Thursday, November 23, 2017

nobody means what they say on thanksgiving

I like the implication that Claudia (Holly Hunter) is lost in the painting she's restoring, so much so that she isn't sure where to walk after.

(I've written about Home for the Holidays before--

--and I probably don't have anything new to say. I just...)

I just wanted an old standby tonight. Long day of cooking and then eating, and there might be shopping later.

And, there's Angela Paton (Mrs. Lancaster in Groundhog Day) as the mildly annoying old lady next to Claudia on the plane. Like Thanksgiving can be, it's like a reunion.

I like how Henry (Charles Durning) sneaks some pumpkins pie the night before Thanksgiving, slips into bed and immediately admits to it without any prompt or accusation.











Home for the Holidays "captures something ineffable about how going back home to squabble with relatives and eat lots of food can add a nostalgic glow to the child of late November," writes Todd VanDerWerff at Vox.

Aunt Glady's (Geraldine Chaplin) reminiscence about meeting her sister's husband for the first time is an amazing bit of cinema--great performance, great reactions, and when she turns to the kids, it's both horribly ridiculous and wonderfully meaningful at the same time.

The movie "knows these characters will do this again, and again, and again, even if we don't get to drop in on their future family gatherings," VanDerWerff says. "Like a family photo, the movies is a snapshot of a time and a place, one that leaves us to extrapolate everything that happens after the photo is taken, wishing only good things for its subjects."

Like real family. However insane, however bitter and angry, however nice, however much you hate them or love them, you do wish them well when they're gone.






Did I make that connection before--the fish? Claudia's thing with her daughter (Claire Danes) is to think of an angelfish they saw when they were snorkeling once. When life s too hard, just think of the fish and just float. Leo's (Dylan McDermott) last name is Fish. He's the guy introduced to Claudia's life in such a way that in a different movie it might've just been a romantic comedy about them. The meet-cute is that she thought he was her gay brother's (Robert Downey, Jr) new boyfriend (and he heard her distraught voicemail she left her brother), but Leo is available. She and Leo interact nicely. He's a calm in her family storm. He's the fish she forgets to remember.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

and yet, here we are

No childhood film today. Busy day of kitchen cleaning and map drawing. I did see a movie today--Coco. Not sure if it was great. It was good, and definitely affecting. And it had an interesting message--combining both the idea that you should follow your dreams and family is important. In context, these feel like two different directions--SPOILERS--for a good portion of the film, but then they pull together and it all gets wrapped in a little bow.

And, it got me thinking about family. Now, on the one hand, I haven't spent much time with most of my family in the past year. I'll be honest about that. The likelihood to get into a political argument has made hanging out with them less appealing. I'm talking about my parents, some of my sisters. But, it's worth noting that, for example, in many of the fictional stories I have written over the years, family was something constructed more than inherent. You choose family like you choose friends. Except you don't really choose either. My friends of late are great, but if not for chance of geography and an interested in Dungeons & Dragons, we wouldn't even know each other.

Coco involves a Mexican take on family that includes the whole Day of the Dead attachment to ancestors, to prior generations and all that. I don't have much attachment to ancestors. I know stuff about mine, like a handful of generations back, was a single mother named Hannah, for example. But, what matters to me is those here and now. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I will be making food at home and eating with my ex-wife, my two daughters and my son. This Sunday, I will be spending a few hours with my friends playing D&D. Lately, all of this feels like family.

And movies. Movies, too. Me and movies--we're close. Tomorrow, or maybe the next day, I'll get to the next childhood movie--I won't spoil it now, but I've actually watched it for this blog before. Right now, though, I'm catching up on some TV. I'm having a drink. I'm looking forward to making a bunch of interesting dishes tomorrow (all vegan). I'm looking forward to maybe seeing a movie in the theater Friday; I doubt I'll be doing any Black Friday shopping. I'm looking forward to ambushing my players Sunday. Looking forward to some speeches from my high school students next week. Looking forward to winter break. To Christmas. To New Year's. To life.

It's a common theme in film--follow your dreams. Also: family is important. The reason these themes repeat so often? Because you should follow your dreams. (I wish I'd followed some of mine a little longer. I wish I would follow some of my current dreams but life doesn't always make such things easy.) Because family is important. Whatever family is.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

however dark the night

Perhaps the lesson of The Idolmaker is that whether you're the one being used or the one doing the using, there's hope for you in the end.

But, with new accusations of sexual harassment and abuse from men in power virtually every day lately, I figure those men get to the back of the line when it comes to hope.

Seriously, the scene with Tommy Dee and the 14-year-old girl in the car is on and I see on my phone that Twitter is blowing up with comments about Trump supporting Roy Moore, implying that all of Moore's accusers are liars. It's like some sick sort of poetry.

This is a movie in which the protagonist, the hero of the story, blames a young girl for being alone with his artist (though, he yells at Tommy Dee afterward, he then offers to hook him up when he wants a woman, so there's that), bribes DJs and (sort of) magazine editors for airplay and good press, yells at the woman he's with (and has already come on to), calls women "god damn broads", and then kisses that woman forcefully, and she goes to bed with him and sticks with him after. This hero recruits one singer then neglects him for another (who he meets while berating him over spilling dishes while waiting on his table), forces the second into hiding, and when that singer rebels, holds legal guardianship over him and threatens to send him home to his grandma, which would mean the end of his career. But, when Caesare finally does turn against Vincent, after Tommy Dee has already moved on to a new manager, it's like we're supposed to feel sorry for Vincent. And, when Vincent sings his own song at the end of the film, I think it's supposed to be some sort of triumph. But, I imagine Vincent singing his own music, sure, but also never getting out of that one club, just singing away because he can't give up on his dream.

The movie is, ostensibly about following your dreams... Sort of. Except, I'm not entirely sure what Vincent's dream is. Or at least what piece of it he gets out of pushing Tommy Dee and Caesare in his stead.

Meanwhile, Brenda is basically every woman who has ever had to put up with awful men (read: all men) and smile about it after. And, sure she goes to bed with Vincent because how else is she going to manage to use him like he's using her? The movie never really offers a reason Brenda would actually care for Vincent. She just does, because Hollywood. Or, she's doing what she has to do to get by, putting up with whatever comes her way, and doing it with a smile, because it's a man's world and while she may have found a little bit of power in it, she'd be nobody but for the grace of the men around her...

It's sad, really.

Focus the story on Tommy Dee or Caesare or Brenda and the film might work far better. Instead, we're with Vincent. He's not really the hero. He's the protagonist, but he's also the villain. He's every man who got a little bit of power, a little bit of money, and used and abused anyone he could to keep it.

Monday, November 20, 2017

the only way you can show your feelings

Women have been a plot device for male entitlement for as far back as stories were being told, as trophies for creepy behaviour, as the spoils of war, as the property of men, as the maiden-in-waiting for her adorable coercive, overly-persistent prince-charming. (Meagher 2015)

Vincent Vacarri is not a nice man. He is our protagonist in The Idolmaker but he is not a nice man. In fact, he is at times an awful, awful man.

Tommy Dee gets a young girl to accompany him to his car, ostensibly to get a copy of his record before it is officially released, and he tries to get more than that. We don't know how old Tommy Dee is, but he seems to be somewhere close to the age of the actor playing him--Paul Land was 23-24 when The Idolmaker was filmed. However old the actress in the scene is, Vincent says her character is 14. When Tommy Dee demands more than just a thank you, she kisses his cheek. He calls that sisterly, and goes for more. Vincent comes to her rescue. But, does he reprimand Tommy Dee? Not particularly. He warns him away from jailbait in the future and that's about it. But her? Vincent takes on a nice tone of voice, like he's concerned for her--"Do your parents know that you're here?"--and he asks what she's doing there. He tells her to button her blouse, which Tommy Dee has unbuttoned, and implies that it's for her sake, because someone might see her. He gives her extra records for her friends so they will think she's special. "We won't have to mention this to anybody," he asks. For her it's about embarrassment, but that's not it at all. For Vincent, for Tommy Dee, it's bigger than that. And, while she doesn't realize it, it is bigger for her, too. Vincent tells Tommy Dee that if he wants to get laid, Vincent will set it up. Women--whatever their age--are just pawns to be used as needed.

The very next scene is Vincent meeting Brenda (Tovah Feldshuh) for the first time.

Vincent is not looking out for that girl. He's merely looking out for Tommy Dee. With his payola, with the deal he makes with Brenda for her to cover Tommy Dee in Teen Scene in exchange for half-ownership of Tommy Dee's merchandise, and even more with his control of Caesare, Vincent is very much a manipulator, a manager and producer who is all too realistic. Use anyone he can to get what he wants. Cover up the bad things that his artist does. And, when Brenda challenges him, he tells her to shut up. "God damn broads, don't know when to keep your mouth shut," he proclaims. He grabs her, forcefully, shakes her, tells her to shut up again. And he kisses her.

Does she fight back? Barely. Does she get away from him? Does she call off their deal(s) because Vincent is being horrible to her? No, this is Hollywood. She kisses him back. This is a film and that means that romance can come right on the heals of the man being an emotionally abusive asshole. Dodgson (2017) lists a few film characters who were, on the surface level (i.e. the way the film wanted them to be), the romantic lead but really were liars or emotional abusers--obvious ones like Jim Preston (Christ Pratt) in Passengers (Black (2016) (yes, that's me) described that film as "trying to have its misogynist cake and eat it with a deus ex machina Laurence Fishburne and the sudden ability to not only save a woman's life but also offer her up some interstellar hibernation") or Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) in the Twilight series, with some less obvious ones like Westley (Cary Elwes) in The Princess Bride or even Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) in You've Got Mail. Braca (2016) adds the oft cited Beast (Robby Benson) from Beauty and the Beast, adds Noah (Ryan Gosling) from The Notebook and J.D. (Christian Slater) from Heathers. He may have qualified for a meme, but Mark (Andrew Lincoln) in Love Actually makes the list from Truffaut-Wong (2017), as do Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage) from Moonstruck and Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) from Say Anything and Rocky Balbua (Sylvester Stallone) from the original Rocky. Regarding that last one, Truffaut-Wong says, "Rocky might be a classic sports movie, but it' salsa about how a man can turn a 'no' into a 'yes' just by being slightly charming and large." And, there are so many more. Look at the way Han Solo treats Leia, for example. In film, as long as the girl ends up falling for the guy in return, whatever his behaviour was it is justified after the fact. Dodgson cites psychotherapist Perpetua Neo: "In movies where the behaviours of male protagonist are not cool, we think it's okay because it's so sweet, it's love," Neo says, "Because it's wrapped up Ina. Cute ball of fuzz or a hot man - we think it's acceptable." Dodgson argues, "Those who watch these films are often young and impressionable, and so they may grow up thinking that things like waking up to a pale, brooding man in their room is not cause for alarm, but for wedding bells." Neo argues, "these idealisations of weird behaviour are setting up young people to accept it as normal." A study by Lippman (2015) seems (I've seen the abstract and one article that references it) to suggest that not every woman will fall for these things in real life just because she has seen it in the movies, but the influence is there.

In the real world, "Women have long been ostracized and threatened for speaking out about discrimination and abuse" (Magnani 2017). In the movies, the abused woman is more likely to fall for the man than report him. And, why not? I mean, movies come from Hollywood and Hollywood is run by men, men whose influence can make or break careers, men who can use and abuse and then be thanked from the stage at award shows because that's what you do if you want to keep starring in their films. These men write, direct, produce, distribute films that reflect this same patriarchal world--where a man can be an abusive ass and still get the woman into bed, where male characters get complicated backstories and motivations and female characters get lost in a Bechdelian void. The female character serves as goal, serves as the carrot to the protagonist ass at best. She is a prop more often than she is a fleshed-out person. Like Brenda here in The Idolmaker--she is the means to an end for Vincent, a necessary inclusion to show all the strings he has the wits to pull, and she just happens to be female so there can be a romantic element, because that might sell a few more seats.

That she is there for Vincent's final number suggests, in Hollywood terms, that he has reformed, that he is worth her presence. Except, what has changed for him? There is no reason to think he is a better man. He just lost all his other avenues so he's back to the one thing he had from the beginning--his own talent. It's a great song--"I Believe It Can Be Done"--but the lyrics position Vincent as the hero, as a guy just struggling to find love and success, and of course it's the world that is in the way, not his own arrogance, not his own entitlement, not reasonable people who want control of their own lives.

Magnani takes it back to the Bible (though she cites the wrong chapter and verse), citing Timothy... I'll offer a little context

I Timothy 2: 8-14:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

Nevermind all the other verses in the Bible that offer up similar notions, there it is in one place. Women need to dress a certain way or they are not godly. Women need to remain quiet. Women need to submit to men.

Tommy Dee's scene with the girl in the car serves a purpose here; a popular singer like him would have such temptations around him. (She could have easily been older and the same point be made.) But, Brenda, aside from a kiss and the scene in bed that follows, might as well have been another man in a film full of men. And, outside of the few films that really make something of the female presence, the same could be true for many a film. They might as well be films full of men. The world, as well, might as well be a world full of men. Government might as well be a government full of men. Everything. I mean, the implication is obvious--

(And the same is true with racial and cultural minorities, but that is a discussion for another day.)

--men, powerful men, want a world where their word is law, where women submit, where women are available for whatever demeaning sexual advance the man wants to make. And, they're lucky to be the recipient, lucky to be anywhere near the men in power. Like the imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist, cisgender, patriarchy's scraps are the only thing a woman (or a person of color (or a woman of color, of course)) can hope for.

Is it any wonder, when we actually start listening to women, as we have publicly recently, that more and more speak up, that more and more were victims, that more are and will be victims, that so many men, even supposedly good ones, took advantage? This is the world we've built. Through religion. Through politics. Through film. Through every social order ever (except perhaps certain matriarchal societies, but what happened to those when they faced the larger patriarchal world?).

This is our world.

We built it.

Now, we should tear it down.


Black, R.E.G. (2016, December 28). Hollywood and the White Male Problem. After Film [Weblog]. Retrieved from

Braca, N. (2016, July 9). 7 Fictional Boyfriends Who Are Actually Emotionally Abusive. Gurl. Retrieved from

Dodgson, L. (2017, November 12). A lot of problematic behaviour from male characters in films is supposed to be romantic--here's why it isn't. Business Insider. Retrieved from

Lippman, J.R. ((2015, February 18). I Did It Because I Never Stopped Loving You: The Effects of Media Portrayals of Persistent Pursuit on Beliefs About Stalking. SAGE Journals.

Magnani, R. (2017, November 2). Powerful men have tried to silence abused women since Medieval times. Independent. Retrieved from

Meagher, T. (2015, January 3). Garden Variety Creepiness - Romantic Heroes or Abusive Men. The Blog [Weblog]. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Truffaut-Wong, O. (2017). 17 Romantic Movie "Heroes" Who Actually Sexually Harassed The Heroine. Bustle. Retrieved from

Sunday, November 19, 2017

i like coming here

My first thought upon turning on The Idolmaker is that even more than we watched the movie when I was a kid, we listened to the soundtrack. On vinyl. And, that gets me thinking about other soundtracks we listened to a lot. Somewhere in Time's soundtrack was one of them, and I don't think I mentioned John Barry's score at all last week while watching that one. There was the soundtrack to Grease 2, which will come up in this deconstruction sometime in the next month or two, probably. (The pace of this thing is not out of hand, exactly, but it is increasingly slow.) And plenty I'm forgetting. I remember a 45 single of "All Time High"--that's the theme to the James Bond movie Octopussy, which is also going to show up in this deconstruction at some point. And, outside of movie soundtracks, there were musicians from the 50s, stuff my parents liked.

And, seriously, Tommy Dee (Paul Land) starts singing "Here Is My Love" and I still know the lyrics. That shouldn't be surprising because that's how music works, but it is.

Tommy Dee, by the way, is loosely based on Frankie Avalon. Bob Marcucci--the basis for the titular Vincent Vacarri (Ray Sharkey) here--started working with Frankie Avalon when he (Frankie) was only when he was a teenager. Avalon was born in 1951. Land, who plays his fictional incarnation, was 24 when The Idolmaker came out. Peter Gallagher, who plays Caesare--the fictional incarnation of Fabian, who was 14 when Marcucci discovered him and 16 when he signed him--was 25 (playing a 16-year-old). The story of young artists getting discovered, then making it big and getting too full of themselves--that's old hat at this point (judging by Roger Ebert's review of the film, it was old hat when this film came out) but I wonder if an age-accurate version of this story wouldn't work as better commentary on the industry and what it does to artists. At least the film acknowledges that Tommy Dee might be as old as the actor. Tommy Dee doesn't want to perform for "a bunch of 13-year-olds" because he's used to playing for adults. Ray Sharkey, whose character refers to Tommy Dee as a "kid", is only four years older than Land, three years older than Gallagher.

This movie is, of course, about a couple young men becoming famous, and about their manager who would be a star but he started going bald as a teen and just doesn't have the charisma to be popular (supposedly). And, as he tells Caesare, "It's the looks that count."






While I saw this movie many times when I was young, I think I've seen it maybe once in the past 20 years. So, picture me getting lost in the movie and forgetting to focus on writing. These movies are like comfort food. I know I've used that metaphor before. Groundhog Day especially is that. But, this deconstruction is nice. I mean, I try to find deeper things than I would have (consciously) noticed as a kid, but at first, it's just nice to watch some of these movies I haven't seen in a long time.






And, it's interesting. Two nights ago, I went to a concert where a lot of the fans were young, including my daughter and one of her friends. And, young fans still go crazy at live show. No one stormed the stage like they do Caesare's, but as each song started, as there was that moment of recognition, you could feel the excitement.






And, Vincent is a manipulative bastard. And kind of an asshole. I think I know where this has to take me tomorrow.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

when you can’t trust the lawyers or the advertising men

Today: a deconstruction of this year so far in film... for me. I saw Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri this morning--and loved it--and got to thinking about the little movies that not enough people see. Take for example this list of things that bother me (an incomplete list in not particular order):

  • War
  • Christian rock
  • Factory farming
  • Racism
  • People leaving spreading knives in the sink, you know, because they're so damn hard to clean
  • Sexism
  • Domestic abuse
  • Self-indulgent filmmakers who are not also clever, or who were once clever but turned out to be one-trick ponies
  • Tax breaks for the rich
  • Donald Trump
  • People saying it's a bad year for movies when they've seen maybe two, and those only because they were playing on a few thousand screens, and they make no fucking effort at all to seek out better movies, more movies

That last one. Bugs the crap out of me. Especially in a year in which one of the biggest films at the box office--Wonder Woman was also pretty good. Especially when some of the same folks who I see saying as much also saw Logan and Get Out but probably don't even remember that was this calendar year because this year is taking so damn long.

But, it's getting into Oscar season. I recently woke up my Oscars page on Facebook and my Oscar Fan Twitter account, because the Academy is starting to announce shortlists for some of the "lesser" award categories, there are special screenings, soon there will be critics associations' awards. For a person like me, this is like Christmas except it's a few months long (and it's got the actual Christmas right in the middle of it). So, if you trust me (and I know most of you do not), then I will tell you what I liked so far this year.

(Basically, I'm running down my ratings list on IMDb from this year and noting the films that I gave 10 out of 10... I also might note some 8s or 9s, if they were particularly unique, so don't hold me too strictly to the standard.)

Like the Academy, I will go by the calendar. Meaning: these are movies I saw this year, even if they might've been foreign films released previously, or older movies I finally got to online.

The first movies I watched this year were some documentaries that were nominated for the Oscar--Gleason, and Life, Animated. Both good, and Gleason was horribly sad. Oscar nominated foreign films also came early in the year, because that's when they become available in this country. Toni Erdmann, for example, was amazing. And, I would recommend you go watch it rather than catch the English-language remake that's supposed to be in the works. Land of Mine and A Man Called Ove were also fantastic.

In the midst of catching up on Oscar films, I also finally got around to movies like Man Push Cart. More than a decade old. Great film.

Then came Get Out. This one did well at the box office, getting not just love from critics but audiences. And it deserved it. Logan came along not long after, and while it has a narrow audience, it is one of the better films made for that audience.

The Belko Experiment is not a film for everyone, and it's not even particularly original, but it does what it does so wonderfully that I couldn't help but mention it.

Your Name, Japanese animated film that is supposed to be being remade. Instead, people should just watch the original--

(Really, my policy with remakes (to which, of course, there are always exceptions) is that movies that had some good concepts but poor execution are the ones that need to be remade.)

--because it is a story tied to a specific time and place and I don't think a remake will have the same sense of its own setting.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has some big flaws, especially in its structure, but it's just so damn fun. Wonder Woman has some flaws, too--yeah, I said it--but it was fun, it was well put together, and it hit the zeitgeist wonderfully.

I didn't give Cars 3 a 10, but it was far better than the second one (or wither of the Planes films, and may actually hold up better than the first one to repeat viewings.

Baby Driver has some flaws in its ending but is such a beautifully put together thing it deserves a viewing.

A Ghost Story will probably be hard to watch for most people; it's got a whole lotta quiet moments, long quiet moments, and its final resolution might anger people desperate for a payoff, but it is a meditative treatise on death and grief and moving on (or not) and that is the kind of thing all of could us sometime.

Wind River is not perfect. In the end, it feels like it is lacking something. But, it's performances and its direction lift it above itself.

Brigsby Bear is the one here that you've probably never even heard of in passing, and it is such a strange, and strangely optimistic little thing, it would be nice if it got more attention.

I've said before, most people will not like mother!, but I loved it.

Same goes for Ingrid Goes West.

Loving Vincent isn't a perfect film, but deserves to be seen, if for no other reason, for the sheer amount of effort put into it--it's a documentary on Van Gogh that was hand painted in the style of his paintings.

Happy Death Day might not actually be perfect. It might just be my Groundhog Day Project blinders getting in the way. But, I actually almost saw it a fourth time in the theater last week when the movie I was there to see LBJ was the mommy screening that day. (While I love that the mommy screenings exist, because I want more people to be able to see more movies, I have no interest in attending one.)

Some smaller movies you might've heard of but that aren't for everyone (and I only gave them 9s) that were out recently were Professor Martson and the Wonder Women, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Florida Project, and Lady Bird. And Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

At the end of my YouTube reviews last year, I implored viewers to see more movies. There are just so many movies out there; trust me, there are plenty worth watching at any given time. Especially if you can only get to the theater every once in a while. Me--I go anywhere from 1-4 times a week, depending on what other stuff comes up. I know that's not normal. I know I think differently about films than most of you do. But, there's certainly some middle ground you all could reach for.

Friday, November 17, 2017

what are your superpowers, again?

Today, I saw Justice League and Wonder on the big screen. I will not have time for one of my "childhood deconstruction" movies today, even though watching far too many movies seems to be one of my primary skills. Along with writing far too many words about them.

Today, I'm going to a concert, and will be home late. So, no more movies today... even though I could almost fit one in right now.

And, maybe only a few words.

Regarding a recent theme here about humanizing monsters, I was reminded of Super Friends while watching Justice League, and how even the villains had a club... SPOILERS: if you stay after the credits of Justice League you'll see the villains are forming up in the cinematic DCU as well, but it probably won't be as fun. Some good Black Manta and Lex Luthor arguing while Bizarro is perplexed about the plan--the DCU could use something light like that. And, on the heroes' side, we need some Wonder Twins. I remember when DC published some large-format prestige one shots (Superman: Peace on Earth, Batman: War on Crime, Shazam! Power of Hope and Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth) and as an April Fools Day joke in Wizard magazine, they announced Wonder Twins: Form of Water, and oh how I wanted that book. Superman had tried to solve world hunger, Batman took on something larger than everyday crime, Captain Marvel (in Shazam! for those of you who don't know all your superheroes) had to fight despair, Wonder Woman has to deal with being accepted as a woman, and the Wonder Twins were going to fight drought. And the fake cover was awesome:

Taking superheroes who were fundamentally ridiculous seriously was right up my alley. But, Zack Snyder has proven with Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice and now (but not as much as he had to leave the film after the death of his daughter) Justice League that taking them too seriously can be problematic. (And, while Christopher Nolan's Batman films may have been pretty good films (at least, The Dark Knight was) but they had their problems as well.)

On the other end of the spectrum of films for today (because you can totally have a spectrum with just two items), Wonder is a cheesy, leaning into schmaltzy, family film that still manages to have enough genuine heart that it mostly works. Structurally, it's got no clue how a film plot works, and no idea how to get to its ending. But, it has its moments.

Together, these films had me leaning into one of my occasional self-help style rants about figuring out who you are and playing into your strengths, or something. But, I'd like to think we all know that, really. We're just scared, or there's some outside force we think is in the way. But, seriously, find what you're good at and do it. (Unless it involved hurting other people, of course.) Find you and do that.

As the cheesy, and barely relevant to the story, teacher in Wonder put up on the blackboard: When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind. Cheesy? Sure. But, still good advice.