Akeelah and the Bee

I’d never had any interest in the movie. Spelling Bees just not that exciting (although I will admit that I adore the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and even directed it back in Boston). But it was on the cheap rack at BookMonster, the one that’s outside the store because they don’t care if people run off with some of the deeply discounted merch. Earlier that day, the poll on Microsoft Rewards had asked what coming of age story you’d rather watch, with Akeelah being an option. I can’t remember what the other choice was, but it was such an obvious pick for me, that I quickly selected it and moved on. But the idea of Akeelah stuck with me. Why was I so quick to dismiss it? Seeing it on the discount rack gave me no excuse. I’m oh so very glad that this film got into my head because I absolutely adored it.

Akeelah is an underprivileged kid in Los Angeles (sidebar: was super proud of me for being able to recognize most neighborhoods mentioned), who is very smart, but doesn’t really apply herself much at school. She’s talked into competing in the school spelling bee and a world of opportunities open up for her. Sounds kinda basic, and on the surface it is. But it’s what runs deeper that makes this movie special.

For one, I think this movie is super important for representation. This little black girl (and itty bitty Keke Palmer) has to learn how to navigate her community and limited resources in order to move up. But the fact that she is able to prove herself and be extremely competitive is hugely important for kids to see.

But what struck me most in this film was the sense of community. Everyone she met was rallying behind her. Even the thug that her brother hangs out with would help quiz her and was watching the competition on tv. It was so beautiful and powerful and exactly the message of hope that we need right now.

Quick Posts

I Am Sam – I think we found a movie that is too sweet for even a Disney kid. This movie is just drowning in saccharine, pushing you to root for a certain outcome that may not actually be the best one. One top of that, it was unnecessarily frenetic rivaling Uncut Gems with how anxiety inducing it was having people loudly talking over each other. I should love this movie. It’s a really good story with a fantastic cast, it just isn’t coherent.

Run Lola Run – On the flip side, here’s a movie where its frenetic pace was its greatest strength. This movie is so cool and stylish. Absolutely gorgeous to watch while it gets the blood pumping. I’d also recommend this as a gateway foreign film. I know that subtitles can be a struggle for some, but the dialog here is minimal. The visuals are what carry the story and what incredible visuals they are.

The Haunted Mansion – I only liked it because I’m a Disney kid and I’ve been on the haunted mansion ride countless times. I spent the whole movie looking for Easter eggs (or hidden Mickeys), identifying references to bits of the Disneyland attraction. Take that element out, and it’s kinda dull. To be fair, there aren’t a lot of kiddie horror movies, so it absolutely gets points for trying, but it’s not worth your time without the Disney knowledge

Seabiscuit – This is one that’d I’d put off for a long time because what do I care about horse racing? But it’s on the poster and it was two bucks at BookMonster. So I watched it, and enjoyed it in the moment, because everyone loves a good underdog sports movies. However, I’m sure I’ll quickly forget about it because, what do I care about horse racing?

Mr and Mrs Smith – This has to be one of the sexiest movies ever made. Palpable chemistry between two of the most gorgeous humans on the planet. But for me, the sexiness goes deeper than that. It’s in the playfulness of it all. The movie isn’t lewd or overtly talking about sex (for the most part). It’s the way they tease each other, stimulating each other’s minds more than each other’s, well you know. That’s what’s truly sexy to me.

Little Giants – This was a childhood favorite, and it explains so much about some of my screwier outlooks on life. I’ve always been a tomboy, but watching Icebox hit it off with itty bitty Devon Sawa made me really lean into that identity as a tween. Surely every pretty boy wants a girl who’s just one of the guys, yeah? That might not have quite worked out for me, but maybe it’s better that I was myself instead of trying to be one of the hottie type girls. Lord knows that would not have worked out well for me either.


Of course, I had to throw whatever Chadwick Boseman movies I could into my queue. This was his big breakout role, where he played baseball legend and first black MLB player Jackie Robinson. Watching this really made me think of the definition of a hero.

Yeah he played baseball. That was about the extent of what I knew about Robinson. Hell, I’d even seen this movie once before and just kinda thought of it like any biopic or sports movie. It’s not that I didn’t think Robinson was a hero, it’s that I didn’t get the extent to which he truly was. I didn’t fully comprehend what being that first person truly entailed.

Watching it this time, especially in the current climate this world is in, the message really sank home. He suffered so much abuse just for trying to do his job. As much as he wanted to fight back, he knew that it took more strength to ignore it as best he could and focus on his work. If he gave in and went off on somebody or cracked under the pressure, it’d be all over not just for him but for anybody that followed. He had to go thru hell in order to be the first one to come out on the other side, so that somebody else could come next. That’s what was heroic.

Enough Said

I made a long overdue trip down to BookMonster in Santa Monica this weekend. It’s a used Bookstore that has one aisle of DVD’s, usually priced for only a couple bucks. Typically I spent like 20 bucks on a stack of maybe a dozen discs. For this trip, I budgeted twice that since I wanted some actual books too. But then I found myself indiscriminately throwing 1, 2, and 3 dollar movies into my little basket. Ended up spending 90 on about 30 movies and 3 books. Guess Black Friday came early.

I separated a stack of high priority movies to try to get thru over the long weekend (although I lost most of one day to assembling Ikea furniture). Among those, Enough Said. One of James Gandolfini’s final films. I’d only just watched The Sopranos last year, so I’d previously not had any interest in a romance (gag) he starred in. I haven’t been able to get it outta my head in the two days since I’ve seen it.

Gandolfini stars with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in this sweet film about romance at an older age. Both of them are divorced, facing an upcoming empty nest with their children planning to leave for college. I’ll keep the complication to myself because I didn’t see it coming, and thought it was quite clever (even if it ventured into that awkward territory where you know it’s gonna blow up in everyone’s faces). This movie also gets bonus points for starring not only one goddess (Julia) but also Catherine Keener and Toni Colette.

People who knew him consider this role to have been the most like Gandolfini’s actual personality. Watching this, I fell completely completely in love with him. His character was such a loveable dork, so funny and tender. His chemistry with Julia was absolutely sweet and just radiated off the screen. The way he put his arm around her and pulled her in for their first kiss, I just wanted to get lost in that big bear hug. He also gets major bonus points for how respectful he was. He asked a mutual friend to ask permission for her number, and asked her before that kiss. It makes it all the sadder that we lost him so soon, I would have loved to see more sensitive anti-Soprano roles from him.


Told ya we were gonna talk about this movie, cause I can’t get it outta my head. It was on my Fill-In Filmography poster filed under Sci-Fi > Heady Sci-fi > Time Travel Loops. I’d seen the DVD artwork here and there and it always caught my eye, I’d just never thought much about it. It being on the list (and ten bucks in Best Buy rewards points, the exact cost the BluRay) made me finally want it. Ethan Hawke starring further sealed the deal. I’ve certainly gotta move him up my priority list because he sure knows how to pick interesting projects. Anyhoo

Hawke is some type of time traveling special agent. His job is to fix big catastrophic events in the past that will significantly impact our future. He’s been sent on his last assignment, one final shot at stopping a terrorist that has eluded him through multiple time jumps. That’s as much as I’ll say about the plot, except to add that while that seems like a kinda basic storyline, it’s really so much deeper than that. The bomber ends up being almost irrelevant as the story unfolds. Well not so much unfolds as gets told and tangled up and creates all sorts of brain breaking goodness.

(And here, I paused to get some potatoes in the oven and cut my finger with the new knife I got at Ikea. Typing with a giant cotton ball taped on. We’ll see how this goes.)

I’ve talked before about how I love a good brain buster of a film

(Pausing again because the typing made me bleed thru the cotton ball. Trying superglue)

Right. Brain buster. Whenever you deal with timetravel, you’re gonna have that to some extent. The timelines are inherently messy and it did take some thinking on it to get it straightened out in my head. I think the film did a pretty good job of helping you stick with it so you can then take it away as homework. What really bakes your noodle is the paradox aspect of it. I know better than to even try to think about that. I’d say the movie plays with paradox, but that makes it sound so light and fluffy. It fully dives into an ocean of paradox and gets dragged by the undertow. Cool tho. Gets you thinking.

(And my finger’s starting to sting. I think we’ll just leave this there.)

Bill and Ted Face the Music

Wow, did I need this movie. So desperately. The world needs this movie. I’m so thankful that they went with a day and date release (theaters and VOD). Outside a pandemic world, I fully believe in “the window”, where films get a theatrical release first and then home availability. But with no theaters open in my area, and safety concerns where they are open, making this film available with multiple options for all audiences was a classy and correct move. Because I’m convinced that if anybody can heal the world, it’s Bill S Preston, Esq and Ted Theodore Logan.

When we previously met our righteous duo, they traveled thru time and to hell and back to save the world. They were destined to write the song that would one day unite the world. Little things like death and a history report weren’t gonna stop them. Fast forward to today, thirty years after they went on their Bogus Journey, and they still haven’t written the dang song. They’ve got happy lives with their princesses and daughters, but Wyld Stallyns have seen better days. They are visited by an inhabitant from the future, who tells them that they need to write the song by that evening or the whole time continuum will collapse. It’s not like they haven’t been trying to write this dang thing for thirty years, so they get the idea to borrow their trusty old phonebooth and head into the future. Surely one of their future selves already know the song, yeah?

The film is flawed for sure, but if you’ve seen the first two installments, you knew that. It takes a while to find its groove, and as with any distant sequel, it’s work to pull you back into their world. But there’s a reason that Bill and Ted have endured for as long as they have, and why these films work when all the odds say they shouldn’t: Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are such beautifully pure souls, and they pour that wholesomeness into their characters. They really true believe that something as simple as a song can save the world, and because they believe it, Bill and Ted believe it. And because Bill and Ted believe it, we believe it. So we go on these excellent adventures and have a great time because we share in the same hope.

I absolutely loved their daughters and thought they were the strongest addition to the film. They were more Bill and Ted-esque than the actual Bill and Ted in the film. It was a great way to carry on the attitude we’d expect from our original duo, but allow them to be just a tad more grown up. I’d actually love a spin off centered on Billie and Thea, words I never thought I’d say. I would have expected such a suggestion to feel like a rip off sequel, but I think they could really pull it off, provided Dads show up for some support.

Another thing I loved was how well this paid homage to both of the films. The writers found a way to get us to travel through time and to hell, bringing jokes full circle and saying hello to characters from across the ages. It was almost too ambitious to juggle it all (I’d say maybe the princess storyline was unnecessary, but I love the idea of bringing them to the forefront) but it all came together while still adding fresh new elements to the mix.

But what it really all came down to was the final act. No spoilers, but those last 15 minutes healed my heart. I felt so uplifted and hopeful and happy in a way that’s very difficult to achieve in 2020. I’m even getting teary thinking about how beautifully everything concluded. These guys really can save the world

Bill & Ted Face the Music – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Chadwick Boseman

I’ve been letting the morning minutes tick by aimlessly because I don’t even know where to start. I’ve been numb all weekend. Robin Williams, Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and now Chadwick Boseman. All actors who I’ve loved and admired who left us far too soon, and who’ve had the same profound impact on me in their life and in their death. This one is even more difficult to wrap my head around because it was so sudden and out of nowhere. Superheroes are supposed to be indestructible. They’re not supposed to be taken from us without warning.

It was finally the weekend. I’d just finished eating the pizza I’d been dreaming about all week and was then grossed out by after a few bites (typical). Was looking forward to my long planned Ikea trip the next day. We were at the last few minutes of Predestination, a movie which I absolutely loved and will likely talk about soon. As absorbed as I was in the film, especially as we were getting to some big final reveals, I pulled out my phone. I started with looking up plot points of the film, mostly to make sure that I was following everything. But as so inevitably happens, I pulled up Insta. And there at the top of the page was Josh Gad’s post about Chadwick Boseman. I paused the movie. This couldn’t be true, could it? Some quick internet searches confirmed the news that had just broken. Chadwick Boseman was dead at 43 from colon cancer.

An initial wave of grief hit me. I thought about all the amazing things he’d done with his career (42, Get on Up, Thurman) but mostly I thought about his legacy as Black Panther. What it meant to the black community to see a headlining black superhero, and utter disbelief that he could be taken from us. I thought about the crowd the night that first saw the movie, and how they were one of the rowdier movie crowds I’ve been in. Or the Saturday opening weekend when I went to the theater to see something else and it was the only time I ever struggled with parking because I saw so many gorgeous black families piling in the cinema. My heart ached for the void that was now being left by him.

I thought about his role in Da 5 Bloods, and how his character died young (not a spoiler, it’s the plot of the movie) and his young self was acting alongside older gentlemen to show how his character was frozen in time. Now he would be too. It’s as though the role was prophetic.

His death also made me think about my own mortality. Dead at 43, diagnosed at 38. I’m 35. That’s not too far away. There are so many dark and dangerous threats in this world, any moment could be your last.

The movie ended and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I walked around my tiny apartment aimlessly for a good twenty minutes. I went to put something in my purse, completely forgetting that I have a Black Panther bag now, and got emotional all over again. Any further plans for the evening, yoga or new movies, were out the window. I sat in the middle of the floor for a while. My cat, who is typically stingy with affection, sensed my grief and sat near me. There was only one thing I could do. I went back to the living room and put on Black Panther.

I’ve been in a fog the whole weekend, watching video clips of interviews and awards show moments. When I went to bed Friday night, the first thing I saw was my Black Panther pillow. I remembered that hell I’d wanted to get the entire sheet set, but they didn’t come in queen size. I went grocery shopping on Saturday, grabbed a bunch of my reusable bags, and the first one had T’Challa, Nakia, and Okoye. I broke my movie budget for the week because I insisted that I needed 21 Bridges (I don’t have Marshall or Get on Up either) and I needed to get a comfort movie (Little Giants).

This one is gonna take a long time to get over, and similar to the illustrious actors I mentioned at the start, it’ll likely always hurt. It’s things that this that make you question your entire understanding of how the world works.

Quick Posts

An American Pickle – This film has been polarizing. Mostly, Seth Rogen fans (of which I am adamantly one) loved it. I must be an anomaly because I didn’t really care for it. Mostly I found it a bit too surrealist for my taste and not funny enough. I think they took so many risks with the story (for better or worse) and not enough with the humor. Full marks for originality, but I just wanted more.

Bad Education – Allison Janney and Hugh Jackman are phenomenal, but they have much worthier showcases than this. The story is super interesting, but there’s not a lot of depth to it. It’s just more and more details piling on the same base. I wanted either more twists and turns or more interesting characters for them.

Sunshine Cleaning – Here’s a gem I hadn’t seen in a long time, and it might be one of Amy Adams’ strongest performances. Or at least one of the strongest that still leans into some of her Disney princess qualities (as much as I love her roles that don’t). I’m mostly just highlighting it because it was a sweet 90 minute distraction if that’s something you’re in the mood for.

Don’t Say a Word – I have a very specific memory associated with this film. This was one of the first DVD’s I ever owned, bought second hand at Blockbuster (it’s not even in a real case), and I was watching it on my laptop on the way to start college. My Daddy was sitting on the plane next to me, watching it over my shoulder via the subtitles. I offered to split my headphones, but he was perfectly content. As one of my first DVD’s I watched it many times back then, but it’s been ages since the last watch. What most struct me this time was Brittany Murphy. She is so phenomenal in this, and it made me so sad to watch and wonder what her career could have been. I learned right after watching that the actress who played the daughter also died young under tragic circumstances. Such a bummer that there’s a dark cloud over this movie because I still very much enjoy it. I don’t know that it’d hold its own in today’s cinema world, but I’m a sucker for the psychological mystery of it. And Brittany

Quick Posts

Rubber – My Reddit Secret Santa knocked it out of the park for Arbitrary Day this year. Among the gifts included were a poster checklist meticulously categorizing films and a copy of Rubber that I could then check off said list. This is a weird movie about a tire that starts killing people. Yes a tire. The film is wonderfully meta, which I love. Hell, it started with a whole monologue about how things happen in films for no good reason all the time. Except I think it leaned in too much on the meta, which slowed the pace of the story way down. I wanted more gore and more story. Just more really.

My Dinner with Herve – I will watch Peter Dinklage in anything, so watching this was a tragic delight. He stuck to a very distinct and recognizable character, while maintaining the emotional depth to keep from falling into caricature. It was a really interesting look at the life of Herve Villachaize, and the deep dive tribute he deserves.

Gaslight – We’ve all prolly heard the term “gaslight” recently, to mean a form of psychological abuse or control where a person insists that a lie is the truth leaving their victim questioning their sanity and reality. The term actually comes from this movie, where that’s the basic plot. Hubby tries to convince wife she’s going crazy, but he’s actually trying to keep her under his control. I was very much creeped out watching this. Even before he really escalated his behavior, I could see where he was taking it, and it’s a very real fear. I actually zoned out a good chunk of the movie because I couldn’t handle what was unfolding. It made me very uncomfortable, but in a good way.

Lady Snowblood – Unfortunately, I was very tired when I watched this, so I wasn’t awake for much of it. However, I didn’t need more than a few minutes to recognize what this was: the source of inspiration for Kill Bill. Tarantino practically stole the whole movie. The look and feel, the music style, the basic plot, various bits of imagery. I know KB well enough that I could identify everything that it took. Minimal internet research afterwards confirmed that this was the primary inspiration, to the point where QT would make the cast and crew watch this while working on KB. Kinda cool getting all that background on it, but IDK if it makes me think less of KB now that I see how much of it was borrowed (I don’t wanna say ripped off bc QT def put his own spin on it)

The Tale – Queue the Laura Dern song from this year’s spirit awards. She is a goddess and I adore her, and therefore I soaked in every single word and action of hers in this film with rapt attention. It’s an intense story and she tells it so well. Normally when I’m watching something at home, I’ll start scrolling IMDB trivia before the film is even over. I made a point not to do that because as desperately as I wanted to know what would happen, I wanted Laura to tell me the story her way. It’s difficult subject matter that may not be suitable for everyone, but it’s worth the discomfort if you can stomach it.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I know, this is a docu-series, not a movie. But I’m desperate to talk about it. This is why I finally cashed in the free HBO Max trial I got when I bought Birds of Prey (30 days instead of the usual 7). I’d been generally aware of the events this series covers, but the more praise I heard for it, the more I needed to watch it. In six episodes, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark chronicles the crimes and eventual capture of The Golden State Killer. What makes this story stand out in the genre, and makes it truly special is that the focus of the story isn’t the murderous psycopath. The focus is on Michelle McNamara, the true crime writer who pieced together decades worth of evidence against this killer to tell his full story (and more importantly, the victims’ stories) and ultimately brought on his downfall.

The reason I’d first heard about this case is beloved comedian and actor Patton Oswalt. He was married to McNamara until her sudden and unexpected death in 2016. I’ve been a big fan of his for years. His stand up special Annihilation, where he speaks candidly about her death and the aftermath for himself and their daughter is one of the best I’ve ever seen. (Why is it that the best stand up specials aren’t the ones that make you laugh the most, but the ones that touch on the darkest and toughest subjects? See also: Hannah Gadsby’s Nannette). His Twitter feed is one of my favorites to follow, and he still speaks often and fondly of Michelle. It’s from his crusade to carry on her legacy that I learned just what that legacy was. When I’d heard that it was being told in this series, I needed to watch it.

The plan was three episodes on Mon night and three on Tue night. That’d mean I could get one in with dinner after work. Break for yoga. Then two more episodes. Repeat the next night. I wasn’t even ten minutes into the first episode when I thought screw yoga, we’re plowing thru. Even though I knew the broad strokes, I had to know all the details immediately. By the third episode, I was calculating how much past my bedtime I’d need to stay up to finish in one go. I was so stressed out and scared, there was no way I could put myself thru a second night. One hour late was acceptable. Besides, I prolly wasn’t gonna be able to sleep tonight after some of the things I’d heard.

The split into the episodes is a bit of a blur since I went thru it so fast. Before he was known as the Golden State Killer (a term I believe McNamara coined), he was EAR/ONS. East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker. EAR came from his time in Sacramento in the 70’s, where he committed 50 rapes (an unfathomably high number) that escalated with each event. He began with lone women and progressed to holding couples hostage for the extra challenge I guess. He left Sacramento and later appeared in Santa Barbara, this time progressing to full on murdering his victims. After one final kill in 86, he vanished without a trace.

McNamara began her investigation in the mid-late aughts. She had a true crime blog where she would post musings on various unsolved crimes, working together with friends and followers to gather information. She was drawn to the EAR/ONS events and was able to help definitively tie those events together to a single suspect. After writing some well received magazine articles on the subject, she began working on a book. She was never able to finish it. McNamara had gotten so deep down the rabbit hole, she was convinced she could solve the murders with just a little more time and effort. Unfortunately, being in that deep had detrimental effects on her health, including nightmares that kept her up at night. She died in her sleep from an accidental overdose on the pills that she depended on to keep her going. Her collaborators completed the book two years later, and within months he was captured.

Heh okay maybe I’ve given too many details on the story itself, but it’s so fascinating. And basically everything I’ve stated, I already knew when I started watching. The series talks to the surviving victims, McNamara’s collaborators, Patton Oswalt, various police officers, and so many other people who were tied in to this horrific story. But it’s really that investigation and the woman behind it that are the truly most fascinating part. Also fascinating was looking at what a different world California was in the 70’s. Thankfully so much of what made it possible for EAR/ONS to get away with years of crimes isn’t as much of a factor today. That little bit of solace is prolly how I was able to get to sleep that night.

Also helpful, completely unrelated, but a couple days after, my building manager came by and said they were installing an extra security door on my unit. The idea was to be able to open the old door for fresh air coming thru the new metal gate. I was just grateful for one more set of locks between me and the outside world.