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  • PODCAST: 95th Academy Awards Predictions

    Mike Burdge, Bernadette Gorman-White, Diana DiMuro and Robby Anderson discuss their hopes and predictions for the winners of the 95th Oscars. From Austin Butler being cursed to forever say "Mama" to the animated short that drove all of them insane, it's an episode to remember that slaps in the good way. Listen on....

  • Chosen Family & Lots of Farm Animals

    A Review of the UK Channel 5/PBS Masterpiece Show All Creatures Great & Small I grew up with dogs. I like dogs. I like all animals. Hell, I like animals more than I like most people. So when I was about 7 or 8 years old, my mom gave me a copy of James Herriot's Dog Stories, a collection of memoir pieces written by a veterinary surgeon who practiced for nearly 50 years in the Yorkshire Dales. I was enraptured by the stories - charming and entertaining accounts of small-town living (with the bonus of ALL DOGS ALL THE TIME) - and read and re-read the book several times over the next ten years before I, unfortunately, misplaced it at some point during a move. (It is a strange turn of events that 30 years after reading and falling in love with these stories I have come to work in the finance department of a medical group that manages veterinary practices nationwide.) I later came to know that James Herriot was the pen name of a veterinarian named James Alfred Wight, and he had written a series of eight memoirs set in the 1930s-1950s about his experiences with veterinary practice, animals, and their owners, published in the United Kingdom starting with If Only They Could Talk in 1970. Later on, when the books were scheduled for publication in the United States, the first six books in the series were considered too short to publish independently, so they were combined in pairs to create three volumes, followed by the last two original books. After that, publishers in the US pulled stories from all of the books to create compilation volumes, of which Dog Stories was one (there is also a Cat Stories book and a Yorkshire Stories book, among others). The most famous book of the US publications is All Creatures Great and Small, but overall the entire franchise based on Wight’s writing was very successful, leading to several television and film adaptations of his books, including the film All Creatures Great & Small, released in 1975, a BBC television series of the same name that debuted in 1978 and ran for 90 episodes, and most recently, a UK Channel 5 television series that debuted in 2020 and has been airing in the US on PBS on January 10, 2021, as a part of Masterpiece. This last series in particular is what I am going to focus on here because it dropped on PBS at EXACTLY the right time for me and my boyfriend. After the relentless stress of the COVID lockdown, the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol (and losing my aunt to COVID on the same day), we were really in need of some gentle fare. This latest adaptation of All Creatures Great & Small is, quite simply, a lovely show about nice people who do nice things and care about each other, and it was and is a soothing balm amidst the general horror of the world these days. The show begins in 1937 with James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph), a newly qualified vet, moving from his family's home in Glasgow to accept a job in Darrowby (a small town in the Yorkshire Dales) at a vet practice in Skeldale House owned and operated by Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West). Living at Skeldale house along with James and Siegfried is Siegfried’s younger brother Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), who was raised by Siegfried after the death of their parents and is training to be a vet as well (while also being a bit of a hot mess), and their housekeeper, Mrs Audrey Hall (Anna Madeley). Eventually, Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton), a local farmer's daughter, moves into Skeldale House after falling in love and marrying James. All Creatures Great & Small is your basic workplace dramedy, with the oft-seen trope of work friends turning into a chosen family (especially given that all of the key players live at Skeldale House). Every episode usually features an overarching plotline about a major farm animal health situation in the farming communities of the Yorkshire Dales (usually handled by James or Siegfried), a smaller plotline about the oddballs who bring their housepets to Skeldale House for checkups and minor ailments (handled by Tristan, who after finally passing his qualifying exams is put in charge of the general surgery at Skeldale), and vignettes about the personal lives of all three vets and Mrs Hall. At times the stakes can feel pretty low - any farm animal-related crisis usually involves James saving the day (or on the occasions when he can't, the farmer handling the bad outcome with no hard feelings), any element of consternation Siegfried feels about the reputation of his practice tempered by his and James' skills (and often wise words from Mrs Hall), any scrape Tristan gets into usually resolved by him slowly learning how to take ownership of his mistakes and grow into a better vet, and any drama with James and Helen's relationship resulting in them having a sensible conversation and figuring out how to be true partners in marriage. If there is a problem in Act 1 of an episode, it is almost always resolved by the end of Act 2. Over time, especially if one were to binge this show (all episodes from seasons 1-3 are available on Amazon Prime Video or through the PBS app if you are a member of your local affiliate), the manufactured drama, wacky hijinks, and always happy endings start to feel so sweet that it will give you a toothache (as my boyfriend says). But ultimately, the real strength of this show is not so much the simplistic plotlines as it is the witty writing, rich character development, and performance of the actors. Additionally, the most recent season (the finale was just aired on February 19, 2023), set in 1939, begins to slowly explore some darker themes. World War 2 is on the horizon, young men are being encouraged to enlist, conscription (England’s version of the draft) is beginning and James has conflicted feelings about being in a protected profession and thus barred from enlisting (public health and safety in farming communities is a direct result of veterinarians' work), and Helen doesn’t want to lose James to the military. Siegfried is triggered by the impending war due to trauma from his experiences in the British Army Veterinary Corps during the first World War, and Mrs. Hall is dealing with the fallout of her strained relationship with her son, who is enlisting, after having her marriage to her husband fall apart due to his returning from the first World War with shell-shock (what has now come to be known as PTSD). The show does retain its fundamental gentle vibes in Season 3, but the specter of violence and death from the looming war in the background allows for more depth and complication in the stories than seen in the prior two seasons. While Nicholas Ralph is indeed very charming as our protagonist James, and his chemistry with Rachel Shenton as Helen is quite sweet, and while Callum Woodhouse as Tristan is extremely endearing in his rakish hot mess way, the MVP of All Creatures Great & Small by far is Samuel West as the eccentric, grumpy, but secretly soft-hearted Siegfried, and the relationship between Siegfried and Mrs Hall is a wonderful depiction of two people who have known and worked and lived together for so long that they have become soulmates - platonic soulmates, but soulmates all the same. The decision by the producers of this version of All Creatures Great & Small to age Mrs Hall down from being the crotchety elderly woman of Wight’s source material to someone warmer and closer to Siegfried's age is a masterful one, allowing for this wonderful relationship to develop, and Anna Madeley is a terrific, wry, no-nonsense foil to West's bombastic weirdness. (There is a not-insignificant contingent of fans who ship Siegfried and Mrs Hall for this reason; I fully admit I am one of these fans). Bottom line: If you have had your fill of dark television media and are looking for some good old-fashioned heartwarming fun, please check out All Creatures Great & Small. Your spirit will thank you. (And when you're done, hit me up so we can debate whether Siegfried and Mrs Hall should just get married already or not.) Reeya Banerjee Staff Writer Reeya is a musician and writer based in New York's Capital District. Her debut album, "The Way Up," was released on January 27, 2022. She can frequently be seen in her car on the NYS Thruway cursing traffic on her way to the Hudson Valley for band rehearsals or to Brooklyn for recording sessions. In her other life, she works as a staff accountant for a management company that oversees veterinary practices nationwide, enjoys watching Law & Order SVU returns while eating gummy bears, and has a film degree from Vassar College that she does not use.

  • Can't Leave the Night

    A review of Lockwood & Co. Season 1 “It’s terrible the world’s come to this. I feel sorry for your generation.” - Lockwood & Co. Based on the popular YA book series by Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood & Co. centers around a version of London where ghosts exist as part of accepted daily life. They are so ever-present in fact that the government has enforced nightly curfews and several agencies have been created to deal with said ghosts before they hurt or kill more people. In this reality, children and teenagers have developed intuitive abilities to see and fight against these ghosts, while adults gradually lose these skills with age. Most agencies are led by an adult supervisor who may or may not have their young employees’ best interests at heart. The only agency to operate without adult supervision is the titular “Lockwood & Co.,” which is comprised of three teenage agents: Anthony Lockwood (Cameron Chapman), Lucy Carlyle (Ruby Stokes), and George Karim (Ali Hadji-Heshmati). Showrunner Joe Cornish is best known for his 2011 film, Attack the Block, starring a young John Boyega, which also concentrated on teenagers taking supernatural matters into their own hands. Along with Cornish, the writing crew on Lockwood includes Kara Smith, Ed Hime, and Joy Wilkinson, who (to give some context for the show's feel) have written episodes for such shows as The Baby, Doctor Who, Skins, and the upcoming Anansi Boys. In 2020, long-time friends and collaborators Cornish, director Edgar Wright and producers Nira Park and Rachael Prior formed a new production company called Complete Fiction. Lockwood & Co. is the first major output from Complete Fiction and I am excited to see what else these friends will produce going forward. Ghost-hunting produces plenty of opportunities for entertaining action sequences throughout the series, especially its sword fights, but the show also displays the Joe Cornish fingerprint of containing great dialogue with loads of humor and biting sarcasm. Well done on the casting here, because there is wonderful chemistry and camaraderie between the show’s leads (Champan, Stokes, and Hadji-Heshmati). Lockwood has the feel of Buffy or Supernatural with the quiet, lived-in environment of the original British Being Human. It also happens to have a great soundtrack. In an interview with Joe Cornish explained, "We've gone for some contemporary music but really, a lot of early- to mid-80s goth - Bauhaus, The Cure. Because even though Lockwood & Co. feels like it's set in the present day, it's a parallel reality where the digital revolution never happened." Anthony Lockwood is a rich kid; he is both polished and totally reckless. His competitive nature and desire for the limelight often come at the cost of his own safety. He started an agency to fight ghosts without an adult chaperone, unlike every other paranormal investigation agency out there. He seems to have a little bit of a death wish which may have a bit to do with his dark unexplained youth. He’s an orphan and we never learn exactly how his parents died, only that it happened when he was very young, leaving him the London home that has become the agency’s headquarters. Lockwood presents himself as a bit haunted and older than his years, making his mysterious past that much more intriguing. Chapman does a great job at making Lockwood charming and youthful, yet also dark and extremely problematic. It is for all of these reasons that he sees the talent and potential of the young Lucy Carlyle when she shows up for a job interview with nothing to lose. Lucy is kick ass. It would have been easy to make Anthony Lockwood the star hero with skills to save the day, but it is Lucy who truly shines throughout the series. She left her small village home after realizing that both her mother and her ghost-hunting agency supervisor did not care about her or the other children at risk. After a particularly traumatic job, she lost her best friend who is essentially in a coma known as “ghost locked.” Lucy initially tried to apply for a job with a huge well-funded, well-known London agency, but she was immediately denied for not having finished all of her training qualifications yet. When she sees an advertisement in the paper for Lockwood & Co. she applies as a last resort. Fortunately, Lucy has great talent. She is a “listener” who can hear ghosts just by touching haunted artifacts. Ruby Stokes is both strong and strong-willed as Lucy. She and Lockwood/Chapman have great chemistry. But then again so does she and George/Ali. George is definitely my favorite character. Even though he also possesses ghost hunting “talents,” George's real superpowers are: 1) being highly perceptive and 2) having a voracious love of learning. He is Lockwood & Co.'s researcher extraordinaire, studying ancient languages, mythology, and more. George is the one that often decodes the real mysteries that are going on. He is also a quirky bastard and a great cook. He is the glue that holds the trio together, even while reprimanding them or feeling like a third wheel in the burgeoning relationship between Lucy and Lockwood. George is loveable and looking for love, but each pairing - and all three of the characters together - makes for a truly great Found Family. What I appreciate about Lockwood & Co. most is that the world of the story feels fleshed out. I loved hanging out at the Baker Street apartment in Sherlock, while Holmes and Watson had witty banter with a side of tea. For every action sequence battling ghosts, Lockwood also features scenes where Lucy, George, and Lockwood are just gathered around the kitchen table, processing the mysteries at hand, along with their own trauma. Lockwood also goes to lengths to display the repercussions of what happens when Lockwood and Lucy accidentally burn down a client’s house while fighting a ghost. Their agency gets sued by their client to pay sixty thousand pounds in damages or else they will lose their license and be shut down by the governmental agency that monitors them. The heroes even get arrested at one point. There are actual consequences to their actions, unlike many other fantasy and sci-fi shows where the protagonists make it out unscathed. While there certainly were enough questions left open to make me excited for a potential season two, I am happy to return to the world of Lockwood & Co. just for its witty dialogue and engrossing character relationships. I want to see what this trio gets up to around the breakfast table just as much as their next supernatural job assignment. Diana DiMuro Associate Editor Besides watching TV and movies, Diana likes plants, the great outdoors, drawing and reading comics, and just generally rocking out. She has a BA in English Literature and is an art school dropout. You can follow her on Instagram @dldimuro and Twitter @DianaDiMuro

  • PODCAST: Hot Takes - Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania

    Diana DiMuro and Mike Burdge take a trip to the Quantumverse to chat about the latest Marvel joint to drop. Big energy in this one guys, we promise. Listen on....

  • A Case for Picking Up "The Drop"

    A Review of Hulu's The Drop Being a fan of projects associated with the Duplass brothers takes a lot of work. You never quite know just what kind of film you’re going to get, as the projects can range from heartfelt to absurd to downright uncomfortable. Where these films fall on the spectrum mostly has to do with the plot (which, duh, that’s the point of the plot), but in the case of this specific comedy troupe’s array of films, you’re really contending with how well you can handle the specific characters. A good majority of the time, this group of films tends to feature characters caught in a state of arrested development, children that have found themselves living in adult bodies who are constantly railing against the concept of growing up. You all know the type, and in fact, most of those in their 40s and 30s can closely identify with facets of these characters. But when you take these types of characters and mix them into the comedy genre, their worst attributes are magnified and the comedy tends to paint the characters as stupid, sex-obsessed, vain caricatures of real human beings, leaving the comedy to fall flat on its face. In the case of 2022’s The Drop (directed by Sarah Adina Smith and co-written by Smith and longtime Duplass collaborator Joshua Leonard), the film is riddled with characters such as these…but where the film subverts expectations is with the two leads, Anna Konkle’s Lex and Jermaine Fowler’s Mani. Lex and Mani are a loving couple who are trying for a baby, and who are also about to embark on a trip to spend time with Lex’s college friend group to see two of their own married. Among this friend group are Peggy and Mia (wives to be, played by Jennifer Lafleur and Aparna Nancherla), Lindsey and Josh (Jillian Bell and the aforementioned Joshua Leonard), Shauna and Robbie with their teenage son Levi (Robin Thede, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Elisha Henig)...and Peggy and Mia’s daughter, Baby Ani. It’s a real who’s who of Duplass brothers’ regulars. But of course, maybe the most important of these (non)regulars is Baby Ani herself, as it is she who will be dropped. Once all the friends are gathered together, in their grand reunion, Baby Ani gets passed off to Mani, who is then taken by Lex, who then, in a state of who-knows-how drops. The. Baby. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare for themselves, and pretty much everyone else’s worst nightmare if they’re holding someone else’s baby. Baby Ani ends up being just fine, and the film actually does take her possible injuries very seriously. She stays overnight at the doctor’s office while she’s monitored for concussion and cognitive reasons, and is released the next day with only a safety helmet. Baby Ani will never remember the traumatic event of being dropped, but the friend group certainly will. The Drop masterfully takes this tense situation and uses it as a lens by which to examine the power dynamics between a couple who are contemplating expanding their family. For Lex, it makes her realize that maybe she is not only unprepared for immediate motherhood, but maybe motherhood in general. For Mani, it makes him question if Lex is the type of person who he wants to start a family with. This conflict, undeniably, is what makes the film work. There are many subplots that include Lindsey and Josh trying to get their friends to invest in their resort, the actress Shauna wondering if she can work “the drop” into her next project and whether or not Lex would be offended, Levi’s teenage burgeoning sexual appetite, and the general discussion of Mia’s possible Republican affiliations…but none of these subplots are remotely interesting, nor are they funny. But what they are successful in managing is creating the space for the tension between Lex and Mani to grow. What The Drop subverts in Lex and Mani’s relationship are the general gender stereotypes regarding child rearing. Typically, in most comedies, it’s the male who doesn’t want to pursue starting a family, as it generally cramps their style. Not the case in The Drop. In fact, Mani makes it clear that he feels his life’s purpose is to be a dad. But that doesn’t mean that Lex is made out to be some “gross” or “raunchy” or “one-of-the-guys” type of lady. She’s just a woman who so happens to be placed in a situation where she begins to question if she’s ready to give up her autonomy to raise a child, or even if that’s something physiologically and psychologically her body can handle. This, of course, puts Mani and Lex at odds, and in true comedy fashion, they spend most of the film being incapable of communicating these very scary truths to each other. Can Mani trust Lex to be the mother he needs her to be, and can Lex give Mani what it is that he desires and deserves? These are honest and relatable questions all contemplative parents-to-be should be asking of themselves and each other, and hidden in the typical cringe-comedy of a Duplass production, The Drop answers them deftly and sincerely. The main selling point of The Drop is that the central conflict is happening to two committed people. The film does a great job of dispelling the myth that dropping a baby is uncommon (in fact, my own mother fell asleep in a rocking chair while rocking my baby brother and, well, dropped him) and instead takes that traumatic event and places the responsibility for truth on the couple at hand. This isn’t your typical romantic comedy where people have to question whether or not they should get together in the first place; these are two people who are, truly, in it for the hypothetical long haul. If they choose to let this event change their minds about each other, their lives will be affected. There’s really nothing funny about the end results if they choose to turn away from each other. We can be proud of them for making an adult and responsible decision, but there won’t necessarily be joy to be found there. Ever since Hulu’s pen15, I am on a track to watch absolutely anything in which Anna Konkle is involved, and the same can be said about most of this cast for other reasons. If you can get past the din of the silly subplots involving ludicrous proto-humans, I guarantee the heart of The Drop will be well worth your time. For all the parents out there who have dropped a child, I’m certain an entire group of people are truly feeling seen and comforted, and what is the point of comedy if not to comfort us in our shared experience and flawed humanity? The Drop may be pitched as a cringe-comedy, but it’s more akin to a therapy session. Choose your humans, and choose them wisely. The good will accept you at your best, the best will accept you at your worst. Bernadette Gorman-White Managing Editor Bernadette graduated from DePauw University in 2011 with a Film Studies degree she’s not currently using. She constantly consumes television, film, and all things pop culture and will never be full. She doesn’t tweet much, but give her a follow @BeaGorman and see if that changes.

  • "Living" and Tiny Changes

    Spoilers ahead for Oliver Hermanus’ Living There is a song by the Scottish band, Frightened Rabbit, called “Head Rolls Off”; and when that band’s lead singer, Scott Hutchison, passed away in 2018, his family started a charity organization, called Tiny Changes, that took its name and guiding ethos from part of that song. The organization's focus is youth mental wellness particularly geared toward suicide prevention, and the relevant part of the song goes: When it's all gone Something carries on And it's not morbid at all Just that nature's had enough of you When my blood stops Someone else's will thaw When my head rolls off Someone else's will turn And while I'm alive, I'll make tiny changes to earth I mention all of this here because I couldn’t get this song out of my head when I left the theater after watching Living, the recent remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film, Ikiru. This adaptation is set in 1950s post-war London, from a screenplay by acclaimed novelist and screenwriter, Kazuo Ishiguro. In Living, Bill Nighy plays an older civil servant, named Rodney Williams, who is struggling to come to terms with having been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Prior to receiving his diagnosis, Mr. Williams was just a widower, living in his home with his son and daughter-in-law, going to a job each day where he was respected by his subordinates as a serious-minded, if perhaps overly fastidious, boss. Known for his reliability and punctuality, Mr. Williams becomes briefly unmoored by the news of his diagnosis, before ultimately finding something worth devoting himself to. In some sense, given his age and the loss of his wife, Mr. Williams was already just killing time with his life, unconsciously waiting to die when he was diagnosed; and part of the reason he winds up not sharing his diagnosis with his son and daughter-in-law is that he intuits from things overheard that they are largely waiting for him to die as well, already making plans based on the inheritance they expect to receive. He can only intuit this, though, as what underlies their relationship with one another is a polite lack of substantive communication. This is a family that can reliably gather together each night for dinner, exchanging pleasantries over passed dishes, while never viewing one another as someone that could be confided in with anything honest or hard. So, largely isolated, Mr. Williams goes through a number of stages trying to process his situation. He briefly entertains suicide before giving his sleeping pills to a man he meets named, Sutherland, a somewhat bohemian writer he overhears complaining of insomnia. While making the offer, Mr. Williams confides his diagnosis to Sutherland and admits that after deciding that suicide wasn’t for him, he had been taken by the idea that he might seize the day, and live out his remaining days with some gusto, before realizing that he had largely forgotten how to live. Sutherland takes some pity on Mr. Williams and brings him out for a drunken night on the town, and Mr. Williams finds some momentary joy in that new experience, but also some melancholy, and this proves not to be the answer that he needs. Mr. Williams next tries to find some life in the company of a young woman that had recently worked for him, Ms. Harris, who had just left his office for a new job at a restaurant nearby. Mr. Williams also confides his diagnosis in her, letting Ms. Harris know that there was nothing untoward he felt towards her, but that he hoped he might be able to learn something from her about the joy and energy with which she seems to go about her life. Mr. Williams and Ms. Harris are able to form some kind of bond over this, but this also isn’t quite the answer he needs for what ails him, either. What he needs to do is somehow find his own joy and purpose if there’s to be any hope of it being a lasting feeling. Mr. Williams does find something. In a sense, he throws himself into his work, but a facet of his work he had long forgotten. Picking up a thread from earlier in the film about a group of mothers who had visited his office in the hopes of getting the government to turn a bombed-out vacant lot into a community park, before being sent on their way, on an endless bureaucratic wild goose chase, bouncing from department to department, finding nobody willing to take responsibility as being who they needed to talk to in order to get the project started; And what Mr. Williams remembers is that it is within his authority in his job to actually help people like this, to shepherd along projects that can make some small lasting changes in people’s lives. Like a 1950s Leslie Knope, Mr. Williams decides to make it his purpose to make this park happen. The film makes a wild choice here, one that particularly benefits from seeing this film in a theater where you can’t readily check how much more time is left in the story. We get a sequence of a seemingly rejuvenated Mr. Williams, leading the men from the office out into the rain to see in person the lot that the mothers have been talking about. Despite the heavy rain, there is a happy brightness to this moment, but we make a fairly hard cut from Mr. Williams stepping out into the rain, to the church where his funeral service is taking place. In the moment, you can believe that this could be the end of the film, and ultimately his story was always going to be how his story had to end. It’s abrupt, but almost no matter what happens after Mr. Williams steps out into the rain, he’s better off than where we began his story. He could have been hit by a bus a moment later, but he still would have died possessing some purpose and joy. We do get quite a bit more than this though. Mr. Williams has died, but what we get for the rest of the film is a mix of flashbacks of people’s remembrances of his final days, along with the lessons they take of how they might apply Mr. Williams’s example to their own lives. We get to see the building of the park, and the children playing in it. We get to hear from mothers and other people in the community who had grown fond of Mr. Williams because of what he was doing. We get to hear the men from his office piecing together that Mr. Williams knew he was dying, that it had sparked this sudden change, and how that ought to guide them in how they run the department in his absence. We also get to see a burgeoning relationship between Ms. Harris and one of the young men from the office. Though Mr. Williams is now gone, we do get to see that something carries on. With the ending structured this way, it acknowledges, but decenters, Mr. Williams’s death; while emphasizing the important part about those final months, that he had found a joyful purpose, and that, as the song said, while he was alive he made tiny changes to Earth. Damian Masterson Staff Writer Damian is an endothermic vertebrate with a large four-chambered heart residing in Kerhonkson, NY with his wife and two children. His dream Jeopardy categories would be: They Might Be Giants, Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, 18th and 19th-Century Ethical Theory, Moral Psychology, Caffeine, Gummy Candies, and Episode-by-Episode podcasts about TV shows that have been off the air for at least 10 years.

  • One-Stop Shopping: Story Screen's Best of 2022

    You can find each of the Story Screen Family's "Best Of 2022" favorite film and tv lists ALL RIGHT HERE! **** STAY TUNED: Story Screen will be posting our "Best of 2022" video (edited by our very own Mike Burdge and Robby Anderson) SOON! PODCAST: Story Screen's Best of 2022 Mike Burdge, Diana DiMuro, Bernadette Gorman-White, and Robby Anderson chat about some of their favorite films of 2022, including The Batman, We're All Going to the World's Fair, The Fabelmans, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Aftersun, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, TÁR, The Banshees of Inisherin and more! Listen on... ARTICLES: Mike's Top 22 Films of 2022 "These are my mov(i)es." By Mike Burdge Superficial Wounds & Fave Film Tropes Damian's Favorite Films of 2022 By Damian Masterson The Most Movie of the Year Jeremy's Top 10 Films of 2022 By Jeremy Kolodziejski The "Long Year" Comes to an End Diana's Favorite Films from 2022 By Diana DiMuro The Ascendance of Hulu's Original Programming Reeya's Best of 2022 in TV and Film By Reeya Banerjee When Life Resumed: Bern's Favorite Films of 2022 By Bernadette Gorman-White 2022: Go Big or Go Bigger Scotty Arnold's Picks for favorite films of 2022 By Scotty Arnold Be Positive: BaeBae's Top Ten of 2022 By Robert Anderson We here at Story Screen can't thank you enough for reading, listening, and watching with us. Thank you, -The Story Screen Family

  • PODCAST: Story Screen Reports - Voices of a New Generation

    Story Screen Reports is our team REACTING to the top 5 film, television and entertainment news stories of the month. Join us as we dissect and comb through everything from upcoming releases to studio drama. On this episode, Diana DiMuro hops on to discuss a narrative change in the upcoming Avatar sequels, and a certain Anaheim bubs talking like he was born in Mississippi in the 1930's, as well as a few other stories. You can find those stories, and the sourced articles, linked below. 1. Jake Sully Will Be Replaced By His Lo’ak As Narrator For Future Avatar Films Written by Ryan Dinsdale at IGN 2. Netflix Says It Never Canceled A Successful Show Interview by Lucus Shaw at Bloomberg 3. Austin Butler Stuck With Accent Forever Written by Leah Bitsky at Page 6 4. Zach Cregger’s Next Movie Weapons Is Happening Written by Borys Kit at The Hollywood Reporter 5. Tomb Raider Series In The Works At Amazon From Fleabag Writer Written by Kat Bailey at IGN Listen on....

  • Mike’s Top 22 Films of 2022

    Your reviewer is one of the laziest writers this program has ever produced. His exploits.… are legendary. His deadlines…. flown by. His content…. nearly non-existent. What he has to tell you about 2022 movies may very well mean the difference between finally watching that weird-looking drama you saw the trailer for on YouTube last August or, like, not watching it. Maybe you’ll watch something else. It’s one of life's great mysteries. I just wanna manage expectations. Let’s punch it. 22. Resurrection Resurrection is a twisty and twisted tale of psychological abuse and the ramifications such acts can have on both the abused and abuser, as well as, the people connected to them. An eternally timely theme, that’s made all the more insane by doling out information in a way that makes the audience question their own beliefs on what is actually happening. The performances of the film’s leads, Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, are what truly make the film shine. Each has their own reasons for their actions and variations of shared history, but are equally captivating and insane. 21. Great Freedom It’s as empathy driven as a story can get. Franz Rogowski continues to be one of the most powerful actors of the time, exuding pain and pleasure, and everything in between, with the slightest of looks or body ticks. Great Freedom is a film that encompasses what it means to be loved, hated, broken, despaired, brave, and scared, but ultimately, what it means to be human. 20. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish This film is truly a special experience. Much has been said about the cat cartoon sequel, but I’ve yet to meet someone who has seen it that isn’t as vivaciously interested in talking about it as I am. Once you’ve tasted the sweet fruit that is PIB2, there’s no going back. Fully displaying the true power of making an animated film for the sake of cinema and pure entertainment over the expectations of an audience, it never lets that affect the storytelling or its central theme: that those who you love will help you conquer all, even death. 19. After Yang Just as exquisite and captivating as Colin Farrell’s ‘stache — this tale of a family grappling with the loss of a servient robot, who is also clearly a member of their family (if not at least, a part of their family unit), starts off with a banger of an opening. The story’s characters dance wildly - but still in choreographed unison - against other families doing the same, immediately bringing to mind the performative nature of how each member of the family is supposed to act in order for the full group to be. And the most beautiful part of this comes not from the expected need to be loved as one within the group, but the revolution of a mind to be unique within instead, be it artificial or just a Daddy. 18. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On Marcel the Shell is a glorious display of modern animation utilizing technology that has been around for decades. It continuously tops itself, scene after scene, with cinematography that envelops the viewer into its fabricated world of miniatures and cut-outs, all while planting emotional seeds with character and storytelling that eventually burst - both apart and together in a third act that can only be described as harmonious. 17. Hit the Road It’s simplistic and exploratory at the same time. A road trip movie that truly dilutes down what makes the sub-genre so engaging, wrapped up in a story that feels alive and unpredictable, even as we slowly learn there can be only one end to this tale of family, trust, rebellion, and imagination. 16. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair Wildly creative for the tone the movie wants to set, it’s equal parts pandemic-era Zoom filmmaking and “creepypasta” antirealism. I caught this one a bit later than most but watched it in the best of environments: 3 am in the morning, alone and completely unaware of what it was. I suggest you do the same if you haven’t already. 15. The Batman Matt Reeves has always been a go-to director for me. From the immensely underappreciated framing of Cloverfield to the undeniable extravagance of his Apes films, Reeves has time and time again proven himself to be a talent of story, character, and tone. These are things that a new iteration of the Batman character truly needed in order to break away from the most recent versions, which at times, (both successfully and unsuccessfully) focused on the internal conflict of the Caped Crusader as a theme, rather than a character trait; attempting to wrap the ideology of the world of Gotham into “why Batman does what he does.” Reeves’s take, and Robert Pattinson’s WILD performance, lead to a different understanding of what would truly make a man like this do the things that we expect him to do, the things a Batman does. And in this new variation, we are given a very simple (and thematically appropriate) question with no answer: Why should the Batman exist? 14. Murina Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s immaculately executed Murina is a wonder to behold. While the Daddy Issues© present are, of course, right up my alley, what’s more intriguing is the film’s portrayal of a young woman coming to learn the great lesson of teenage life: no matter what you think you want, you’re probably wrong, and the only person that can change that is you. Murina, on a fable level, is at all times dread-filled and hopeless, while also operating on the same wishful abandon of our main character, Julija, continuously diving forward with ever-increasing difficulty. At its end, we are left with only a sliver of a tale of this young woman’s coming-of-age, which allows us to know that she’ll make it through, if only she chooses to swim far enough. 13. The Northman The Northman is an elevating experience in Robert Eggers’ filmography. It’s a movie that was pitched as a Viking-action-smorgasbord, complete with super cute A-list actors, that actually reveals itself to be more of a Shakespearean-esque Ocean's 11 riff. It’s bookended by some of the best looking, and more importantly, most character-driven, action set pieces to be projected on a screen in years. The Northman is blatantly unashamed of what it is, even as it knows it’s pushing boundaries with its audience, much like Eggers’ The Lighthouse and The VVitch, and it was both pleasing and a relief to see that the writer/director did not lose that fine touch with such an epic scale before him. 12. RRR RRR is an absolute, balls-to-the-wall instant classic of experiential cinema. Some movies use tropes, and some subvert them, all in an effort to create an experience that differentiates from the rest of the medium. RRR, and what S.S. Rajamouli has executed with it, transcends what the model for the genre-based cinema experience can be, full stop. It is a revelation in sincere, populace artistry, while also acting as a battle cry for the fun that can be, and often is lost, in this same medium. It rocks, it rules, and it revolutionizes. 11. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio 2022: The Year of Pinocchio. To most, it is simply the year that an inexplicable amount (3) of Pinocchio adaptations were bombed upon an unexpecting world. To some, it is the year that they were first introduced to this little wooden boy with a hankering for misguided adventure. And for me, it was the year I finally realized that it’s one N and two C’s, not the other way around (similar to what I refer to as the “Great Vacuum Paradox”). While I’d love to compare del Toro and Mark Gustafson’s utterly mesmerizing feature to that of my boy, Bobby Z’s, I haven’t yet brought myself to watch what I can only assume is Tom Hanks’s second most insane performance of the year, and I’m using the word insane in the most disrespectful way text can allow. GDT’s Pinocchio is a marvel, an exquisite display of form, medium, and story that (close to literally) blew my brain out of my skull. The heaviest of contenders for Best Animated Feature this year, it's the special type of movie that you’ll never forget the first time you saw it. 10. Watcher Chloe Okuno has done what so many have tried but very few accomplish: created a fully original horror film using the basic elements of a tirelessly mined genre, and executed it in a way that would make Hitchcock put down his whole roast chicken in attentive tension. Watcher is a wildly entertaining movie with a third act that will rip the face off even the most scholared horror movie lover. Maika Monroe continues to kill it - not only at picking amazing horror projects, but also just absolutely slaying it with her approach to her character - she interacts and services the overall theme and story of the film. And I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out one of my big dogs in the character-actor world, Burn Gorman, who puts in a performance that had me absolutely LOSING IT on functionality acting and character-driven affectation. Baller stuff. 9. The Inspection There were a lot of movies this year (even more than Pinocchios), made by directors who attempted to tell their personal stories through that great lens of cinema. Elegance Bratton’s entry is one of the perfect balance between nightmare and dream, failure and survival, hate and love. While the depiction of boot camp told through the eyes of an outsider is very specific in this example, and honestly, that aspect is the thing that really gives this movie its teeth, it’s the empathy of the film’s characters that truly gives the movie soul. Jeremy Pope is ridiculously good as our surrogate through the trials of military training and the hardships of attempting to mold yourself into what you need to be to successfully exist in a unit, while never losing who you truly are, bringing a refreshingly hopeful meaning to the second part of the Marine motto: “the few, the proud.” 8. The Banshees of Inisherin One of the most celebrated films of 2022, Banshees operates on a level so similar to that of a stage play (which makes sense given McDonagh’s past work). McDonagh keeps the tried and true trick of having a small ensemble of absolutely stellar actors in all the roles and swaps out theater sets with a hypnotic and otherworldly Irish isle. The result is a film all about distance and disconnection, pulling you closer and closer as the tale unfolds. It’s easily one of the most quotable films of the year, which came as a shock to me after hearing Barry Keoghan talk for five seconds, but hey, that’s the magic of the movies, baby! 7. Decision to Leave Crushes everything on every level of what a movie in this genre (and maybe three others) should crush. Tang Wei is L-I-T-E-R-A-L-L-Y unbelievable, and Park Hae-il is the leading man we all deserve; put him in every movie now. But truly (and of course), it is the great Park Chan-wook that gets this bad boy up to such astronomical pleasures. Not only is the staging and lighting in this beast just top-notch in its mood, but the story is simultaneously simple and mindblowing in its construction; it was just such a miracle to behold. It immediately becomes one of the movies you wish you could see for the first time again as soon as the much-deserved credits roll. Chan-wook just knows how to make a movie that simply and purely slaps. 6. Tár Tár is a maddening, towering, and infuriating journey into the mind of a certain type of artistic talent that has existed for hundreds of years. Its story is told through the lens of observing a human being that believes they have grown beyond such limitations. And that’s just a bit of what’s going on with this thing. Tár hit as an instant classic for me, something I had been truly crossing my fingers for given the early response the film had gained over the long journey of its pre-wide release, and it did not disappoint. It’s cruel and despairing, while also, surprisingly, albeit uncomfortably, funny throughout. The story unravels with these tools just as elegantly as Cate Blanchett handles the inner workings and actions of this utterly unique character. 5. The Fabelmans Of course, I was going to love The Fabelmans. I’m one of the biggest defenders of Spielberg I know, which just gets crazier and crazier to think about the longer that time marches on, but here we are. The latest film by the aforementioned director, “FINALLY telling THEIR story,” very justly earned its fair share of eye rolls and heavy sighs. Must we? The marketing and release “strategy” of Fabelmans left much to be desired. Not only in communicating what type of film it was, but also, in how audiences should feel about it going into the movie, or at the very least, how to properly gauge expectations. I’ll admit, I too, was nervous as the lights went down on Thanksgiving Eve. But much to my delight, the film was more than: “Behold the power of cinema!!! This is how it saved I, Your God of The Movies, who in turn, has saved thee!” It was much more of a: “Families are pretty messed up, huh? Also, I think I have a massive problem and I refuse to go to therapy, but fuck it, I’m Steven Speilberg!” The line between reality and fiction in The Fabelmans is blurred, for the most part, by the very legend of the man himself (can you imagine if the main character in this movie was named Stevey Spielberg?). This helps the film lift itself up for all to gaze upon as more of the story of an extremely talented and revered man reconciling with his past traumas, than a very wealthy director telling us just how he got that juice. The juice was always there, and that juice messed up a lot of things for the man when he was young, especially when he didn’t know exactly how to control and harness it yet into the acts of magic and goodness that we all know him for today. Steven, you talented, emotional, absolute lovely thing of a man, you did it. Big hug. 4. Barbarian Barbarian is one of the funnest experiences a person can have watching a movie - alone at home, in a crowded theater, and everywhere in between. I’m not going to get too specific for the sake of any reader that hasn’t been able to catch this one yet (the less you know the better; go watch it now, please?) but three amazing movies are operating within this film that would each be fantastic full-length horrors in their own subcategories. The film’s merciless tone of anxiety, distrust, and danger is mixed to perfect chemical perfection with moments of laugh-out-loud lunacy, be they comedic, cathartic release or horrific insanity made visible to the eye. I just haven’t been able to get over how tight and entertaining this movie is. I could watch Barbarian every day for the rest of my life. 3. Everything Everywhere All at Once One of the earliest highly anticipated films of the year, due in large part to an amazing marketing and release strategy (looking at you, Fabelmans), EEAAO quickly shot to the top of everyone’s lists as an early contender for the best movies of the year, and it seems to have stuck there for the majority. And this is all rightly so. The film is as unique as one can get, and it remains unique and surprising, even after multiple views. It’s layered to the bone with metaphor and emotion and action and googly eyes, never missing a bit for something funny or cool or silly or sad or all of that, all at once. Moments of EEAAO feel like jumping into an ice-cold pool on the hottest day of the year in the worst place you can imagine, only to be submerged and consumed by the feeling of truly experiencing a shift in the way your very body is operating. The Daniels have done it yet again, after their ridiculously perfect debut film, Swiss Army Man, which hit my number one spot back in 2016. The praise EEAAO has garnered is beyond earned and one of the best parts about looking back at this film years from now upon rewatch will be remembering the completely miraculous way it was welcomed, with open arms, pretty much across the board by a landscape of film lovers and general audiences alike. Except for assholes. They can’t stand how much we love this thing, making it all the more sweeter to enjoy. 2. Top Gun: Maverick Top Gun: Maverick is a wonder. It’s easily one of the best sequels ever to be popped onto screens, and arguably, it’s the best legacyquel to come out during the past couple decades of people doing shit like this. Operating on true, earnest love for the original film and the types of movies it spawned, Maverick, reaches the highest of heights time and time again throughout its not-that-slim runtime, but it never drags or feels monotonous in its execution. All of its goofy moments feel like they are filled with so much sincerity and love that it’s hard to not go along for the ride. (Let us remember: simplicity does not equal bad). If the immersive yet straightforward action-rollercoaster of a story designed around set pieces, doesn’t do it for ya, and it should, well you’re in luck. The meta-commentary this film holds on both the state of movie watching in the Summer of 2022 and the career and legacy of Tom Cruise, surely will do just that. It’s equal parts what the movies were made for, what makes them so special, and where they can go. Not only is Maverick a fantastic action movie and a thrillingly executed sequel that blows expectations out of the air, but it should also be noted that this movie pulls off one of the hardest feats Hollywood has been trying to accomplish for over a decade: making you actually root for Miles Teller. 1. Aftersun When I first saw Aftersun, I immediately thought to myself, “This is it. It has to be, right?” The movie awed the crap out of me for 100 minutes and then shook me to my core during its final moments. It’s one of the most earned visceral experiences I’ve had watching a film in my entire life. Hey, it’s my number one, we’re gonna get a tad hyperbolic here. After watching all the 2022 films I had the time to consume during my catchup this past month, I always found myself asking “But Aftersun, tho, right?” Even after rewatching the above movies I loved in an effort to see if maybe some fresh watching would shake something loose, Charlotte Wells’ BEAUTIFUL story just remained locked at the top. And once I gave the film a rewatch shortly before finalizing my list, it hit me why. I’d never seen anything like it. Sure, there are plenty of movies that deal with the topics of this film, in more ways than I can count. Of course, there are loads of movies that utilize intimate, grainy, and atmospheric framing to grab hold of the mood and time they are exploring. But like many of my favorite pieces of art, it's not just what’s on display for experience and interpretation, it's how the artist makes the impossible look so simple and so damn easy. These are the aspects of telling a story that come from the truly unique place of the artist's view on how it should feel, not just what happens and how it looks. That’s the transcendent trick to how the film plays out, shifts and changes, and lands where it ultimately, and unfortunately, needs to. It’s a story about growing up, about letting go, about being yourself, about the devastations of the mind and the toll that can take on a person, but also, the toll it takes on those around them, regardless of their best efforts to stop just that. But it’s not just about that at all. It’s about love, the trickiest of things. It’s a movie that has truly changed me in a way that I still might not have had the time, or will, to confront, but I can sense the change is there, and I feel as though, in their own way, everyone I’ve talked to about the film that has seen it feels something similar. And that’s something special. And I’m just saying: Stanley Kubrick never used “The Macarena,” in any of his movies. So, think about that. Honorable Mentions: Ambulance, Avatar: The Way of Water, Babylon, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Crimes of the Future, EO, The Eternal Daughter, Glass Onion, Halloween Ends, Jackass Forever, Karaoke, Men, The Outfit, Pearl, Petite Maman, Prey, 5cream, Three Thousand Years of Longing, Turning Red, X. Mike Burdge Editor-in-Chief Founder of and programmer for Story Screen. Lover of stories and pizza in the dark. When he isn't watching movies, you can find him reading and listening to things about people watching movies. He currently resides in Poughkeepsie, NY, and most assuredly is going through a French Connection phase.

  • Superficial Wounds & Fave Film Tropes

    Damian’s Favorite Films of 2022 Hello! Welcome to another year-end top ten film list! This was a fun year with some big wild swings, some of which you’ll find on the list you’re about to read. So, in that spirit, I decided to take a bit of a swing with how I put this list together. I’m pretty fond of structure. I like outlines and well-defined acts in stories, or when directors break their films into sections with title cards. I like a plainly stated thesis, with signposting along the way that lets the reader know exactly where we are and where we're going. These sorts of devices appeal to the part of my brain that wishes it could be so orderly. So, with that in mind, I've tackled my list for 2022 by breaking it into a series of double features. This is my top ten (plus two honorable mentions), and they are in the order I would list them, but they’re also grouped into pairs that should work well thematically if you wanted to curate a little movie night for yourself. Will this actually work? I have no idea, but as many of the films on this list will make clear, you only live once, so why not have some fun with it? Enjoy! Curation Honorable Mentions: The Menu & Sr. What I see The Menu and Sr. sharing is attention to the creative intentionality we can bring, or at least try to bring, to the things we make and do with our lives. The Menu shows a perversion of that creative drive by unhealthy inputs and feedback, while Sr. shows something like the best-case scenario of a creative life well lived. The Menu may have been the biggest inspiration for tackling my top ten list in the way that I have. Ralph Fiennes plays world-class Chef Slowic, a chef gone mad, curating the final menu of his long and illustrious career. Slowic explains to the small group of customers that have come to his private island restaurant, that he and his team have meticulously crafted an unforgettable menu for them, only later revealing that part of the plan for that menu includes no one inside the restaurant surviving the final dish. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfectly cast as Margot, the foil for Fiennes’s Slowic, and the sole innocent who was never supposed to be there. Ralph Fiennes is unreal, conveying both a believable mastery of his craft and cult-like control over his staff while embodying a scarily grounded total break with reality. The rest of the ensemble is wonderful as the trashy fodder that comprises the ingredients of this horrific dish. In The Menu, the film and the evening are paced by the menu for the night. Each new dish allows Fiennes an opportunity for exposition, to reveal a bit more to the customers and audience about where we are in the meal and where we’re going, dropping hints to the customers about their fate. But, while this was once what Chef Slowick lived for, there is now something empty in the kind of experience creation he is engaged in; he has been hollowed out, realizing he may have wasted his talents and time, catering to what he now sees as the very worst people. He mistakenly sees this last menu as something of a redemptive final statement that might justify and tie together his whole misspent life. In Sr., Robert Downey Jr. is making a documentary about his ailing father, the counterculture director Robert Downey, Sr. I’m fond of Downey Sr.’s films, and I can remember being a burgeoning film fan, haunting cult movie sections in my early twenties, trying to track down gems like Putney Swope and Greaser’s Palace. I went into this film expecting a simple retrospective on the rest of his work and life. And we do get that, but true to Downey Sr.’s creative and contrarian temperament, we also get something much more interesting. Downey Sr., even in his failing health, has no interest in being a passive subject for any film, and will only participate in his son’s project if he can shape the film being made, making and editing his own cut in parallel with his son’s documentary. The final product is a fascinating blending of the two. We do get a standard survey of his work, and talking head interviews with people he worked with, like Alan Arkin; but we also get a meditation on Downey Sr.’s inevitable passing, from him and his family, along with a look at the restless creative spirit of someone taking even their very last days to follow their inspiration to make something new. Longing #10) Three Thousand Years of Longing & #9) Cyrano What I see Three Thousand Years of Longing and Cyrano sharing is a look at lovelorn figures trapped in seemingly inescapable circumstances, largely resigned to their lot, but still nursing a deep desire to somehow transcend their situation through a connection with someone else. Three Thousand Years of Longing was the film on this list that I’ve seen most recently, and it may be the one most likely to be bolstered by recency bias. I had set it aside because I had heard it described as a “well-intended misfire” by director George Miller. It’s possible that having heard about those misgivings, though, I was properly prepared for what this quiet film really is rather than expecting some kind of supercharged follow-up to Miller’s previous film, Mad Max: Fury Road. The film stars Tilda Swinton as Alithea, a professor with a research interest in narrative stories and storytelling, who discovers an antique bottle in a market in Istanbul, which happens to contain a djinn, played by Idris Elba. The Djinn offers Alithea three wishes, but she is familiar with the common warning that runs through such stories: to be careful what you wish for, and she finds herself more interested in hearing the Djinn’s own story, rather than in making any wishes of her own. In one sense, the story is very contained, as the core plot is mostly just the Djinn telling his millennia-long story to Alithea in her hotel room. At the same time, we do get to see flashes of the story of how the Djinn had been bound to the human world for so long, and how he hoped, all the while, that someone would make the wish that would finally free him. We cut between the hotel room and the voluptuously depicted ancient settings where his tale takes place, while always keeping in sight that the important part of the story is the quiet connection beginning to form between Alithea and the Djinn in the present day. I have heard some criticism of the story’s final act and its conclusion, but it was specifically those choices that elevated the film from good to great for me. The ending isn’t grand or explosive, but rather something much simpler and more intimate. We’re told in the title that it’s a story about three thousand years of longing, and what we get in the end is seeing that longing finally satisfied. Cyrano is the first of two films on my list that are from 2022 that played extensively at festivals back in 2021 and qualified for last year’s Oscars. There are a few films like this every year that are held back as part of an awards strategy but wind up falling through the cracks. Peter Dinklage stars as the titular Cyrano in this musical reimagining of the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, based on Edmond Rostand's 1897 play. Dinklage gives what ought to have been a best actor-nominated performance. He’s reprising the role that he originated on stage, in the adaptation penned by his wife, Erica Schmidt, with music provided by Aaron and Bryce Dessner from the band The National. Haley Bennet also reprises her role of Roxanne from that same stage production and is incandescent as she believably plays someone that you could imagine anyone falling in love with. Bennet’s husband, Joe Wright, makes it even more of a family affair, by signing on to handle the directing duties. I’ve long been a fan of Steve Martin’s 1987 version of this story, Roxanne, which he wrote as a light romantic comedy take on this story. This new version remedies the one reservation I have always had with Martin’s take, though, by returning to something more like the original ending of Rostand’s play. What all of the versions of the story have in common is that Cyrano (named C.D. Bales in the Martin version) is a widely respected figure in his community, admired for his poetic wit and feared for his fighting prowess. He’s cultivated these abilities to compensate for how ugly and isolating he finds his appearance to be. On the stage, and in the Martin version of the story, this defect is usually depicted with a comically oversized prosthetic nose. What Schmidt and Dinklage recognized is that some of the weight of the story is undermined by the audience’s awareness that, underneath that prosthetic nose, is still a handsome actor who gets to set aside his prosthetic when the curtain falls. By casting Dinklage as Cyrano, his height is something the audience never loses sight of. Where this inferiority complex comes into play is that Cyrano is in love with a woman he is close friends with, Roxanne, but he can never believe that anyone, especially Roxanne, could love him back, so he throws himself into his work and his poetry and his fights. He is stoically resigned to his lot, until one day he is given the misperception that Roxanne might have feelings for him. He is briefly elated, making it all the more painful and raw when he learns that it is actually a handsome, if somewhat dim, man named Christian, whom Roxanne has fallen for. The story becomes a complicated triangle where Cyrano, in order to have some way to express everything he feels for Roxanne, offers to write love letters to her on Christian’s behalf. Cyrano loves Roxanne, Christian loves Roxanne, and Roxanne loves who Cyrano makes her think Christian is. Martin, in telling the story as a romantic comedy, wraps everything up with a happy ending that superficially satisfies, but can’t help but leave you conflicted about the fundamental lie at the origin of Cyrano’s and Roxanne’s and Christian’s relationships. As Edmond tells the story, and as Schmidt and Dinklage repeat it, it’s rightfully a tragedy. Only on Cyrano’s deathbed does Roxanne realize what has happened, and only then does Cyrano confess. It’s a more appropriate conclusion to the story, as Cyrano’s deception isn’t rewarded with the happily ever after that Martin wants to give him, and we leave the two of them longing for the life they could have had with one another if Cyrano had simply swallowed his pride and been honest with Roxanne from the beginning. Family #8) Petite Maman & #7) Turning Red What I see Petite Maman and Turning Red sharing is an examination of the often rocky relationships between parents and children, particularly between mothers and daughters. In both films, through some unusual circumstances, the children are given an opportunity to understand their mothers as the children they once were. Petite Maman, like Cyrano, is another film released this year in the US, that qualified for the previous year’s Oscars. While the release of Cyrano was badly mishandled, Petite Maman simply suffered from being an international film that just finally came to the U.S. at an inopportune time to be widely seen and fully appreciated. In Petite Maman, a young girl, Nelly, accompanies her parents to clean out her mother’s childhood home after the passing of her grandmother. Nelly, too young to be of any real help, spends her time outside playing in the woods surrounding the house, the same woods her mother played in when she was a child. Out in the woods, Nelly befriends another young girl, Marion, who is in the process of building a tree fort. It’s this brief magical friendship that will end up having such a profound impact on Nelly’s understanding of, and relationship with, her mother. I’ll hold off saying any more, as this was a fairly underseen film and it would greatly benefit the viewing experience if you can go into it as unaware as possible of its twists and turns. Looked at in one sense, Turning Red was my favorite superhero film of 2022. It’s basically an X-Men origin story about a young girl who discovers that something in her genes gives her a special power that has only started to manifest now that she’s hit puberty. In this case, 13-year-old Meilin discovers that if she loses control of her emotions, she turns into a giant red panda. Just below the surface, the film is a metaphor about the experience of going through puberty, but a bit deeper still, and it’s even more about the relationship between parents and children. Meilin learns that this ability is a family secret that all of the female members of her family have to contend with. The fallout of this revelation brings to head the tension between Meilin and her mother, the tension that mirrors what any parent struggles with when trying to accept that their child is growing up. Ultimately, this will wind up strengthening the bond between Meilin and her mother, as it eventually brings home for Meilin the idea that her mother was once a young girl too, who went through the same experiences, and importantly, she remains at heart something of that same young girl to this day. What proves to be the biggest difference between their respective experiences, though, is that Meilin has the unconditional acceptance of her friends. It’s a wonderful film about navigating some of the messy life milestones we may all share but don’t discuss as often or readily as we should, and how much of a difference it makes to have and offer support to the people in our lives as we all try to make the best of things. (For a full review of Turning Red, click here). Regret #6) Good Luck to You, Leo Grande & #5) Everything Everywhere All at Once What Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and Everything Everywhere All at Once share is that they both tell stories about how it’s never too late to start your life and become the person you always wanted to be and that you should be prepared to help the people in your life do the same. (For a full review of Leo Grande, click here). In Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Emma Thompson plays a recently widowed older woman who is struggling to come to terms with how impoverished her sex life was during her long marriage to her husband. Now, at her current age, it feels like it may already be too late to experience anything different. When we meet her, she is in a hotel room awaiting the arrival of the male sex worker she has hired; when that man arrives, she tells him her name is Nancy (which it is not), and he will give Nancy the professional name he works under, Leo Grande. While each of them pretends to be someone else, they will teach each other a bit about who they really are. This film is specifically about sex, particularly in terms of being honest with ourselves and our partners about our wants and needs. The larger theme, however, is about the regrets that come with age as we reflect on the accumulated years of things we never said and all the lives we never led. There is a version of this story that could be much slighter, just a rehashed carpe diem tale of someone older getting their groove back, and some of that is here, but this is a smaller film that takes seriously that, however young you might feel in the moment, we still need to make peace with the fact that all of our options and abilities will diminish over time. A fresh start that doesn’t take into account such inevitabilities is just putting our regrets into a box to re-experience at a later date. What Nancy finds over her series of encounters with Leo Grande isn’t simply a moment of youthful indiscretion, but actual peace with who she was, is, and will be. She’s able to find a way to enjoy what’s available to her in the moment, without being distracted by what might have been, or being scared of what might be looming over the horizon. In Everything Everywhere All at Once Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, a married woman with one adult daughter, who finds herself barely keeping her head above water as the owner of a rundown family laundromat. When we meet Evelyn, her husband Waymond is about to serve her divorce papers, she’s in the middle of a contentious audit, and her relationship with her daughter, Joy, is frayed to the breaking point. Up to this moment, we’re being introduced to a woman who finds herself unhappy with the life she finds herself stuck in, but the film rescues her from that in the biggest way possible. Evelyn is pulled from her audit by a version of Waymond from another universe, thrusting Evelyn into a story that places her at the center of a crisis that concerns the future of all reality, a crisis whose resolution will ultimately depend on her being able to repair her relationships with her family. The miracle of this film is that it is an unabashedly over-the-top presentation of mind-bending events, that somehow still manages to stay rooted in utterly honest and relatable human relationships. Evelyn overcomes the limitations of the life she felt trapped in, but that only becomes possible by her first making things right with the people she is sharing that life with. Rebellion #4) Roald Dahl's Matilda: The Musical & #3) RRR What Matilda and RRR share is that they’re stories of truly exceptional individuals standing up to cartoonishly villainous oppression, while also doubling as larger stories about the mass movements of ordinary people engaged in collective actions that are needed to ever make real and lasting change happen. Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical is an adaptation of the award-winning West End and Broadway stage musical from 2010, which is itself an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1988 book. Matilda is a precocious genius of a young girl, born to neglectful parents who neither like nor want her. They only finally enroll her into school when forced to by the local authorities. Matilda has a contentious relationship with her parents but she is largely able to manage them by being so much smarter than either of them. Matilda is briefly excited by the prospect of going to school, thrilled to be able to enter a world of learning and books, but that happiness is brief as she discovers that her new school is actually a prison-like environment under the tyrannical rule of the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. In a lot of ways, Matilda is a kid’s wish fulfillment story. The protagonist is the very smartest and bestest kid, who takes on cartoonish and uncomplicatedly evil villains, whom they will defeat in a grand fashion. In this case, Matilda will unite all of the kids around her to defeat Miss Trunchbull, gaining herself her first real friends, before also replacing her mean parents by going to live with her favorite teacher, Miss Honey. There is a great deal that is wonderful about this adaptation. Emma Thompson is having the time of her life chewing scenery as Miss Trunchbull; Lashana Lynch is absolutely lovely as Miss Honey, playing the idealized version of the teacher every kid would want; and Alisha Weir is a bit of a miracle as the young rebel genius, Matilda. Matthew Warchus’s direction captures the magical realism of Roald Dahl’s world while leaving enough grounding to still care about the emotional connections between the characters. What elevates this film to something truly special, though, is the music and lyrics from Tim Minchin. His sense of wordplay is just superb. He has an enviable ability to shift gears within songs to be raucous, joyful, menacing, or lovely as needed. They’re the perfect anthems for any revolution-minded children in your life. Somewhat oddly, the thing that kind of unlocked S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR for me was seeing the list of films he submitted on his ballot for BFI’s Sight and Sound list. Among the 10 films he listed as the “best of all time,” he included Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and Apocalypto, along with Disney’s The Lion King and Aladdin. These are certainly unique choices, particularly taken together, but I think this does illuminate something about Rajamouli’s aesthetic. There’s often visceral violence to some of the action scenes in RRR, but it’s also blended with an often cartoonish magical realism. This is a film that will display a British soldier clubbing a mother unconscious as her child is stolen from her, and will show another character catch an out-of-control motorcycle with his bare hands and start swinging it around over his head like it was made of just so much balsa wood. The story of RRR imagines that two real-life Indian revolutionary figures had met one another, and became friends, before beginning their fight against the British empire. I came to the film having been told that it had action sequences that had to be seen to be believed. It more than delivers on that promise, but what I was unprepared for was just how much movie it is. RRR is one of the most tonally diverse things I’ve ever seen. It’s an unbelievable action movie, it’s a high production value historical epic, it’s sometimes a romance, sometimes a heist picture, and more than a few times, it’s a full-scale musical with one of the best bromances I’ve ever seen depicted on film. Perhaps the most revolutionary thing about RRR has been just how successful it has been in the United States. Where once you might be hard-pressed to find someone in the general public that could name even one Indian film, now you can readily find people that can identify the distinction between Bollywood and Tollywood films; and we can look forward to the song, “Naatu Naatu,” from the film, potentially being performed at the Academy Awards because it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song. Here’s hoping that this is just the beginning of a trend that will continue for years to come. Mortality #2) Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio & #1) White Noise What Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and Noah Baumback’s White Noise have in common is a hopeful grappling with ideas of mortality. They’re both stories that take seriously the limited time we have on this Earth while making an argument for filling that time with all the joy and connection that we can. In del Toro’s reimaging of Pinocchio, he begins the film in a bleaker way than the story is usually told. His Geppetto is a grieving father, struggling to accept the death of his young son, Carlo. When this Geppetto drunkenly carves a wooden child puppet, he’s just trying to process his grief. He certainly never wishes that this puppet would come to life, and wouldn’t if he ever thought that was a possibility. He’s completely unprepared for when Pinocchio comes to life and is offended that Pinocchio calls himself Gepetto’s son. Pinocchio’s infectious joy for life does eventually bring Geppetto out of his grief, though, and they do come to love one another. After many adventures, Gepetto and Pinocchio, along with Sebastian J. Cricket, and Spazzatura the monkey, come to live happily together; but that isn’t where del Toro leaves us. A story that begins in loss also ends in loss, but now through a brighter lens. Geppetto is an old man when he carved Pinocchio, and their time together was always going to be short, and del Toro doesn’t hide that part of the story from us. Gepetto does eventually die, as does Sebastian J. Cricket, but while Carlo had been so cruelly taken from Gepetto without warning, Pinocchio gets to spend time with Geppetto and Sebastian preparing himself for their passing. We leave Pinocchio at the end of this particular story, walking off into the sunset to begin a new story. Everything may eventually end, but every ending is a beginning for something new. (For a deeper dive into all things Pinocchio, click here). White Noise is Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1986 novel of the same name. In it, DeLillo examines American ideas around Consumerism, Vacuous Academia, Misinformation, Pharmaceuticals posing as the solution to all of life’s problems, and the pervasive fear of death. The centerpiece of the film is an Airborne Toxic Event created by a runaway chemical reaction caused by an explosion when a truck containing flammable materials collides with a train carrying a toxic chemical compound called Nyodene D. The explosion creates a deadly dark cloud over the town that leads to an emergency evacuation. The film is told in three parts. Before the toxic event, we are introduced to college professor Jack (Adam Driver), his wife Babette (Greta Gerwig), and their collective children from various marriages. Prior to the event, we see Jack and Babette as a loving couple with a happy family and life. In the background, they each have normal fears of mortality but they are able to joke with one another about which of them they hope dies first, as they discuss their respective fears of death versus their fears of being alone. The toxic event changes all of that. Coping with the fear of death through jokes and the like becomes impossible when a literal dark and deadly cloud is forming over your head. The middle section of the film is the family’s disaster movie journey to escape to safety. A different story might end with them having finally made it to their evacuation point, happy to be alive and looking towards an uncertain future. What White Noise does, though, is give us a long look at the mundane aftermath of such an experience. Jack, Babette, and their family are all fine. The cloud is dissipated and they can return to their town and lives, but now with that whole experience looming over their heads. Jack and Babette spiral out from this experience. What anxiety Babette previously had is now out of control. Jack had prolonged exposure to the cloud while they were evacuating which could possibly take years off his life. This next bit may be a spoiler, but a big part of my affection for this film comes from its ending. Through a series of circumstances, Jack and Babette find themselves towards the end of the film laying side by side in hospital beds, each with superficial gunshot wounds. Reaching across the empty space between them, they hold hands, once again talking to one another with something like the easy comfort they had with one another during the first act of the film. This is something like my favorite film ending trope: two people who have been through hell, and may have more to go through, yet, but are just happy to have someone to go through it with. With so little in this world to have faith in, they have faith in one another. What more could anyone ask for? Damian Masterson Staff Writer Damian is an endothermic vertebrate with a large four-chambered heart residing in Kerhonkson, NY with his wife and two children. His dream Jeopardy categories would be: They Might Be Giants, Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, 18th and 19th-Century Ethical Theory, Moral Psychology, Caffeine, Gummy Candies, and Episode-by-Episode podcasts about TV shows that have been off the air for at least 10 years.

  • The Most Movie of the Year

    Jeremy's Top 10 Films of 2022 Hi! Thanks for clicking. I am a film worker in the Hudson Valley, a frequent supporter of the Story Screen Beacon Theater, and an occasional contributor to the Story Screen website. I have been gracefully asked to share my top 10 favorites of the past twelve months. What strikes me as unique about the list I’ve procured this year as compared to previous years, is just how many big-budget crowd-pleasing blockbusters made it high into my favorites. While in previous years, I tended to gravitate towards smaller and more innovative genre fare (and still do), it felt as though in 2022, the powers that be of the entertainment industry finally remembered that if you spend a large amount of money on actual big ideas that resonate, and execute them with earnestness and confidence in actually capable hands, you get large returns. It’s a nice change of pace. As always, here are some honorable acknowledgments of films I really enjoyed but did not quite make the cut of my final top 10. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair Prey Dragonball Super: Super Hero Terrifier 2 Emily The Criminal Saloum Tár Crimes of the Future Everything Everywhere All at Once The Northman The Batman Now here’s the actual countdown!: 10. Barbarian When friends and family ask me what films I look forward to in the coming year, I always give the same answer: It’s always the surprises. It’s always the films that come out of nowhere and knock me off my feet and deliver me a rollercoaster of a film I did not know I was going to get going in. Barbarian expertly balances grisly imagery and clever, unexpected humor leading to a memorable theatergoing experience. 9. Jackass Forever/Jackass 4.5 It’s great to catch up with old friends and find comfort in the fact they have not lost their goofy and irresistible charms, just maybe become a little older and a little wiser. Actually, maybe not wiser. While I do not know any of the members of the Jackass crew personally, the films invite you into their antics and make you feel as though you are just as much of a participant in the wild and baffling stunts as they are. You laugh with them, and you feel the excruciating pain they go through. After 20 years, the Jackass veterans haven’t lost an ounce of their comedic and death-defying touches, and the new blood they introduce feels as though they’ve been a part of the crew since the beginning. 8. The Banshees of Inisherin This is a film that takes place in a very specific (and fictional) place, during a very specific time in history, and many of the characters speak in very specific cultural colloquialisms, yet the film speaks to an entirely universal truth. Sometimes, in life, the person who has been your day one may one day disappear and you will truly have no idea why, and that confusion, that pain, that sense of emptiness is something we have all experienced in one form or another and is reflected beautifully in Martin Mcdonaugh’s tragic and hilarious Irish folk tale of love and grief. 7. Avatar: The Way of Water Went to a newly opened casino the other week to check it out. Saw a guy make a bet against James Cameron. A whole bunch of mysterious figures swarmed him and violently carried him out of the casino, never to be seen again. He had it coming. In all seriousness, when you spend over a decade, hundreds of millions of dollars, and invent new incredible pieces of filmmaking technology to recreate the world you see when you go to sleep at night, you see every ounce of engineering and creativity put into every second of the project. It is a miracle that it exists and we should be grateful that James Cameron is doing as much as he can to push the medium of digital filmmaking forward, with a gripping and engaging story of parenthood and revenge. 6. Decision to Leave It is nice to know that it’s not only James Cameron pushing the medium of digital filmmaking forward, but it is also being pushed forward around the world too, such is the case with Park Chan-wook’s latest police procedural romance, exploring identity, trust, and the ways we communicate with each other in modern life. There are shots and sequences in this film that broke my brain and my perception of what can be accomplished visually. POV shots of cell phones, rack focuses changing within reflections, transitions that feel like magic tricks, this has it all! Not to mention a terrific neo-noir romance with one of my favorite endings in years. 5. Top Gun: Maverick The platonic ideal American blockbuster. This is what we should all be striving for. This should be our standard, not the exception, as exceptional as it is. My younger brother told me that he couldn’t use the armrest because I was gripping it too tightly during the film’s third act. What’s that tell you? As exciting and as spectacular as its aerial sequences are, it never forgets to populate its spectacle with memorable characters with sincerity and heart which makes the aforementioned aerial sequences all the more exciting when its characters you love and care about are in the…danger zone. 4. Ambulance Speaking of cinematic surprises: I was the most surprised to discover the film that was the most scathing and visceral indictment of our country’s broken medical and police system comes from Michael Bay of all directors? Who would have thought? Not me. Not only is that true, but it is also true that this is Michael Bay’s best film in years, potentially ever, and one of the best, most emotional, and most unforgettable films of the year. Nobody has ever been locked into Michael Bay’s particular brand of chaotic energy quite like Jake Gyllenhaal and Yayha Abdul-Mahteen were. Michael Bay is a man who loves America, but he is also not afraid to drive a stolen ambulance, with fire and blood, into its heart. We don’t stop. 3. The Fabelmans It is incredible and humbling to see that you could be someone like Stephen Spielberg, a director who has shaped modern pop culture with more films than you can count, be on top of your game over 50 years into your career, and yet still be haunted by your childhood traumas and mistakes. This is not an average film about the magic of movies, it is a film about how art can be used as a tool for therapy, a tool to calm anxiety, and at the same time, how art can be addictive as a drug and can give you an overwhelming sense of grief, regret, and pain if you let it consume you. Incredible to see a director so on top of the world let himself be so vulnerable and human. 2. Nope As much as I’ve spoken to a majority of the films on my list being big bombastic Hollywood spectacles, Nope comes around and starkly reminds us that these spectacles should not be taken for granted and can come at a cost. Over the past couple of years, I’ve worked under and alongside hundreds of wonderfully talented and hard-working below-the-line people in the film and television industry in the Hudson Valley and beyond, dedicating their whole lives to their craft and not always getting the recognition they properly deserve. Nope is one of the only examples I can think of that pays proper tribute to those kinds of workers. These special people using their unique and specific talents to come together to create an image despite their odds is the true heart of Nope. It also helps that the film contains some of the most frightening sequences and images I’ve ever seen. A true masterwork. 1. RRR I mean, it has to be RRR. Not only is this my pick for my favorite of the year, but it is also the most movie of the year. Three hours of some of the most special image-making, one jaw-dropping sequence right after the other, that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. It is nearly impossible to sum up what makes RRR so special with just a paragraph, so I urge you to go out and see it (preferably in a theater that may be doing a special screening of it). It must be seen to be believed. Thank you for reading. I hope you seek out one or all of these films and get as much out of them as I did. Jeremy Kolodziejski Jeremy is younger than he looks, and has passionately studied the art and craft of filmmaking for as long as he can remember. He is a film worker in the Hudson Valley. You can follow him on Instagram and Letterboxd.

  • The “Long Year” Comes to an End

    Diana’s Favorite Films from 2022 I watched so many films during 2021 that I allowed myself to write a “Top 20” list and then some. For 2022, I decided to reign it in a bit and go back to a “Top 10” format…with a couple of very special series honorable mentions. The year 2022 had a fantastic wealth of entertaining films and there are several more that would be included if I extended this list, but here are ten of my personal favorite films from the past year that I adamantly recommend watching if you have not done so already. Enjoy. Honorable Mentions: Heartstopper (Available on Netflix) After watching Heartstopper, I couldn’t help but think about how if there had only been something like it available to read or watch when I was a teenager just how much better things might have felt. Showing teenagers - gay, straight, lesbian, bi, trans - all able to interact, find love, and be loved, is huge. The characters do not immediately figure everything out about themselves or their sexuality, they struggle with it, but at the same time, the show allows for hope. It allows for joy. It’s fucking fantastic to watch. It makes me think back to how little Queer content I was exposed to when I was the same age as the show’s characters (15-16) and how confusing and terrifying everything was at the time. Knowing that something like Heartstopper exists for people to watch today is amazing. Reservation Dogs - Season 2 (Available on FX / Hulu) I loved the first season of Reservation Dogs and with each episode of Season Two, the show just gets BETTER AND BETTER. I don’t think there is another show like this on television right now. I recommend it to anyone and everyone I know that hasn’t seen it yet because I firmly believe that there is something for everyone on this show, no matter your background or interests. The show’s lead cast of four friends - Elora Danan, Bear, Cheese, and Willie Jack - as well as some of the adults, are further fleshed out with standalone episodes this season (shoutouts to Sarah Podemski as Bear’s mom, Rita, and Zahn McClarnon as Big) and there are plenty of new guests. Sterlin Harjo’s show displays the culture of living on the rez but isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself at the same time. It also deals with grief realistically, showing that it takes a long time to mourn, as well as depicting a common desire to leave home and come back both at the same time. 10) Benediction Director Terence Davies examines the life of British poet Siegfried Sassoon and how he was affected by WWI, tragedy, and some destructive personal relationships, shaping him to become both a prolific poet and an outspoken pacifist. Sassoon was homosexual during a time when it was still illegal; he is played by Scottish actor Jack Lowden (Slow Horses, Dunkirk). Lowden’s thoughtful, anguished yet charismatic portrayal of Siegfried is what makes Benediction something truly special to watch. It is understated, yet one of the more heartbreaking performances I watched this past year. For more on this film, check out my full review here. 9) After Yang While Colin Farrell was fantastic in The Banshees of Inisherin it was his melancholy and introspective performance as Jake in 2022’s After Yang that stayed with me for much longer. Justin H. Min is already a fan favorite from The Umbrella Academy but seeing him portray Yang, an A.I. with more humanity than most of his human peers was at times devastating. Haley Lu Richardson is wonderful as the only one who views Yang as a “real person.” When Yang mysteriously stops working one day, his little “sister” Mika is understandably inconsolable, but as the film progresses, we realize how many other characters Yang’s existence has affected. P.S., it has one of the best opening title sequences of any film I have ever seen. 8) RRR RRR was unbelievable. I loved it. It was a ridiculous spectacle with amazing charisma between its two leads. I usually do not love musicals, but the music and dancing scenes were just as engaging as the film’s epic action sequences. I wish I could have seen this in a packed theater instead of at home, but that’s my only complaint. 7) Hit the Road I didn’t know much about Hit the Road beforehand, only that it was less benign than the simple premise of a family road trip. Writer/Director Panah Panahi’s film centers around a family (mom, dad, and two brothers) driving across the desert outside Tehran for an unknown purpose. Twenty-something big brother (Amin Simiar) drives with his fretting mother (Pantea Panahiha) up front, while six-year-old little brother (Rayan Sarlak) rides in the back with his deadpan father (Mohammad Hassan Madjooni) and their sick dog, Jessy. The parents make up various stories for their young son about where and why his big brother is leaving the country in such a hurry. The reality of the story is distressing, but Panahi evokes humor and pathos throughout, right up until the film’s surprising climax. The entire cast is fantastic but the little brother steals the show. 6) Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio The stop-motion animation of GDT’s Pinocchio is amazing. The film feels like a del Toro film through and through with its commentary on organized religion, fascism, and “being different.” I sobbed during the final act. Then Mike Burdge immediately rewound it and I sobbed harder as we watched the last 15 minutes of the movie again. Ciao Papa. 5) Barbarian Barbarian was a wild ride. It was nothing like I expected and I am not normally a lover of the horror genre. It is hilarious and extremely compelling, but at the same time, it is disturbing and extremely gross. I loved it. The less you know going into watching it the better. 4) Top Gun: Maverick This was one of the best theater-going experiences I had in 2022. At one point while watching, I turned around to see mostly middle-aged “kids” with their dads hooting and hollering, fist-pumping, and cheering. It was sensational. Grown-ass men were crying. It was glorious. The action doesn’t disappoint. The age-appropriate romance does not disappoint. Tom Cruise does not disappoint. See it on as big a screen as possible. 3) Decision to Leave Park Chan-wook’s latest movie is a gorgeous noir mood piece. It is beautiful. I didn’t want it to end. Park Hae-il plays a detective investigating the death of an affluent climbing enthusiast who “fell” to his demise. Tang Wei is excellent as the woman suspected of murdering her husband. In the second half of the film, the detective is forced to rethink every decision he made in the first half, but more importantly, he must consider whether or not he even cares if the suspect is guilty. 2) Everything Everywhere All At Once This movie made me laugh so hard in the theater, and yet by the end, I was just sitting quietly, totally emotionally spent in the best way possible. It has been just as good (if not better) upon each rewatch. Stephanie Hsu will break your heart and Ke Huy Quan mends it and fills it back up with love. Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh are a couple for the ages. Also, I need a feature-length “Raccacoonie” film starring Harry Shum Jr. immediately. Get on it, Daniels. 1) Aftersun This is the big one. The slow burn. But boy does it burn. Charlotte Wells creates a time capsule of a film where 11-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) and her young dad Calum (Paul Mescal) are on vacation in Turkey in the late 1990s. We eventually get flashes of Sophie years later when she is about the same age as her dad was during that trip. The use of video camcorder recordings throughout the film help capture how both Sophie and Calum view the world around them and each other. I don’t want to give anything else away if you haven't yet seen this spectacular film, but watching Mescal dance gave me major Call Me By Your Name déjà vu. I didn’t think the film would wreck me so much upon a second watch but it did (and then some). Diana DiMuro Associate Editor Besides watching TV and movies, Diana likes plants, the great outdoors, drawing and reading comics, and just generally rocking out. She has a BA in English Literature and is an art school dropout. You can follow her on Instagram @dldimuro and Twitter @DianaDiMuro

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