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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).

 

 

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Three Hospitalizations & A Baby (Sorta Starring Dennis Quaid)

3 Sep
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I have been waiting a long time to post this important and highly personal story, something most of our friends don’t know about yet, and today is finally the day. I’ll even tell you what we have in common with Dennis Quaid.
Many of you followed our experience w/ Natalia in Cedars Sinai, and are well aware that we had a bad and dangerous series of hospitalizations/discharges. It shocked us as that’s where we’ve gone for most of our lives; it’s where I was born myself, and not only does it have a stellar reputation but we’ve had SO MANY great experiences there over the years…I would still consider it a top notch hospital. But nonetheless, sometimes in life someone has to become the unfortunate “teaching case” where things go badly, but IDEALLY they learn from it and make things safer for future patients, so here is our experience. (You may know pieces of the first 2 parts, previously mentioned on Facebook, but we’ve never until now publicly discussed the third)…
Prologue:
Adi had a rough pregnancy, so difficult that she was vomiting from Day One until the day she was taken to get a c-section 6 weeks early, an ironic Mother’s Day surprise. The one relief from giving birth to our child prematurely was knowing that the vomiting would finally come to an end – and yes, thankfully, it did. Safe delivery from our good doctor, the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck, and they had to take her to the NICU. Once there she had feeding challenges. And also once there she developed jaundice. But as countless parents are aware, all of these were quite common things to experience with preemies, and we were confident in the care we were receiving. The social worker was attentive, the nurses were knowledgeable and caring, and the chaplain was checking on our psychosocial needs daily. Cedars Sinai was living up to its reputation as a wonderful place to deliver a child…until our first problem.
Scene 1: (NICU)
Adi and I had been visiting the NICU regularly to be with our new little Natalia Rose. Each doctor, physical therapist, lactation consultant and nurse had mentioned that it would be at least another week before she would go home. Expectations were there, we were prepared to stick it out while Natalia continued to sunbathe under her spa-treatment UV lights to keep her jaundice at bay. The need for assistance for her breathing had been solved, and although she was breastfeeding poorly, she was swallowing milk from the bottle, so it mostly came down to the jaundice-problem (caused by raised bilirubin levels). She was considered at moderate to high risk because she was not only a preemie, but what you call Coombs Positive – a Blood Incompatibility disorder. This is also a common occurrence; it happens when the baby and mother are not the same Rh Factor (Positive/Negative blood type). Most mothers get a shot of RhoGAM to prevent this while pregnant, but Natalia was born before the shot could be given, so thus, the baby would need more help from the UV lights for her bilirubin levels. Sure, no problem, the staff had dealt with this countless times before, and thus we were told she was stable and doing well, and likely to discharge home the next week.
On day 5 of her life, Thursday night, the NICU neonatologist visited us, and with an absolutely lovely bedside manner dropped an unexpectedly happy bomb on us – there’s a chance Natalia could go home TOMORROW. What? Really? But everyone else had said “hopefully next week” just earlier that same day. “Yes, tomorrow possibly”. A few minutes later he said, “50/50 tomorrow it will happen”. We weren’t sure what had happened in those few minutes to take this from a maybe to 50/50, but this doctor’s friendly internal monologue continued. As he kept talking to us, a few minutes after THAT he blurted out, “tomorrow is going to happen, I’m confident, she will go home tomorrow”.  I said this made no sense, she was still under the UV lights, nobody else had thought it could happen for days, how could this be? The warm and friendly NICU doctor reassured us she would be fine; he would take her off the UV lights in the morning, test her bilirubin levels, wait 6 hours to be sure, test her again off the lights and then send her home. I tried to quell the red flags that had been going off in my brain, equal parts due to the fact that we wanted to go home with her, mixed with the fact that his warm reassuring bedside manner convinced us that he must be doing what’s right.
The next morning, our sweet NICU nurse said to us, “Wasn’t the doctor going to check her bilirubin and wait 6 hours before possibly discharging her?” and when we answered yes, she said, “okay, I need to call him, he just ordered her discharge home now without running any tests”. The red flags came roaring back in my brain. The tests got ordered, her levels were below actual jaundice, around 10.7, and we waited 6 hours with the UV lights turned off to see how her body would respond. 6 hours later, the new test showed that her number had gone UP to about 11.3, still under the jaundice levels of 12, but the trend was heading back toward it. He still ordered the discharge. MORE RED FLAGS. I questioned him, how could this be, the numbers trended in the wrong direction? “It’s okay, it’s still under jaundice at these numbers”. Yes, I understood that, but surely he could see this was heading that way, if anything we could wait another 6 hours and see what the numbers would be the next time? “No, she’s fine, she’ll be fine, you can safely take her home, see your pediatrician after the weekend”.  Okay, wonderful, I muted my red flags, I trusted the neonatologist, and we celebrated that on the 6th day of her 6 week premature life, we could take her home!
2 mornings later, about 40 hours had passed, it was the Jewish holiday of Shavuos, and I came home from my synagogue and just STARED at Natalia. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something about her skin tone was off. Now please realize, I am an RN, I see Jaundice in my patients with liver failure, but this was simply not it. The whites of her eyes remained completely white. Her skin did not resemble a yellow highlighter. It was not jaundice the way I know it, but something told me it might be anyway. At this same moment I realized something else: we had been given NO EDUCATION. None. Zero. Zip. Not a drop of “look for this w/ her poops, and be aware of that for her breathing. We were first time parents, taking home a premature moderate to high-risk baby, and we were not coached on anything, not even jaundice signs and symptoms. Oy. I called my pediatrician, who we continue to trust and love to this day, and she was confident in my judgment enough to send me to get a blood test for Natalia’s bilirubin levels. We happened to even run into our dear friend Aryeh who is a pediatrician, and agreed with our “better safe than sorry” approach to get the blood test that afternoon. 2 hours later, our pediatrician called us and explained, “Her bilirubin levels are 18.9, you must take her right now to be checked back into the hospital for her jaundice levels. She will be okay because she is still under a level of 20, but this is very important”. Here is where I must explain the importance of the number 20. You and I have what’s called the “blood-brain barrier”, this acts as a sort of moat to protect the castle. Our brain uses it to keep things filtered out…..BUT until we turn approximately 10 days old, we don’t HAVE this barrier, and if the bilirubin levels are above 20 at that young age, you could thus get permanent brain damage and deafness. Do the math, she was 10.7 Friday morning, 6 hours later she was 11.3, and 40 hours later she was 18.9. It would have likely been just a matter of hours before she had passed that scarily irreversible point in time, and thank GOD my inner voice nudged me into rechecking this, because it was caught in time. But it sure seems like the discharge was scarily incorrect.
Scene 2: (Pediatrics Ward)
We were no longer in the NICU, but rather the Pediatric unit down the hall. This was a massive relief to us as it meant we could sleep in the same room with Natalia. She was to stay under the UV lights without a break until her levels could justify otherwise. We could not even take her out to hold her, and that was okay, it was what was needed for her, and she seemed content in her little sun-tanning booth. Let’s gloss over the day that we had a terrible nurse who left her UV lights OFF for an hour and did not even correct (or apologize for) her own mistake when the Nursing Assistant caught it. Let’s just cut to the end of this 2 day hospitalization. Each and every shift the doctors and nurses would come and check on us and ask how much she had been eating and pooping/peeing. We kept the chart, they put it on not only a paper but their computers. Upon discharge they told us how great she was doing and we could go home for real this time. We were relieved, and went home. 4 days later our own pediatrician was out of town, we had a bilirubin test that showed the jaundice was finally a thing of the past, but the doctor covering for her called us on the phone and asked us to go over Natalia’s feeding habits each and every day. Adi read him the numbers kept on her app that tracks everything. The doctor had the incredibly decent compassion to invite himself over to the house for the simple purpose of telling us that WE HAD TO GO BACK TO THE HOSPITAL AGAIN. He had done the math and seen that she was eating – only HALF of what she needed to thrive. Half. I told him, “I could deal with this easier if she had been eating less well since coming home from the hospital, if something was DIFFERENT now, but these numbers WERE what she was doing in the hospital. Nothing had changed. They simply sent her home when the numbers had reflected a failure to thrive, yet another ridiculous discharge…
Scene 3: (Pediatrics Ward)
Upon arrival, I saw some of the same young doctors from the second hospitalization, in the same pediatric unit as last time, and I was not polite. As soon as they visited us, I told them, “I am sick and tired of being here, but what I am really furious about is the fact that you doctors keep treating her for her ADMITTING DIAGNOSIS, but ignoring everything else that arises as unimportant. The first time she had respiratory distress from birth, it was solved, the jaundice arose and it was not taken seriously enough, which brought us to our second hospitalization. That second one was for jaundice, which was solved, but the fact that she was eating half of what is necessary was totally ignored, not even acknowledged, and for that reason alone we were back there this third time for the feeding issue. Now you are about to put a feeding tube down her nose for however long, but if ANYTHING ELSE arises, you’d better actually pay attention to it. For example, look at this rash on her chest. It may be nothing, but we want you to look at it and pay attention, even though that’s not the main reason she’s here…look at her entire being, not just her diagnosis!” That was my rant, and unbeknownst to us, it contained a large nugget of irony. The next morning her temperature dropped, they ran tests, gave the poor tiny thing a spinal tap, and confirmed that she actually had a form of Viral Meningitis known as Enterovirus (dangerous for babies but completely benign in adults). And when the Infectious Disease doctors entered our newly created isolation room to visit us, they asked if she had had any recent rashes on her chest. Ha! Yes, it was our example of something else to look at, and was there even a photo of it for them taken by the doctors I showed it to? Nope. Oh well.
19 days in Cedars went by, we were treated with kid gloves, and you can imagine why at this point. I reported all of what I have repeated to the Quality Control department, who would convey it to Risk Management. Our own trusted pediatrician had reported our experience to the head of the NICU, and he came by on two occasions to discuss and apologize for our experience thus far. Multiple heads of departments in nursing and the hospital visited us, and understandably apologized carefully. I told them we were not interested in suing the hospital, but wanted things to be changed for the future, and “you’d better tear up our bills, because we won’t be paying for this huge mess, obviously”. The majority of nurses, physical therapists, and various other people who helped us were fantastic. Oh, remember that nurse I glossed over, who left her UV lights off and didn’t take responsibility for her mistake? We had her again, silently worried, and within 2 hours that same nurse had made 3 more errors, including when her trainee (yes, she of all people was training someone else) asked her “aren’t they under isolation?” she answered loudly in front of us, “yes, I think so, but I don’t know why” to which WE chimed in and exclaimed, “She’s in isolation because she has Viral Meningitis!”. This was weeks into her isolation, and as our designated nurse hours into her mshift, she didn’t even know that basic fact of the care of her own patient? Yikes. We had to report this nurse as being quite obliviously unsafe.
Scene 4: (Home)
But we got to go home! She had the tube down her nose for the “Gavage” feedings for most of the 19 days, but by the end she was eating enough, she had no Enterovirus symptoms, she could go home and this saga would be over! Everyone celebrated, the 3 hospitalizations were enough, nothing further would be missed. We enjoyed a completely uneventful week at home UNTIL ONE MORNING ADI SCREAMED. “What, what’s wrong???” “COME INTO THE KITCHEN RIGHT NOW!” I groggily got out of bed, and saw a bunch of bottles of breast milk on our counter. “What’s the problem?” I asked. “LOOK CLOSER AT THE LABELS!” she answered. That brings us to the photo at the start of this post. They had the name, birthday and medical record number of ANOTHER PATIENT! I went to the garage, checked our entire breast milk supply, and we counted 13 bottles of this other patient’s milk! When they sent us home with Adi’s milk, they had somehow sent us home with another patient’s milk, it was insane! Her HIPAA (privacy) was totally violated. It turned out a week after leaving the hospital, they had found a way to mess up yet again, and when I called the same people to report this newest problem, their previously diplomatic stone-faced apologies were gone. They had been replaced with turning pale, saying things along the lines of “Oh my God, I can’t believe this happened, I can’t believe the hospital did this to you, that’s crazy, and after everything else you’ve gone through already, I don’t even know how to start apologizing for all of this, this is NOT okay.” No it wasn’t, and I appreciated that people were giving me human reactions, not merely the previous apologies without admitting liability that we had been (understandably) getting until this point. A courier came to pick up the bottles. They had to contact their legal department and epidemiology. They needed to know what tests to run on the other mother, assuming we had already fed Natalia some of that mother’s breast milk before catching the error (because yes things can be transmitted via breast milk). A week later the other mother was contacted, her blood was tested, she asked that Adi’s blood also be tested (a reasonable request as she likely got some of our milk in exchange) and thankfully everything was fine on both ends. BUT THIS SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO OCCUR.
Epilogue:
Why did I bring up Dennis Quaid at the start of the piece? Am I simply name-dropping randomly, or was there a purpose? Can anyone recall something to do with Dennis Quaid and Cedars Sinai? Let me refresh your memory with this link, and a quick recap: 11 years ago, Dennis Quaid and his wife gave birth to twins in Saint John’s Health Center – my hospital, where I work as an RN! But a few days later, their twins developed an infection, and the Quaids brought them to, wait for it, Cedars Sinai. Somehow, a HUGE medication error occurred in Cedars, and they were given too much of the blood thinner Heparin. How much was too much? Umm, how about 1 THOUSAND times the proper dosage!  Miraculously, it was caught in time, and they were able to save both babies. But thanks to the horrors of their case, multiple changes were made for the betterment of everyone else. Labels on Heparin were changed, high alert labels were added, different protocols were put into place. Basically, they went through the shit of it all, and thankfully everyone else is now safer for it.
Well, we are your latest crash test dummies. Natalia is the latest Quaid twin. We have been told by Cedars that they now are utilizing a bar-code system for all breast milks so that the wrong milk cannot be given upon going home again. Furthermore, the head of the NICU explained to us that thanks to the bilirubin/jaundice scare, they are applying for an experimental technology that would allow them to do a simple test that shows who is at significant risk of jaundice bouncing back the wrong direction, as it did with Natalia. Long story short, our case was not simple and not good, but the hospital should be a better place thanks to what happened. And Natalia is just fine, she is gaining weight, eating plenty, no jaundice, no breathing issues, and we are not worried. Who knows, maybe Dennis Quaid will one day read this and his twins can babysit for her, wouldn’t that bring things full circle?

MoviePass, AMC and Sinemia – Oh My!

8 Aug
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Want advice on movie-watching services, but don’t want to take the time to research it yourself? I’ve spent months tracking and testing this, so happy reading…
For the past year I have sung the praises of MoviePass. So many recommendations, so many Facebook posts, every new change people share with me because they associate it with me. I’ve seen SO many movies for SUCH little money, it has felt too-good-to-be-true, and now it seems it really was, as the service has without question gone further and further DOWNHILL to the mess it currently is. The company paved the way for others to come up with movie-going subscription services, and we should always appreciate the affordability it has provided us, but here are my thoughts on what remains as of August 8th, 2018, in this ever-fluid situation that could make this post irrelevant a week from now:
1. MoviePass:
It still exists, but in any given day you never know what you’ll get from it. In the past 4 weeks they changed it so you can’t see movies they arbitrarily decide minute-to-minute are more popular, so those newer movies usually disappear, and they added surge pricing, but then they said they’d remove surge pricing, but they’d still not show all movies especially newer ones, and not have all showtimes available, and they said it’d be 15 dollars instead of 10 per month, but then changed it back to 10 bucks a month, and they said it will only be 3 movies per month max, but…. If you thought reading that run-on sentence was exhausting, just imagine how exhausting it is trying to keep up with the changes in real time, because that was only a glimpse into the past month! Adi and I prepaid 90 bucks for a whole year that doesn’t expire until November, so we have no reason to even consider canceling the messy plan until then, and honestly by the time November comes who the hell knows what other changes will have been made. But in the meantime I can tell you we could barely use this app over the past few weeks. On Sunday for example, we found a showtime and location for a movie offered on the app,  drove there, and when we opened the app it had disappeared as an option at that theater, and we had to pay for it. (They change it from hour to hour, it’s nuts!) So we had to move on and find a competitor that’s more stable, which brings me to…
2. AMC Stubs A-List:
This is what we signed up for during that incident on Sunday. It costs double MoviePass but in some ways it’s even better than what that ever was, as its details include:
-20 bucks per month plus tax.
-3 movies a week with no rollover, with each week starting on a Friday morning (when movies are typically released).
-You can buy tickets to any movie, in any AMC theater, even special IMAX 3D is fine, no surcharges, and it can be booked w/ seats reserved days in advance (as long as you reserve during that same Friday to Thursday week). So you could buy tix and seats days in advance if you wanted, and you can always cancel and not have it count against your 3 per week (as long as you cancel BEFORE the movie starts). And obviously (unlike MoviePass) none of this has to be done in person when you arrive.
Many other questions you might have about it can be answered here at their FAQ. Honestly, even I used to (at my peak) see 150 movies a year, which averaged 3 a week. So this is technically enough to feed even my insatiable movie-going-habit, and 20 bucks a month is a steal for that since a ticket is already 14-17 bucks. BUT the one sad thing is that I simply will NOT be able to see everything at an AMC. Here in West LA locally there’s AMC Century City, and AMC Sunset 5, and going a bit further there’s the lovely AMC Marina, AMC Burbank and CityWalk theaters which are fancy. BUT I will still inevitably only find certain movies and showtimes at an Arclight or The Grove or The Landmark, which are not AMC theaters. So this AMC plan is absolutely worth it for us but doesn’t solve the times we need to go to those theaters, which leads me to discussing…
3. Sinemia:
I wanted to sign up for this, I really did. This app allows me to sign up for a few options you can see here; their top one being 3 movies a month, ANY movie, ANY theater, for 15 bucks. That’s great, it ensures I can see a movie at The Arclight for example, for what works out to be 5 bucks. It even offers family plans (no other app offers this) so we don’t need 2 separate apps, and can pay 30 bucks and each have 3 movies available to see anytime, anywhere…and we’d obviously try to see most at AMC Theaters and just use Sinemia when we can’t, right?
Except no, their interface and usability is stupid. I read multiple reviews that say you have to go through it, get a code, and then be redirected to a 3rd party website and book through them using the code, and often by the time you go through the effort of booking it you are timed out and have to start from the beginning. Basically, it’s a great idea done badly, and I’m hoping they work on it to make it user-friendly; if and when they do, I will sign us up for this as well. There’s a good review testing out Sinemia that fleshes out what I said right here.
Conclusion:
Until November (when our MoviePass annual subscriptions expire), we will TRY to see everything at an AMC and use our new AMC 3-per-week program, and when we go to another chain, we’ll HOPE our MoviePass actually works. And hopefully down the line Sinemia or some other new competitor will be easy to use and also get our business, or sure, we’ll be happy to re-up with MoviePass if they’ve somehow righted the ship by then.
Regardless of everything I wrote, let’s just have a little happy perspective. In the old days, I’d pay for my cell phone and have to monitor my minutes, because after a certain number, I’d be paying for it. If I wanted to see a movie, I had to shell out the rip-off 16 bucks or so to see it. Well, I far prefer paying my monthly cell phone bill and not even remember what it’s like to count my minutes anymore, and I’m equally glad to pay a monthly subscription and not have to pay for each movie – this is the far better outcome, even if the journey is still a bit of a work-in-progress.

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 Trinity Killer & My Unborn Child

6 Dec

How did this happen?

Thank you smart aleck, I get how Adi got knocked up (with a little help from me), but how did movie/TV obsessed Boaz react when his wife suddenly showed him an 11 second video of John freaking Lithgow announcing that she was pregnant?!

Our story starts the previous day, October 14th, 2017. ‘Twas the night before Adi’s sold-out Friends of Sheba gala, and she wasn’t quite feeling right. Our friend Farnaz just a few days earlier INSISTED that she was probably pregnant (“You’re totally pregnant….I’m SURE of it…trust me, you’ll see I’m right, just you wait, you’ll seeeeee…”), but both of us laughed it off because she wasn’t even “late” yet, and besides, with Adi’s Ulcerative Colitis, feeling “off” is often par for the course.

So here she was, Saturday night, 48 hours later, trying on her gown for the next day, worried like so many wives out there that it “won’t fit”, and unbeknownst to me, also peeing on a stick. I was in the next room entertaining friends, “Boaz, can you come in here a minute?” She showed me a PLUS (+) sign and I needed no further catch-up…the second came soon after, and had a solid line through it, and the 3rd and final idiot-proof test said the word PREGNANT in big letters. For the time being, my boot-camp going wife’s “not fitting the same” into a dress would be the cause of smiles instead of frustrations.

Cautious micro-celebrations ensued, we discussed it, and my EXTREMELY cautious nature kicked into overdrive…between friends and siblings just about everywhere we looked, someone had suffered a miscarriage (or two). Our friend Chari had even written a short but powerful graphic novel about her traumatic experience which went viral 5 months earlier (I strongly recommend you check it out here).

We were not going to assume anything, this was a first-time experience for each of us, and we didn’t want to tell ANYONE for a bit, not even our parents. But Adi definitely had some extra pep in her step going into the gala, replacing some of the usual jangled nerves she has each year as her organization’s big night unfolds.

Then I spotted John Lithgow. This guy is huge. Not just 6 foot 4 inches, but everyone from every age group knows and loves him. For cinephiles he’s the wonderful early Transgender character from The World According To Garp, for kids he’s the memorably evil voice of Shrek‘s Lord Farquaad, for action junkies he’s the bad guy hamming it up in Cliffhanger, for Netflix binge-watchers he’s a perfect Winston Churchill in The Crown, and for everybody and their mother he’s the zany alien patriarch in 3rd Rock From The Sun; but for me he’ll always be the Trinity Killer, the very best part of Dexter, and right up there with Hannibal Lecter as one of the best/creepiest depictions of a serial killer ever. What an acting legend!

I asked Adi to PLEASE tell me if there’s a good time to get a photo-op with him. I told her that my dream idea was to get one photo with him trying to murder me à la Dexter, and another with him looking totally goofy, reminiscent of not only 3rd Rock From The Sun, but also his hilarious new show Trial & ErrorNever heard of that one? It just happens to be created by our talented friend Jeff Astrof, who also wrote a key part of Lithgow’s presentation at the gala, and between getting rave reviews and my own opinion, it’s hilarious! Adi told me she’d see if there was time for me to meet him later, I was left hoping.

Here’s where people and events started to collide. Another highly talented actor was present, by the name of Stuart Pankin. My favorite roles of his range from being the star of Dinosaurs, to the best friend in Fatal Attraction. I had worked with and befriended him years earlier, and enjoyed introducing him to Jeff Astrof who was a huge fan of his from watching Not Necessarily The News ; Pankin in turn asked me to reconnect him with Lithgow who he’d worked with ages ago. Are you with me so far?

So here I was, as you can see below, having just reconnected these great actors, and this is where the story comes together…

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Boaz – Mr. Pankin, Mr. Lithgow, they’d like to take some photographs of you two please.

(Both of them are laughing and crying and truly enjoying seeing one another after many years.)

Pankin – Happy to, Boaz. (Walks to the camera backdrop.)

Boaz – Mr. Lithgow, I just want to tell you what an honor and pleasure it is to meet you after all these years, I’m a HUGE fan.

Lithgow – That’s very kind.

Boaz – By the way, my wife is Adi Hepner, she’s told me how great you’ve been to work with.

Lithgow – OH! Adi’s your wife? CONGRATULATIONS on the great news!!!

Boaz – (Wondering what the heck he could be referring to, it couldn’t be what I’m thinking of, right?) Thank you but I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Lithgow – I don’t understand, I thought I just filmed a video with her about it…

Boaz – I think you’re mixing us up, Adi is also known as Adina, she…

(Nina Lieberman, Adi’s Executive Director hearing our rather loud conversation, leans in and interjects, “The cat’s out of the bag Boaz, Adi told us, congratulations on the baby”)

Lithgow – (Smiling broadly) See?!

Boaz – (In the loudest whisper of all time) OH MY GOD SHUT THE FUCK UP, MY PARENTS DON’T EVEN KNOW YET, AND ARE RIGHT OVER THERE – WE JUST FOUND OUT YESTERDAY, BE QUIET!

To be fair, considering I had just cursed out an A-list actor in a state of utter panic, his reaction was adorable… he simply smiled, and pantomimed someone zipping his mouth sealed.

I then walked him to Stuart Pankin where a series of awesome photos were taken including this one below, a moment after the “incident”.

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I was praying nobody else heard that very loud conversation, and it appeared to have been kept under wraps thanks to the many other loud conversations all around us. Later that night I cornered Adi and said, “Is there something you want to tell me? Is there a reason John Lithgow knows you’re pregnant?!”

And to that she simply smiled, and said, “He told you? Damn, I was really hoping to show you this as a surprise in a few months when we tell people, but here’s a gift for you”. And she had an ear-to-ear grin as I watched the following:

Well played wife, well played…

Baby GIRL Hepner due June 21st, 2018, already having caused quite the splash.

Growing up with Spielberg’s Mother

23 Feb
My recollections inspire me to write my first blog in over a year…
When I was young, I remember meeting Steven Spielberg and his then-girlfriend Kate Capshaw. This was the late 1980s as he was donating/dedicating a Torah scroll to her synagogue Chabad. It was awesome. I got my favorite director in the world’s autograph, and then was confused why the blonde chick from Temple of Doom was with him, but got her autograph too on the same paper (I still have it).
But that wasn’t the best part. The special part was that he knew everyone there was a friend or big fan of HIS MOTHER, Lee (technically Leah) Adler.
She was so proud, because we – her community – was finally meeting her accomplished son. Most of the people there were not telling him how much they loved his movies, but rather how much they loved his adorable mother!
I got my first job in high school, each summer I would work at Morry’s, an adorable market/produce store, and it was RIGHT next to Lee’s kosher restaurant The Milky Way. She would come in EVERY SINGLE DAY and buy fresh produce for her place. She’d always have her bodyguard at her side, but this bodyguard was a lady who everyone knew as her (tall) friend, so if you didn’t know better you’d think it was a friend or family member always hanging out with her.
She was the most sweet, lovely, warm and generous of spirit woman you could be lucky to meet. I would get a hug each time, and she would invite me to come eat there whenever I wanted. But then again, she would treat everyone else the same way. (For one of countless examples, read my close friend Arnon Shorr’s beautiful memories of her here.)
She would also come with her shul/synagogue to my parent’s garden each year on Rosh Hashana to do “Tashlich” in our pond, throwing bread to our fish. It would be surreal, this tiny, adorable woman who had one of the most famous children in the world, was standing in our backyard, and giving me hugs like she knew me – because she did – but even if she didn’t, that’s how she made EVERYONE feel. People meeting her for the first time could feel that same instant-connection to her. Honestly just one of the sweetest people you could meet.
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Her close connection to her famous son is what inspired him to make one of the greatest movies of all time, Schindler’s List. Her first husband, Spielberg’s father Arnold (who is still alive at 100!), had lost family in the Holocaust, and Lee continued to tell stories about it and emphasize the importance of remembering your past – Spielberg loved his parents enough to be inspired and make that masterpiece of a film. When most people in the world saw that his date at the Oscars was his mother, they must have said “awwww”; when my Jewish community watched it that year, we all beamed and said, “Look, that’s Lee, can’t wait to wish her a mazel tov!”.
She was the “other woman” in his life, and we were damn proud.
She will be missed. By me. By many.

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.

6-6-15 - My Birthday Movie & Dinner After (7)