started King’s Speech).
Perhaps Parasite’s win signals a shift in the taste of the Academy. Or perhaps it’ll turn out to be just an anomaly. Let’s not forget that after Moonlight won Best Picture in 2016, the Academy gave 2017’s top award to The Shape of Water, which is….oh I don’t know….JUST ONE OF THE WORST MOVIES OF ALL TIME. This utterly stupid decision by Academy voters is the equivalent of a group of people choosing Barack Obama to be their leader one term and then Donald Trump the next. I’m guessing Parasite will leave a larger footprint on the culture than other recent winners, but only time will tell if the future Best Pictures of the 2020’s will be as widely regarded across all fans of cinema as the South Korean powerhouse.
But here’s the thing about Parasite. While it’s a really good movie, and again a more than fine choice out of the nominated pool, it actually wasn’t even the best foreign language film released last year, let alone best film. No, that distinction goes to Portrait of a Lady on Fire. HOLY SHIT. Portrait of a Lady on Fire. ONE MORE TIME. Portrait of a Lady on Fire! Rarely would I ever proclaim a movie as perfect, but fuck it, life’s short and this French masterpiece is downright flawless.
Is it possible for someone who’s favorite movie is Bad Boys to also worship a quiet film about two 18th century women who fall in love? A film with no guns? No mystery to be solved? Less than five lines of dialogue even spoken by a male character in the entire 120 minutes? And it’s FRENCH, no less? Prior to Sunday night I might have said no, but that was a lifetime ago.
Before I continue, let’s take a moment to look back on other famous movie paintings…
Ok back to our regularly scheduled program
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is unlike any of the romances you’ve grown accustomed to. Typical love story beats like meet-cute’s and grand gestures are thrown to the wayside and what’s left is an extremely real experience. There’s purposely not even any music in the film until just before the credits. According to director Celine Sciamma, any semblance of a score was absent because she wanted the audience to be solely focused on the rhythm and movements of the movie, a relationship between bodies and camera that can be interpreted as it’s own form of music. It was an excellent choice to make it this way, for the chemistry between the two leads is undeniably captivating and you don’t need strings in the background to tell you so.
Now, you might be wondering, if Portrait of a Lady on Fire is SOOOO great (insert eye roll emoji), then why wasn’t it recognized at the Oscars alongside the likes of Parasite if it technically came out last year? Well, the answer is simple. The Academy only allows non-English speaking countries to submit ONE feature film per year for awards consideration (dumb rule, I know). And the French, inexplicably, decided to submit yet another iteration of Les Miserables, thinking that it was more likely to appeal to Academy voters than the queer, quiet Portrait. They made this decision despite Portrait’s reportedly raucous reception at the Cannes Festival premiere and will have to live with it for the rest of their lives.
I could go on and on about the merits of Portrait of a Lady on Fire but you’re better off just checking it out for yourself. Don’t read anything else, don’t listen to anything else, and most importantly don’t be like France. Reward and appreciate one of the best love stories of all time. It’s now streaming for free on Hulu* and something tells me you have a lot of free time on your hands. Grade: A+**
*Shoutout to Neon, who acquired the theatrical rights to Portrait and allowed Hulu to push up the release on its service several weeks in the wake of the pandemic. This is before Neon is even able to make the film available on demand.
**For the purposes of Rated Greg’s annual rankings, Portrait of a Lady on Fire will be considered a 2020 film given that it was not released wide to American theaters until Valentines Day 2020, having been in only two theaters across the country before then.
A few of you have hit me up asking for streaming recommendations during these trying times. First off, thank you. That is always, without a doubt, my FAVORITE text to get. I could be having the busiest, shittiest day, but if you think of me when trying to find something to watch I can’t help but take that consideration extremely seriously and try to find the perfect movie for you. It honestly cheers me up. With that in mind, here’s twenty movies I feel have been overlooked over the years that you might have missed, all currently on streaming services. I know my usual rankings tend to skew towards the dudes, but I made sure to put something for everyone here. This list is in no particular order.
The Biggest Little Farm (Hulu) – Turn off the news. Put your phone away. And watch the most heart warming movie of 2019. This 2019 documentary follows a young married couple determined to start a farm from scratch in a forgotten section of terrain in Southern California as they learn to co exist with the various creatures that flock their property. Grade: A-
Prisoners (HBO) – Mystic River meets True Detective. If you enjoy the ambiance of shows like Ozark, The Outsider and True Detective, than you’ll love this 2013 crime mystery from Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) about two girls gone missing in a Pennsylvania suburb. Hugh Jackman, in between Wolverine movies, as the angry Dad. Jake Gyllenhaal, the best actor alive, as a neck tattoo’d detective with a cool haircut hot on the case. This would have been an entire TV series had it come out in 2020. Please pay attention to the facial ticks that Gyllenhaal does throughout this film, which apparently weren’t in the script. Such a fucking weirdo. I love it. Grade: A+
Warrior (Amazon Prime) – If you need a sports fix in your life check out 2011’s Warrior, which upon rewatch I think is the best fight movie of all time (sorry Creed). Joel Edgerton (Australian) and Tom Hardy (British) play estranged brothers with curious Philly accents who both enter an MMA tournament in Atlantic City. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess who will face off in the tournament final. Not only is this the best fight movie OF ALL TIME, but it’s also the man-cry movie of the decade. Grade: A+
Honey Boy (Amazon Prime) – Shia Labeouf wrote and stars in this autobiographical drama about what it was like to be a working actor as a child. His performance as his abusive father was the most overlooked acting performance of 2019. Grade: B+
Long Shot (HBO) – Save this for date night. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s Long Shot was the best rom-com of 2019. Grade: B+
The Handmaiden (Amazon Prime) – The Handmaiden walked so Parasite could run. This is another class thriller from South Korea about a lower class protagonist infiltrating a wealthy family. While it lacks Parasite’s humor it makes up for in some truly batshit crazy sex scenes. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2017. Grade: B+
The Talented Mr. Ripley (Netflix) – I know we say all the time that they don’t make them like they used to, which is never really true, however they REALLY don’t make movies like The Talented Mr Ripley anymore. This is a fantastic rewatch if you haven’t seen it since it’s 1999 release. Grade: A-
The Descent (Hulu) – Last November I had the opportunity to explore the ancient cenotes of Tulum, Mexico during a trip with friends (shoutout Rash). It was a super cool experience and at the time seemed like a no brainer to partake, however had I seen 2005’s The Descent beforehand, a movie about a group of adrenaline junkie women exploring an Appalachian cave, I definitely would have declined the cenote experience and stayed at the pool. For real, I’m never going in a cave again for the rest of my life after seeing this. The Descent got on my radar a few weeks ago after Chris Ryan mentioned it as the scariest movie he’s ever seen on a Ringer podcast. I wouldn’t go that far. The first half of the movie is truly terrifying, but the second half is a little silly. Full disclosure, this should ONLY be watched by horror fans. Grade: B+
Under The Silver Lake (Amazon Prime) – A modern L.A. noir starring Andrew Garfield about a man who chooses to believe there’s some sort of conspiracy about his missing neighbor even though he might have simply just been ghosted. This mystery movie is so fucking out there, I honestly don’t even remember much of what actually happens. But it has a ton of cool/ funny scenes along the way. Grade: A-
Free Solo (Hulu) – Another uplifting Hulu documentary about the resilient human spirit (see note on Biggest Little Farm). Grade: A-
Hot Summer Nights (Amazon Prime) – This got bad reviews from people that don’t deserve nice things. I’ll gladly watch Timothee Chalamet deal drugs in 1980’s Cape Cod anytime. Here’s what I wrote in 2018. Grade: A-
Rush (HBO) – Fans of Ford vs Ferrari will enjoy 2013’s Rush about two Formula 1 racing rivals engaging in a dick measuring contest throughout the 1970’s. It’s a shame Chris Hemsworth’s output has mostly been Marvel movies the past decade because he proves in Rush that he’s more than capable of being the lead in an R rated action drama for adults. Grade: A-
In A World… (HBO) – Lake Bell directs and stars in this charming 2013 dramedy about a female voice actor trying to break into the male dominated field of movie trailer voiceovers. This movie was before it’s time and would have been much more celebrated had it come out in 2019 after Greta Gerwig broke all those barriers. Grade: A-
Tour de Pharmacy/7 Days In Hell (HBO) – These two sports mockumentaries would make an excellent double feature if you’re looking to laugh your ass off (both are less than an hour). Between these HBO specials and Popstar, you could argue that no one made more funny shit in the 2010’s than Andy Samberg. You probably don’t want to watch this if you’re holed up with your parents. Grade: A+
American Honey (Netflix) – A 3 hour, partially improvised road trip movie starring Shia Labeouf, Riley Keough, and first time actress Sasha Lane. It’s more of a collection of beautiful scenes rather than a plot-driven film, but I love it ever so much. Might be best to break it up in increments. I’m currently learning how to play Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You because of this movie. Grade: A+
Blue Valentine (Netflix) – A heart-breaking drama/romance from 2010 starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. If you and your significant other are currently on shaky ground, it might not be best to watch this together lol. Grade: A+
Children of Men (Starz) – Lots of people are going back and watching 2011’s Contagion given how eerily similar the virus thriller is to the happenings of the past few weeks. If you enjoyed that experience, I’d urge you to watch 2006’s Children of Men next, another film about society on the brink of collapse that seems WAY more realistic in 2020 than it did fourteen years ago. Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece. Grade: A+
The Next Three Days (Hulu/Amazon Prime) – Elizabeth Banks is convicted of murder and her husband Russell Crowe becomes obsessed with trying to break her out of a Pittsburgh prison. Of all the movies on my A+ list, this 2010 thriller might be the only one that has never come up in conversation with another human being, digitally or in person. I don’t really know why that is because this movie kicks ass! Grade: A+
Drinking Buddies (Hulu) – Mumblecore at it’s best. Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston hang out, drink beer, make mistakes, be human. Rinse and repeat. Grade: A+
Editor’s Note: Meet Zach aka Drifty. Can you tell Zach likes the Saw movies?
I always love it when friends show enthusiasm towards random movies. Any movie. Even dumb ones. Scratch that, especially dumb ones.After all what’s more fun to talk about? The Terminator or Marriage Story? Popstar or Lincoln? Below Deck or The Crown?
Earlier this week, my friend Zach asked me if I would be posting a ranking of the eight Saw movies in anticipation for Saw IX coming out this May. After doing a double take that there’s been EIGHT of these fucking things, I regretfully informed him that I’ve only seen the first one (which is quite good btw). But I also invited him to write a guest post sharing his personal rankings and general thoughts on the shockingly popular franchise. Less than 24 hours later, I received the content below. Thank you, Zach. I’d like to invite anyone else to submit their passion projects to Rated Greg. As long as you match the fervor and thoughtfulness that Zach has displayed here I promise to post it.
Zach’s post below
The Saw franchise is based on a self righteous psychopath, John Kramer (played by the great Tobin Bell), who after his own personal tragedies decides to test other morally void individuals’ will to live through survivable traps that, if they survive, will give them a newfound appreciation for their lives. The movies follow the harrowing situations people are placed in and the dim witted cops trying to catch John aka Jigsaw. Through a series of apprentices, twists and turns, and gore, these films are a cult classic. Warning: Spoilers
I want to play a game:
Most OK to worst.
Saw I: the mere fact that there are 8 sequels by definition makes this the Most OK of the films as people thought it was a good idea to follow it up in the first place. There are also a couple famous people like Danny Glover and Carey Elwes. The only other remotely famous person in the first eight films is Donnie Wahlberg who is unceremoniously killed in Saw 4. Released in 2004, this could actually be considered a legitimate thriller with a fantastic twist ending. See, the dead guy in the bathroom the whole time wasn’t dead, he was the killer! Mind. Blown.
Saw III: get this, the Jigsaw killer, John Kramer, gets killed by having his head nearly cut off with a circular saw in Saw III, and somehow the series continues for six more movies. This alone contributed to the absurdity of the series and unfortunately leads to the introduction of constant flashbacks to keep Jigsaw in the movies. Saw III follows a distraught and completely withdrawn father whose son was killed by a drunk driver. He is placed in the situation of encountering people in harrowing traps involved in his son’s death, including passerbys who did not stop to help, the judge who let the driver off, and the drunk driver himself. This movie has, in my opinion, the most gruesome trap, but it’s the drunk driver in it, so… he probably deserved to have his limbs twisted off right?
Saw IV: this movie is in a parallel timeline as Saw III and also ends in the sick room where Jigsaw is killed. The premise of the antagonist in the series of traps is quite ridiculous, as his ‘crime’ is that he is always to quick to help / take action and if he just did nothing he would have survived, as would have Donnie Wahlberg (who dies by having two giant ice blocks crush his head in comical fashion). This movie started the process of overly complicating things by creating all sorts of apprentice twists.
Saw VII: in what was initially titled the Final Chapter, this one focused on a guy who tried to get famous by saying he had survived a Jigsaw trap and wrote a book and was doing the TV circuit. Jigsaw was not happy this guy was lying and, well, put him and his entire production team in real traps. Only real memorable part is when John Kramer’s buxom widow, Jill Tuck, has her head ripped off in the reverse bear trap, which was introduced in Saw I and made various other appearances. This movie also brought back Carey Elwes who, after having to cut off his foot in Saw I, apparently became an apprentice of Jigsaw and helped carry out the games. Surprise!
Saw II: a group of bad people are trapped in a house full of traps and die off one by one. Unlike Saw I, which only introduces John Kramer at the very end, Saw II focuses heavily on his life and what drove him to play his games and put people in traps. While interesting, II is the slowest of all the films and much of it is just Kramer being interrogated by the dim witted cops. Several famous traps are introduced, including the Venus fly trap and needle pit.
Saw XIII (Jigsaw): unlike most critics, I found this movie quite entertaining. The first 7 Saws came out consecutively each year and ‘Jigsaw’ came after a 7 year break. It has a different vibe and is much less gory. Somehow the same cinematic trick of using changing time frames allows Jigsaw to remain in this film and convince the audience and dim witted cops (notice a trend) that he is still alive. It turns out to be just another John Kramer apprentice that is using Jigsaw like traps to get revenge on his enemies. ‘Jigsaw’ set things up for another film but I don’t think Saw IX will continue the story.
Saw 5: more or less a continuation of Saw 4 with cops chasing down each other trying to find Jigsaw’s accomplices. All the while a group of folks are in a series of traps laid out by Jigsaw while he was on his deathbed. The group slowly die one by one until the remaining two realize that the traps were all winnable if the group had worked together rather than sabotaging each other. Ah life lessons…
Saw VI: by far the least interesting and also most absurdly gory. Almost a social justice piece, Saw XI puts ‘evil’ insurance execs through a series of horrific traps for denying John Kramer his claim due to pre-existing conditions. For one, John Kramer died several movies ago, so enough with the time travel, and two, it’s a little extreme to force a guy to kill one of his co-workers with a shotgun to the face. A really stupid movie.
What to expect in Saw IX (Spiral): doesn’t look like Tobin Bell will be in it, all but discontinuing the original Jigsaw killer’s legacy. I’m guessing this will be more like a crime / police thriller with some references to the original Saw, but it will be it’s own film. One aspect that looks promising is that it was written by Chris Rock. With the success of other comedians turned horror producers (Jordan Peele), Saw IX has potential to be a legitimate film.
It’s easy to write off the contents of a Taylor Swift documentary as contrived. But look, if that’s your first inclination when Miss Americana pops up on your Netflix homepage, then you should be skeptical towards the emotional output of any musician you do like, and that’s just no way to live. So let’s give Taylor the benefit of the doubt here. If you can believe this behind the scenes look at her life past to present is at least 90% authentic (I do), then the film will be a moving experience to anyone with a soul.
Miss Americana covers Swift’s rise, her stumbles, her genius, and her loneliness. Most notably the doc exposes her decision to enter politics in 2018 after all these years remaining silent. Swift fully admits that she fucked up in a major way waiting so long to speak up, though you come to understand how the decision making abilities of someone who gets THAT famous THAT young are a lot more complicated than those of her peers who get to live in the real world. Oh, and there’s also the Kanye thing. Streaming on Netflix. Grade: A-
April 8th, 1995. WHAT A TIME. Bill Clinton was President. OJ was on trial. Madonna’s Take A Bow was the #1 song in the country. The Ed O’Bannon-led UCLA Bruins were NCAA champions. Dylan McKay was off the wagon. And Rated Greg saw what would become his favorite movie of all time, Bad Boys, at the Beltway Plaza AMC 8 with his friend Jordan. The prefect blend of sensational action and hilariously crude banter, quite frankly this 5th grader didn’t know this style of filmmaking was allowed. I mean, how can you watch this without wanting to run through a wall?!
Fun fact. On LeBron’s HBO talk show The Shop, recent guest Will Smith tells a great story about his wardrobe in the scene above. Director Michael Bay was adamant that Smith be shirtless during the chase. Smith, understandably, thought that was absolutely ridiculous and felt it made more sense to, you know, have clothes on. After arguing about it for a while they eventually compromised with the unbuttoned shirt. That’s showbiz, baby!
1995’s Bad Boys gave Rated Greg a high that he’s been chasing at the movie theater ever since. I imagine it’s the same feeling my Mom had the first time she heard the Beatles, or Donald Trump had the first time someone retweeted him. Other great action movies have come and gone (including Bad Boys II), but the original Bad Boys will always be #1 in my heart.
Fast forward 25 years, Will and Martin are back at it in Bad Boys For Life. You might have noticed that this film was not included in my most anticipated for 2020. It wasn’t an oversight, for I have to keep my guards up for what I hold precious. Will Smith is 51 years old after all. And Martin Lawrence 54. What would this look like? Are they still running around Miami arguing over car etiquette and pulling the same shenanigans? Remember that time they stuck up the convenience store? How are they not in jail yet?
But age actually wasn’t what worried me the most. If anyone can pull a Cruise and still do viable action well into his 50’s it’s Will Smith. And Martin never had to do any of the heavy lifting in that department anyways. What worried me the most was the absence of director Michael Bay, the Phil Jackson to Will’s Michael and Martin’s Scottie. The chemistry of the two leads essentially went hand in hand with Bay’s exceptional eye for action flare (and unbuttoned shirts). The former music video director burst on the scene with his very first feature film in Bad Boys and he has remained far and away the best director of action sequences ever since. While round 3 was of course offered to him first, Bay opted to take a reported 150 million dollar deal from Netflix instead. Hard to blame him. But without Bay I just wasn’t sure if this would work nearly as well as the first two films in the franchise. It’s like seeing Aerosmith only to find out they replaced Joe Perry with a Jonas brother.
So is Bad Boys For Life, all these years later, any good? You know what? Bad Boys For Life is still pretty good! It’s not gonna blow your mind like the first two, but it’s still an above average action movie in 2020. Think a step above the most recent Fast and Furious movies, but a step below the most recent Mission Impossibles and John Wicks. What Bad Boys For Life most has going for it is the humor. This is probably the funniest version of Mike and Marcus, but it comes at the expense of diluted action that is just…. fine. Unironically “6 Underground,” the movie Michael Bay made for Netflix instead of Bad Boys 3, has absolutely STUPENDOUS, Bad Boys style action but the attempts at humor throughout the film are quite embarrassing. Bay, Will, and Martin really prove to better than the sum of their parts if you made a Venn diagram of the two films.
After seeing Bad Boys For Life, it’s pretty clear why Columbia decided to return to this saga. The third film was never meant to be swan song for Will and Martin, but rather a reboot to turn the Miami police department into it’s own Fast and Furious type franchise, with a bunch of fresh, young, dick swinging characters of eclectic cultural backgrounds (pitch – Give us a spinoff featuring Vanessa Hudgens’ character called Bad Girls). It’s undeniably calculated, but if that’s what it takes to get the original Bad Boys back on the screen bickering with each other I’m fine with it. We Ride Together, We Die Together. Bad Boys For Life. Grade: B–
PS – I say this about a lot of movies, but this one especially needs to be seen at the theater, preferably a packed theater. I typically avoid loud, enthusiastic, sold out crowds, but having companions to enjoy the many callbacks to the first two films significantly levels up the experience of Bad Boys 3.
The conversation of best working actor is up for debate. Devoted readers will already know my personal choice is Jake Gyllenhaal, however you could name ten to twelve other actors and I wouldn’t be mad at it. Leo, Denzel, Cruise, Bale, Damon, Pitt, Idris, Driver, Bernthal, and in a whisper….maybe even Shia. The point is there’s no one blowing the rest of the field out of the water like MJ in his prime.
But you know what isn’t up for debate? The best working actress, that’s who. MJ is back, people. In fact MJ has been back for awhile now, and her name is CHARLIZE THERON. Go ahead, name another actress that has her range. She’s got the comedy chops (Long Shot, Young Adult), dramatic flare (Monster, Tully, In The Valley of Elah), and is an action star to top it all off (that does her own stunts)! Her physical work in Atomic Blonde alone is just as impressive as anything in John Wick. Don’t believe me? Watch This
Let’s see your girl Meryl do that.
Theron’s most recent film Bombshell only cements her cream of the crop status. I saw it on New Year’s Day and am kicking myself for not waiting to post the 2019 year in review until after I saw it. It’s THAT GOOD. Remember the first time you saw the trailer for Vice and just being amazed that the person portraying Dick Cheney on the screen was Christian Bale? Batman as Dick Cheney? You had to do a double take, right? Well that’s the feeling I got in the first act of Bombshell. Theron as Megyn Kelly is the first person you see on the screen, however I didn’t even realize it was Theron playing her until several minutes into the movie. It’s truly uncanny.
Bombshell joins a specific thread of recent movies that are right in the wheelhouse for Rated Greg. An ensemble cast of super famous people with fast dialogue and a script based on relatively contemporary events. I’m talking The Big Short. I’m talking I, Tonya. I’m talking Molly’s Game. I’m even talking the aforementioned Vice to some extent. If you liked any of those movies, you’ll enjoy this, despite the subject matter being much darker at times. Don’t be thrown off by the fact that Bombshell was directed by Jay Roach, the man who brought you three Austin Powers movies. He’s clearly evolved as a filmmaker, much like Adam McKay when he transitioned from Step Brothers type material to The Big Short and Vice. Grade: A-
PS – Bombshell is also the best performance of Margot Robbie’s career. If she doesn’t get a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role as Kayla Pospisil, the system is officially broken.
I’m rooting for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood to win ALL the awards this winter. Not because I think it’s the best movie of the year, even if it is. I personally don’t care that the dated taste of the Academy rarely lines up with Rated Greg’s exceptional palate. No, I’m rooting for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood because it came out in July. If Tarantino’s latest can win the Oscar’s highest praises, maybe, just maybe movie studios will consider releasing their Oscar hopefuls in windows outside of the last 6 weeks of the year.
On one hand, it’s AWESOME that on Christmas Day you can go to the theater and have the option of seeing Knives Out, Ford v Ferrari, Parasite, Little Women, Bombshell, Richard Jewell, Uncut Gems, or 1917, not too mention the straight to home streaming releases of The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Report. But on the other hand, why can’t we spread this out a little more? That’s eleven movies that are supposedly awards contenders released all in the same time frame whereas throughout the rest of the year it’s hard to find more than one movie for adults on the slate at the same time. It’s not like The Emmy’s care at all about when certain TV series air, same goes for the Grammy’s (sike I know nothing about that Grammy’s), so why the fuck are Academy voters so susceptible to recency bias? If this is truly their craft, shouldn’t they be able to see past that? Anyways, lets go Leo, Brad, Quentin, and Margot.
That’s Year Four of Rated Greg in the books. I had a lot less time to write about movies this year, but still plenty of time to see them. Here are the Rated Greg superlatives on the year, along with a 2019 report card at the bottom.
*Apologies to Bombshell, Honey Boy, and The Lighthouse. Three movies that I expect great things from but haven’t yet had the opportunity to see.
*Last year was an incredibly deep field for Best Actress, but in 2019 it’s the men that are gonna have to leave some very qualified players on the bench. Apologies to Robert De Niro (Irishman), Timothee Chalamet (The King), Andrew Garfield (Under The Silver Lake), Daniel Craig (Knives Out), Andre Holland (High Flying Bird), Matthew McConaughey (The Beach Bum), and most notably Joaquin Phoenix for Joker. I swear leaving him off of this list isn’t some sort of a troll. He’s incredible in Joker, I just found the top 5 performances above more interesting.
**I’m really excited to see what Kelvin does next. He was the best part of Waves and Luce this year, but he plays a high school golden boy with a dark side in both movies. One can only hope that a superhero franchise doesn’t lock him into some 7 picture deal that takes up the rest of his 20’s like Tom Holland, even though he may prefer that for his bank account.
Best Lead Actress*
Florence Pugh – Midsommer
Lupita Nyong’o – Us
Samara Weaving – Ready Or Not
Kaitlyn Dever – Booksmart
Charlize Theron – Long Shot
*The top 3 shows that the best roles available to adult women continue to be in the horror genre. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s certainly a thing.
**Hader has developed some serious acting chops. It saddens me that he won’t be recognized for IT 2, but mark my words he will get an Oscar nomination in the next 3 years.
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers*
Laura Dern – Marriage Story*
Taylor Russell – Waves
Julia Fox – Uncut Gems**
Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell
*It’s going to be a heavy weight fight for the Oscar between these two. Both performances are absolutely electric and I honestly don’t know who’s going to win. I’ll give the slight nod to J-Lo due to more screen time.
**insert heart eyes emoji
The Dummies – Toy Story 4*
Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) – Doctor Sleep**
The Dauphin of France (Robert Pattinson) – The King
Todd (Jesse Plemons) – El Camino
Umbrae (Shahadi Wright Joseph) – Us
*At a Sunday afternoon viewing of Toy Story 4, there was an audible gasp of terror by the adult woman sitting behind me the moment these creepy dudes show up. And honestly, it was warranted.
** Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, is probably the most average movie of the year. But Ferguson by far is the best part about it. Love her.
Best Ridiculous Performance
Martin Lawrence (Captain Wack) – The Beach Bum*
Keanu Reaves (as himself) – Always Be My Maybe
Daniel Craig (Benoit Blanc) – Knives Out
Jake Gyllenhaal (Mysterio) – Spider-Man: Far From Home
Taika Waititi (Imaginary Hitler) – Jojo Rabbit
*You could technically put the entire cast of The Beach Bum as the top 5 in this category, but that’s against Rated Greg rules.
Mark (Will Poulter) – Midsommar
Madison (Zoey Deutch) – Zombieland: Double Tap
Amy (Florence Pugh) – Little Women
Tony Pro (Stephen Graham) – The Irishman
Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans) – Knives Out
Brandy the dog – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Mr. Mime – Detective Pikachu*
Babu Frik – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Michael J Fox Lookin’ [REDACTED] the cat – Waves
The donkey – Triple Frontier
Worst Character, Performance, or Scene
Noah Centineo (Brooks Radigan) – The Perfect Date
John Boyega (Finn) – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker***
The sex scene/protest scene mashup – Queen & Slim*
The grocer confrontation scene – The Irishman**
Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) – Avengers: Endgame
*This scene is truly BEWILDERING. I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more attention, however I guess no one saw this movie.
**Now this is something that has gotten attention, the internet calling out it’s shittiness. Everyone is talking about how bad the choreography of the curb stomping is, but what I thought was even weirder is the way the grocer gets thrown through the glass. He just doesn’t get pushed with close to enough force one would think that it would take to go through glass. I noticed this immediately and felt compelled to rewind the scene 3 times while watching the movie because something looked so “off” about it.
***I just don’t give a fuck about any of these new Star Wars characters. Except for Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren rules.
Best Volume Year
Keanu Reeves (Wick 3, Toy Story 4, Between Two Ferns, Always Be My Maybe)
Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Ad Astra)
Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Little Women, Fighting With My Family)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story, The Report, Star Wars)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story, Jojo Rabbit, Avengers: Endgame)
Between Two Ferns
The Biggest Little Farm
The Last Black Man In San Francisco
*This award used to be Most Scares, but I’ve seen so many horror movies the past decade that it’s extremely rare for me to find something truly scary. But luckily there’s still a surplus films that came make you squirm with uneasiness.
**Jawline is a documentary that follows a 16 year old aspiring Instagram/YouTube influencer. I think it was initially meant to be hopeful and uplifting but ends up exposing the most insidious aspects of the business and is quite sad. It would make an excellent double feature with Fyre Fraud (both on Hulu).
***This really just for one scene involving a baseball boy that is fairly fucked up.
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
The Beach Bum
Best Stunt/Action Sequence
“Dog-Fu” – John Wick 3
The Le Mans – Ford v Ferrari
1917 – The whole movie
The Opening Car Chase – 6 Underground
The Lunar Chase – Ad Astra
The Knife Fight – John Wick 3
The Bruce Lee scene – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
The Fight – Marriage Story
The Hallway Henchmen – Polar
The Battle of Agincourt – The King
Best Non-Action Scene
The Cold Open – Midsommar*
Leo’s Trailer Meltdown – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Pitt’s Message – Ad Astra
Fishing – Waves
Becky Plays A Song For Her Daughter – Her Smell**
*I can’t stress enough that this isn’t something I want to experience over and over again. But the opening scene of Midsommar will put a chill down your spine unlike anything you’ve seen before. I have to give props for it.
**I wouldn’t recommend Her Smell to most people, a drama about a fictional Courtney Love type rock singer that can’t get her act together. It’s a really tough watch, but does have one scene towards the end that is undeniably sweet and made me tear up on an airplane.
Best Use of a Song
It Must Have Been Love (Roxanne) – Long Shot
Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys) – Us
I Am A God (Kanye West) – Waves
2000 Miles (The Pretenders) – Cold Pursuit
Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer) – The Inventor
Five Random Quotes
“I heard you paint houses” – The Irishman
“Wait a minute. I read a tweet about a New Yorker article about you” – Knives Out
“I’m a white man and I’m straight and I deserve it” – Between Two Ferns
“Dick me dead and bury me pregnant” – Fighting With My Family
“And away….we….go” – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Twenty Other Things That Made Me Feel Some Type of Way (in no particular order)
The piano in Under The Silver lake
Leaving rehab in The Beach Bum
Gotham City Guys in The Lego Movie 2
The drug scene in Long Shot
The pool in Booksmart
The double date in Always Be My Maybe
Bunny & Ducky’s plan in Toy Story 4
The mushrooms in Midsommar
The talk show in Joker
The ending of Ready Or Not
The opening dance sequence of Climax
The pivots of Parasite
J Lo’s pole dance in Hustlers
The vacuum cleaner store in El Camino
Arnold’s home life in Terminator: Dark Fate
The frat house in Good Boys
The inspection in Jojo Rabbit
The fish conversation in The Irishman
Dancing outside in Little Women
The very end of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
The Best Of The Decade*
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Wolf Of Wall Street
Manchester By The Sea
Everybody Wants Some
The Place Beyond The Pines
*Not having anything from 2018 or 2019 on this list isn’t a detriment to those years, I just haven’t had the chance to rewatch any of those yet. With the influx of new content by Netflix, Amazon, etc, every single week, I wonder if the rewatches of movies going forward will go way down. Every single one of these movies got better the second time I saw them.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): The Mandalorian (Disney+), Watchmen (HBO), Mrs. Fletcher (HBO), I Love You Now Die (HBO), Barry (HBO), Dating Around (Netflix), Dark (Netflix), Crashing (HBO), The Loudest Voice (Showtime)
Fleabag (Amazon) – Season 2: You check out Fleabag Season 1 because Season 2 has been socially publicized with a 100% approval rating this year. You’re a little confused at first. Why is she occasionally talking directly to the camera, breaking the fourth wall ala Zack Morris? Actually not just occasionally, but seemingly once every 35 seconds? It’s a unique avenue of perspective, but isn’t that overkill? Maybe this just isn’t for you, like a lot of British shows that others love (Peaky Blinders is fucking dumb and I’ll say it to your face). But you stick it out because its only 6 episodes at 22-25 minutes a piece. The end of each chapter leaves juuuuust enough intrigue to keep going. By the end of season 1 Fleabag has grown on you, but not so much that you feel compelled to bring her up in conversation.
Then you finally throw on Episode 1 of Season 2 and it ALL MAKES SENSE. Of course people are raving about this show! The Season 1 homework was all worth it. You’re compelled to eat up the next 5 episodes consecutively but also consider savoring this masterpiece of television over the course of a week or two. Each episode becomes more and more satisfying while painting a whole new light on the fourth wall structure. Rated Greg thrives on hyperbole and he won’t disappoint here. Fleabag Season 2 is the best rom-com this decade.
Best episode: The one at the restaurant
Succession (HBO) – Season 2: Last year’s champion is sadly no longer my number one boy. I wish I had the skill to talk like these assholes. The Roy family saga is still just as good as the first season and remains the best written show on television, but Fleabag is the new, shiny thing thus gets the slight edge.
Best episode: The one on the yacht
Mindhunter (Netflix) – Season 2: After taking a year off, David Fincher’s Mindhunter made significant improvement in Season 2. Netflix billed 2017’s first season as another cops vs serial killers show from the director of Seven, but viewers quickly learned it wasn’t exactly that. There weren’t any cases to solve. Instead the premise was rather about the onset of a real life FBI program in which they psychoanalyzed already captured deviants to improve their profiling capabilities and the toll this took on the personal lives of the FBI agents involved. I still found it quite compelling but understand if it wasn’t what you were looking for.
That said, if you are looking for a show about cops investigating shit, you should really check out Season 2. It begins with a similar structure to the first season but soon a new, WILD real life case is introduced that I had never heard of before. The agents now use what they learned about criminal profiling in the first season to investigate a string of mysterious Atlanta killings in the mid 80’s. You’re still not going to see any car chases or shootouts, but it is remains thrilling filmmaking from Fincher.
Best episode: The one with the stakeout
Euphoria (HBO) – Season 1: I’ve heard secondhand that this was a really tough watch for the older generations. The pilot for Euphoria is basically, I have to assume, the worst case scenario for what it’s like to be in high school in 2019 (drug addiction, social media driven depression, sexual assault, rampant glitter eye shadow). It’s not like the 80’s and 90’s representations for high school life weren’t also angst filled, but there were definitely highs to go along with those lows. Meanwhile, each of the kids at Euphoria High are doomed from the start.
I will say that the pilot episode is without a doubt the most disturbing episode of the season and if you can make it past that you will likely find it rewarding, but if you can’t handle it I won’t blame you. Nonetheless I found Euphoria to be absolutely captivating. From a cinematography standpoint it’s the best looking show on TV, peaking with a carnival episode that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Best episode: The one with the carnival
Cobra Kai (Youtube) – Season 2: You know what’s a really fun high school show? Cobra fucking Kai. The biggest setback of watching Cobra Kai was that you needed a Youtube Red account, however the company has already dissolved their premium service and all episodes will be made available for free very soon. You can read more about my enthusiasm for this reboot of the ultimate underdog story here.
Best episode: The one with the first day of school
The Crown (Netflix) – Season 3: BY GOD THIS IS JUST GOOD SHIT. I fancy The Crown.
Best episode: The one with the moon landing
Southern Charm (Bravo) – Season 6: These idiots take the title from Vanderpump Rules as the best reality show on TV.
Best episode: The one with the ski trip
Friends From College (Netflix) – Season 2: The most underappreciated comedy since Happy Endings. Much like Happy Endings, this show about messy adult assholes was cancelled way too soon. At first I blamed misleading bad reviews from critics for the cancellation, but perhaps the cast is just too busy/expensive to all keep together (most notably Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, and Billy Eichner).
Best episode: The one with the wedding
Derry Girls (Netflix) – Season 2: This past summer the movie Booksmart was billed as “the female Superbad.” It’s a fair comparison and Booksmart is a good time. However an even better version of “the female Superbad” is Netflix’s Derry Girls, about five friends acting a fool in early 90’s Northern Ireland. You’ll likely need to watch this with subtitles because of the accents.
Best episode: The one with the concert
What We Do In The Shadows (FX) – Season 1: Based on Taiki Waititi’s movie of the same name, this comedy about vampires in modern day Staten Island seems stupid on paper, but I guarantee you will chuckle multiple times each episode. Just watch the clip below if you don’t believe me.
Best episode: The one with the trial
A Few Rated Greg Superlatives
Rated Greg’s Top 5 Lead Performances
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag)
Russell Crowe (The Loudest Voice)
Holt McCallany (Mindhunter)
Kathryn Hahn (Mrs. Fletcher)
Craig Conover (Southern Charm)*
*Never change, Craig
Rated Greg’s Top 5 Supporting Characters
Tom (Matthew Macfayden) – Succession
Hot Priest (Andrew Scott) – Fleabag
Baby Yoda (A puppeteer) – The Mandalorian
Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer) – Euphoria
Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) – What We Do In The Shadows
You don’t need me to tell you to see Once Upon A Time in Hollywood or Ford vs Ferrari or The Irishman. Big movies with bigger movie stars that were all over social media and you saw ads for constantly. They’re each 90+ on Rotten Tomatoes and are absolute shoe-ins for Best Picture nominations. I mean, all you need to see are these posters and say no more, you’re ready to rock.
But how about this poster for the movie Waves below?
Does that look like something you want to sign up for? The actors listed aren’t even in legible font. Only cinephiles have heard of the director and there aren’t any TV ads. The picture advertisement alone probably isn’t going to cut it with all the shiny movies to the left and right of it at the theater. You need to know more, right? Well have no fear, that’s what Rated Greg is here for. But before we get to that lets hop in a time machine and go back 3 years.
The movie Moonlight was released wide by A24 on November 18th, 2016. Similar to Waves it lacked a descriptive poster and I do not recall seeing any TV ads. But when did YOU first become aware of Moonlight or feel compelled to see it? According to Box Office Mojo I’m guessing it wasn’t before Thanksgiving. Despite coming out over two months prior, the highest grossing day for Moonlight was actually January 28th, 2017 with $637K. It merely floated around among only the most devoted cinema fans until the Oscar nominations gave the general public the added context they needed to purchase a ticket. Placing that much weight on the opinion of Academy is a bit silly given their track record, but I guess it’s better that Moonlight eventually got the amounts of eyes it deserved than never at all. What’s that got to do with Waves? Well, I have a feeling something similar is going to happen this year.
It’s easy to see lots of parallels between Waves and the Best Picture winner three years prior. An A24 release in mid November. Features black characters in South Florida. A stylishly shot drama that will empty out your emotional fuel tank. But that’s about it. Waves isn’t a copycat situation trying to capitalize on the fondness of another classic. It’s a one of a kind, TOUR DE FORCE that will leave you out of breath by the credits. No joke, it seems strange to portray a suburban family drama as an edge of your seat experience, but you’ll understand when you see it. The way this film is shot is just as exhilarating as any of the excellent car races in Ford vs Ferrari.
I’m not going to dive into much about the plot. This story and even the format as it is presented is far better off seen knowing nothing beforehand. One thing I did find interesting and worth mentioning is that Waves is a film about a black family that was written by a white person (writer/director Trey Edward Schultz). This is a situation otherwise known as “The Green Book conundrum” but is handled far more delicately than last year’s shitshow campaign.
Apparently Waves is a semi-autobiographical take on a tumultuous time in Schultz’s Florida upbringing and the first person he cast was Kelvin Harrison Jr. as the teenage son, thinking it didn’t make a difference to the story what race the family was. Which seems true on the surface. Most of the shit that happens in this film could be about any modern day family and Harrison simply had the best audition. However what’s cool is that once Sterling K. Brown (shoutout This Is Us) came on board to play the Dad he met with Schultz several times to alter the script and add specifically black perspectives to certain areas. Brown felt strongly that the struggles each member of this family deals with would lead to slightly different experiences if it were a black family vs a white family, no matter if they were in the same tax bracket. Schultz wisely obliged and Waves is clearly a far better movie for it. Don’t be surprised if you see this at the top of my report card come December 31st. Grade A+
Last week a friend was going on a movie date and asked me whether they should see Joker or Ad Astra. I told her neither and to go see Hustlers. My oh so stubborn friend, let’s just call her “Deesh”, disregarded my advice, chose Ad Astra, and then had THE AUDACITY to give me shit when she hated the movie. I’m sorry, what? She yelled at me for liking Ad Astra and giving it a B+, which is a grade I stand by, but I also knew two things. 1. I knew this particular friend wouldn’t like Ad Astra. It’s just not her type of movie. 2. Even if she was someone that I would recommend Ad Astra to, it is a TERRIBLE choice for a date movie! And so is Joker! Joker and Ad Astra are honestly probably tied for the second worst date movie of the year, with Midsommer for sure being number one in that category. You know what is a fun date movie though? Fucking Hustlers is, that’s what (A+ btw).
So Ad Astra. It’s not just that jerk Deesh, I wouldn’t recommend Ad Astra to the majority of my friends. Believe it or not the Brad Pitt space epic is not meant for the general public, despite the studio including two pretty cool action sequences for trailer purposes. First off this film is just much more likely to resonate with men more than women (Sure, women will enjoy looking at hot Brad Pitt, but unlike Once Upon A Time in Hollywood he does not take his shirt off). Not only that, but it will only be particularly affecting for men from a certain age that are sentimental about their fathers. Ad Astra is introspection about a man dedicating his life to a career that would make his father proud, to the detriment of developing any substantial connection with another person. It’s a mostly quiet, fairly artsy film that asks the question whether human beings might be better off living a lifestyle devoid of any real emotional capital invested in another. There is an answer to that question at the end, but obviously you can discover that for yourself.
One more thing. I didn’t know Brad Pitt had this in him. Obviously he’s great at playing weirdos (Snatch, Fight Club), great at comic roles (Burn After Reading, Inglorious Basterds), and great at being the coolest motherfucker in the room (Oceans 11, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood), but he’s never stirred up emotions quite like this in a dramatic role. He’s clearly poured himself into his craft after a tumultuous period in his personal life and it shows. Grade: B+