Tag Archives: Movies

My 2020 Movie Tally: The Year The Movies Died

6 Feb

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

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

January, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February

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

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

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

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

March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of the Year

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

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

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

Back to the Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 2019 Movie Tally: What to Watch During Social Isolation

23 Mar

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

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

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

May, 2019: South Africa

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

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

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May, 2019: A Shocking Return

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

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

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August, 2019: Israel

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

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

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September, 2019: The Calm Before the Storm

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

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

October, 2019: The Storm

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

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

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

SO YOU SAW NO MOVIES?

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

MOVIE COUNT

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

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

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

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

THE BREAKDOWN

Who I saw the most with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

    IN MEMORIAM

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

    SO LONG, FAREWELL, AUF WIEDERSEHEN, GOODBYE

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

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

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.

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.

My Movie Theater Recommendations

11 Feb

For years my friends, coworkers and readers have asked me to write a blog explaining WHERE to see movies. Sure people know where one is playing, but that’s usually where it ends. Often they’ll come back from their movie-night and make any of the following complaints:

– “It was sold out”

– “It was so full that we got lousy seats”

– “Parking was awful, and by the time we walked in the movie had started”

– “I sat down on a hypodermic needle, and it wasn’t even mine”

Yes I realize that you can solve many of these problems by buying advanced tickets online, but that is simply more expensive, prevents you from ever using discount tickets, and don’t get me started on those aforementioned hypodermic needles. Well, I don’t have all of the answers, but my seeing an insane number of movies (in the theater) each year has taught me the numerous pros and cons of each location, including many juicy nuggets you haven’t thought of. So for my fellow Angeleno readers, consider this your new Lonely Planet for LA Theaters…

(NOTE: This is not a ranking, I simply tried to lists the theaters in the order I visit them from most to least often.)

AMC

AMC Century City 15

How busy – Try to avoid it on weekends. If I’m seeing an older movie at 11pm on a Saturday night then sure, it should be no problem. But a movie during prime-time you’ve got almost no shot unless you buy advanced tickets. On a weeknight on the other hand you should have no problem unless it’s an extremely popular one in its opening week. This is one of my least favorite targets for a weekend, but one of my ideal locations to go on a weeknight.

Seats – As with most theaters on my list these are nice stadium seats – that’s almost a given in today’s day and age. Remember the old days when you’d decide where to sit based on who’s in front of you? What a wonderful thing to leave in the past! And the seats are assigned, which is a double-edged sword in my opinion.

Screens – No small screens here, and a handful of really big ones that I’ll mention later on.

Outside food policy – Moderate. They technically don’t allow you to bring food in, but they also won’t question that big shopping bag in your hand, so be respectful and clean up after yourself if you do!

Parking – Free for exactly 3 hours as long as you validate at the theater. After that I believe it’s 4 bucks at the 3 hours and 1 minute mark.

Tidbits – They also have their fake version of IMAX (nice, large screen but don’t get my started on how it’s not a real IMAX screen), and I haven’t tried it yet but Mike & Jared went to see American Sniper in their ETX room, and apparently the seats are leather, recline, vibrate and have speakers built-in. (Raise your hand if you’re excited to see Fifty Shades of Grey there!)

A quick rant – The theater chain a year or so ago decided that it wouldn’t violate any laws or ethics to start charging a surcharge on each (prepaid) discount pass you use. People who paid for a pass that supposedly covers the full purchase of the movie suddenly were told to give extra money, something incredibly unethical. Other popular theaters such as The Grove have created surcharges in the past, but have printed new passes that give this warning in the fine print; if you have a previous pass from before the change, they still accept it without the surcharge. I’m still quite annoyed at AMC for continuing this unsavory business practice.

Grove

Pacific’s The Grove Stadium 14

How busy – Very similar to the busy-factor of Century City, but even MORE crazy on weekends due to the crowds at the outdoor-mall. This would be dead-last in my list of theaters to visit on a Saturday night, but once again no problem on a weeknight.

Seats – Ditto to above: stadium seating, and assigned seating.

Screens – All are a good size, and some are really big (cue Michael Scott).

Outside food policy – Open. Beautifully wide open. This is the one and only theater I’ve found in all of LA that 100% allows outside food, it’s fantastic! I’ve tested this countless times by walking in with a giant pizza box and the only response I get from them as I enter is “Where’s my slice?”. I appreciate this amenity so much, and although I’ll sneak food into just about any theater, it’s great to be able to bring in something fresh and hot with no fear of “getting caught”.

Parking – $2.50 for the first 4 hours with validation. And if you ignore my advice and come on a Saturday night, then enjoy spending an hour trying to park, or better yet just go straight up to the roof where you’ll hopefully find a spot.

Tidbits – Next door my friends Seth, Frank and “Big” Mike all work at the Cheesecake Factory, a place that Adi claims I’d never leave if I was willing to eat non-kosher food. Another tidbit, the stock photo above shows a marquee for two movies I’ve not only seen, but reviewed on this blog. Feel free to take a walk down memory lane with Snitch, and Jack The Giant Slayer.

Culver City

Pacific Culver Stadium 12

How busy – My favorite choice on a Saturday night, because it does get busy, but RARELY enough to sell out. I’ll go there pretty much anytime, unless it’s an insanely popular movie’s opening weekend.

Seats – Yes stadium seating, but unlike the previous theaters you can choose any seat you want once you enter the theater – something I personally prefer.

Screens – Slightly smaller screens than the previous theaters, but still not bad at all.

Outside food policy – Easy/Moderate. Like most theaters they “don’t allow” it, but this theater is super chill, sometimes I can’t even find someone to take my ticket as I enter!

Parking – On Saturday nights it is sometimes tough thanks to the lovely Downtown Culver City really blooming the last few years. But on any given night there are multiple nearby parking lots, and all of them are free with validation for 4 hours.

More Images : www.tiny.cc/mgpfb  |

Tidbits – We had our engagement photo-shoot in this exact spot, and the theater was completely chill about us coming in and taking photos inside a theater, even though we asked last-minute and offered them nothing for it. As the example above shows, such great shots and memories came from here!

Landmark

The Landmark

How busy – On weekends, extremely. The theaters are smaller, and the crowds are huge, so either buy your tickets in advance online, or don’t bother going on a weekend. On a weeknight on the other hand you can generally get a ticket.

Seats – Yes stadium seating, and yes assigned seats, but here you get something very cool – the living-room theaters! A few of the screens have leather couches instead of chairs and the front row even gives you a foot-rest. It’s really comfortable and my only “complaint” is that the couches have low backings so taller people may get uncomfortable unless they slouch. But definitely a fun way to see a movie. For anyone going on a date, this could be a much more “intimate” way to see a movie.

Screens – A few are large, most are medium, and the living room screens are pretty small, so sit in the front few rows for those. And FYI one or two of their medium-sized screens are placed awkwardly high up, so if you see a movie in those rooms you’ll want to sit in a row further back or you’ll be straining your neck to look up the entire flick. Weird design, right?

Outside food policy – Moderate. They do have a nicer concession stand than most theaters, serving coffee, tea and nuts.

Parking – Busy on weekends as well. Free parking for 3 hours with theater validation. Strangely, when you exit on the Pico Boulevard side, the gate is often already up and you can just drive straight out.

Tidbits – In June of 2007 I had my birthday party at this theater, where we literally bought out the entire living-room theater and watched Son of Rambow. They charged us only 7 bucks per person back then. The sound and sight of a theater packed full of your friends watching a movie with you? Priceless.

Sundance

Sundance Sunset Cinema

How busy – Not usually too hard to get into, but I usually only go on Tuesdays (I’ll explain why below)

Seats – Very nice leather seats with plenty of space between each person for food.

Screens – Generally medium to small-sized, but perfectly fine.

Outside food policy – Moderate. They have a nice bar for wine and beer as well as some nice other goodies at the concession stand, and people can order food to bring inside the theater.

Parking – Easy to find within the parking lot, and 3 hours free parking with validation.

Tidbits – Why do I go on Tuesday nights? They have 6 dollar movies all day and night! This theater is quite expensive the rest of the time, but any movie, anytime on a Tuesday for 6 bucks? Quite the bargain.

Howard Hughes Cinemark

 

Cinemark 18 & XD

How busy – This is my other favorite theater for Saturday nights. I’ve never had trouble getting into a movie, any night of the week.

Seats – Typically good stadium seating chairs, and choose any seat you want when you arrive.

Screens – Medium to large screens.

Outside food policy – Moderate.

Parking – 3 dollars flat-rate as you enter on weekends and weeknights.

Tidbits – The downsides of this theater are that it’s a bit further for me to get to (Howard Hughes Center, off the 405), and a lot of loud teenagers tend to hang out here, making it more likely than the previous theaters that you’ll encounter an inconsiderate, noisy audience.

Magic Johnson Rave

Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15

How busy – I’ve only been here a handful of times, but have never had trouble getting a seat.

Seats – Newly built theater with stadium seating and no assigned seating.

Screens – Medium

Outside food policy – Strict. This is the only place I’ve ever been to where they checked my bags, and sent me away due to outside food.

Parking – An outdoor parking lot, and totally free.

Tidbits – This used to be known as the Magic Johnson theater in Crenshaw, and my friends thought it was funny that I’d travel all the way there to catch movies. Well now some of them have seen the light after trying it, and want to give this place repeat business. They closed the theater down and rebuilt it, and now you have a brand new theater which is as nice as any other, while being the cheapest place I know of for new movies in LA! They offer student discounts and other discounts, and it usually costs between 5 to 7 dollars per movie when I go. In fact even if you don’t have a student ID, Wednesdays all day are just 6 dollars a movie, even 3D showings!

Westwood

Regency Village and Bruin Theaters

How busy – Mostly empty. It’s so easy to get tickets, even if it’s the opening weekend of a popular movie.

Seats – Old-school chairs and no stadium seating, so don’t sit behind someone tall. (Not a problem since there are always tons of empty seats.)

Screens – Huge! These are some of the oldest theaters in LA, and each of them has just one screen, but it’s a giant one!

Outside food policy – Medium strict. They have Starbucks and candy stores right by it and tons of UCLA students as customers, so they really try to keep outside food from entering with you.

Parking – Usually you’ll have to pick from one of the nearby lots and pay a flat rate. There is also metered parking but it’s usually enforced until late at night.

Tidbits – This is where many movie premieres used to take place, (it’s quite historic) and now it’s sadly underutilized. I look forward to my birthday party year after year being in one of these theaters (across the street from each other), and they always rope off however many rows I need and give us a huge discount. Many, many great memories are from here. Fun fact: If there’s a line to buy tickets in front of you, just walk across the street to the other theater and they’ll let you buy tickets for either location!

 

Of course there are other theaters in the city, and some of them are nicer than the rest:

– The Arclight in Hollywood is fantastic, but since it offers zero discount passes or cheap days, I avoid it. How else can I afford to see so many movies each year?!

– Ditto for the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, the main screen is massive and historic, but the rest of the screens are very average and just too darn expensive for no apparent reason.

– The various theaters on 3rd Street Promenade are all last resort choices for me, because it takes forever to find parking, and the theaters are old-school without any stadium seating. But I’ll still go if that’s the last place a movie is playing – hell, I’ll go anywhere.

– Universal Citywalk has a great theater with many screens, but call me crazy – I try to avoid driving to the valley and paying 10 bucks for parking.

So there you have it, a new guide for my friends and readers living in Los Angeles that should make you much more prepared to have a successful movie-night. (If you live in the valley and are shouting, “WHAT ABOUT ME?!” I make no apologies!)

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

13 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– 103 movies!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 Mar

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

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

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

Here’s what happened in 2012:

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York City Wedding Photography

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

-135 movies total

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

-This is still DOWN from my historic average of 150

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

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

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

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

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

The (Crazy) True Story Of My Video Collection

18 Mar

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Synopsis: “An epic story about one man’s obsessive movie purchase, and his need to let it go…12 years later!” (Rated PG; 12 years, 4 days)

Why do I look so down-in-the-dumps? It wasn’t easy giving up my prized movie collection, there’s quite a history behind it. To understand what happened with me today, on March 18th, 2013, I must first revisit the past…

1996

A few months after graduating high-school, my friend Josh Rothstein told me to swing by the new Blockbuster Video store where a staff of new employees were helping to get the store ready for its grand opening the next week. After chatting with Josh for a few minutes, he told me to fill out a job application. The thought of working while I was in college honestly hadn’t even occurred to me yet, and Josh was only being half-serious, so I took the application and did a very Boaz-typical thing: I filled it out as a prank, and it looked something like this:

NAME – Freddy Krueger

ADDRESS – 666 Elm Street

REFERENCES – Jeffrey Dahmer, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Josh Rothstein (yes, I included my friend’s name)

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CONVICTED OF A FELONY? – “Convicted?” No, I’m too smart for that!

You get the idea: amusing, juvenile answers. I then walked away to chat with Josh, and was surprised to find the store manager laughing as he read through my application that was left out. He then approached me, and asked when I could start. Confused, I explained that it should have been obvious that it wasn’t a real application. He laughed again, and insisted that I work anyway, and could get started the next day. Feeling confused, and caught off-guard, I accepted the job offer; and so began my illustrious career at Blockbuster Video, which would last about 3 1/2 years and create my massive video collection….but I’m getting ahead of myself.

1997

I got another job working for a Beverly Hills real estate attorney, Stacy Sokol, organizing his office, and wasn’t exactly enamored with the minimum wage pay I was getting from Blockbuster; so it was time to call it quits. Speaking with my manager, I informed him of my new job and that I was done. In a panic, he asked me if I could stay on anyway. I answered no, I would be making twice the money at the other job, so what was the point? He then asked if he could create a new job just for me, where I’d come in on Saturday nights (their busiest night of the week) and just stand around giving people movie suggestions. I was so blown away by the flattery of this idea – and absolutely loved doling out movie suggestions – but realized that this would mean not being able to go OUT to the movies on Saturday nights, and again I politely declined.

Exasperated, my manager asked me, “What WOULD keep you working here? Just tell me!” I laughed, and jokingly responded:

-Not needing to wear a uniform

-Doing whatever I please when I come

-Not having any shifts, and showing up whenever I want, for however long I want

-Getting the store a better selection of movies (a constant irritation of mine when they didn’t have the movies I was trying to recommend)

The response by my manager? “DONE!”

1998-2000

Over the course of the next few years, I was a strange version of an employee of Blockbuster Video, which made no real sense. I wasn’t a manager, but I did have a manager’s password which gave me some authority, and allowed me to make purchase orders. I didn’t wear a uniform in spite of the fact that even managers needed to wear those navy-blue polo shirts with khaki pants. I was still paid a lowly minimum wage. Whenever the district or regional managers would come by, I was told to go home or pretend I was a customer so they wouldn’t ask me any questions. I showed up for an hour here and there as I pleased, and I spent my time giving recommendations to customers (who loved me), cleaning up and organizing the shelves (in line with the “neat freak” aspect of me), and most of all ordering new movies for the store.

During this time, countless employees came and left, including my friend Josh. I went through 8 managers in total, each one of them inherited me as this bizarre fixture to the store who they could not tame. I sang the same tune each time a new one was hired.

NEW MANAGER – I hear you don’t do normal things here, that needs to change. From now on you’ll be wearing  a uniform and working a normal shift, we can’t just have a job that exists exclusively for you.

BOAZ – No problem, I have another job at a law firm, I was only here for the free rentals and to enjoy improving my community store, so I understand.

Previous manager whispers something to the new manager.

NEW MANAGER – Okay, we’ll make it work.

In the meantime, the store slowly but surely began to burst at the seams due to the vast number of movies I was ordering. Try to understand, I was like a kid in a candy store being given the ability to order NEW delicious candies, along with the realization that I couldn’t get any cavities or be stuck with any bills. It was a beautiful thing for this movie-loving college kid at his local video store!

The movies which were originally facing forward, with plenty of space between them, became closer and closer together as I kept adding more and more titles to its video library. Eventually, many of the shelves needed to display side-facing movies, in order to fit them all. Customers would know that if there was a movie the store didn’t have, you could just ask Boaz and he’d order it no questions asked. There’s little doubt that it became the best-stocked video store in the country. Were these all great movies? Absolutely not. If they had Puppet Master II but not the other sequels, I made sure to order them, spare no expense! In fact, there were hundreds of movies which were out-of-print and the only way to get them would be by finding a preexisting copy at another Blockbuster location and ask them kindly to send it to me. I literally spent hundreds of hours finding those stores, and getting them shipped to us. Every day the UPS delivery man was my personal Santa Claus, delivering anywhere from 5-20 boxes just for me. It was not uncommon for me to show up after missing a few days, and finding a pile of boxes behind the counter that looked like they were barricading an attack from enemy fire. And in case it isn’t clear: I loved it!

Then one day in the year 2000, the 9th manager was hired, and she wasn’t going to deal with my crazy routine. This manager had been hired because apparently there was a lot of spending going on from our particular store (hmmm), and a strict “no more purchasing movies” doctrine had been created. This was both because we had more movies than the Smithsonian, and also because DVDs were starting to make all of these VHS tapes a thing of the past. Since I could not continue working the way I had enjoyed so much for the previous few years, I thanked her and left my job at Blockbuster Video.

Christmas, 2000

During a random visit to rent a video from Blockbuster one day, the only remaining employee who had worked with me exclaimed, “Boaz, you can buy movies for ten cents each!” I rolled my eyes, and said, “suuuure”, knowing this couldn’t possibly be true. He then explained, “No, I’m being serious. They’re getting rid of most VHS tapes in Blockbuster to make space for DVDs. What they’re doing is putting all of them at $2.99 each. At the moment, there’s a two dollars off per movie sale. But if you use my employee discount, it’s 20% off BEFORE the two dollars are removed, so it comes out WITH TAX to 44 cents per movie. But this week is Christmas, so we have 30% off; so it actually comes out to ten cents each…total. And you can totally use my employee discount to get whatever you want!”

If you think I was like a kid in a candy store WORKING there, just imagine how I felt knowing I could take them home with me. I literally went downstairs to Ralph’s, borrowed one of their shopping carts, and started to FILL UP the cart with a copy of every single movie they were selling. Ten cents each, how could I not?! In fact I didn’t mind if it was a terrible movie I would never want to watch twice, there were many places including Tower Records and 20/20 Video which would purchase any VHS tape for a 25 cents up to 1 dollar each, so there was literally no downside. Silence of the Lambs? Check. The Godfather Trilogy? Yep. Puppet Master III? Got it!

March 14, 2001

The Video Purchase! (2)

See that? It’s a photograph of my friend Kathi helping me with just a fraction of the movies purchased! This was March 14, 2001, a day we dedicated to start the massive process of going through the hundreds and hundreds of movies, putting them in cover boxes, alphabetizing them, and organizing them onto the shelves of my room and throughout the house. By the end, there would be nearly two thousand movies purchased over the course of a few months, and the shelves in my parent’s house looked like a cross between Blockbuster Video and an episode of Hoarders.

2001-2013

Over the years, countless friends would come over to borrow a dozen movies at a time. My friends Mike, Adynna, Steve & Nava even bought me a funny gift one year; video rental stationary so I could track who borrows what. (And no, I never charged anyone a penny for this, I just didn’t want to lose any!) But the more time passed, the less people borrowed them, and even I stopped using VHS tapes since On Demand and Netflix truly made the need  for it redundant. In fact I asked around and there was NOWHERE left to even sell these movies. 20/20 Video? Nope. Tower Records? Not anymore. Aron’s Records in Hollywood? Not even them.

In early March 2013, my mother asked me to “please get rid of them” so she could finally reclaim the 40 or so shelves in the house as her own, and put books and other sensible items on them. I came across a few people selling “vintage” items in their garage sales, including a handful of VHS tapes. I approached them and asked if they would like to sell countless more that I need to get rid of. Their answer? “No thanks, not even the ones we have here end up selling.” My mother had met a man who was willing to sell things on eBay for people. What was his answer when she asked him if he’d try to sell the video collection? “Sorry, no can do, they just won’t sell.”

March 18, 2013

3-18-13 - Removing & Donating all of the Videos! (4)

Now that we’ve revisited the past, we are back in the present. The photograph above shows most of the shelves emptied of their video-contents, as I was putting them all into trash bags (with the help of our wonderful handyman Herminio) to take to the local donation center. Saddened by the thought of giving them all up, I realized it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing in life. What if “just a few” of them stayed behind, so that this crazy collection that numbered in the thousands, could be just a few shelves of GOOD titles? Maybe they’d never be watched again, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go of everything just yet. So…

3-18-13 - Removing & Donating all of the Videos! (2)

I separated the classics; kept movies that I would want to see if I had a “greatest hits” compilation of videos. Maybe they wouldn’t be watched anytime soon, maybe never again since we are now living in a digital age, but keeping these few HUNDRED allowed me to feel better about letting go of the other few THOUSAND.  Heck, giving up an addiction cold turkey isn’t always the right strategy, is it?!

3-18-13 - Removing & Donating all of the Videos! (3)

I got a haircut (as seen above) and made the drop-off of the donation. All told they received 19 trash bags and 4 boxes FILLED with video tapes. The donation center was thrilled (and probably intimidated), and more importantly, my mother finally had her shelf space back. All was right in the world again. Boaz’s movie obsession would continue in the movie theater and via this blog, while the VHS obsession that started long ago by a college student filling out a prank job application, came full circle to an end.