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My 2020 Movie Tally: The Year The Movies Died

6 Feb

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve been waiting for, the blog I get most excited about writing each year, the stories I try to tell about all of those wonderful theatrical movie experiences, the people I enjoyed spending those few hours with, sharing popcorn, whispering into their ears during previews, discussing what we watched when it’s over. Oh the joys of that theatrical, and I maintain also social experience. This is when we talk about the great year that was 2020!

Let’s not dance around it people, last year sucked. It blew. It was a year best represented by excrement. Thanks to 2020, everyone knows the term “dumpster fire” as an adjective. To call it a disappointing year would be like calling Superman IV: The Quest for Peace a disappointing sequel; yes, it was, but that is quite the understatement, as it was a giant, stinking, flaming turd of a movie that was also the final look we ever got of the late, great Christopher Reeve as Superman, and the world would have been a better place without this in existence. I won’t patronize you with the endless list of events from 2020 – from Kobe Bryant’s death to the ongoing pandemic, to the (is it over yet?) election – you’ve each had hundreds of memes, videos, song parodies and articles to do that for you more than adequately. But I will take you through this most unusual year from the eyes and perspectives of not only me, but the movies I was seeing at the time; because if blogging about myself isn’t narcissistic, then I don’t know what I need therapy for after all!

January, 2020

The year started off promisingly. I was highly motivated, as I am constantly, to match and exceed my movie tally from the previous year. In 2019 I was at 110 movies in the theater. The previous year had been 106. So in 2020 my goal was to see more than 110. And ideally my goal is always to reach my pre-marriage average of 150 a year. So let’s do the math. When I start a year seeing 13 or more, I’m “on track” to my Golden Goose 150 goal. If I see 10 or more a month, I’m “on track” to at least exceed my total of last year.

January 1st, New Year’s Day, we got the ball rolling in style, when I went with Maddy (no, not an Adi autocorrect) to see Frozen 2, the far more adult, and yes superior film. The first was a perfectly adequate Disney cartoon with catchy earworms, but the fervor around it made it disappointing by merely being decent. When I saw the original with Adi she was so disappointed by it that she refused to see this sequel until much later on streaming. But when she did, she agreed – this was a refreshingly, surprisingly, darkly adult movie. It dealt with depression in an astoundingly touching way that may have even rivaled the “Sadness” character’s emotion from Inside Out. I would never recommend watching something out of context, and devoid of the crucial build-up, but if you must, or if you’ve seen it before, this is that devastating scene. Now that I think about it, kicking off the new year with a family film about loneliness and depression may have been quite the foreshadow for what was to come.

Starting in 2016, we had gone on an annual group trip that I had coordinated for ourselves and other close friends. In 2016 there were 5 of us who toured China. 2017 took 11 of us through an unforgettable Thailand experience. In 2018, 9 of us, including an uncomfortably pregnant Adi, didn’t miss out on Spain and Portugal. In 2019 I actually had to create the trip from scratch, something I would unlikely ever attempt in the future; but it did result in an absolutely breathtaking South African trip for 18 of us who remain talking on a regular basis on our trip’s group chat.

That leads us to 2020. I had finished  with just about all of the headaches and legwork, and 11 of us were booked and ready to fly to Vietnam and Cambodia in March. We counted down the weeks.

On January 26, 2020, I was working my nursing shift at Saint John’s, and suddenly a coworker told me Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. For the rest of the day, that’s all the employees and patients were discussing. Within hours, they determined each of the other passengers including his daughter Gianna, which made this tragedy even worse. But this is supposed to be through the eyes of the movies I watched, right? My shift ended at 730pm, and at 815pm in AMC Century City, I met with Jared, Yoni and Patrick, and we enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s latest entertaining caper, The Gentlemen.

On Wednesday night, it wasn’t a movie, but I was treated to great seats at an L.A. Kings game by friends Matt & Shira; since Adi couldn’t join, our friend Mike happily took her place. It was incredibly eerie arriving at the Staples Center, which was chock-full of people paying their respects outside, and the first time any game had been played inside his former arena since the incident 3 days earlier. I will admit that during their tribute/presentation before the game to each of the victims of the crash, we were quite emotional.

What about movies? By the end of the month I had seen a grand total of 13 movies in the theater. A great start, as I was on track to see 156 movies, right?

February

This month I managed to see 2 leftover Best Picture Oscar nominees. 1917 was a gorgeously filmed World War I movie that truly required the largest screen possible for full effect. Marriage Story, was simultaneously released streaming on Netflix, and was a devastatingly well acted play of a movie.  Even though this was an intimate drama that was perfectly appropriate for a television screen, it felt like a personal accomplishment resisting watching it for free at home a few months into its release, and eventually managing to watch it the way I prefer every film – in a dark theater on the big screen. Little could I have known this was a luxury that would not be afforded to us for much longer.

On February 29th, a date so crappy we only allow it to exist once every 4 years, the United States recorded its first known COVID-19 death – although technically they have since determined there were a few they didn’t know about earlier.  On this same day, after Shabbat ended we went with our friends Leah & Yossi to one of the discount theaters in the valley, and paid $3.75 a ticket to watch The Turning followed by Little Women. Because why not follow up our Leap Day holy Sabbath with a horror movie followed by a delightful period piece.

Every day at work I was talking to infection control about this virus that appeared to be mostly in China and Italy, and ensuring it was not going to be a problem for our upcoming trip as planned. Our flights were canceled with China Southern Airlines, because they were restricting any stops in China, but we were quickly rebooked onto Cathay Pacific. Small crisis averted – the trip would be fine. According to all official travel advisories, outside of a few countries there was no safety concern for coronavirus as of yet, apparently. (As I say that, it is reminding me of an underrated Tom Hardy thriller called Child 44, where children are found murdered in 1950s Russia, but everyone who questions it is continuously told, “there is no murder in paradise.” But I digress….)

And we pivot back to me at the cinema? 9 movies. Not a great way to continue. 9 per month would only get me to 108 in a year, a smidge under my lower goalpost, but hey, I’m still fine, because 2 months in that’s 21 movies, on pace for 132. Slow and steady wins the race, and all that jazz.

March

I must have sensed that Something Was Rotten in the State of Denmark, because I remember feeling a bit of urgency to get to the theater as often as I could this month – yes, even more than usual. On March 1st I watched Downhill with Jared, a pretty darn disappointing dark comedy, considering it starred the brilliant comedic pedigree of Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The next day is hard to forget. Here is the timeline of how things went, and my memory is not perfect – I am referring to my emails with the travel agency and others for accuracy of timing.

March 2 – I was at work, and received a call from my father. My mother was already in remission from her Lymphoma thankfully, but her next scan came back. Although the Lymphoma was still gone, there was now an unrelated lung cancer that they happened to see. This was lucky to be found we were told, as this was all spotted on a routine scan, and she had no symptoms. But surgery was immediately determined to be the most prudent course of action, to remove the cancer and let them biopsy it after-the-fact. Within 3 hours of speaking to both my father and mother, discussing it all with Adi, and still taking care of my 5 patients, we knew we needed to cancel our vacation and remain in LA – obviously. Adi and my flights were canceled, and I made the arrangements to ensure all of the other friends would still have the trip without me – their group leader – and my mother’s surgery was scheduled for Wednesday, March 18th.

March 4 – Saw Harley Quinn with Adi. A fabulous diversion that we both needed after the previous 2 days, and a movie that deserved to be seen and appreciated by a much larger comic book crowd than it ultimately received. People will watch any Marvel movie, as their MCU has proven itself consistently, and people are hooked watching a universe of episodic continuity. DC seems to finally be figuring things out, but people are not yet invested in them due to some atrocious recent content, so this movie fell under many radars.

March 5 – Getting answers from the travel agent was becoming increasingly difficult, and she emailed me saying, “This Corona Virus issue is causing big issues here. I just wanted to update you so you weren’t left hanging.” Okay, just as long as my group will still be fine with their trip.

March 8 – Things were getting weird. Mike and Jared picked me up from the hospital after work, and we went to 3rd Street Promenade to watch Impractical Jokers: The Movie, in what would end up being a completely empty theater. We knew hand hygiene was now crucial, as well as not being near people who were coughing and sneezing, so this was great; we touched the arm rests carefully and enjoyed ourselves in the theater.

March 9 – Straight from work I went to my shul (synagogue) to catch the Megillah, because it was the start of Purim. Public Health guidance had already been given to the shuls, so people who were sick or over 65 were told to stay home. We were told to greet each other by bumping elbows instead of shaking hands. Little did I realize this would be the last time I would be in my shul or with my community to this very day.

This same day I had to have a frank discussion with all travelers of the trip that if they went, there was a constantly growing risk of being turned away at the border, or not being allowed to come home when it was over. We were seeing it happen with the case that scared people around the world, on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Everyone voted, some wanted to cancel regardless, and others dependent on a refund of the thousands of dollars for flights and tours. Vietnam and Cambodia continued to appear to be some of the safest countries on earth during the spread of this virus. I was told by some infectious disease specialists, “I’d feel safer in Vietnam or Cambodia than here right now.”

March 10 – Our tours were cancelled, so the decisions were taken out of our hands. Those countries wisely decided not to allow people to tour through their borders anymore. Though I will add that the tour company refused to give back our money, only giving a credit for future tours; and the airline has still not refunded the last of the money for the flights.

March 12 – I was coordinating the latest guidance from the CDC and my trusted colleagues in Infection Control, and knew certain precautions to take wherever I went, including movie theaters. I went to the Landmark theater and enjoyed the delightful Emma, hands washed carefully, napkins on my armrests, doors opened using my elbows.

March 13 – I wrote my first article about this Coronavirus. People were asking me questions, and I wanted to help people do what they could, but safely. Under the guidance from people with expertise in the field, it attempted to explain what was happening, what you should do, and how you should act depending on your age group. Much of what I said still rings true today, but some parts are so full of “if I knew then what I know now” material that it makes me want to punch myself in the face, exemplified by this statement that was following official guidance as of March 13th, “Do not walk around wearing masks unless you are sick and for some reason have to be out of the house.” If you’re curious to read the extremely dated, of course you should wear masks, absolutely not-to-follow guidance article, here it is.)

On this same day we went for a great double feature at the Landmark theater. We made our decision of what movie to see based on which movie/theater/showtime would have nobody sitting near us. We started by watching the beautifully crafted French film Portrait of a Lady on Fire. And then Annie & Ben met us for the second movie, The Invisible Man, which was an extremely well done, entertaining thriller. But I distinctly remember not being able to focus on much of the movie. Every movement in the theater made me nervous, even though nobody but these friends were within 10 feet of me. I had even asked them to ensure they were not sick before meeting us. And they left a seat between us as an extra safety precaution. But all of this still felt…off.

March 13 – I was working at the hospital, and one of the head surgeons told me that we were likely going to cancel all non-emergency surgeries for the foreseeable future. I told her about my mother’s planned surgery in Cedars and she warned me this was likely about to occur everywhere. So I preempted this and sent an email to my mother’s surgeon, who I had never met, asking him to call me if there were any changes.

March 14 – The final movie we would catch inside a theater, until….well, I’ll let you know when it finally happens again. And it didn’t even finish on a high note. That last movie was The Call of the Wild with Adi and Jared, and he was asleep for parts of the movie. I would have enjoyed it quite a bit if they had not decided to use an awful, CG animated dog instead of a real one. And side note: at home months later we watched Togo, a beautiful dog-sled movie, starring real dogs and Willem Dafoe. It blew my mind that it is the more authentic story of what was depicted in the 1995 animated film Balto, and I truly recommend it.

March 15 – The CDC advised that no large gatherings occur. They defined large as 50 or more people. That night at midnight Los Angeles closed all of its movie theaters. There would be no more trying to find theaters that were empty, and using my elbows to open doors. Things had changed.

March 16 – I was at work that Monday morning, and received a call from my mother’s surgeon. He apologized, but her surgery was canceled. There was no safe way for hospitals to give care after surgery. They did not want to send anyone to a nursing facility, and nobody would be brought back for follow-up visits. So all non-emergency surgeries were canceled, including my mother’s lung cancer removal! I informed the surgeon I work as an RN on a Medical/Surgical unit, and was always planning to help her. He asked, “You could take her home and continue the post-op care yourself when she’s released?” “Absolutely,” I answered.

Thank God I emailed him a few days prior. Thank God he actually called me. Thank God I was between patients and thus able to answer my phone. And thank God he thought outside the box, and realized that the safety reasons the surgeries were canceled could be countered by my being her home nurse. The surgery was put back on the schedule. On March 18th it happened, the cancerous part of the lung was removed, the biopsy showed it was in fact a life-saving procedure, and I’m relieved and thrilled to write that my mother to this very day is completely cancer-free!

By March 26th our country led the world with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19, and what would almost sound quaint today, a whopping 1,000 deaths. On March 27th I published one of my most important accomplishments: an invaluable interview with Lakshmy Menon, an epidemiologist who became a true friend to me and continues to be a resource on a regular basis. Sure, the guidance on masking has changed, and much more is known and thus evolved since this early point, but most of this still holds up brilliantly today, as you can see for yourself here if you wish. I wish to point out that many are understandably upset about the changing in guidance, and while politics may at times have played an ugly factor, for the most part guidance has been based on a “we only know what we know, when we know it” idea, and so thus as more time has passed, we simply have more accurate guidance.

And shall we revisit my movie tally? In just the first half of the month I had managed to see another 9 movies. This was incredible. I was still technically on pace to see 124 movies that year. But naturally, the that was not meant to be, nor was it even important anymore.

The Rest of the Year

On April 9th I published this story, and seeing people walking around with gloves during this pandemic to this very day Drives. Me. Nuts. I attempted to get the city to intervene and help give consistent guidance on gloves to the markets, but gave up when I saw I could not break through the bureaucracy of it all. I slowed down my frequent articles, and started to focus more on keeping my family safe at home.

We brought in Adi’s grandfather so he wouldn’t be alone in his elderly living facility, and he managed to mostly enjoy the last months of his life downstairs with my in-laws, in our multi-generational family duplex. They looked after him tirelessly, and he spent his time watching old Westerns and replays of his beloved Dodgers games, who he grumbled kept letting him down. I helped increasingly as more medical aspects became sadly needed. When he died in August, I was honored to write this prominently featured article about him, and it became a tribute for all of us who he left behind. Just over 2 months later, I watched the World Series with my father-in-law Mark, and during Game 6, when they won it all, there was a photograph of him sitting beside us.

We may have missed out on our annual big vacation, but we did start a pandemic tradition of going to fun, safe farms every 3 months, and giving ourselves some calm retreats for peace of mind. One was even spent on an alpaca farm!

Back to the Movies

We did manage to get to drive-in theaters on two different occasions last year. We caught Trolls: World Tour with Annie in her own car next to us the first time, and a double feature of Irresistible and The High Note with Char in a car on our right, and Kristina and Josh in a car on our left. Who says you can’t still find a way to see movies with friends? And following safety protocols!

So, what was my final theatrical movie tally in this shortened 2 and a half months of a year? 34. Did I watch any at home on my television which were technically also released in theaters in other cities/states/countries where they remained open? Sure. But that’s simply not how I tally my count.

And I’ve already discussed many of these movies, but as I do every year, let’s see who of my friends watched the most with me?

  1. Adi – 21 movies. Previous year 82. She was with me for 62% of the movies I watched, whereas the previous year she had seen 75% with me. Apparently in the first few months of this year she just simply loved me 13% less than usual. #InThisHouseWeBelieveMathIsReal
  2. Harwin – 8 movies. Previous year 7. Okay, that is impressive. Anytime someone can get more home runs with fewer at bats you know they’re doing something right. Or they’re on steroids. Now that I think about it, Harwin is looking a bit more muscular than usual, hmm… And as I write this, in just a few short hours, he and my wife will be hiking somewhere my back can’t handle at the moment. Harwin is great at attending to the outdoorsy needs of Adi as well as he attends to the indoor needs of Boaz. Good man. No judgment on the steroids my friend.
  3. Avish – 5 movies. Previous year 10. This is not a downgrade; Avish was on track to see 20 or more with me in fact. We very much miss Auntie Avi being in our home, sitting on the couch with us, and playing with Natalia. One day soon. Though she does often read books to her on the phone even now, to her great credit.
  4. Annie – 5 movies. Previous year 7. I’m so incredibly glad we got to spend time together these first few months, because in the summer, Annie & Ben moved to Georgia, and although we still talk, I miss working with her and hanging out in person. The ERs of Atlanta became a safer place thanks to her.
  5. Patrick – 4 movies. Previous year 5. Thankfully Patrick still lives here, and we’ve managed to hike and even swim at safe distances from each other. But we both certainly miss going to the movies, no question. (But let’s be honest Patrick, your awesomely loud laugh is probably enough to take the usual droplet effect of the virus and aerosolize it!)
  6. Jared – 4 movies. Previous year 4. Poor Jared. He sees one less movie than the entire previous year, and it happens to include the one he slept through, which was also the last one either of us would see indefinitely ever after. Boo.

Honorable mentions to Leah, Kristina, Josh and Char who each saw 2 with me in that short time.

While many of us may feel like we’re still stuck in the suck that was 2020, the truth is, we aren’t. Vaccines are being given at a rate of about 1.3 million people a day in this country, and that number will only increase as more of them will be safely approved and distributed. We aren’t in the clear yet, but the end is coming. Within a few months of herd immunity we will safely enjoy the embrace of our friends within their homes. We will wear masks only when we have symptoms, for the protection of others around us. And we will damn well watch movies in an indoor cinema, with people elbowing for shared armrest space (is that a thing anymore outside of airline seats)?!

For a great Q&A I managed to do about the vaccines, please read this. Each county has its own system and websites, but for anyone in Los Angeles County, you can sign up for your vaccines if/when eligible here and here. If you have any medical or vaccine questions, please talk to your doctor and trust public health resources – they may not know everything, but they certainly are better informed than you and I and whatever our internet searches will dig up.

And we should finish this off by singing together, Let’s All Go To The Movies!

My 2019 Movie Tally: What to Watch During Social Isolation

23 Mar

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I was going to start off by saying that I am thankful for the good within 2019 but also extremely relieved that it’s over. Because that’s exactly how I felt as the calendar turned the page. In 2019 our daughter Natalia started talking, and her hilariously assertive and precocious personality really took shape. We went on a perfect South African safari vacation. We spent weeks in Israel visiting friends and family and seeing the sights. but…major health scares with not one but both of my parents? It was Just. A. Lot. But as soon as we all started getting used to this new year, this new decade, our worlds exploded with an event of seismic proportions, a literal pandemic, and nothing since has been the same. I asked myself, do I really continue writing up my annual movie tally? Is something like this even helpful anymore when everyone has their life turned upside down? And my answer was a resounding yes. Yes because we need the distraction. Yes because we need to read about something that isn’t about a virus, or about politics. And yes because something else has happened that I have never before experienced: movie theaters are closed! I couldn’t go to one now if I tried, and even if there was a holdout with one open, I certainly wouldn’t try because they need to remain closed for an unknown period of time. As much as I have always sung the virtues of seeing a movie on the big screen with the lights off, this is the time you really must stay home as much as possible, and away from others. And guess what? I have a guide of the movies I watched in 2019, and at this point most of them are available to stream; so in many ways, this may be the most appropriate annual movie tally I’ve ever done. So sit back, put on your reading glasses, and get caught up on my life as well as my advice for the dozens of movies you probably missed last year…

But before we talk about movies, before we discuss any numbers or tallies, before I mention what I liked best and worst with each friend, let’s go through some low and high-lights of 2019.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The cover photo was taken in January, back when I started writing this saga, and well before we had a notion of the prescient nature of Natalia’s t-shirt. This post is full of both trivial and interesting Easter Eggs, if you see a hyperlink, go ahead and click it for more.

May, 2019: South Africa

We left Natalia in the warm and wonderful hands of her grandparents, and headed on a grand adventure to South Africa. The story behind this was the usual age-old story of boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy goes with girl to fundraiser dinner where the boy is assured by his philanthropic wife the night is free…and then…the auction begins for an African safari.  Boy watches girl raise her hand in the air and bid without any warning whatsoever, and boy watches girl turn free night into a not-so-free night. So you know, the usual way vacations come to fruition. It was actually an incredible deal because 75% of the money went directly to charity, and something that was previously on our bucket list(s) was able to happen. Through ingenuity, Adi was able to get more of the safari trips sold via her Sheba Medical Center charity to friends, and the next thing we knew there were 18 of us on our own tour bus in Johannesburg and Zulu Nyala safari creating instantly classic memories. Pictures can never fully capture feelings, but to the extent that they can, here is what we looked like on our first day (on the historic streets of Soweto), many not knowing the person next to them…

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…and then 10 days later this is how close we had become, and how sad we were to gaze at our last exhilarating safari sunset.

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May, 2019: A Shocking Return

We got through our looooong journey home, and like zombies, we came home to say hi to our parents and daughter….and my sister Abigail? Why was my New Jersey sister sitting in our living room? Jokingly, she said she came because we required a grand welcome back, but 10 minutes later, when we could put things down and talk to her, she dropped a bomb on us: my mother was diagnosed with the Big C. She had an aggressive form of Lymphoma, and chemotherapy treatments were going to start in a few days. She and the family had actually found out on our second day of our fun vacation, and made the (understandable) decision not to tell us until we returned.

There was good news however; this was caught early. So early that there were no symptoms yet. In fact the only reason they caught it was because my mom got her regularly scheduled mammogram, and then the office called her up and said, “we have new fancy 3D equipment now, would you like to return and get another one with the new gadgets?” and she obliged. This updated technology allowed them to get a clear image of the lymph nodes on her left side, and thus the cancer was detected early. The next 18 weeks consisted of 6 horribly exhausting cycles of treatments that were extremely confusing for my mother, since everyone would ask her sympathetically, “How are you feeling now???” to which she would reply, “I was feeling perfectly fine before the treatments, but now the cure itself is what makes me feel awful”. This process started in May and went through September.

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August, 2019: Israel

For months, my amazing wife and siblings were coordinating and taking turns visiting and spending weeks helping my mother through the worst of it. And in August, we went with Natalia and Adi’s parents to Israel, for our niece Yael’s Bat Mitzvah. It was an incredible trip. The first week, my best friend Kevin showed us everything in Southern Israel from wineries to tank museums.

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We then traveled North to Safed (aka Tzfat) where Adi’s brother Adam lives and works as a certified tour guide. He and his family spent a week touring us around everything from the grottoes of Rosh Hanikra to the warm waters of the Sea of Galilee (aka The Kinneret).  All of this surrounding the reason we went, Yael’s Bat Mitzvah.

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September, 2019: The Calm Before the Storm

David Suissa gave me the opportunity to become a blogger for the Jewish Journal, one of the largest Jewish publications in the world. He and their digital editor Erin Ben-Moche like(d) my writing so much that they told me if I write it, they’ll publish it. My first piece was a quiet one about the death of a dear friend’s child. My next involved my bizarre movie habits. Others include an interview of my friend Ronnie just as he was about to premiere on the show Survivor, and a special happy anniversary piece dedicated to my wife. They kept their word, they were happy to publish my every writing!

My mother finished her final round of chemo, and my siblings booked flights to come to LA and enjoy the upcoming Succos holiday together as a family. Finally. In celebration. Rosh Hashana kicked off the Jewish high holiday season, and then…

October, 2019: The Storm

…While walking home from his synagogue, minutes after Rosh Hashana ended, my father crossed the street, and became the victim of a hit & run accident. He was alive, but had serious injuries. The next day I wrote a piece about the awful experience, it was shared by countless others, and thankfully by the end of the week the police notified us that the driver had admitted to the accident.

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My siblings came in as planned, but instead of a holiday to celebrate my mother’s end of treatments, it was a holiday where all of us, including my mother, were helping my father with his new impairments.

But…here’s the thing. By the end of the year, my father, who had a major head injury, and could have easily not survived, was and is alive. My mother was in remission. Her cancer was no longer detected, even if we did not know there would be a new, different cancer threat, also vanquished, early this year. These were and are incalculably massive blessings. Each of our trips may have been followed by hellish experiences, but as the year came to a close, there was plenty of reason to be optimistic that this next year of 2020 would be…easier. (Please allow the irony of that last sentiment to linger, as we turn the page toward the main topic at hand.)

SO YOU SAW NO MOVIES?

Okay, I get it, anything not about movies is a deviation from the main story. This is, after all, my annual end-of-year blog, and here’s where the count, the tallies, the stories, and some mini-reviews come in. Because through it all, the thick and the thin, the highs and the lows, the vacations and the health scares…I decompressed in the movie theater. Whether with Adi or friends, I got myself out as often as possible, because during the happy it added to my fun, and during the hair-pulling travails, it helped provide 2 hours of distraction. That’s the thing about movies, they always feel right for me, even (and at times especially) the bad ones. (That’s part of what’s making this current pandemic even harder for me – there goes my coping mechanism!) So let’s get into my biggest passion (sorry family, sorry nursing), and discuss what I saw this year.

MOVIE COUNT

My mind forever tells me that anything under 150 is below my “average”, but I think the time has come that I need to adjust my expectations. It’s like bowling. On the occasion I go, people ask me what I usually score, and I tell them 144 is my average. Well yes, but the only reason I know my average bowling score is that I was in a bowling league back in college. 20 years ago. Since then I have bowled possibly once a year. Each time my supposed average is 144, but yet I rarely hit those numbers now, because I’m out of practice. So at what point do I have a new bowling reality? There’s no league to track my numbers, but at what point is my average a thing of the past? Here I am, knowing I used to see an average of 150 movies per year, but the last time I saw that many was prior to 2010…before I met Adi. Not that I’m blaming her. (Not that I’m not blaming her either though – ha!)

So let’s look at things through B.A. (Before Adi) and A.A. goggles, because that’s what the new math demands. My highest tally in the A.A. era was in 2012, my first year out of the hell that was nursing school when I threw myself into the job market; that year I saw a grand total of 138 flicks. Any year that gifted the world both Zero Dark Thirty and Abraham Lincoln: (wait for it…) Vampire Hunter is a year we will forever look back on fondly. The very next year in 2013 I stayed quite consistent and saw 135. Really a negligible drop in numbers, and both years were an acceptable deviation from my B.A. 150 average. I wouldn’t exactly say the OCD part of me was thrilled by the slight drop-off, but the A.A. part of me looks at those 2 years with rose colored glasses. And by the way, that beautiful year gave me both 12 Years a Slave and Machete Kills, two movies that I’m confident already share the same shelf at the Smithsonian. But then it happened. 2014 came and I saw a putrid 103 movies. My world shattered. I screamed and tried to spin the globe backwards Christopher Reeve style, but alas my abilities to turn back time were not what the movie promised. I cannot conclusively say what caused this massive drop-off. We were in our first year of marriage where the only thing newlyweds could do when alone is….see movies obviously. No long trips yet, wedding planning had come and gone the previous year, the honeymoon was to wait until the next year; I truly have no answers for this massive deviation, other than that my now-wife started to learn to say no to me. Plus I forgot to include a mandatory minimum number of movies in our prenup, so feel free to draw your own conclusions. A few years in a row sent me into a spiral of deep depression, when I dipped under 100 movies; I knew something had to change, because my prioritizing of my work and family was clearly spiraling my movie-obsessed life down the wrong path.

So that’s what I did. My priorities changed. 3 meals a day? Who needs balanced meals when you can eat chocolate bars and soda in the theater! Spending time with my wife? Sure, as long as it’s a movie she’s interested in, otherwise see ya when I get home! Friends want to catch up with me? Great, I’ll meet at The Conjuring 3, and we can talk between previews! Last year when I wrote my 2018 tally, I had regained some of my mojo, back over 100, with 106 as my total. I vowed to only go up from here, which leads me to:

My final tally for 2019 movies seen in a theater – 110

THE BREAKDOWN

Who I saw the most with:

  1. Adi – 82 movies (previous year 83). Not a typo, she saw exactly one less than the prior year! Know the cliche of the suspicious men and women who hack into the computers and phones of their significant others to find secrets and lies? My wife recently did that to me, except in my case she opened my laptop to sneak a peek at my spreadsheet where I do my count, and this was our exchange at 9pm, when she was looking at my computer for something else:
    Adi – Oh, hey, we saw a lot of movies.
    Me – (Assuming she was looking at my spreadsheet) No cheating!
    Adi – Cheating?
    Adi – Did you write it down?
    Adi – Where!!!
    Adi – I’m gonna snoop.
    Me – No, go away!
    Adi – I saw more this year than last! And you went up too!!
    Adi – I’m the best wife in the world.
    Me – No you aren’t.
    Me – You are a wife who cheats.
    Me – Horribly.
    Me – By looking ahead.
    Adi – Actually, I didn’t see The Peanut Butter Falcon, so remove that from my tally, so my number is exactly the same as last year, 83 movies. (And that was true until I realized she didn’t see Ad Astra with me either, so she really went down to 82. Maybe cheaters never prosper after all?!)Now that you’ve been given a glimpse into our intimate dynamic, let me say in all seriousness, Adi is the best wife. I don’t think there are many out there who would put up with a spouse seeing over a hundred movies a year, baby or no baby at home, and even less would join for just under 75% of those movies (yes I just did the math); but here we are, a husband who lives and breathes movies, and a wife who actually wants to see three quarters of them too. I do realize I’m lucky. The highlights of the year…We saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and if you have never read my take on how screwed Star Wars movies are no matter who/what/how they make the new ones, then here it is for you again. Yes I truly enjoyed the experience of finishing off the trilogy/aka the 3rd movie in the 3rd trilogy; aaaaand yes I have a laundry list of critiques, some of which doomed the movie before filming even began. Life just isn’t fair sometimes, and the one major character they decided to keep alive for this finale was the one actor who died before the movie could start filming, Carrie Fisher. How do you solve a problem like Leia? They understandably vetoed recasting her, said no to using CG to fake her scenes, and did not want to have her iconic character simply die off-screen between films; so they came up with an undeniably honorable solution, to gather unused footage of her and work it into the movie. Nothing faked, all things she filmed but had previously remained on the cutting room floor. Therefore the biggest problem with the new film was one inherent to their honorable solution; they had to fabricate entire scenes to work around a piece of dialogue here and there, instead of writing and filming something to move the story forward. A deleted moment where Leia hugged this character? Create a scene to explain that embrace. Leia was filmed telling another character “good luck”? Work that in somewhere. This type of thing works fine for a cute YouTube montage, but does not serve a story well that needs momentum for its narrative. The character Rose Tico was forced to stay behind with Leia so that she would have someone to “act” with, but since there was not much footage to manipulate with Carrie Fisher, Rose de-evolved into a mostly useless character. Again, an honorable decision that derailed the narrative. But in spite of that, here was a Star Wars that moved me at times, excited me at other times, and gave me a semblance of closure that was important…until the superior Mandalorian came along later, that is.

    Terminator: Dark Fate was certainly the best one since the original two, and the fact that James Cameron was finally involved again showed. Sadly the inferior sequels that came in-between eroded any chance that audiences would show up en masse again, and any chance of this series being revived will depend on whether Cameron himself wants to direct one.

    Parasite was incredible. If anything had to come along and snatch victory away from my favorite movie of the year, I’m glad it was this one. Inventive, funny, vicious, and constantly surprising, this movie is hard to describe without spoiling things, and also mesmerizing to watch. It is about time that a foreign film was considered the “Best Picture” of the year. Though if weird and dark are two adjectives you dislike in a film, or if subtitles are something you cannot ever get past, I suppose I cannot recommend it to you.

    Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was hands-down one of my favorite movies of the year. Last year I sang the praises of 2018’s beautiful Mister Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? This year the warmhearted treat continued, as Tom Hanks was Fred Rogers. I don’t mean he played him well, I mean he was him. He lived him, breathed him, as if you were watching him live again. In the final scene they showed Tom Hanks in the show and then showed Fred Rogers doing it, and honest to God I couldn’t tell that it had switched back. I loved every minute of it, and had predicted that I would for purely nostalgic reasons, but in truth the film-making itself was fantastic, and took all of us through one of his journeys of imagination, where even our world was in his Land of Make Believe. I didn’t want the experience of watching it to end.

    Other movies we saw that I do not have the time to separately describe, but each deserve high praise nonetheless, include Joker, The Farewell, The Favourite, Dark Waters, Ford V Ferrari, Bombshell, They Shall Not Grow Old, Doctor Sleep, and Midsommar. And yes the last two of the list are horror movies, always a snubbed genre when it comes to award season unfortunately. And I’ll point out that Midsommar was Adi’s personal favorite movie of 2019.

    But my favorite movie seen in 2019 was one that I had hoped to win it all at the Oscars, but had to settle for Best Supporting Actor with Brad Pitt – that’s right, I absolutely loved Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Let me be clear, my love for Quentin Tarantino movies has a very narrow range. It has gone from my least favorite ones that I still thoroughly enjoyed, including The Hateful Eight and Jackie Brown, to the classics I could, and have watched over and over again, including Reservoir Dogs and Pulp FictionNot a dud in the bunch, though I’m choosing to ignore Four Rooms which was a failed experiment he was only 25% responsible for. This newest one immediately shot into my upper echelon of his films, because of how riveted I was from the first minute to the last scene. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio couldn’t have been cast better, and I enjoyed watching a brief period in their fictitious lives, all while the inevitable true-life Manson murder of Sharon Tate was looming large next door. What a wonderful movie that transported me into all of their lives with Tarantino’s perfect screenplay that rambles along in their lives, takes us into the world of Rick Dalton’s Bounty Law that could have easily been a real show; captivated me with a wonderful performance of 10 year old breakout star Julia Butters more than holding her own against Leo’s Rick Dalton; and tantalizingly scares us with the looming sexy threat of Margaret Qualley’s hitchhiking hippie. I enjoyed every minute of the meandering ride, and once it was over, I was bowled over by how incredibly it all came together. Some found it pointlessly long, I found it to be hands down my favorite of all 110 movies this past year.

     

  2. Avish – 10 movies (previous year 2). What a great comeback story! The previous year she had been 3rd place with 8, and then she had a blip of just 2, but came in strong this past year right behind Adi at 10 movies. Everyone likes a good comeback story. And Avish deserves extra props for coming in 2nd place, because she is our #1 backup babysitter when the grandparents aren’t available, which means yes, some movies she would otherwise see with us; she takes one for the team and watches Natalia while we go out to play. So thank you “Auntie” Avish, you’re Adi’s oldest friend in the world, and when you’re not saving every feral cat in LA County, you’re saving our social lives – we love you!And now to highlight a few. Best movie we saw together was JoJo Rabbit. I know this movie angered some by daring to make a “Hitler comedy”, but I have yet to find anything by Taika Waititi that I haven’t truly enjoyed. He made arguably the best Marvel movie yet by adding his brand of humor to Thor: Ragnarok, and he was responsible for the best and wittiest episode of the wonderful Star Wars series The Mandalorian, when he directed the finale. JoJo Rabbit certainly had plenty of great laughs showing the perspective of a naive and angry child in the Hitler Youth, but also contained some scenes that felt like a shocking sensation of ice water to the face. We also had the amusing (dis?)pleasure of seeing a double feature of Last Christmas and Black Christmas. The latter was simply a weak horror movie remake whose best feature was showing us that Cary Elwes has barely aged at all, but the former was a somewhat adorable and extremely weird romantic comedy that was written by (and featuring) Emma Thompson, who gave herself some lines that made me laugh loudly (a feat not easily done).
  3. Arnon – 9 movies (previous year 1). This comeback impresses me even further, because it happened in a year where his (busy doctor) wife Talia was pregnant, he was watching the kids while writing and directing, and he still found the time to see nine with me. Plus the one movie we saw together in 2018 was Proud Mary, a movie I was the most bored in of any movie in 2018, so the bar is pretty low…. Watching a movie with Arnon is an experience. As a highly introspective filmmaker, whether the film is a mindless action flick or an art piece, he finds a way to elevate the conversation. I want to know what my movie partners think of each one we see together, but there’s something very special about watching Arnon process what he thinks as we drive back together after it ends – even when I strongly disagree. And if you haven’t seen his award-winning short The Pirate Captain Toledano you can see it on Amazon Prime and I’ll supply a preview right here. Also, Arnon’s mustache is worth the friendship in and of itself.What stands out most from the ones we watched together in 2019? Netflix! No, I am not suddenly adding television to the blog, but we paid to see two Netflix movies in the theater together, and yes we each have Netflix subscriptions. Is that insanity? We really don’t think so. Here’s my take: A big dumb Netflix movie like Bright is obviously theatrical. It’s expensive, full of special effects, action, and is a movie that most people can agree benefits from the large screen. But what about the small indie flicks? Early in the year we caught Roma, and I loved it. If I had seen it at home I predict I would have been impressed, but also somewhat bored, and I’m confident I would have gotten less out of the experience. Seeing a wonderful, slow character piece in a forum where you can’t look at your phone (unless you’re a horrible moviegoer), you can’t pause it to pee (unless you’re the projectionist), you can’t multitask and fold laundry or open your mail while it’s playing – it’s just you and the characters on the screen. You get lost in that world. Roma was a movie that was incredibly personal to Alfonso Cuarón, and you felt it. Watching the protagonist maid clean the dog shit off the driveway is somehow still an image I remember a year later, and the feelings of dread watching the children swim in the strong ocean currents still sit with me. If I had seen it at home I truly don’t think I would have thought about it the next day. So if you continue to give me the option of seeing the same movie right now at home or in the theater, I’ll continue to choose the full experience. While Roma was nominated for the previous year’s Oscars, late in 2019 we went to see The Irishman which was nominated this year. It felt too long. It felt quite epic. I was both impressed and frustrated while watching it, and wished it had been an hour shorter. But I must admit that I gained a fuller appreciation of the 3.5 hour saga after reading a great piece shared with me by my friend and movie critic Zach Ralston, which I will pass along here, in addition to his own glowing review here.
  4. Shlomo – 7 movies (previous year 0). Oh Shlomo. He manages to perpetually be one of my favorite and least favorite people to watch a movie with. It doesn’t matter if it’s an Oscar flick or a dumb one, he’ll tell you it sucks. Not just at the end. Before you see it with him.Shlomo – Hey Boaz, I’ll see the Maleficent sequel with you.
    Boaz – Really? You like nothing but you want to see that mediocre Disney movie?
    Shlomo – The first one was okay, better than the crap I expected.
    Boaz – Okay great, let’s go see it.
    (We drive to the theater together)
    Shlomo – This is gonna suck.
    Boaz – You said you wanted to see it!
    Shlomo – It’s gonna suck. Everything I see with you sucks.
    (Previews start)
    Shlomo – That movie looks terrible. (He then tells me that for every preview that comes on)
    (Movie starts, 3 times during the movie)
    Shlomo – This sucks
    (Movie ends)
    Shlomo – Why did you make me see that? It sucked.In addition to the Maleficent sequel, he also had that same chat with me this year for…Hobbs & Shaw (incredibly dumb fun Fast & Furious spinoff), the Jumanji sequel (he had never seen the first one!), Good Boys (truly funny by the way, I saw it twice so I could show it to Adi), Spies in Disguise (adequate disposable kid cartoon), Avengers: Endgame (I think this was absolutely epic in spite of dozens of flaws), Stuber (very little to say about this dumb diverting one), and Aladdin. By the way, I saw Aladdin for my birthday, and he was one of only three to dislike it. Think three is a decent sample size? It’s out of this many who otherwise told me they enjoyed it.Inked61711087_10162005405765464_5031579549045882880_o_LI
    I’ll miss my camera-phobic friend Shlomo, and his wife Sarah, as they are near and dear friends who are no longer near, as they moved to Massachusetts; and I admit that the masochistic side of me will miss hearing him blame me for the apparent suckage of each and every movie we see.
  5. Annie – 7 movies (previous year 2). One of my closest friends to ever come out of a job. Annie left my Med/Surg unit a year or so ago, and I still manage to see her a few times a month. When we’re not commiserating about the stress and hell that our jobs can be, we are both in love with cinema. Watching movies with her involves a lot of laughter, regardless of the genre. She is likely moving away later this year (temporarily???) and I’ll miss the hell out of her.Although she’s not nearly the fan of comic book movies that I am, we saw both Captain Marvel and Shazam! There was nothing particularly special about Captain Marvel but as with all MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) flicks it was good, fun entertainment. Lots of fun watching Samuel L Jackson younger (more convincingly de-aged than DeNiro in The Irishman and Will Smith in Gemini Man), and more than just a cameo as Nick Fury. And he’s always great in a buddy cop-type role. (You probably didn’t see the hilariously stupid/violent The Hitman’s Bodyguard with him teaming up with Ryan Reynolds, but let’s just say I’m extremely excited for the sequel later this year.) One critique is that they not only made her awesomely full of power, her character is actually too powerful. The only way Avengers: Endgame was able to justify her not defeating Thanos early on was by making her disappear until the last 10 minutes of the movie. A bit of a miscalculation in writing her character if you ask me. Shazam! on the other hand is just the perfect superhero comedy. I’m a 40 year old man and I thought it was delightful and funny with a witty script. If I was a kid it would have felt like an instant classic. As a side note, between this movie and the previous season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I enjoyed my year of watching Zachary Levi performances.
  6. Harwin – 7 movies (previous year 3). Ah David Harwin, a guy so easy-going, so down to…whatever you offer that day, and so quiet! Seeing a movie with Harwin like most things with him are about looking at his expressions and seeing what a great time he’s having either because of the movie or at its expense. One of Adi’s oldest friends, he not only travels with us annually but takes hella great photos along the way.This year among other things, we saw Cold Pursuit, which had the misfortune of Liam Neeson making one of the world’s strangest life choices during his PR stint. Okay Liam, you’ve just made a relatively entertaining Coen Brothers type revenge thriller comedy, go enjoy the usual talk show trail – oh that’s where you decide to casually drop a bomb and tell the world about what you once did and potentially destroy your career in the process (or at least any chance this movie had of being watched that month). Never heard it? Have a listen here. What’s fascinating is that if you actually listen to it (rather than just read the negative press) you might see that there was an interesting point in the awful life choice he made there. He was clearly trying to say how terrible revenge is, and brought in a personal example of his own terrible decision-making. But the way he went about it showed more than just him trying to kill the guy, it showed a horrible sense of casual racism that went along with it, where he wanted to get any “black bastard” to approach him so he could “kill him”. I mean, really Liam Neeson? That’s your revenge story? Not about the man who attacked your friend but anyone his color? Okay then at least tell the story in a way to sincerely demonstrate how awful it was that you felt that way, generalizing an entire race for the attack on your friend; but nope, instead it was just about how revenge isn’t helpful, nothing about the inherent racism permeating through. Ucch. So Liam Neeson gets to be shifted to the camp of actors I love watching along with Mel Gibson and plenty of others, each of whom I’ve lost the respect of on a personal level, but dammit I’ll still enjoy watching their movies. And speaking of race relations, we also saw Black and Blue together, and it was a surprisingly strong police thriller. Tyrese Gibson playing very much against type, and a really well done B-movie that addresses whether a black cop should sooner bleed black or police blue when put to an extremely unfair test by corrupt others. I’m sure you missed it, so check it out.
  7. Shira – 5 movies (previous year 1). Yet another friend picking up the pace hugely this past year. Something must have changed because in 2018 none of these people seemed to want to go out with me, so either my personality improved or my mom is pulling her old tricks again, and paying them to be my friend. I’ll say this now like I said it back then – THANKS MOM! A warm and wonderful friend in common to both me and Adi coincidentally before we started dating, Shira is truly awesome. She actually wants to see the stupid kid movies that nobody else can tolerate. I don’t have to convince her, and she charges my mother the same price as everyone else.Case in point: we saw a double feature this year, excited for the lineup? A Dog’s Journey and, wait for it, UglyDolls. Yep. And we enjoyed, nay tolerated both just fine thankyouverymuch. Actually UglyDolls was about as good as you’d expect a cartoon based on a toy chain to be, but it did have one catchy villainous earworm that you can get a kick out of too, right here (that’s Nick Jonas btw). 
  8. Patrick – 5 movies (previous year 2). There’s nobody quite like Patrick, and if you don’t yet have your own Patrick, I very much recommend finding one. He used to have a face as smooth as a baby’s bottom, but then years passed by, he must have been inspired by the Dexter finale, and grew out a Hasidic beard. Except he’s Christian, so they just call them Hipster beards apparently. Then after a few years of his friends asking when he would end this weird “beard phase”, he landed a commercial. In prime-time television. This one. That cemented the beard onto his face permanently and most of us since have given up trying. But is the beard actually why everyone should get their own Patrick? Not at all, he’s just truly one of the most delightful, life-adoring, good-natured-at-all-times friend who has a laugh that’s infectious in the best kind of way. He’s that guy. He also took my father to the eye doctor and proved himself to be a friend in need. Just saying.Among the movies we saw together I’m going to name the only one that probably did not garner the special Patrick laugh, 21 Bridges. A serious action thriller, and a really solid old-fashioned one. We know where the cop-killing bad guys are, and our hero is on his own tracking them down! Could easily be a made-for-TV movie, but it was exciting, and a great role for Chadwick Boseman aka Black Panther. On a more ridiculous, yes-he-was-laughing end of the spectrum, we watched Octavia Spencer have the grandest time being a psychopathic horror villain in Ma, and boy oh boy did she enjoy chewing up the scenery. One of those fun movies where the theater was jumping, welping and laughing out loud from start to finish. Really doesn’t hurt to have an Oscar-winner take a break every now and then to just enjoy being ridiculous.
  9. Jared – 5 movies (previous year 3). One of my best friends, and always finishes off a movie with a slow clap. Does he mean it seriously? Sarcastically? Mockingly? All of the above? Could be! A wonderful friend-in-need, Jared has always been there for us, a hiking companion for Adi and Natalia, a poker friend (and teacher honestly) for me. And he and Mike (Burgher) are responsible for getting me hooked on what is likely my favorite show to watch each week, Survivor. When I broke my elbow in 2015, the two of them smelled blood in the water and pounced. By the time I had returned to work I had watched nine seasons, and now most Wednesdays Jared is on the couch watching with me.What we watched together this past year ranged from gorgeously boring to stupidly funny. We saw Ad Astra together, a movie that if I saw on my television I would have found without merit. I’m sorry but I do not do well with slow, art films. I will forever remember Tree of Life as a movie that some consider a classic, and I consider 3 hours of torture. 2001: A Space Odyssey almost falls into that camp, each time I watch it I almost get too bored to continue, but then something about it mesmerizes me to the point of recognizing its dark beauty. Ad Astra falls somewhere between those two worlds for me. Too slow moving, not enough dialogue, and far too much narration. In fact I still remember the wise words of my best friend Seth Isenberg from years ago, “Almost every movie with narration would have been better without it.” I have found various examples to poke holes in his theory over the years, usually due to either witty narration (A Christmas Story, The Big Lebowski) or deliberately  misleading narration that helps manipulate what you think is happening in the story (Fight Club, Memento). Ad Astra would have been a better movie without the tedious voice-over. It was gorgeous, worth seeing on an IMAX, but now that you can only watch it via streaming I don’t know how many of you would enjoy the pretty, but mostly internalized experience of the film. On the other side of the spectrum, we enjoyed the stupidity that was the one-note movie Jexi, a panned, predictable comedy variation of Her, just dumb and enjoyable enough for us to enjoy our 90 minutes. For a far superior Rated R comedy though, we watched Booksmart, an actually really good “just before college” comedy. Olivia Wilde did a surprisingly good job with her directorial debut, and the main two actors were just winners. Both of them. They weren’t just women being told they could talk Superbad style, they were complex women, graduating high school, with a bond that you could feel, and you really rooted for them, their high-jinx, and most of all their friendship. The fact that one of them (Beanie Feldstein) happens to be Jonah Hill’s sister certainly is a funny coincidence though.
  10. Cori – 5 movies (previous year 0). Cori only lived here for a handful of months last year, but still managed to see 5 with me. If this tally was proportional, he would have displaced everyone but Adi on this list! Cori rounds out the LACES quartet that make up Adi, Avish, Harwin and Cori. These 4 have been friends since middle school at, you guessed it, LACES, and every single group trip I’ve planned since 2016 has been with them. Just a wonderful bunch of really old friends, and they seem to either like me or enjoy my vacation planning; either way we’re all tight now. Cori is super smart, super geeky, super informed, and super opinionated, and it adds up to someone who I adore watching geeky movies to obsess over.What an epic 5 movies this past year that consisted of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, one of the best cartoons, and one of the best comic book movies of all time, beautifully melded into one. Us, which was totally robbed of Oscar love for the frighteningly cool dual performances by Lupita Nyong’o, even if it still wasn’t quite as fantastic as Jordan Peele’s previous scary funny flick Get Out (an unfair but inevitable comparison). For good measure we also had fun geeking out together over Glass, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and Avengers: Endgame. All quite memorable honestly.HONORABLE MENTIONS

    A few last people worth mentioning… Sam was a newlywed, his wife had a baby, they copied our baby’s name (Talia, come on, they thought we wouldn’t notice the silent Na?) and managed to squeeze in 4 with me including Alita: Battle Angel, a movie I thought would be terribly dumb but was actually a well done rendering of a manga comic I was unfamiliar with.

    Mayman (who I wrote about extensively last year), managed to see 3 with me including Gemini Man, a movie that should have been so much better than it was. Really it was too reliant on its weak de-aging technology, which distracted terribly from an otherwise exciting and even thoughtful Ang Lee action movie. Though I must give a special shout-out yet again to my friend Zach Ralston whose review for it absolutely convinced me that there was only one way to view the movie, and I missed the boat on doing so.

    And finally there was my dear friend Mike, my once-upon-a-time #1 movie companion, a guy who is in the same scientific brain studies as Marilu Henner (check out a cool example here), and now he and Naomi will sadly be moving away from me later this year. We managed to see 3 together, including the excellent biopic Richard Jewell, which starred Paul Walter Hauser. Can I take a minute to point out that this actor only recently broke into movies, he’s not exactly what you think of as leading man material, and yet he’s already had three wonderfully memorable roles in 3 different Oscar movies: I, Tonya, BlacKkKlansman and Richard Jewell. And honestly he was robbed of a nomination in this particularly strange role.

    IN MEMORIAM

    Don’t worry, nobody died, but missing movies always feels like I’ve missed my opportunities to score. Sure, some of them are movies I really had no need to see, and it would have felt more like trying to pad my stats, but others were ones where I feel like I let down my team, and will get ’em next time, coach. (Can you tell I’m going through baseball withdrawal?) I wish I had seen these on a big screen, in no particular order:
    Apollo 11, Wonder Park, The Beach Bum, Her Smell, The Intruder, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Tolkien, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Anna, The Art of Self-Defense, Luce, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, The Goldfinch, Rambo: Last Blood, Dolemite is My Name, Countdown, Motherless Brooklyn, The Aeronauts and Clemency.

    SO LONG, FAREWELL, AUF WIEDERSEHEN, GOODBYE

    That rounds up the 2019 movie tally. So I went up from 106 to 110, and this is where I would usually vow that anything less than 110 would mark a failure for this next year. But you and I both know that might be a false oath, because none of us can know just how long it will be before it is next both legal and safe to go to the movies. So until then, use this guide as a way to ease your boredom through the pandemic, about 90% of your time can be spent watching all of these movies you’ve missed, the other 10% will be needed just to get through what I wrote!

    I’ll leave you with an apropos song from my favorite movie of all time – yes I’ve finally announced it, I have a favorite movie – the geniuses of Monty Python finished off their greatest(?) film with this gem you can try to take with you…

My 2018 Movie Tally: My First As A Dad!

26 Jan

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It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to write my tally for my ’18 blog tonight! Sorry, but I had the Muppet Show theme stuck in my head. Let’s start over…

THREE HOSPITALIZATIONS AND A DUPLEX

2018 was insane. Care for an abridged recap? Adi’s pregnancy was terrible. By March she had to go on Disability due to endless vomiting and dehydration along with twenty other symptoms. In May I was about to go on a “guy’s trip” to Vegas when her water broke and the baby started coming 6 weeks early. A long labor resulted in an emergency c-section. If the next month had been funny, it would have been a true Comedy of Errors, because oh-boy-did-Cedars-Sinai-screw-things-up…we were there for 6 days, sent home for 2, brought back in an emergency for 2 more days, sent home for 4, and then brought back with yet another emergency for 19 more days. And if the details of that are new to you, I truly invite you to read about the nitty gritty right here, it’s not boring.

But wait, there’s more! In the midst of the first hospitalization, we found our wonderful new home, and moved into a scary but wonderful arrangement with her parents. No not living together, but a duplex where we are upstairs and they are downstairs, and it has been a mutual blessing for us all so far….(cue dramatic music)! We moved in just in time for the Jewish High Holidays, and life began to semi-normalize.

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Adi’s nasty pregnancy left her with a few nuggets of poop, as she found out that she would likely require three surgeries to undo the damage of carrying our little terrorist in her womb: one for the worsened carpal tunnel in both her left and right hands, and another for her sinuses. Luckily thus-far it appears she may be able to avoid the sinus surgery, but as of writing this post she has completed the two on her hands.

SO I MARRIED A CLONED NOLTE

We named our adorable baby girl Natalia Rose, and she has blown up the internet ever since. It may be due to her cuteness. But it may also be because people started to realize that I, Boaz Hepner, actually married Nick Nolte. Don’t get the connection? Let me connect the dots in an incontrovertible way.

The following is a photo of Adi (above) and Natalia (below). Can you tell them apart other than from the faded picture quality? I don’t think so. Look, the photos were even both time stamped at 3:27pm, I smell an X-File in the making…clearly “my” baby girl is actually Adi’s clone.

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Now that you obviously agree that Adi gave birth to herself, all you need to see is Natalia’s unique head of hair. Now look at it next to Nick Nolte’s own unique mane.

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Case. Closed.

MOVIEPASS IS DEAD, LONG LIVE MOVIEPASS

But wait, throughout the entire roller-coaster year, there was craziness at the cinema! I don’t exactly mean the movies themselves, but the way to get tickets to the movies went bananas. Entering the year there was the greatest thing for movie-lovers that I imagine I will ever experience, MoviePass. It was like a fleeting dream. The longer time passes the more I start to doubt my own memories as real. “Listen up boys and girls, have I got a product for you! For just 10 dollars a month – you heard me, 10 bucks is all it takes – I’ll let you see any movie you want, day in, day out, no questions asked. Just go to 90% of your local theaters, swipe this magic card, and voilà, your ticket is paid for!” And that wasn’t even an exaggeration, that’s how it worked, and it really did work…..until it didn’t. I knew from Day One of this magical app that it was simply not a sustainable business model, and tried to get everyone and their mother to sign up and enjoy the ride while it lasted; because sure enough by the midpoint of last year the wheels were falling off the cart. In August we switched over to AMC’s own too-good-to-be-true program, and so far other than a small price increase, it has been fantastic. I’m paying 20 bucks a month (okay, double MoviePass but still the cost of under 2 movies) and I’m seeing 3 a week at their many nice theaters. But my favorite thing is that unlike MoviePass, I am booking these tickets and seats in advance. For my entire life I have avoided movies and showtimes that are busy because quite simply there’s always older stuff I haven’t caught yet, and why bother competing for bad seats in a busy theater or finding out it’s sold out when I arrive? (EDITOR’S NOTE: For the many years prior to these subscriptions, I was buying discount passes from each theater to save significant money, but in doing so you have to be in person to buy seats.) But this new program changes everything. I now I use my app, find whatever the heck movie I want that’s conveniently timed, and a few days in advance I can already reserve the best seats in the house. And if I change my mind? I cancel the tickets, it costs me nothing, no harm is done, and the seats are released for someone else. In just the past two weeks we have enjoyed Mary Poppins Returns and A Star Is Born in sold out AMC Theaters, and yet we had perfect seats and paid zero (beyond our 20 dollar subscription for the month). Oh, and one of them was in the special Dolby theater that costs over 20 bucks per ticket anyway, so that one alone justified its existence for the month. So unless the wheels fall off this sucker, we’re riding it into the sunset. (And you are welcome to read my analysis of those two plus Sinemia that I wrote up last August here).

Okay, enough with the foreplay, it’s time to talk about the movies I saw last year, let’s rev up those engines and count those numbers!

SHUT UP ALREADY AND SHOW ME THE NUMBERS

In my previous tally I had plummeted to an all-time low. In 2016 for my first time ever, I went under 100 movies, and saw only 86. I vowed to never let it happen again, and make it a blemish, an aberration in the history of Boaz. But then 2017 happened, and I saw one LESS flick, with a measly 85 as my final number. This was becoming a new pattern as I was bringing life into this world (okay fiiiiine, Adi was self-actualizing the life of her clone into this world, but dammit I was being supportive in my new role as pater familias and I needed my daughter to respect me as the insanely movie obsessed man I am). The year came to a close, and as always I had no idea where I stood as I pulled my bag of ticket stubs out of my drawer to do my annual count (yes that’s how I actually do it)! Like the 3rd act of any sports movie, I knew I could not be victorious, the odds were stacked against me; I had even spent an entire month in the hospital seeing nothing but my annual birthday movie. My most frequent movie companion was vomiting for 7 plus months and often unwilling (okay fiiiiine, unable) to go out. Previous “winners” of being my movie companion (some would meanly call them losers, it’s all a matter of perspective I suppose) had moved away to DC (Josh Baron), Nor Cal (David Mittelman) and even frequent commutes to Vegas (Jared Rubin). I was obviously about to find I had gone even lower than ever…

But wait, what’s this? I had somehow beaten the numbers of each of the last few years, and managed to see…106 movies! I can’t tell you how, it makes no sense to me, but just like the unlimited MoviePass plan fever-dream, apparently, there’s proof – it really happened. So enough is enough, let’s break down the numbers, let’s see who I saw the most with, and let’s analyze the highs and the lows!

My final tally for 2018 in theaters – 106

THE BREAKDOWN

Who I saw the most with:

  1. Adi – 83 movies (previous year 58). If there’s any proof that no good deed goes unpunished, this would be it. I got/forced/begged/manipulated my pregnant wife in the first half of the year, and a then-mother of a newborn in the second half, to see 25 more movies this dramatic past year than the prior one! And let me tell you people, I do not ever take her to a movie she doesn’t want to see. Yes I’m the movie obsessed one, but she actually does want to see the vast majority of movies out there, especially if it doesn’t cost anything extra to see it – thus an added benefit to the subscription models of MoviePass (God rest its soul) and AMC Stubs A-List (yaaaay for now…).What were some of the highlights? Hard to pinpoint when there were 83 to choose from. Let’s go with the day we spent watching a ridiculously great triple feature, where the genres zigzagged all over the map. It began with Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a movie that was so damn good, and so beloved by all audiences and critics alike, that it was widely considered a shoo-in for winning the Best Documentary Oscar….so naturally it wasn’t even nominated, because that would be too easy. It brought tears of nostalgia to my eyes as I still have proof of how wonderful Fred Rogers and his show were. I was a little boy and loved to help my mother tend to her LA based English garden. I loved watching Sesame Street and Mister Rogers. So with my mother’s help no doubt, I sent him a letter asking if he would ever make an episode about gardening for me to watch. Soon after, when I was not even 4 years old, I received a personal letter by the iconic man himself making me feel special for each detail I had written. This was signed by him, and as cynical as I am about celebrities these days, yes I am confident the letter was really from him. But that’s not even the best part. 15 months later, I received another letter in the mail, this person identified herself as his secretary, and was letting me know that Fred Rogers remembered my letter, and was creating an episode about gardening, that would air later that year, and they wanted to make sure I knew. Who does something like this anymore??? Who would see a child’s letter to their show that has millions upon millions of viewers, responds to it personally, and then cultivate (in the non-digital age no less, with no way to easily keep track of these things), an environment that then took yet more time to tell that same child about the episode? I was not an 18-39 demographic. I was not a Nielsen viewer. I provided no way for them to make any money. I was a child, they were on PBS, and they cared. I cried happy tears watching that wonderful documentary about that beautiful man.
    EDITOR’S NOTE: Writing this story inspired me to drive to my parent’s house, rummage through my old files, and eventually find these letters which I now present to you below:mr. rogers letter 1983mr. rogers secretary letter 1984
    Tell me that didn’t warm your heart to read, I challenge you. You can even see where I wet the end of his signature just to validate that it was real ink! Naturally, the movie that followed was Hereditary, a scary movie that involves a tour de force performance by Toni Collette that most critics also demanded be recognized by the Oscars – but good luck finding a horror movie that gets the respect it deserves come awards season. Last year Get Out was the first one nominated since Silence of the Lambs in 1991. Then again, Black Panther (damn fun movie) broke the Best Picture comic book barrier that even the superior The Dark Night was robbed of; perhaps a horror movie’s acting is the next barrier to get through. The film was great far beyond Collette’s performance, with some of the most haunting audio and visuals I experienced all of last year. From that we went into Incredibles 2, because what could be better than watching another Pixar masterpiece after being disturbed for 2 hours? My only regret is that I have not seen the original The Incredibles since its initial release, so it wasn’t fresh in my mind. Nonetheless, this made me love it as much as I remember loving the first one, and Pixar along with Marvel Studios (weird comparison) both continue to make movies that range from decent to awesome, with no stinkers in the bunch. (For the sake of that argument I will pretend Cars 2 was never made, because that’s far more convenient for my point.) So yes, that was a phenomenal triple feature!Here’s where things get weird. In all prior years there were a slew of friends seeing four or more movies with us. Two years ago there were 7 of those friends, and last year there were 9. So how is it that in a year when I saw this many more movies, there were only three friends who went with me to see between 4-5 flicks? Another X-File! (And before you ask, yes, I still wear deodorant!)
  2. Glee – 5 movies (previous year 0). That’s right, from left field, a new contender, someone who had literally never seen a movie with me before; my dear friend from the hospital who moved from working nights to joining me at day-shifts, and as we speak is moving back to nights on another unit. Let’s be honest, she only puts up with me to spend time with her true love, baby Natalia, but anyone who comes over and asks to change my child’s diaper is family in my book. My movie highlight with her has to be The Room. Yes, considered the greatest worst movie of all time, I had never seen it, and time was running out to catch the James Franco film The Disaster Artist about the making of it; so I made a plan, and a bunch of us went to see it with the infamously awesome Tommy Wiseau in person, where we got to take this absurd photo with him and his merchandise…
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    So yeah, it was a truly, hilariously surreal experience; we watched it on the big screen, him right there in the room with us, and then a few weeks later I saw The Disaster Artist in the same exact theater, with actual scenes of the movie filmed within the theater we were watching it in. Are you confused yet?! My head was exploding
  3. Haley – 4 movies (previous year 1). Another delightful friend I made at work. Between work and seeing movies with me, I found out that Haley was acting in a play that she hadn’t told a single coworker about. So naturally, I told everyone, and a group of us from work went to watch her and cheer her on! Listen, she’s obviously shy, and didn’t want the attention, so I’ll just share a photo of the entire cast bowing at the end, and you can’t possibly know which one is her.
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    Our year consisted of 4 movies. 3 were excellent, and 1 was unwatchable (and I almost never use that adjective as you know)! The best of the best was Hostiles. If you missed it, and I’m guessing you did, then run to your Netflix account and make it first on your queue. That movie blew me away. It should have at the very least been nominated for all of the major Oscars the previous year. Christian Bale was great as always. Rosamund Pike gave a performance that still to this day haunts me. She cries in a way I have truly never seen in cinema, and I get heartbroken just imagining it. No this is not a movie for the squeamish, it is extremely savage, and raw, and perfect. Den of Thieves was the first good movie Gerard Butler has been in for years, I expected fun B-movie crap and was surprised to get the next damn good version of Training Day. And Thoroughbreds was amazing. I don’t even know how to describe this other than a dark comedy, a genre that usually misses the mark, hit it right on the bullseye with this one. Best is if you know nothing going into it, as I did, but if you must get a taste, you can watch the trailer here. But wait, remember that earlier word? We also saw the one and only movie all year that I would describe as “unwatchable”. Proud Mary was a piece of garbage that had no direction, provided no fun, and it couldn’t end fast enough. And it’s a real shame since I would think you could put Taraji P Henson in front of a camera and film her doing literally anything, and make an entertaining movie, but this proved that theory wrong. Story, direction and screenplay does apparently matter too. (Luckily for her fans, Tyler Perry’s Acrimony came out a few months later, and was a wonderful and entertaining use of her talents.)
  4. Mayman – 4 movies (previous year 0). It’s actually nuts that I saw absolutely no movies with David (yes he occasionally has a first name) in 2017, because unlike Glee and Haley, David is not a new friend. In fact, not only has he been one of my closest for ages, not only was he a groomsman at my wedding, but he is responsible for my going into nursing in the first place! True story: back in 2008 this guy invited me to meet for a slice of pizza at our usual place, Nagila, and he had a legal pad full of notes in front of him as I arrived. It turned out to be an ambush, and he had spent hours of his time researching not only why I would make a great nurse, but how much it would cost, which schools do it the fastest, how many prerequisites I would need, and many other things that he anticipated (correctly) I would argue and question. An hour later, my very stubborn mind had been opened to a new career from its previous L.A. aimlessness, and I embarked on a new life-path. Between his 2 kids and busy job lawyering, I was thrilled to see that we had actually seen 4 movies together this year, and I’m honored to have him round out my 2018 list.The real story of the movies I saw with David is that 2 of them I had ALREADY SEEN. I rarely take the time to see a movie a second time, but hey that’s yet another advantage of a subscription service where cost is no longer a factor. And wait, by many counts I really saw 108 movies this year, but I have to be consistent, and when I see a movie two or even three times, I only count it once since my goal is to count how many different movies I see in the theater each year. An important caveat. So what were those two movies worth seeing twice? Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Avengers: Infinity War. What? Were you expecting Shakespeare? This is my movie blog, and I ain’t no movie snob. Show me a 200 plus million dollar spectacle that entertains the hell out of me, and I’m in cinema heaven. Sure they were full of flaws, but I enjoyed the hell out of them both. Many hate on the middle chapter of the current Star Wars trilogy, but I for one appreciated all of the risks it took; in fact it needed to take some left turns after the first one was loads of fun, but light on the originality. Although I will admit, I have no idea why this hilariously creepy scene needed to be included, other than providing a #MeToo story for a Henson-type Milk Creature. (For my review of the first two Star Wars movies, read my previous entry here.)
    And then there’s Marvel’s latest flawed masterpiece, Avengers: Infinity War. All of their movies have been varying degrees of awesomeness. Doesn’t have to mean Oscar-worthy awesome, it can simply mean Jeff Spicoli-type awesome, I’m good with that. If you grew up reading comic books, you grew up with a universe that was intertwined and crossed over from one character’s book to another. And only now do we finally have a universe like that in film, where the crossover format of the page has leapt to the big screen, and the results have been…awesome. That being said, I am still more than happy to laugh at flaws and plot holes as well as the next guy, and if you were a fan of this movie and have not yet watched this “How it Should Have Ended” clip, enjoy, and you’re welcome. But the best movie we saw together was actually neither of those double-viewed blockbusters, it was Mission Impossible: Fallout. How. Does. This. Series. Keep. Getting. Better? Seriously. The first 3 of the franchise were varying wobbly degrees of high energy, ridiculous ordinary action blockbuster, with the added bit of adrenaline injection that is Tom Cruise and his real life God-Complex-Death-Wish. You can’t help but enjoy this series a bit extra knowing he does the vast majority of his own death-defying stunts. But still, as I said, those first 3 were fine. But then the most recent two were absolutely magnificent. Every minute of them was exciting. The direction was crisp, the story moved, and the stunts were better than ever. These were as good as the best of the James Bond movies, and Christopher McQuarrie shot to the top of my list of favorite action writer/director options in Hollywood. In fact if you look at the previous movie he just wrote, it was the unbelievably entertaining, funny, and intelligent (also Tom Cruise) movie Edge of Tomorrow. So yeah, this guy is the real deal.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Honorable mention goes to a few friends who saw 3 movies with me: Harwin, who was number one (after Adi of course) each of the last two years, and sadly plummeted dramatically for no reason I can come up with…we happened to bump into him while he was biking in Marina del Rey, he got off his bike, showered (happens to live there), and ran in to watch The Greatest Showman with us – a movie that whitewashes the history of the circus, but does so with such amazing flair, music and Hugh Jackman, that it makes me excited for the upcoming whitewashed Broadway musical adaptation; Jared, who plays poker for a living, and once upon a time was chip leader in my movie tally…we loved getting to watch Molly’s Game with him, a rare great movie about the world of poker. Jessica Chastain and the Sorkin writing are what really make damn good; Mike, who used to also lead the pack in my tally, watched Bohemian Rhapsody with us, and has not stopped singing Queen to his kids ever since. Rami Malek’s performance is mesmerizing, Marc Martel who does the behind-the-scenes vocals imitating Freddy Mercury is magically pitch perfect (watch him here and see for yourself), and all of the concert scenes make it a really fun night at the movies…they also help cover up the fact that the film’s dialogue, acting and direction otherwise are quite ordinary and paint-by-numbers; Nathan, who took a few hours away from producing awe-inspiring videos for League of Legends, and saw the entertainingly ridiculous Liam Neeson on a train movie The Commuter, but balanced it out well by also seeing the spectacularly good Churchill movie Darkest Hour, which resulted in Gary Oldman winning a well-deserved Acaedemy Award last year; Sabrina, who seems to spend all of her time trying to help her clients in Adelanto Detention Center, but did manage to see the highly satisfying Spielberg movie The Post with me, and balanced it out beautifully when we left our spouses at home and went to see the finale to the Fifty Shades trilogy. Remember when I said much earlier that Proud Mary was an extremely rare movie where I would use the word “unwatchable”? Well I meant it. Fifty Shades Freed was ridiculous, pointless, but still fun. And a decent improvement on the 2nd one which was actually, nearly unwatchable; Oh, and last but not least Avish. She only saw 2 with me, but that’s not her fault. The only reason Harwin & Sabrina even made the cut of 3 was for my annual birthday bash in Westwood. Avish was planning to join that, her night was set aside, but we were in a bind. Remember when I mentioned the only movie we saw during the month of hospitalizations was my annual birthday movie? We needed someone to stay with Natalia while she had a feeding tube down her throat, and zero trust in a hospital that had already let us down not once but twice. So she offered to stay so that we could make a rare exit from the hospital grounds and see people on the outside for a night. Boy oh boy did we need it! We saw Deadpool 2, a hilarious Marvel franchise that I pray will remain R-Rated when Disney takes over, as it makes no sense in a sanitized universe. So Avish gets deserved honorable mention for her 2 movies plus sacrificing her 3rd so that we could go. This was the end result:

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AND BAD REGRETS, I’VE HAD A FEW

Seeing 106 different movies does NOT, however, mean I didn’t miss out on any. I looked back and counted 40, yes 40 that I had wanted to watch but missed. They ranged from incredibly crappy movies like Mortal Engines, The Spy Who Dumped Me and The Happytime Murders, to excellently reviewed films such as Lean On Pete, The RiderBlindspottingFirst Man and BlacKkKlansman. There were even a handful of movies where I had watched the previous ones within the franchise, making the OCD part of me not pleased at all; these include Maze Runner: Death Cure, Goosebumps 2, Super Troopers 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, The NunJohnny English Strikes Again, and yes even Sherlock Gnomes. And although I had reached my 1 documentary per year quota (has never been my thing, what can I say), I highly regret missing Three Identical Strangers and Free Solo.

UNTIL NEXT YEAR…

That rounds up my 2018 movie tally. I hope it inspires you to watch a few you have missed. I hope you know me a bit better than you did before reading this. And if I had one wish for 2019, it might be for World Peace; or it might be to make it more affordable to live in L.A. with my family; it likely should be to bring together our horribly divided nation; but instead I’ll use my one wish to see at least 107 movies next year, because we all want the 2019 blog to start on a happy note. (And if you have never seen the absolutely classic Steve Martin One Wish sketch I was mildly channeling, enjoy this nugget of brilliance here).

 

 

The 2016 AND 2017 Boaz Movie Tally

8 Jan

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Has the image been burnt into your mind yet? Do you already regret reading this? Well, you’re already here, you may as well read on…

I missed blogging last year’s movie tally! (I know, unforgivable.) These things don’t write themselves you know, and before long I had failed at writing the one thing that I had never missed since creating this blog – my year in review.

So to help make up for it, I will post about both years now, 2 for the low price of 1, what a deal!

2016 Movie Tally

2016 was the year that me and Adi started to travel with friends. We went for a week to China with Harwin, Avish and Cori, two of whom you will read more about further down this blog. There are all sorts of things I could tell you about China, but one big takeaway is that Beijing is ancient, and still full of Buddhists and citizens who are scared to speak ill of the government. Shanghai on the other hand felt like visiting Tokyo, was lit up like Vegas, and full of citizens who had zero issue with speaking openly against their government. In summation, 2 major cities in the same country, and they couldn’t have been more different. Oh, and this was us. (Side note: see that mask dangling from Harwin’s hand? Yup, Beijing had air pollution so bad that you could taste and feel it.  Checking the air quality index on a daily basis was depressing.)

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What about the movies from that year? Okay here goes.

My final tally for 2016 in theaters – 86

Sounds like a lot? No! This is the first time in all of my years tracking that I went UNDER 100 movies for the calendar year! My previous low was 103 in 2014. I bounced back a bit with 121 in 2015, and sadly had this precipitous drop in 2016. I vowed to improve and at least get back over 100 in 2017, but to know if I succeeded you’ll have to keep reading, my intrepid readers.

Here is the breakdown of some of the highs and lows of the year, categorized by who I saw the most movies with:

  1. Adi – 73 movies (previous year 86). No surprise there, my wife continues to be my #1 each year (awwww) and honestly wants to see MOST movies that come out. So as any friend who has asked me to see a movie can tell you, my main limitation is not time or energy or cost, it’s “If Adi can’t join then it’ll have to be one of the few likely crappy movies playing that she doesn’t care about seeing.” We see so many together, so what were some of the highlights? Let’s run through them quickly. Hacksaw Ridge gets the prize of being an amazingly made war movie, by a continuously awful human being (Mel Gibson). Storks gets the prize of us enjoying  an animated flick, thinking that the funniest character was the surfer-dude pigeon, and then months later meeting Abe Zilkha’s cousin Stephen Kramer Glickman, who was introduced to us as “the voice of the pigeon in Storks“…an awesome and hilarious guy who hosts a hysterical show at the Hollywood Improv each month that I’ve now enjoyed twice. Kubo and the Two Strings was an incredibly imaginative and fun animated film. The Hateful Eight continued the string of Tarantino movies that makes me mad that he keeps threatening to retire, and Room was just one of the best movies I’ve seen in years, ironic considering people confuse it with The Room, arguably the worst movie of all time, so naturally I found a clip where someone compares the two here.
  2. Harwin – 6 movies (previous year 3). From China to the movie theater, we doubled our previous year’s tally, with mixed results. My favorite of the bunch was probably the creative Don’t Breathe. Put a bunch of punk teens into the house of a blind man they’re trying to rob, make him a psycho killer who uses the darkness to his advantage, and you’ve got a pretty fun flick. We also saw The Accountant (with long-ago movie-watching champ Mike Burgher), an underrated suspenseful drama that made everyone exclaim, “wow, that was actually surprisingly good” and spitting in the face of most critics.
  3. (TIE 3rd/4th) Jared – 5 movies (previous year 11). Wow, all 5 were sequels, that’s hilarious. Going from 11 to 5 though, not cool! None of the sequels were great, I would say the best was probably Star Trek Beyond which was fun but unmemorable. The worst was easily the Independence Day sequel. What a waste, after all these years, if they can churn out Fast & The Furious movies every 2 years and make them all damn fun, they couldn’t at least make a great B movie out of this? Blah.
  4. (TIE 3rd/4th) Mittelman – 5 movies (previous year 4). The highlight was easily Deadpool. I mean, come on, that movie was hysterical. There was an entire sex montage built around each holiday. It takes a lot to make me laugh hard, but that movie did the trick. Oh, and have you seen the teaser for the sequel this year? It’s an homage to Bob Ross who anyone under 30 probably doesn’t even remember! Check it out here.
  5. (TIE 5th-8th) Yossi – 4 movies (previous year 0). Exponentially the biggest uptick in movie-going, we went from never seeing a movie together to seeing 4! A very tough call what my favorite movie was with him, as there were two AWESOME ones. Don’t laugh, but one of them was…Trolls! Yup, not just in the Boaz ratings system, but it was a hilarious movie, totally zany, great music, inventive visuals, and a group of us adults were sitting in the theater cracking up and wondering if we had just all just dropped the same acid. Netflix even just released a short Holiday special of it, and me and Adi JUMPED to watch it. Trust me, drink a little alcohol and watch the trippy experience of this musical movie, you’ll crack up. The other film I loved? The Jungle Book, WOW was that amazing. What CAN’T Jon Favreau do? The guy was a fun actor in Swingers, and then cut to years later he kick-starts the now-iconic Iron Man franchise, he makes the adorable small movie Chef (highly recommended) and then Disney asks him to make a live action version of their cartoon about animals. 9 out of 10 directors would have made a movie about as good as Alvin & The Chipmunks but he found it in him to make a visually stunning live action musical movie that was thrilling. The kid gave an incredible acting performance against CGI creatures, and the movie set a high benchmark for Disney remaking its cartoons that will be hard to match.
  6. (TIE 5th-8th) Kara – 4 movies (previous year 4). This should be easy. Yes we also saw the aforementioned Trolls together, but dude, we saw Sausage Party. Have you SEEN that filthy cartoon yet? If you have anything even CLOSE to my dirty sense of humor, and haven’t seen it yet, run, don’t walk. And just you wait for the, let’s just say climax. Ooh boy. It may be a cartoon, but don’t let your kids get within 100 yards of this one (unless you want them to turn out like me).
  7. (TIE 5th-8th) Avish – 4 movies (previous year 4). There she is, also pictured way above traveling together in China. I did enjoy Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, though not surprisingly Adi says the book was better. But my favorite isn’t even in question: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I started to write an entire answer about how much I loved that movie, and it evolved into a much bigger piece, so I published that separately right here.
  8. (TIE 5th-8th) Sara – 4 movies (previous year 1). I’m gonna mention two diametrically opposed movies we saw together, each of which I highly recommend. The first was Love & Friendship…what made this so surprising is that it is as lovely as any of the classic Jane Austen adaptations, but it’s based on a short collection of notebooks where she threw this story together when she was just 15 years old! As a movie it comes together delightfully. What’s the other movie I recommend? 10 Cloverfield Lane, couldn’t be much more different from Austen, and I loved it. It’s one of those movies that benefits from knowing less before seeing it, but I will say that it has a tour de force performance by the always solid John Goodman, and the direction created a really great, taut atmosphere. And you have NO IDEA where things will go, always a pleasure when I’m sitting in a movie theater.

Honorable mention goes to the following friends who saw 3 movies with me: Patrick, who has the greatest, loudest movie-laugh other than Craig’s horse-laugh; Aaron who only went to a movie with me one day, but we saw 3 that day – LOVE THAT; Arnon who  after being inspired by the ones we saw together no doubt, made an incredible award winning short you can see advertised here; Abe & Farnaz, who I saw movies with that varied from the epic Captain American: Civil War (essentially another great Avengers flick), to the HYSTERICALLY inappropriate The Brothers Grimsby, which will never let you see elephants the same way again; Shira saw Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping with me, and it made me laugh enough to cry, and had the added benefit of being on my actual birthday; And speaking of my actual birthday, I saw 5 or 6 that day, and the final one was the only one Adi refused to sit through, so instead Avy joined me for, wait for it, Angry Birds: The Movie, and yes it was as terrible as you likely imagine.

Additional very honorable mention goes to the masterpiece Hell or High Water. I saw that with my family, none of whom made my list, but I have to mention how awesome this movie was. The performances by both sides of the law (including Jeff Bridges in his best role since Lebowski), the witty dialogue, the fact that I can STILL remember the side characters who have 2 lines, it was an instant-classic, and you must watch it.

 

2017 Movie Tally

2017 was epic. First of all the traveling continued. In February we went just the 2 of us to Ireland, and it was exactly as you’d hope: beautiful, green, chilly, and full of friendly people who were not necessarily drunk all the time. Oh, and see the photo below? Know what movie it OBVIOUSLY brings to mind since it was actually, famously filmed here? The Princess Bride, DUH, those are the Cliffs of Insanity. Oh, did I figure that out while I was STANDING RIGHT THERE? No…I’ll never live that one down…

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The very next month we went on another trip, this time to Thailand, with a group of 11 of us. Before we could go, Adi wanted to take every freaking insane precaution for Zika Virus that she could, because we were planning to start “trying” (polite vernacular for unprotected baby-making sex) after the trip. So what did this mean? A trip to the OB who told us to wear strong bug spray and get Zika tested upon return. How did Adi translate that relatively simple instruction? By spending hundreds of dollars on Permethrin pre-treated long-sleeved shirts and pants to wear in the hundred degree weather, oh, and this, she made me bring this…

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Yup, that mosquito net on my face, but thankfully we literally never saw mosquitoes once we arrived so it ended up only being worn during Purim as a costume as pictured above with the very welcoming Chabad Rabbi who took us in for the holiday.

So the trip was incredibly fun, the locals insanely warm and friendly, and the country just the best. Honestly can’t recommend visiting Thailand enough. Here is a shot of the 11 of us plus a lovely family we befriended during the tour. We’re standing at The Golden Triangle where you can literally see 3 countries on this one body of water: Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

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So yada yada yada, we return home and Adi has Zika Virus. WTF?! Seriously, we returned, we had not even seen more than 1 or 2 stray mosquitoes during the trip, we’d been wearing these damn long-sleeved shirts and pants, spraying w/ chemicals that create 3-eyed glowing fish, never noticed a single bite, and….she tested positive for Zika? Her doctor’s office started to whisper and point when they saw her, she was like Patient Zero at the start of the long-awaited Outbreak sequel. I had tested negative so I was going to have to revert to the Clinton-era days of the Public School System and either practice abstinence or use protection. This was a thing….for about a week, until they realized it was a false positive and she had absolutely no Zika and laughed it all off.

Cut to October 14th, we get the exciting news that she’s pregnant, and rather than go into that story, let me just link you to to the now-viral (PHRASING!) story here, and let you enjoy the greatest gift Adi has ever gotten me; no I’m not cheesily writing about the fetus, I’m referring to her getting John Lithgow to record this video on October 15th for me:

So now my photo to start off this blog makes perfect sense, right? Because, you know, we’re expecting a baby. No? Still makes no sense to subject you to an image of my stomach, and cradling a panda holding ticket stubs? Fine, shut up, it’s time to actually discuss the MOVIES of 2017…

My final tally for 2017 in theaters – 85

Remember my number earlier from 2016? That’s right, that was the first ever year under 100, and I hit 86, vowing to see AT LEAST 100 again this year, and instead I saw ONE LESS. Not happy with this trend, and before you can say it, I know that having a child will not exactly help improve my movie-going, so I have 6 months to give myself a head-start, because DAMMIT I WILL SEE MORE THIS YEAR OR SO HELP ME…

Okay, time for the usual breakdown w/ highlights and lowlights:

  1. Adi – 58 movies (previous year 73). An interesting drop in the number and percentage of movies; we can blame the super lousy pregnancy she has been experiencing, there were simply more times I was otherwise going to miss a flick so I ran out with someone else. As a result, you will notice the secondary numbers with other friends below has risen, as the one combo I never go to the movie theater with is nobody else. As in, I don’t see movies solo, as weird as that may sound. But there were some INCREDIBLE movies this year. One of my absolute favorites of the year was Wind River. This movie was incredibly tough to watch at times, had some of the most beautiful wintry cinematography I’ve seen in years, and it was written by the same person who wrote the aforementioned Hell or High Water, only this time he also made his directorial debut. Wow, I’m excited to see what else you have to offer us, Taylor Sheridan. One of the last movies of the year we saw was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Amazing screenplay, awesome acting, and totally brutal while also delivering some much needed comic relief here and there. Logan was not only one of my favorite genres (superhero), but it was done so daringly as a post-apocalyptic Western. It was gritty and the fact that it was a superhero movie was almost incidental to the story. What a way for Hugh Jackman to round out his iconic role of Wolverine after all these years. I loved Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the fact that it was rumored to be a terrible movie riddled with problems before it came out gives me cautious hope that this year’s Hans Solo origin movie (also rumored to be riddled with problems) will still work out and at least be entertaining. Blade Runner 2049 was excellent, deserves every award imaginable for the set design, and proves that long awaited sequels can be great (hear that Independence Day?!)…Battle of the Sexes was easily one of the most crowd-pleasing, easy to enjoy movies of the year, with PERFECT performances by Steve Carell (who looked EXACTLY like Bobby Riggs), and Emma Stone. War for the Planet of the Apes was awesome, and I wrote an entire blog about it here. And many others I enjoyed including Wonder, Beauty and the Beast, Fences, Moana, The Founder, and It, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my #1 favorite movie of the year, certainly the one that I found the most thrilling to watch from start to finish, and that’s Baby Driver. If you told me that there would be an action car chase/heist movie that’s basically a ballet, I wouldn’t even know how to conceptualize that. If you missed it on the big screen, you already missed out, but get yourself to a good sound system, crank it up, and enjoy that movie, because it was sooooo good.
  2. Harwin – 13 movies (previous year 6). My faithful travel companion continued to increase his movie-going with me this year, thus proving that he must really have non-discriminating taste in friends. Thor: Ragnarok was hilarious, and kudos to Marvel-owned movies for continuing to make nothing that sucks, and a fair amount that are awesome, like this one. Also, when was the last time a movie sequel totally changed tones and genres like this absolute-comedy? The one that comes to mind is Gremlins 2: The New Batch which went from horror comedy to a zany Looney Tunes adventure, feel free to chime in with others I may have missed though. Here they handed over the reins to Taika Waititi, knowing it would be a comedy, allowing the actors to improvise, and resulting in a really funny end result. Logan Lucky totally bombed and I’m not sure why. Steven Soderbergh basically returned to the director’s chair, picked up the keys to his most popular genre (the heist flick) and instead of making yet another slick Oceans Eleven sequel, he thankfully made a hillbilly version with a bizarre cast of Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig, and it WORKED. And I have to mention one last one that almost all of you missed, Happy Death Day. If you saw the billboards or previews you probably shrugged it off as yet another crappy low budget horror movie. What you don’t know is that it is as much of a comedy as it is horror, and it is creative, and hilarious. And if that hasn’t sold you yet, it’s basically a really funny horror version of Groundhog Day, except she keeps getting killed over and over and over again. Just trust me and watch it.
  3. Avish – 8 movies (previous year 4). A continued improvement from my travel buddies, and in she also happens to be Adi’s oldest childhood friend (since kindergarten). Ooh, the prize for the best one is going to have to go to Lion, a movie I would have been thrilled to see win Best Picture the previous year (along with the previously mentioned Hell or High Water). When the final scene comes on after the film, showing the REAL people, I cried like a baby. It’s a story that’s too insane to be true, but somehow is. But a very big shout-out to The Lost City of Z. This movie was like no other you’ve seen in years. It looks like a lost film from the 50s, beautiful in scope, and a sweeping adventure into the jungle. It was fun getting to see Charlie Hunnan getting a great role on the big screen after his fantastic work on Sons of Anarchy, and Robert Pattinson was almost unrecognizable and fantastic.
  4. Jared – 7 movies (previous year 5). Between long stints of playing professional poker, Jared still made a little time for movies. We saw a few lousy but entertaining raunchy comedies, between Rough Night (an all-female and far less good version of Very Bad Things), CHiPs (gets the award for funniest use of genitalia being inadvertently whacked in someone’s face of the year), and Why Him? (James Franco vs Walter White already made things amusing). We saw possibly the worst movie of the year together though, The Circle. I don’t think Tom Hanks has made a movie this bad since the early 80s.
  5. (TIE 5th/6th) Helen – 6 movies (previous year 2). Good uptick, I don’t see movies often with Helen, but when we do, we try to see a few in a row! She might have enjoyed Daddy’s Home 2 more, but for my money I have to highly recommend Lady Bird, which Helen didn’t love but I think was one of the best movies of the year. What an amazing job from first-time director Greta Gerwig, and what pitch perfect performances she got out of Laurie Metcalm and Saoirse Ronan (who sings how to pronounce her name on SNL here).
  6. (TIE 5th/6th) Shlomo – 6 movies (previous year 2). Welcome back to the list Shlomo! He used to be one of my main friends to watch with, but then he got married, had kids, and started seeing them with JOSH. As if there was ever anything so special about JOSH. Pfft. Well Josh moved away, so Shlomo came running back to me with a dozen roses, and I took him back under my movie-going wing. At least that’s the way I choose to remember things. He likes to historically complain that the movies we see together are always “crap”, but in truth we saw some damn fun ones this year. Wonder Woman was the first really good DC movie since Nolan stopped directing Batman flicks, though in my humble opinion it wasn’t any better than the hordes of Marvel movies that have been great, but certainly refreshing to finally see a female superhero movie that wasn’t total shit (can anyone remember Catwoman or Elektra? You’re better off if you don’t). We also saw the Academy Award winning Best Picture La La Land together, and….wait a minute, I’m being told it lost the award to Moonlight, sorry about that. John Wick 2 was a rare sequel that does not in any way shape or form disappoint (I really do love when the actors learn their own stunts as Keanu famously did for this one…don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch his weapons training video here, it’s insane). And a special shout-out to a terrible reviewed but reeeeeeally entertaining buddy action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard, if you miss Samuel L Jackson saying the F-word and shooting people, this makes his role in Pulp Fiction look family-friendly.

Notice that the numbers are higher there? Seeing less with Adi meant seeing more separately with friends. I will now give honorable mention to the following who saw 4 with me in 2017: Kara saw Get Out with us, and man oh man was it a great, funny, scary, surprising movie. Saying a lot about it inevitably means spoiling some of the twists, and they did a great job marketing it without ruining it, so I won’t even go there. Landsburg saw one of the most pleasant surprises of this year with me, Kong: Skull Island. Who knew that a big budget monster movie could be done so damn artistically? The first half hour felt like a sequel to Argo, and the rest of the movie was just FUN, and as Adi told me when she later watched it, it was PRETTY. Yes, a King Kong prequel was cinematically beautiful. Mittelman gets honorable mention because he moved away and lives up north. So how did he make this list and see 4 with me? By visiting during Christmas break and seeing all of them in a few days, INCLUDING Bright which was made by Netflix and released in a few theaters while also streaming, and they already locked up the director and cast for the sequel in this decent urban fantasy. And finally, I have the pleasure of welcoming my brilliant twin nieces Eve & Ada to this list, as I went from seeing 1 in their entire lives together, to this year 4 movies with them! These are brilliant teenagers who could write movie reviews that would make mine look juvenile. We saw the better-than-you-think Power Rangers movie, which wasn’t particularly interesting when the action happened, but was an otherwise good teen drama; we also saw the really witty kid’s pic Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Don’t throw this away with much of the crap out there, it was actually quite funny.

Last but not least, seeing “only” 85 movies in 2017 means I missed a whole bunch I would have wanted to see. Included in that bunch are: Split (watched on Netflix since then), Colossal, Mother!, Detroit, Stronger, The Mountain Between Us, T2 Trainspotting, The House, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (no matter how good or bad it turns out to be, I wish I’d have seen this on a giant screen), Goodbye Christopher Robin, Only The Brave, Wonderstruck, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Suburbicon, and xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

And that sums up the last 2 years folks. I’ve already seen 5 flicks 8 days into 2018, and hoping that I will make good on my promise to increase my movie-watching this year, in spite of this baby girl fetus’ best efforts to get in our way.

Happy 2018 from me and my beautiful wife!

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The Boaz Movie Tally of 2015

29 Jan

Eating

(EDITOR’S NOTE: There are Easter eggs peppered throughout this entry. Click on the hyperlinks to enhance your experience – or be lame and don’t bother…)

I post on every single movie I see, right? MAN I wish it were true…

The most recent post was almost a full year ago, February 11th, 2015, and it was about my movie theater recommendations in LA, not even a movie review! While I immerse myself in self-flagellation, let’s see how I did with the goals I set myself in last year’s tally:

  1. See more movies – GOAL ACHIEVED. Last year was my all-time low of 103 theatrical movies, so I suppose I only had up to go. This year my final number was – wait for it- 121 movies in the theater. I reached my goal but I still should have done much better. To give some perspective in 2012 I saw 139 and in 2013 I saw 135.
  2. Blog more – GOAL FAILED. No question about this, I blogged just twice in 2015, and neither was an actual movie review. Pathetic.
  3. “Forget” to leave the toilet seat up once or twice – GOAL BARELY MET. Fairly certain there were 1-2 circumstances where she almost fell in, but her reflexes have obviously improved because there was no actual splash. I can definitely do better in my role as husband-saboteur.

My life in 2015 – This past year was nuts. In January I finally achieved my lifelong goal of letting someone shoot a laser into my eyeballs, and as the photos shows, I’m finally glasses-free!

About 6 weeks later we were off on our honeymoon in BEAUTIFUL New Zealand and Fiji. As amazing as it was – and it really WAS incredible – this is what happened…

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Yup, broken elbow thanks to the saddle sliiiiding off the horse I was riding. This resulted in no swimming/diving in Fiji, Adi carrying ALL of the luggage herself, returning to LA, being told I didn’t need surgery, months later being told I DID need surgery, months later finally GETTING surgery, and months later…going back to work! Yes, I was out of work for 7 long months thanks to my honeymoon injury, and God bless union contracts, because I returned to a job that was not only waiting for me, but I had gotten a nice raise while I was away. (Thanks, Obama!)

2015 was an amazing year for movies that friends of mine created. I saw THREE theatrical movies that were both written AND directed by friends!

  1. The Wedding Ringer (Jeremy Garelick)
  2. Get Hard (Etan Cohen)
  3. 1915 (Alec Mouhibian)

All 3 were worth seeing: the first two were silly, raunchy, and hilarious; whereas 1915 was an extremely bizarre, moving and creative tribute to the Armenian genocide 100 years earlier. Awesome that as a movie-lover I’m also connected to some of the creative people behind the very things that stoke my obsession!

If there is one single post I WILL write in 2016 (other than this one) it will be my interview with Jeremy Garelick, performed oh so many months ago, but put on the back-burner for ages thanks to my injury and inability to type for much of the year.

Anyway, I think it’s time to return to the movie tally, and all the juicy tidbits. For the first time ever I counted every movie I saw DURING 2015. It didn’t matter if it was released the previous year – this is about what I saw during the 12 calendar months. The 121 movies, and the people I saw the most with, along with some memorable highs and lows were…

  1. Adi – 86 movies (previous year 71). Not bad, that means 71% of the movies I saw were with my beautiful wife, a slight improvement over last year’s 69%, a far more entertaining number…I’ll honor my wife by saying that 2015 was an incredible year for horror movies, her FAVORITE genre. It’s safe to say that most horror flicks are terrible, but there must have been something in the water recently, because last year we saw The BabadookIt Follows and Goodnight, Mommy. These weren’t just great horror movies, they were great movies, period. I’ll also mention that the thriller (her second-favorite genre) Secret in Their Eyes got absolutely SLAMMED by critics, and nobody saw it in spite of an A-list cast, but it caught us off-guard with how intensely good it was!
  2. Helen – 12 movies (previous year 0). The girl moved from NY and I got my claws in her early! Living right by The Grove didn’t hurt. We really book-ended the year nicely by seeing The Imitation Game early on, and then Creed on December 31st. Some real gems, and yes Creed should have been nominated for more than just Stallone’s solid performance.
  3. Jared – 11 movies (previous year 12). Predestination. It’s not even close. What an unbelievably cray cray movie. There is just about no way to describe it without spoiling it. Let’s just say it starts off as a weird and interesting drama, and then your brain becomes a Jackson Pollock splatter from trying to follow what the hell just happened…
  4. Josh – 6 movies (previous year 5). Two of the most surprisingly funny movies were seen with this new baby-daddy – Spy and Trainwreck. Oh, and both were starring hilarious women and made tons of money. All this while Adam Sandler made multiple movies that were huge critical and financial bombs last year. Does pointing this out make me a feminist?
  5. (TIE) Cindy – 5 movies (previous year 4). One of the dumbest comedies I saw all year had to be Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. Who knew that a sequel to an awful movie could be even more awful? We did see one really good little indie though, While We’re Young, a much better cast role for Adam Driver than Kylo Ren. (Don’t get me wrong, I loooooved Star Wars, I just didn’t like that every second he was on the screen all I could think to myself was, “that’s the guy who has bizarre sexual proclivities on Girls“. It just wasn’t much of a stretch to see him prancing around in leather and a mask.)
  6. (TIE) Patrick – 5 movies (previous year 1). Some awesome movies here. My favorite has to be Goodnight Mommy, one of the previously mentioned FANTASTIC horror movies last year. The movie is in German, we saw it at the Nuart theater right before the Rocky Horror crowd arrived, and the theater was packed with people reacting LOUDLY to the crazy stuff that happens in this movie. Wow. We also saw A Most Violent Year together, an absolutely under-appreciated drama that should have been nominated last year, but nobody saw it. To be fair, Patrick hated it and disagrees strongly with me, but I stand by it as being a fantastic movie starring a subtle performance by Oscar Isaac.
  7. (TIE) Arnon – 5 movies (previous year 0). Wow, this talented filmmaker not only saw 5 movies with me, but I absolutely LOVED 3 of them. Star WarsThe Martian, and It Follows. Such great movies, loved loved loved all three of them. Star Wars was the sequel I was wishing and hoping for when the awful prequels came out. The original actors were still alive and kicking, the special effects were phenomenal, the old-school Jim Henson effects were honored, and it was just…so…much…fun. It’s often criticized for being an unoriginal rehash of the first one. So what? It was a respectful passing of the torch and making up for the “original” but awful prequels. If the next movie is a rehash I’ll join in with the criticism, but I truly believe this was appropriate, and the next one is gonna take things in a very different direction. (I have faith because it is written and directed by the guy who made Looper, one of the most creative movies in the past decade!)
  8. (TIE) Talia – 4 movies (previous year 0). Let me take a minute to thank Talia (and Helen), who are NOT fans of horror movies, for willingly going to see It Follows with us that night. This movie was another one of the absolutely incredibly great horror movies of 2015. You think black people were snubbed this year at the Oscars? Well, they were (Straight Outta Compton and Creed were as good as anything out there this year). But so were horror movies. They always are ignored. Nobody respects the genre, and this was absolutely one of the best 8 films of the year.
  9. (TIE) David B – 4 movies (previous year 2). Oh man, Jupiter Ascending, talk about a disappointment. You take the people who made The Matrix and you come up with a piece of garbage that could have been made for the sci-fi channel? Oh how the mighty have fallen.
  10. (TIE) Kara – 4 movies (previous year 2). A completely trashy movie that few people went to see, American Ultra was simply a ton of fun. It’s a real example of misleading advertising though. It really looked like a comedy peppered with action from every preview I watched, but man, this Jesse Eisenberg movie was dark and violent (not that I’m complaining).
  11. (TIE) Mittelman – 4 movies (previous year 9). Tsk tsk, we saw far less movies together this past year, the inevitability of him moving 20 minutes further away…we saw Avengers: Age of Ultron together, and I definitely enjoyed that comic book extravaganza…but I have to say, my favorite one with him was probably Shaun The Sheep; DAMN those Aardman folks know how to make a funny and creative piece of claymation.
  12. (TIE) Abe – 4 movies (previous year 1). Ant-Man managed to make a comic book movie that non-comic book fans could actually enjoy. It pulled off the same light, funny tone as Guardians of the Galaxy, though I’d give it a B+ whereas Guardians was truly awesome. Nonetheless, my most MEMORABLE experience would have to be McFarland, USA. I made a deal with Abe (and Farnaz) that we would only see this movie IF I would walk out midway if it sucked. While me and Adi were enjoying ourselves, they were bored out of their minds, and I obviously did NOT want to leave a movie before the end (I’ve never done that!). Abe then gave me a new deal, run around the movie theater doing a few laps and yelling “weeeeee”, and I could stay. I was too chicken to even do this, so ultimately he let me off the hook by running from my seat down the stairs to the entrance of the theater and back up like a relay race. Embarrassed, I upheld my end of the revised bargain, and got to watch the end of the movie. “Uno dos tres, Mcfarland!!!”
  13. (TIE) Avish – 4 movies (previous year 9). Ooh, tough call, I have to give a shout-out here to two amazing movies that were criminally overlooked by too many people…Love & Mercy was an incredible biopic about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Just an unbelievable depiction of music being created from both genius and insanity. The movie should have been nominated for so many things. And possibly the smartest comedy of the year was Top Five. Chris Rock wrote, directed and starred in an amazingly funny, clever and insightful movie. If he can write the Oscars even half as well as this movie, we’ll be in for a treat on the big night.

That’s enough but I’ll give an honorable mention to my brother Zachary, my father-in-law Mark, Harwin, Damast, Kristina and Farnaz – all of whom watched 3 movies with me. All of you help me enjoy my greatest passion, and I couldn’t do it without you. I actually mean that – I refuse to see movies alone. After 36 years and thousands of movies, the ONLY time I’ve see a movie alone was when my brother Zachary ditched me midway through the Madagascar sequel – granted this was 3 days before his wedding and there was a lot going on – but I was suddenly alone in a movie, and I felt…naked. I had nobody to watch reacting to the movie, nobody to whisper jokes to, nobody to talk to about it after… The irony of the situation is that I was in New York and had nothing else to do, so after it ended I didn’t leave, and instead snuck into two other flicks!

-The movies I am most upset about NOT catching last year? The Walk, The Duff, Self/Less, Z For Zachariah, 99 Homes, Freeheld, Crimson Peak, Burnt, The Peanuts Movie, and Krampus.

-Additional good/great movies that I have not at some point mentioned? Spotlight, The Gift, Grandma, Vacation (so dumb and so funny), Mr. Holmes, Me and Earl & The Dying Girl, Dope, Southpaw, Infinitely Polar Bear, Black Sea, Paddington (GREAT kid’s movie!), Unbroken, Wild, Mr. Turner, Still Alice, End of the Tour and Ex-Machina.

Oh, and my absolute most FUN movie-going experiences this year (not the same as the best movies of the year)? Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World , Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Into The Woods, Furious 7Inside Out and San Andreas.

The opposite of seeing a movie alone comes annually on my birthday, when I get to watch a movie not only with friends, but with most of the audience being there for me. Here below is my annual birthday movie theater photo, when we saw the awful(ly) entertaining San Andreas. LOVE. THIS.

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The 2014 Movie Tally – A Year In (Comedic) Review

13 Jan

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A whole year goes by, and I’ve barely been blogging. What gives?!

Granted, I’ve been incredibly busy helping my hospital transition from old-fashioned paper charting, to our newly improved electronic medical records. I’ve also been continuing with school full-time for a higher nursing degree. But dammit, not only my movie-blogging has suffered, but my actual movie-going has too. This year marks the absolute lowest number of movies I’ve seen since…well, since I’ve started counting in college! (EDITOR NOTE: Boaz started counting from a very young age, not in his college years, he is simply referring to keeping count of his movie tally in the above statement. Any attempts to disparage Boaz and his ability to count, spell or read will be subject to lawsuit.)

While it may be unrealistic for me to think I’ll have the time to ever blog about EVERY movie I see – as I did once before – I do have a few attainable goals in mind for 2015:

1. See more movies. I need to get back to my roots and get my average back up closer to 150 per year. When you read my final number for the year you may notice it’s still more movies than anyone else you know. Nonetheless, it makes me sad inside. And teacher says that every time Boaz is sad an Angel loses his wings.

2. Blog more. Even if not constantly, just needs to happen more often. I miss writing, and a few kind readers have told me they miss reading them, so the narcissist in me must feed the devoted audience. Let’s put it this way, my next blog had better not be catching you up with my tally for 2015.

3. “Forget” to leave the toilet seat up once or twice. My wife Adi has gotten so used to me being a good husband, it’s time I bring back a little slapstick to the house. The only thing funnier than seeing someone slip on a banana peel is the noise of someone screaming and splashing as they “fall” into a toilet. Comedy gold…

4. Be a good husband and listen more, and do what Adi wants for a change because…wait, we have time for a QUADRUPLE feature on Sunday?!

Okay, now that my wish list for 2015 is on full display…

Final count for movies I saw in the theater during 2014:

– 103 movies!

– Sounds like a lot? Consider that my old average was 150, and my last two years were 135 and 139 respectably.

– This includes what I saw in the theater between January 1st and December 31st of 2014.

Ready for the breakdown of who I saw them with? Here is where many of my friends come into the picture, and I’ll give examples of movie highs and lows from each friend…

1. Adi – 71 movies. Tsk tsk, in 2012 she saw 106 with her crazy boyfriend. In 2013 she saw 87 with her obsessed fiancé. But in 2014 she saw only 71 movies with her one-track husband. Are you sensing a pattern here? Should I be worrying about my marriage? I went on at least 3 hikes with her last year, but I only get 71 movies in return? I know what you’re all thinking, men give and women take, it’s an age-old tale…I’m still unsure what I would call the year’s best movie, but the absolute 100% most FUN I had at the movies this year was a tie between Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Marvel is starting to challenge Pixar as the most consistently clever, entertaining and creative movie empire in town. They keep churning out big spectacles and surprising us with good writing, smart directors and great casting. You definitely get your money’s worth…

2. Jared – 12 movies. While this is a slight decline from the 15 he saw with me in 2013, it’s actually quite impressive considering he lived in Pasadena. Now that he’s moving nearby to the city, just imagine how much better 2015 might be. The sky’s the limit…for Jared and Boaz that is. Adi may already be a lost cause with her pathetic 71 movie count. The most creative/cool/inventive movie of the year: Snowpiercer. Most disappointing movies of the year given my expectations: Tie between The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and The Gambler. Both sucked, and I don’t say that often as readers should know.

3. Mittelman – 9 movies. The one friend I have who actually has and uses the movie app. I’m still not convinced it would work well for me, but I gotta love a friend who can see a movie every 24 hours with me. Best movie of the year you heard of but didn’t know was great: Chef. The movie that will likely (and deservedly) win Best Picture that you still haven’t seen: Boyhood (wow, what a film-making feat!)

4. Avish – 9 movies. Avish is such a good friend, she will literally come see a movie she wasn’t interested in just because Adi and I walked to the movie theater and will eventually need a ride home. She also has taste that typically is limited to art-house indies, but then randomly she’ll need to see Winnie The Pooh above all else. I saw some pretty great movies with her, but the one that was absolutely fantastic, and you probably think was a mindless blockbuster sequel: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It won’t even be considered for the major Oscars, and that’s simply sad. Because it was awesome. Awesome. AWE-SOME. (Rule of thumb: anything with Andy Serkis doing motion capture is awesome, If he played the big screen version of Mr. Hanky The Christmas Poo he would probably warrant an Oscar nomination.)

5. Shlomo – 7 movies. The one friend I can count on to ask me to save him a certain movie, then see that movie when it comes out, and then complain that I made him see it with me when he hates it. Every time. Classic Shlom…he reminds me of that underrated Jon Lovitz cartoon The Critic, since the first thing he says after almost every movie is “it sucked!”. Somehow I’m almost disappointed when he doesn’t say it…The best fighting scenes of any movie this year: Tie between John Wick and The Raid 2. If you’re a fan of (who cares what the plot is but) incredible action sequences, don’t miss either of them.

6a. Mike B. – 5 movies. He really wanted to be higher on the list this year, and he just barely did, but c’mon Mikey, we used to see dozens a year, we can do better than this next time! Mike holds the special distinction of being able to remember every movie he’s ever seen with me, as well as the date and theater we saw it in. But did he remember to bring milk from the grocery store like his wife asked? I think not! Best movie for anyone who plays fantasy football or watches the real thing: Draft Day. This Kevin Costner movie got trashed by most critics, but it was fun, tight and exciting, and…oh get your head out of the gutter!

6b. Ephraim – 5 movies. Sadly, this friend moved away to the Windy City, so I expect he won’t be on this list in future years. But what a great guy to see movies with…if you don’t mind someone LOUDLY TALKING AND COMPLAINING THROUGHOUT IT. And therefore yes, he was the absolute perfect person to see Blended and Tammy with this year, both quite lame and way more fun thanks to his running-at-the-mouth complaints.

6c. Josh B. – 5 movies. This sucks! Josh was the title-winner the previous few years (after Adi of course) and this year he plummeted down from 16 to 5. But wait you might argue (if you know him) that he just had a baby, that changes everything! Ah, but I know something that you don’t know, his baby is not left-handed! Oh, and also it was born at the end of the year, so it really wasn’t a relevant factor. Instead I must resign myself to the knowledge that he simply chose not to see as many movies with me, and our once strong friendship is clearly slipping away into the ether…Runner-up (to Planet of the Apes) as the best movie of the year that you THOUGHT was a big, dumb blockbuster, but was actually smart and awesome: Edge of Tomorrow. Yes, Tom Cruise was in a clever and hilarious sci-fi movie. It happened.

7a. Shira G. – 4 movies. My friend used to live miles away and I’d see hordes of movies with her. Now she lives a few blocks from here and we’re only at 4 for the year? Must be something I said…Great movie that shows that even funny Saturday Night Live actors can act amazingly well in dramas that make you want to kill yourself. Bravo: The Skeleton Twins.

7b. Cindy – 4 movies. All year Cindy kept telling me she needs to get back onto the movie list. You see we used to watch many together, but then she got a job and it became more difficult. So Cindy did the only sensible thing anyone in her situation would do: she changed jobs so that she could start working from home in order to see more movies with me again. Welcome back to the list Cindy, I expect great things from 2015…Movie and studio who’s hype is starting to confuse me: Disney’s Big Hero 6. I liked the movie. I really did. But I have the same problem with this as I did the previous year with Disney’s Frozen. Too many people said it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Frozen was a very pretty and entertaining movie with some nice songs and a story that says that men suck and sisters are the only true love out there. Awesome, liked it. But it wasn’t the greatest movie, cartoon or anything in ages, just good Disney fun. Big Hero 6 once again was a really entertaining movie. In fact I liked it more than Frozen. But when Cindy told me that her friends were raving that it was the best movie of the year I may have lost my faith in humanity for just a moment.

7d. Nathan – 4 movies. This friend spent the early part of the year piloting helicopters for the army and still managed to make the list. For those of you who think you don’t have the time to see a movie with me because of your busy lives in LA, for shame…Best cartoon of the year: The LEGO Movie. There were so many clever jokes thrown out during the movie that I honestly need to see it again.

I’ll stop my breakdown right there, but honorable mention goes to the following friends who saw 3 with me: Kavka, Yoni, Jason R., Dan & Michelle,

And a special shameful shout-out to Patrick, Abe and Farnaz, who all made the cut last year but this year saw nothing but my birthday movie with me. I didn’t know we were having problems with our friendships, but clearly I need to redraft my will before it gets too late.

Speaking of my birthday movie, I’ll finish off with this fun photo that sums up my 2014 movie year as well as my friends: a whole bunch of us crazies camped out late at night to see the absolutely phenomenal X-Men sequel. Many people were fans of the series, many more just came to spend time doing what I love for my birthday, but all of us had a damn fun night together…at the movies!

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The 2013 Boaz Movie Tally (Where Have I Been?!)

25 Mar

IMAG0143

Synopsis: “An obsessed movie blogger tries to make his big comeback. The problem – he doesn’t know where to start!”

The synopsis above is true, I genuinely have no idea where to even begin. My last movie post was on June 26th. That’s enough for an entire inception, conception, incubation and delivery of a human baby. In that amount of time Adi read about 15-20 books, and I must have read a much more impressive 36 issues of Entertainment Weekly (sorry Adi, men are simply faster readers than women, blame science).

In that time I’ve tried my best to keep up with countless TV show series (I could easily have an entire TV blog too, trust me), I’ve hosted countless poker games (okay that’s a lie, I actually keep a poker tally so I could tell you exactly how many poker games I’ve hosted), an yes, I’ve continued to see MANY moves inside a movie theater with Adi and/or friends. So what gives? Why have I literally not posted for 36 plus weeks?

Here’s what happened in 2012:

-I got engaged in February, but that’s old news that I proudly wrote about here.

-I passed my nursing board exam in April, and got a job at Saint John’s in Santa Monica in May where I worked for a few months as a CNA waiting for the new graduate RN program to begin.

-I started as an RN in August, and within 2 weeks I also started a Master’s program to help further my nursing license. Am I happy to be back in school so soon? Not in the slightest. Is it important for my career? Unfortunately, yup.

-I spent months with Adi planning our AMAZING wedding, and we even had our dear friend Sarah design table cards that were movie titles instead of numbers. Here’s a photo below of friends Steve & Nava posing with one ironic movie title in particular…

11-24-13 - Our Wedding! (1)

-So yeah, we got married in November! Want further pictorial evidence? Alright…

New York City Wedding Photography

 

Toward the end of 2013 things calmed down a bit. I was working full-time,and in school full-time, but felt ready to return to this movie blog. BUT…I didn’t know where to start…and truthfully I still don’t. I had continued to watch streams of movies, and never stopped my plan to create a post about each and every one. But what started as my being behind by one or two movies, became one or two dozen, and at this point I haven’t written about scores of movies. Anyone who has read a single one of my blog posts knows that even my shorter posts tend to be essays, and it’s hard for me to do anything half-arsed (pardon my “English”).

I continued to create the skeletons of each movie blog I would hope to create, and there are now many dozens of drafts which are simply the movie posters and synopsis, collecting dust, and waiting for me to add some personal content. So here is my plan, and my “New Year’s Resolution” for 2013. I will revisit the movies I saw this past year, but actually write short blurbs – not novellas. This way at least each one will be documented for posterity, and anyone reading can at least see the bottom-line that stems from my warped, movie-loving brain.

And what better way to begin than with my 2013 movie tally? My friends always look forward to this overview of my year, and some of them even use it as bizarre motivation to see MORE movies with me, so they can move higher up in the ranks the next year. I find that both hilarious, and flattering at the same time!

My movie tally is calculated using an admittedly bizarre method, and I think this will be the last year I do it in this way. Let me explain for those  who are virgins to my process…

The following is the count of movies which were RELEASED IN USA THEATERS IN 2013. This means some of these movies were seen in 2014, but they actually came out last year. This process is strange, and often means I’m counting movies which were released for a week for Oscar contention and then properly released again this year, so I’ve decided that after being mocked for doing it this way for years (instead of just counting how many I saw in a calendar year), I will change things NEXT time around…

Final count for 2013 releases seen by me in a movie theater:

-135 movies total

-This is surprisingly close to last year’s total of 139

-This is still DOWN from my historic average of 150

Overall considering the crazy busy year I had, not too shabby…

Now for the fun breakdown, the people who I saw multiple movies with, starting with the obvious:

  • Adi – 87 (Down from 106 in 2012, but considering she was also planning a wedding with me, as well as starting a new job that involves her frequent travel, I’d say it’s a pretty darn awesome number!)
  • Josh B. – 16 (Once again second place after Adi. The most “what the hell did I just see” moment in any movie of this year: Tie between the nudity in Trance, and the windshield scene in The Counselor.)
  • Jared – 15 (Nipping at Josh’s heels, though most of them were in the first half of 2013. The nicest movie theater experience I had all year: Elysium, at the iPic theater in Pasadena.)
  • Yoni – 6 (If he didn’t live in the valley, no doubt this would be a higher number. The most FUN we had watching a movie last year: Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor.)
  • Elizabeth – 6 (Had a lot of fun seeing movies with Josh’s better half, but possibly the most underrated movie I saw last year: the extremely witty Beautiful Creatures.)
  • Ephraim – 6 (Many great examples here, but I’ll go with one of my biggest disappointments of 2013: A Good Day To Die Hard.)
  • Abe – 6 (The multi-way tie continues with the always-entertaining Abe, whose geeky side best shines through when seeing something like: Star Trek Into Darkness)
  • Farnaz – 5 (Abe’s far prettier half enjoyed most movies we saw together last year, but not this frat-humor one: 21 & Over.)
  • Shira G. – 5 (The most insane “we just drove an hour in the car to see this double feature”: Planes followed by Smurfs 2.)
  • Avish – 4 (The most disappointing movie of the year, given my expectations after watching the previews: The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.)
  • Howard – 3 (The most funny, gory, brainless sequel this year could possibly offer: Machete Kills.)
  • Patrick – 3 (A hell of a great movie-going weekend: Saturday night – The Wolf Of Wall Street, Sunday morning – Nebraska. Awesomeness.)
  • Matti – 3 (I still resent that Matti moved away to the mid-west, because who else do I have to see crap like Safe Haven with now, if not him? The madness!)
  • Mike B. – 3 (One of my former “top movie-going friends” and someone I believe will move higher in the ranks next year. Movie that most exemplifies multiple layers of our friendship: Runner Runner.)

That finishes my roundup for the year. If I want to go really dark with my humor, I could now do an “In Memoriam” for the people who made the list last year but who now seemed to have better things to do with their time than sit in a dark room with me for 2 hours. I’m looking at you Nicole, Cindy and Harwin (among others). What happened?!

On that accusatory note, I finish my welcome-back blog, and look forward to many many SHORT catch-ups in the foreseeable future, where I continue to invite you to peer into my movie-addled brain and enjoy the show.

The Boaz 2012 Movie Tally

29 Jan

Ticket Stubs - B&W

It’s that time of the year I look forward to, and for the first time it comes in the form of a blog instead of an email to my movie companions!

Every year I save my ticket stubs, write down who I saw each movie with, and wait until the the end of the year when I do my grand total. Here’s how it works: It’s not how many movies I saw in 2012, it’s how many movies I saw:

-In the movie theater itself

-And were RELEASED in theaters in 2012

Thus Beasts of the Southern Wild which I saw yesterday in 2013 counts for 2012, but this number is not inflated since the same thing happened last year with movies released the previous year, and so on.

Anyway, here’s the breakdown. Drum-roll…

  • I saw 139 movies for 2012!
  • This is actually down from my usual average of 150 per year.
  • On the other hand it is up from 2011’s total of 125.

Who did I see the most movies with? What’s the breakdown? Well this is easy, obviously it was Adi; but how many with her and everyone else?

  • Adi – 106 (What a girlfriend!!!)
  • Josh B. – 10 (Quirkiest and most underrated indie: Bernie)
  • Jared – 7 (Most strange movie for someone else to see with me for his second time: The Watch)
  • Matti – 6 (Movie that exemplifies Matti and Boaz movie-time: The Lucky One)
  • Nicole – 6 (Award for most entertaining Nicole reaction: Tie between Madagascar 3 and The Possession for very different reasons)
  • Ephraim – 6 (Movie that most exemplifies seeing movies with Ephraim: Tie between The Dictator, That’s My Boy, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2)
  • Cindy – 5 (Most fun, terrible movie to watch with Cindy: Playing For Keeps)
  • Harwin – 5 (Really fun Sunday matinee movie: Premium Rush)
  • Mike B. – 5 (Best movies of the year to get snubbed at the Oscars: Tie between Moonrise Kingdom and End of Watch
  • Amy – 4 (Best chick flick: The Five Year Engagement)
  • Shlomo – 4 (Award for most cranky Shlomo post-movie: Magic Mike)
  • Yoni – 4 (Award for only seeing dark or violent movies: Paranormal Activity 4, Wrath of the Titans, Snow White & The Huntsman, The Darkest Hour)
  • Patrick – 4 (One of the most fun movies of the year award: The Hunger Games)
  • Abe & Farnaz – 3 (Movie that was one of my favorites of the year for sure: Looper)
  • David S. – 3 (Best movie with Smitty this year for sure: Chronicle – awesome!)
  • Shira G. – 3 (Movie with weirdest title award: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen)
  • Charlene – 3 (Movie that was surprisingly fun: Think Like a Man)
  • Sarah A. – 3 (Movie that closed out the 2012 releases: Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  • Elizabeth – 3 (Silly/fun book adaptation: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)

That leaves my 2 question marks, I can’t remember who saw the following 2 movies with me, so hopefully someone will read this blog and remind my crazy self:

  • People Like Us
  • Ice Age: Continental Drift

So after Adi, Josh was my second biggest movie buddy. I thank him and everyone else who keeps me company with my movie obsession, and look forward to another year of many many more!