Author Archives: dwmcguff
It’s Oscar season, and despite how much we all know it doesn’t actually recognize many of the best movies of the year, this is as close as cinema junkies get to a Super Bowl. So, while we may not have a dog in the race, we still watch (or at least read about it, because watching it is excruciatingly dull). And in much-needed good news the influx of voters has actually had the effect of increasing the representation of nominees. We have not only people of color nominated for every acting category, but for directing, writing, editing, and cinematography. This is a great win for everyone.
Here’s my analysis and picks for this year’s Oscars. These picks are guaranteed to be correct. If there is a discrepancy between the winners and this list, it is the Oscars who are wrong. And they should be ashamed.
Have you fallen a little behind on your cinema-going last year as you were in too much of an existential crisis watching your heroes (Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali, and Alan Rickman and MORE) being seemingly unfairly taken away as the rest of the world burned around you? Or maybe you’re in the market for a new Blu-Ray for your home viewing pleasure, but don’t know which movie is one of the movies that are good? Don’t worry LeBloggians, my best movies of 2016 list won’t stop this mother from burning down, or bring back any of our heroes in some sort of Faustian pact, but it will let you know what the movies that are good are.
Director: Ava DuVernay
Released on Netflix 10/7
No hero can outrun his origin story… not for long. Luke Cage was an anomaly in the superhero world for essentially picking up with Luke Cage as he was, but this couldn’t last for long. In fact, not much longer than the reluctant hero who just wants to be a normal person storyline. It should come then as no surprise that the 3rd and 4th episodes of Luke Cage fall right into place within these two tropes… and that’s not really a bad thing.
Somebody has to die. When you have a reluctant hero, you also know that some untimely death will be what springs them into action. Superhero tropes are becoming well-trodden only 20 years or so into the genre, and the stories themselves are struggling under the weight of them. However, a good performance can sell anything. Luke Cage did right by getting Frankie Faison.
With Westeros winding down HBO is looking for their next big-budget event series (True Detective shit that bed with the dour season 2), and have found it in Westworld. A remake/reimagining of Michael Crichton’s (Jurassic Park) uneven 1973 thriller with Yul Brynner. In reality, that film fits the remake bill perfectly: good ideas, bad execution. HBO has reportedly spent $100 million on this first season and enlisted the help of Jonathon Nolan (Person of Interest, brother of Chris) and a cast of talented actors to make it come to life.
Marvel’s Netflix partnership is now in its fourth season. So far, the quality has been a mixed bag. Daredevil went from a great first season that presented a dark, lived-in crime story with thought-provoking drama, strong characters, and strongly choreographed fight scenes to a second season that devolved into fantastical nonsense/magic storyline punctuated by unrealized potential in Punisher and the groan-inducing Elektra. Jessica Jones arrived with an outstanding first act to the season using a compelling villain, a strong (and still feminine) female hero, and an edgy metaphor for rape and abuse victims. This was bogged down by a weak middle act, bizarre character choices, and mostly salvaged by a solid ending. These shows have proven much more daring in content than the cookie-cutter Marvel films, even if the episode order should be more like 8-10 instead of the padded 13.
These shows will be culminating in The Defenders, a street level Avengers, that will see Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and possibly Punisher join forces. While we will still have to wait to see the latter two, we are now treated to Luke Cage. After making a memorable supporting turn in the JJ series, and proving he could yell, “sweet Christmas” and still seem cool, Mike Colter debuts his bulletproof hero for hire. The results are, predictably, mixed. The first episode is much too stodgy in its table-setting for the rest of the season, with clunky exposition and bad writing weighing down charming performances.
Fall is here, and as the new season ushers in cooler weather and more beautiful leaves, our TV season heats up with better shows. With cable, network, and streaming platforms coming with a glutton of new shows it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the multitude and suspicious of every advertisement claiming that it is the next hit (TV is definitive proof that believing hard enough in something is not enough to make it true). Let us remove your existential dread of watching a new pilot and feeling the enormous anxiety of, “but what if something on another channel is better?” that leads to endlessly channel surfing and palm-sweating over whether you think it will get better after a few episodes, and then the soul-crushing realization that no, no it won’t. Use this handy guide like a televisional Prozac, so you know what to watch next, and what to skip, and save yourself the meditation on the meaninglessness of your existence through those hours of “giving it a shot.”
Before my recent contributions to LeBlog I’d been on an almost two year hiatus. There was a litany of reasons for this: working 80 hours a week, becoming a high school teacher, moving across the country to Orlando, FL, almost getting shot, getting married, and moving back across the country to Texas. On this site I’ve previously extolled my theatrical endeavors and history, but over the last few years I’ve done something a little different: I’ve gotten into film acting and filmmaking.
Now, don’t get too excited; you’re not going to see me in anything. It has been mostly acting in local shorts and beginning to dip my toes into producing my own. So, what this article is about is mostly to shamelessly promote a few of the projects I’ve been in before (they vary in quality) and share where I’m looking to go with it.
It is not a secret that TV is in a golden age. As films move toward more episodic adventures where the stakes are low and only seem there to set up further installments (ahem, Marvel) movies are beginning to look like very expensive TV show episodes that take 3 years to produce. So, as the style of storytelling changes on the big screen, so has the small screen. TV shows, mini-series, and event films have begun to steal away a lot of the prestige, daring, and original stories that used to exist only in the cinemaplex. So here, we will look at 15 shows that’ll save you that $20 movie ticket and give you a better conversation for the water cooler the next day.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Director: Travis Knight
Starring: Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey