I too had an emotional experience in Katz’s Deli

Little known fact about me. I love romantic comedies. I also hate poorly made movies. I’m bothered by flimsy narratives, bland chemistry, unnatural dialogue, unearned connection and low stakes. I very much don’t think two people should be together purely because they’re both attractive. It may sound like I don’t like romantic comedies after all, but I certainly do. It’s about finding the right ones.

I’m not gonna get a medal for saying When Harry Met Sally is great. It’s the genre’s worst kept secret. It turns out that in real life, relationships often come together after years of friendship. That the aspects you look for in a partner emulate those you want in a friend: Emotional honesty, an ability to bring effortless joy into the most mundane of activities, caring about your struggles, because their happiness swells when yours does. Much as the logline of men and women can’t be friends because sex gets in the way is a relic of times gone past, the film holds up incredibly well. Firstly, let’s look at what could be better.

Times have changed and the whole binary Men/Women:Mars/Venus mentality is all too outdated. The film deals in constant generalisations that simply don’t hold weight. Now, the strength of this movie is that it doesn’t get bogged down by it. As the characters grow, they mature. Their core tenets remain, but their emotional aptitude and ability to empathise ages with them. They do see the failings of prior values and course correct. Both characters were immature in their 20s (Harry more so, but the point still stands). By the end of the film, Harry has reached a place where Sally’s emotional distress is enough for him to put aside his feelings for her and simply give her the comfort he knows she needs. The fact that it ended up being the catalyst for them getting together is irrelevant. That wasn’t why he was there, which is the important part.

All those sticking points with romantic comedies that I mentioned back at the start? This movie does a tremendous job of sidestepping them. The narrative isn’t convoluted or overly simplistic. It’s well constructed and weaves the years without getting bogged down with unnecessary detail. The film covers 12 years in just over an hour and a half and none of it feels rushed or slow. The chemistry is palpable, built off numerous encounters that grow to a solid connection. The fights they have and obstacles they face aren’t clumsy or shoehorned, their reactions are congruent with their personalities. We’ve all had those will they/won’t they friends where the window never comes, right? Where it seems bizarre that nothing has ever happened between you? The thing I love about Harry and Sally’s burgeoning relationship is that at the start, they wouldn’t have been right for each other. They needed to evolve in order to come to a place where it made sense. If it didn’t, they probably wouldn’t have.

Most of all though, it’s well written. The dialogue is fantastic and even now rings true. The two leads inhabit the characters in a way that feels lived in. They obviously did a bunch of work together re-working the script to make it seem natural. There are more than a handful of line reads and shots that tear me up. Harry’s front porch apology, the shot where they’re both slow dancing at New Years and realise the depth of their feelings, the “I love/I hate” monologues when they actually get together. It’s a wonder what great writing can do, embodied by actors who get it. The film has such a salient beating heart that it’s impossible not to feel it resonate in your own.

If you like romantic comedies and haven’t seen it, give it a watch. If you haven’t seen it in years, give it a watch. If you think you don’t like romantic comedies, I challenge you, give it a watch.

Maybe you like them after all, you just don’t like shitty movies.

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If it needed to be more explicit: Infinity War spoilers to follow

I intend to spend this entry talking about Infinity War, so here’s a little disclaimer that this will likely be laden with spoilers from the very first sentence.

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I liked it. Turns out going in with low expectations was everything I needed to craft a perfectly enjoyable film experience. I turned off my brain, filled a drink with some godawful sugary concoction (I think it utilised vanilla cream soda, vanilla cherry Mr Pibb and Minute Maid limeade or something) and watched cotton candy superhero fantasies play out on the big screen. There were fight scenes, I laughed a bunch of times and the vfx were as good as a many million dollar picture with thousands of animators could be. I even feel like my list of what didn’t work so well was overshadowed by what did. The Marvel formula was successfully parlayed into something that not only met my expectations, but did one of those cute lil heel things over that bar. Good job Marvel, you ol’ billion dollar corporate entity you.

Let’s start off cold. What did I not like? Realistically most of my narrative issues were an occupational hazard of stuffing 80 characters into a film. There was never gonna be time for actual character development or progression. The framework was sort of banking on the goodwill of you having watched the previous 17 films and taken CliffsNotes. It pretty much spent the whole time racing from action to action and smoothing transitions over with quippy exposition. I think the notion was that the crowd would swoon so hard from seeing Iron Man and Dr. Strange compare metaphorical dick sizes that all would be forgiven. In this way, I guess it was almost exactly like a large scale comic crossover. This was probably more my fault than theirs. To Marvel’s credit I think they chose the right characters to give screen time, leaving the less interesting ones (Cap/Bucky, etc) as dynamic set dressing with a line or two.

One of the hard sells in a story like this, which is basically a soap opera with more punching, is creating affecting character deaths. Let’s be frank, Marvel can’t kill off half of its characters, because their overlords Disney would have something to say about them destroying billions upon billions of future franchise revenue. This makes Thanos’ final act something of an empty event. Sure, it was a nice touch killing all the music and allowing all these characters moments of pathos (a fragile teenage Peter Parker crying to Stark that he didn’t want to die was pretty effective). On the other hand, since there’s no way the characters can be dead for sure, it rings a little hollow. The “actual” deaths of Loki and Gamora are similarly suspect. Loki is a demigod with reality warping powers. Peter Quill is half Celestial and his arc in the last film will likely involve bringing Gamora back from the dead to kill Thanos. Just spit balling here.

Also it can’t just be me. Did they use the trope of “give me the McGuffin or [your loved one] dies” several times? Loki/Thor, Gamora/Nebula, Star-Lord/Gamora (ish), Scarlett Witch/Vision (ish), Thanos/Gamora (ish) and Strange/Stark (ish. Obviously dependent on Strange’s long game plan). It’s a time honoured trope, but kind of loses its efficacy when they use it a bunch in the same film. I dunno. The structure made it kind of hard to feel like there were stakes. It was the first part of a multi-film project, right? There was no way Thanos wouldn’t get/use the gauntlet. Isn’t that baked into Save the Cat? Things have to get bad, then really bad, then catastrophic, then worse before they get better.

As with every other villain (I think of Killmonger in particular). There’s a part of their values that kind of makes sense. Thanos is right, overpopulation is a real issue in many places. Thing is, they’re always sorta half-baked. Do all planets/countries suffer from overpopulation? Wouldn’t the issues creep back up over time? Is this a mass cull every few millennia or so kinda deal? Are there species/organisms that benefit from the overpopulation and would die out without being at that critical mass?

Stray observations: Didn’t Wanda Maximoff have a Russian accent in the previous films? When did Banner change from being an intelligent scientist to the group’s embarrassing dad? The Thor/Rocket eye thing was kind of cute and morbid, but was it explained anywhere that it was a working robot eye or something? Thor just plopped the eye into its socket and it was functional. I guess this is my inability to suspend disbelief over a demigod who shoots lightning giving himself a new eye. Maybe that’s on me. Did Bucky really do anything in the film other than shoot a gun?

So many thoughts, so little time. Which I guess could’ve been the alternate name for the movie. It was a mere two and a half hours after all.

The future isn’t that far away. How long until physio with lightsabers gets greenlit?

We’ve got precisely 33 minutes before we leave for Avengers: Infinity War. I have low expectations for the 2.5 hour convoluted slugfest which has a cast list the length of The Bible. At worst, I get to say “I told you so”. At best, the movie is more Winter Soldier than Civil War and I walk away from the theatre very happy.

That’d be awfully apt, ’cause after a great weekend I’m riding high. Yesterday was one of those days where I just got to do all of my favourite stuff. I woke up and did almost two hours of physio. Apparently I’ve got a combination of planar faciitis and some bone tucked under the balls of my feet being inflamed. This may explain why doing extreme activities like “walking” have hurt so much recently. To irritate the fuck out of it, my physio brought out the big gun. I got to experience new levels of pain by application of this electro-stim gun thing. First he put this conduit gel on and told me that the first level didn’t hurt too badly. He warned me the second level would be considerably worse. There were mild jolts and I thought oh, I guess this isn’t that bad at all. Lying down in my comfort of hubris, I didn’t bother bracing myself for level two. This was a mistake, because the wiser choice would’ve been to ask for an apparatus to bite down on. The pain was so excruciating that I balled my fists as tight as I could and thought of England. I can’t really begin to describe what incredible pain it was. These very tender and fatigued tendons feeling like they were getting worked over by a lightsaber. What’s more, after he finished the first foot he then moved onto the second. I once again thought of England, or at least back to the large amount of walking we did and all the signals my body gave me telling me to take the tube.

Still, today it doesn’t hurt to walk, so that’s something.

Wait, wasn’t I saying how I got to do all my favourite things? Is this some subtle way I have of telling the audience I’m big time into some kinky S&M shit?

It went up from there. I was still hungover from dancing (well, more the drinking part of that equation) the night before, so my girlfriend and I went out for Korean. I had my favourite gamjatang from my favourite Koreatown restaurant. We ate big, went out for coffee, then came back home for a solid nap. Being an adult is basically being a baby, but with choice.

Going up from there, I had a ticket to Mark Forward’s sold out A Very Mark Forward Time Machine show. Forward is a local Toronto comic whose work falls squarely in the absurdist camp. He’s the kind of guy whose work is so cleverly silly that I find myself sweating the way through his gigs. He does these variety shows with a central theme and acts loosely fit it into their acts. There was some particularly inspired stuff, from a Vancouver comic with a set based on Time Travel films, to the ‘Titanic’s on board comedian’ travelling through time to give a set on the opulent grandeur of the incredibly safe ship. Maybe the most compelling part of the night was an extended bit involving the early bird getting the worm, but full on sympathy for the worm in that equation. Did not the worm get up early too? Any number that ends with a comedian wearing a pantyhose worm costume singing a Les Mis tribute to his deceased son is one that grabs my heart.

If that wasn’t enough of a day, my girlfriend and I made it out to a friend’s annual birthday extravaganza. He’s one of those incredibly creative and productive people who doesn’t take things by half measures. Each year he has a jungle themed party at his place. Decorations everywhere, party lighting turned up to a tee. Costumes widely encouraged. There was a plounge and a massive dancefloor, with different DJs spinning sets all night. Really diverse acts spinning high quality tunes. The host had a bunch of allergies to non-vodka/tequila liquors, so he’d put out an array of bottles he’d accumulated over the years. We all tried a bunch of different combinations (though I stayed pretty conservative with a crème de menthe/cacao and ginger ale cocktail). Things got sweaty quickly and it didn’t take long for everyone to basically be dancing in their underwear. I got to see so many friends I hadn’t caught up with in ages, which was bloody lovely. We were having such a great time that we had to force ourselves to leave before four, elsewise forfeit our entire Sunday.

Which we mostly did, but hey, at least we’re getting out to see Infinity War. Low expectations and all. Fingers crossed.

No more Ace in the hole.

Ace Ventura re-he-heally has not aged well.

Let me preface this by triple underlining what a massive Ace Ventura fan I was as a kid. After seeing The Mask, I thought Jim Carrey was a literal embodiment of God among men. For a long time in my life I refused to watch anything that either a) wasn’t a cartoon b) didn’t have puppets or c) wasn’t super hero oriented. The fact that I was willing at all to give Ace and his fine feathered friends a go was a big coup for me. While watching, I realised that Ace Ventura was a cartoon, just depicted by a flesh and blood human. I was in. Ace was goofy, talked through his butt and had so many animal friends. He was my kind of dude. I watched Pet Detective, I watched When Nature Calls, I watched an absurd amount of the Pet Detective cartoon on Saturday mornings. Big fan.

Watching at age 31 in 2018, things have changed. Credit where credit is due, Jim Carrey overcommits to an Olympic extent in every single scene. His neck is always protruding, jaw janked in some odd direction. He’s tossing out a silly voice or doing an imitation maybe 80% of his time onscreen. I don’t know how one directs Jim Carrey because it seems like he’s constantly doing bits. I don’t know how one writes for Jim Carrey because all evidence points to him improvising half of his scenes. I feel like the script is mostly exposition and [Jim will insert something funny here]. The whole film is basically a setup of scenarios in which he can do some kind of impression. His brand of physical comedy is still bloody impressive to watch 24 years later. He’s a talented dude, no doubt.

Egads though, the movie is one big clusterfuck of gay panic, transphobia and obnoxious male posturing. Given how much society has shifted, it’s hard to just turn your brain off and let things slide. The most egregious example is of course the central plot revolving around someone transitioning. The punch line in the climactic scene is not only the gay panic induced vomiting by the entire police squad, but the second beat of her promiscuity. Har har. Also for a character as fey as Ace Ventura, they do a remarkable amount of work to try and fit him in a comfortable box for red blooded American males. He’s still a rough and tumble dude who doesn’t think twice about getting into a physical altercation. He can do car stunts, and LOVES sex. There’s even a scene where he takes a blow job from a busty client in lieu of payment, the punchline being a fourth wall breaking “well, could you say no?” or something of the like. I feel like comedy didn’t have to try as hard back in the 90s. They have to put in SO MUCH WORK to make him a “palatable” representation of masculinity. Stuff that as a kid I probably lapped right up. Ace was the coolest.

In 2018, Ace isn’t quite so cool.

You know what else hasn’t aged gracefully? Sixteen Candles. Holy shit does it ever smack of being a film written about a woman by a man. It’s broad strokes of character all the way through, but really it’s more about the central male characters. If Ace Ventura was egregious, Sixteen Candles is a relic. She’s basically lusting over The Coolest Guy in School, who’s a Sensitive Jock type. But he’s with The Hottest Girl In School (we know this, because we get a naked shower scene that shows basically everything). The Geekiest Dude in School is lusting after her. So what’s the resolution? The Geekiest Dude sexually assaults her a bunch of times. She’s like “ugh. You’re not a bad dude, but that was embarrassing”. The resolution? The Coolest Guy just gives The Geekiest Dude The Hottest Girl as if she’s chattel. She’s drunk out of her skull and the Coolest Guy is all “here, thanks for hooking me up with Molly Ringwald, now go fuck my drunk ex-girlfriend in a parking lot or something.” It’s woeful. Times have changed and thank fuck for that.

I wonder how Blazing Saddles plays in 2018…

Can I get away with calling it Panthastic just this once?

So how long did we realistically think I’d wait to talk about Black Panther? Without exaggeration, it’s one of the most exciting films Marvel has put out in years. Of course I want to deep dive in. Spoilers will abound. With that note, I’ll give you some space to check out just in case.

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Are we alone now? Good. Wasn’t that a bloody fun film? A plethora of excellent performances, a great soundtrack, cool visuals and a nice departure from the formula we’ve become so accustomed to. Where should I start?

Let’s start with what you see onscreen. The colour palette was hands down fucking gorgeous. So much rich purple and gold. Hell, everything was vibrant as hell, but I specifically noticed the repeated use of purple and gold as a thematic element. Why? Purple and gold are traditionally royal colours. Not only that, they pair so goddamn well with black. The production design of this film looked sick and the palette was a big part of that. You think it was just incidental that T’Challa’s force feedback effect coruscated with purple? It’s a multi-hundred million dollar film. Nothing’s incidental. Throughout this film they drew with bold, flashy colours and it really helped lift it from drab overly self-serious shit like Civil War (I guess I’m especially down on Civil War because I re-watched it the other night. Way to spend an entire film to justify one airport fight scene). The film oozed style throughout and the fact that I’ve dumped 100+ words on joyously ranting about purple and gold speaks truth to how evocative it was.

Next, Wakanda looked like a dream. Choosing to begin the film in Oakland really paid out once we arrived in Wakanda. The dichotomy between the Oakland projects and lavish futurism of Wakanda really spoke to Killmonger’s central plight. I wanted to pause the film to drool over the architecture. The Afrofuturism fusion of traditional African style and motifs with sci-fi form was awesome. The concepts drawn not only in the buildings, but abundant technologies was dazzling and provided constant eye candy. Costuming isn’t something I normally pay much attention to (excepting maybe Phantom Thread as of late), but it was impossible to ignore. Everything oozed style and panache, likely drawing on ethnic influences that are way beyond my reach. If I enjoyed it this much, I can only imagine how much it’d resonate with someone who grew up with a culturally aligned background. So fucking cool.

Look, I could spend the whole time talking just about its audible and visual splendour, but this was a movie not an art exhibit. Let’s talk characters. Let’s talk the fact that we had a huge mainstream film in 2018 that managed to sideline its white actors into marginal roles. Fuck yeah. Serkis was a gratuitous cartoon villain and it was nice that they used Freeman as a proxy for a know-it-all white audience member. The restraint showed in not making him a total caricature was remarkable.

With them out of the fucking way, wasn’t the rest of the cast fucking great? Bold characters who lived and breathed without becoming walking tropes. T’Challa was a splendid depiction of a good male role model. Humble and soft-spoken, but confident and self-assured. Sensitive and loving, but uncompromising in principles. So often comic book heroes are these Marlboro Man cocksure embodiments of walking testosterone with a plastic smile. Amongst these dopey hero fantasies, T’Challa stands tall and proud. The best part too is that he’s fallible and knows it. His own rigidity works against him in the film’s central ideological conflict. In his desire to be a good and noble king, he has to face the fact that in order to do the best for his kingdom he has to break from tradition and face change. It’s not the newest notion in the world, but they sure represented it well.

This is going long, so I’m not gonna get to talk about the whole cast here (which sucks. So many well-defined characters. Does this film have more competent, formidable and balanced female leads than all the previous Marvel films combined?). I do want to talk about Killmonger. This is what we want from a villain. From the same well as Magneto comes an antagonist with a meaningful ideological struggle. His father killed, banned from his homeland, brought up to see nothing but systematic abuse and degradation. It’s a solid background for an imminently sympathetic, tragic anti-hero. Michael B. Jordan sold this role so well that it’s hard to look at him as a true villain. He had good points. His methodology may not have been 100% on the money, but you can’t fault his motivation. Plus he was fun as hell to see onscreen. Please Marvel, give us villains we can root for. If you want there to be conflict in your films, make us question our protagonists. Let this be a solid sign of things to come.

Anyway, as you can tell, I loved the film. The action scenes were a blast. It was dynamically shot and narratively enticing. The pacing made sense. It was great to get rooted in the cultural tapestry surrounding our hero before plunging into the wider story arcs. The casino heist was great not only as a way to give us a black James Bond (please sir, can we have another?), but it was a riot to strap in and enjoy the ride. The central conflict was both personal and drew well into wider global ramifications. The cast was stellar and the production design was outstanding. With that, I’d give the film a solid 8.5 out of 10.

Where did it fall down? Like most big blockbuster films, it took clumsy and unearned narrative steps to vault towards its conclusion. Of course we had to have a large, expensive looking battle, so after all the groundwork was carefully laid, we got there tout-de-suite. I know Wakanda was isolationist, but are we to believe that after the time spent to establish T’Challa as a considerate and thoughtful character he’d make colossal sweeping snap judgements that could destabilise his country overnight? They’re supposed to be a socially progressive and advanced nation, yet there’s no part of their government that respects due process? That wouldn’t look at Killmonger and think well, you do have the right to live here and have been unfairly dealt with so maybe let’s try easing you into society before making rash decisions? I mean, just ’cause this dude makes a challenge, there’s no reason why it has to happen right away. They even say “oh, it’ll take ages to prepare all this” and he’s like “nah, do it now” so they’re all “okay”.

Also they’ve spent time setting up Killmonger as this master spy, slowly and systematically taking apart governments from the inside. Then when he turns up in Wakanda they throw all of that aside in favour of “but I want it” and T’Challa’s like “okay.” They do so much good work in setting up this villain, but then also don’t do enough to buffer his motivations with realistic social change. He’s so into helping out struggling communities and dealing with inequality, just think how much more effective this could’ve been if they’d shown one 20 second montage of him helping out in the community, to show a deeply balanced villain. Instead he’s just like “well I kill people, so let’s just kill the rest of the world. Then there’ll be no more inequality.” So much wonderful subtlety thrown out the window.

Then once the battle occurs, this wonderful and advanced society immediately flips on its head and thinks “well this new guy won the battle. I guess we’ll just do whatever he says”. So without internal conflict or anguish they start following his plans? They set up T’Challa and W’Kabi as being close friends with an emotional connection, then W’Kabi so willingly tosses away all of that in an instant? They’re willing to turn on the rest of their country on a whim with no ideological misgivings? I know we want to see rhinos in battle, but for fuck’s sake it has to be earned. I know it’s a blockbuster, but that’s no reason not to demand more from our films. Of the 200 million or whatever spent on this film, how much was spent on the script? THESE ARE FIXABLE ISSUES, PEOPLE.

All of which is to say, I had a fantastic time. I thought the movie was excellent. The ending was great and felt immensely satisfying. It was wonderful to be plunged into this piece of the MCU which, for the most part, stayed the fuck away from the tiresome and grotesque franchise building. It felt self-contained and this only strengthened the film. It’s okay to be critical of things you love and want more from material that delivered. Nothing is perfect, but Black Panther is testament to the fact that they’re getting better. Now with its financial dominance inarguably proven, can Hollywood stop bullshitting through its mouth that the market doesn’t want more minority super heroes?

I wouldn’t say no to a Lego Death Star either.

Black Panther time. Soon, I guess. I think. The woman behind the counter suggested I arrive early if I wanted a good seat. Roughly an hour early, was her bet. So I’m sitting here 70 minutes before start time (or rather, when the trailers begin) and I’m already seeing others who’re obviously here for the same film. It’s crazy. The movie is cleaning up and I’m finding it really hard not to buy into the hype. So many Marvel films lately have been neat, but still not straying too far from the formula. Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor: Ragnarok. You’ve been virtually guaranteed an enjoyable enough movie experience, but as with most big blockbusters they’ve been lacking in character development or clever plotting. Am I asking for too much from a comic book film?

Clearly the answer is no, because I just re-watched Spider Man: Homecoming last night. It wasn’t my first time, but I feel like that says something in itself. When it was first announced, I marvelled (pun not intended) at how unnecessary it all seemed. We already had six Spider Man films over the past 15 years. Did we need one more just so Sony could hold onto the rights? Then I read some of the names they were getting for background characters. Hannibal Buress, Donald Glover, Martin Starr. I saw a couple of clips with the stars of the film: Tom Holland and Zendaya. They were young and charming. They seemed like they’d sell a fun script with charisma. Michael Keaton was cast and I wondered if they’d be able to make The Vulture into a legit villain instead of a scrawny old dude in a green fluffy turtleneckThen I watched Captain America: Civil War. Civil War was a generic, mediocre superhero film, but this incarnation of Spidey was lively, endearing and stole the show. I thought the way he played off Stark was fantastic and got me jazzed for Homecoming. I was excited, hoping this film could deliver on more than just a big dumb blockbuster.

Watching it again last night reminded me just how solid it was. First off, they know we’ve seen the origin story played out too many times, so they straight up skip it. Secondly, Peter Parker is actually a teenager and Tom Holland is suitably aged. It makes the high school scenario seem more authentic. School stuff comes into play in ways it didn’t in other films. All of which serves to place Spider Man as a kid, dealing with things that’re far beyond him. The writers have the tact to leave out the Great Responsibility speech, but retain its ethos. Rather than simple quips, this film has jokes. REAL JOKES. It’s funny and its cast handles the humour remarkably. The action is fast paced and while there’s a ton of CGI, it looks great. The interplay between Spidey and Stark technology adds a bunch to the film. Seeing him deal with the advanced suit and it’s plethora of options is neat. The suit’s voice Karen becomes a great character in herself. The cast is effortlessly diverse and doesn’t pat itself on the back for it. Characters span cultures, but never mention it. In real life, why would they? That’s just how society is, why not reflect it onscreen?

Keaton manages to make The Vulture not only fearsome, but gives gravity to his performance. There’s more nuance than just a villain for villainy’s sake. The character motivations make sense (up to a certain point) and it’s easy to see where hubris overtakes him. In a genre that boils down to big splashy fight scenes, a sympathetic villain makes a world of difference in adding real conflict. It’s nice seeing side characters being effective without feeling like it’s a token addition. Jacob Batalon is outstanding as Peter’s best friend Ned. He’s competent and intelligent while still not losing the charm of being an excitable kid. He’s equally excited to find out about the Spider Man ordeal as he is for his Lego Death Star. While young and sexy Aunt May sounded like a shitty idea when I first heard it, Marisa Tomei sells it. She’s a loveable character and her performance brings a lot of heart to a script that’s already bursting with it.

In short, the film is exciting. It’s a joy to watch. It’s easy to sit back and get lost in, without being put off by a ton of glaring tonal errors and convenient plot contrivances. If Black Panther manages to stick the landing as well as I think it might, it’s gonna be one of my new top entries in the MCU.

Have any puppet films won best picture?

I went to a kids’ play today. One of my pals wears many dramatic hats. One of them is as a playwright/puppet god. Let me clarify, he’s not a puppet, but he builds them from scratch. I don’t know if they worship him, but they probably should. He’s that proficient. The play was called Princess Knight. If you’re in Toronto, enjoy theatre, have kids and/or are somehow a ghoul in thrall to my every command, go see it. It was a truly superb experience. Now, it’s not my first experience with children’s theatre. I used to act in local community plays. In my 20s, friends and I would often laugh our way through kids’ shows, mocking how bad the kids acted. It was a time.

The difference today was I went with a friend and her son. I had an actual child with us and it kinda helped to see it through his eyes. Let’s be clear, I enjoyed the play regardless, but understanding his perspective a little better lifted the experience. It was neat to see what lit him up (fart jokes, obviously. Silly names), ’cause it was so removed from how I normally engage with shows (except for the potty humour. That’s not going away any time soon). It was cool seeing how shy he got when the actors offered a Q&A at the end, or showed the kids all the props. It reminded me of being that young, before I’d heard the word “cynical”. When the world was a sensory explosion at every step. When I could count on one hand the plays I’d watched, where the scale seemed so much greater. I felt the same way about community plays as I’d probably now feel about large scale concerts. They felt larger than life and I got transported with them. I wasn’t thinking about the layers or themes, I was just along for the ride. Stories at their purest form.

It’s been winter for what feels like a decade. In reality, January wasn’t that bad. I’ve been through a cluster of Toronto winters now and the novelty has pretty much fallen away. Still though, there was this nice moment today that stuck with me. It was a clear day and it’d warmed from around -11 to 3 above. The footpaths I walked across were near endless lines of locals getting out to shovel. Everyone was in pleasant spirits, taking advantage of the slushiness that simplified the job. People were chipper, smiling and chatting. A diverse range of people, all smiling and getting down to business. It was like a community. It made me feel like joining in the action. I looked at our footpath and I probably could’ve gotten away with doing nothing. Instead I fetched the shovel and left a respectable looking footpath for anyone passing by.

We watched I, Tonya tonight. Spoilers likely to follow.

The movie was medium at best. Maybe a B/10? It seemed like needless Oscar bait. Margot Robbie was pretty decent, Allison Janney was outstanding (not like that’s out of the norm). It had its moments. The first third was tight, then it seemed to hit a wall. The pacing slowed and it all felt tedious. It was flippant and trashy, which I’m not putting out as detractors. It was fun how they played with the fourth wall. It just sort of felt like it was flashy without being fleshed out. There wasn’t a ton of substance. They didn’t shy away from the systematic abuse she was put through (though at times it took on an almost alarmingly slapstick tone). My issue was more that with all the polish, dynamic shots and Rashomon narrative style, it still felt kind of stock and laid it on way too thick. C’mon, “Spirit in the Sky”? Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”? Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger”? Nothing stood out as exemplary enough for the film to be considered Best Picture material. Certainly entertaining, but nothing that’ll be remembered in two years. Remember when the category only had four films? Let’s bring that back.

Or like, nominate my friend’s play for one. I dunno.